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Intelligence!

Saturday,  04/01/17  10:10 AM

intelligence!Happy April Fools Day!  (Or as I like to say, not-fools-day!)  Today we question everything because everything could be fake.  The "everything could be fake" part applies to every day, of course, as should the "we question everything" part, but too often it does not.

I have almost stopped reading Facebook because there is so much crap being posted - not the original fake news, which was/is always there, no more now than in the past - but the new gullibility, great friends I always regarded as smart people taking what others have written at face value, or echoing canards because their friends do, or "everyone knows this".

Politics, Economics, Medicine, Science, it doesn't matter the field, never have so many been wrong about so much, convinced that they are right because of what they have read.

Today, be smart, question everything.  And tomorrow, keep doing so.  Don't believe X because everyone else believes it, and don't say Y is wrong because everyone else does.  Believe in shades of gray.  And keep in mind that the smartest people do not become journalists, so journalists are not the smartest people. 

Open your eyes, and use your intelligence :)

 

 

possibly back

Saturday,  04/01/17  10:48 AM

Hi all, I may possibly be back.  Posting about April Fools loosened the pipes - my blogging infrastructure still seems operational, amazingly* - and I do have quite a backlog of interesting crap to post about.

* yea, it is all about 15 years old now, hand-coded Korn shell... heh

It's been nearly a year since I was posting regularly - wow :( - and that realization, coupled with the pipe loosening, may drive me to restart.  Time will tell.  In the meantime, it is *still* all happening...

the dance of the insectsAmong the things lurking in my archives, waiting to post, are many amazing pictures, like this one... I can't remember and didn't log where it came from, probably some science photo contest, but ... wow.  Take a bow, you guys.  (Please click to enbiggen)

Scott ("Dilbert") AdamsI could probably [re]post various posts from Scott ("Dilbert") Adams for days - and I might - he's been on fire in the past year, from his early predictions that Donald Trump would be our next President to his thoughts on Megyn Kelly's hair (!) to how to make things Impossible to Ignore to the way reality turned inside out about Hillary Clinton and to Trump the Closer.  It's all good reading and good thinking, and he may become even better known for it than for Dilbert, which would be stunning. 

More recently he has taken on the prevailing wisdom about Climate Change (note capitals, dum dum dum), posting about the Illusion of Knowledge and wondering whether a Climate Science "expert" could change your opinion.  You may know, I am a climate change skeptic; there may be something to it, but it has been blown way out of proportion by those with a vested interest in manufacturing a crisis.

Anyway in a recently post he tells us how to leak like a master persuader.  As you ponder the daily reports about Russians somehow having influenced the US Presidential elections, this is good to keep in mind.

thunderbolting your video cardNews you can use: Thunderbolting your video card, from Jeff Atwood.  For all that I'm an early adopter, I've never had a hot gaming rig, probably because I'm not a gamer.  But this seems compelling, just think of the interesting time you could waste on this :)

You may know, the Dutch recently had an election, and you may know, I am Dutch, so naturally I took an interest.  My admittedly uninformed opinion is much along the lines of Phil Greenspun, as he quotes a Dutch voter's opinion of the Dutch election: "Typical NY Times. The statements in itself or all not too factually wrong, but the picture is way off.  Wilders won even if he didn't win.  The anti-Islam agenda won big in Holland."  With all the attention on Sweden, the Netherlands too is a canary in the coal mine of European immigrant relations.

Which prompts me to link: This politician makes the most sense on illegal immigration, from Powerline.  The V;DW* is it's Obama, saying what anyone with sense would say, before he was elected President.

* V;DW = Video; Didn't Watch, by analogy to TL;DR = Too Long; Didn't Read

the supersonic age ... still in the futureRealClear Future considers The Supersonic Age.  "Ultimately, we would like the ability to go anywhere in the world in five hours."  Yeah, we miss our flying cars, but where are the faster planes?

computing efficiency of humans vs computersNick Szabo is an old and amazing blogger, who posts occasionally but with impact: Money, Blockchains, and Social Scalability.  Yes, it defies synopsis, and yes, you must read it.  Nick is considered by some (me included) as a prime suspect to be the real Satoshi Nakamoto.

the Alpine BerlinetteSpeaking of old and amazing bloggers, Kim Du Toit is back!  A worthy subscription, with gems like French Friday, in which he considers the virtues of Juliette Binoche, the Alpine Berlinette, and the movie A Good Year (all favorites of mine as well).  He doesn't mention French wine, cheese, or bread, but at least mentions that he didn't.

Meanwhile: The Case for Eating Cheese is Stronger than Ever.  I'm not taking any chances, and eating as much as possible.

Longtime readers know of my interest in Unnatural Selection, and the book I've not yet written about it (!); but my interest continues, and I read about the Next Social Science Firestorm noted by Powerline with interest.  I suspect the correlations for wage disparities and productivity are actually to intelligence, but you will not find that discussed or indeed discussable anywhere.  As with climate science or any challenge to the PC norms, the conclusions from research are criticized rather than the research itself.

By the way, that link is a month old, and despite the headline this was *not* the next social science firestorm; the mass media quickly lost interest when they discovered it didn't fit the narrative.

Beauty and the Beast - a timeless story?Speaking of the PC narrative, what do Beauty and the Beast's updates say about us?  I did enjoy the recent "live action" version, but I can't say it was better than the original, and the PC nods to today's norms won't last as long as the story.  Not quite a Tale as Old as Time...

Well that's enough for today; I'll keep combing through the last year's detritus and weaving it into today's stuff :)  please stay tuned! ...

...As a chaser, I'll leave you with this amazing photo, taken in 2006; you might think "wow, a classic B-17 alongside a modern B-52", but then realize the B-52 is 70 years old...  (click through for a larger view)

B-17 and B-52 flying in formation... keepers of the peace

 

 

New Yorker book review: progress ratchets

Sunday,  04/02/17  11:50 AM

progress!<musing optional=entirely>

If you don’t know me well, here are two things to know: I am conservative, and yet I like reading the New Yorker.

One of the joys of a Sunday morning home after travel is perusing the stack of magazines that arrived during the week.  I’m a digital guy and I read on my Kindle all the time, but I’ve tried reading magazines on my iPad and it just doesn’t have the same … something.  I like the paper versions.  Maybe it’s because the wind on my balcony flutters the pages and my cat attacks them.  Anyway.

My favorite part of the New Yorker (well, next to the cartoons) is the reviews.  The reviewers are smart, entertaining, thought-provoking, and occasionally even point the way to an interesting book, movie, or band.  Adam Gopnik is a feature writer but often takes his turn on book reviews, and so it was this week, in a review entitled “The Illiberal Imagination”.  (The online version is titled “Are Liberals on the Wrong Side of History?”, a more accurate but less imaginative recasting.)

In this review – it takes several table-setting paragraphs to discover – three books are reviewed; Pankaj Mishra, “Age of Anger”, Joel Mokyr, “A Culture of Growth”, and Yuval Noah Harari, “Homo Dues”.  And while the books are indeed reviewed, and well, they merely provide three views of a common theme, Gopnik’s true aim: an introspection into why different cultures make progress at different rates.

Is liberalism the best approach?  (In the classic sense of fostering and enabling changes, not in the current political sense of government-funded pseudo-socialism.)  Or is conservatism, in the classic sense of resisting changes and doing things a prescribed way.  Or – and this is Gopnik’s thesis, with which I agree – is the best approach a mixture, in which the change of liberalism exposes new things, and conservatism then “locks in” the ones that work.  Philosophical Darwinism.

What makes science so successful – in the sense of this article, the sense of “progress” – is that scientific progress monotonically increases, with new theories being propounded, new ways to validate them, and new ways to build on what has come before, but always moving society forward.  The side note to the discussion of all these books is that the scientific method works best for cultures too, even if they don’t explicitly acknowledge it.  Quoting Mokyr in “Culture of Growth”: “the true elite of modern societies is composed of engineers, mechanics, and artisans – masters of reality, not big thinkers.”  That seems exactly right.

This jibes nicely with some recent reflections on venture capital and startup culture, triggered by a recent trip.  Startup culture is inherently liberal, always looking for change, better ways, different things, and new opportunities, somewhat regardless of risk.  Venture capital is inherently conservative, locking in the best changes, the ratchet which monetizes progress and makes it possible – and in fact provides the motivation for those taking on the risk.  It’s a circle of life – today’s LPs investing in VC funds are yesterday’s successful entrepreneurs.  The job of culture is to make this productive dance possible.

This applies in all areas, for example, when considering how best to improve the practice of medicine and the economics of healthcare, it seems best to try fostering this type of progress – the interplay of liberal change and conservative locking in of improvements – rather than forming a panel of thinkers to dictate improvements.  Throughout the world governments have locked in suboptimal systems, and the solutions to the sub-optimality are often prescribed rather than evolved. Taking a step back and letting many things happen seems better.

A recent Forbes story, about doctor burnout, is a classic example, and illustrates the light at the end of the tunnel: in it, a beleaguered "Dr X" and his partners were able to innovate by starting their own direct-pay clinic.  In fact, having read them more or less consecutively on the same morning, the Forbes story and the New York Times book review seem to be about the same thing: Which cultural models are best for enabling people to work cooperatively and make progress.

These models work for computers too.  Two weeks ago my company InTouch hosted Jeff Dean of Google, who subsequently gave an inspiring talk at UCSB about the progress being made in machine intelligence.  The approaches which work best are neural networks, which are not rules-based or prescriptive; instead, they “discover” solutions iteratively, by processing lots of data which feed back into the network.  At first the a neural network is open – liberal – but as data flow through it becomes more closed – conservative – as it “locks in” the best inference paths.  This model works, and it even works on a meta level; neural nets are now being used to optimize themselves as well as to accomplish specific tasks.

This is a long musing – even for me, you are thinking – but one more data point to note.  Last week my Engineering team held a hackathon; it broke itself into ten five-person teams, each of which had a little over one working day to create a “hack” with the theme “Expanding the Network”.  I was blown away by the cool ideas which surfaced; the liberalism of engineering!  Hopefully we can “lock in” some of those ideas and convert them to products; the conservatism of business :)

That’s how we make progress.

</musing>

 

(NY 11/20/16) private plane

Sunday,  04/02/17  12:02 PM



I have thought this myself, many times :)

 

 

Sunday,  04/02/17  12:07 PM

Day two of reblogging, still just possibly back.  Thanks for the "welcome back" emails though, very nice.

Economist: Trump golf coverThese are tough days at the Economist, who have seen Brexit, Theresa May, and now Donald Trump all happen in opposition to their wishes; they are apparently going the way of the New Yorker, doubling down instead of trying to understand.  Sad, actually.

Spengler (David Goldman): Fake News, Failed States, and 'America First'.  "One would have thought that a 90-day suspension of immigration from seven countries with minimal economic ties to the United States would be minor news.  It has to be the best thing an American president has done since Ronald Reagan told Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall, because all the people I dislike have gone bat-guano crazy."  Only thing is, in my case a lot of the people I like have gone there, too... (not to mention a couple of the magazines I like...)

Did you know?  A guide to Trump's first 17 executive orders.  If you read the Economist you might not know it, but he's doing what he said he would do.

Including this: Nikki Haley puts U.N. on Notice: U.S. is 'Taking Names'.  About time.

Jeff Bust: I am deplorable, and I am happier with my vote every day.  Me, too.

Daniel Dennett, Philosopher of the SoulBut this is why I still read the New Yorker: Daniel Dennett's Science of the Soul.  Dennett is one of my very favorite authors, going all the way back to The Mind's I, and including Darwin's Dangerous Idea and Consciousness Explained.  A great article.

Daring Fireball reports Upcoming is back.  So be it.  An interesting restart; they were launched in 2003 (before Facebook), acquired two years later by Yahoo, and shut down in 2013.  And now they're back as an independent.  Yahoo must have done this to tens even hundreds of little businesses, so sad.

Dutch hyperloop team's experimentExcellent!  Dutch team wins Elon Musk's SpaceX Hyperloop competition.  The embedded video is a must-watch... how cool.  Elon and the things he's started are amazing.

I haven't been blogging, but I noted Apple's crappy year in 2016, did you, too?  Of course they are still an amazing company with amazing products, and one of the most valuable in the world, but they did not release a lot of interesting stuff.  That might mean they've lost their mojo, or it might mean the next iPhone is around the corner :)

However, Jean-Louis Gassee thinks the iPad turnaround is coming.  We shall see.

Ringling Bros: the end of the elephantsWhile I was out: The circus is over.  It appears that the long decline was hastened by elimination of elephants; a key draw, but one which raised the ire of animal activists.

A.I. vs M.D. - the nature of diagnosisIn the New Yorker: A.I. vs M.D., a musing on the nature of diagnosis and the prospects of machine intelligence, from Siddhartha Mukherjee, author of The Emperor of All Maladies, about cancer, which won the Pulitzer Prize.  It defies TL;DR-ing but I think you will find it worth a read. 

While I was away, and ongoing, there has been a debate in the blogosphere about blogs and blog-like sites such as Medium and Tumblr.  In the background of this, to tweet or not to tweet, and the role of Facebook.  John Battelle thinks we got it right the first time, and then we fucked it up.  I agree, but who is "we", John, some of us have kept right on blogging :)

Although I have admit I have dabbled in Facebooking instead of blogging - not the same.

Related, from Danny Sullivan, 10 big changes with search engines over my 20 years of covering them.

floating hotel roomWow, this looks like one for me: Amazing floating hotel allows guests to sail away in their own private yachts.  Who's with me?

Philippe Gilbert wins Flanders in a solo attack with 55km to go!And finally, congrats to Phillipe Gilbert, who won today's Tour of Flanders in a blazing solo attack with 55km to go!  Unbelievable, a race for the ages, with "everyone" present - Peter Sagan, Greg van Avermaet, Tom Boonen...  nobody wins with a 55km attack, ever.  Wow.

 

 

Roubaix day

Sunday,  04/09/17  10:17 PM

Greg Van Avermaet wins Paris RoubaixHappy Paris-Roubaix day!  Did you watch?  Did you love it?  (Do you have any idea what this is all about?)

Congrats to Greg Van Avermaet, he is having a great year, and dominating the classics, as he dominated today.  And wow what a race!

Today was Tom Boonen's last day as a professional in the peloton, he finished sixth, not bad, but not on the top step of the podium as he had hoped.  He brings his magnificant career to a close at Roubaix, the race which he has won four times.

Fabian Cancellara wins time trial at Rio OlympicsThe ultimate example of going out on top was Fabian Cancellara winning gold in the Rio Olympics time trial.  Another great career ended in perfect fashion; the Swiss time machine rang the bell one more time.

And speaking of Van Avermaet and Rio, I wasn't blogging back then, but the road race was pretty much the best race ever.  A great route with a mix of terrain made for a wide-open race, it wasn't a race for sprinters, or climbers, or strong men, or anyone ... it was a race for everyone.  Yay.

The women's race was great too; Anna van de Breggen won, for the Netherlands (yay), but her teammate Annemiek van Vleuten was on her way to possible victory when she suffered a horrible crash.  Fortunately she was okay.  Whew.

Well so much for cycling, what else is happening?

President Trump ordered a Tomahawk missile strike against the Syrian air base from which it is believed that a chemical weapons attack was launched against Syrian civilians.  Whether you agree with this action, you have to agree: yay, we have a President again!  That message will be much more important than the strike itself.

We also have a full Supreme Court again; President Trump's nominee Neil Gorsuch was confirmed as a replacement for Antonin Scalia, after the Senate voted to repeal the ability to filibuster confirmation hearings.  So much winning.

Walt Mossberg with Steve JobsWalt Mossberg is retiring in June.  The most influential tech journalist of all time; he will be missed.

Apple Mac Pro - over due for an updateJohn Gruber reports: The Mac Pro Lives.  So be it.  This strikes me as "announceware", something Apple hardly ever do.  A clear sign of weakness, IMHO; they have lost the edge at the high end of the market, and they know it.

In case you were wondering: Why climate change models are so horrendous.  "Among the culprits are a failure to accurately account for clouds and the Sun, two things which, in Earth science, are kind of a big deal."  There may be global warming taking place, and some of it may be influenced by the actions of men, but the vast majority of "climate science" is junk, influenced by politics.

New you can [maybe] use: Robert X Cringley explains How to Get Rich Trading Bitcoin.  "My new Bitcoin trading strategy, which I admit I have only tried so far on paper... when Bitcoin value goes down, BUY!  When Bitcoin prices rise SELL!"  There you have it, buy low, sell high; who knew?

Seth Godin: The Candy Diet.  "The bestselling novel of 1961 was Allen Drury's Advise and Consent.  Millions of people read this 690-page political novel.  In 2016, the big sellers were coloring books."  A thoughtful discourse... but maybe just evidence for Unnatural Selection?

Harmony of the Seas ... damn, that's an ugly ship!I have to agree: Damn, that's an ugly ship!  [via the Horse's Mouth]

 

 

coffee?

Sunday,  04/09/17  11:45 PM

 

 

 

golden day

Saturday,  04/15/17  02:40 PM

ReginaldIt's a golden day here; a quiet Saturday with nothing to do but read, maybe go for a ride, and maybe do a little coding... or blogging!  What could be better.

Feline PSA: Cats experience less stress when they have boxes.  SBI.  (And also, sun... :)

Reading the Economist: Prescription for the future, how hospitals could be rebuilt, better than before.  "We have reached the peak of bringing patients to the healing centres - our hospitals, … We are on the brink of bringing the healing to patients."  Indeed.

The cover story of this Economist was Why computers will never be safe, an interesting if somewhat shallow thesis, featuring more anecdotes than philosophy.

Philips whole slide scanner for digital pathologyBig news from my old world: FDA allows marketing of first whole slide imaging system for digital pathology.  Congratulations to Philips  I’ve always thought that FDA approval, while most important, would not be a tipping point. The economics have to be there first.  But now we will see!

how to get rich (as a country)Powerline links how to get rich, a video from the Center of Freedom and Prosperity Foundation.  "No country has even gotton rich through high taxes, big government, and onerous regulation."  And yet this lesson has not been learned.

Josh Newman: Zero, his recipe for how many emails your inbox should contain.  "I’m always shocked by those inboxes, which inevitably contain thousands (or even tens of thousands) of read and unread emails... indeed, if you’re a clean-desk type, I’d suspect you, too, would feel similar peace of mind from an equally minimalist inbox."  YMMV ... I use my inbox as a todo list, and try to keep less than 100 emails in it at any time.  But I do read them all within a few hours...

I am always perplexed by people who "hate email", and who are always looking for a tool to "manage email".  Actually they just hate having a lot of stuff to do, and are looking for better time management :)

the Trappist-1 system, with seven Earth-sized planets around a single starNASA: the largest batch of Earth-size, hapitable zone planets has been found; seven around a single star.  Excellent.  No signs of life yet, but you never know; maybe their life hasn't evolved to sending radio waves yet ;0

dreamride...!Diamondback Bikes: Dreamride.  A great ad, not only for Diamondback, but for cycling!

And speaking of cycling and golden days, tomorrow is the Amstel Gold race!  Who are you picking?  Me, I'm going with Phillipe Gilbert, to double up on his amazing Tour of Flanders win a couple of weeks ago... stay tuned!

 

 

Tesla charging

Saturday,  04/15/17  03:01 PM

 

Hehe.  Just saw where Tesla officially becomes America's most valuable car company. Wow. I first read about this in Fortune's "daily CEO email", in which they quoted an analysts as saying "Tesla isn't valued like other car company stocks, they're valued on hope." But that isn't right, all stocks are valued on hope, and Tesla brings more than most!

 

 

full bloom

Saturday,  04/15/17  03:30 PM

 

With all the rain we've had this winter, the California hills have exploded into flower
Yay!
(could be time for a bike ride)

[via Horse's Mouth]

 

 

Cassini revisited

Saturday,  04/15/17  03:40 PM

JPL is counting down the days to the scheduled end of Cassini's mission in September.  Erik Wenquist created this awe-inspiring overview of Cassini's final months of existence:

Cassini!

I think the Cassini / Huygens mission is one of the greatest accomplishments of the human race.  Unbelievable, and a hopeful harbinger of the future...  Let's colonize Titan!  (I'm in...)

 

 

Easter!

Sunday,  04/16/17  01:29 PM

 

Happy Easter!
may you spend it peacefully with your family and those you love

 

 

space-ing out

Sunday,  04/16/17  04:39 PM

Happy Easter everyone, hope you're having a nice day.  I slept in, watched Amstel Gold (congratulations, Phillipe!, wow), and have been working away here quietly, awaiting the familial invasion a bit later.

While I was out not blogging there was a bunch of stuff that happened in and around space, so I thought I'd space out a little bit...

National Geographic: colonizing MarsNot least among the interesting space stuff, National Geographic published a phenomenal supplement on the subject of colonizing Mars.  Check it out in case you're thinking of going there :)

Astonishing video from NASA/JPL: Four days at Saturn.  Wow.  Yes, you must watch it full screen.

UranusFrom NASA: the Shakespearean Moons of Uranus.  I think sometimes Jupiter and Saturn get all the press, but Uranus is actually pretty amazing.  It has 27 [known] moons, including Oberon and Titania, which are larger than all of Saturn's moons other than Titan.  And Uranus does have rings like Saturn, and does have a bright spot like Jupiter.

Titan's methane lakesAnd speaking of Titan, it has liquid lakes! - but they're filled with methane, not water.  And yeah, they could support some weird "life".

If any more were needed: Another good reason to sail the seas of Titan.  (life!)

But just so you know: We're probably imagining aliens wrong.

I thought the aliens in Arrival were pretty cool.  From Stephen Wolfram: How might the Alien spacecraft work?

NASA's New Horizons set to explore the Kuiper Belt.  Cool!  This is an encore performance for the space probe, after having sent those incredibly detailed pictures of Pluto.  Onward!

Juno enters orbit around JupiterMeanwhile, after 1.7B miles, Juno nails its Jupiter orbit to within ten miles.  Pretty good shot :)  The burn time was 35 minutes, and it was off by one second.

Sadly: Juno was a success - but there is precious little coming after it.  "The party is just about over. NASA, and more particularly the Obama administration, have failed to invest in future planetary science missions."  It is my sense that like a lot of the Obama administration, NASA substituted PR for accomplishment.

Andoria - NASA's second favorite Star Trek planet (but it's a moon)From NASA: Top 10 Star Trek planets chosen by our scientists.  This would be cute if there were manned launches taking place every few months, but since we are now relying on Russian rockets to visit the ISS, it's pathetic.  I think NASA thinks we don't know the difference between what they should be doing and Star Trek.

PS their #1 was Vulcan, showing a shallow familiarity with the Star Trek universe...

PPS their #2 was Andoria, a good choice, but a moon, not a planet...

NASA fantasy: a moon-orbiting spaceportSee now this is just sad: NASA just unveiled plans for its moon-orbiting spaceport.  What moon-orbiting spaceport?  There is NO plan to create a moon-orbiting spaceport, and in fact, no plan to create a rocket capable of reaching the moon from Earth.  Our tax dollars at work play.  Sad.

Apropos, from science fiction author chrishanger: Stupidity on Space.  "... if you genuinely care about Earth’s ecology, moving into space is the best possible solution.His blog has become a favorite of mine...

SpaceX to Mars!Meanwhile, there is hope: Elon Musk and SpaceX announce details of plan to colonize Mars.  In seven years!

Teslarati: the challenges involved in a mission to Mars.  News you may be able to use :)

Earth in high def, viewed from the ISSCloser to home (well, depending on where you live :), here's an ultra high def view of Earth, from the ISS.  Most definitely best full screen on a huge monitor.

RIP: John Glenn, the first American to orbit Earth, dies at 95.

Parenthetically, I thought Missing Figures was one of the best movies I've seen recently... and Glenn was apparently accurately portrayed.


And finally, here we have the USS Enterprise in mind-blowing detail.  To boldly go everywhere.  Will we be alive to see it?  I hope so!

USS Enterprise - click to enbiggen
(click to enbiggen amazingly)

 

 
 

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