Oops! And a discussion thread

November 23, 2022 • 1:05 pm

I prematurely published a half-finished Hili dialogue meant to go up tomorrow. If you get it in an email as a subscriber, please ignore it. It will be posted around 6:45 Chicago time tomorrow, and because it was posted by accident once, you won’t get the email.  So go check the website itself tomorrow morning. (I always recommend that anyway because I often update or change posts.)

I’m writing something else today, so posting will be nil after this. But it’s the three-day weekend, with many people having already taken off, so relax and read a good book. (I recommend Horse: A Novel, by Geraldine Brooks (she previously won a fiction Pulitzer). I’ve just finished it and it’s an unusual and engrossing read.

Or, if you want, please use the comments to discuss whatever you want: the World Cup (Germany lost to Japan), what you’re eating or drinking for the holidays, the rotten state of the world, the new mass shooting in a Virginia Wal-Mart (6 dead).

Or, ASK ME ANYTHING! I’m feeling expansive (not as expansive as your belly will be tomorow), but you know to avoid the more personal questions. . .

And have a great Thanksgiving. A better Hili will be up tomorrow a.m.

54 thoughts on “Oops! And a discussion thread

    1. I still intend to. I watched the first episode and got distracted. But I will. Those whose opinions I respect say it’s the best drama series ever on television. In preparation, I watched all of “The Sopranos” and “Breaking Bad.”

      1. I agree with those who say it’s the best drama series ever on the tube. I’d be interested to hear your take and hope you share it here once you’ve watched it.

        1. I try not to hold a person responsible for the decisions their parents made on their behalf. It’s not my fault, for example, that my parents sent me to the local comprehensive. It was people paying more attention to class than merit that made me emigrate to Canada. Once here, it was all condensed into patients innocently asking me if I had met the Queen.

        2. Eagleton was the hack politician from MO who failed to disclose to George McGovern’s team, when they asked if there were any skeleton’s in Eagleton’s closet before offering him the VP spot, that he’d undergone electroshock treatments.

          I’m not saying McGovern would’ve otherwise won — he got slaughtered by Nixon (despite scoring my first-ever vote) — but it was a bad stumble at the start of the ’72 campaign.

      2. The first time I watched, the initial episodes seemed too slow moving. By the third or fourth I was hooked. I’ve since watched the entire series at least a dozen times. At times I’ve agreed it’s the best ever on television, but it gets stiff competition from Boardwalk Empire, Deadwood, True Detective, Justified, <Band of Brothers, and Game of Thrones.

        1. Game of Thrones could have been so much better, but they entirely blew it on the final season. I’d put “The Expanse” on the list of best science fiction shows ever, but I know our host doesn’t appreciate sci fi.

  1. I recently read the novel All the Light We Cannot See, based on the strong endorsement from our host in this space.

    What a wonderful book — the elegance of the deceptively simple prose, the humanism fairly radiating off every page.

    1. Read some Stephen Powers. He often has scientists or a scientific bent to his writing, eg Overstory or Bewilderment. And try a short novel about a Republican Congressman by Jessica Anthony, Enter the Aardvark. Bizarre & funny but not too long.

  2. …rotten state of the world…

    I think it’s in pretty good shape. This is how I feel when a WC (cricket or soccer) is on. I hope Germany recovers and gets into the next round.

    Canada goofed a penalty 🙁

    USA will beat England on Friday, for sure. But England will go on to win the WC. If they don’t, I shall agree about the rotten state of the world.

      1. That should scare the hell out of Harry Maguire. I was happy about Saudi Arabia’s and Japan’s victories and was hoping for Canada to get something from their game, but that did not work out.

    1. Germany is in the same group as Spain. They’ll lose to Spain but they’ll beat Costa Rica. Three points. Spain will win all their matches – nine points. If Japan gets anything out of Costa Rica they will qualify ahead of Germany.

      As for England, I think they’ll beat the USA. It would be a fitting revenge for the match in the 1950 World Cup where England, who were favourites to win the tournament, lost to the USA in their second group match and were effectively knocked out as a result.

      The 1950 tournament is also remarkable because, the end of the “knockout” stages was a four team mini-league. By the time Brazil met Uruguay in that league, they were the only two teams that could win. A draw would give the World Cup to Brazil and a win for Uruguay would give it to them. The Brazilians were so confident that their president had already given a speech congratulating their players before the match. They lost 2-1.

      1. I should add that England’s defeat by USA in 1950 is considered one of the biggest upsets ever in the World Cup. England was widely considered the best team in the World and the USA was a bunch of amateurs – literally.

        The shock was widely reported everywhere except in the USA where nobody cared about football and in England where the defeat coincided with England losing a test match to the West Indies for the first time ever. The latter story took all the column inches available.

  3. I follow the Webb space telescope quite closely, and note that the press releases from about a fortnight ago about early ( redshift z = 12+ ) galaxies relate to data that was widely publicised to be in ArXiv preprint form as early as late August.

    Each week I go to the JWST website and consult the latest pdf on the observing schedules for the next week. The trouble is that I’m not an astrophysicist, so most of the key words are babble except for the obvious eg Trappist-1, Fomalhaut, GRB 221009A [ a Webb last minute target of opportunity from the director’s discretionary time].
    My query is whether there’s any astro nerd on this site who can tell me how much of the critical Deep Field exposures has Webb done so far with NIRCAM and MIRI? I noted several observing sessions of 21 hrs duration in the past month, that may represent these deep field runs.

    1. I noted several observing sessions of 21 hrs duration in the past month

      Unless the image processing pipeline is considerably quicker than it was for Hubble, those images will still be going through the pipeline, wouldn’t they? They probably won’t have popped out into the commissioner’s (?) email, yet, as calibrated, de-cosmic-rayed images.
      The Hubble observing schedule includes the name of the person commissioning the observation (the Principle Investigator, “PI”). JWST does similarly, so you might be able to get additional information by searching their public internet presence.

      JWST schedules : children of https://www.stsci.edu/jwst/science-execution/approved-programs ?

        1. A PhD? Seriously? Where did she get it, out of a Crackerjack box?

          Truly and honestly, I didn’t pursue a science degree because I really didn’t think I was intelligent enough. Now, the wokees are showing us that lack of intelligence need not be a barrier to earning a degree. Unfuckingbelievable!

          1. [From the video description…]

            “Dr. Jessica Esquivel, a particle physicist and recognized advocate for creating just and equitable spaces in physics who was recently honored with a 3D printed statute in her honor by the Smithsonian, utilizes her expertise on the intricacies of the quantum realm to explain that the universe at its smallest scales is non-binary and queer.

            Dr. Jessica Esquivel is an Associate Scientist at Fermilab where she works on the Muon g-2 Experiment which recently announced its exciting Run 1 results, increasing the experiment/theory tension from 3.7σ to 4.2σ. She is one of ~100 Black women with a Ph.D. in physics in the country, the 2nd black woman to graduate with a Ph.D. in physics from Syracuse University, and the 3rd Black woman to hold an Associate Scientist position at Fermilab. Her graduate research focused on studying ghostly particles called neutrinos interacting in the MicroBooNE Experiment using innovative machine learning techniques like those used in facial recognition software. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at https://www.ted.com/tedx

  4. 390 years ago tomorrow Spinoza was born. So long ago that the freshness of his ideas will astound anyone who knows anything about history. How did so many ideas out of time appear in the head of one man so long ago?

    Spinoza was the first to articulate a comprehensive philosophy for modernity. He showed how it is possible to be moral in a thoroughly secular world. He showed how to destroy the ancient superstitions without succumbing to nihilism. Whether he gets the credit or not, his ideas provide the foundation for much of modern life. The American Revolution originated in ideas that can be traced directly to Spinoza.

    – Matthew Stewart

    Stewart wrote two of my all time favorite books. Both are thrilling, witty tales exploring important ideas as they rose from near universal condemnation to being commonly accepted (at least in the West):

    Nature’s God, The Heretical Origins of the American Republic – This is the ultimate rebuttal to claims the United States was founded as a Christian nation.

    The Courtier and the Heretic, Leibniz, Spinoza, and the fate of God in the Modern World

    1. I too found Stewart’s “Nature’s God” to be particularly enlightening and thought provoking. It really put the founders in the heart of enlightenment thinking if I recall correctly.

    2. I must admit I know almost nothing of Spinoza. I might have to try tracking your book suggestions down.

      These discussion threads usually turn up some good reading. I always love to learn what the learned are reading. I’m surprised so few comments were made.

      But if anyone’s still out there, I’d like to know what’s on the bedside table. I’ve got Dawkins’ “Books Do Furnish A Life”, Rushdie’s “Languages of Truth”, Aldous Huxley’s “Island”, and since I’ve lived in his birthplace for the last five years, I’ve started reading some Robert Heinlein, just finished “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress”, and started “Starship Troopers”.

      1. To do a baseball metaphor: david quamman’s “Breathless” is currently at bat (just finishing…i had read his “Spillover” and “The Tangled Tree” over the past couple of years. Breathless is very nicely written, but I get bogged down in his detail in a few places; a quick re-read of Raul Rabadan’s “Understanding Coronavirus” is on deck; and Matthew’s latest is in the hole. Mukherjee’s “The Song of the Cell” is also somewhere in the line-up.

        1. I read Quamman’s Darwin book but found it lacking. I much preferred Rebecca Stott’s Darwin’s Barnacles, James T. Costa’s Darwin’s Backyard, and Randall Keynes’ Darwin, His Daughter, and Human Evolution. I’ve got Janet Browne’s two volumes but haven’t tucked into them yet.

          A book I found by accident ($5 a bag library book sale) that I really enjoyed was Vonnegut’s Slapstick. It was panned by critics and he only gave it a C- himself, but I found it quite amusing. Hi Ho.
          I’ve been reading more fiction, really for the first time in maybe 15 years. Finally got a library card at my little podunk library, the Robert and Virginia Heinlein Memorial Library, and while they don’t have much, they have enough to keep me occupied, including all of Heinlein’s. So even if like me you prefer to buy and own the books you love, support your own local podunk library!

  5. Question for Professor Coyne. If we assume for the sake of argument that life and evolution is ubiquitous in the universe do you think the morphology and taxonomy of life on other planets would be similar to those here on earth and we could instantly recognize standard forms and structures upon examining them or would that life be completely different that life on Earth?

    1. I suspect the latter since the environments would be different and mutations would occur in a different order (there have to be mutations to have evolution, even if the “replicator” isn’t DNA or rNA). This kind of contingency would result, I think, in forms of life we couldn’t even imagine. But what do I know?

    2. Good question. I have wondered the same thing. I came to the conclusion, with no expertise to back it up, that similarities are at least possible. I could see life developing whenever the right conditions existed for long enough, and at least following a limited set of patterns, and vanished as the conditions became unfavorable.
      From what we can see, lots of complicated phenomena seem to repeat over and over again, like stars and planets that form in ways similar enough to be classified by a human observer. It seems like there are probably a common number of possible elements, acted on by the same forces and constrained by the same natural laws.

      1. Funny how many of us have thought about this. I think that since all life forms in the universe arise from the same elements, initial life would be similar to ours but then subject through natural selection to modification depending on the environment. One puzzling question that is relevant is what kind of atmosphere is present and therefore what is the main support system for a new form of life? If it is not oxygen, then what is it? And how would this new atmosphere come into existence? Oh well, as composer Charles Ives said musically, this may be the
        “Unanswered Question”.(Maybe the same organs could serve to support this new
        support system? Maybe a different kind of blood? Or same digestive mechanism?). My unverified guess is that in fact life on other planets would develop and proceed along the same lines as ours but with different results of natural selection…i.e. oxygen based and therefore producing life with organs performing the same functions as ours).

    3. The only thing I think that would be recognizable in most (but only most) alien organisms with the equivalent of a nervous system would be a “head”. Putting many of the sense organs in one place at the front or top of a creature makes general evolutionary sense in terms of processing information in the “brain”, in terms of maximizing how much of the environment. It also makes sense that the sense organs can access what the creature is ingesting. So some kind of structure with localized mouth + sense organs makes sense pretty much whatever the environment. Possibly…

      1. I was thinking along quite similar lines, with a bit more stress on putting the (long-range) sensory organs at one end of the body and the main propulsion mechanisms at the other end, providing the body with an axis. Putting the sensory data processing machinery (brain) near to the sense organs would follow, if the speed of transmission of signals is moderately slow – stubbing your toe takes around a 5th of a second to get to the brain, by which time you’re well on the way to tripping over.
        That I think would be true, even if the alien living system you were investigating used triple-stranded PNA with 4-base-long codons making proteins from 75 distinct nucleic acids. (I.e. not particularly closely related to us). The monomers in use (sugar-phosphates bound to “bases” that pair by hydrogen bonding ; amino acids forming complexly shaped proteins stabilised by hydrogen bonding and solvation) are likely to be familiar, but that doesn’t mean the polymers produced are likely to be familiar.

  6. I’m reading more about In Vitro Gametogenesis (IVG) (link provided for your readers). Will the ability to create spermatazoa and ova from one person’s cells have any implications from your current working gamete-based definition of sex? Do you foresee any other technological developments on the horizon that will affect your definition?

    (Orthogonally, a lab tech’s ability to abort an in vitro embryo should be covered under abortion legislation, so a man is entirely capable of having an abortion – and I hope the right for a person of any sex to have an abortion continues to be defended.)

  7. I watched this year’s Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony on HBO. It’s the only major “award show” I watch every year, and it never disappoints. I came up with a theory, which is mine (and purely anecdotal) that a woman’s voice weathers better than a man’s. It sucks that Carly Simon didn’t perform, but on the female singer side we had Pat Benatar (69), Annie Lennox (67) and Dolly Parton (76). On the male singer side we had Simon Le bon (64), Rob Halford (71), and Lionel Richie (73). (I’m not counting Eminem as a singer + he’s still young.) So the ages are similar. I have to say, the women nailed pretty much all the notes, and still sounded somewhat youthful, and some of the men sang in a lower octave than the original song and still couldn’t reach a lot of the high notes (I’m looking at you Mr. Halford). Lionel Richie did the best, but even he didn’t attempt all the high notes of the songs he chose. The ceremony was a lot of fun, and I don’t want to disparage any of the performances: they were all superb. I just wonder about the aging male/female voice thing.

    To be fair, I realize that singing heavy metal like Halford would debilitate his vocal chords more than a country or pop singer. But Benatar’s songs are fierce and vibrant and anything but timid, and she sang true. Either way, based on little evidence, I think a woman’s singing voice doesn’t fade as quickly a man’s. PhD candidates are welcome to take up the thesis. It is something that could be empirically tested, no? 🙂

      1. I haven’t heard him sing for years, though I like a lot of Scorpions songs. I’ll check their recent videos. Thanks for the tip.

    1. Being fair to Rob Halford, if one puts on the studio version of Dreamer/Deceiver from Sad Wings of Destiny, it’s amazing that he could sing that at any age!

          1. Yes, many think that the album version is even better, and indeed that the whole album is one of the best albums. It’s on my list. I should see them next May when opening for Ozzy (who apart from Rob is still with them?), but I don’t think that they will play this. (Not an Ozzy or Sabbath can either, but the show should be worth going to, especially because it’s probably one of his last, and it has already been postponed several times, not just because of COVID.)

  8. The ideology of satanism and sra explained by Wilfred Wong. He states that PUBLIC AWARENESS is key to protect humanity! This needs to be shared although it is a subject so horrific. please share so the public becomes aware of the reality of these practices. We need to stand up and expose. remember Balanciaga https://www.bitchute.com/video/AabVDdTurehB/

    1. We need to stand up and expose.

      I don’t think that’s a good idea. This is the sort of thing that got many people into trouble recently. I’m not saying that satanism and SRA is nonsense. And I fully understand what you mean. All I’m saying is that standing up and exposing is not going to deter Toby.

    1. I see them as roughly equivalent, but “materialism” may imply to some that the laws of physics involve matter, when they also involve energy. “Naturalism” for me refers simply to what happens in nature where the laws of physics apply.

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