Tuesday, January 14, 2003

Monday, January 13, 2003

You get spam for the the Nigerian advance fee scheme? I get so much that I am inclined to block any email that has anything to do with Africa. According to this story, the spammers have cheated people out of $85M.

With all the talk about how terrible it is that innocent people may have been scheduled to be executed, remember this: There is no example in modern USA history of an innocent man being executed. Sure, it could happen. When it does, the anti-death-penalty will raise that example in every debate. But so far, it hasn't happened.
Blogger has been buggy lately. If this page has had problems for you, it is because of software and servers outside my control. I am currently investigating switching to other blogging systems, but all the ones I've looked at so far have other problems.

Meanwhile, I am having to replace my Microsoft mouse. Maybe I've had bad luck, but I've had problems with every Microsoft mouse I've ever used. I've never had trouble with mice made by Logitech and others.

Sunday, January 12, 2003

The San Jose Mercury News showed a graph of the state budget on the front page today. It explains the California budget crisis better than anything. (I'd give the link, but the paper has a terrible web site.)

The graph shows Calif. revenues and expenses at about $60B in 1996, and growing rapidly. Then in 1999, at the peak of the dot-com boom, the state got a huge windfall in revenues. Immediately afterwards, state expenses accelerated upward sharply. Then in 2000, the dot-coms collapsed, and revenues leveled off. But expenses continued to skyrocket for a couple of years, reaching $105B. Now the state has a huge deficit.

Now the governor is announcing budget cuts and tax increases. It is obvious that he has been extravagantly overspending for 2 years, and postponing the pain until after all the guilty parties could be re-elected in Nov. 2002.

Too bad the Republican challenger Bill Simon wasn't smart enough to expose what Gray Davis was doing. That chart should have been on his campaign materials, as it shows how completely irresponsible Gray Davis has been.

Because we have had deficits for a couple of years, the debt is now about $35B, as I understand it. And this does not even include the billions of dollars that Gray Davis has wasted in his re-regulation of the electric utilities.

Saturday, January 11, 2003

The Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show had more gadgets bridging the gap between TV and computers. But I still don't see much that would be useful to me.

I'd like a small box for about $300 with:

  • audio-video inputs
  • audio-video outputs
  • hardware MPEG 1,2,4 encoder and decoder
  • 100Gb hard disk
  • firewire or USB2 access to hard disk
  • maybe a remote control for easier playback

This is similar to a Tivo or ReplayTV box, except that I really don't need the program guide, monthly service contract, tuner, set-top box controller, etc. I would like to easily plug the box into my PC to view a program on my PC, or to write a video recording to a CD-R or other medium, or transmit it on the internet.

I can get all of the above in a PC or Mac with a TV tuner card, but that is also overkill. I just want a simple appliance for recording digital video in a convenient and uncrippled manner.
Andy sends this:
Here is my final exam for my Critical Thinking in Science course. I've taught 21 homeschooled students in this course, and most will ace this exam. I doubt top college students could score even a 70% on it.

Test conditions: You can use any written or electronic resources. Assistance by other persons is only allowed to clarify meaning.

Multiple Choice (2.4 points each, for a total of 60/100 points):

1. The oldest discovered writing is:
(a) about 5,500 years old.
(b) about 10,000 years old.
(c) about 50,000 years old.
(d) about 1 million years old.

2. What do the Piltdown Man and the Haeckel embryo drawings have in common?
(a) They were innocent mistakes by evolutionists, who corrected them quickly.
(b) They reflected the advance of science by evolutionists honestly searching for the truth.
(c) They won Nobel Prizes.
(d) They were frauds that evolutionists refused to removed from textbooks for many decades.

3. Who declared, "These lower races … are psychologically nearer to the mammals (apes or dogs) than to civilized Europeans; we must, therefore, assign a totally different value to their lives."
(a) Attila the Hun, a brutal warrior, in 450.
(b) Ernst Haeckel, the German Darwinist recently featured in many American textbooks, in 1904.
(c) George Washington, the first American President, in 1795.
(d) Napolean, the French emperor, in 1810.

4. The Toutle River canyon of Mt. St. Helen's, similar to the Grand Canyon on a smaller scale, was formed by a flood:
(a) in a single day in 1982.
(b) over a three-month period in 1982.
(c) over a three-year period from 1979 to 1982.
(d) over a 10,000-year period so that erosion had time to occur.

5. "Survival of the fittest" is flawed because:
(a) Everyone survives.
(b) It is circular because the "fittest" are defined as those that survive.
(c) It contradicts itself.
(d) It appeals to emotion.

6. The eminent evolutionist Dr. Colin Patterson did not include any transitional forms in his 1978 book Evolution because he admitted that:
(a) there were too many to choose from.
(b) transitional forms, which Darwin said were essential to his theory, have never been found.
(c) pictures of transitional forms are difficult to reproduce
(d) everyone knows that transitional forms must exist so there was no reason to include them.

7. A "materialist" insists that magnetism guides migration, even for butterflies, because:
(a) magnetic detectors have been discovered in the brain of a butterfly.
(b) magnetism guides human movement also.
(c) science has disproved all other possible causes, including design.
(d) materialists reject intelligent design and believe only in material-based causes.

8. The countries having the highest and lowest levels of belief in evolution are:
(a) Most (evolution belief): former Communist East Germany. Least: United States.
(b) Most: Poland. Least: England.
(c) Most: United States. Least: France.
(d) Most: Mexico. Least: Canada.

9. The evolutionary claim that simpler species transformed by themselves into more complex and more ordered species is contrary to the following scientific facts:
(a) mutations are harmful, not beneficial.
(b) The Second Law of Thermodynamics holds that disorder increases over time.
(c) the world is sparsely populated, making it practically impossible for mutated species to find and mate with each other.
(d) all of the above.

10. "Critical thinking" requires:
(a) questioning experts.
(b) skepticism of claims motivated by personal gain.
(c) demanding public access to data behind research claims.
(d) all of the above.

11. Which of the following scientists rejected evolution and accepted Biblical creation?
(a) Lord Kelvin, the great physicist and designer of the first successful transatlantic cable.
(b) Louise Pasteur, ranked as the greatest chemist and microbiologist.
(c) James Maxwell, ranked with Isaac Newton among the greatest physicists.
(d) All of the above.

12. Six leading scientists in England, including the eminent physicist Sir Fred Hoyle, studied the Archaeopteryx fossil and concluded that:
(a) it is a transitional form.
(b) it is a fake.
(c) it is not a transitional form, but represents an authentic species.
(d) none of the above.

13. Limestone is formed from sea life. Its existence at all elevations and all parts of the world demonstrate that:
(a) every part of the world has been completely flooded.
(b) only some parts of the world were flooded and they must have moved to other parts of the world.
(c) only some parts of the world were flooded and the limestone must have spontaneously generated in other parts.
(d) we do not know, but the world could not have been flooded because evolution must be true.

14. The theory of relativity represents:
(a) an ongoing effort to tailor a theory to fit emerging data.
(b) a slight modification of Newton's theory of physics.
(c) application of the insights of astrology to physics.
(d) a mathematical system based entirely on two assumptions of unproven validity.

15. Testability and falsifiability are essential elements of what qualifies as scientific. The following satisfy the requirement of falsifiability and thus can be considered scientific:
(a) the claim that life exists in outer space.
(b) the claim that black holes exist in outer space.
(c) the claim that a species once evolved from a simpler ancestor.
(d) none of the above.

16. In the famous double-slit lamp experiment, photons are propelled towards two slits before landing on a screen on the other side. The position of the observer:
(a) cannot affect the result because science does not care if someone is watching.
(b) cannot affect the result because photons lack intelligence.
(c) does affect the result depending on whether the observer detects which slit each photon passes through.
(d) none of the above.

17. Materialists reject which of the following in physics:
(a) action-at-a-distance, utilized by quantum mechanics and Newton's theory of gravity.
(b) gravitons, which are undiscovered agents of gravity in the theory of general relativity.
(c) black holes, predicted by the theory of general relativity.
(d) the Big Bang theory of the origin of the universe.

18. Most current scientific dating techniques, including the popular Carbon-14 test, estimate the age of material by measuring the amount of a key element in it. The accuracy of these techniques is based on three basic assumptions that:
(a) we somehow know the initial level of the key element in the material.
(b) there has been no contamination affecting that level over time.
(c) rates of decay of the key element have been forever constant.
(d) all of the above.

19. The following argument is flawed for the reason given:
(a) "It rained after the rain dance, and therefore rain dances cause rain." Flaw: circular?
(b) "You must believe this. Everyone does." Flaw: non-sequitur?
(c) "You must believe this. The newspaper said so." Flaw: over-reliance on authority?
(d) "I need to do my homework. So give me a candy bar." Flaw: begging the question?

20. The Nash Equilibrium in the Prisoners' Dilemma is:
(a) neither prisoner confessing.
(b) only one prisoner confessing.
(c) both confessing.
(d) there is no Nash Equilibrium in this situation.

21. A card with both sides black is put in a hat with a card with one side white and one side black. One of these cards is pulled at random from the hat. Its front side is black. The chance that its backside is also black is:
(a) 1/3
(b) 1/2
(c) 2/3
(d) 1

22. In connection with the famous Scopes Trial in Tennessee in 1925,
(a) evolutionists proved their theory and won the case.
(b) Hollywood truthfully recounted what happened.
(c) John Scopes was imprisoned for teaching evolution.
(d) evolutionists lost the case, Tennessee remains relatively free of evolution indoctrination, and Gore's home state elected Bush as President.

23. Evolutionists redefined "evolution", which previously meant an evolving process, to mean:
(a) a specific process by which disorder can convert to order.
(b) a specific process by which simplicity can convert to complexity.
(c) "change over time," which occurs without any evolving process, such as Creation.
(d) "change over time," which adds greater clarity to Darwin's definition of "evolution".

24. The claim that the world is the product of pure chance is:
(a) something that is a realistic possibility.
(b) disproved by the world's overwhelming beauty, because beauty cannot result from pure chance.
(c) something that cannot be rejected by reason.
(d) none of the above.

25. Charles Darwin claimed that every living species, including whales, evolved. He asserted that the ancestor of whales was:
(a) sharks.
(b) dolphins.
(c) black bears swimming in the sea with their mouths open.
(d) none of the above.

Essay Questions (10 points each, for a total of 40/100 points):

Write about 50 words each in response to the questions below:

A. Common claims by evolutionists are: (i) everyone believes in evolution; (ii) science magazines, museums and professors accept evolution; (iii) the enormous commonality and diversity in life demonstrate evolution; (iv) over billions of years, it must have happened; (v) no one has ever disproved evolution; and (vi) evolution, defined as "change over time," is a fact. Explain the flaws in each statement.

B. Pick two or three specific political issues and describe how belief in evolution can influence viewpoints on those issues.

C. Do you think the world is more like a work of art or more like a working machine? Describe artistic aspects of the world that you particularly like, and how they contradict evolution.

D. In the 1970s, scientists predicted that oil would run out in a few decades. Were they right? Explain. Are scientists typically held accountable for false claims or predictions? Provide and explain possible motivations for scientists to predict falsely that oil would run out soon.

Extra Credit (5 points each, for a maximum total of 15 extra points):

E. Assume that (i) there are three gas stations at a major intersection with each attracting 1/3 of the customers; (ii) each currently sells gas at $1.40 per gallon; and (iii) the lowest profitable sales price for them would be $1.36 per gallon. One gas station owner went on vacation for a month. How do you think the other two owners will adjust their price for that month? Explain their options and how they will decide to maximize profits.

F. List and discuss several examples of how the world seems to have been created in a way that only humans (and God) appreciate. Does this indicate design or pure chance?

G. What is the harm in promoting or teaching false scientific claims? Are people hurt by it? Does it prevent or delay real advances in science? Explain your answers with examples, if possible.
This Daniel Patrick Moynihan article says:
President Truman was never told of the Venona decryptions. It gives one pause to think now that all Truman ever "learned" about Communist espionage came from the hearings of the House Un-American Activities Committee, the speeches of Senator Joseph R. McCarthy, and the like.

This is amazing to me. It is scandalous enough that the American public was never told about the Venona decryptions. The Russians were apparently tipped off in 1948, and by 1950 the NSA uncovered the spy who told the Russians. After 1948, no more of the Russian communications were decrypted by the US. So why the secrecy, if the Russians knew and nothing more was being decrypted? And why wasn't this important enough to tell the President of the USA?

Thursday, January 09, 2003

Berkeley mayor Tom Bates has pled guilty to stealing and trashing 1000 copies of the Berkeley daily paper. He did it right before the election because it endorsed his opponent. I think that Berkeley was outraged because he just threw the papers in the trash, instead of recycling them.
The World Church of the Creator is in the news, for its kooky racist views and for an accusation of soliciting murder. This detail caught my attention -- a judge has ordered the church to give up its web site because some other church called Church of the Creator claims a trademark!

Wednesday, January 08, 2003

Andy still advocates his non-materialism.
Re: materialism, Joe wrote, "Why believe in any scientific experiment? After all, they all are materialistic."

They aren't. Most of the truly great scientific advances have been from rejecting materialism, not insisting on it.

Newton's action-at-a-distance in describing gravity required rejecting materialism, to the dismay of many then and now. Yet to this day no one has demonstrated a materialist explanation, not even under general relativity.

Adam Smith's invisible hand and Ronald Coase's theorem reach far beyond materialism for their insights.

QM, and its prodigious fruit (computers, lasers, amplifiers, etc.) are built on a rejection of materialism. The double-slit lamp experiment, voted by physicists as the greatest of all time, disproves pure materialism. In response, materialists simply ignore it rather than search for further insights that it may yield.

Joe wrote, "At what point does Andy just say 'Sorry, we have in this particular case something that is obviously unexplainable by the scientific method, so let's go on to another question, because we have a stone wall here that we can in principle never get through?' Sounds like migration of birds may well be one of these mystery areas."

No, I don't agree. Migration should and will be understood far better than it is now, but only by looking beyond materialistic approaches like magnetism. I'm sure glad Newton wasn't a materialist and was able to accept action-at-a-distance. Aren't you?

Re: the lobster/magnetism grad project, I wrote, "the grad student should test lobster movement under a 100 or so different magnetic fields, and see if there is any correlation."

Roger replied, "I bet he did do it 100 times."

I doubt it. I'm happy to review the data, but I bet they're never released for scrutiny. The grad student says nothing about testing lobster movement under 100 different magnetic fields. He talks about only two or so different magnetic fields.

Re: GR, Roger wrote, "No doubt he is assuming that part of GR is true. You think that gravity goes faster than light?"

If he assumes GR is true, then he has circularity in his logic and his conclusion is not meaningful. As to my own view, I think 100 years of searching for gravitons without success means they likely do not exist.

Meanwhile, observed data contradicting GR are unpursued. See, e.g., this 1998 story in the Economist documenting data conflicting with GR, apparently without any follow-up by scientists: "A tiny error in the paths of two spacecraft may require the rewriting of some of the laws of physics" (I can circulate full article if interested.)

I can't figure out what Andy means by materialism. If he means the use of physical experiments, then all scientific advances have accepted materialism. If by materialism, he is referring to the distinction between matter and fields, and you think that fields are more fundamental than matter,
then I guess I agree and so would most physicists.

The technology for isolating gravitons does not exist.

What does he mean by "observed data contradicting GR are unpursued"? You can goto to any theoretical physics conference or journal, and find lots of people who think that GR needs to be modified in some way. They would love to find some data that shows GR wrong in some way. No one has found any yet.

Andy responds:
Roger wrote, "What do you mean by materialism?"

It is well-defined. It is the doctrine that all phenomena can be explained by matter. Accordingly, materialists reject action-at-a-distance and ignore the double-slit experiment. Materialists insist that magnetism must explain migration, and that gravitons must exist. They believe that evolution must have occurred.

Roger replied, "What do you mean by that [observed data contradicting GR are unpursued]? You can goto to any theoretical physics conference or journal, and find lots of people who think that GR needs to be modified in some way. They would love to find some data that shows GR wrong in some way. No one has found any yet."

There's plenty of data contradicting GR, starting with the article I forwarded last time. The problem is not lack of conflicting data, but an inability to "modify" GR in a sensible way. Unlike Newtonian mechanics, GR is a mathematical system based on two assumptions incapable of easy modification. If you have seen ideas about how to modify the two assumptions underlying GR, I'd love to hear them.

I don't follow. A magnetic field is not considered matter. So explaining migration by means of magnetism is not explaining it with matter.

My recollection is that in Wheeler's big fat GR textbook, maybe a quarter of the book was devoted to various modification of GR that have been proposed.

Actually, there is some data contradicting GR. In the last couple of years, astronomers have become convinced that the expansion of the universe is accelerating. This is contrary to GR, and people think that it must be explained by some modification of GR.
This story explains how the NY Regents exam promised to stop censoring famous literary passages, but they're still doing it. Apparently real literature just isn't sufficiently politically correct.
I just watched a PBS show on the Venona project. It was a repeat from last year.

At the end, it is very careful to say that Venona does not vindicate Sen. McCarthy. It says: "Ironically, there is no evidence that Senator Joseph McCarthy, who smeared hundreds of innocent people as Soviet spies, ever heard of the Venona project. ... As far as we can tell, of all the people that McCarthy named as possible Soviet agents, only a tiny, tiny handful, perhaps two or three, are revealed in Venona."

I thought that the complaint against McCarthy was that he refused to reveal his list of suspects. Did he really accuse 100s of innocent people of being Soviet spies?

Here is someone who thinks that Venona vindicates McCarthy.

Gumma responds:
McCarthy never smeared even ONE innocent person as a Soviet spy or Communist. Not one! If you think there was one, name him!!

When he talked about lots of Communists, he was talking about State Dept lists to which he did not have access to the individual names. No one was smeared by this. There is plenty of proof that there were lots of Commies in the State Department.

He named lots of people who were real spies, such as the one in the Gubmet printing office who had accesss to printing our code books.

It is a total non sequitur to say that because McCarthy didn't know about Venona (nobody did!) or that the people he named were not also mentioned in Venona, that proves some defect in McCarthy.

A reader writes that he has personal knowledge of McCarthy falsely calling someone a communist on the floor of the Senate. I guess this will take some more research.

Tuesday, January 07, 2003

A couple of mathematicians, Benoit B. Mandelbrot and James A. Yorke, just won the Japan Prize. The prize seems to be mainly for popularizing the terms fractal and chaos. It seems like an odd choice. There are hundreds of mathematicians with more substantial contributions.
John sends this story about a class action settlement against the music labels that is not working very well. The amount of the settlement is supposed to be $143M, but probably only about $1M will goto consumers. The rest goes to lawyers, special interests groups, and industry promotions.
Here's another essay exposing Bellesiles and the whole history profession. It does seem like the profession has very low standards, and only outside pressure showed Bellesiles to be a fraud.
The Norwegian teenager, who was charged with cracking the DVD CSS protection scheme, has now been acquitted in Norway. Good. He might have been convicted under the US DMCA or the Euro equivalent, if it applied. John sends this BBC story.

Monday, January 06, 2003

This article says the primitive spiny lobsters use magnetic fields to navigate. It sounds like that can detect very subtle variations in the strength of the Earth's magnetic field, as a boy scout with a compass would be unable to what the lobsters do.

The Earth's magnetic field is known to be unstable, and has flipped many times. Somehow the lobsters have adapted.

Homing pigeons and turtles are also thought to use magnetic fields, but they are also much more advanced creatures.

Andy writes:
I read Roger's NY Times article about lobsters. It perpetuates the 50-year-old myth that magnetism explains migration. No experiments have demonstrated such causation, nor is there any plausible magnetic detectors in the creatures for it. People believe in magnetic migration simply because they believe in materialism, and can't think of another cause.

The NY Times article caters to this belief, like a horoscope column. A UNC grad student first showed that lobsters taken 10 miles from their home in a container will always walk in the direction of their home. Well, that remarkable phenomenon is true for many species. But then the student pretended to prove that magnetism was the cause by experimenting with a couple of field patterns. Takes a lot more than that to earn a respectable PhD, and prove causation. But don't expect NY Times readers to demand to see the actual data.

The scientist says he could get the lobster to go anywhere by producing an appropriate magnetic field. Isn't that convincing? How do you think the lobsters navigate?

Is this one of Andy's action-at-a-distance theories? In other news, scientists claim to have measured the speed of gravity propagation, and it is near the speed of light, as relativity predicts.

Andy responds:
Roger writes, "The scientist says he could get the lobster to go anywhere by producing an appropriate magnetic field. Isn't that convincing? ...."

No, it's not convincing. The "scientist" (a UNC grad student project) merely said that two different magnetic fields, designed to simulate two different directions from home, resulted in the lobster moving towards the simulated home. It's like saying it rained each time after two Indian rain dances, and therefore the latter caused the former.

To be meaningful, the grad student should test lobster movment under a 100 or so different magnetic fields, and see if there is any correlation. Easy to do, but the real results are not likely to land him in the NY Times.

Roger wrote, "Is this one of your action-at-a-distance theories? In other news, scientists claim to have measured the speed of gravity propagation, and it is near the speed of light, as relativity predicts."

I read two different accounts, and neither was persuasive. The U of MO prof and his colleague claimed to have reworked General Relativity to incorporate a speed of gravity factor. Then, like the dubious eclipse measurements of circa 1919, they claim that minute light deflection measurements prove what they set out to prove. Missing from the discussion are a frank description of the assumptions.

I hope the scientist did the experiment more than twice. He probably did it 200 times.

General relativity implies that gravity propagates in wave form at the speed of light. Apparently gravity could go faster than light under some of the hypothetical quantum gravity theories. I didn't know that. That would be a major (and surprising) result if someone could show that gravity goes faster than light.

Joe writes:
Andy's anti-materialist philosophy is confusing. Does anything have a materialistic explanation? Why believe in any scientific experiment? After all, they all are materialistic. When observing the world, when do we get to the point where materialism starts to fail? At what point does Andy just say "Sorry, we have in this particular case something that is obviously unexplainable by the scientific method, so let's go on to another question, because we have a stone wall here that we can in principle never get through?" Sounds like migration of birds may well be one of these mystery areas.
This book says that ice hockey perhaps involves more physics than any other sport.
The NFL now admits that the 49ers v. Giants playoff game should not have ended with offsetting penalties. Ok, but the Giants blew a 38-14 lead, let the 49ers go ahead with a minute left, missed an earlier field goal badly, had a bad snap on its final field goal attempt, failed to throw the ball away quickly (it was 3rd down, so they would have gotten another attempt), sent an illegal receiver downfield, and the coach failed to point out to the referee that the receiver who was interfered with was actually an eligible receiver.
Two new medical studies say that ritalin for ADHD does not lead to drug abuse. One study, which followed almost 150 children with ADHD for 13 years, found that those who received stimulants appeared to have no increased risk of trying, using or abusing drugs as adults. Buried in the fine print, and ignored by media reports is the statement "Stimulant treatment in high school also did not influence drug use in adulthood except for greater use of cocaine."

As Slate explains, the effect of ritalin on the brain is almost identical to cocaine. Both are similarly controlled by the feds as Schedule II drugs. The main difference is that ritalin is taken in a slow-acting pill form, and doesn't have the immediate kick that cocaine snorters get.

So it makes sense to me that those who like ritalin, for whatever reasons, will also like cocaine.
This Atlantic Monthly article defends Poindexter and his govt experiment in connecting databases. A lot of privacy advocates have gotten all worked up about Poindexter, but I think that they ought to spend that energy to protecting us against private sector databases that have much more of an effect on us. The feds cannot even seem to keep track of who is coming in and out of the country.
The LA Times has an article about Jennifer Reisch's demands against the Berkeley law school. She is the one who went drinking with the Dean, and then complained about it a couple of years later. Her spokesman is Laura Stevens.
Could Boalt Hall be as bad as Stevens claims? More than 50% of its students these days are women, the female law students have their own lounge (the men don't), and UC Berkeley has a Title IX officer whose job it is to handle complaints exactly like the one that Stevens' client alleges. The officer also deals with administrative follow-up procedures, which is how it came about that Dwyer resigned.

Stevens, however, wants more: for the law school to set up a comprehensive sexual-harassment training program to teach students, professors and administrators how to create an "environment" in which no female student would ever have to suffer from unwanted male attention. The program would entail not only re-education, but a law-school speech code that would forbid even the cracking of jokes that "make women into meat," as Stevens puts it. It seems that Dwyer had a reputation for "frequently staring at women's bodies" and making them "feel uncomfortable" (Stevens' words), and that once, at least according to Stevens, his hand brushed against a young woman's thigh while he paid her a personal compliment.

"He's a sexual predator," charges Stevens. More evidence of his alleged predation: Dwyer, who had taught environmental law at Boalt for 16 years before becoming dean in July 2000, had dated students and even married a former student. Stevens contends that if Boalt's faculty and administrators had had the kind of training that she now demands, they would never have hired him as dean in the first place.

I think that Reisch is a nutcase.
This pediatrician study claims that roughly two-thirds of the parents agreed that it was never "OK for a child to play with toy guns," and a similar proportion said they never allowed their children to do so. I don't believe it. I think that pediatricians are known to be anti-gun, and parents just tell them what they want to hear.
If you think that gun bans will reduce crime, look at where it has been tried. It should be much more likely to work in an island nation like Britain than the USA. Here is from a major UK newspaper:
Since the Government's "total ban" five years ago, there are more and more guns being used by more and more criminals in more and more crimes. Now, in the wake of Birmingham's New Year bloodbath, there are calls for the total ban to be made even more total: if the gangs refuse to obey the existing laws, we'll just pass more laws for them not to obey. According to a UN survey from last month, England and Wales now have the highest crime rate of the world's 20 leading nations.
Liza writes:
Returning to the Shakespeare authorship controversy, I checked a pro-Oxfordian web site, then a pro-Stratford Shakespeare web site (), in order to read the arguments firsthand, and found the latter's arguments devastating. There is no good reason to think the Bard was anyone other than Shakespeare of Stratford. And that seems to be the consensus of academics who have looked into the issue. The Oxfordians tend to be amateur sleuths who use shoddy scholarship, misinformation, selective reading of the evidence, etc.

Andy writes:
Liza's analysis looks solid to me. Arguments denying the straightforward existence of Shakespeare remind me of other bizarre denials of obvious occurrences in history.

As to inventions, my history book credits Vladimir Zworykin, of Russia, as the leading inventor of the essence of TV. Italian-trained Enrico Fermi was co-patentee on the nuclear reactor, along with Leo Szilard. Jet engine? A Brit named Frank Whittle. Car? Germans invented it, I think. Steel? Thank the Brit Bessemer. In fact, aside from a half-dozen persons, Europe invented as much as America. Those half-dozen Americans are Edison (numerous great inventions, and theory underlying vacuum tube/transistor), Carlson (xerox machine), Eastman (photography), Wright Brothers (airplanes) and Goodyear (tires). (The list Roger circulated has many far-fetched attributions, such as claiming there was an individual inventor of the computer, the world-wide web, and the laser.)

The real edge given by the American patent system is the proprietary right to exploit an invention for a limited time, followed by the power of the free market to improve it thereafter. It is not so much the incentive for the initial invention that made America the leader, but the powerful legal rights relating to the exploitation of the invention.

What powerful legal rights? Look at your list of inventors, and tell who rightfully got rich off of patents? How many of them were within the last 50 years? I think that the US patent system is badly broken.

Sunday, January 05, 2003

Saturday, January 04, 2003

The NY Times admits that researchers privately admit that there are no prospects for using therapeutic cloning to cure disease on the horizon. Gina Kolata outlines the plan:
Someday, if therapeutic cloning goes well, scientists would take a few cells from a person with a disease, say diabetes, and use them to make an embryo that would have the same genes as the sick person. Implanting that embryo in a woman might enable it to grow into a baby who is a clone of the sick person.

Instead, the embryo would grow in the laboratory for about five days to the blastocyst stage, the point at which the embryo has two distinct cell types. It consists of a hollow ball with another ball of cells inside, known as embryonic stem cells. They, in theory, could develop into any of the body's specialized cells. The other embryo cells would be discarded.

In the case of a diabetic, scientists would prod the stem cells with an as-yet-undefined cocktail of chemicals so they would grow into islet cells of the pancreas. That could replace those lost to the disease. Voilà, a cure.

Ok, so millions of human ova (eggs) would be extracted, grown into developing babies, and then harvested for their organs. So how is this more acceptable than reproductive cloning? I have yet to see a coherent explanation.
The programming languages in demand, according to job listings, are Java, C++, Visual Basic, Perl, Javascript, C#, Ada, Fortran, Scheme, Python, Smalltalk, Lisp. That is, Java is wanted the most, and Lisp the least. Where's COBOL? It should be ahead of C#, at least.
A Slate essay discusses whether the great silent film maker D.W. Griffith was a racist. The consensus seems to be that he was a racist, but this guy says he was an apolitical director who just happened to make racist movies.

I just happened to see a scene from his movie Intolerance which shows a spectacular Babylonian battle scene. You'd be amazed that anyone was making such good movies around 1915. His masterpiece, The Birth of a Nation, is about the US Civil War and Reconstruction.

I think that it is Griffith's critics who are intolerant and racist. Spike Lee, Oliver Stone, Tim Robbins, and Warren Beatty made political movies, but that is acceptable to the leftist critics because they agree with the leftist messages. Artistic freedom should allow filmmakers to make movies that don't necessarily conform to liberal political correctness.

The Slate piece suggests that Griffith was duped by ex-Confederate soldiers who offered the director advice. Another complaint is that a scene was inspired by political cartoons from the Reconstruction era. What is wrong with that?
Sony and Philips bought InterTrust for $453M. All InterTrust has of value is some patents on digital rights management (DRM). I thought that Microsoft and others had figured out ways around those patents. Sony and Philips must really be convinced that InterTrust DRM is going to take off in a big way, and that Microsoft and others will pay royalties.

There is a political battle over DRM shaping up between Hollywood/RIAA and the computer industry. According to this Mercury News story, trade groups representing Microsoft/Intel/HP are lobbying to fight a law mandating DRM as the law is likely to favor Hollywood and cripple computer technology.

The Microsoft/Intel/HP alliance also wants DRM, but they want to do it with technology instead of laws. The enabling technology is called TCPA/Palladium/LaGrande, and I don't know what the DRM will be called. I think the Microsoft/Intel/HP approach is much superior, and any laws that might be passed now would be a disaster.
Australia wants to build a solar energy tower to be the world's tallest structure. The Reuters author thinks that the Malaysia Towers are currently the world's tallest buildings.

Friday, January 03, 2003

Why do some people spell the word kluge as kludge? I see this mistake by a lot of people who should really know better.

It is kluge (pronounced "klooj") not kludge. Kludge would rhyme with fudge, judge, budge, etc. There is no other English "udge" word that's pronounced as an "ooj" word. There are lots of "uge" words, like huge, refuge, centrifuge, and deluge. See a jargon dictonary for more details.

Among Google-indexed glossaries, 4 say kluge and 9 say kludge. 1 lists both equally. The misspelling is common. (BTW, this Google glossary feature is quite useful, even if it does reproduce popular mistakes.)
A&E TV gives this list (pdf) for the top inventors of the 20th century.

15 Tim Berners-Lee World Wide Web
14 Stan Cohen and Herb Boyer Genetic engineering
13 Guglielmo Marconi Radio
12 Henry Ford Model T and assembly line
11 Gordon Gould Laser
10 Leo Szilard Nuclear chain reaction
9 Gregory Pincus Birth control pill
8 Alan Turing Computer
7 Nikola Tesla Alternating current
6 Jonas Salk Polio vaccine
5 William Shockley Transistor
4 Philo T. Farnsworth Television
3 Leo Baekeland Plastic
2 Wilbur and Orville Wright Airplane
1 Thomas A. Edison Light bulb, phonograph, alkaline battery

Of these, Ford and Edison got rich, but most of them never made any money off of their inventions.
Why do some people say that education is not important in America. No country values education more than America. Here in California, we have high taxes and about 60% of state taxes goto education. Foreigners come to the USA for education because their home countries do not value education as highly as the USA. We let practically anyone goto college, whereas most countries limit college to the privileged elite.
It appears that police suspect the husband, in the case of the missing Modesto pregnant woman. What do they think -- that he went fishing and dumped his wife's body in the bay?
The West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) is melting! New science research show that rising sea levels could swallow up small islands! BBC story.

Now the details. The WAIS has been melting at a steady rate since the end of the last ice age, 10k years ago. If it continues at its present rate, it will all melt in 7k years, and raise ocean levels 16 feet. Meanwhile, I'd be more concerned about an ice age returning, as it has many times over the last 2M years.

This AFL-CIO site has some specific suggestion to fix the H1-B program, in the face of documented abuses.
Until about a year ago, illegal aliens could attend college in NY and pay the in-state rate! Here is a CUNY memo explaining that it did it because of 1989 mayoral executive order which provides that "[a]ny service provided by a City agency shall be made available to all aliens who are otherwise eligible for such service unless such agency is required by law to deny eligibility for such service to aliens." The order was partially reversed by a 1996 US law, but CUNY refused to comply with that law.

NY should be deporting its illegal aliens, not subsidizing them. This is an example of aliens having more rights than Americans. If NY is conspiring to help illegal aliens evade the law, then the feds should crack down on NY.

Thursday, January 02, 2003

The woman who has been out to sabotage the career of the Berkeley law school dean has been identified by other bloggers. She is Jennifer Reisch. I don't think that the major media should have protected her identity. She was in her mid-20s when she went on some sort of consensual date with the dean; she didn't complain at the time; nothing illegal happened; and a couple of years later she is a lawyer who thinks that she can anonymously ruin the dean. I think that she should be held accountable for what she has done.
More on ideological definition changing. Besides reprobate, discrimination, and tolerance, Kausfiles quotes the NY Times saying:
In fact, food stamps are not welfare, not even charity, but a nutrition program that helps the poor buy food.
John sends this NY Times article about how Euro copyrights on 1950s music are expiring. Good. The USA supposedly extended its copyrights to 95 years and longer in order to conform to Europe. That was a fraud. 50 years is plenty long for a music copyright. I think 20 year copyrights would be better.

John also sends this story about a Russian student in LA being charged with leaking satellite TV documents. See also this CNN story. Under a federal law called The Economic Espionage Act of 1996, 18 U.S.C. §§ 1831-1839, he can get 10 years in prison. A couple of things bother me about this. Why is a federal prosecution needed, when California already has strong laws against trade secret theft? Why did federal prosecutors need high-level approval in DC to apply this law, unless the DoJ knows that the law is overbroad and easily abused? Why did a law firm even have these documents, unless there was already some dispute about them? How are the feds going to prove economic espionage when that entails proving economic benefit, when the Russian did not economically benefit and it is not clear how anyone else might have economically benefitted either?
A federal judge says that it is unconstitutional for a state license plate to say "Choose Life". Apparently the problem is that you cannot get the opposing view on a license plate. California has popular plates that say, "Protect our coast and ocean", and people have it as a statement against off-shore oil drilling. You cannot get plates with the opposite view.
Several bloggers cite this Fumento rant as debunking the Atkins diet. But he really doesn't. His main objections is that some people don't stick to the diet, and that the positive results might be obtainable in other ways.
For you Shakespeare fans, PBS Frontline has a show this evening on just who really wrote Shakespeare's plays. There is some pretty good evidence that they were really written by the Earl of Oxford, and that William Shakespeare was just a poor illiterate slob who didn't even own any books.
Update: It turns out that the show is based on a theory that Christopher Marlowe faked his own death in 1593, and then ghostwrote all of Shakespeare's works. Hmmm.
Here is the Lake Superior State U list of overused and lousy phrases.

Wednesday, January 01, 2003

Andy sends this opinion column saying that Bill Frist is not really a conservative because he is pro-abortion, anti-gun, and pro-immigration. I am not sure I believe this guy. The NY Times says today, "Dr. Frist is considered a strong ally by the National Right to Life Committee, which has given him a 100 percent rating on major votes for the last six years." Also, Andy was just arguing that conservatives should be pro-immigration. This guy says conservatives are anti-immigration.
Given the choice of video technologies, which would you choose if you had to choose one: VCR, DVD player, PVR, or HDTV? I say PVR. Charlie has a TiVo, and he agrees. And yet most people have never heard of the PVR, and when it is explained to them, they don't understand what is good about it.

The PVR has the following killer features: pause live TV, commercial skip, instant replay, easy scheduled recording, and random access. It's not complicated either -- my 5-year-old programs it to record her favorite TV shows.
A new Canadian book that uses the Peter Pan character is facing a court fight. The original Peter Pan character was first first published in 1902, so the copyright should have expired. But the UK has granted a perpetual copyright to a UK hospital, and its lawyers want the US and Canada to respect that. They figure that all they have to do is to convince the court that the Peter Pan copyright origination date was after 1922, because then they could cash in on an informal Congressional agreement to maintain perpetual copyrights on Mickey and anything created later.

The US Supreme Court is currently considering the constitutionality of such ridiculously long copyrights. (Eldred v. Ashcroft)

Update: More info on the Peter Pan case here.
Andy writes:
Roger asks, "Suppose immigration could be reduced by a few strokes of the pen in DC. No denial of liberties to anyone -- just reducing some arbitrary quotas. Would Andy be in favor?"

Fine with me, but that's not the full anti-immigration agenda.

Re: "reprobate", the real definition is "person hardened in sin." The new definition for school is "morally unprincipled," which would include young children and the insane. John says that's OK because we don't want the Calvinist definition, which is "One who is predestined to damnation. . . . Rejected by God and without hope of salvation."

But John's argument is another strawman. It is unnecessary to go nearly as far as the Calvinist definition. The traditional meaning of the word, quoted above, is descriptive, as in the case of the Columbine killers.

Modern school is increasingly based on the fiction that it can advance knowledge while denying basic truths. Bit by bit, school redefines basic terms to appease the politically correct denial of good, evil, salvation, redemption, sin, forgiveness, etc. Nothing meaningful is left.

John's alien ID plan might not have stopped the 9/11 terrorists from getting on the plane. I think that the idea is to keep them out of the country in the first place, or to kick them out when they violate their visa conditions. Most of the 9/11 terrorists were staying in the USA illegally.

Andy says he agrees with cutting immigration, but that's "not the full anti-immigration agenda." It sounds like he has some straw man in mind. Seems to me that you either want more immigration, or you want less. It's not real complicated.

As for "reprobate", it sounds like Andy wants to change the traditional definition to match his agenda, but doesn't like it when others do the same.

Andy writes:
Roger wrote, "John's alien ID plan might not have stopped the 9/11 terrorists from getting on the plane. I think that the idea is to keep them out of the country in the first place, or to kick them out when they violate their visa conditions. ..."

It doesn't add up. If the plan wouldn't stop terrorists boarding an airplane, then how would it catch other violations of visa conditions? Terrorists could simply live double lives, using their alien card ID only for lawful activity and an alias for unlawful deeds. A national citizen ID would result from an alien ID plan, as surely as night follows day.

Roger adds, "Andy says he agrees with cutting immigration, but that's 'not the full anti-immigration agenda.' It sounds like he has some straw man
in mind."

Not at all. As the above example illustrates, I oppose the national ID part of the anti-immigration agenda. I also oppose the other four enumerated points, which are also part of the anti-immigration agenda.

Roger adds, "Seems to me that you either want more immigration, or you want less. It's not real complicated."

Sounds like the gun control argument that always follows school shootings.

Roger concluded, "As for 'reprobate', it sounds like Andy wants to change the traditional definition to match his agenda, but doesn't like it
when others do the same."

The banning of several dozen key terms from schools, such as evil and sin and salvation and morally wrong, is well-known. But I'm realizing that hundreds of additional words are being altered in meaning to conform to the ban on the core words. "Reprobate", the perfect word to describe the Columbine killers, is merely one example. Here's another: retribution. I was shocked when my criminal law course completely omitted it from the list of justifications for criminal punishment. It's the main reason for criminal punishment, but it is meaningless to an educational system that pretends evil does not exist.

Joe and Gumma write that the words discrimination and tolerance have had their meanings altered in a major way.
I am reposting an ongoing exchange, because of some server errors.

John writes:
I am amazed and disappointed at how many people think an ID requirement for aliens is useless unless citizens are required to have them too.

That is so, so unimaginative. It is a declaration of defeat, of surrender to the barbarians who are inside our gates.

If, to achieve security, U.S. citizens must be tagged and tracked like aliens, then we have lost the war and the future is grim indeed.

But, of course, that is not necessary. Contrary to Liza and Andy, it is quite possible to build an alien ID-tracking system which they will not be able to escape simply pretending to be U.S. citizens.

Every alien who enters the U.S. can be required to have a high-tech electronic smart card containing his foreign passport and U.S. visa. That card would be swiped at the border, while returning U.S. citizens simply show their U.S. passport. Aliens can't pretend to be citizens at the border because they don't have a U.S. passport.

That first unavoidable contact at the border starts the ball rolling on tracking aliens. Aliens can be required to swipe their card frequently while in the U.S., perhaps daily - every time they board a plane, rent a car, check into a hotel, etc.

Every time the card is swiped, data is stored on the card and on a central database. The types of data collected depend on the type of visa - tourist, education, work, investor, etc.

Of course I don't expect every official to "distinguish by sight who is an alien." Aliens themselves will have a powerful incentive to show ID and swipe the card, because of severe penalties - arrest, deportation and permanent exclusion.

Once we build a system to track new people coming in, and work the bugs out, then we can attack the problem of aliens who are already here. There are many things that can be done about aliens that do not require a "corresponding citizen ID." For example, there are millions of people working under a bogus Social Security number. Most are aliens. Millions of aliens are drawing welfare or other public benefits.

I agree with John here.

It is amazing how some people think that tourists, immigrants, and illegal aliens should have more rights than citizens. We citizens have no privacy. If, say, you use your credit card regularly, then you are being tracked. Why shouldn't aliens be tracked?

Liza writes:
I have no problem with tracking aliens, or requiring them to check in periodically. But I still think you are dreaming if you believe you can deter terrorist activity by requiring an alien ID to be shown in certain places, without also requiring proof of citizenship from putative citizens. All it takes is one alien attempting to pass himself off as a citizen for the one time he conducts a suicide bombing mission. He's not going to care about the penalties for failing to swipe a card!

If the purpose is to check alien ID as fans enter the ball park for a big game, then I agree that it would not be effective at stopping a suicide bomber. Hardly anything can stop a suicide bomber.

An alien ID would be useful for other situations, such as tracking student visas. Many aliens come over here on a student visa, and the feds lose track of them, and don't know if they are in school or not.

Andy replies:
Neither John nor Roger specify how they would require national ID cards for aliens for domestic jobs, travel, credit transactions, etc., without inevitably requiring ID cards for citizens also. An alien tries to get on a plane, for example, and simply says he doesn't have an alien card. Without citizen cards, there would be no way to check his claim. The system would become a laughingstock. So Liza is correct.

Am I willing to have national ID citizen cards to fight a this War on Immigration? No.

Much of the rhetoric of John and Roger reminds me of the demands for gun control after a school shooting. Of course no one defends school shootings, but we do oppose many of the proposed responses to them.

The extirpation of religion from school, driven by the school prayer decision Engel v. Vitale and evolution indoctrination, can claim another casualty: the term "reprobate". Its real definition: "morally corrupt person". It's bowdlerized definition for school: "a morally unprincipled person." Those meanings are not the same. The latter version implies that young children would qualify as reprobates.

John writes:
Didn't you read my last e-mail? It is not true that there is no way to check an alien claiming to be a citizen without forcing citizens to carry the same type of comprehensive ID cards.

Under the system I propose, aliens would not just show ID to a clerk or official - they would have to swipe a smart card. That means a record of every such transaction (time, place, and other data) would be recorded and stored, both on the card itself and on a central database.

It follows that an alien's failure to swipe the card when required would be permanently noted, just as a debtor's failure to make a required payment is noted by the creditor. Penalties for such failure would be severe enough that the vast majority would comply, making it relatively easy to identify the much smaller number of absconders.

Nor am I willing to have national ID citizen cards to fight a this War on Immigration, because it defeats the whole purpose when the same rules apply
to citizen and alien alike. What I propose is a system in which only aliens are tagged, tracked and monitored by Homeland Security, while citizens are free to travel without such oversight.

The alternative definition of reprobate is "One who is predestined to damnation. . . . Rejected by God and without hope of salvation." Who believes that Calvinist nonsense anymore? I see no place for that concept in public schools.
Happy New Year to all.