Sunday, January 30, 2011

Why Dawkins?

A lot of people have asked why I focus on Richard Dawkins so often in such a critical way.

To begin my explanation, I'd like to aver that I consider Dawkins one of the principal scientific and philosophic thinkers of the twentieth century.  I am convinced that his work prior to nineteen-ninety will help form the bedrock for many generations of thinkers when it comes to the sciences of evolution and psychology and linguistics.

Dawkins' 1976 book "The Selfish Gene" was the presentation of his life's work to that point.  In it, he offered the main focus of  his research which revolutionized the way we thought about the mechanics and means of evolution.

As if that sort of work wasn't important enough, Dawkins offers a side observation in the same book that thought (broken down into units he calls "memes) spreads from human mind to human mind very much like a virus.

Both elements of the book proved a paradigm shift in both science and philosophy.  While the biological world busied themselves digesting his ideas about evolution, the philosophical and linguistic and psychological worlds were just as excited about memes.

Between Dawkins' Memes and Jacques Derrida's ideas on post modernity, the human race now  had potent new tools to understand itself.

It was in  his discussion of memes that Dawkins planted the seed for what became the second half of his life's work.  He used his concept of memes to explain how religion came about and why religion was so persistent.

Although it didn't seem like a big deal at the time, this idea must have made a tremendous impression on Dawkins because he would go on to spend the next 30 years in an increasing battle against religious thought, to the point where he is considered by many, the world's spokesperson on atheism.

While most of his peers were content to leave the war between science and religion to the nineteenth century,  Dawkins launched a renewed crusade against the forces of faith.

It was at this point, I began to noticed Dawkins becoming the very thing he fought against.  He wasn't advocating science anymore, he was proselytizing atheism, and using many of the same tools and methods missionaries used to spread religion.

If you define religion as a closely held way of thinking and a way of being to spread and strengthened using the meme, then atheism was becoming a religion.  It was no longer a unique way of thiking.  It was becoming simply another seat at the table of world's religions, and Dawkins was its Paul.

I have no issue with atheism itself.  It's a valid way of seeing the world.  When atheism becomes another church though, then that's another matter, and if Dawkins now wishes to act as the principal evangelist for this atheism religion, then he's going to come into my criticism from time to time.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Most Trolled Person on SecondLife Dr Phil Secondlife

Six months ago, Harrison Digifoot was one of the most popular people in SecondLife. His country charm combined with his guitar playing made him a hero amongst the locals.

Then Harrison fell in love.  As sometimes happens, the object of his affection wasn't into it.  Instead of blowing it off and moving on with his life, Harrison decided to make alts following this girl around saying strange things and trolling her.

It didn't take long for other people to notice Harrison had gone off the rail and comment on it.  Harrison responded with rage and even more craziness, which made his reputation as a lunatic spread even more.

Within just a few months, Harrison couldn't go anywhere in SecondLife without someone recognizing him for his erratic behavior and trolling him.

Harrison came to SecondLife originally to share his music, and despite the destruction of his reputation he still hoped to start a career as a singer.  There was a basic flaw in his plan though because, by now, anywhere he tried to perform, the trolls would follow.

Recently, some idiot did hire Harrison to sing at their sim and what followed was one of the largest, most organized troll fests ever.

Read the account here at the troll manual

Watch the video below

Dawkins Ducks

In this video, Richard Dawkins answers a question many people have wondered for a long time: why he won't debate the person seemingly most able to debate him, William Craig Lane.

In his answer, Dawkins says he will debate "Popes, Cardinals and Bishops", but has no time for people who are simply "professional debaters", even though at this stage of his life he derives most of his income from debates and the books built on them.

I suspect there's more to this than meets the eye though.  Dawkins' arguments come from science, and it's from science he refutes the bible.  There are very few "Popes, Cardinals and Bishops" capable of taking him on in this arena as it simply isn't their training.  Debating people with no scientific training on the scientific viability of the bible is rather like trying to have a foot race with a one-legged man.

Lane, even though his primary educational training wasn't in the sciences, decided to enter the lions den and quite effectively makes his argument there.  He certainly has done more to understand the other side of the argument than Richard Dawkins ever tried.

Lane is an evangelical, and while I often have as many issues with evangelicals as Dawkins does, I have to admit Lane has done his homework and has a pretty concise understanding of the matter.

I would encourage Dawkins to take up this particular gauntlet.  He's been soft balling all these years debating ministers and debating Lane would be a great entry into the practice of debating the many fellow scientists who have been after him for years.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Manipulate the Words, Manipulate the Mind

During the civil rights movements of the 50's, 60's and 70's, the American Academy decided that they would participate in the fight in some unusual ways.

Language controls thought, they surmised, so the best way to change the way Americans thought about race was to change the way they talked about it.  The academy was the perfect place for such an effort since, in their roles as teachers they had a great deal of control over how children learned to speak and express themselves.

At the forefront of their efforts was a move to change the words we used to describe race.  Out were words like nigger, negro and white, in were words and phrases like Caucasian and African-American.  There were even efforts to re-write dictionaries to omit words like "nigger".

Had this been an effort to use chemistry to resolve a disease, the academy would have used the scientific method to strenuously test the new idea before deploying it, but since it was a linguistic solution to a sociological ill, there was no testing at all, although there was a great deal of discussion about the effort as it was underway.

A curious thing happened along the way.  Although the nations urban poor were the intended beneficiary of the effort, their low participation rates in the academy due to high drop-out rates and low entry rates into college-level education, they were often the least exposed to the effort and and they became the people most likely to use the old word patterns and expressions, including the use of "nigger".

Although noted early on, the academics didn't consider this phenomenon very important since their main effort was to change the behavior of the oppressors, not the oppressed.  The oversight would come back to haunt them though as urban black music grew in popularity, constantly reintroducing the word to colloquial use.

Since this effort was considered successful, the same people began trying to expand their influence on the culture by controlling even more words.  Considered an unassailable good within the Academy, many in the culture began to resent this type of obvious effort at mind control and began calling the technique "political correctness".

It seems the academy was so impressed that they could control the social mind by controlling words, that they forgot to consider whether they should. 

The effort was having a practical impact as well.  In the trial of O.J. Simpson, defense attorneys were able to convince the jury to doubt all the physical evidence collected against Simpson by having witnesses testify they heard one of the policemen in the case use the words "nigger" prior to coming to working on the case.  Logically there was no link between the words the policeman used prior to the case and the actual evidence in that case, but the jury was so conditioned to think people shouldn't use these words that it was a significant factor in diminishing the state's case against Simpson.

The academy assumed that all reasonable people would agree with them that these words should not be used, but they never predicted the word's return via the volume of anonymous use of the internet where people use the word with an almost perverted glee knowing there would be no repercussions.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Apes Win

After comparing the trolls of Violet to the Planet of the Apes, Stefanos announced his retirement from the field.

I'm not at all sure happened, but it seems Nym was involved.  Nym has the ability to talk men into very strange things.  She's aware of this and seems to get a great deal of enjoyment out of it.  She once talked Chapel into crossing an ocean for a romantic encounter, which sounds like witchcraft to me.  I always put wax in my ears and lash myself to the mast when she's around, just in case.

There's no easing of tension between Stefanos and Oggen though, so I suppose battles will continue there.

Bored an annoyed, Oggen seems to have cast himself as the arch villain of SecondLife.  His M.O. is to prey on the weakness of others, particularly the sexual proclivities of the female population.

Interestingly, casting himself as a villain, not only makes SecondLife more interesting for Oggen, it makes SecondLife more interesting to anyone who accepts him as a villain.  For Stefanos he has become some sort of questing beast, pursuing which is vastly more fun than hanging out at info hubs listening to the bullshit.

Where there might be a problem, Boogar-Nose Stark has also decided he will be the arch villain for SecondLife, for much the same reasons.  Boogar-Nose isn't smart or creative enough to spread his reputation by making women do stupid things, so he's crashing sims and talking about Hitler.

There can be only one arch-villain though, so at some point there has to be some sort of death-match between Oggen and Boogar-Nose.  I have a pretty good idea how it'll turn out, but it'll still be fun to watch.

Blue Mars Jumps the Shark

Often mentioned as the best competition for SecondLife, Blue Mars announced recently that their entire focus is now on mobile applications and they are not continuing to develop viewers for personal computer.

Making virtual worlds work as a business is not an easy proposition.  Nearly all who have gone before failed in just two or three years.

My guess is that Blue Mars looked at their burn rate and how much of their initial investment they had left and decided they couldn't pay for developing both platforms so they picked one.  Since SecondLife was the established leader among personal computers, I suppose they decided to go with mobile applications instead.

My guess is this will fail.  An immersive experience isn't that immersive on a 3-inch screen with no mouse or full-size keyboard.  People use their mobile devices very differently than computers, in particular, they use them for much shorter periods of time, but more often.  Users are probably not going to be that interested in several visits to Blue Mars a day for just ten minutes each visit.

I'm glad they were out there trying though.  On a fair playing field, competition only makes you stronger.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Justice in the News

In the news today, two crimes that happened a generation before are moving forward to closure.

In the first case, Baby Doc Duvalier is heading to trial from his crimes as dictator of Haiti.  Tried by Haitian courts, he will most likely be executed, but they may decide on life imprisonment.  Fifty-nine now, Duvalier must have been much younger than I realized when he ruled Haiti.

The second case involves the uncovering of an order from the Vatican instructing bishops and priests not to take suspicions they may have about child molesting priests until the police ask for them.  Victims rights groups are calling this the "smoking gun" they've been waiting for and expect major moves in the case to come from it.

There is almost nothing to prevent either of these case from playing out to their logical conclusion.

In the instance of Duvalier, I don't see how his death will help the thousands of people he injured or give his country any sense of closure, or even help prevent the same thing from happening again.  It's possible that there simply is no justice to be had in that case.

Of the Vatican though, that's a systemic problem, and these types of civil justice cases are pretty good at improving, if not resolving, systemic problems.  Some people are worried about what such a judgement will do to the church financially, but I'm not.  The Vatican has over a thousand year's worth of accumulated wealth and can pay pretty much any judgement brought against them. 

They may have to drastically restructure the church, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.  The church's role in the world is dramatically different from what it was 500 years ago, but it's structure remains the same.  It's possible the painful restructuring this case may result is the only possible way to reform the church to fit its current role and purpose in the world.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Noise and Confusion

There's a rather stupid game that a lot of people play for some reason.

It goes like this.  You TP into a place, pick a target, then say unpleasant things about them.  In return they say unpleasant things about you.  This continues until one or both sides gets tired of it and TP's out or goes AFK.

Some people call it trolling, but to me, real trolling is more well thought out and has a punchline.  This form of free-style trolling is just kind of bullshit.

It's fairly popular though.  There are people who do only this on SecondLife.  Why, I cannot answer.

The real goal, I suppose, is to get the opposition to show some sort of negative emotion.  It's often called "rage", but it's more akin to annoyance, like popping somebody with a rubber band over and over again until they scream at you.

There are some great minds at work in SecondLife.  None of them are involved in this bullshit.

Normally I would call for an end to such nonsense, but the people involved in this have been at it for quite some time now and built their reputation on it.  I doubt they'd listen to what I thought no matter what.

It makes me a bit sad really.  For all the potential for creating and sharing and experiencing, this sort of verbal sparring over who's uglier is something of a let down.

Threats From The Internet

Try entering your real name and city into google sometime.  The results are surprising.

The culprit is the telephone company.  Many years ago, they got the idea that they could make money by publishing their customer information data, including: name, address and phone number, in a book with special yellow pages in the back to sell advertising.  The idea was a huge hit and made a lot of money.

To protect themselves from any concern over privacy or liability from their new "phone book", the telephone companies went from country to country, state to state, and city to city making sure all the necessary local laws declared the data in these books "public information" just like court records.

Zoom ahead about eighty years and you have a number of internet companies (including Yahoo) who get the idea they can take this public information data and build a website that might get some hits.  Combine this with Facebook, Myspace and a number of other sites you voluntarily joined but didn't read the terms of service, and all someone really needs to get a great deal of information about you off the web is your real name and where you live.

This information has been available for generations, but nobody really cared about it because to search non-local phone books, one usually had to go to a fairly large library.  Now, with the Internet, it's easy for any nut job to search  your phone book from the privacy of their own home.

That all this information is so publicly available becomes a problem on SecondLife where people really freak out if their data is known.  The simple act of revealing someones real name and address becomes the most threatening gambit on SecondLife, even though it's not hard to find.

For example: Stefanos, the English abortion fox-hunting guy has struck up some sort of battle with Oggen, the I can get girls naked on cam, even though I have an annoying Swedish voice guy.  After some initial squabbles, Oggen decides to deliver the killing blow by publishing his enemies real name and address, only SURPRISE, the guy's not dead.  He's not really anything except maybe pissed off which rather makes the gambit of publishing somebody's real life information nothing more than a stupid troll meant to piss you off.

It's happened to me several times.  Originally, I thought I'd use SecondLife very publicly and put links to my real life data in my profile, but eventually quit it because it made other people nervous for me to be "exposed" like that, when they weren't.

I still occasionally get people who try and threaten me by saying they have my picture.  As long as it's one off the web and they're not sneaking around taking new pictures of me while I'm shopping I really don't care.

There are ways to limit how much of this information about you is on the web.  Here is a fairly good article on how to do it

Or you can do like me and assume the people from the internet aren't any more insane or malicious than the people living in your town and just leave the data up there but buy a gun.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Prophet of South Park

It's be a little over a year since the last time Muslim radicals threatened to kill the creators of South Park for showing the prophet Mohamed on their show. 

Never mind that the same show had Hindu deity Krishna snorting cocaine and reading child porn on the internet or showing Aquaman as a... well Aquaman actually is a homosexual so I don't suppose it matters.

Suppose Muslim leaders had taken the attitude that they were confident enough in their faith and their message that it didn't really matter what happened on South Park, that a satirical cartoon of the prophet is no where near the forbidden practice of creating an idol?

Had they instead embraced South Park the next day their recruitment centers would have been full of people with a renewed interest in Islam because the stigma of a superstitious, unreasonable, disconnected Islam would be lifted.

They didn't do that though.  There were death threats against the creators of South Park which played right into their hands.  The Muslim criticism of South Park, and especially the death threats, made this one of the most watched episodes ever, adding yet another layer of satire for them to work with. 

You know what smart politicians do when comedians make fun of them?  They volunteer to be on their show and it works every time.  Nixon did it with Laugh-In and that alone just about locked up his hopes for a re-election.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Cabin Fever Griefers

It's cold in Canada this time of year.  Outdoor activities are curtailed.  Boogar-Nose and his E-Girlfriend don't have jobs, they're not in school, they're not very creative or interesting so they're spending their time crashing sims on SecondLife.

Why SecondLife?  Because it's easy.  It's easier to crash SecondLife than other programs because SecondLife is a creative and collaborative platform and all those tools they give us to create and share can be used to mess things up as well.  Getting the tools to crash sims and what-not are incredibly easy to find.  All you need is Google.  Crashing FaceBook would probably be much more interesting, but it's also much more difficult.

Since SecondLife doesn't program engaging elements into the platform like other computer games, the extent to which users are able to find something to do on SecondLife is determined by what they bring to the table.

People who are intelligent or funny have conversations.  People who are angry or satirical troll.  People who are artistic build.  If you really don't have any of these things to offer and spend all day every day smoking weed and drinking red bull then you grief.

The rewards for griefing are really low, so you have to do a lot of it to get any sense of accomplishment out of it, which is why people like boogar-nose literally spend all night crashing sims.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Officials Investigate Whether Assassin Hung Out at Violet

Arizona police are said to be investigating whether or not pistol assassin Jared Loughner hung out at the Violet info hub on SecondLife.

Officials say they can't yet determine if Loughner used SecondLife, but they know he was addicted to the internet and spent most of his time smoking pot, discussing conspiracy theories, reciting bad poetry and making girls feel uncomfortable.

"If he didn't go to Violet he would have felt very comfortable there." Said an Arizona FBI special agent.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Who is The Beast 666?

Throughout history people have considered mathematics as a part of magic. Euclid, Pythagoras and Newton all learned the mathematics they became famous for in their pursuit of magic.

The same holds true for the Jews. They had a system of converting the letters of their religious works into numbers to reveal all sorts of hidden information.

If you apply it to their earliest works, before they devised the system, you get a bunch of garbage, but if you apply it to their older works it can yield some pretty cool stuff.

The Book of Revelation was written by a man calling himself "John" written somewhere between 69 and 97 AD. John would have been a man who considered himself both a Jew and a follower of Christ since this was before the two beliefs split. Some say this John was John the apostle who followed Christ. While possible, to be that John he would be between 115 and 140 years old when writing the book.

John was in prison, a victim of the relentless persecution of Christians began by the Roman Emperor Nero. John was one of the lucky ones since he was allowed pen and paper in prison while others were crucified or slaughtered for sport in the arena.

John calls the villain of his prophesy "the beast" and identifies him with the number Six hundred sixty-six. Christians have been on the look-out for this man ever since.

We know Jewish mystics hid meaning by turning letters into numbers, what happens if we turn numbers into letters? Could this be a clue to who "the beast" might be?

In Greek, Emperor Nero who started these bad times for the Christians was spelled "Nerōn Kaisar", in Aramaic, which the rest of John's letter was written in, it's "נרון קסר" or nrwn qsr.

Nero was also known as "the beast" to both his critics and friends alike for his temper and appetites and utter lack of etiquette.

If we take the Aramaic spelling for Nero Kaisar and use the traditional values for turning numbers into letters we get 200 60 100 50 6 200 50. Add all these together and you get 666.

Clearly John believed Rome was the Anti-Christ. He had good reason to being in their prison and all. Obviously he wrote Revelation as either a hope or a prediction that Christ would return and destroy the Roman empire, and maybe get him out of prison.

In a weird way, John's prediction came true. In another two-hundred years, Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinus became emperor of Rome and he converted the entire empire to the worship of Christ. Although the battle bore no resemblance to the one written about in John, at least the idea of Christ did defeat what he considered the Anti-Christ.

Oh yeah, this all has nothing to do with the guy on SecondLife who calls himself Nero, except they're both kind of beastly and evil. Just sayin.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Who Goes to the Zoo?

Before home computers were capable of modeling in much detail, I built much the same as I do now in SecondLife using HO scale model trains.

One of the things I always wanted for my HO layout was a zoo. Over the years I collected bits and pieces to accomplish this, but was never able to get more than enough for a few exhibits and since I wasn't capable of sculpting animals on that small of a scale (without going blind) my HO scale zoo was never to be.

In SecondLife though, I had more than what I needed to make my model zoo a reality, so I made it.

I never really gave much thought to who would visit the zoo though. After six months of operating the Parktown Zoo, here are my observations of the visitors.

A lot of people, it seems, come to SecondLife with a set motif for how they want to spend their time, and apparently vary only a little from it.

I never got many visitors to the zoo who were interested in Medieval or Gorean motifs. Zoos weren't part of the books they read, so they weren't part of their SecondLife experience as well.

By far the largest number of visitors to the zoo were people who wanted to have some sort of family experience in SecondLife. People take real children to zoos, so I suppose people assumed it was the thing to do with avatar children as well.

I've also noticed an unusually high number of my visitors were people wishing to express some sort of African-American Urban experience, whether their operators were actually of African descent or not. In the real world, most Zoos are older now, and surrounded by older urban areas. While they may not be a feature of the suburban life, Zoos must be a fixture in many urban landscapes.

One thing I never expected was that people interested in a bondage life-style on SecondLife sometimes expressed a fascination with the idea of living in the cages I built for the animals, several asking for copies of them and some even wanting to live in my zoo as some form of restraint or humiliation.

Some even agreed to wear animal avatars while they were in the cages and behave only as animals. I experimented with the idea for a while thinking it might be a way to get more realistic animals, but what I soon discovered was many people were coming to the zoo to see the freaks getting off on pretending to be animals so I discontinued the practice.

We get a great many dates to the zoo, both straight and gay couples. They're usually pleasant and seem to have a good time.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

An Infinitely Smaller Universe

Earlier I wrote about the possibilities of using Fractals in SecondLife.

One of the most beautiful things about Fractal geometry is that the more you zoom in on a fractal, the more detail you reveal, and this process goes on forever.

Below is a video clip showing Arthur C Clarke putting the question to Stephen Hawking, is the physical universe like fractal geometry? Does the universe gain more detail as you zoom in on it?

This is an important question. We know about molecules and atoms and can even infer about quarks and other sub-atomic particles, but would the physical universe go on infinitely smaller than that if we could somehow zoom in to that detail?

Hawking answers the question quickly and flatly, that there is a limit to the physical universe somewhere near the level of quarks. The universe doesn't get infinitely small.

I have a problem with this. Granted Stephen Hawking is a god of physics and I'm a god of not shit, but how can he so answer so flatly and finally about things we have no way of perceiving?

Couldn't it be that the universe does in fact get infinitely smaller, but we simply haven't the tools to zoom in any further? And if we don't have the tools to zoom in any further how can we possibly state what might (or might not) be there if we could?

An infinitely small universe could solve some problems currently facing physics. For instance, there may be no need for dark matter or dark energy if the universe gains infinite detail the closer you get to it.

I don't hope to actually win this argument. I'm completely incapable of proving even the smallest portion of it mathematically. It's something to think about though.

Columbus was Stupid

As a child I was subjected to a fair amount of myth building concerning the person of Christopher Columbus.

By myth building, I mean the practice of taking an actual historical figure and changing the actual facts of their life to fit the impact they had on the world. This was standard practice and even considered a sociologically good thing prior to the twentieth century and lead to axioms such as "the winners write history", which was, at the time, absolutely true.

In the twentieth century though, historians changed the paradigm they worked under and decided it was far batter to tell people the truth of what happened and let the reader make their own conclusions. Thus, the deconstructive school of history was born.

It would take another hundred years for the bulk of historians to get on board with the new program, so students like me, in the 1970's, were still subject to the occasional remnant of myth building.

Since you too were probably told some of these things about Christopher Columbus, I thought it might be interesting to point out some of the errors in the story.

Most people in Columbus' time believed the world was round. This business of a flat earth came about because of the way map-makers converted the three-dimensional data of the real earth into the two-dimensional data presented on a map (which was actually flat). There were even maps at the time that showed quite clearly one could sail west from Europe and reach Asia in the east.

The question was not whether the world was flat, but how big it was, and in this Columbus got it quite wrong. Most people accepted the estimate of Eratosthenes from the second century. They got it right. Using the Pythagorean theorem Eratosthenes calculated the earth's circumference with remarkable accuracy.

With this correct measurement, nobody sailed west to reach the east because they envisioned a vast empty sea between the two. Indeed, had Columbus not bumped into North America, his men would have starved to death long before they reached the half-way point to China.

Columbus believed in a much smaller Earth, where the Atlantic ocean was some one-fifth of its actual size, and it was this idea he sold Queen Isabella on. Much is made about Isabella selling some of her jewels to pay for the expedition, but at that time it wasn't that unusual. One of the reasons royals accumulated so much jewelery was to use it as a portable source of money.

Columbus wasn't a particularly good sailor or navigator and nearly killed himself and his crew on a number of occasions before finding land in the west. He was such a bad navigator, he never even knew the land he finally saw wasn't China.

Columbus was prone to coming up with ridiculously exaggerated wild theories like the one about the earth being a fraction of its real size. Two of them would dominate the exploration of the new world for the next hundred and fifty years.

Talking to the locals, Columbus convinced himself two things existed in this new world. The first was a city made of gold. This hope for discovering "El Dorado" dominated the Spanish claim to the new world for many years to come. Even more fantastic than the City of Gold, Columbus believed he was close to discovering the Garden of Eden. Much of the early exploration of Florida was devoted to finding the Garden of Eden and its corresponding "Fountain of Youth". Needless to say, neither of these things were ever discovered in the New World.

Knowing the real history of Columbus, it's pretty hard to paint him as a great man. At best, he was something of a chronic looser who literally stumbled across something remarkable, even though he was wrong at every turn.

This sort of thing happens every so often. To me, that's actually more interesting than the idea that only great men can make great discoveries. One day, I hope we'll start teaching children the true story of Columbus in schools.

Why Some People Still Hold to Creationism

It's frustrating when we see otherwise rational, intelligent people profess they believe in the bible, not Darwin. How can they do this? Why would they want to?

The how is quite simple. For most of man's history everyone had it wrong on the question of evolution and they survived quite well. For the individual, the consequences for making the wrong choice on what to believe here are very low.

For most of us, Evolution is an esoteric rather than a practical science. It's just not something we use in our everyday life. Unless an individual is actually a biologist, getting it wrong will, at worst, make them look stupid at parties.

As a society though, it's vital that people working in fields like biology understand this important theory on how life developed, because if they get it wrong, the rest of us might miss out on the next advance in medicine or agriculture or environmental science.

This is what threatens us when people want to do things like taking evolution out of schools or teach inferior theories like the bible as an equal to it. Most of those students may never need to know the truth about how life developed on earth because they won't grow up to work in the sciences, but for those few who do, it's imperative they get the best information.

Why would somebody choose to be wrong though? They're not stupid. Even a brief look at the body of evidence tells you there's much more supporting evolution and very little supporting the biblical story.

They choose cognitive dissonance in this matter, because for them it's easier to be wrong than to be right.

Being right, as I said earlier, has fairly low rewards for the individual. Most of us don't have opportunities to use knowledge of evolution very often so giving up that option isn't much of a loss.

Publicly embracing the bible instead of science might have some usable benefits for people who come from sub-cultures that value it so they end up in a situation where denying evolution has no practical penalty, but embracing the bible has some cultural gain.

For believers, God has a pretty good reputation. They say he's kind, intelligent, forgiving and insightful. There's comfort in believing an agent like that created the world. Evolution is a process though, as such, it's incapable for kindness or forgiveness so embracing it as the creative force may intimidate some.

We remember our mothers as humans, comforting, smiling, who provide for us and make us feel safe. Suppose you were to find out that wasn't your mother at all though. Your real mother was a machine, a vat of chemicals and valves and tubes, without conscious or feeling.

For many people, asking them to embrace evolution must seem just that way. Evolution replaces their human-like creator God with a cold machine so they choose simply not to believe it, and immediately they discover there are no ill consequences for choosing not to believe it so the thought pattern settles in.

We're in little danger of the faithful doing any damage to evolution. We have yet to experience an incident where science doesn't eventually win out over religion. Some of the early battles, like the ones over Copernicus are so well won that we hardly ever mention them anymore.

As a practical matter, faith does seem to help some people, so if the need it, I'm not inclined to try and take it from them. I'm not too worried about them taking science from me either. Science stands on its own and they've yet to have any luck suppressing it for even one generation.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Our Finest Hour

The video below represents what many people consider America's darkest hour. If you've seen the resignation of Richard Nixon before, it might have been a while.

I would posit that the resignation of Richard Nixon was not America's darkest hour, but one of its greatest.

It stands as proof that for all the fears about the military-industrial complex (which were never greater than in the early seventies) for all the fears about globalism and the degradation of the American Dream, the premise that ours is a government of the people and by the people and for the people, where the government fears us rather than the other way around was never more evident than in the moment when Richard Nixon resigned as President of the United States.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

You've Heard this Song a Thousand Times

You've probably heard the above song in SecondLife about a thousand times, but probably had no idea where it came from.

It's a mash-up from Youtube.  The basic tracks are Stephanie from the Icelandic kids exercise show "Lazytown" who was approximately twelve when filming this sequence.  Added to this is some-stupid-rapper- I-don't-really-give-a-fuck-they're-all-the-same-to-me.

The audio only version of this you get on SecondLife isn't that bad, but seeing the full version on Youtube is just too creepy for words.

To begin with there's Stephanie, the 12 year old prodigy whose face never seems to change from that one plaster sardonic Cheshire grin and dance moves make her seem far less human than her puppet chorus.

Add  her gayer-than-the-village-people co-stars and the robot pink hair, and the fact that the whole thing is in English, but filmed in Iceland for some strange reason and "lazytown" is pretty creepy own its own.

Layered on top of this is the nameless rap guy talking to the twelve-year-old Stephanie like she's a strip club ho and commanding her to "grab that dick it's yours bitch".

I'm a little concerned about the 4chan retard who thought it'd be a good idea to put these these two videos together.  I don't think it counts as pedophilia per-se since I'm not convinced Stephanie is actually human and not some sort of Japanese dancing robot, but it's close enough that I'm not comfortable with this guy living near schools, churches or liquor stores.

The interwebs can be a very fucked up place my friend.  Don't go anywhere near it without some sort of weapon.

The un-edited version is only slightly less creepy.

Fractals on SecondLife

SecondLife is really great for Euclidean Geometry.  Using either the native tools or mesh, I can create all the classic shapes and use the time-honored formulas with ease, and it looks beautiful.

Euclidean Geometry breaks down though when you're trying to make a more natural shape though, like trees or rocks.  In SecondLife we can make a pretty good tree bole with sculpties, but when it comes to the canopy, all we can do is fake it to some degree using over-lapping alpha textures.

A simple Fractal Tree
made from a formula
To make a tree, you need, not euclidean geometry, but fractal geometry.  With fractals, trees become fast easy and fun.

The problem is that, with the way Second Life currently renders things, whether it counts faces or prims, fractals eat up your prim-limits in just one or two iterations.  I could make you a pretty good fractal tree, but it'd be the only thing you could have on the whole sim with no prims left-over for a small bench under it to sit.

My problem here is that computers actually find it very easy to render fractals.  When Mandelbrot did his original work with fractals in the mid-seventies, he was using computers considerably less powerful than what's in your digital watch today.

I really do believe fractals could become part of the SecondLife experience fairly easily, without eating up your computer's resources.  From the server-side, you're actually talking about storing and transferring less data, and less complex data than what SecondLife currently uses for sculpties.

I realize I don't get a vote on these things, but if I did, I would vote that Linden Labs consider taking on fractals as their next big project after collada mesh.  It could have a tremendous impact on the look and feel of SecondLife and give it a considerable jump on the competition.

How Fractals make trees from math
More Fractal Trees

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Why People Blog

There are lots of reasons to write blogs.  Your reasons though, usually predispose the result.

I blog because I love to write.  This business of building thoughts together by stacking words one after another fascinates me and fills me with a bit of stupid glee.

Since this is my motive and because I am a compulsive observer of the world, I'll never run out of things to blog about.  My posts won't always be that interesting, but I could easily do several a day without noticing the missing time.

Others are chroniclers.  They simply like to record the day's events for audience or audiences unspecified.  I'm convinced the impulse to do this has something to do with how the brain converts short-term memories into long-term ones.  It's a natural, often pleasurable process, and as long as they don't run out of days, they won't run out of things to blog about.  If today wasn't interesting enough to write about, they can always pull up something that happened before they started the blog.

Fans make great bloggers.  There's something out there they love, and something they love talking about--often more than they're able to find people willing to listen. so the blog gives them a platform to talk endlessly about how much they love NASCAR or Star Trek or knitting or whatever without anyone rolling their eyes and changing the subject.

Some people are frustrated in life, and they suffer encounters where they just aren't able to get the upper hand, so they blog about it in revenge.  There are any number of hate blogs in reference to SecondLife.  The Turd List, the Leslie/Ziggy Hanja Hate Blog, even Constance has her own blog about how much she hates us.

The problem with hate blogs is that, even though they may feel infinite amounts of hate, they don't have infinite things to say, so after the first few posts about how much they hate whatever they hate they suddenly find themselves with nothing else to say, but a blog with only four or five posts isn't very likely to garner very many readers, people may check back for a while to see if there's anything new, but eventually they'll abandon the hate blog and it remains forever floating in cyberspace as a monument to some butt-hurt soul left with no other way to vent their frustrations.

Vendors and Creators