Craven

There is an oft-quoted line from the delightful movie, The Princess Bride. The line, by Inigo Montoya, is: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

The first time I noticed it was Rachel Maddow, enough years ago that I was still watching her show (so three or four, at least). Maddow is a Rhodes Scholar, so it caught my attention — my first thought was that I must be wrong about the word. I looked it up, and… I’m maybe slightly more right than wrong? Or, honestly, maybe it’s just a wash.

The word I’m talking about is craven.

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A Bit of Huang and Laurie

For a Sci-Fi Saturday post, this started as a stretch and then some. While Zero Sum Game (2018), by S.L. Huang, has at least a science fiction flavor, The Gun Seller (1996), by Hugh Laurie (yes, that Hugh Laurie), is more fantastical than science fictional. They do have in common a protagonist beyond capable as well as action hero thriller plots.

I can redeem the post now that I’ve read The Android’s Dream (2006), by John Scalzi (whom I’ve praised here before for Redshirts). Here, too, is an extremely competent protagonist in an action hero thriller. (As an aside, the two written by men feature a love interest. (While I’m at it, guess which of the three does not have a Wiki page.))

The bottom line: I thoroughly enjoyed all three!

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Frosted Roads

I’m far from being a literary expert and even further from knowing anything about poetry (but, of course, I know what I like). That said, there are some poems I’ve picked up along the way and cherished. I’ve posted here about three of them: Desiderata, Invictus, and To His Coy Mistress. These poems all have foundational roles in my worldview.

Yet, surprisingly, I haven’t yet written about the most foundational of them all: The Road Not Taken, by the great American poet, Robert Frost. In my youth, a friend once whined at me, “You go out of your way to be different, don’t you!” Yes. Yes, I do. Just like the poem says to.

Except it doesn’t. It doesn’t say that at all.

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Mute Button

Maybe it’s seasonal — I really hate the darkness of winter — but I find myself sufficiently discouraged by the debate side of blogging to “hit the mute button” for a while. It isn’t the first time I’ve felt like withdrawing from what too often amounts to a tug-of-war. I didn’t blog at all in 2017, in part, because of that.

For months now I’ve been thinking of ending this blog (or taking another break), but I like having the outlet to express myself. I don’t do Twitter or Facebook or Instagram; I like to write about stuff. Whatever stuff strikes my fancy (which apparently breaks a Blogging Rule about focusing on a single topic).

My problem is that I’m tired of debates that go nowhere.

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Thor and Avengers

Well I have at long last finally seen Marvel’s The Avengers (2012) and Thor (2011) — two of the early films in the long-running Infinity Saga (the series has 23 films out so far; more are coming). The short version is I thought The Avengers had some good bits, but overall I found them both fairly underwhelming (but I’m so not the audience for these).

Unfortunately, I was also a little underwhelmed this week by Stargate: Universe, which I tried binge watching because John Scalzi (whose book Redshirts I really liked) was the creative consultant on the show. I quit after three episodes. It wasn’t that it was bad so much as it (as with these comic book movies) just seems like the same old stuff I’ve seen many, many times.

Ah well, you can’t win them all.

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Thanks for Patterns

The Thanksgiving holiday we celebrate here in the USA has some unfortunate overtones regarding its colonial origin. Still, the idea of a festival of thanks is an ancient one — thanks for a good harvest or a good hunt. Or, in our case, thanks for helping us not die last winter.

As with Christmas or the Copenhagen interpretation, we tend to take a “shut up and calculate!” approach to the holidays. “Shut up and shop!” in the case of the Winter Solstice, and “Shut up and give thanks!” today.

One thing we can be very thankful about is patterns…

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BB #64: Systems Bubble

For the last two weeks I’ve written a number of posts contrasting physical systems with numeric systems.

(The latter are, of course, also physical, but see many previous posts for details on significant differences. Essentially, the latter involve largely arbitrary maps between real world magnitude values and internal numeric representations of those values.)

I’ve focused on the nature of causality in those two kinds of systems, but part of the program is about clearly distinguishing the two in response to views that conflate them.

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Simple Probabilities

I’ve written before about Drake’s Equation and the Fermi Paradox. The former suggests the possibility of lots of alien life. The latter asks okay, so where the heck are they? Given that the universe just started, it’s possible we’re simply the first. Maybe the crowd comes later. (Maybe we create the crowd!)

Recently, one of my favorite YouTube channels, PBS Space Time, began a series of videos about this. The first one (see below) talks about the Rare Earth Hypothesis, a topic that has long fascinated me.

The synchronicity in this is that I’d just had a thought about basic probability and how it applies to our being here…

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Time and Thermodynamics

There is something about the articles that Ethan Siegel writes for Forbes that don’t grab me. It might be that I’m not in the target demographic — he often writes about stuff I explored long ago. I keep an eye on him, though, because sometimes he comes up with a taste treat for me.

Such as his article today, No, Thermodynamics Does Not Explain Our Perceived Arrow Of Time. I jumped on it because the title declares something I think many have backwards: the idea that time arises from entropy or change. Quite to the contrary, I think entropy and change are consequences of time (plus physics).

Siegel makes an interesting argument I hadn’t considered before.

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Virtual Physics

Last time I left off with a virtual ball moving towards a virtual wall after touching on the basics of how we determine if and when the mathematical ball virtually hits the mathematical wall. It amounts to detecting when one geometric shape overlaps another geometric shape.

In the physical world, objects simply can’t overlap due to physics — electromagnetic forces prevent it. An object’s solidity is “baked in” to its basic nature. In contrast, in the virtual world, the very idea of overlap has no meaning… unless we define one.

This time I want to drill down on exactly how we do that.

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