Friday Notes (Sep 23, 2022)

The older I get the more surprising it is to find myself in whatever MM/YY it happens to be. And a bit more surprised with each one that passes. 09/23. I did not expect to make it this far. Surprise!

Those with a weekly schedule know the rhythm of the days. (Rainy days and Mondays. Hump day. TGIF!) The months have a rhythm, too, and September was always a pivotal beat for me. The Autumnal Equinox — the portal into fall (my favorite season).

This particular September has been interesting enough to distract me from winter’s dark approach and to call for yet another edition of Friday Notes.

The month has been “interesting” in both senses of the word — literally and ironically. I think perhaps, for those with diverse interests, the former almost goes without saying. When one thing gets old, switch to another thing.

What I found “interesting” was exploring a part of YouTube previously ignored — different kinds of social and/or media commentary by the very highly opinionated. It mostly confirmed why I’ve ignored this sector and that it’s probably best to continue doing so.

And I spent a handful of days dog-sitting my pal, Bentley.

As any dog-owner knows, that’s a major boon for the spirit!

§ §

I recently finished a long and leisurely re-watch of Boston Legal (2004–2008) on Hulu. I’d watch an episode or two every once in a while, so it took a while. David E. Kelley used the show (and others he did) as a platform for exploring social issues. And to entertain, of course; the shows were generally good. (Kelley was also behind L.A. Law, The Practice, and Ally McBeal.)

What I found interesting was how much hadn’t changed in 15 years. There have been changes, not all of them good, but it surprised me how many of the issues confronting the characters either remain today or have gotten worse. That’s dismaying and discouraging.

On top of that, some of the predictions made about what could happen ‘if we don’t do something soon’ have an eerie prescience in light of the highly polarized tribal social and political environment that did happen.

Fiction entertains humans but the best fiction examines them. Science fiction, likewise. The best SF is about us. And because science fiction can be about the future, it’s often about how we might turn out, dystopic, utopic, or some reasonable midtopic between.

§

That said, the future is notoriously hard to predict. Arthur C. Clarke may have nailed communication satellites and the atom bomb, but many science fiction authors assumed faxes (including wrist models!) would endure. It’s surprising how few imagined flatscreen displays. Or the internet.

I have one of these!

On the one hand, the Dick Tracy wrist communicator (with a video screen — not even the communicators on Star Trek had screens). Our everyday phones are all that and more (because the internet).

On the other hand, those cool flying “garbage cans” from Dick Tracy.

They had larger and more elaborate “air cars” as well, but we still haven’t discovered anti-gravity or any other form of easy levitation. Everything we’ve got now involves a downdraft (although calling what comes out of the business end of a Saturn V a “downdraft” is putting it lightly, indeed).

So, yes to awesome personal communication devices, but still waiting on flying cars and orbital hotels (though, perhaps we’ll someday see the latter). And, of course, it’s never aliens. And warp drive is probably wishful thinking (and so are wormholes).

I want one of these!

When you come down to it, it’s pretty much the phones. And the internet. Plus, some baby steps into space. Most science fiction stubbornly remains fiction.

“Futurists” are half-assed science fiction writers who present themselves as accurately imagining future facts. Except they usually can’t and don’t. I have as much faith in their predictions as I do in those of any fortune teller.

I see them as con artists who take money for spinning fiction and labelling it as possible (or, worse, inevitable). Intelligent educated people recognize psychics and such as obvious frauds, or mere entertainment, but seem all too often taken in by futurists. (As I pointed out in a recent post, even the highly intelligent and educated can believe stupid things.)

At least science fiction is labeled as fiction. And it, too, got most of it wrong judged against what actually came to pass. Just ask the years 1984 and 2001.

I have similar issues with many theoretical physicists who present their wild ass guesses (WAGs) as scientific. Or, in some cases, as even plausible. That some working scientists use the phrase “post-empirical science” terrifies me. I think it’s an oxymoron, emphasis on the moron.

I love science fiction, been reading it all my life, but honesty in labeling matters. Presentation and framing matter. There are truth, lies, and fiction. Try to keep them straight.

§ §

Which, oh boy, seems a challenge for many. I understand it’s worse on other platforms, but YouTube has plenty that raises my eyebrows and makes me shake my head (oh, humanity, you silly, silly thing).

Although I enjoy it now, I was slow to embrace YouTube. In many cases, I continue to prefer reading to watching and listening, but the ability to show physical objects or animate complex concepts expands the information bandwidth enormously. I’ve come to love channels with content about math or physics.

Until the last couple of weeks, I’ve mostly ignored the social and media commentary channels. Especially the former, though it does comprise an “interesting” cross section of humanity. Dipping into it, what I noticed most was the polarization and tribalism. Everyone wants the world their way, but few imagine a seat at the table for everyone.

The social term “echo chamber” refers to a group with a strongly shared view constantly iterated among themselves. (A resonant standing wave that swamps other signals.) I think “echo chamber” could also describe the arena where the Left and Right (or opposing fans) echo each other but distort and reshape the echoes as weapons.

It’s a nasty self-sustaining tennis game of back-and-forth outrage and insult, a desperate grasping to capitalize off perceived errors and weaknesses. Which leads both sides to acting as if they don’t make errors or have weaknesses. Hence polarization, the inability to admit the other side has some decent points. In ongoing social issues, they usually do. (Which is why the issues are ongoing.)

§

I’ve especially ignored science fiction fan channels because, for most modern fans, Star Wars and Star Trek are the Jupiter and Saturn of their star systems. I don’t have much connection with those whose SF is entirely in the Anno Stella Bella era. (Or those who don’t read but only watch. For me, science fiction is hugely a literary artform.)

So, I haven’t had much interest in movie or TV show commentary channels. There are some parody channels with high production values that I’ve followed a long time, but I rarely stick with review or commentary channels. They too often seem fixated on one hot button issue or another.

In many regards, these SF fans are even more polarized and prone to offense and nasty counterattack than the sociopolitical channels. Frankly, a lot of SF fans give science fiction a bad name. [See: Fans: Not a Fan] The inability to abide different opinions, and the ugly personal attacks that follow, are embarrassing and shameful. (Not that people seem to have much sense of shame these days.)

§

Not long ago I wrote about The Critical Drinker (in fact, twice), a media commentary YouTube channel I’ve followed for quite a few months. Drinker and I agree on a great deal regarding movies and TV shows, especially concerning various unregarded gems as well as how bad most modern writing is.

Even so, I find myself skipping some of his general commentary because, for me, it’s gotten over-focused on the Tragedy of Wokeness in Entertainment. This has become a weapon for both the right, the left, and the fans (largely regardless of politics).

What’s happened is that movies, TV shows, video games, and even dating apps, have all become hugely politicized. If you don’t wear the right gang colors, you better watch your back. In a culture that embraces and legitimizes every whiff of perceived offense, and which thrives on outrage, no one has a sense of charity or humor anymore.

Studios use preemptive controversy to distract from a lack of substantive content. They announce that anyone complaining is politically or socially motivated. It couldn’t possibly be about the bad storytelling. (Or the questionable casting choices, a far touchier, more nuanced, more explosive, topic.)

I do think modern writing suffers from too much sociopolitical influence but much of it is motivated by audiences with no tolerance, let alone love, for anything outside their comfort zone. And in fairness, our modern deconstructive lust for taking every icon from our past and deliberately pushing it out of recognizable shape isn’t necessarily a good thing. It’s too often driven only by a desire for brand name recognition.

No doubt I’ll return to this in future posts. For now, suffice to say that I’m mostly back to math and physics.

§ §

Speaking of which:

Brightness indicates both positive and negative value. Black=zero.

It’s an image depicting the canonical notion of double slit wave interference. A wave source far to the image left hits a wall with two openings. Each of which acts as a new emitter of the wave. The two sources interfere when they meet.

What (at least for me) is neat about this image is that I generated it using math. It’s a first attempt at modeling the double slit experiment mathematically.

This version makes some simplifying assumptions, but more significantly uses a simple wave-based model. The above applies as much, if not more, to sound and water waves as it does to light waves. (My ultimate goal is to produce a similar picture using the Schrödinger equation and a mathematically precise quantum model. This is a small step in that direction.)

§ §

A final thought: One of the many things that makes working with dates challenging is that Americans use a MM/DD/YY format and Europeans use a DD/MM/YY format. The latter arguably makes more sense. The American version, when written as Sept 23, 2022, requires that embedded comma for the same reason that Smith, Jones, does.

In fact, exactly like Smith, Jones, the parts are out of order (hence the comma). The 2022 Sept 23 format isn’t common, but the European format, 23 Sept 2022, is its reverse. (Tip: using a YY-MM-DD format in filenames means they automatically sort by date.)

Stay “interesting”, my friends! Go forth and spread beauty and light.

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

9 responses to “Friday Notes (Sep 23, 2022)

  • Wyrd Smythe

    The equinox was at 1:04 GMT this morning, so it was at 20:04 CDT yesterday evening for me. An hour later for those on the east coast, two hours earlier for those on the west coast.

    I usually try to post on the equinoxes and solstices, but as I mentioned in the post, it’s been a distracting month.

    Regardless, we’re officially in fall as of today.

  • Wyrd Smythe

    FWIW, I made a couple of animated GIF files showing the effects of changing a single given parameter in the two-slit math. (One advantage of a mathematical model is the ability to change a parameter and re-render the model to see the effect.)

    The first shows the effect of changing the distance between the slits (while keeping the frequency constant): Distance [animated GIF, 440×300 pixels, 2.28 MB]

    The second shows the effect of changing the frequency of the source (while keeping the distance between the slits constant): Frequency [animated GIF, 440×300 pixels, 2.72 MB]

    (Note that both GIF files are slightly over two megabytes.)

  • Mark Edward Jabbour

    “What I found interesting was how much hadn’t changed in 15 years.”

    Which I find the MOST interesting is 15 years can be expanded to 15,000 years, or more. AS I wrote about in my post 8 September 2022, “The upgrade problem”. [btw the date order dd/mm/yy is the US military standard, because it separates the numbers, thus any chance of misreading the numbers. In theory.]

    We (humans) have the same sense perception AND emotions that we’ve had since we became “modern”. We’re not post-modern. We’ve yet to resolve our “instincts” that serve our individual and group survival needs. No amount of word or social manipulation is going to change our innate, basic desires. We HAVE managed to make things much more confusing and overwhelming.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Yeah, our brains haven’t changed much in 10,000 years or more, but our culture and technology sure have. Especially in the last few hundred years or so. The notorious “they” consider 1886 the year the car was invented. In 1969, a bit over 80 years later, humans walked on the Moon (and then largely lost interest in it). With the internet, never have so many been so connected, and we’ve seen all the changes that’s rung. Definitely a blessing/curse!

      And, indeed, some of the issues Boston Legal and many other shows have tackled go way further back than 15 years.

      Now that you mention it, I think I have seen that 24 September 2022 date format on government stuff before. It is nice and clear (so long as one uses month names rather than numbers). And my mind likes the linearity of day-month-year over out-of-order constructs that need commas.

  • Anonymole

    You did that with math? Impressive.
    All dates should be ISO compatible.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Thanks! I’ve been interested in CGI since even before I got into programming back in the 1970s. These images are just rendering a sine wave radiating from a point, so rendering each point in the image involves taking the sine of a distance calculation. For interference, you just sum two sources. All the points are calculated, then there’s a data normalization pass for best rendering.

      Date: 20220924T143521Z

      I do like things with a good sort order! Now if we could only get people to use metric…

  • Sci-Fi Saturday 9/24/22 | Logos con carne

    […] been exploring other things. For instance, other parts of YouTube than I usually frequent (see yesterday’s post). Relevant here, other science fiction authors. (And maybe a TV show if there’s […]

  • Katherine Wikoff

    I love your posts! They go in such interesting and fun directions. I never know where we’ll end up, rolling from your canine buddy to cool computer graphics/art and other smart, intriguing stuff. I’m just happy to come along for the ride!😄

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Thank you! I’ve heard the canonical advice about how a blog should pick a lane and stay in it to be successful, but so many things interest me there’s no way I could do that. 🤔🤷🏼‍♂️

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