Archive for October 2005

How Much Can Change in One Week

October 30, 2005

A week ago I had worries – concerns about a personal matter – enough that I was praying for God’s help (and praying to accept his will, regardless). A week ago, a local radio talk show host I like was sounding almost despondent over the state of the Bush administration, what with the Harriette Miers nomination, the impending indictments, the continuing war in Iraq reaching 2000 US servicemen killed in action and economic fall out from hurricanes and gas shortages. He said that it seemed like there was no possibility that the administration could be effective from now until the 2008 elections, and was, in essence, a premature lame duck, and had even lost his conservative base. He solicited advice from the audience on what could be done.

Well, Miers has removed herself graciously from the nomination proceedings, and the indictments have amounted to a personal disaster for Scooter Libby, but not much more. The conservative base is about to joyously back a nominee that they like and trust and the war effort show ever more signs of succeeding, even beyond the boarders to Syria. I paid 75 cents a gallon less for gas this week than I did the first week in September.

And oh yes, God answered my prayers.

Best of All Possible Universes

October 20, 2005

I have developed premature curmudgeons. I get annoyed easily, and I will consign you to the nether-regions of Dante’s Hell if I catch you driving in a car with a cell phone stuck to your ear. And if I spot you in a supermarket line in need of surgery to remove of those blasted things, I will attempt it on the spot. We are not living in a perfect universe.

Except that we live in the best of all possible worlds, and it’s getting impossibly better at an unbelievable pace. And I can prove it. But before I do that, please do a little reading just to catch up to me. Start with The Anthropic Cosmological Principle by John Barrow and Frank Tipler, continue with Lord of the Rings (Tolkein), and then with Paul Johnson’s A Story of the American People, and finally, end with The Singularity is Near by Ray Kurzweil. You may also want to brush up on your M. Scott Peck, by re-reading The Road Less Travelled and Further Along the Road Less Travelled. That totals something like 3500 pages. By the end of this assignment you’ll understand that:

– History is a history of progress.
– Evil exists, redemption exists and God is the author who transforms our sins into blessings.
– Mankind has steadily, inexorably increased its dominion over this planet and exercises greater and finer control over every aspect of existence.
– The process is increasing exponentially, at an exponentially increasing pace.
– All this has been happening so that I could be situated to see it happen and experience it because I am the most important person in the world, the center of the universe, the one it is made for.
The same is true for you, except in a different way, tailored to your particular needs. It works for all of us that way, whether or not we think we are saved, or think we are the center of the universe. Worse, we all get to choose to ignore this fact.

People hate that idea, that we’re living in the best of all possible universes, and that it’s getting better (which is why I started this by establishing my curmudgeon bonifides), especially when they see suffering. Some people just hate Polly-Annas. Tough. Live with it. You cannot change the fact that the universe is made that way, just for me. Just for you. Just for us all.

Best. Football Weekend. Ever.

October 17, 2005

Did you hear about:

USC vs. Notre Dame? Fantastic game.
U. of Michigan vs. Penn State? Even better.


Miami falls,
New England falls,
and the Jets fall …

To Buffalo!!!

Go Bills!

Creature of Habit

October 16, 2005

That’s what I am – a creature of habit. Not all of them are bad. In the past two years (and much to my amazement) I’ve made daily prayer a habit. [Yes, I know that comes off like a boast, but it isn’t. Daily prayer should have been a habit carried over from my childhood, and it’s not to my credit that I had to reacquire it.]
In the struggle, I learned a secret. Good habits and bad habits are indistinguishable. They are equally hard (impossible!) for me to break, and equally hard for me to establish.

And I learned that one can be used to disrupt the other.

The big lesson is one I knew all along, of course. Our lives really are all about the decisions we make, the big ones and the little ones.

The Trouble With Science

October 15, 2005

There’s been commentary this week (due to the awarding of the Nobel Prize in Physics, I’m sure) about the country’s eroding position in science. Uberblogger Glen Reynolds blogs on the idea as it pertains to the political parties, and brings in reactions to Intelligent Design and its impact in higher education.

Is ‘science’ in this country in trouble? Or are scientists in trouble? How are we measuring that, again?

Alright. The facts o’ the matter are:
1) although the U.S. has indeed dominated physics as measured by Nobel Prizes, the dominance seems precarious, given the fact that today’s Nobel Prize reflect yesterday’s work and the fact that
2) Europeans and Asians now dominate the physics classrooms from whence Nobel Prize winners come. Alexei Abrikosov is not the only example.
3) The efforts of these legal immigrants to America (and naturalized citizens) benefits Americans, and for all intents and purposes, they are Americans (so don’t say that Asian dominants in the class room is a bad thing).
4) There are more scientists now than ever before (or, at least, that’s the common perception).
5) Science ain’t what it used to be (and neither are scientists). There’s a kind of inflation of credentials going on here.

There is also something fundamental going on. I can see it in astronomy: we’re beyond the fact that no one expert in a discipline can understand all the developments in that discipline. Now, all the experts in a given discipline combined fail to encompass the entire body of knowledge in that discipline. For instance, the information cum knowledge contained in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey is still buried in the data and awaits someone – anyone – to look at it in the right way (the large scale survey techniques to do that barely exist at the moment). And when that person comes along, much more data will have already been added and remain unexamined.

Our knowledge of the human genome is in a similar situation.

A story (one that the AstroWife has heard too many times). By the time I entered graduate school in the ’70’s, seeking to be an astronomer TM, it was well understood that one had to be An AstroPhysicist TM to do astronomy. That is, one had to be steeped in physics and advanced mathematics to be considered an astronomer. No experience in astronomy was required (or desired, for that matter). By the time I left graduate school one had to be well versed in computer science (this, before there was such a discipline).

If you want to do astronomy today, be an electrical engineer. Know how to build instruments. And you better be expert in robotics, because they will be largely autonomous and remote, often beyond the reach of humans if repair or maintenance is required. Gain expertise in nano-technology next, because that’s where AI and robotics are going.

It’s a good thing that lifespans are getting longer, because it’s going to take longer for each of us to achieve the grand synthesis of knowledge we’ll need to do our jobs! And every day more jobs are going in that direction.

I’m Skeptical

October 15, 2005

I used to subscribe to The Skeptical Inquirer. It’s not bad. In fact, its goals, the debunking of para-normal science and the fantastic claims of charlatans and confidence-men, are quite laudable.

But there was always something about the writing in that magazine that bothered me. Couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but I think Michael Prescott has.

Have You Noticed?

October 13, 2005

That the war in Iraq is not going as badly as the NYT would have you think?