Thursday, July 31, 2008

Maybe Loop Quantum Gravity

Fixin' to start to get ready to fire up the Large Hadron Collider. Notes The Economist
...the truth is that the last truly fundamental subatomic particles, the W and Z bosons, were found in 1983.

The next one, unless everyone's theories are wrong, will be the Higgs boson, a theoretical construct required to give mass to the other particles of which matter is composed. That should come quite quickly. Only if it does not will people start scratching their heads.

But even physicists do not spend SFr10 billion in the search for a single particle. What they are hoping is that the LHC will take them way beyond the universe described by the equations which predicted the W and Z bosons and predict the Higgs, and into terra that is truly incognita.
And there are other mysteries to solve.
One is the true nature of the "theory of everything" that physicists hope one day to develop. Until recently, it was generally agreed that this would turn out to be a form of string theory....

Recently, though, string theory has acquired a rival, known as loop quantum gravity. This argues that particles are not separate from space and time. Rather, space and time are made of looped ribbons that, when entangled in certain ways, give rise to irregularities that are perceived as particles. Here be dragons indeed—and ones way beyond the ken of the LHC.
Loop quantum gravity. I like the sound of that.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Beer-Swilling Muslims

Willy Stern reports from Mali.
On a Thursday night at the trendy Amandine Fast Food restaurant in Bamako, hip Malian women wear stylish blue jeans and tight, cleavage-revealing blouses. There isn't a burkha in sight. Their male buddies are chugging Castel beer and, yes, a plate of ham sandwiches. When pressed, they say that George W. Bush is a decent, if simple, sort of bloke....

Did I mention that around 90 percent of these folks are Muslims?

More Fun At The Dentist

Lileks turns a little trip to the dentist into the kind of adventure that we used to consider illegal.
I took the little pills at 8 AM — three of them, small as a period in 100-point type, and sat in the passenger side while my wife drove (G)Nat to the bus. We saw her off, and that's all I remember for a while. Apparently my wife had to help me back to the car. Hi, hon — enjoying this here foretaste of the six years before the death-do-you-part business? I was very happy and chatty, and nothing I said many any sense, but it was interesting enough to keep her from telling me to shut up. Like a Bleat, I suppose. When we neared the dentist's office, she told me, I got out my iPhone and tried to call them to tell them to meet me downstairs with the wheelchair, but I couldn't operate the iPhone....
Oh bartender? I'll have two of whatever he's having.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Math Is Hard

Heather Mac Donald says math is harder for girls.

The mean scores were the same, but with a larger standard deviation among boys, more of them were really good at math.

And, as usual, 50% of the children were below average.

Things Not To Worry About

John Tierney enumerates.

Thanks to Instapundit, but we really should keep an eye on Tierney ourselves.

Little List of Fools

Spokane, Washington:
Hundreds of people working in the military, government and education are on a list of almost 10,000 people who spent $7.3 million buying phony and counterfeit high school and college degrees from a Spokane diploma mill.

The complete list of buyers, which the U.S. Department of Justice has refused to release to the public, has been obtained by The Spokesman-Review.
I love lists, don't you? Take a quick peek, see if you recognize any names, maybe your boss... Ooh, that's interesting.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Little Tyrants Everywhere

Shawn Macomber reviews Mean Martin Manning by Scott Stein.
Martin Manning, a once-popular commercial artist, has not left his apartment in decades. Within its walls the septuagenarian has constructed an idiosyncratic utopia, having all essential supplies delivered, collecting ceramic frogs, watching trashy television programs, never changing out of his bathrobe and subsisting mostly on salami and cheese hoagies -- heavy on the mayo -- as he leisurely awaits the Grim Reaper.

Much like the hapless Eloi of H.G. Wells' heavy-handed dystopian class war parable The Time Machine, in his bubble Manning fails to recognize what easy prey he has become. Unlike the Eloi, it isn't ravenous subterranean monsters that break his reverie. Instead, it is a prim and proper bureaucrat at his door named Alice Pitney, a nightmare version of Supernanny Jo Frost empowered by executive order of the governor to administer a new neighborhood life-improvement zone.
Not yet on Amazon, but you can attempt—I failed—to buy it here.

Robert D. Novak

The last TV show I watched with any regularity was The McLaughlin Group. Bob Novak was a regular on the show until he said something that ticked John McLaughlin off. But of all the guests Bob Novak and Jack Germond were the two you sat up and listened to. Because they were reporters first and columnists second. They asked questions, listened to the answers, and told you what they heard. Their opinions were always second to the facts. And because they listened more than they talked, they knew what was happening, and more often than not they knew it before anyone else did.

Bob Novak announced today that he has been diagnosed with brain cancer, and has (temporarily we hope) taken a leave of absence. Read his latest column, and pray, with political fans everywhere, that it will not be his last.
In the contest for president, Barack Obama is a magnetic candidate supported by a disciplined, well-organized campaign. John McCain seems wooden, with a campaign that appears to be in shambles. Yet Obama's lead in the polls over McCain is fragile because he so far has not won the support of a majority of American voters....
Read it all. Every word tells.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Humanae Vitae Forty Years On

Here's a long article for the weekend, The Vindication of Humanae Vitae by Mary Eberstadt:
"He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh," the Psalmist promises, specifically in a passage about enjoying vindication over one's adversaries. If that is so, then the racket on this fortieth anniversary must be prodigious. Four decades later, not only have the document's signature predictions been ratified in empirical force, but they have been ratified as few predictions ever are: in ways its authors could not possibly have foreseen, including by information that did not exist when the document was written, by scholars and others with no interest whatever in its teaching, and indeed even inadvertently, and in more ways than one, by many proud public adversaries of the Church.

Forty years later, there are more than enough ironies, both secular and religious, to make one swear there's a humorist in heaven.
So why aren't we laughing?

Friday, July 25, 2008

FBI: No Death Ray Plans

The FBI would like you to know that they do not have Nikola Tesla's plans for the "death ray" device.
Despite longstanding reports and rumors, the FBI was not involved in searching Tesla's effects, and it never had possession of his papers or any microfilm that may have been made of those papers.
They suggest you try the Alien Property Custodian's office. The Alien Property Custodian says they gave all the papers to the Nikola Tesla Museum in Belgrade, Serbia. The Nikola Tesla Museum says they are in the process of digitizing all Tesla's papers and hope at some point to release a CD.

Oh, great. Then we'll all have death rays.

(Via Instapundit, Wired, and a thousand other sources.)

The Anointed One

Gerard Baker in the Times.
And it came to pass, in the eighth year of the reign of the evil Bush the Younger (The Ignorant), when the whole land from the Arabian desert to the shores of the Great Lakes had been laid barren, that a Child appeared in the wilderness.
Must-read of the day.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

My Fellow Earthlings

People of Berlin -- and people of the world -- the scale of our challenge is great. The road ahead will be long. But I come before you to say that we are heirs to a struggle for freedom. We are a people of improbable hope. Let us build on our common history, and seize our common destiny, and once again engage in that noble struggle to bring justice and peace to our world.
I'm just relieved to hear that he's one of us.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

News Junky

We forgot to mention there would be a quiz.

12/12.

According to the Pew Research Center, that puts me in the 97th percentile.

Flash Fortunes

Lee Gomes in WSJ on puzzle games.
One cold day this past February, Mr. Mercado was walking through a doorway in his apartment, when suddenly he was gripped with the idea for a puzzle game involving ... doors! Not regular doors, of course, but puzzle doors; doors that open only in one direction, and that stand between you and the other end of a maze....

Open Doors was released in March and has since been played nearly six million times, making it, as these things go, a modest hit. Game sites often give developers a small cut of the revenues the videogames bring in, and those, combined with some sponsorship arrangements, have meant a payday of $1,500 to date for Mr. Mercado.

But the real payoff, he says, is that Open Doors has, well, opened doors at gaming companies. He's talking to some about a full-time job writing games, which in this world is about as good as it gets.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Light, Sweet, Crude

What goes up...
A barrel of light, sweet crude tumbled $3.09 to settle at $127.95 on the New York Mercantile Exchange, down nearly $20 from its record high of $147.27, reached just weeks ago.
A long way yet to go.

Tierney On Sat Fat

The latest diet study and more from Gary Taubes.
Is Mr. Taubes right? If eating more saturated fat improved the dieters' cholesterol profile (while also enabling them to lose weight even though their calories were not restricted), should the federal government and the American Heart Association stop warning people about saturated fats?
Should they, or will they? Yes, and no.

Via Instapundit.

Marlowe On Afghanistan

Ann Marlowe says Afghanistan doesn't need a surge.

This year she completed her 10th trip to Afghanistan and her third embed with U.S. forces there. She's got more expertise than some presidential candidates.

Derb On The Curve

The rich man in his castle,
The poor man at his gate,
God made them, high or lowly,
And order'd their estate.
John Derbyshire has something to say about that.

Update: Derb responds to his critics in The Corner.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Recent Articles

The Atlantic continues to put more and more of their archives online.

Here are three "recent articles by Raymond Chandler."
The Simple Art of Murder (December 1944)
Writers in Hollywood (November 1945)
Oscar Night in Hollywood (March 1948)
Well, fairly recent, anyway. Chandler died in 1959.

Cheap Transport

Thanks to Instapundit, a link to an article in Forbes listing America's Cheapest Cars. To cut to the chase:
  1. 2008 Kia Rio ($10,890)
  2. 2009 Chevrolet Aveo ($11,460)
  3. 2008 Toyota Yaris ($11,550)
  4. 2008 Smart Fortwo Pure ($11,590)
  5. Kia Spectra ($12,895)
According to the Federal Reserve's inflation calculator, $10,890 for a Kia Rio is comparable to $1600 for a VW Bug in 1967, but nowhere near $240 for a Model T in 1925—that would be about $2950 at today's prices!

True, the Model T didn't have a CD player, but neither did it argue with you about whether your doors were locked and your seatbelt buckled.

Christianity and Islam

John Julius Norwich reviews Empires of the Sea: The Siege of Malta, the Battle of Lepanto, and the Contest for the Center of the World, by Roger Crowley.

In this morning's Wall Street Journal.

And on my list.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Martha Goes To The DMV

OK. It's been a slow news day.

Here.

Friday, July 18, 2008

How to Make Fun of Obama

Joel Stein in the LA Times.
He's effete. He's well-dressed. He eats arugula -- which he buys at Whole Foods. He mocks those who use guns. He is, as we mentioned, quite thin. He may only be half-black, but he's three-quarters gay.
This with the help of professional comedians. It's not much, but it's a start.

Apt Illustrations

Two articles this morning put large numbers in perspective.

Steven W. Mosher in Catholic Exchange:
You could, as it turns out, put the entire population of the world in single-family homes in the state of Texas. Now, let me make clear that I'm not suggesting everyone move to Texas. I like Texas the way is. Rather, this is just a way of saying that the world is still a pretty empty place — and about to become emptier.
And Mark Hyman in The American Spectator:
The section of ANWR known as Area 10-02 is about 1.2 million acres in size and includes a sliver of about 2,000 acres identified for oil extraction. "It is the equivalent," said Craig Williams, "of a postage stamp on a football field."

Thursday, July 17, 2008

His Screaming Fans

Brought to you once again by the genius of Michael Ramirez.

Ego Gap

Dr. Krauthammer has an observation:
Americans are beginning to notice Obama's elevated opinion of himself. There's nothing new about narcissism in politics. Every senator looks in the mirror and sees a president. Nonetheless, has there ever been a presidential nominee with a wider gap between his estimation of himself and the sum total of his lifetime achievements?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Monkey's Uncle

Science News:
Some 40,000 years ago, Cro-Magnons -- the first people who had a skeleton that looked anatomically modern -- entered Europe, coming from Africa. A group of geneticists, coordinated by Guido Barbujani and David Caramelli of the Universities of Ferrara and Florence, shows that a Cro-Magnoid individual who lived in Southern Italy 28,000 years ago was a modern European, genetically as well as anatomically.

The Cro-Magnoid people long coexisted in Europe with other humans, the Neandertals, whose anatomy and DNA were clearly different from ours....

The results demonstrate for the first time that the anatomical differences between Neandertals and Cro-Magnoids were associated with clear genetic differences. The Neandertal people, who lived in Europe for nearly 300,000 years, are not the ancestors of modern Europeans.
"Other humans, the Neandertals?"... I wonder. Consider "other humans, the chimpanzees." Where do you want to draw the line?

I recently browsed through the library's copy of The Last Human: A Guide to Twenty-Two Species of Extinct Humans. I thought, gazing at the portraits in my family tree, that some of them were more out-law than in-law. There's an instinctive, gut-level sense that some of these monkeys might be kin, and others just monkeys. The closer we came to the present, the more I had doubts.

If I were a Cro-Magnon and I ran across one of these monsters, I think I'd shoot first and ask questions later, if at all.

Leftovers

Berlin:
Some 5,000 people were evacuated in Berlin overnight Wednesday after a 500-kilogramme (1,100-pound) bomb from World War II was discovered in a residential neighbourhood, police said.

Explosives experts took the British bomb, which was unearthed Tuesday by construction workers in the western district of Wilmersdorf with its detonator still intact, to a nearby park to be defused.
That's nothing, really. As we noted before, they're still digging up stuff from WWI.

What Democrats Want

Ms. Coulter:
If the Democrats really wanted oil companies to find more oil, they'd allow oil companies to drill offshore and to drill in ANWR, which we happen to know is bursting with oil.

But they don't. They don't want drilling. They don't want more oil. They want humans to ride bicycles and then to die. We deserve it: We were mean to the polar bears.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

In The Mail

Three more by Raymond Chandler. The Simple Art of Murder, Trouble Is My Business, and Playback. This will complete the preliminary investigation. Then I'll begin to dig a little deeper.

Monday, July 14, 2008

I Think It's Funny

Update from George Neumayr at The American Spectator:
Perhaps if the image had been restricted to the Osama portrait and flag burning in the fireplace he could have gotten away it. But mixing factual elements -- the Obamas have fist-bumped, Obama has been pictured in a turban, they did attend a black separatist church -- with fantastical ones explains its too-close-for-comfort feel.

Were the Obama campaign more restrained, it would have ignored the cover. But his staffers couldn't help themselves; their quick and sensitive reaction reveals that they know Obama's most significant liability is that many Americans continue to see him as an unknown quantity with an outside-the-mainstream philosophy and past.

Just when Obama thought that he had put his problem with elitism behind him, it rears back in the form of bumbling supporters at the New Yorker who have provided common folk with an ill-advised satirical image that cements their "crazy ignorance."

Sunday, July 13, 2008

And Yet, Somehow...

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Turning Point

I'm tossing this one in just because it's one of those highly significant events that will only be seen as such in retrospect: Mark. My. Words.
Environmentalists Say Yes to Offshore Drilling

Friday, July 11, 2008

Achieving Immortality by Not Dying

Andrew Stark reviews Mortal Coil by David Boyd Haycock.
More recently, the British longevity guru Aubrey de Grey has put forth the notion of "immortality in tiny steps." The idea here, Mr. Haycock says, is that within the next few decades medical science will come up with techniques that, while far from guaranteeing immortality, "will result in physical rejuvenation," prolonging for "another few years" the lives of people near the maximum life span. Then, just as the rejuvenated bodies are declining again, scientists will find "further interventions," giving people "additional youthful years." And so it will go, a continuous cycle of aging and rejuvenation until the secret of immortality is found. Mr. Haycock seems to buy into this idea. His final sentence is: "I am still only in my thirties; I must have a chance."
I'll hang on as long as I can, but please hurry.

What's The Worst That Could Happen?

Philip Klein at The American Spectator answers the question.
Even on judges, while the importance of the issue cannot be overstated, it's worth noting that the oldest Supreme Court justice is the 88-year-old John Paul Stevens. Replacing him with a younger liberal judge would be a setback for conservatives and a missed opportunity, but it won't change the current ideological makeup of the Court. And Republican presidents, despite notorious mistakes, have offset liberal gains in the judiciary with the appointments of Justices Scalia, Thomas, Roberts and Alito, as well as hundreds of lower court judges.
Yeah, right. Keep in mind that Republican presidents nominated Stevens, Kennedy, and Souter. You can't always get what you want.

Windows 7 is Just a Tease

The Economist concludes that Windows XP will do nicely until Midori arrives.

Midori?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

“I’m not going back.”

The Polish Immigrant, who has been WUI for four years now, has returned from a visit to the old country.
Poland is rebuilding, its economy is growing and people seem very happy. In fact, most people I met asked me not why I left Poland 22 years ago --- they understood that -- but why I was not coming back. It was hard sometimes to explain that having a right to bear arms... and to be able to say whatever one wants is too important to lose.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

108° in Brookings, Oregon

Beating the record set in 1973.

We've seen it over 100° in Brookings once before. Temperatures are measured at the airport, of course. It was more like 90° down on the beach with a 20 MPH wind, and the water was ice cold. A lot of reading was done.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Not A Stretch

Mary Anastasia O'Grady has a point.
As we learn more about the Colombian military's daring hostage rescue last week, one detail stands out: In tricking FARC rebels into putting the hostages aboard a helicopter, undercover special forces simply told the comandantes that the aircraft was being loaned to them by a fictitious nongovernmental organization sympathetic to their cause called the International Humanitarian Mission.

It may have taken years for army intelligence to infiltrate the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, and it may have been tough to convincingly impersonate rebels. But what seems to have been a walk in the park was getting the FARC to believe that an NGO was providing resources to help it in the dirty work of ferrying captives to a new location.

Terminology & Etymology

Christopher Hitchens reviews Safire's Political Dictionary.
One of the pleasures of toying with dictionaries is the discovery--akin to the delight of the now-vanished index-card system in a library--of the useful reference for which one was not looking. Had I not taken care to pursue my old anti-Safire vendetta all the way to -gate construction on page 275, I would not have discovered that Elbridge Gerry's name was pronounced with a hard "g" and that he's probably been unfairly saddled with the etymology of the term "gerrymander."

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Mt. Ashland Meadows 2008

We hiked Mt. Ashland Meadows again this year, just as we did last year and the year before.

It's an annual tradition, usually toward the end of June when the wildflowers are in bloom. This year was a little different on account of the unusual spring weather, and a different set of flowers were on display. I don't know what these are called, but up close they were spectacular.

Boxed Wine Over Ice

My preferred summer drink for some time now. Turns out I'm not as gauche as I thought.
...just get a high quality box wine like this, fill an old fashioned glass with ice, and pour on the merlot or the cab. Or just keep the box in the fridge. Box wine is the future I tell you, the future! Spend money on the wine, not the fancy bottle and graphic arts marketing consulting PRBS. Anyone who sniffs at you probably doesn't really like wine. Just drink it before the ice melts.
From ProfessorBainbridgeOnWine.com.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

This Explains A Lot

From the BBC:
Tofu 'may raise risk of dementia'

Eating high levels of some soy products - including tofu - may raise the risk of memory loss, research suggests.
And vice versa, in my opinion.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Self-Evident

David Burge, a speech writer for the candidate, would like to help clarify that last point.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Right Turns Only

They've studied it:
UPS routes are designed to avoid left turns. Idling while waiting to turn left wastes time and gas. This tip shaved 29 million miles off its U.S. drivers' routes last year, saving UPS more than 3 million gallons of gas.
No kidding. You can make three right turns in the time it takes to make one left. And the net effect is the same.

Another Moderate Republican

Ms. Ann Coulter:
The irony is, the only people McCain can count on to vote for him are the very Republicans he despises — at least those of us who can get drunk enough on Election Day to pull the lever for him....

Not being ignorant "centrists," we know what a world-class disaster B. Hussein Obama will be. Meanwhile, the centrists McCain spent years impressing with his outraged denunciations of conservatives, Swift Boat Veterans and Christians will be voting for Obama. They think he's cute.

How many times do we have to run this experiment?

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations

Marc Leepson in Opinion Journal:
In early July 1776, John Adams wrote to his wife, Abigail, about a momentous day during the proceedings of the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia. Adams predicted that the day "will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this Continent to the other from this time forward forever more."
Adams was speaking, of course, of the Second of July.

Er, Fourth. Make that the Fourth of July.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Global Warming as Mass Neurosis

Bret Stephens in The Wall Street Journal:
If even slight global cooling remains evidence of global warming, what isn't evidence of global warming? What we have here is a nonfalsifiable hypothesis, logically indistinguishable from claims for the existence of God. This doesn't mean God doesn't exist, or that global warming isn't happening. It does mean it isn't science.

So let's stop fussing about the interpretation of ice core samples from the South Pole and temperature readings in the troposphere. The real place where discussions of global warming belong is in the realm of belief, and particularly the motives for belief. I see three mutually compatible explanations....