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Over the Christmas holidays, I had the opportunity to watch some MythBusters episodes.


According to wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carlos_Hathcock

One of Hathcock's most famous accomplishments was shooting an enemy sniper through the enemy's own rifle scope, hitting him in the eye and killing him. Hathcock and John Roland Burke, his spotter, were stalking the enemy sniper in the jungle near Hill 55, the firebase from which Hathcock was operating. The sniper, known only as the 'Cobra,' had already killed several Marines and was believed to have been sent specifically to kill Hathcock. When Hathcock saw a flash of light (light reflecting off the enemy sniper's scope) in the bushes, he fired at it, shooting through the scope and killing the sniper. Surveying the situation, Hathcock concluded that the only feasible way he could have put the bullet straight down the enemy's scope and through his eye would have been if both snipers were zeroing in on each other at the same time and Hathcock fired first, which gave him only a few seconds to act. Given the flight time of rounds at long ranges, the snipers could have simultaneously killed one another. Hathcock took possession of the dead sniper's rifle, hoping to bring it home as a "trophy" but, after he turned it in and tagged it, it was stolen from the armory.


MythBusters did an episode on the feasibility of such a shot.




Explanation: According to battlefield legend, a U.S. Marine sniper named Carlos Hathcock killed another sniper during the Vietnam War by firing a bullet directly through his opponent's scope. But MythBusters Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage shot down the credibility of this tale when they re-created the sniper showdown.


After constructing a ballistics-gel sniper dummy and outfitting it with a sniper gun and scope, the MythBusters marksmen took aim from 100 yards away. Adam's and Jamie's sniper skills were spot on, and both hit the target square in the scope. However, the glass lenses inside the scope, which allow the operatives to precisely pinpoint objects from long distances, stopped the bullet short from striking the dummy sniper. Even at point-blank range, the bullet's force failed to shatter through the entire scope lens glass, providing a fatal shot to the busted myth.


However, at the request of some skeptical fans, the MythBusters later retested the myth using a Vietnam-era sniper gun and ammo, which yielded a plausible result. The period scope had fewer bullet-obstructing glass elements, and the old-school sniper bullet actually packed more glass-breaking punch.


Today's sniper might miss the mark by shooting to kill through the scope, but during the Vietnam War, a shot through the scope could've very well happened.


Science daily posts short articles on various claims on a variety of scientific topics. A recent headline reads:


Study casts doubt on mammoth-killing cosmic impact

The summary reads:

Rock soil droplets formed by heating most likely came from Stone Age house fires and not from a disastrous cosmic impact 12,900 years ago, according to new research. The study, of soil from Syria, is the latest to discredit the controversial theory that a cosmic impact triggered the Younger Dryas cold period.


A link on the same page as the article (at the time) boasted this headline:

New evidence supports theory of extraterrestrial impact


It’s summary reads:

Scientists have discovered melt-glass material in a thin layer of sedimentary rock in Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Syria. According to the researchers, the material -- which dates back nearly 13,000 years -- was formed at temperatures of 1,700 to 2,200 degrees Celsius (3,100 to 3,600 degrees Fahrenheit), and is the result of a cosmic body impacting Earth.


According to the article boasting an extraterrestrial impact:

Morphological and geochemical evidence of the melt-glass confirms that the material is not cosmic, volcanic, or of human-made origin. "The very high temperature melt-glass appears identical to that produced in known cosmic impact events such as Meteor Crater in Arizona, and the Australasian tektite field," said Kennett.


"The melt material also matches melt-glass produced by the Trinity nuclear airburst of 1945 in Socorro, New Mexico," he continued. "The extreme temperatures required are equal to those of an atomic bomb blast, high enough to make sand melt and boil."


The material evidence supporting the YDB cosmic impact hypothesis spans three continents, and covers nearly one-third of the planet, from California to Western Europe, and into the Middle East. The discovery extends the range of evidence into Germany and Syria, the easternmost site yet identified in the northern hemisphere. The researchers have yet to identify a limit to the debris field of the impact.


"Because these three sites in North America and the Middle East are separated by 1,000 to 10,000 kilometers, there were most likely three or more major impact/airburst epicenters for the YDB impact event, likely caused by a swarm of cosmic objects that were fragments of either a meteorite or comet," said Kennett.


The crux of this story zero’s in on the following two paragraphs.

He added that the archaeological site in Syria where the melt-glass material was found -- Abu Hureyra, in the Euphrates Valley -- is one of the few sites of its kind that record the transition from nomadic hunter-gatherers to farmer-hunters who live in permanent villages. "Archeologists and anthropologists consider this area the 'birthplace of agriculture,' which occurred close to 12,900 years ago," Kennett said.


"The presence of a thick charcoal layer in the ancient village in Syria indicates a major fire associated with the melt-glass and impact spherules 12,900 years ago," he continued. "Evidence suggests that the effects on that settlement and its inhabitants would have been severe."


Let’s examine what the most recent story has to say on the matter.

"For the Syria side, the impact theory is out," said lead author Peter Thy, a project scientist in the UC Davis Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences. "There's no way that can be done."


The findings supporting that conclusion include:

  • The composition of the scoria droplets was related to the local soil, not to soil from other continents, as one would expect from an intercontinental impact.
  • The texture of the droplets, thermodynamic modeling and other analyses showed the droplets were formed by short-lived heating events of modest temperatures, and not by the intense, high temperatures expected from a large impact event.
  • And in a key finding, the samples collected from archaeological sites spanned 3,000 years. "If there was one cosmic impact," Thy said, "they should be connected by one date and not a period of 3,000 years."


So if not resulting from a cosmic impact, where did the scoria droplets come from?

House fires. The study area of Syria was associated with early agricultural settlements along the Euphrates River. Most of the locations include mud-brick structures, some of which show signs of intense fire and melting. The study concludes that the scoria formed when fires ripped through buildings made of a mix of local soil and straw.


Both articles cite the Younger Dryas Boundary (YDB). From the earlier article:

These new data are the latest to strongly support the controversial Younger Dryas Boundary (YDB) hypothesis, which proposes that a cosmic impact occurred 12,900 years ago at the onset of an unusual cold climatic period called the Younger Dryas. This episode occurred at or close to the time of major extinction of the North American megafauna, including mammoths and giant ground sloths; and the disappearance of the prehistoric and widely distributed Clovis culture. The researchers’ findings appear June 11 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


From the later article:

The Younger Dryas lasted a thousand years and coincided with the extinction of mammoths and other great beasts and the disappearance of the Paleo-Indian Clovis people. In the 1980s, some researchers put forward the idea that the cool period, which fell between two major glaciations, began when a comet or meteorite struck North America.


In the new study, published online in the Journal of Archaeological Science, scientists analyzed siliceous scoria droplets -- porous granules associated with melting -- from four sites in northern Syria dating back 10,000 to 13,000 years ago. They compared them to similar scoria droplets previously suggested to be the result of a cosmic impact at the onset of the Younger Dryas.


The latter article asks where the scoria droplets came from, if not the previously suggested cosmic impact.

So if not resulting from a cosmic impact, where did the scoria droplets come from? House fires. The study area of Syria was associated with early agricultural settlements along the Euphrates River. Most of the locations include mud-brick structures, some of which show signs of intense fire and melting. The study concludes that the scoria formed when fires ripped through buildings made of a mix of local soil and straw.


As in the case of MythBusters, with regard to the sniper claim, we have claims that may seem plausible in their intial presentations. Unlike MythBusters, we do not have a step-by-step development of a testable hypothesis. This is all right.


Both stories zero in on Syria, reference the Younger Dryas Boundary and allude to the Euphrates Valley/River. Both stories examine a causal relationship between the scoria and heat, be it via house fires or an atomic detonation. The latter story casts doubt on the former story’s claim that it could only have been caused by a cosmic event.


Short of availing one’s self to the data that makes the claim that house fires are sufficient, the cosmic cause of the scoria in Syria has been called into question.


MythBusters responded to the viewers who wondered about the difference in scope technology. The result returned the claim to plausible. Per the guidelines of moving from possible to probable to certain, this leaves Hathcock’s claim as possible. Too bad a crucial piece of evidence is not available at this time.


Science Daily is not as clear cut.

There appears to be evidence that Syria’s scoria droplets could have been formed by house fires. If this is true, the other zones could possibly have been formed by house fires as well.


Does this rule out the cosmic event? Depending on the veracity of the latter story, it strongly suggests house fires were sufficient to explain the scoria droplets. The former story seems to rest on the lack of evidence providing another provided by the other explanation.


Keep in mind, Russia had a rather large asteroid enter it’s atmosphere recently (sorry, I’m not going to go searching for the reference article to substantiate this at this time.) The asteroid generated a sonic boom, which was sufficient to break building windows and glass furniture. I do not recall if scoria droplets were discovered in the aftermath at this time.

Edited by dream_weaver
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An article that popped up on one of my newsfeeds:


How to Determine If A Controversial Statement Is Scientifically True


I need to be careful with this one. It mentions Science Daily as a reference source in the First, Learn To Avoid The Confirmation Bias section. :)


Great article.  I found a link inside to one of my favorite info sources, XKCD http://xkcd.com/154/

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  • 2 weeks later...

How You Know by Mel Acheson


People don’t pay much attention to “how” they know; they just start arguing about “what” they know. From that beginning, grades and egos and jobs are on the line. If you know the answer, you get a better grade, you feel superior, you’re promoted. There’s security in thinking you’re building your life on a solid foundation of knowledge.


The idea of “how” is disconcerting. Thinking about thinking undermines what you think. If you were looking for a cognitive rock to stand on, “how” leaves you floating.


I can relate to this. There have been times wrestling with epistemology where the questions go down to the core. Finding the cognitive rock is literally searching for the foundations cognition rests upon. The history of philosophy is intertwined with the search for epistemic justification.


The “how” has two parts, roughly corresponding to “production” and “marketing”. Individuals are constantly thinking up new ideas, exploring new things and looking at old things in new ways, testing the ideas and the observations against each other, judging how much sense it all makes. Then populations of individuals “buy” some of these ideas and pass up others. The ideas that most individuals “buy” become “accepted theories” and constitute knowledge.


Rand indicates that philosophy shapes the world, that education serves as the philosophical transmission belt. In the "war" for the "battle of the mind", understanding how this works is key to implementing a strategy that exploits this.


The metaphor of construction is misleading. There is no “foundation” which justifies all subsequent knowledge built on it. Modern physics, for example, is anchored to a philosophy that sank over a century ago, as Karl Popper (among others) has pointed out. The rocks that sank it were the discoveries in the late 1800s about how the brain works. Neurons firing in your brain are distinguished only by their relationship with other neurons. Information about the world is not transmitted by nerves but is created metaphorically in the classification of impulses. Facts are not given. Evidence is not evident. And the entire apparatus (your brain) comes preassembled and running.


The metaphor of construction need be understood in relationship to what is being constructed. Mr. Acheson puts forth that there is no "foundation" which justifies all subsequent knowledge built on it. He is mistaken here. This is what philosophy is about. Here Mel moves into the special sciences to draw his examples on. Here is the fork in the road. Two powerful statements have been made in Objectivism that indicate where the examination of the construction metaphor needs to be investigated. First is from Leonard Peikoff. In Objectivism, The Philosophy of Ayn Rand he writes:

To understand man, or any other human concern, one must understand concepts. One must discover what they are, how they are formed, and how they are used, and often misused, in the quest for knowledge.

Second, from Harry Binswanger in Abstractions from Abstractions:

If you want to understand reason, understand concepts. If you want to study reason, study concepts. Concepts are where we store reason.

Both point to the crux of what not only what is being constructed, but the tool doing the construction.


Disciplines can “relate” to each other, but one can’t “dictate” to another. “Reasonableness” is the relationship of a theory to the evidence it seeks to explain, not its subservience to physics. Thus the idea that the conclusions of comparative mythology aren’t to be taken seriously until they conform to the currently accepted theory of celestial mechanics is without foundation.


Disciplines have to relate to each other. A specialized study that tries to stay within the confines of itself, ignoring how something might conflict with another thing outside its discipline, Rand identified as compartmentalization. When such a conflict arises between reasonable people, the question is not of one "dictating" to another, but of what is right. It is the relationship of a theory to the evidence here that is incomplete. It does not go far enough. It needs to discover the relationship of concepts to the evidence. This, in essence, promotes reality to the position of the final arbiter, giving it "veto power", if you will, when applicable.


The second interesting consequence concerns the many efforts to justify knowledge by starting with some simple element and building up all the rest. The brain works in just the opposite way: It starts with everything and narrows its focus to some simple thing. This has its usefulness, but along the way a lot gets discarded. When the process is reversed, what was discarded is likely to be ignored. The result is a picture of the universe that’s simplistic, reductive, incognizant.


To study epistemology, has to be more than starting with some simple element and building up all the rest. Epistemology is the application of two rudimentary questions that need to be asked and addressed all the way down. These questions are "What is it that I know?", and "How is it that I know it?" In addressing these questions the result should be a picture of the universe that is a diverse, rich tapestry, interwoven into a cognizant whole cloth.


It’s a truth of special cases. It’s a truth of human scale. The “how” of knowing may leave us floating, but we can learn to swim.


Knowledge is on a human scale. Concepts are how we bring existence to the human level of understanding. Far from leaving us floating, properly formed, serve as a "rock of Gibraltar". Depending on your proximity to that rock, you may need to learn to swim in order to get there.

Edited by dream_weaver
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Distinguishing between reason and pseudo-reasoning.


Television, radio, newspapers, internet, books and chit-chat present us with a barrage of information. Much of it goes in one ear and out the other. It deals with stuff we're really not interested in. We can dismiss it out of hand as not relevant. The score of last night's game.Unless you use sports as ice-breakers, or casual chit-chat, what's the point? Traffic and weather on the eights. Is the accident on a road I'm taking to work? Should I take an umbrella with me?


On my way into work one morning, I stopped at the gas station. A news gatherer for a local radio station came up to me to ask a question. "What did you think of the snowstorm that we didn't get?" (You can't make this stuff up. Not easily, anyway.) A brief overview. For nearly a week, the weather stations were reporting an ominous snowfall. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 8" plus. I awoke early to clear roads. And an all-news station which found it newsworthy.


Science Daily has an article today: Atoms can be in two places at the same time.

The summary goes as follows:

Can a penalty kick simultaneously score a goal and miss? For very small objects, at least, this is possible: according to the predictions of quantum mechanics, microscopic objects can take different paths at the same time.  The world of macroscopic objects follows other rules: the football always moves in a definite direction. But is this always correct? Physicists have constructed an experiment designed to possibly falsify this thesis. Their first experiment shows that Caesium atoms can indeed take two paths at the same time.


Wait a moment. They have this in reverse. Perception provides the experience of a football moving in a definite direction. Instead of using induction to move from perceived instances to apply it to the unperceived, let's take a highly abstract description of apparent appearances and use it to question if perception is as it appears.


I enjoyed watching Myth-Busters. It can be an entertaining show, if you don't mind some of the corny puns (which I can appreciate at times.) Using it to lay a firm foundation, a rock of Gibraltar, if you will, to build upon is akin to pointing your telescope to a black section of the sky at night, and drawing the conclusion that existence is comprised of nothingness.


If I place a ball at my front door, I can walk to my back door and observe that it is not there.  If I place it at my back door, I can walk to my front door and observe the same. Perception informs me that the ball can be at the front door, or at the back door, or at neither door (when I put it back in the toy box.)


Almost 100 years ago physicists Werner Heisenberg, Max Born und Erwin Schrödinger created a new field of physics: quantum mechanics. Objects of the quantum world -- according to quantum theory -- no longer move along a single well-defined path. Rather, they can simultaneously take different paths and end up at different places at once. Physicists speak of quantum superposition of different paths.

While later in the article:

The physicists describe their research in the journal "Physical Review X:" With two optical tweezers they grabbed a single Caesium atom and pulled it in two opposing directions. In the macro-realist's world the atom would then be at only one of the two final locations. Quantum-mechanically, the atom would instead occupy a superposition of the two positions.


I went to Merriam-Webster to get a definition of superposition. I found superpose which included it as a noun.

1:  to place or lay over or above whether in or not in contact :  superimpose
2:  to lay (as a geometric figure) upon another so as to make all like parts coincide


So what's going on here? I have to admit, I do not know. But there are things that I do know. And I think this brings me to the crux of my story.


Reason and pseudo-Reason - I may be going out on a limb here, but pseudo, etymology-wise goes back to the Greek term for false, while reason has it's roots in logic. (note the attempts to substitute [ontological] logic with [non-ontological] pseudo-logic  in these types of assessments.)


I note that many skeptics are fond of the aphorism that "Change is the only constant." Going back to Heraclitus of Ephesus, the bears the notion that the only absolute that there is, is that of change. As Aristotle points out later, this is a fallacy. It falls victim to reaffirmation through denial. Change presupposes that there is something (an identity), which becomes something else (a different identity).


Descartes tries to resurrect this via "You can't be certain of anything." Certainty is an epistemological term. The statement becomes self-referential. The only thing you can be certain of, is that you cannot be certain of anything. This harkens back to Aristotle's law of non-contradiction, or as Peikoff says in his "Introduction to Logic", the law of contradiction, because it is shorter. It is an epistemological error, a recognition that contradictions cannot exist metaphysically. A contradiction is an epistemological error, revealed under the lens of the microscope of primacy of existence, a philosophic corollary (or principle)  derived from the axioms of  existence exists & consciousness is conscious.


"'We know that we know nothing,' they chatter, blanking out the fact that they are claiming knowledge.


There are those that try to integrate everything they can, to develop their mind's wings, if you will. Then there are those that make the mistake of pruning their feathers rather than preening them. One can only hope they regenerate before the coyotes circle in.


In short, do you lend more credence to what you directly perceive, or to what you can't directly perceive? Do you reduce your understanding to perception where possible, or let the mystic voice of faith seduce you into the lair of paradise.

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The Book of Nature and the Nature of Books, by Mel Acheson.


In science, metaphors are usually passed over as mere embellishments of language. The metaphor is expanded into “the Book of Nature is written in the language of mathematics,” and then scientists turn away from embellishments and get down to the serious business of reading and writing “what’s really there.”


Mathematics is a language, and like all language, it consists of concepts  which had to have been formed somehow.


But the nature of metaphor is also the nature of language: One idea is “mapped” onto another, and the similarities give us the feeling of understanding; the less familiar idea comes to feel more familiar. We put the abstract word “nature” in the place of the many specific sensations that we select for that place. We can define the word exactly; we can draw the lines of its map where they best suit our purposes. The sensations have particular dissimilarities as well as similarities with out lines, and we have only five limited senses to supply them. The word is not identical to the sensations. The word is analogical. Descriptions are not of “what’s there” but of particular lexical interpretations of sensory activities that are chosen in response to some context or goal.


Metaphor is a subset of language. It is but one concept among many which comprise language. One idea being "mapped" onto another is a sloppy way of examining concept formation, and leaves out the "what", metaphor is formed from, and substitutes the "how" (it is used) in its place. While an analogy may helpful to understanding, it is not a substitute for valid reasoning. Dissimilarities and similarities along the lines of sensations (or similarities and differences among percepts, as Miss Rand would put it) rely on the senses - which have identity (i.e., are finite, or limited in scope). The word is not identical to the sensations, but correspond to perception, as analyzed by a conceptual consciousness.


The readers and writers of equations tend to overlook the metaphorical nature of their language; their claim for understanding nature is only for an understanding of their metaphor. They fail to understand that the physical condition they describe is only similar to parts of the math. It’s valid only insofar as the math metaphor follows the selected sensations (data) that we call the physical condition. Because sensations are transient, the metaphors are provisional.


Armed with this view of metaphors relationship to language, an attempt to extend it to mathematics undermines why mathematics has generally been considered the epitome of logic over the centuries. Mathematics is the science of measurement. Numbers deal with quantitative relationships, while the operators direct how to inter-relate the numbers. A similar analogy exists between the "what" and the "how" in math. It is as important to bear in mind the "what" one is counting as it is the "how" one is counting it.


To say that the physical condition “obeys” the math is to get things backward. Rather, the math generates virtual sensations—numbers and relationships—that mimic physical sensations—seeing the same numbers or sequences of numbers on an instrument’s meter. The math follows (“obeys”) the physical condition.


A stopped clock is said to be correct twice a day, but this has been identified as the "stopped clock fallacy". Since the math is derived from perception, when performed correctly, math relates back to perception.


But misunderstanding how we understand can generate confusion. If I think that the math provides the “is” and that the “what” and the “there” are given by sensation, needing only a closer look to understand, I’ve dissolved concrete, ambiguous, dynamic existence into the indubitable, static abstractions of my mind. I’ve transformed physicality into metaphysical conceptuality.


Misunderstanding how we understand is what generates confusion. Not only in math, but with every concept we form to reduce the number of units we have to deal with.


Resorting back to Galileo for some metaphorical insight, he states:


“Philosophy [nature] is written in that great book which ever is before our eyes -- I mean the universe -- but we cannot understand it if we do not first learn the language and grasp the symbols in which it is written. The book is written in mathematical language, and the symbols are triangles, circles and other geometrical figures, without whose help it is impossible to comprehend a single word of it; without which one wanders in vain through a dark labyrinth.”

Physics is considered the queen of the sciences. And metaphorically, philosophy is considered the king. Miss Rand identified that the unit serves as the base and starting point of both the conceptual and the mathematical fields.


Mel wraps up his thoughts with:

Lest we be seduced into following the math instead of following the phenomenon, we need to keep our eyes on experiments and observations and our metaphorical interpretations on the question “what else could it be?”.


I will wrap mine up here with:

Existence is identity. Consciousness is identification.

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I looked up the previous submission by this individual and found this.

Captives of Simplifying Assumptions


Given Harriman's assessment of Kepler's accomplishment in deriving elliptical orbits of planetary bodies in The Logical Leap, I found Acheson's writeup referencing circular orbits less epistemologically satisfying. Maybe it is because Harriman pointed out that Kepler started with circular orbits and Acheson did not build upon Piet Hein’s simplifying assumptions. We are, of course, comparing a book to a one page synopsis here.


Between How You Know and The Book of Nature and the Nature of Books, lies the mysterious anomaly that an Atom can be in two places at the same time, apparently - I might add. In the context of Myth Busters, the scientific inquiry needed here is more on the epistemological level rather than on the metaphysical plane.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I decided to do a little empirical test today. As of late, snatches of the conversations I hear in my vicinity have taken on a form I've not noticed in years. I find myself wondering if that may be one of the reasons I find a certain sense of solace in solitude. It's easier to organize my thoughts without the conversation going on about me.


There is a pub that I've gone to over the years. It features a long, u-shaped counter with a few tables along the wall on either side of the pool table. A couple of guys were shooting pool, Music played from the jukebox on the far wall. The thick nautical rope swept overhead in a graceful elliptical curve over the bar between the anchoring points on a wall and one of the lower rafters. The waitress (who was using the restroom at that moment) was not to be seen. There were about a dozen customers, most nursing a recent change in the venue, bottled beer. Rumors over the years was that the tap was watered down.


The  four television sets mounted on various wall, (hmm, the owner installed an extra monitor) was playing the syndicated show "Dirty Jobs". The music on the jukebox began to play "House of the Rising Sun". The sound of footsteps drew my attention, I turned to look as the waitress came round the corner. She was dressed in a long sleeve, button-up sweater, the top buttons unfastened to just below the bottom swell of her augmented breasts. As she neared where I sat, she asked what I might have. "Budd Light", I replied. "Bottle or draft?" she asked. I told her "Draft would be fine."


She turned to the coolers behind her and bent at the waist to retrieve one of the mugs, in the process, revealing the lace-worked edged panties she wore over her pantyhose. She place an empty pitcher under the tap and pulled the lever to dispense a remeasured amount of beer, wandering off to tend to one of the other customers. She returned almost at the same time that the tap ceased sputtering, removed the pitcher and held the mug under the tap as she pulled the handle once more. Turning back to me, she set the glass down the on the bar napkin she had set there earlier and announced "That will be two twenty-five please." I set the ten down on the counter as she walked down to wait on one of the other customers, handling their order in the same efficient manner. She took his money and returned to the cash register and rang up the order, counted out the change and delivered it to the payee.


Returning to where the register was, she leaned over a tally sheet she had, musing that she had to make a mark for a shot bought for her, but couldn't recall what it was. I said "I don't think I was there when it was bought for you." She wandered off again, returning to ring up another order. I commented on the sweater. "Did you wear that in anticipation of Valentine's Day?" The sweater had pink and white squares with white and pink hearts within them. She cast me a strange look, and returned to deliver the change she had gotten from the drawer.


Upon returning, she leaned over the counter toward me and stated flatly but sweetly, "Don't judge me." I replied, "Why would I do that?" She left again, and returned with the shot from down the way, leaned over and clinked the shot glass to my beer mug and finished the remaining sip of what was left of its contents.


"What prompted that," I wondered. I glanced back at the guys on the television show working in some dirty, grimy substance. When she came back the next time, I pointed to the television set. "Dirty Jobs." I chuckled. "Moral judgements come from a different root." - lacking inflection, her next statement won't do it justice in just writing - "Don't I know that." she said as she smiled. I said "Apparently, but I thought you might like to hear it."


I finished my beer, left a tip on the counter, and walked to the exit.

Edited by dream_weaver
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Concepts are amazing devices. On their face, they come off as simple. Dog's, cat's, tree's, rock's etc. Simple. You point to an instance, and say "tree", and everyone has a pretty good idea of what you mean. Not so simple. "Entropy." What do you point to? Entropy is a highly complex, amazing little device. It does not denote a "thing" to which you can point to, where everyone has a pretty good idea of what is meant.


The truth-status of entropy, which I have not validated for myself - thus cannot claim a full working grasp of its truth-value - packs within in it lots of different observations presumably integrated together to convey all these observations without being necessary to point to the evidence that supports it. My upbringing in a "religious" family, exposed me to a usage of "entropy" used as a technique out in the field. Capitalizing on folks that allow the edicts of science to substitute for their own rational examination, "entropy" is spun off as "the fact that everything decays" (a view of which, mine has transcended, thanks in part to Binswanger's presentation on "Selected Topics in the Philosophy of Science.")


Capitalizing on this ignorance, the short argument amounts to "everything is deteriorating", and if you continue that premise ad hoc, infinitum, "the universe will cease to exist someday", hence there must have been a creative force which we cannot comprehend that ordered everything we see around us - which is merely winding down in this "entropic" state of decay.


Buy into it, join the club. Refuse the sale . . . next!


Binswanger offer's a much more compelling alternative, but I'll save that for another day. You're welcome to listen to it for yourself - if you think it makes a difference.

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Concepts are amazing devices. On their face, they come off as simple. Dog's, cat's, tree's, rock's etc. Simple. You point to an instance, and say "tree", and everyone has a pretty good idea of what you mean. Not so simple. "Entropy." What do you point to? Entropy is a highly complex, amazing little device. It does not denote a "thing" to which you can point to, where everyone has a pretty good idea of what is meant.


The truth-status of entropy, which I have not validated for myself - thus cannot claim a full working grasp of its truth-value - packs within in it lots of different observations presumably integrated together to convey all these observations without being necessary to point to the evidence that supports it. My upbringing in a "religious" family, exposed me to a usage of "entropy" used as a technique out in the field. Capitalizing on folks that allow the edicts of science to substitute for their own rational examination, "entropy" is spun off as "the fact that everything decays" (a view of which, mine has transcended, thanks in part to Binswanger's presentation on "Selected Topics in the Philosophy of Science.")


Capitalizing on this ignorance, the short argument amounts to "everything is deteriorating", and if you continue that premise ad hoc, infinitum, "the universe will cease to exist someday", hence there must have been a creative force which we cannot comprehend that ordered everything we see around us - which is merely winding down in this "entropic" state of decay.


Buy into it, join the club. Refuse the sale . . . next!


Binswanger offer's a much more compelling alternative, but I'll save that for another day. You're welcome to listen to it for yourself - if you think it makes a difference.

Entropy means nothing more than the dispersal of heat caused by the natural propagation of its electromagnetic wave. For example, when you open the door of your heated house, you begin heating the outside.


Calculations demonstrate that if the total energy of all the stars in the universe were dispersed throughout the universe, the temperature would still hover near absolute zero. What holds light to a degree of livable temperature is gravity: we are "Gravity's Rainbow". 


But because the amount of gravity is less than the thrust caused by the Big Bang, yes, galaxies will eventually disappear, as they're moving farther apart. 


So it's not 'heat death that will cause the end of the universe, but conditions present in the beginning which, after all, created gravity, too.



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From what I am reading, of what you are writing, you are missing the point here, andie. If you are trying to help here, please exercise a little more circumspection in the expression of your viewpoints.

Your point, as expressed is that you're agonizing over the truth-status of entropy. Mine is that your agony is unnecessarily caused by what others have mistakenly glossed entropy to mean.

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If that's what you got out of it, then I would have to say I'm not expressing myself very well. For what I know about entropy, it may as well be a smokescreen, destined to be blown away by any chance breeze that happens by.

Searching thru your thread, I can't find an understanding of entropy that's based strictly upon its status as a basic law of thermodynamics. So yes, therefore-- what you know of entropy will most likely be blown away....

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If you would read a little closer, you might notice that post #10 was about how I have observed, in the past, some folk in the religion circles utilize the term to promote their world-view.


I let the engineers process their grasps of these matters (laws of thermodynamics, entropy or what-not) which I don't really understand well at all, and stick to my knitting while I try to conjure up something else to weave.

Edited by dream_weaver
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Status Update:

Great line from "RooseveltCare" written by Don Watkins:
The Social Security Act should be seen as the repeal of the self-reliant society.


I want to meet the 90-something year old people that have gone through their savings due to illness or some other catastrophic event, that could still be considered self-reliant. It's so easy to say that people aren't taking care of themselves. As a society, we should take care of those that are no longer able to take care of themselves.


A lot of water has passed through the damn, so to speak, generating a lot of current (is that as in the current of the river, or the power generated from the dynamo built into the damn?) over the course of the years.. The code of ethic to which you speak is one I no longer embrace. Thanks for weighing in, though.


I respect that, dream_weaver, as long as, when your time comes, you don't take advantage of the benefits of Social Security.


I fully intend to. It is a small reparation to expect payment for the ongoing assault on individual rights, in my estimation.


So easy to take the "moral" high-ground when it doesn't effect the wallet. :)


What has the moral high ground to do with the wallet?


Why wouldn't we "take advantage" of something that we've been forced to pay in to our entire working life?


I just think a person really can't object to something like this, and then be a willing participant. If the objection is that social security makes people non-self-reliant, then be self-reliant, and forego the benefits. Prove that you're better than the system!


"Prove that you're better than the system!"
That presupposes that the system is better than the individuals which comprise it, does it not?


Not at all. The system is what the system is. I admit the system isn't perfect. There are problems with it. But, if someone has a true moral objection to it, they should be willing to relinquish the benefits of it. Otherwise, the objection is mearly rhetoric.


All objections are rhetoric. The system is what the individuals have made it. If it's not perfect, then the creator might be called into question, not the product. Or so it seems to me.


No, not all objections are rhetoric. Some people take action. The protest, they write congress, they try to effect change. Sitting in your armchair with a glass of wine at your elbow and complaining is just rhetoric.


I'm not complaining. I merely posted a line out of a book I am reading that resonated well with me.



***This is an actual conversation that took place recently***

I consider how I might have conducted this conversation several years ago. It probably would have turned out differently, albeit I would be speculating to say just how. I would have picked the wrong point from the first objection to address and the rest of the conversation would have gone elsewhere.


By posting one simple line that I thought challenged the altruist premise well, I got an unexpected response. DB and ML come from a similar upbringing to mine, so I was familiar with the premise structure.


While my responses could probably be improved upon, I was generally pleased with the exchange.


One of the self-help books I read years ago wrote about using the world as a laboratory in which to perform experiments.

Edited by dream_weaver
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  • 1 month later...

The Propagation of a Myth by Chao C. Chien

Note that on the map the name is only America and not South America. It suggests that European explorers and cartographers did not yet know the landmasses were two (Columbus allegedly explored a little of the northern part). Yet the map you see in the BBC article is not the whole thing. In the complete map you can see the northern and southern parts of America clearly, including a startlingly accurate Central America. By 1507 European explorers had already surveyed all the American continents?


In the map you can see the western side of the continents. How did Waldseemuller come to know about that? In 1507 Europeans had not yet reached the western side of the continents. Vasco Núñez de Balboa, a Spanish explorer, had only crossed the Isthmus of Panama to reach the Pacific Ocean in 1513, and he is lauded as the first European to achieve the feat. So who was not telling something?


In the BBC map you can see the large number of place names in the southern part of South America. That is close to the southern tip of the continent, near the Strait of Magellan. Yet Magellan, the first European to sail toward that area, aided by a map he acquired in Amsterdam that showed the existence of such a passageway (the above narrative has been fully acknowledged and documented in European literature), only set sail on his “globe circumnavigation” adventure in 1521, 14 years after Waldseemuller’s map. How did Waldseemuller obtain the information for his map?



The 1507 Waldseemuller World Map South America


The 1507 Waldseemuller World Map

In Waldseemuller’s map you can see that by 1507 he already knew about the Isthmus of Panama. Yet if you look at the inset in the map you will see that the map publisher was hesitant about his work. The geographies of the area in the two depictions in the map do not agree with each other. What gives? Maybe we do not know the details of the sham, but it does not take a high school graduate to conclude that if the map were based on real survey data there would not have been inconsistencies. The inconsistency in fact indicates that the mapmaker was copying from a source, but the source information was unclear.


This is a case where the order of learning or discovering things weighs in on the conclusion drawn.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Evaluating NASA’s Futuristic EM Drive

April 29, 2015 by José Rodal, Ph.D, Jeremiah Mullikin and Noel Munson - subedited by Chris Gebhardt

A group at NASA’s Johnson Space Center has successfully tested an electromagnetic (EM) propulsion drive in a vacuum – a major breakthrough for a multi-year international effort comprising several competing research teams. Thrust measurements of the EM Drive defy classical physics’ expectations that such a closed (microwave) cavity should be unusable for space propulsion because of the law of conservation of momentum.

This is a classic case of myth busting. Build a working model. Prior to this test

in 2010, Prof. Juan Yang in China began publishing about her research into EM Drive technology, culminating in her 2012 paper reporting higher input power (2.5kW) and tested thrust (720mN) levels of an EM Drive.


So what is the problem here?

Prof. Yang offered no scientifically-accepted explanation as to how the EM Drive can produce propulsion in space.


This is reminiscent of the criticisms leveled on Newton's Optiks and Principia. Sure, Newton, you've demonstrated that prisms can divide white light in the the color spectrum and recombine them, but you haven't explained how it does it. Or that the theory of gravity can be tied not only to the tides, but planetary observations as well, but you haven't explained what gravity is.

Dr. White proposed that the EM Drive’s thrust was due to the Quantum Vacuum (the quantum state with the lowest possible energy) behaving like propellant ions behave in a MagnetoHydroDynamics drive (a method electrifying propellant and then directing it with magnetic fields to push a spacecraft in the opposite direction) for spacecraft propulsion.


The comparison here is to a similar principle to provide mobility to ships in water. Great, but time should not be wasted investigating the possiblity—why? Because:

This model was also met with criticism in the scientific community because the Quantum Vacuum cannot be ionized and is understood to be “frame-less” – meaning you cannot “push” against it, as required for momentum.


However, Paul March, an engineer at NASA Eagleworks, recently reported in NASASpaceFlight.com’s forum (on a thread now over 500,000 views) that NASA has successfully tested their EM Drive in a hard vacuum – the first time any organization has reported such a successful test.


With a tip of the hat to Karl Popper

The NASASpaceflight.com group has given consideration to whether the experimental measurements of thrust force were the result of an artifact. Despite considerable effort within the NASASpaceflight.com forum to dismiss the reported thrust as an artifact, the EM Drive results have yet to be falsified.



After consistent reports of thrust measurements from EM Drive experiments in the US, UK, and China – at thrust levels several thousand times in excess of a photon rocket, and now under hard vacuum conditions – the question of where the thrust is coming from deserves serious inquiry.


Micheal Miller writes:

There is vacuum between particles: vacuum exists.


If we look ahead to a hypothetical future, it may turn out that vacuum, too, is made up of some kind of entities. Then the axiom of existence will oblige future scientists to ask what exists between those entities. Or, if future scientists find they can remove even vacuum from a vessel, then the axiom of existence will oblige them to ask what exists between the walls of the vessel. Or, perhaps, vacuum will turn out to be elemental, a primary constituent of reality. Only further evidence can decide the issue.

Edited by dream_weaver
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