Sunday, February 09, 2014

The Sochi Olympics "Controversy"

I dislike the word "controversy". While it doesn't necessarily imply an equal footing of two conflicting viewpoints, it's often used as a way for a ridiculous idea to get it's foot in the door (or to keep it wedged there indefinitely). There is, of course creationists pushing the whole "teach the controversy" angle when trying to get religious ideas taught in public science classrooms. That's it's own mammoth topic. But, right now I'm more referring to the media referring to the "Sochi Controversy" leading up to the Olympics. Sorry, human rights are controversial? It doesn't matter if Vladimir Putin or 1 in every 100 american citizen thinks that gay people should be jailed. While accurate in in a very literal definition of the term, throwing the word "controversy" into a sentence like that makes an implication there's still a discussion to be had on the matter.

Having said that, do I think the US should have boycotted the Olympics to send a message? No. I think Obama sent a pretty decent message when he sent 2 openly gay athletes to represent the US in the opening and closing ceremonies. To me, the Olympics should be about setting aside differences in politics in the spirit of friendly competition (that's the idea anyway). When it's executed properly, it's one of the only things the global community gets right. Yes there's bullshit, and corruption, and accusations of favoritism among judges and the occasional Nancy Karrigan gets attacked by the crazed ex-husband of a competing skater. But when it works, and everyone's playing nice, we can stand up and proudly say "You put all of us maniacs in the same city for entire month and we sort of managed not to kill each other"

Sunday, February 02, 2014

The Birds

I'm gonna be a bit film-snobbish for a moment. If you thought the ending of The Birds was terrible then you completely missed the point of the movie. And don't tell me "I didn't miss the point, it just sucked". No, you missed the point.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Robert M Hazen on Global Warming

“The same kind of situation complicates many public debates, like that over global warming. Many scientists predict that altered atmospheric conditions will raise the average global temperature by several degrees. But such changes can also cause extreme weather, which may mean worse snowstorms in the southern United States. Global warming may alter ocean currents like the Gulf Stream and ultimately turn northern Europe into a much colder Siberian-type icebox. Anomalies like this fuel the global warming naysayers: scientists say the world is getting hotter, but you’ve just suffered through the biggest snowstorm in your region’s history. How should you respond? A judicious response is that nature is amazing—rich, varied, complex, and intricately interconnected, with a messy, long history. Anomalies, whether in planetary orbits or North American weather, are not just inconvenient details to brush aside: they are the very essence of understanding what really happened—how things really work. We develop grand and general models of how nature works, and then we use the odd details to refine the original imperfect model (or if the exceptions overwhelm the rule, we regroup around a new model). That’s why good scientists revel in anomalies. If we understood everything, if we could predict everything, there’d be no point in getting up in the morning and heading to the lab.”

-― Robert M. Hazen, The Story of Earth: The First 4.5 Billion Years, from Stardust to Living Planet

Utah Idiots Charged With Felonies

Often, stupidity is only punished when it actually hurts someone. I'm happy to learn that ignorance and stupidity in it's purest form is being punished this time, simply for the sake of it. The two men who pushed over an ancient rock formation in Goblin valley have been charged with felonies.

I was in the boy-scouts. One of the key rules about trips like this is "Don't disturb mother nature". These jackasses did it gleefully. They've been quoted as saying they just did what made sense at the time so that nobody would get hurt from the rock in the future. If these half-wits had remembered anything about their grade-school geology education, or maybe just stopped and thought about it for a minute, they would have realized that this structure took millions of years to form and isn't going anywhere any time soon. Unless some jackass pushes it over. I don't accept ignorance as an excuse here. Nobody should have needed to tell them specifically not to disturb the rock formations.