Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Atlanticism, Eurasianism, Giant Robots, and Space Vampires

February 26, 2016

So, for our weekly anime night, yesterday a couple of my friends and I watched the first few episodes of Valvrave the Liberator. When it came to the descriptions of the two large rival nations, Dorssia (the “Space Nazis Prussians”1) and ARUS (“Space America”), which our protagonists’ small country (basically “Space Japan”) is caught between, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the geopolitical theories of Aleksandr Dugin and the neo-Eurasianists’ concept of the conflict between ‘Atlanticism’ versus ‘Eurasianism’:

Two time-honoured opposite spheres of life – trade and warfare – are confronting each other. The Atlanticist civilisation of merchants is challenging the continental or Eurasianist civilisation of heroes. The former civilisation implies commercialisation of life, whereas its continental counterpart has manifested itself in militarisation of life…

(From here.)

Just another example of the odd places my brain goes sometimes, I guess.

1. In the grand tradition of Legend of the Galactic Heroes‘s Galactic Empire and Gundam‘s Principality of Zeon.

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Monday Math 161

September 15, 2014

Find the infinite product 2^{\frac12}\cdot4^{\frac14}\cdot8^{\frac18}\cdots=\prod\limits_{n=1}^{\infty}\left(2^n\right)^{\frac1{2^n}}

Solution:

Teen Girls and the “Selfie” Arms Race

July 30, 2014

So, I came across this article by schoolgirl Olympia Nelson, decrying the “sexual rat race” of selfies on social media. She complains that they all converge on a single formula, which obtain the most “likes” on Instagram and Faceboook: “Nothing with too much creativity but hip, titty and kiss. It’s the true scourge of the selfie.”

But why do they all converge on this? Miss Nelson goes on:

Why are we girls competing to be the Queen of Pouts? Why do we scour through photos of celebrities and all our ambitious friends to find out who is the new princess of prurient poses? Even demure girls are tempted to strike sexually suggestive poses. But they must be careful, not because parents are looking but because they might not score any ”likes” and might then feel a failure, unworthy among their peers.

How confident can you appear at being lascivious? How credible is your air of lewdness? A girl who is just a try-hard will lose credibility and become an outcast. So a lot depends on how much support you can get from other girls.

She further describes the multitude of techniques young women use to increase their popularity scores. She laments the “fake flattery” young women use “to get higher on the food chain”, and that these often too-intimate pictures are posted by girls who “are seeking some sort of approval from their friends.”

However, she then attempts to blame it on “boys’ tastes”, which she calls “not always sophisticated” and based on “what they see in pornography”:

Who do we blame for this moral mess? As feminists, we correctly blame patriarchy because boys are securely at the top of the status game. Boys end up with the authority. They have their cake and eat it.

First, lamentable as the rise of pornography in our degenerate, declining culture is, it’s role here is minor at best. Science has amassed quite a bit of evidence that men’s “tastes” on women’s looks are pretty uniform and to a great extent hardwired. So, despite how Miss Nelson may wish things were, it’s unlikely that what boys like will change.

Second, one should ask why young women like Miss Nelson place so much importance and status in interest and attention from the opposite sex? THe answer is the same reason why (heterosexual) men place so much importance and status in interest and attention from the opposite sex: not “patriarchy”1 or “misogyny”, but biology. From the Darwinian perspective, finding and attracting a mate, more specifically the best quality mate one can, is literally the Most Important Thing. Thus, any accounting of social status amongst post-pubescent human beings will have sexual attractiveness as a significant component. You can rail against human nature, but biology wins out in the long run. This also strikes at the first bit; even if male tastes were different, girls would just compete over those instead, just as viciously.

Most important, though, and which Miss Nelson somewhat acknowledges when not deflecting blame, is that the most important factor is not male approval, but peer approval. The great anxiety that drives this behavior is the fear of being unpopular with other girls, of becoming an outcast. When it comes to breaking down individuality and enforcing conformity and social hierarchy, boot camp has nothing on what high school girls do to one another.

How often does a teen girl demand the latest popular album not because they like the music, but because all their friends listen to it, so she has to have it to or she’ll just die? See this bit from Scientific American, where brain scans have not only confirmed this phenomenon, but shown that the primary emotional motivation is fear of failing to fit in.

And being cast out from the pack means becoming prey to it. All the worst incidents of bullying I’ve heard or read about, in terms of psychological cruelty and viciousness, the perpetrator and victim have been teenage girls. There’s a reason the “alpha bitch” and “girl posse” tropes have such frequency and cross-cultural resonance. Or see the work of Rachel Simmons. And Paul Graham’s “Why Nerds Are Unpopular” helps further explain why high school amplifies this:

Why is the real world more hospitable to nerds? It might seem that the answer is simply that it’s populated by adults, who are too mature to pick on one another. But I don’t think this is true. Adults in prison certainly pick on one another. And so, apparently, do society wives; in some parts of Manhattan, life for women sounds like a continuation of high school, with all the same petty intrigues.

I think the important thing about the real world is not that it’s populated by adults, but that it’s very large, and the things you do have real effects. That’s what school, prison, and ladies-who-lunch all lack. The inhabitants of all those worlds are trapped in little bubbles where nothing they do can have more than a local effect. Naturally these societies degenerate into savagery. They have no function for their form to follow.

When the things you do have real effects, it’s no longer enough just to be pleasing. It starts to be important to get the right answers, and that’s where nerds show to advantage. Bill Gates will of course come to mind. Though notoriously lacking in social skills, he gets the right answers, at least as measured in revenue.

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Given that human nature doesn’t change except on evolutionary time scales, and the prison-like nature of modern high school isn’t likely to be transformed anytime soon (save for its end with the total collapse of industrial civilization), not much can really be done. And the best thing to ameliorate the situation, parental involvement to limit the “selfie arms race”, Miss Nelson rejects in her concluding paragraph. She wants an end to girls being “compelled to act the stereotype, because those who opt out commit themselves to social leprosy”, but it is her fellow girls who provide the compulsion, and treat the non-conforming like lepers.

Miss Nelson identifies a real (if intractable) problem, but then spends the rest of her article deflecting all responsibility away from herself and her peers, blaiming “patriarchy”, and then rejecting any solution that might require trade-offs or any change in behavior on her part, instead wanting a vague, magical solution that doesn’t require any action on her part or any limits on her behavior. She wants fried ice; she is the one who wants to have her cake and eat it too. In other words, she’s a teenage girl.

1. In fact, under an actual patriarchy, the problem would be much less, if not non-existant, because patriarchs would not tolerate, and would curb, the female bad behavior and status games that drive this issue.

Broken Formulas

March 20, 2012

I’m aware that the formulas are not displaying at present. The TeX server I was using is no longer around. As time permits, I will be (slowly) editing and reformatting the old posts to use WordPress’ LaTeX plug-in.

Physics Friday 148

December 24, 2010

A thin bimetallic strip of thickness d is straight at a temperature T0, with length L0. The two metals have coefficients of linear thermal expansion α1 and α2, with α2>α1. If the temperature is raised to a temperature T not significantly greater than T0, what is the angle θ through which the strip bends?
Solution:

More from Mexico

December 19, 2010

Continuing in the vein of this post, another Huffington Post report from Mexico: Mexico Mom Killed Demanding Justice For Slain Teen Daughter.

The brutal killing of activist Marisela Escobedo Ortiz stunned people across Mexico, and a group of women angrily demanding justice gathered outside the state prosecutors’ office in this border city, where the victim’s daughter was killed.

Escobedo’s slaying “shows that in Mexico, it is the victim who suffers,” anti-crime activist Alejandro Marti said.

The uproar resulted in the suspension of three state judges who had ordered the freeing of the main suspect in the slaying of Escobedo Ortiz’s daughter – the same man who was identified as a chief suspect in the mother’s death.

Prison Break (no, not the TV show)

December 19, 2010

141 inmates have escaped a Mexican prison near the border with Laredo, Texas; authorities suspect that prison employees helped. According to the Huffington Post:

The public safety department of Tamaulipas state, where the prison is located near the border with Laredo, Texas, said 141 inmates got out through a service entrance used by vehicles, “presumably with the assistance of the prison staff.”

The department said the prison’s director could not be located, adding that he and other officials were under investigation.

Eighty-three of the prisoners were being held for trial or had been convicted of crimes like theft, assault and other state offenses, while 58 were being held on federal charges, which include weapons possession and drug trafficking.

More on past predictions

December 19, 2010

NPR looks back at predictions about the year 2011 made back in 1931. The bit that stood out to me was a few sentences from the predictions of sociologist William Ogburn:
“The role of government is bound to grow. Technicians and special interest groups will leave only a shell of democracy.”

Here’s an item from last week

December 10, 2010

A Virginia woman was charged with murder after allegedly throwing her two-and-a-half year old granddaughter off a fifth-story shopping-mall walkway.

A Rant About Common Advice

December 10, 2010

I have a few bits of advice I keep coming across that have begun to increasingly irk me, and I find myself compelled to rant about. First, we have some job-search related items.

1. “Find your passion,” “do what you love and the money will follow,” etc.
Quite frankly, this is bullshit. An activity will make you money only if it creates sufficient economic value for someone else. What if everything you love doing is something that nobody wants to pay for? By definition, your labor is worth what the market is willing to pay you for it. The world is full of starving artists.

2. “Everyone has marketable/transferable skills,” “no one is unemployable”
And what job here in Anchorage uses my familiarity with Schrödingers equation? Or my experience performing the Stern-Gerlach experience? So far, my B.S. in Physics has been more of a hinderance than a help, thanks to that dread word: “overqualified.” And since the tutoring market dried up, my math and science skills have meant diddly squat. The petroleum engineering firms around here weren’t interested in anyone whose degree wasn’t specifically in engineering, and that was before the economic downturn and BP’s problems.

3. “Use your network!” “Everyone has a network!”
Sure, but not much of one. I’m an extreme introvert; I’ve known all my friends since elementary school or junior high. My “network” found me a total of one job opening in the past six years; and as for how that interview went, see my comment about engineering in point #2.

Next, I’ve recently begun another (masochistic) attempt at creative writing. The problem: characters. As at least one of my high school english teachers noted, my only non-flat, believable characters are robots or aliens; beings utterly distant from the usual human condition. The advice:
1. Character sheets
Again and again, the advice is to develop a character by filling in a page full of physical traits, family background, likes and dislikes, etc. (see here for example). What I don’t see is how to go from all these little factoids to determining how this hypothetical individual will act in a given situation; to what they might say in responce to a given question. How does any of this help determine the crucial part: behavior?

2. “Write what you know”
When it comes to what I know, people are not it. I’m an extreme introvert. My tiny circle of friends consists of people I’ve known for at least a decade and a half, and I still don’t understand much of their behavior.
As a child, my most favorite movies included Short Circuit, about a prototype military robot that accidentally gains sentience, and D.A.R.Y.L., about a strange-but-gifted young boy who turns out to be a computer brain in a human body. In both cases, I empathised with the machine characters. I also enjoyed the TV show 3rd Rock from the Sun for much the same reason; I could identify with the aliens, attempting to study the bizarre, illogical, incomprehensible behaviors of the naked apes around them.
So, how does one add romance to a story when one has never felt any attraction toward another human being? How do you determine every reaction of a fictional character when you can’t even predict the behavior of your own friends or family very well?

Okay. Rant done.