I have said it before, and I’ll doubtless continue saying it until advanced dementia has rendered me incapable of recalling physics:

This simple statement means that it is impossible, by the laws of physics, to know anything perfectly. While I should mention that the position and momentum of large objects may be known quite accurately, that is not particularly important. From modern chaos theory we know that, in chaotic systems, even arbitrarily small differences in initial conditions result in vastly different outcomes.

The so-called Copenhagen Interpretation of modern physics holds that the uncertainties associated with quantum particles are not merely measurement anomalies. Rather, the item in question has neither an exact position nor an exact momentum until it is measured. What this means is that even if your imaginary space friend really did exist, and even if he were omniscient (that is to say he had a computer that provided exact information on every individual subatomic particle and photon in the universe), he would not be able to predict events precisely beyond a very short time beyond the present. Also, I should point out that a computer with perfect knowledge of the universe would require memory modeling the entire universe 1-to-1. So any sort of storage medium with perfect modeling of the universe would, in fact, be another identical universe. That seems pretty pointless.

So for all the scientists in the world, if your religion depends critically on prophecies, you are screwed.

Good News of the Day

I had to do a biennial physical today. The nurse said that I was due for [something I don’t remember]. My quizzical look was answered with, “It includes, among other things, pertussis. That’s whooping cough.” It took me a moment to recall that I had not yet had a pertussis booster, which I only learned about via a number of skeptical podcasts. Well, I took one for the team. The day after I heard of another preventable infant death in Australia from that terrible disease, I am no longer a part of the problem. I was very pleased when the nurse started rattling on about the dangers of voluntary immunization, given the amount of misinformation available. He was quite vocal in addressing the necessity of a solid foundation of vaccination to help reduce the general susceptibility to this and other easily preventable diseases.

So as of today, for all my other faults, I am not longer passively contributing the the virulent diseases of the 1950s as they attempt a resurgence aided by Jenny McCarthy, Andrew Wakefield, Meryl Dorey, and numerous other uneducated, fraudulent, or profit-motivated purveyors of anti-vaccination quackery.

‘Tis the Season

I posted this on facebook:

“Happy Holidays” was a common way to express “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year” before Fox News management found it could be used to troll dimwits.

I wonder how many angry responses I’ll get from dimwits who don’t even realize they are being trolled again…

Doomsday Preppers

I recently suffered a savage beating at the hands of some sort of alien pathogen that left me bedridden the whole weekend. Among the things that situation grants is more television time than any human deserves, regardless of his sins. I wasted a lot of time clearing out old recordings and reconfiguring “favorite channels” lists. While flipping through the channels, I came across something called Doomsday Preppers. I wondered if this was a reality show based on crackpot survivalists whose ideological expiration date was from the Reagan Administration. The individuals that were depicted on the show seemed fairly ordinary and somewhat rational. But there was something a little off-kilter. Then it hit me. What those people are doing (namely, preparing for a doomsday scenario) is precisely what right wing loons are trying to do within the confines of something more closely resembling reality.

Because I am still recovering from the mutant strain of space death, I will abbreviate doomsday preppers as DPs and Right Wing Loons as RWLs (humor me, I’m ill). Both the DP and the RWL suffer from a similar set of delusions. First, they assume imminent destruction of the world as we know it. For Glenn Beck followers, this is in the form of convoluted conspiracy theories readily dismissed by any but the most delusional cranks. For DPs, the requirement is less stringent in that it assumes no particular scenario other than a rapid collapse of civilization. This is the one place you will ever hear me opine that the RWLs are actually more reality-based than another group. By this, I mean that what they perceive has happened in history (see the European Dark Ages, the Warring States period in China, post-WWI Europe, pre-Tokugawa Shogunate Japan). But what the DPs are planning for is nearly unprecedented. That is to say, that the cases of complete societal collapse happened on relatively small scales (such as the Chaco Canyon and Mogollon cultures right here in New Mexico). In the case of vast civilizations, the aforementioned warlord-rule things came to pass.

What both sets of deluded nuts forget is this:

  1. In the case of RWLs, collapse of the societal structure in which you are stockpiling your savings as protection against hordes of swarthy unionist atheist liberal commie Muslim homos will render said stockpile, well, worthless.
  2. In the case of DPs, complete collapse of civilization will render you and every individual member of your family one otherwise minor ailment away from death. Did you know a tooth abscess can kill you?

But I can go ever further with regard to the DPs:

  1. Most of the intrinsically livable parts of the country are highly populated. When death by starvation is the alternative, I think a lot of “have nots” would raise a violent hand to the “haves.”
  2. If you choose a recently-populated area, you should be aware that many places are only agriculturally viable with large scale fertilization and seeds that do not allow for procreation. Once the area returns to its natural (or, possibly, depleted) state, it may be completely barren to humans.
  3. Each individual running any such DB habitation supposes that he will somehow remain in charge, not subject to challenge by his subjects. I wonder how that would work out…

I could go on and on, but the key point should be clear (again, assuming that NyQuil has not left me a babbling half-wit). Someone who is preparing for a different society in the context of the current society will find himself ill prepared. Worse yet, he will find himself surrounded by people just like him.

A Week in California

The majority of my colleagues could be considered “conservative.” I have to use the scare quotes, because what that means by definition is not what that means in general usage. Tersely put, conservative means resistant to change. In current political usage, it means desirous of radical change in the direction of an imagined past that never really existed.

Aside: If “conservatives” are so enthralled with the genius of President Ronald Reagan, why don’t the stupid Democrats offer a “return to the glory of Reagan” in the form of a return to the tax rates in place during the Reagan Presidency? Oh, right. That would require a spine and a sense of irony.

Having spent all week in Southern California, I was dismayed by much of what I heard. Even while enjoying the great things about California, many of the participants spent their breaks discussing how terrible California is. They universally attribute the awfulness of this state to “liberals.”