Where There Were No Doors

Follow your bliss and doors will open where there were no doors before - Joseph Campbell

Monday, May 23, 2005

The news in briefs

Saddam Hussein in his underpants? What's that all about then? And why is the American government complaining about the willingness of The Sun to print the pictures when they clearly had to be taken by someone in the American military establishment and deliberately leaked.

Which is news.

In the Arab world it's also, unsurprisingly, "being treated as a small piece in an overall pattern of alleged American violations of prisoners' rights. And as confirmation, to many, of US contempt for Arabs and Islam." I don't understand exactly where this is all leading, but it's becoming more and more likely (in my view) that the Dubya administration is consciously ratcheting up the tension between the West and Islam.

(Sorry about the terrible pun title, but what the hell else is a blog for?)



Meanwhile here in the UK it seems that sales of lottery tickets are on the increase. According to Camelot (who run the lottery) this is evidence that "the business is on the mend". That, and the fact that people are becoming more desperate.



Also in the UK, the London Stock Exchange is starting to get skittish with regards to oil reserves. It seems that there's a few small oil companies having to own up to radically overstating their proven and probable reserves. Looks like Shell wasn't the only one then...



Meanwhile we are soon to be treated to a documentary about three sisters who have all just given birth to children. Their ages? 12, 14 and 16.

I've often been accused (wrongly) of being "a liberal" because of the stance I take on various issues. I'm not a liberal. Not even slightly. I just happen to have a set of views which intersect with liberal social policy in a number of areas. This isn't one of those areas.

When I hear stories like this one I just despair. The mother (and now grandmother) spends her time blaming the inadequate sex education in school. Sorry you stupid woman (and sorry liberals); but no!

The state has a vested interest in your children being well educated; no question about that; but it's your fucking responsibility to raise them.



Slightly less relevant, perhaps, is the announcement that wormholes in the fabric of spacetime are actually no use for time travel. This would be disappointing to all us theoretical physics buffs if true. However, upon closer reading it turns out that even the lightweight BBC article exposes a major logical flaw in this pronouncement.
It might - in theory - be possible to carefully fine-tune the geometry of the wormhole so that the wormhole throat became big enough for a person to fit through, says Fewster.

But building a wormhole with a throat radius big enough to just fit a proton would require fine-tuning to within one part in 10 to the power of 30. A human-sized wormhole would require fine-tuning to within one part in 10 to the power of 60.

"Frankly no engineer is going to be able to do that," said the York researcher.
It's probably true to say that no human engineer could do that; but if humanity ever reaches the point where we're seriously considering the construction of spacetime wormholes there's no reason to imagine that we won't be working in tandem with a super-advanced Artificial Intelligence.



Meanwhile things don't seem to be getting any better in Iraq, with the new Chief of Security the latest victim. And there also seems to be some serious concern that the lid is going to come off Afghanistan again. The failure to exert real control over the country (beyond a few specific towns) has provided the local resistance with the time and space to regroup. With America tied up in Iraq, the temptation must be for the Taliban to pick a moment and storm Kabul.

The symbolism of retaking the city (even if only for a few days, before reinforcements arrived) would shake US policy in the region to it's foundations. I also worry about a real nightmare scenario where China begins to openly arm and train the Afghan resistance against the occupying troops and their installed government.

Anyone recall a precedent for that?



Oh yeah, and we've got bird-flu popping up in China. There's pessimism with regards to North Korea. And climate change is going to shaft us. (No link for that one; just a general point).

Yet I'm feeling vaguely chipper because these arrived this morning...

Two tickets to see the Polyphonic Spree in August

... now I just need to find someone to go with (who won't stand me up!)

Should I be worried about the fact that the arrival of two tickets to a Polyphonic Spree gig in August can make me say "Oh cool!" with incredible glee and a kind of "Life is Good!" nod of the head, despite the fact that I'd just been reading all of the above...?

Or should I be glad?

6 Comments:

Blogger Andrew said...

It's probably true to say that no human engineer could do that; but if humanity ever reaches the point where we're seriously considering the construction of spacetime wormholes there's no reason to imagine that we won't be working in tandem with a super-advanced Artificial Intelligence.

Heh. And you mocked my 'developments in nanotech' solution to the oil problem as being vague...

Seriously though, it's an interesting subject, the whole theoretical physics malarkey. We (as in, the media) do have a tendency to assume that progress will be linear or has plateau'd, when it's probably exponential.

23/5/05 17:01  
Blogger Jim Bliss said...

As I was writing that, Andrew, I thought to myself "someone is going to say; And You Call Me A Techno-Optimist?!"

I just knew it!

It is; as you say; an interesting subject even in the abstract. I disagree with you regarding the path/rate of progress though. Not because I think progress is linear rather than exponential, but because I don't believe "progress" can be measured like that.

I guarantee, for instance, that you and I have very different views on what constitutes progress. And however hard both of us may claim to have some sort of objective grip on "progress", the fact is it's a value-laden concept.

I'll bet we see the 20th century very differently for example. Certainly amazing technological advances were made, but overall the 20th century represents the least progressive period in history. Leastways if you view "progress towards a sustainable civilisation" as being inherent in the notion of human progress, as do I. Building up a massive reliance upon a non-renewable resource is a remarkably regressive step in my view.

And while I do not doubt the technological brilliance of humankind, the problem we face with regards to fossil fuels isn't - strictly speaking - a technological one.

The solution requires a combination of major changes in social attitudes and very very good engineering; not a new invention.

However, I do not - and never have - discounted the possibility of a technological solution. I'm not a prophet, I'm just a very good systems analyst. If someone discovers a cheap and reliable cold fusion recipe tomorrow then peak oil will become much less of a problem (it'll still be a problem though).

The thing is; as I mentioned before; if faced with a major problem it makes no sense to assume something will come along in the future to solve it. Especially when the problem is only a few years away. The rational thing to do is to try and solve the problem with what you've got right now.

Anything else is taking stupid risks with future generations.

23/5/05 17:34  
Blogger Rowan said...

I wouldn't worry. Might as well enjoy what you've got.

23/5/05 23:56  
Anonymous Jez said...

There's a cute little Polyphonic Spree game, if you like that kind of thing.

24/5/05 03:15  
Anonymous iotar said...

Quite enjoying one headline today:

Mum 'not killed by son's spiked drink'

Makes you wonder how many mums this year have not been killed by their son's spiking their drinks. Something needs to be done about this! Son's of the world - spike yr mum's drinks - otherwise they'll live forever!

http://uk.news.yahoo.com/050524/356/fjmq3.html

24/5/05 11:45  
Blogger Andrew said...

However, I do not - and never have - discounted the possibility of a technological solution. I'm not a prophet, I'm just a very good systems analyst. If someone discovers a cheap and reliable cold fusion recipe tomorrow then peak oil will become much less of a problem (it'll still be a problem though).

The thing is; as I mentioned before; if faced with a major problem it makes no sense to assume something will come along in the future to solve it. Especially when the problem is only a few years away. The rational thing to do is to try and solve the problem with what you've got right now.


I think we're largely in agreement then, actually, except that we put different likelihoods on various solutions. I'm betting on the technological deus ex machina - you're hoping for social change but expecting resource wars and subsequent upheaval. If only we had some kind of wormhole time travel device to see who is right...

24/5/05 15:27  

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