Saturday, July 30, 2016

The UnAmerican Turbulent Scientist is back :(

First, let me apologize directly and profusely to the internet, interwebs, world wide web, and series of tubes. I thought my wit and wisdom had banished the Turdulent Scientist (see what I did there?!?) years ago, but he has resurfaced like a floater at a kids pool party.

Even worse, his latest post is both mundane AND, dare I say, UNamerican! Read it here, if you can stomach it. Traitorous Scientist denies the utility, nay birthright, of the lush, green, well-cared-for American lawn. He claims they use too much water! You know what else uses too much water?  Animal agriculture:  one pound of beef requires ~2500 gallons of water to produce.  Who wants to bet Turby stuffs burgers in his trap every chance he gets? To quote a true American, what a bunch of malarky!

I, for one, have no fonder memories than playing catch with my dad in the backyard. Bare feet caressed by the soft, cool blades of freedom.  Sure, perhaps future generations of children could survive without such experiences. But, would such lives be worth living? Could such a generation truly be called AMERICAN?

One final thought - if Turdy McSucks hates yardwork so much, why doesn't he live in a condo or apartment or other abode without said yard? The mind boggles. But then, I suppose we should expect nothing less than the height of hypocrisy from someone who uses a science and policy blog to whine like a teen on their 2006 LiveJournal page.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Oh lordy, PoopSkittles has struck again!  Here.  Click that link.  Skip to the last paragraph.  Read it.  Done?  Did you groan aloud?  Please do if you haven't -- it's not healthy to repress audible responses to childish naivety.

First off, has this guy ever been stuck in traffic?  Because the one thing in life that is A-OK to bitch about, at all times, is getting stuck in traffic.  And if someone causes extra traffic for no good reason, it should be investigated UNTIL THE END OF TIME if necessary.  No punishment is too harsh for such villainy.

In the complete history of the human race, there has never been a successful utopian society, where everyone just worked to make their "future brighter, safer, and happier."  Those are nonsense words you use with children, like when you tell them to behave or they'll get coal from Santa.  People do want a better world, but what constitutes a better world?  A place where your kids have more opportunities and resources than you did?  What about other people's kids half a world away?  You can't make everyone's world better, because we live in hierarchical societies where the people at the top use disproportionately more resources than those at the bottom.  And what makes a "better" world?  That's a matter of opinion, and last time I checked there tend to be as many opinions on a subject as there are people to have them.

Lord Poopyton also makes the point, in italics, that "we need science and technology to survive the future." [stupid italics from the original]  I think he is dead wrong.  I hate to say it, but science and technology will not allow US to survive the future, but our differentiated descendents.  As we like to say, an asteroid killed off the dinosaurs.  But according to His Royal Poopness, the dinosaurs in fact survived!  And exist today!  I know, because I've been shit on by a "dinosaur" as it flew above me.  Stupid dinosaurs.

Science and technology will lead to posthumans that, ultimately, will be as different from us as we are from monkeys.  They'll have augmented senses, brain implants, and biomechanical devices throughout their bodies.  Their genes will be tailored to their needs and whims.  They'll include artificial intelligences, who won't need physical bodies at all.  They may not even need to eat or have children in any conventional sense.  Many of these changes will probably be necessary either to live or travel great distances in interstellar space.  They will have evolved from us, but will not BE us.  We are doomed.  We will die.  It is, unfortunately, inevitable.

If you want, you can believe in Santa Claus, that he will bring you presents if you're a good little boy.  I prefer to live in a grown up reality, where there is no Santa, life is tenuous, and all we can do is the best we can for the short time we've got.  I'm not sure that writing this blog post is quite in line with that, but hopefully reading it wasn't so bad.  But also I don't give a shit if it was -- you get what you pay for!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Where are we?

I have no quibbles with Turbulent's latest post on scientific theories.  No one is more shocked than I, but then all Turd-bucket is saying is if you don't understand the meanings of concepts, it's hard to mount effective (or really, honest) arguments against them.

I have a different kind of point to make: we live in a unique time, the first in human history in which we have a relatively clear and precise understanding of our place in the universe.  Not our purpose, perhaps, but our physical location.  In life, it can be hard to know where you're going if you don't know where you came from or where you are.  Now, in the largest sense possible, it seems we know.

The coalescing material that became the Sun, Earth, and everything on it was seeded by the dying ash of ancient stars.  Those stars lived and died in the outer arms of the Milky Way galaxy, a 100 billion-star spinning disk the proportions of a vinyl record.  Surrounding this disk swarm hundreds of minor satellite galaxies, constantly shredded by their encounters with us.  A mere 40 record-lengths away, our sister the Andromeda galaxy rushes toward us, promising a great collision near the end of the Sun's natural life.
The Andromeda Galaxy (left), our nearest similarly sized neighbor, visible near the disk of the Milky Way within which the Sun resides.  This composite image illustrates what the night sky will look like 3.75 billion years from now.  (More on this collision at 

But this is literally our cosmic backyard; the universe is full of galaxies, as many as there are stars in the Milky Way.  But we finally have a clear picture of our cosmic neighborhood, the equivalent of a city if the universe were laid out on the surface of the Earth, which is presented beautifully by researchers in France in this video:

(Available for download here:

We live in the suburbs of an average galaxy that resides in a rural town far from the bustling cities of the cosmos.  There is nothing special about where we are.  Nothing special about where we came from.  The insignificance of our place in the universe is crushing.  But we have only now opened our eyes.  We have only now begun to comprehend.  It's only a matter of time before we ask the next logical question.

Where are we going?

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Of COURSE humans are "the most superior animal on the planet"

Turd-bucket has another post up, this one full of fuzzy-wuzzy, lame-brain fake humility claptrap.  He actually casts doubt on whether humanity is the superior species on the Earth, which either means he has trouble grasping the basic definition of words or wants to appeal to environmental liberals in advance of a career in politics (the unthinkable horror!).

He implies people think we're superior because we're the most intelligent species, which is a difficult thing to objectively judge (here we agree).  But it's not INTELLIGENCE that makes us superior – it's the fact that the fate of all other species are subject to our will and whims.  We no longer face any serious predators, because we have vanquished them to the point of insignificance or extinction.  And if we had the will (and lacked the wisdom), we could wipe out any species we'd like to.  Thus, we are superior.

The more interesting question that never enters the mind of the Turbulent "Oh noes I poopied my pants again" Scientist is, "What does this mean?"  If we effectively own the Earth (and we do, at least at the present time), does this mean we are morally responsible for it and must place all animals under our protection?  Nope.  I suppose this could be viewed as a debatable point, but only if you make up a worldview in which this is a tenet.  Way more than 99% of all species that ever existed are extinct, so clearly there's nothing sacred about keeping species alive.

Which raises the key point: our own extinction is a very, very real possibility, if not a certainty.  And you know what animals are?  Resources.  Kill 'em off, and you throw away tools in your toolbox.    Who knows what gene will help us cure some disease or solve some other problem some day.  Same with the environment.  The Holocene (last 10,000 years or so) is a very nice climate for us to live in, and it makes perfect sense for us to try to maintain it by reversing global warming.  But if we warm the planet too much and end the Holocene, both we and the Earth will survive (but many individual people and species will not), which reduces our chances at long term survival.

It may not sound romantic, but evolution doesn't care – it's just a process, and one we don't HAVE to be at the mercy of anymore.  Anyway, for better or worse we ARE the superior species, although maybe not for long if lunkheads like Turd-bucket are the best thinkers we got.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Why are aliens in movies as dense as The Turbulent Scientist?

I mean, really.  Beings from another world (they're always planet-bound like us) travel huge distances through a harsh environment, which requires technological capability far beyond our own, and when they get here they want to kill us, presumably for our stuff.  This makes no sense.  Of course, the reason they behave as stupidly as doofus-goat would is simply that they're a nice way to spice up a conventional colonialism or western-type action flick with pew-pew special effects.  But let's take these fictitious alien baddies literally and review why they must suffer from space-sickness (which, if part of these stories, would make them both more realistic AND infinitely more interesting).

Say you need raw materials for your space armada – one of the last places you'll go is the Earth (presuming you've arrived in the solar system and now must go somewhere to refuel or whatever).  Need raw materials?  If you need something light, skim it from the outer atmosphere of a gas giant.  If you need heavy elements, collect some asteroids.  Why not mine the Earth?  Because you're in space, and Earth's gravity is relatively strong.  Pretty much ALL of the cost of a rocket goes into getting into orbit.  In other words, in terms of energy use it is a very expensive proposition to come down, mine stuff, and haul it back into space.  Alternatively, asteroids have no significant gravity, and they're in the same environment your spaceship is.  You'd have to be a complete asshole to pass up the cheap asteroids – in other words, you're out to pick a fight, simply because you can.

Now let's assume you're on a colonization mission and don't want to share the Earth for any number of valid reasons – you're on a one-way trip, Earths are rare, you want to ensure the survival of your race/civilization, etc.  You don't want to destroy the environment because you want to use it, but you don't want humans to compete with you.  First off, it would certainly be most sensible for the aliens to take over some part of the planet and ignore the rest.  If you have the ability to get here in the first place, you can probably set up a practically impenetrable perimeter and muster a missile defense shield, which would effectively neutralize any threat we could pose.  But, if the aliens are assholes, they may prefer to wipe humans out (like making mosquitoes extinct instead of wearing repellent and using screen doors/windows).  This is not unreasonable.  What IS unreasonable is invading with ground troops or flying saucers and leaving yourself open to exploitation of some vulnerability (which is typically very, very dumb).  Why not just poison us?  Most likely there's some difference between our biologies that would allow them to tailor something that would kill us but be benign to them (smallpox-laced blankets, anyone?).  If they liked the local plant/animal life, they could even tailor it specifically for human biology.  We'd never even know it was an alien attack.  This is clearly the more economical and efficient path, unless they just really enjoy fighting.  But in that case they're probably pretty good at it and wouldn't have an easily exploitable weakness.  I'll admit though, aliens are alien, after all, so their reasons may not be obvious or even outwardly sensible.  BUT, given how evolution works, they would likely take steps to avoid complete destruction.

Does this mean Hollywood can't make an interesting alien invasion movie?  Hardly.  Should the writers/directors/producers take an afternoon to make sure the aliens' motivations/behaviors are not completely idiotic?  Of course!  And I guarantee you a much more interesting movie, with a more respectable enemy for your hero to defeat.  I beg you!  Just ask me or any one of the many excellent hard sci-fi novelists out there who successfully do this all the time.

If you just want to make shiny things and explosions for snot-dripping morons to goggle at, however, I know just the person to consult with.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

He's stringing you along again

Mr. Feather-feet; Dr. Dim-wit; Bird-brain; Fat-fingers.  I for one am impressed with the Turbulent Scientist's mastery of alliteration and applaud him for raising the level of debate to that of an elementary school playground.  Apparently Congress' example is rubbing off!

Have you ever seen such a defensive blog post in your life?  Before he even bothers to explain his topic of the day, he launches into a very anti-bird screed (do birds have fingers? and even if they do, would you consider them fat? or is he just demonstrating the profound depth of his ignorance yet again?), likening me to our feathered friends as a way to inoculate himself from the guano of truth soon to be raining down on his exposed scalp.  Besides, birds evolved from freakin' dinosaurs that ruled the Earth for over 100 million years, AND they can FLY, so why be hatin'?

What's he so defensive about?  String theory: a field of theoretical physics that tries to unite disparate branches of physics under a common framework, which involves thinking of particles as really small strings vibrating in extra dimensions of space.  Cool idea?  Hell yeah.  I even thought I'd be working on it one day (until I realized "ego >> mathematical talent").  But here's the problem: after several decades of work, a COMPLETE version of the theory still does not exist, and what parts of the theory do exist have yet to predict ANYTHING.

Does this mean it's not science?  Well, not exactly, because the goal is to predict something.  Unfortunately, even when they can't predict anything precisedly but suggest some type of unexpected result from an experiment run out of something like the LHC, they fail.

The problem here is that physicists may just be barking up the wrong tree.  I personally cannot assess that technically, but when you've been pursuing something as long as the world has been pursuing peace in the Middle East, and you have FEWER results to show for your efforts, maybe it's time to approach the problem from a different angle.  But this hasn't happened, because prominent string theorists like Brian Greene have been so successful at popularizing it that they've attracted most young physicists to the idea.  Being merely human, it's hard to abandon an idea and body of work you've built a career on, even if you worry it's all for naught.  The best place to check out more criticism like this is at Peter Woit's blog Not Even Wrong.

When alchemists tried to answer the question, "How can you chemically turn lead into gold?", it wasn't the answers that were wrong, but the question itself.  Like the question, "How many brain cells does the average person have to kill off to equal that in the Turbulent Scientist's brain?", which presupposes that that pathetic, putrid piece of pond scum has a brain at all.

Monday, February 25, 2013