And then there’s that one guy…

Doing the monthly cleaning of the comments for this blog. You may notice that there are almost none. Most of the ones that I get are trying to sell me something. But then there’s always that one… So I write about science things. And every time I do, I get a comment saying that I’m going to hell, that the only truth is in the Bible, that kind of thing. Okay, guy. This post is for you.

Science is not really the sort of thing that requires belief. But admittedly, the basis of science is. So here’s what I believe (in no particular order):

  • There is an objective reality. I’m not saying that I live there, or that anyone lives there, just that there is such a thing. We can agree that the sky is blue, that the sun comes up in the morning, that the moon hangs in the sky, things like that.
  • That aforementioned objective reality can be described. Yep, we use metaphor to do it. The moon is round and usually kinda silvery looking. And make no mistakes, the language of mathematics and logic are, themselves, metaphor. An equation is a statement saying that this thing behaves like this in these circumstances.
  • The rules of logic are valid in this objective reality that I believe in. Once we agree on what the words “bright” and “dim” mean, we can also agree that the sun is not “bright” and “dim” at the same time.

There are things that I know to be true because I have witnessed them. I’ve seen (with my own eyes) the curvature of the earth from a research airplane flying at 60,000 feet. Yep, it really is round, and the sky is pretty dark up there. I’ve performed experiments that show both light and matter as being a particle and a wave. I’ve seen the glow of a nuclear reactor — yep, radioactivity is real. So I do have a lot of personal experience from which to draw upon, all of which corroborates the modern ideas of physics. I can say with confidence that I also believe my own experience.

And that’s about it. If you are going to try to tell me that you “don’t believe in science”, that’s fine. Just let me know where you think that scientific thought went wrong. Was it all good up to Aristotle? Up to Newton and Copernicus? If your worldview does not include Einstein, can you tell me how it is that GPS works (because Einstein’s general theory of relativity is integral to that)?

It’s also cool if you think that the world is only 4000 (or however many) years old and that all of the so-called “scientific evidence” was placed by god in order to test faith. But please, let me know how that helps solve a problem. Not because I want to ridicule your beliefs, but because I really want to know.

What’s next? (part 1 of N)

The world is in for a serious shake-up over the next couple of decades. Here are a few of my (and many others’) predictions:

  • Catastrophic job loss. Essentially all manual jobs are going to go away due to cheap automation.
  • Bio-terrorism. With CRISPR, anyone can make a virus in their garage with a thousand dollars of equipment and chemicals
  • Environmental collapse. When it comes to climate change, we ain’t seen nothing yet.
  • Nuclear disaster. I think that we have at least one more Chernobyl-level event ahead of us.
  • Human rights abuses. This will get worse before it gets better.
  • The rise of the police state. This too will just get worse.

Scared yet? Well there are good possibilities on the horizon, too.

  • World peace. Seriously, it’s a thing that can happen.
  • Universal health care. It’s about time that we caught up to the rest of the civilized world.
  • Universal basic income. In light of the aforementioned catastrophic job loss, this is the only rational option.

There is a lot more to all of these, of course. And much more to add to the list. As I figure it out for myself, I’ll post more in the series.

How to piss off a programmer…

This is me, venting about programming. If you’re not a coder, feel free to stop reading here.

I’m fantasizing about strangling one of my client’s programmers. I’ve no idea who he or she is, but I really wish that I could re-write all of their code from scratch. Some of their sins:

  • No comments. None. At all. Zero.
  • No parameter passing. They used over a thousand global variables instead.
  • Typecasting when there is no need. NOT typecasting when there is.
  • Apparently they skipped the coding-for-dummies chapter on state machines.
  • Using arrays to handle single values. Yep, literally defining arrays of one element.
  • Never ever accounting for garbage collection. Pointers are saved to globals and not checked.
  • Duplicating large blocks of code many times, changing just one value for each copy.

Overall, this system works by luck and not design. So I’ve just one message for this anonymous coder:

I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what you want. If you are looking for a working system, I can tell you I don’t have the time to fix everything. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills, skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you document your code now, that’ll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don’t, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you.

Deep breath…

So it seems like the world is ending. We now have the worst possible pick for president, an ultra-right congress, a soon-to-be conservative judiciary, and a cabinet filled with more of the worst of the worst. Which is horrible, but not impossible. It just means that the good people of the world need to work all the harder. In order to wrap my head around the problem, here’s where I can see us going off the rails (in no particular order):

  • Institutionalized profiling (arrests, deportations, etc.)
  • Normalization of racism, sexism, etc.
  • A chilling of free speech, free assembly, etc.
  • People dying from being denied healthcare
  • An undoing of environmental regulations
  • Selling off public lands to unregulated industry
  • Initiation of global hostilities

Despite all of the awful potentialities, the biggest danger is that we give up.