Sunday, December 26, 2010

The 700 Club

700 articles, who would of "thunk" it when BRT started out almost four years ago as an attempt to intelligently discuss the impact of science and technology on civilization but here we are, still attracted to the subject matter as strongly as a moth to light on a warm summer night, a benign curse we willingly accept without reservation as we enter yet another new year filled with the same promise and uncertainty as all others, conditions never changing yet always changing, driven by the quantum, the law of initial conditions and the 2nd law of thermodynamics, principles discovered by researchers trying to better understand the vagaries of a most mysterious reality in which we all live.

In looking back, here are some of the things we've learned.
  • Everything is connected. Reality consists of the transfer of information using the laws of thermodynamics to make it happen.
  • Tech has no morality but we already knew that.
  • Man is touching the very fabric of reality using tools that did not exist one year ago.
  • As Kevin Kelly says, tech has been around forever and ... the web enables tech to evolve faster.
  • We live in a fractal space; from tree branching and heart beats to galaxies in the multiverse, the hidden dimension of fractals rule.
  • Nature abhors gradients.
  • Transparency is key to having a free society that works. As proof, see how the web works, a chaotic system totally reliant on transparency for without it, the construct would fail without question.
  • The Internet is the last bastion of freedom we have.
  • Religion and nationalism are not great. Read Dawkins and Hitchens to learn why. 
  • Connecting the dots is the right way to learn.
  • Question everything for without it, one never learns anything.
  • What we don't know dwarfs what we do. Just walk on the shore and look out at the ocean to see why.
  • Following one's instinct, especially if fleeting, is an essential part of survival.
  • Fear is a good thing when put in proper perspective.
  • Creativity is everywhere, never to be restricted to the arts, something one learns if one has an open mind to it all.
  • Never quit. It sounds trite but no advancement on any front is ever easy, Just ask the Einsteins of the world to see why.
  • Questioning is hard, acceptance is easy.
  • We live in a world of great invisibility as everything we interact with has a past unable to be seen.
  • The future cannot be predicted due to chaos, quantum and the law of initial conditions.
  • Because of the above, sh*t happens, always. 
  • Energy drives reality as without it, everything stops.
  • The multiverse lives. (thank you Hugh Everett)
  • We all live in Pottersville, for now, a situation needing to be changed if America is to survive.
  • There is no free lunch - ever.
  • Creativity is the art of play.
  • Research, in significant parts, is the art of farting around. 
  • The discipline shapes the creative act, instinct, compulsion and the ability to connect seemingly dissimilar concepts in playful fashion makes it happen.
  • Walking is the art of controlled falling.
  • Reality is mostly dark.
  • Life is the great exception to the 2nd law of thermodynamics.
  • Great ideas occur simultaneously based on individual output. 
  • Writing is hard but so is any significant endeavor requiring skill, intelligence and perseverance,
  • The US does not encourage excellence, something needing to be changed if we are to survive as a viable nation in the 21st century.
  • The political, corporate and financial systems in the US are broken but fixable. The question is, are we up to the task to do the fixing.
  • Health beats money any day,
  • Humor is key to life as are family & friends. Without these essentials, we have nothing.
  • Happy New Year, see you in 2011. :)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Happy Holidays

Fair & Balanced

False information drives me crazy. It matters not who provides the content, if it's factually wrong, it's rejected as much as possible, something all too many people in the world fail to do because questioning the veracity of anything (religion anyone?) takes far more effort then accepting, a fact the news media takes advantage of when presenting the "news" to us 24/7. Here are some commonly accepted inaccuracies you might find rather interesting.

"In most cases those who had greater levels of exposure to news sources had lower levels of misinformation. There were, however, a number of cases where greater exposure to a particular news source increased misinformation on some issues.

Those who watched Fox News almost daily were significantly more likely than those who never watched it to believe that most economists estimate the stimulus caused job losses (12 points more likely), most economists have estimated the health care law will worsen the deficit (31 points), the economy is getting worse (26 points), most scientists do not agree that climate change is occurring (30 points), the stimulus legislation did not include any tax cuts (14 points), their own income taxes have gone up (14 points), the auto bailout only occurred under Obama (13 points), when TARP came up for a vote most Republicans opposed it (12 points) and that it is not clear that Obama was born in the United States (31 points). The effect was also not simply a function of partisan bias, as people who voted Democratic and watched Fox News were also more likely to have such misinformation than those who did not watch it--though by a lesser margin than those who voted Republican.

There were cases with some other news sources as well. Daily consumers of MSNBC and public broadcasting (NPR and PBS) were higher (34 points and 25 points respectively) in believing that it was proven that the US Chamber of Commerce was spending money raised from foreign sources to support Republican candidates. Daily watchers of network TV news broadcasts were 12 points higher in believing that TARP was signed into law by President Obama, and 11 points higher in believing that most Republicans oppose TARP."

After reading this, it's no wonder why network news has become such a wasteland because, as predicted by the great film, Network, news is all about the money, not about accuracy, something rather scary as an unfettered press courageous enough to do significant reporting on all things political and corporate is historically considered to be the only viable mechanism able to maintain a democracy, a notion increasingly abandoned due to the fact six corporations control over 90% of the news media in the world today.

Addendum, even though BRT has shown this clip before, it is, IMHO, the best explanation as to what the real world is all about and the role network news plays in it.

"Falsehoods not only disagree with truths, but usually quarrel among themselves."
Daniel Webster

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Multiverse Lives :)

"In the most recent study on pre-Big Bang science posted at, a team of researchers from the UK, Canada, and the US, Stephen M. Feeney, et al, have revealed that they have discovered four statistically unlikely circular patterns in the cosmic microwave background (CMB). The researchers think that these marks could be “bruises” that our universe has incurred from being bumped four times by other universes. If they turn out to be correct, it would be the first evidence that universes other than ours do exist."

I've always thought it strange that because our universe is approximately 13.7 billion years old, a something prior to the big bang must have existed even though creating something out of nothing is a normal part of reality as seen through the lens of  quantum mechanics.

Seems the something prior, in this case, may the multiverse, an entity forever creating universes without the limits of time or space, a concept I find far more comforting then the constrained one universe theory we have clung to since the beginning of time.

I Sing the Body Electric - Part II

The web simply amazes me with what's happening in all things technical, scientific and creative. Now comes Google's Body Browser, a freebie that allows one to peruse the human body at length. Applications for this go on ad infinitum. (App only runs on Chrome, for now)

"It doesn't matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn't matter how smart you are. If it doesn't agree with experiment, it's wrong."  - Richard P. Feynman 

Ode to Books on a Grand Scale

On the opposite side of Ode to Books is the Google resource. Any questions?
Addendum: The NGram Viewer allows one to culture track in ways akin to scientific research using natural language queries. How cool is that?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Habius Corpus or... Dude, Where's My Mortgage?

Alternet does it again. Dude, Where's my Mortgage shows how greed and tech combined to create a disaster in the making vis a vis ownership and property rights.

"There is an unbelievable scandal in the making that threatens to subvert our four-century-old method for guaranteeing a fundamental building block of the American republic—property ownership. The biggest reason why you probably haven’t heard much about it is that it involves one of the most generic and boring company names imaginable: Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc., or MERS. It is a story of deception engineered at the highest level of power for short-term gain, and another epic failure of the private sector to uphold the laws and traditions of American society, even something as fundamental as property rights."

This issue of mortgage verification also applies to CC debt as the debt collection business is booming due to the impact the depression is having on the public's ability to keep up with CC payments. When viewed in this light, it's astonishing people don't understand the fact that if the CC company cannot produce the signed contract to the debtor, the CC company cannot force the debtor to pay, a concept never explained to them (obviously), especially when the CC company sells the account to a  3rd party debt collector (often at pennies on the dollar ) while writing off the debt the CC company knows will never be repaid.

Question: How does the MERS screwup apply to people who diligently pay on their mortgage (like me) for houses they may or may not own if the MERS situation is as bad as it sounds in the Alternet article. Food for thought don't you think?

Addendum: It's against the law for a creditor to threaten a debtor with the lowering of their credit score if they request/demand proof that the creditor has in their possession the signed note (or a complete record of legally verified documents, i.e. signed, showing who owns the document and where said document(s) reside) whether it be a mortgage, cc contract or any other document pertaining to a business agreement where money goes from one party to another.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

America: Why R Your Peeps So Dum?

America: Why R Your Peeps So Dum?, written by Joe Bageant, says it all in depicting how incredibly ignorant the US public truly is and how it came to be.

"If you hang out much with thinking people, conversation eventually turns to the serious political and cultural questions of our times. Such as: How can the Americans remain so consistently brain-fucked? Much of the world, including plenty of Americans, asks that question as they watch U.S. culture go down like a thrashing mastodon giving itself up to some Pleistocene tar pit."

But it gets better.

"As William Edwards Deming famously demonstrated, no system can understand itself, and why it does what it does, including the American social system. Not knowing shit about why your society does what it (does -ed) makes for a pretty nasty case of existential unease. So we create institutions whose function is to pretend to know, which makes everyone feel better. Unfortunately, it also makes the savviest among us -- those elites who run the institutions -- very rich, or safe from the vicissitudes that buffet the rest of us."

Directly or indirectly, they understand that the real function of American social institutions is to justify, rationalize and hide the true purpose of cultural behavior from the lumpenproletariat, and to shape that behavior to the benefit of the institution's members. "Hey, they're a lump. Whaddya expect us to do?"

To add fuel to the fire, click the BRT blurb  Idiot America to laugh and cry at the same time while reading Charles Pierce's ironic take on just how stupid people can be in this country.

"Question: What inspired, or should I say drove, you to write Idiot America?

Charles P. Pierce: The germ of the idea came as I watched the extended coverage of the death of Terri Schiavo. I wondered how so many people could ally themselves with so much foolishness despite the fact that it was doing them no perceptible good, politically or otherwise. And it looked like the national media simply could not help itself but be swept along. This started me thinking and, when I read a clip in the New York Times about the Creation Museum, I pitched an idea to Mark Warren, my editor at Esquire, that said simply, “Dinosaurs with saddles.” What we determined the theme of the eventual piece—and of the book—would be was “The Consequences Of Believing Nonsense.

Idiot America sound better if you ask me. 

Last but not least, check out George Carlin's classic The Owners of This Country rant to see how our willful ignorance enables the powers at be to screw us over in ways that defy the imagination.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Titanic Anyone?

Captain, I think there's an iceberg straight ahead but I can't be sure...

The Game is Rigged But You Already Knew That, Right?


The Mafia and Vegas, to me, are far more honest entities then the banking system we are saddled with. At least those guys are up front in extracting money from us while the Fed and the Wall Street Banks work behind the scenes in secret doing the same exact thing while posing as "model" businesses helping to make America great.

"On the third Wednesday of every month, the nine members of an elite Wall Street society gather in Midtown Manhattan.

The men share a common goal: to protect the interests of big banks in the vast market for derivatives, one of the most profitable — and controversial — fields in finance. They also share a common secret: The details of their meetings, even their identities, have been strictly confidential."

End result...

At least if I were playing black jack or roulette, I could see what I was betting against. With this, there's no chance. Reminds me of the Deer Hunter if you ask me.

Addendum: Check out this Zero Hedge piece to get more info on the cabal running this deal. At the very least, one will realize how the market is played, Goldman style.

Ode to Books

A bookstore, you know, the real kind containing stacks of books crammed into a tiny space as seen in a pix taken by yours truly is a magical and mysterious place, filled with dreams, conjectures and the ability to teach and amaze. My wife and I were in such environs with the intent of "just" taking a look, 5 minutes at most before going home after visiting friends... An hour + later, we left.

Didn't buy anything but we will be back as there is something most inviting about a store containing product consisting mostly paper and not requiring power to run or boot time to come "alive", ready to display the same content contained here but in a format unable to be touched unless you have a digital key in the form of a smart phone, laptop or any other device capable of turning bits into viewable words on a monitor or flat screen display.

As a techie, I am well aware that all the content contained in this little shop could fit onto a small 4gb thumb drive without a problem but the experience lost of wandering through a space such as this cannot be put into words in spite of the fact bookstores like the one we were in are slowly fading away as we move further into the digital realm of bits and photons.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Scotch Tape et al

About a year ago, Physorg posted a really interesting article about Scotch tape and X-rays.

When looking at this from a larger perspective, the notion of reality being a fractal space comes to mind, especially when looking at trees in the winter time and the splashing of waves against the shore. 

Never Ceases to Amaze Me

When man wants to be creative, the end result can be amazing, especially when intelligent observation and free association are combined to make tech rock. Consider Tobacco, the Tobacco Mosaic Virus and Ion Lithium batteries, three entities, that, on the surface, would be forever separated well beyond the six degrees of separation linking people to people unintentionally made famous by the trivial game involving the actor Kevin Bacon, a good sport who is trying to do good via his website

"TMV's nanostructure is the ideal size and shape to use as a template for building battery electrodes. Its self-replicating and self-assembling biological properties produce structures that are both intricate and orderly, which increases the power and storage capacity of the batteries that incorporate them. Because TMV can be programmed to bind directly to metal, the resulting components are lighter, stronger and less expensive than conventional parts."

Now I finally know what Tobacco is good for. :)

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Creating Something Out of Nothing

"Under just the right conditions—which involve an ultra-high-intensity laser beam and a two-mile-long particle accelerator—it could be possible to create something out of nothing, according to University of Michigan researchers.

The scientists and engineers have developed new equations that show how a high-energy electron beam combined with an intense laser pulse could rip apart a vacuum into its fundamental matter and antimatter components, and set off a cascade of events that generates additional pairs of particles and antiparticles.

"We can now calculate how, from a single electron, several hundred particles can be produced. We believe this happens in nature near pulsars and neutron stars," said Igor Sokolov, an engineering research scientist who conducted this research along with associate research scientist John Nees, emeritus electrical engineering professor Gerard Mourou and their colleagues in France.

"The basic question of what is a vacuum, and what is nothing, goes beyond science," he said. "It's embedded deeply in the base not only of theoretical physics, but of our philosophical perception of everything—of reality, of life, even the religious question of could the world have come from nothing."

Touching the very fabric of reality is nigh, something to think about as we move further into the 21st century under the threat of global warming and declining energy supplies. If this theoretical research proves out to be valid via experimentation, the implications of same goes beyond comprehension, particularly in the realm of creating enough clean energy able to meet the needs of our ravenous civilization not to mention the potential of developing propulsion systems of almost unimaginable power.

Star Trek anyone?

Addendum: A new theory positing how the ratio of matter/anti-matter in the formation of the multiverse came to be may explain how reality actually works.

In this matter-formation scenario, a new particle X and its antiparticle X-bar (of equal and opposite charge) are produced in the early Universe. X and X-bar are capable of coupling to quarks (the basic components of baryonic matter, e.g., protons and neutrons) in the visible sector as well as particles in a “hidden” sector (so-called because the particles in it interact only feebly with the visible sector). In this scenario X and X-bar would have been produced when the Universe heated up after inflation, in the first moments after at the start of the big bang.

Later, X and X-bar would decay, partly into visible baryons (specifically, a neutron made up of one up quark and two down quarks) and partly into hidden baryons. As the scientists explain, X decays to neutrons more often than X-bar decays to antineutrons. By the same amount, X-bar decays to hidden antiparticles more than X decays to hidden particles. In this scenario, the quarks would be the baryonic matter that makes up almost everything we see, and the hidden antibaryons would be what we know as dark matter. Through this yin-yang decay pattern, the positive baryon number of the visible matter is in balance with the negative baryon number of the dark matter.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

WikiLeaks is Coming for You

BRT has stated many times that tech, like nature, has no morality. Depending on who's doing what to whom, the end result is driven by the user of the tech, not the tech itself. At the same time, BRT has stated the tried and true statement that everything has a cost. There is no free puppy, there is no free lunch and, as seen by WikiLeaks, there is no privacy, period.

Tit for Tat has been the recommendation from many sites, including this one, regarding the ability to maintain a free society when there is no privacy, i.e. the same tech used to surveil against us should also be used on the people who are doing the surveillance. a concept WikiLeaks embraced when releasing documents proven to be most embarrassing to the US and significant others.

The post in Baseline is timely and apt as the first real infowar is underway where the consequences of total exposure and the right to freedom of expression comes face to face with corporate, financial and governmental power and their wish to control and conceal.

"WikiLeaks may be coming soon to your place of business, or even to your own personal information files. Are you ready? The WikiLeaks story of radical transparency and harsh official response is not going away, no matter how much governments and internet service providers wish it would. And that has implications for all kinds of companies, and all kinds of users, inside the enterprise and out. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has promised to spread his publishing campaign beyond the world of diplomacy to banks and other entities. Whether or not Assange, now under arrest in Britain and a hated man the world around, is the one to exploit data insecurity, it seems likely that others will pick up his mantle and continue to do so — and also that government actions to stop them could have serious consequences for free speech and a free press. The quotes in this slideshow represent a range of opinion, news, and analysis, all of which should inform enterprise strategy on data security and openness. Follow the links (they're live in the caption boxes beside each slide) and be prepared."

As the great philosopher Yogi Berra says, "It ain't over until it's over"

"Unlike the quickly suppressed Twitter linked student revolt in Iran in 2009 following the disputed presidential election, the move by supporters to avenge attacks on Assange has gone viral. The rapid duplication of WikiLeaks content over the past weekend from one to more than 208 mirror websites represents a global counter-force that is now worldwide. Around the globe, it has become a call to arms for a far flung team of anonymous hackers."

Now it's over 1300.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Life Finds a Way - Part II

From this perspective, it looks like life is a far more flexible enterprise then previously thought.

Scientists have found the first known living organism that incorporates arsenic into the working parts of its cells. What's more, the arsenic replaces phosphorus, an element long thought essential for life...

The discovery of a bacteria that can incorporate arsenic into its DNA adds a new dimension to what has long been accepted as the building blocks of life as we know it.

ET looms.

The Future of the Internet...

Ah, another book to read as if I have enough time to read the latest one I bought titled What Technology Wants, a  tome written by Kevin Kelly, a writer who's work I respect a great deal as one who gets it, something not able to be said of entities such as Congress, the RIAA and numerous related others who view an untamed web as a reality to be fought against above all else as it's a "dangerous place out there" and "we need protection if we are to survive".

Well it is a dangerous place out there to the incompetent but so are driving and drinking, pastimes that have been tolerated by the powers at be for generations but not the net because information is power and god forbid if we the public get unfettered access to it.

"When you type an address into a browser, the browser doesn’t just know where to take you. For that it counts on the globally distributed DNS system, which takes you to the specific IP address where the site is hosted. The DNS system is built on a basic foundation of trust -- a DNS provider can’t manipulate the results to stop you from going where you want to go on the Web.

COICA would subject DNS operators to government and industry pressure to intercept and block traffic to sites they don't like, and gives the Department of Justice the power to sue DNS operators to effectively disappear a site from one-click access on the Internet. There are some sites out there that are devoted primarily to posting copyrighted material, like torrent-tracking Web sites, but serious concerns have been raised the dragnet could be extended to file-storage utilities like Dropbox or to services like Facebook where large amounts of copyrighted material are easily stored and posted by users. Moreover, DNS blocking inherently targets entire Web sites, not just specific offending content, raising the troubling possibility that legal content and protected political speech on those websites would be censored in the United States."

This is a bill the RIAA supports as it would protect us from rampant theft of music "and loss of profit" to the record companies it serves, corporations increasingly trapped in the twilight zone of the last century.

“We are proud to lend our voice to the chorus of supporters of this important bipartisan legislation. In a world where hackers and copyright thieves are able to take down websites, rip off American consumers and rake in huge profits operating rogue businesses built on the backs of the American creative community, the committee has taken a strong step toward fostering a more safe and secure online experience for consumers."

The problem with this rosy scenario is the fact it won't work.

"U.S. Government Seizes 82 Websites: A Glimpse at the Draconian Future of Copyright Enforcement?"

... the seizures also show why this kind of enforcement doesn’t work; seized sites were available at other domain names within hours. If the United States government increases interference in critical DNS infrastructure to police alleged copyright infringement, it is very likely that a large percentage of the Internet will shift to alternative DNS mechanisms that are located outside the US. This will cause numerous problems — including new network security issues, as a large percentage of the population moves to encrypted offshore DNS to escape the censoring effects of the procedures outlined in COICA. Presumably the DOJ and the DHS should be committed to improving network security — not undermining it.

When viewed through the lens of tech, the RIAA doesn't get it as the web is not a Sony or Columbia Records company pushing out cds, it is a distribution environment separate from the physicality of hard copy and not subject to corporate control unless you get government involved through stupid legislation, a frightening concept to say the least.

Hip recording artists understand this but, as stated before, government and organizations stuck in the 20th century don't. To whit...

"Casey Rae-Hunter, a communications director and policy strategist for the artist advocacy group Future of Music Coalition (FMC), illustrates why an open Internet is, ultimately, much better for musicians in the long run:

“The two things that are most important to today’s musicians and creative entrepreneurs are innovation and access... For a decade, Future of Music Coalition has called for a straightforward Internet framework that lets artists compete in a legitimate digital music marketplace alongside the biggest companies. Open access to the Internet has led to tremendous innovations in the marketplace and inspired countless examples of creative enterprise.”

"For every moment of triumph, for every instance of beauty, many souls must be trampled"
- Hunter S. Thompson

Suddenly Everyone's Talking...

Seems BRT, along with many other sites (Alternet Time, et al), are stirring up interest about the Fed and the role it plays in finance because people are finally beginning to question why we have such a ridiculous and corrupt system regarding the management of our money.

"Beyond Republican politicians, the public is beginning to rethink our monetary order. A YouTube video on quantitative easing has over 3 million views. The video slams the Fed for missing the dotcom bubble, the subprime crisis, for being fundamentally undemocratic and unaccountable, and for being engaged in collusive dealings with Goldman Sachs. Financial blogs and CNBC discuss the Fed, and its associated characters, with deep insight and passion. And Bernanke drew 30 no votes in his confirmation hearing in 2009, the most ever for such a position, just four years after drawing almost none. The market nearly crashed on the possibility that Bernanke’s nomination would fail before the White House stepped up aggressive lobbying efforts. On the left, the last few years saw a remarkable grassroots coalition of economists and activists to bring transparency to the central bank, joining a long-sought libertarian crusade."

It's about time, don't you think?