Venus & Enceladus-A Few Humble Links

Phosphine gas could still be produced by some yet unknown non-living process, but it’s an interesting, and potentially important, find.

From Nature:

Measurements of trace gases in planetary atmospheres help us explore chemical conditions different to those on Earth. Our nearest neighbour, Venus, has cloud decks that are temperate but hyperacidic. Here we report the apparent presence of phosphine (PH3) gas in Venus’s atmosphere, where any phosphorus should be in oxidized forms.

Despite being a near twin in size to Earth-mass and gravity, Venus spins too slowly for an electro-magnetic dynamo to create a EM field, enveloping and protecting the planet. With ninety times the surface pressure of Earth, and temperatures up to nine-hundred degrees Farenheit, to say it would be hellish would be an understatement.

Yet, it once harbored liquid water oceans, and maybe, just maybe, some kind of microbial life has migrated up into the fast-moving clouds. Click through for a visual.

Or listen to a podcast while you work, walk, or clean:

Addition: Anton Petrov sheds some light:

Next to Enceledaus, a tiny moon being warped by Saturn, this is probably the most important indicator of extra-terrestial life going right now:

Step By Step-Some Humble Space Links

Frank Drake brings some realism to the S.E.T.I. debate.  The space-time distances are a huge hurdle, and the challenges of becoming a spacefaring civilization make the journey to nearby star systems fairly impractical at the moment.

The less evidence and fewer data points there are, the more rampant the speculation, inventive the Sci-Fi imaginings, and important the foundation to create such new fields of knowledge.

There’s been an explosion of private entrepreneurship and NASA partnership lately (loosened regulations and better incentives) to help get cargo (things and people) into space much more cheaply than before.

What’s it like to be on a spacewalk?  In some ways, pretty normal and pretty not normal, apparently: Just pace yourself, focus, and get the job done in an unwieldy suit while you hover between everything you’ve ever known and an incomprensible abyss.

In addition to recent rapid advances in ‘seeing’ with radio waves, gravity waves and light, and we’ve got better tools to get a little further out into our own neighborhood.

This means we could find out if we can find some life on Mars (methane spikes), Jupiter’s icy moon Europa and Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus:

and:

and:

Happy New Year! Let’s Do 2019! Gird Your Loins for An Unbidden Lecture On (A)rt, (S)cience And American Institutions These Days

I don’t know how you ended-up on this blog, but here you are:  Welcome old and new readers, to this little carved-out corner of the web.  May you subtly calculate how and why you disagree with me as you click back to that latest favorite video/recipe/game.

Or do yourself a favor and just click through to Zombo.com already.

It’s free!

Personally, I see many Wild-West attributes of online platforms as increasingly coming into contact with existing institutions and interests, and becoming less wild, but still Western.

This seems to be happening while many of our institutions have been seriously over-leveraged and are undergoing tremendous populist pushback. Trust in political parties, lawmakers and institutional leadership are at all-time lows.

Is America becoming more like Europe?

Mid and longer-term, there is still a fair amount of high-end innovation and intellectual incubation going on.  I tend to see mathematicians, AI innovators, computer scientists and software engineers as trying to solve particular kinds of problems, and generally not worrying too much about ‘culture,’ at least while not actively solving these problems.

Nevertheless, the ‘culture’ is interested in them.  At many companies and institutions, there is a tendency towards aligning with the loudest voices and most committed social reformers, which is to say favoring oppressed identity groups (women, minorities etc) on a rather simplified trend-line towards ever-more freedom and progress.

This tends to be where a lot of moral and public sentiment is currently being directed, regardless of deeper truths.

Such platforms also interact with a general decline in organized religious and cultural expectations in nearly all of our lives (my simplified trend-line of less religion in our lives).  I see a good deal of increased choice and freedom about where to work, whom to marry and how to make decisions these days.

Therefore, not all of these changes are bad.  Many of these changes, in fact, have been very good for very many people, but they come with costs.

It’s not clear what the new rules are nor upon which foundations they will rest.

What’s going on with the intellectual dark-web?: If not all change is for the better, and if you’re counting on liberation driven by radicals decrying all existing institutions in favor of utopian ideas and revolution, then you’re counting on deeply authoritarian and totalitarian ideologues to defend liberty.

This is where many in academia, the media and positions of cultural influence find themselves these days, having backed-into into institutional and bureaucratic capture by illiberal voices.

As for the current Patreon dustup, I see Patreon as primarily having to make a business decision in the ‘culture’ wars between the more activist and socialist Left and the IDW (intellectual dark-web).

A vigorous, robust defense of freedom of speech so common a generation ago has now sadly, but unsurprisingly, become a cultural battleground.

And on major platforms like Patreon, the IDW folks standing-up for broader and more open speech have become an unprotected minority, and likely a business liability:

Many deeply committed socialists tend to be surprisingly good art and film critics, focusing sharply on ‘culture.’  Many economic Marxists tend to congregate in the academy and politics as they produce little of value beyond spreading the gospel of Marx.  They can be particularly adept at politics, gaining special traction while institutions are over-leveraged.

If you allow them to drive the latest moral idea, then eventually standing up for any law, tradition or practice makes you an enemy and part of the ‘system’ they claim to know so much about:

As for my take on artists, most good ones tend to the bohemian, operating on the fringes of the ‘culture’, wanting to develop particular skills, talents as well as their own unique voices (good artists earn appropriate respect for their skills and talents, despite often harboring fruitcake economic and philosophical ideas).

Generally, they are not members of a ‘creative class,’ as this tends to be a favored fiction of many a softly collectivist type, dreaming rosy dreams.

More broadly, many in the culture at large have gone down deeply nihilistic and existentialist pathways.  On the ‘cutting-edge’ where what’s cool easily becomes culturally and politically influential, many individuals see themselves as bitterly isolated from all meaning and purpose, on their own against the void, much like the tragic anti-hero become so popular these days.

I see this as occuring on a much longer trend-line, or at least, Isaiah Berlin offers some useful thoughts as to when and where Western artists started adopting this Romantic vision and outside-looking-in approach so common these days:

As to my own paltry contributions (using other people’s platforms to link to other people discussing past great contributions), here ya go.

There are many entry points into Western canon, so here are just a few:

Music + Math=Symmetry?:

And just a passing dream:

It Ain’t What You Know, It’s What You Know That Ain’t So?-Eric Weinstein At the Rubin Report: The Four Kinds Of Fake News

More on Weinstein here.  Interesting guy.

His 4:

As this blog has noted:  One of the core functions of successful media outlets lies in aggregating information and sources of information, cornering a market if possible, and maintaining competitive advantage by implementing new technology ahead of others in the same market space. It’d be nice if they had an idea of the ‘public trust’ in mind, or reader-respect, or consumer responsiveness…but…there are no guarantees.  Also, they can easily become beholden to the people they rely upon for access.

What if the technology changes rapidly enough to make many old models obselete, or many of them obselete within a relatively short period of time?

The losers can be very vocal about their losses (some going-in for special pleading and the end-is-nigh handwringing….often with an inflated sense of their own importance).

A lot of the people who used the math to design the algorithms that now structure user interaction with information and sources of information have similar gatekeeping power/influence the old outlets had.

***Actual beat journalism costs time and money, is probably best done locally, and can be a vital check on those with power and influence (or more power/influence than the media outlet has, and more likely with conflicting political/business/ideological interests than the media outlet).

There is a risk calculation necessary for this type of journalism, because it often doesn’t pan-out.

Thanks to a reader.

Related On This Site:A Few Thoughts On Blogging-Chris Anderson At Wired: ‘The Long Tail’

Megan McArdle At Bloomberg: ‘The Slow, Painful Death Of The Media’s Cash Cow’

-(addition) Via a reader:  Eugene Volokh argues freedom of the press ain’t about saving the buggy whip industry:

‘I’ve often argued that the freedom of the press was seen near the time of the Framing (and near the time of the ratification of the 14th Amendment, as well as in between and largely since) as protecting the right to use the press as technology — everyone’s right to use the printing press and its modern technological heirs. It was not seen as protecting a right of the press as industry, which would have been a right limited to people who printed or wrote for newspapers, magazines and the like .

At least with the Weekly World News, you got the best of fakery:

batboy.gif

No!

Ron Unz At The American Conservative-‘Meritocracy: Almost As Wrong As Larry Summers’

Full piece here.

Are men better at math than women?  Will the social sciences ever be able answer such a question? A few fireworks at the link:

‘Still, even a broken or crooked clock is right twice each day, and Larry Summers is not the only person in the world who suspects that men might be a bit better at math than women.’

I see merit in putting parts of modern feminism to the test, re-examining the motives, tactics and reasoning of the gender-equity feminists, the personal-is-political radicals, and the gender-is-a social-construct folks.

Some questions:

-Why should we aim for a gender-neutral society with equality of opportunity?

-How do we know when we’ve arrived there, and at what cost?

-Who will gain, and who will lose?

Below is Straussian Harvey Mansfield discussing feminism during his long tenure at Harvard.  He threw his book ‘On Manliness’ into the prevailing winds.

Martha Nussbaum reviewed the book unfavorably here.

Addition:  Cathy Young at Reason has a piece on The Feminine Mystique.

—————-

***Straussians see America as sliding inexorably into hedonism, backing our way into radical individualism and excessive freedom, drifting towards European nihilism, or the belief in nothing.  Atop this process will pile up the products of reason, or fields of knowledge which claim reason can do much more than it may be able to do.  He includes many of the social sciences, and much of ‘modern’ philosophy.  Here’s the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy’s Entry:

‘Strauss especially worried about the modern philosophical grounds for political and moral normativity as well as about the philosophical, theological, and political consequences of what he took to be modern philosophy’s overinflated claims for the self-sufficiency of reason.’

According to Strauss, this same process led Europe into fascism (he was a German Jew who emigrated during the rise of the Nazi party).  This can perhaps be highlighted in the difference between political science, and political philosophy, as he saw them.

Political science assumes that the study of politics can be like a science, or a least quantified like one:  Statistics, modeling and analysis, polling data, voting habits and voting records, historical trends and party affiliation;  All of these can be guided by political theory and experience and synthesized to help us understand what politics is.

Perhaps, as we have seen recently, we can even use statistical modeling to predict elections.  Politicians, wonks, pundits, and aspirants to power all see use in more data and greater predictibility, and many naturally see clear political advantage in such thinking.

Strauss’ critique of this approach suggests that it also shapes to some extent who we think we are, and who we ought to be.  It is reductionist, and ultimately pits political groups and parties against one another, as though itself and everyone in its care were a neutral observer.

For Strauss, this approach ought to be countered by asking questions in a deeper tradition of political philosophy, his own neo-classicism:

“What is the good society?”

“What is the common good?”

On his thinking, modern political philosophers have also acted as revolutionaries, from Machiavelli onwards.  They’ve fallen from the grace in a way, or at least from his reason/revelation distinction. We moderns are lurching forwards, stumbling forwards through the dark corridors of the modern age.  We need return to classical philosophy, back to Plato and Aristotle:

‘Strauss employs the term “theological-political predicament,” to diagnose what he contends are the devastating philosophical, theological, and political consequences of the early modern attempt to separate theology from politics. However, Strauss in no way favors a return to theocracy or, like his contemporary Carl Schmitt, a turn toward political theology. Instead, Strauss attempts to recover classical political philosophy not to return to the political structures of the past but to reconsider ways in which pre-modern thinkers thought it necessary to grapple and live with the tensions, if not contradictions that, by definition, arise from human society. For Strauss, a recognition, and not a resolution, of the tensions and contradictions that define human society is the necessary starting point for philosophically reconstructing a philosophy, theology, and politics of moderation, all of which, he claims, the twentieth-century desperately needs.

Perhaps non-Straussians can begin to ask such questions of feminism, too.

Addition:  Do the moral laws make the people, or do the people make the moral laws?

Related On This Site:  Christina Hoff Sommers (wikipedia) is trying to replacing gender feminism with equity feminism. She also wrote The War Against Boys: How Misguided Feminism Is Harming Our Young Men.

A very Harvard affair: The Spelke/Pinker debate-The Science Of Gender And Science

Repost-Revisting Larry Summers: What Did He Say Again?

Harvey Mansfield At The City Journal: ‘Principles That Don’t Change’

Bing West At The American Interest-’Women In Ground Combat’

Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

Ron Unz At The American Conservative: ‘The Myth Of American Meritocracy’