Closing shop.

So, I'm calling it quits on this here blog.

Firstly, it seems most of the time, I'm the only one reading it, and that sort of defeats the point of having a blog in the first place. Or maybe there are people reading it, but they all agree with me so fervently that they just silently agree. But I might also have to face up to the fact that my musings on the world in general aren't as entertaining or interesting as personal tidbits about mostly nothing. And if that's the case, well, then you can most certainly count me out. I don't consider my life interesting and enlightening enough to need to share it with the general public and if people are in it to fulfill some stupid peeping-tom craving that the media seems so full off, then you can fuck off too. Want to know how I'm doing? Give me a call. Can't be arsed? Well, then you know where you can book a ticket.

Seems most blogs today either revolve around personal little nonsense like boyfriends, girlfriends, health issues, cats, purchases of personal items and other crap like that. Which is all fine and dandy if you got a point to make. But, if you just wanted to tell the world and felt like getting a bit of that warm fuzzy attention, then you're probably as messed up as your readers. Me, I crave challenge, conversation, controversy, verbal combat and above all else, intellectual input. I want to debate issues and opinions that stretches beyond my cat's last visit to the vet. Hell, I don't even own a cat (insofar as cats can be owned at all).

But it appears I'm sadly not one of the many, but rather one of a few. As long as most people are content with reality shows and news about [insert recent blond media bimbo]'s latest boob-job, I'll always feel like the odd one out. And that's fine. I just don't feel like spewing my bile into the void anymore, and thus I move my attention to more fruitful pastures. Or so I hope.

See ya.
  • Current Music
    The Doors - People are Strange

When meritocracy becomes a virtue.

According to a recent study math skills have become a problem in the U.S. both with regards to boys and girls, and it would appear that the problem is one of attitude more than one of potential. The U.S have for years now applied the SAT test as a benchmark for college applications, a test that is highly formalized and standardized, not unlike the PISA test now applied in Europe.

I am in no way against testing pupils, even in a standardized manner. It gives valuable information about the overall performance of students and it can provide insight into educational methods and their relative success. But one must not loose sight of the fact that these highly standardized tests can only provide highly standardized answers, which in turn means that they can only test automated skills. Math and some language skills can be tested in this manner, but they are far from the only things that matter when evaluating an education.

Skills such as creative thinking, problem solving, critical argumentation, the ability to do your own research and so on become more and more a factor in today’s society, both nationally and internationally, and the people of tomorrow (our pupils) will sorely need them all. In the U.S. these standardized tests have become an end all, be all for the educational system through overemphasizing their results. If the SAT is all that counts when applying for college, then that is what we should focus on. The psychological aspect for the educational system isn’t hard to figure out, but the problem remains that what you end up creating is thousands of pupils who are good at taking the test, not pupils who are good at the various subjects. Automated skills can only take you so far. Again, I am not against this form of testing, but we need to keep vigilance to avoid making them our main focus when making decisions about our educational system.

So far, so good. According to the study part of the problem might also be social. The impression that only nerds and Asians are good at math creates a stigma that can be hard to overcome for kids, and in a society that has for years now devaluated knowledge and intelligence in the public media, this problem seems almost insurmountable. When presidential candidates openly deny believing in the Theory of Evolution and Paris Hilton seems to be the girl of the hour, what chance does a 12 year old boy or girl really have? In Europe we still have some way to go before we get there, but the issue is still somewhat present, and I have heard pupils say things like “but I’m not a nerd” when told to focus on their homework. The attitude that doing well at school is “nerdy” and not “cool” has been around for years, but it is still a serious problem, and not one we can allow to escalate.

Returning to the first part of my argument it is clear that automated skills are boring to learn. Granted, some things you just have to rehearse until they stick, but one must keep in mind that they are a means to an end, not the end itself. In my daily work I do my best to focus on the curiousness of the world in which we live, the wondrous things that science and scientists, historically and presently, has provided us with. I try to teach logical argumentation as a basis for getting your point across, and I value research based individual opinions more than regurgitated information when grading papers. I set up debates about stem cell research, bio fuel, and genetics and I emphasise accurate knowledge as the way to a better understanding. And I cherish ideas.

The message I try to get across is that nerds run the world. From Newton and Galileo to Einstein and Watson, these are the people we have to thank for the advances we have made over the last centuries. And while we boggle together over the strangeness of the microscopic world and ponder the vastness of the universe, the pupils end up having fun. They learn about some very nerdy things indeed, and without noticing it they achieve a better understanding of the world we live in.

And that is what being a nerd is all about.

Come on!!!

Now, I didn't see this new program series "Åndenes Makt" ("The Power of Spirits") on TVN, mainly because I don't watch TV. I think it's a waste of time, and besides, I've already seen enough commercials for shampoo.

Apparently this is going to be a series of programs dealing with ghosts and other paranormal phenomenon, as usual without an ounce of critical thinking. Of course, I suppose it's hard to get "mediums" and "psychics" to appear on your show if all you're going to do is laugh at them, but seriously, that is all that they deserve. Or perchance an appointment with the nearest shrink.

Let me spell it out for you: There are no such thing as ghosts, fairies, angels, demons, or any of the other mind-fancies that people have thought up over the years. Prove it, you say? Please, anyone who has studied the art of logical thinking knows that you cannot prove a negative. Want a demonstration? Try to disprove Santa Clause.

That's not how it works, and either way the weight of evidence is on the side of the believers, not the critics in this case.

Psychics and the like have been debunked so many times it's not even funny anymore, but people STILL throw money away on this shit. Your brain is an extremely powerful computation machine, with software capable of creating stuff you couldn't even imagine in your wildest dreams. And users of acid or the like will be ready to testify to that.

Does that mean that what you see isn't real? Usually not. At least not in under the normal usage of the word "real". See, our software has some flaws that we are well aware of, which is why science regards personal experience and eye witness accounts as the LEAST reliable form of evidence. But under normal circumstances you can generally trust your eyesight. Just be aware that it sometimes makes a mess of things. And yeah, sorry mate, but just because you saw a ghost, doesn't mean that it's real. More likely, it's just your own mind fucking with you.

Why does this happen?

See, we have been social creatures for a long enough time for evolution to pick up on it, and thus it has produced software that is tuned into looking for faces. Knowing what your peers are going to do next is a good survival tactic for social creatures and as with all evolutionary traits like this, it's safer to rely on false positives rather than false negatives. That is why we sometimes see a connection when one isn't present. That is why you often see faces where there are none. Like in a cloud or in the mist on your bathroom mirror. The software in your brain is actively looking for faces, and sometimes one will turn up where there really isn't one. This is a simple misfiring, but it is a harmless one, at least under normal circumstances, and that is why it's still there.

Ghosts aren't real, and people who tell you otherwise are either trying to sell you something, or they are deluding themselves.

End of story.
  • Current Music
    Tori Amos - Happy Phantom

The U.S. economic crisis is bullshit…

Yeah, I know the newspapers and channels are all full of it, screaming about how people are going to lose their savings and their houses and how the U.S. will turn into a third world nation unless something is done.

Bullshit.

First off, it’s not “people” who will loose their money, it’s the fat cats, the rich boys, the investment jockeys. People loosing their homes is not news, that has been going on for years with 1.3 million homes now going into foreclosure, and nobody seemed to care then because it was just a load of “bad loaners” who got what they had coming. If anything, what is happening -now- is that the people who had it coming is getting theirs.

The bill that they are trying to pass at the moment is not going to bail out the people who need it the most, and it puts almost no reins whatsoever on the people who got the U.S. into this mess in the first place. Neither will it drag every other country on the planet with it, should the shit hit the fan. Most European countries have their own economy safely secured through other means, not the least of which is Norway, and seeing some of these giants fall can only be a good thing in the long run. The lesson learned is that if a company, be it a bank or an insurance company, is too big to let crash, then it’s too big to live. Sorry mate, but giving that kind of power to a privately run company is just moronic.

Instead the U.S. government should guarantee for regular peoples money, safe keep their pensions, vouch for their loans, and maybe set the record straight by forcing these gigantic financial institutions to face the music and refinance these loans at a rate and cost that actually rings true in today’s marked.

The fact of the matter is that this is the last attempt at cashing in on regular peoples money and giving it to those who deserve it the least. Spending and paying of off the already well-to-do has gone through the roof. For example in 1980, the average American CEO made 45 times what their employees made. By 2003, they were making 254 times what their workers made. After 8 years of Bush, they now make over 400 times what their average employee makes.

Also during the Bush years, millions of regular people lost the decent paying jobs they had, six million fell into poverty and seven million lost their health insurance.

How come there is a crisis -now-?



Bullshit!
  • Current Music
    Bad Religion - Them And Us

Our place?

"Now imagine, if you will, an early man, and let's see how this mindset comes about. He's standing, surveying his world at the end of the day. And he looks at it and thinks, "This is a very wonderful world that I find myself in. This is pretty good. I mean, look, here I am, behind me is the mountains, and the mountains are great. Because there are caves in the mountains where I can shelter, either from the weather or from bears that occasionally come and try to attack me. And I can shelter there, so that's great. And in front of me is the forest, and the forest is full of nuts and berries and trees, and they feed me, and they're delicious and they sort of keep me going. And here's a stream going through which has got fish in it, and the water's delicious, and everything's fantastic.

And there's my cousin Ug. And Ug has caught a mammoth! Yay!! Mammoths are terrific! There's nothing greater than a mammoth, because you can wrap yourself in fur from the mammoth, you can eat the meat of the mammoth, and you can use the bones of the mammoth, to catch other mammoths!

Now this world is a fantastically good world for him. And, part of how we come to take command of our world , to take command of our environment, to make these tools that we need, is that we ask ourselves questions all the time. So this man starts to ask himself questions. "This world" he asks himself, "so, who made it?" Now, of course he thinks that, because he makes things himself, so he's looking for someone who will have made this world. "So, who would have made this world?" he thinks. "Well, it must be something a little bit like me. Obviously much much bigger, and (glancing up) necessarily invisible, but he would have made it. Now, why did he make it?"

Now, we always ask ourselves "why" because we look for intention around us, because we do things with intention. We boil an egg in order to eat it. So, we look at the rocks and we look at the trees, and we wonder what intention is here, even though it doesn't have intention. So we think, what did this person who made this world intend it for. And this is the point where you think, "Well, it fits me very well. You know, the caves and the forests, and the stream, and the mammoths. He must have made it for me!"

I mean, there's no other conclusion you can come to. And it's rather like a puddle waking up one morning--I know they don't normally do this, but allow me, I'm a science fiction writer. A puddle wakes up one morning and thinks "Well, this is a very interesting world I find myself in. It fits me very neatly. In fact, it fits me so neatly, I mean, really precise, isn't it? (Laughter) It must have been made to have me in it!" And the sun rises, and he's continuing to narrate the story about this hole being made to have him in it. The sun rises, and gradually the puddle is shrinking and shrinking and shrinking, and by the time the puddle ceases to exist, it's still thinking, it's still trapped in this idea, that the hole was there for it."

- Douglas Adams
  • Current Music
    Garbage - Special

Opposed...

I'm not antisemitic when I criticize Israel for shooting at kids.
I'm opposed to people acting like pricks.

I'm not anti-Islamic when I criticize fundamentalists for circumcising (read: mutilating) small girls.
I'm opposed to people acting like pricks.

I'm not anti-Christian when I criticize the Catholic church for telling people that condoms won't protect you from HIV.
I'm opposed to people acting like pricks.

I'm not anti-American when I criticize the Bush administration for having no regards whatsoever for Human Rights.
I'm opposed to people acting like pricks.


But I am, also, opposed to grown ups going around believing in fairy tales.
  • Current Music
    APC - Judith

Go World!!!

It's been an entertaining week!

First we flicked the switch on the LHC and lo and behold, the world did not end. No new Big Bang.. No Black Holes eating the earth... Who knew?
Well, the scientists who are in on the project knew, but who the hell listens to those people. After all, they are just the geekiest collection of brains on the planet.

Then Prof Michael Reiss, director of education for the Royal Society, claimed teachers should discuss creationism with pupils, something that caused somewhat of an uproar amongst the scientific community, including two Nobel laureates, who demanded that Prof Reiss be sacked and asked why an ordained Church of England minister should hold such an important role in Britain's leading scientific organization anyway?

The Church of England suddenly decided to apologize to Darwin for being dicks towards him some 150 years ago. I guess it takes a while to see the error of your ways. This places well together with the fact that the Catholic Church waited about 350 years to admit Galileo was right about the heliocentric thingie after all.

Oh well...

Now Christian Voice, a fringe evangelical British group has tried to get in on the act by issuing a public apology to Britain's best-known atheist, Prof Richard Dawkins, claiming that he is not "malicious, loony, ill-informed and stupid in equal measure" as they first thought. Rather they now think that he has a "virus of the mind"put there by "the father of lies" (i.e. Satan, not traditionally known for his interest in teaching evolutionary theory). This group is otherwise known for opposing abortion, homosexuality, no-fault divorce, 'safer sex' education, and use of the Scottish Gaelic language for broadcasting. They have also asked the Crown to start basing British law on the bible.

I think I sense an agenda of sorts here but what the hell do they have against Gaelic? O_o


Anyways, it seems the world remains an entertaining place to live so to all of you:

Go World, Go!!!
  • Current Music
    Seether - Out Of My Way

Spore

So I went ahead and bought Spore.
For those of you who don't know what that is look here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spore_(game)

Right, so there has been some protests from religious twitts, mainly creationists, that this game puts evolution in a favorable light and whatnot. That is all bullshit, but that is what we have come to expect from these people, so that is hardly newsworthy. So instead of ranting about that, I will here give my first impressions of the game. Consider SPOILER WARNINGs hereby issued.

1. The game does not in any way accurately portrait the process of evolution. Sure, you start out as a protozoa, an small single celled creature that (fairly quickly) gets to a stage in which it can climb onto solid land as a fully grown animal. There are several flaws with this, but I guess it all comes down to simplification. After all, it's a game.
That is not the main problem I have with people thinking this game shows how evolution works. The main point is that there isn't any real evolutionary pressure involved. There is no natural selection of any kind. The second is that at no stage does the creatures evolve naturally, through random changes. Instead you are given the job of putting the creature together, making this closer to Creationism than Evolution with regards to its actual functions.
Sure, you might say, a game that leaves everything up to natural processes wouldn't be much fun to play, and I concede. I'm not sure it would have. But in all fairness, lets not call this a good illustration of how Evolution works, cause it ain't.

2. The game comes with a really silly DRM that will only allow you to (in effect) reinstall the game three times even after you register it online (which you have to if you want to receive and share content). Go figure. It's not a huge deal for me in practice since I'm likely to have grown tired of the game long before I've seen the need to reinstall it three times, but the principle is still stupid. Not unlike all other DRMS I've seen.

3. I personally think religion is treated rather kindly in this game, mainly because if you (at the tribal stage) go for the peaceful solution and make friends with everyone, you automatically end up as a Religious society in the next stage. This pissed me off a bit, but not terribly. I guess they just needed something to fill in the blank next to Economic and Military. But at least that tells us that if anything, religious people should be cheering this game on rather than criticize it.

4. It's a fun game, at least for a while. The creature/building/vehicle creator has lots and lots of options and possibilities, and if you like this sort of thing (I do), it will keep you occupied for hours. I've only just started on the space exploration part, but hopefully it will prove to be as fun as the other parts. It does seem to be a somewhat short game though, quite possible to complete in a couple of evenings, but it does have some replay value, not the least because you can share creations with other people over the intarwebs.

5. In the end it's just a game. It won't do as an educational tool for teaching people about Evolution. For that it's nowhere near complex enough and the mechanisms in the game are all wrong. Neither will it be any kind of threat towards religion as such seeing as it doesn't bring any arguments to the table. All in all the "controversy" is wasted and pointless, but then again, most controversies are. All the people yelling can relax and sit down.
It's a game. The end.
  • Current Music
    Smashing Pumpkins - The Beginning is the End is the Beginning

LHC going live!!!

Check it out! http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,24292397-30417,00.html

Seriously, I can't wait to read about the stuff they are going to find out with this immense machine (the largest built in human history).
Just think about it, 27 kilometers long, able to accelerate protons up to about 99% the speed of light and then smash them together with the force of two aircraft carriers having a head on collision!
This is probably also the largest scientific project ever undertaken by humanity with 85 countries contributing the (metaphorical) brains of some 10.000 scientists.

So why go through all this effort?

Not for the military.
Not to make money.
Not to pursue some silly ideological agenda.

But simply because we want to know more about how the universe works.


My faith in humanity is on the rise, a very rare occasion indeed.
That probably only lasts until I have a look at tomorrows papers, but for now, savor the moment. ;)


Oh, and also: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j50ZssEojtM ^_^
  • Current Music
    Large Hadron Rap