Friday 11 August, 2023

Tunnel vision

Quote of the Day

”The metric system is the tool of the devil! My car gets 40 rods to the hogshead, and that’s the way I likes it!

  • Grandpa Abe Simpson on the metric system.

(Relevant to today’s Long Read below.)

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Schubert | String Quartet No. 7 in D Major, D. 94 | 1. Allegro


Long Read of the Day

Why America is going backward: Being the richest nation in history isn’t enough

Interesting Salon essay by Mike Lofgren on trying to disentangle the chicken-and-egg relationship between reactionary politics and the decline of intellectual and cultural life that he thinks characterises contemporary US society. (And also perhaps what lies beneath Trump’s apparently enduring electoral support.)

Lofgren thinks at least part of the answer might lie in the work of Canadian psychologist Robert Altemeyer, who posits a distinctive human trait he calls “the right-wing authoritarian personality”.

Altemeyer has emphasized that the right-wing authoritarian harbors a peculiar mix of traits: aggression, submissiveness and conventionality. It may be this brew of behaviors that determines such disparate matters as America’s penchant for violence, its inability to reform itself politically and perhaps even its refusal to adopt the more rational weights and measures used by the rest of the world. Economic issues may play a role, but the jaw-dropping difference between the U.S. and other countries in the polling data suggests that deeper and more terrifying psychological forces are at work.

It seems to me that Trump is a racing certainty to be the Republican candidate for president next year. In which case, as the Economist puts it in this week’s issue, that election will be a referendum on whether or not democracy survives in America, and it turns every voter into a juror on that question.

Chart of the Day

Ideological leanings of Large Language Models

I found this — and the research that went into it — really interesting.

Source: Tech Review

My commonplace booklet

Julia Evans on how to encourage productive commenting on the Web

Wonderful blog post, full of good sense.


Something I noticed while trying to drink from the Internet firehose.

 HiRISE Mars 4K (NASA): Chaos, Reconsidered

Fascinating high-res overflight video of the terrain within a Martian impact crater.

NASA commentary reads:

Aram Chaos is terrain that is located within a massive 280 kilometer-diameter crater. It consists of darker volcanic rocks that were disrupted as a result of water and/or magma withdrawal in the subsurface. Some of the materials made up of different kinds of sulfates that formed when water filled the crater.

This clip uses the enhanced color red-green-blue filter of the HiRISE camera. Blue in enhanced color images often represents basalt, indicating a volcanic origin.

This is a non-narrated clip with ambient sound. Image is less than 1 km (under a mile) across and the spacecraft altitude was 271 km (168 mi). For full images including scale bars, visit the source link.

Music: “Freeing From Sin” by Medusa Jacobi (used by permission).

Also interesting: the clip was made using Final Cut Pro for iPad. Amazing that a tablet exists that can run that software.

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