Tech Tuesday – Firsts and Anniversaries Edition


Oscar Gordon

A Navy Turbine Tech who learned to spin wrenches on old cars, Oscar has since been trained as an Engineer & Software Developer & now writes tools for other engineers. When not in his shop or at work, he can be found spending time with his family, gardening, hiking, kayaking, gaming, or whatever strikes his fancy & fits in the budget.

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36 Responses

  1. Avatar J_A says:

    Aero1: That was cool, but way cooler is the video that appears in the same page called “NASA’s EPIC View of 2017 Eclipse Across America”. You can see the eclipse like a shadow fleeting over the USA

    It’s a very Silmarillion image. It’s like disembodieded Sauron fleeing from Tol-in-Gaurhoth, or Trump arriving to D.C., or something else the Valar would have an issue with.Report

  2. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    The Atlantic looks at the financial success of GOOP and what it says about the death of fact checking and our brains despite more doctors and journalists than you can imagine jumping up and down and shouting bullshit at the top of their lungs.

    My personal hobby horse is that the success of GOOP comes because we don’t teach enough critical thinking and independent thought in education and too much of “education reform” seems to be about connecting education to commercial/money-making skills and abilities.

    Something I have been thinking about with intelligence lately is that you can have intelligent people who learn to question the system and powers that be and you have intelligent people who just work with whatever systems and powers that be are in place for financial success. The second group might know that GOOP is bullshit but they also know that it makes a lot of money and are not adverse to promoting GOOP or working with GOOP to get a lot of cash.

    Education loses its truth function if all of our politicians and education “reformers” talk about how education needs to be connected to helping students thrive in the modern economic world.Report

    • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

      Sagan was bemoaning this 20 some odd years ago. It hasn’t gotten any better.

      Thing is, there’s no reason not to teach such skills as part of any education reform, since being able to spot a swindle is pretty important when one is concerned with have good skills for any org. So the question is, are the skills not seen as important, or do schools simply assume parents are teaching such skills, or is the reason more sinister (TPTB don’t want a population that can spot BS)?Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

        I think it depends.

        FWIW, I think people like Paltrow, Amanda Chantal Bacon, and Alex Jones are true believers in their woo. There is also a sexist angle in how Paltrow and Bacon get treated compared to Dr. Oz. Dr. Oz seems to be a true conman though, there was a profile of him in the New Yorker a few years ago and he basically just eats healthy and does exercise like taking the stairs instead of an elevator when he can.

        The article mentions that Conde Nast is teaming up with GOOP for a quarterly publication. A high-end luxury magazine but for woo.

        In the above case, there is an economic justification for ignoring your BS detector because Conde Nast and their employees can look at the financial data and see that there are lots of people willing to spend cash on it. So anyone who says “we shouldn’t work with GOOP because it is bullshit” is probably making a career ending move because if not Conde Nast, it will be someone else.

        As to the sinister motive, it seems close to a conspiracy theory but it is plausible. Something I’ve noticed is that intelligent people seem to either learn to question things or the system and/or they learn to work with the system.

        You can still be economically successful as a questioner but it is harder to do so and takes longer because you are usually in dissent. But lots of people in my generation (and previous ones) did well in school to get into a good university and then get into a good grad school or brass ring job (and then a good MBA, JD, or other professional program) and join the ranks of upper-management.

        My inner socialist wonders if economic incentives cause people to ignore woo basically.Report

        • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

          When it comes to medical/nutrition woo, part of the problem is that the worlds of medical/nutrition science & research cooperate with mainstream media in an unhealthy way.

          When the news is constantly telling you about this or that bit of research, and after a while you start getting contradictory messages, your ability to actually know what is useful information is hampered.Report

          • Avatar Kim says:

            Yeah, but the other problem is freaking longitudinal studies.
            When you tell everyone “eat breakfast, it’s good for you”
            suddenly you’re no longer measuring just people who eat breakfast, but people who do what the news says.Report

        • Avatar dragonfrog says:

          It will be profitable until the first lawsuit by the family of someone who died after they declined medical treatments that work, in favour of BS they read in GOOPde Nast Quarterly.Report

          • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

            It has been a while since I studied it but I don’t think publisher liability goes that far.

            The famous case is that Hustler was not found liable when a teenage boy killed himself after reading a Hustler article on how suffocating yourself (I forgot the term) can lead to erotic heights and organisms.

            On the other hand, the publisher of a “How to Be a Hitman” graphic novel was found liable when someone tried to use it as a how-to guide to kill his wife and disabled child.

            There is plenty of woo out there that gets published without liability.Report

        • Avatar LeeEsq says:

          Vox had a similar article about GOOP today. One reason why GOOP is popular despite the war waged against it is ideological. GOOP is seen as being in alignment with a certain sort of feminism and any criticism of it can be targeted as anti-feminist. There is also a secret knowledge aspect to its popularity.Report

      • Avatar aaron david says:

        Or, fourth conclusion, people can spot the “woo” but have other reasons for purchasing/believing in the product. Indeed, it might not be “woo” to them for entirely different reasons then that found by the antiwooers.

        We all have objects/ideas/etc. that we loath, just as we all have those things that we love. Often, the love/loath is irrational, especially to others. And unless it is doing real, identifiable harm that is greater than the perceived gain, there is nothing for anyone to do about the issue.Report

        • Avatar LeeEsq says:

          Magical reasoning has had a powerful draw on humans forever. They want quick and easy solutions to their health problems and the snake oil salesman are more than happy to provide them. Woo also has the advantage of sounding more romantic than the materialist answer to a lot of reasons.

          Interestingly enough, a lot of anti-Semitism in the mid-20th century was based on the idea that we Jews were rationalist killjoys intent on taking the joy and mysticism out of life with our Jewish materialism.Report

          • Avatar aaron david says:

            My point, and I did have one, is that an outsider to any given idea will not and can not completely understand what is the attraction of any given idea. And if this idea gives some people a positive experience without causing undue harm (so, not antivacs) who are we/you/them to say it is “woo”. Science is a powerful draw and the percieved need to catalog and create a taxonomy for the world is strong. But, as someone around here is fond of saying about money and ecomomics, there are other things to take into account.

            I come from a whole family of scientists, from geneticists to nuclear physicists, and all of them practice or believe in something that others would call “woo”.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe says:

        I don’t remember Sagan being that outspoken against woo. He had a bone to pick with organized religion, true, blaming it (unfairly) for the loss of the Ptolemaic Hellenistic world & specifically the Library of Alexandria, plus (much more fairly) that whole thing with Galileo.

        There was however, a natural synergy, as one would say now, between the audience of Cosmos and the audience of Nimoy’s In Search Of, which I don’t recall Sagan ever trying to debunk at the time. I do think Sagan was one of many that through the BS flag on Chariots of the Gods though? Additionally, looking it up, there was this, just before his death.

        eta – Sagan was willing to buy the woo the Soviet Union was selling to Western peace activists until that was no longer a thing.Report

        • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

          Demon Haunted World was something I read when it came out. It’s stuck with me (figuratively and literally, the hardcover is still on my bookshelf).Report

        • Avatar LeeEsq says:

          The myth of Hypathia and the Library of Alexandria has been powerful one for secular intellectuals since the Enlightenment. The adoption of Christianity probably did more to prolong the Hellenistic world than destroy it. Rome was already crumbling when Constantine became Emperor and Christianity acted as a temporary shoring up of the Empire. Hellenistic culture lasted in the Christian East Roman Empire all the way to the war with the Persians or the Iconoclast conflict.Report

      • Avatar El Muneco says:

        Too much incentive to teach to the test. And parents aren’t teaching it because they never learned it.Report

  3. Avatar Kolohe says:

    www3 – isn’t this literally phrenology, but with gaydar?Report

    • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

      Phrenology is all about the topography of the top & back of the head, but yeah, it parallels.Report

    • Avatar veronica d says:

      Except this is using actual data science methods, which presumably includes validation and testing. If the algorithm finds a pattern in nature, then it’s hard to deny the pattern exists.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        pish. posh. the menu’s never the meal, is it?
        Haven’t looked, but I wouldnt’ be surprised if they pulled the pictures from facebook or something.


  4. Avatar Kolohe says:

    Phys1 – Sandia High Energy Physics Ball Rules!Report

  5. Avatar Michael Cain says:

    Arch1: To some extent, in some locations, premiums do reflect some of this. We replaced our old wooden roof with a new impact-resistant one last year (hail being a larger threat than fire here); our homeowners annual premium went down by almost a third. But there’s a lot of claims history on which the insurance companies base that pricing. In this case, the homeowners seem to be trying to substitute something that has little history — look, we’ve built with fire-resistant materials and shapes — rather than taking the action that has a history of being effective — clear-cutting trees and brush to a specified distance from the house.

    My dad spent some years working for an insurance company that covered a lot of one-off risks. To paraphrase him, you always pay a bunch more for trying something unusual because of the effort and uncertainty involved in underwriting.Report

  6. Avatar veronica d says:

    www3 — heh. happy endings. I get it.

    But seriously, according to the article their algorithm works by distinguishing a known “str8 face” from a known “gay face.” From a probabilistic perspective, this is a very different problem from categorizing random faces as gay or str8. The reason is simple, given a random face, guessing str8 will give you a 95% success rate (assuming they punt the ball on bisexual people), so picking out the few gay faces is a more difficult problem.

    I’m begging the reader to let me get away with saying “gay face” versus “str8 face.” Whatever.

    Anyhow, the way they do it now, the algorithm has a nice 50/50 change of guessing right. This is a much easier problem from a data science perspective. So anyway.

    I’m curious what it’d do with my face. I bet it would easily peg me as a lesbian, if paired with a str8 woman. If they paired me with a gay man, it’d say I’m str8. If paired with a str8 dude, it would be even odds.

    I guess. I’d love to try it out.Report

    • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

      Yeah, you might give the algorithm fits.Report

      • Avatar veronica d says:

        I do wonder how much it works based on grooming, clothes, and hairstyle. It’s one thing to notice a “gay bone structure.” It’s quite another to notice “gay hair.”

        Although, the str8s totally stole the undercut from the lesbians, and flannel used to mean something! Anyway. But still.Report

        • Avatar Maribou says:

          @veronica-d Yeah, the composite faces were definitely made up / facial haired, etc very differently.

          I think the quote from Jim Halloran at the end of the article sums it up pretty well: “What their technology can recognize is a pattern that found a small subset of out white gay and lesbian people on dating sites who look similar. Those two findings [this one and the one they’re actually claiming] should not be conflated.”Report

  7. Avatar CJColucci says:

    Re www2: I assume the original paper explains this, but why would natural selection weed out predispositions to medical issues that don’t generally become problems until we’re past child-rearing ages?Report

    • Avatar Maribou says:

      @cjcolucci In case you’re still curious, you actually don’t have to dig down to the original paper. The article buried it pretty far down, but there is a quote from one of the coauthors citing the exact two reasons that I guessed at, based on what I learned back in my undergrad biologist days:

      “It may be that men who don’t carry these harmful mutations can have more children, or that men and women who live longer can help with their grandchildren, improving their chance of survival.”

      Or in other words, we’re kinda baffled as to why, but it’s definitely happening and there are plausible hypotheses that we can’t actually run controls on to test (nor should we!). Human evolution in a nutshell :P.Report

  8. Avatar Oscar Gordon says:


    Gentlemen, your thoughts?Report

    • Avatar Michael Cain says:

      It depends.

      Consider the larger two of the US power grids, the Eastern and Western Interconnects. The US national labs have done a number of studies about low-carbon powering for the Western, both with and without nuclear. It appears that it can be done in a straightforward fashion and the overbuilding isn’t nearly as bad as the article suggests. But the Western is small (about 70M people), the backbone network is simple (the large majority of those 70M live in seven or eight major metro areas, depending on how you count), the region is rich in renewable resources (large, and diverse both by type and geography), and has the terrain to implement a proven commercial-scale storage resource (pumped hydro, eg, the 1.2GW Helms power plant in California and 350MW Cabin Creek plant in Colorado). In 2016, ~40% of power generated in the Western Interconnect states was from renewable sources.

      The Eastern Interconnect is a much harder problem: bigger, more diffuse, not nearly so rich in renewables compared to its size, much iffier on storage. In 2016, ~10% of power generated in the Eastern Interconnect was from renewable sources. The few national labs’ low-carbon models for the Eastern lean heavily on nuclear, or transfers of power from the Western and Quebec. A pure renewable strategy for the Eastern would require overbuilding more on the scale described in the article.

      The Western Interconnect is already taking steps towards an integrated regional network. California is looking to expand Cal-ISO outside the state. The Transwest Express transmission link that will move wind power from Wyoming into SoCal/Phoenix/Las Vegas cleared its last environmental hurdle last December.Report

      • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

        Someday, some bright bulb out east is going to figure out a way to efficiently tap into western power production without paying market rate for it.Report

        • Avatar Michael Cain says:

          Southern California has been showing them the way for decades: Path 65 HVDC brings Columbia River hydro power straight to SoCal; Path 27 HVDC brings coal-fired (soon to be natural gas) power straight from Delta, Utah to SoCal. The Transwest Express HVDC line I mentioned will bring wind power from the east side of the Continental Divide in Wyoming through the South Pass, then follow the Path 27 route to the southern tip of Nevada. If the Tres Amigas superstation ever gets built, everyone (but me) thinks it will allow western power to flow into Texas. I think it’s more likely to let West Texas wind power flow to California.

          HVDC to the Northeast or Southeast are just a bit longer.Report