August 29, 2008

The Aspiring Mad Scientist Official Presidential Endorsement

My mind is now solidly made up. I'm voting for Sarah Palin for Vice President of the United States of America, and you should too.

We have to vote for John McCain to do that, and I'm now pretty much okay doing so.

MoronPundit over at doubleplusundead has a subdued, understated post regarding the VP choice, and I fully share the sentiments expressed therein.

Now I just need to figure out how to get the DVR to only record her portion of the VP debate...

Update: Since she hasn't been seen much on the national stage (unless you've been watching Kudlow and Co., Glenn Beck, and Craig Ferguson), I think it's important to include a photo montage of the GOP VP candidate. So you can recognize her when you see her. Barry in CO has included an excellent one here.

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August 25, 2008

Convention blogging

Because I'm stuck in a hotel not far from DCA, with crappy wi-fi and only hotel TV channels. In the DC area, that means I have about 20 channels, and half of them are showing the DNCC.

So far:
Bill Maher is an unbelievable douche. How he's made it to his advanced age without being suckerpunched is beyond my ken.

Nancy {blink} Pelosi {blink} really {blink} blinks a lot. Maybe the surgery wasn't such a good idea, eh? Oh, and she has all the towering intellect and personal gravity of a junior high school class vice president. Know your Power? I'm pretty sure hers is a xanax/botox cocktail.

Keith Olbermann is an unbelievable douche. How he's made it to his advanced age without being suckerpunched is beyond my ken.

Chuck Schumer is wearing makeup.

Chris Matthews appears sedate. Maybe the PMSNBC backers sat him down and had a thrilling discussion about his leg. That or he's pacing himself for a live, on-air Obamorgasm later in the week. Oh, and he's an unbelievable douche. How he's... you know the rest.

Update: The flesh-colored headset mikes are freaking me out. They look like facial tumors.

Update 2: Ted Kennedy is sorry Mary Jo Kopechne couldn't be here tonight... Oh wait, no he isn't.

Update 3: Tear gas!

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August 21, 2008

It's a metaphor for something, I'm sure of it

Posted as science, because it makes vibrantly clear how important it is to measure precisely.
H/T to DrewM. over at AoSHQ

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August 18, 2008

Image comics loses a customer

Green-skinned, proudly savage idiot endorses marxist associate of known terrorists for highest office. I didn't buy the title before, but I won't in the future, nor anything else Image puts out. Between this and Marvel's unbelievably stupid Civil War storyline, I'm not buying too many books these days.

H/T Ace

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August 17, 2008

Finally, a cogent thought!

It needed to be said, but the WSJ said it, so no one will listen. WSJ is just a bunch of anti-Hope, anti-Change plutocrats, after all.

Will congress ever get hit with the "corporations don't pay taxes, customers do" cluebat hard enough to fix this? I say lower the corporate tax rate so far that Halliburton moves back home. Hell, slash it to 5% under the lowest competitor. We'd steal corporate headquarters (and revenue) from everywhere on the globe, and jobs, revenue, and other goodies will come with them, and already-domestic businesses would boom.

H/T Conservative Grapevine

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The blog ain't dead.

But I'm remodeling a kitchen and I'm fully burnt out by it. Eventually I'll have a cogent thought worth publishing, but not today.

In the meantime, another AMV: Cirrus's Back on a Mission, accompanied by Full Metal Panic.  I cracked and bought the soundtrack to Mortal Kombat: Annihilation after I saw this.  Yeah, the movie sucked.  The music was pretty good though, if you share my awful taste in music.

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August 12, 2008

Automate everything

Food production? Far too labor intensive. Why not pick fruit with robots? Why not grow meat?

Getting food from the farm to the store? From the store to your house? Work humans won't need to do much longer.

The house? Construction is dangerous, tiring work that'll wreck your back. Print one instead.

What builds all these robots? Robot factories, of course. (Yeah, it's lego and it's old, but it's also sweet).

There's no new science needed for any of these things to become standard operating procedure, only (admittedly large) engineering challenges. What is holding it all back (to varying extents, robocars least of all) is the cost and distributability of energy, paired tightly with the efficiency of it's use. Everything we strive for depends on energy getting cheaper and easier to store and move, and every time energy gets more abundant, "science fiction" gets closer to being science fact. At the same time, humans are pathetically inefficient machines with a lot of overhead needed to power our brains and homeostasis, so making a machine that can use energy more efficiently than we can is a lower bar than you might think (something as simple as a bicycle or skateboard can dramatically increase the efficiency of human locomotion, for instance).

Don't get me wrong, I firmly believe in the nobility and moral character of manual labor. I believe more strongly, however, that skilled human attention is a scarce resource, and every time we're able to replace it with a lower-cost substitute. That lowers the price of goods and -- even more importantly -- frees up some amount of human attention for tasks we cannot yet automate. More available labor means costs can go down again, and the cycle can continue forward as more and more complex tasks can be automated.

This is the future I hope I live to see. I fully expect to watch cascading labor riots as human workers are edged out, again and again by machine, eventually losing out to economic realities, elsewhere if not here. I'm not looking forward to the riots, but I'm not sure there's any policy that will let us truly sidestep them.

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August 10, 2008

Mechanosynthesis

Brian Wang has an excellent post up about new funding for diamondoid mechanosynthesis viability. If you've never heard of it, it's the centerpiece of Dr. Eric Drexler's classic book Engines of Creation (highly recommended, very fun read, and it's free for download here). His follow-up, far more technical tome Nanosystems is also recommended. The basic idea is simple: with the right tools at the molecular scale, you could build working machines at that scale, molecule-by-molecule. The deliberate fabrication of these machines through mechanical action is why it's called mechanosynthesis, and "diamondoid" refers to the fact that nearly all such products will be given structure by carbon atoms in diamond configuration.

The ramifications of just getting that far are world-shaking: machines could operate on cells, build processors and electronic components with molecule-wide feature sizes. The real hope of the method, though, is to create tiny, multipurpose machine shops (i.e. nanofactories), that are capable of building copies of themselves. This is where the "grey goo", hollywood-nightmare version of nanotechnology gets its inspiration (it's also stupidly easy to prevent by proper nanofactory design). Nanofactories capable of self-replication would constitute a physical instantiation of a kinematic self-replicating machine, which has so far just been a neat thought experiment.

The experiments Wang describes are to explore the viability of the essential reactions of diamondoid mechanosynthesis. These have been the source of a great controversy and intense debate, particularly between Drexler and the late Dr. Richard Smalley.  I admit a certain bias in this debate, mostly because I found Smalley's tone to be positively trollish (personal attacks, appeals to emotion, flatly-inappropriate metaphors).  Nonetheless, his principal argument wasn't without merit, namely that we've never seen these sorts of reactions done by anything but living cells using wet chemistry and aqueous enzymes.  That's part of what these experiments will be trying to put to rest.  We already have dry enzymes for certain reactions, and we've done single-atom manipulations with scanning probe microscopes (SPM), both of which Smalley argued were impossibilities in the course of his debate with Drexler.

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August 09, 2008

Proof that even police states can't prevent crime

Beijing Olympics have their first casualties (one dead, one seriously injured). In any reasonable place, these people could have been armed and fought back. This didn't have to happen.

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August 08, 2008

Hell? Probably a bit brisk right now.

Because I agree with George McGovern. Secret ballots matter, especially when unionization holds the implied threat of taking away your job if you won't join.

H/T to HotAir.

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August 07, 2008

fuel from trees

Jatropha, sometimes referred to as the diesel tree, there's a fair amount of investment going into improving the yields.  You get the oil by way of seed processing.

Strangely, another species, copaifera_langsdorfii also shares the "diesel tree" moniker in many articles, but there are some big differences. The coolest being that you can get diesel fuel basically the same way you'd get sap from a maple tree: just tap it.

What sort of scares me about these trees is the wildfire danger.  Anyone who's ever had to put out a grease fire knows how bad they can be.  Imagine a plantation of grease fires the size of an apple orchard.  Considering that both species seem to favor tropical temperatures and aren't particular on soil quantity, I'm guessing there's a good chance we'll see a large farm of them on almost-desert soil go up in flames at some point.  It might only take one bad fire to blunt the interest in the crops.

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Best part of the Paris Hilton Energy Plan?

Hearing Obamatards claim simultaneously that (a) it's low for the republicans still protesting in the House to bring it up for debate and (b) that it's identical to Obama's plan (which is why it's awesome, of course).

That or CNN's ticker blog is run by a bad leftist blog-comment parody generator.

P.S. For the record, McCain's spokesman was being truthful when he said Paris's plan matched John's.  The Obamatards here are lying sacks, or delusional.  If they are real, of course.  I'm hopeful for the parody generator.

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Breaking: Detroit mayor jailed

For violating the terms of his bail.
No link yet, heard on the Frank Beckman show.

Update: Detroit Free Press. H/T IreneFingIrene in AoSHQ comments.

Cackling is encouraged by all the staff here at ASM (i.e. me).

Update, the sequel:  I forgot to mention that Mr. Kilpatrick is a Democrat Party Superdelegate, who supports Obama.

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August 05, 2008

Barack Obama? No longer the biggest celebrity running

The Paris Plan
Writing in Paris? Hot. If she made Christopher Walken her veep, she'd have my vote for sure.

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Best upside of McCain attending the sturgis rally?

Helmet Decals
/images/bikersformccain.jpg

I might have to get one. I promised myself an Autobot symbol first, though, so Johnny's gonna have to hope I find one.

Let me know if you know anywhere I can get one of these as a decal:
/images/autobot.gif

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August 04, 2008

Becoming plants

As any computer scientist can tell you, evolution is awesome. Properly implemented as an algorithm, it can design aircraft, ships, trusses, antennas, just about anything that can be described with a "chromosome". So long as you have some notion of what a "good" design is, and a way to test for it, the genetic algorithm can usually make substantial progress in finding one, through many generations of reproduction, crossover, and mutation.

As an aside, genetic programming is an idealized version of the way we think biological evolution works. It's probably pretty close, and it can provide valuable insight into the evolution of species, but it's not the same thing. On more than one occasion, I've seen people point to GP as "proof" of biological evolution. It isn't, any more than a flight simulator is proof that airplanes can fly, and claiming it as such is a disservice to the work of archaeologists and evolutionary biologists.

Anyhow, in computer science terms, GP is a method of search. Though better than many methods at escaping local minima, it isn't perfect.  In a program, this could mean a set of populations that never produces a very good design, even after many generations.  There are parallels in biology.  Consider that the efficiency of plant photosynthesis tops out at just over 6%, and most plants are lower than that.  That amount of utilization is enough to power all the plant life on the planet, and it hasn't changed much in a long time.  Current solar panels already have that beat (10% to 20%). A plant species that could utilize solar energy at those rates would have a strong advantage over other plants in it's niche, and possibly beyond it. Whether the lower efficiency of plants it a fundamental limitation of DNA-based biology or simply "good enough" isn't the point; plants aren't as good at as we're becoming.

Humanity, near as we can tell, has a unique approach to competition among species. Intelligence, situational memory, and planning are only part of that approach, the merely physical and biological strengths that propelled us to early success. Symbolic communication -- facilitated by our intelligence -- led us to culture, to memories that survive individuals, and thus to complex technologies. With them, we became more than just hairless apes with cool hands and bad backs. We became, quite simply, better at evolving than any other complex animal.

Technology lets mankind be nearly mythological in power. We can communicate with each other across the globe. We have durable "bodies" that we can inhabit as needed that are stronger and faster than any animal that's ever lived, and allow us to explore any environment, even places where no other life may tread, largely with impunity. We've even created machines to do the boring parts of the very cognition that's made us so successful, so that we can do even more of it. As our powers have grown, so have our appetites. All the miracles we employ require energy, far more than our tiny bodies could possibly metabolize. So we built engines and motors, artificial metabolic organs capable of ingesting otherwise indigestible "foods" with incredible energy density, first coal and petroleum, later uranium and thorium.

All the "foods" we've found to feed our miracles, however, have limits and costs. They aren't depleted, by any means, but they aren't forever, and we can foresee a time when they may become so scarce as to be effectively gone. One possible, long term way out of this (barring some lucky breakthrough in fusion) is to become plants.

I don't mean that we should turn ourselves green (physically or metaphorically). We became what we are by being better than any other animal at literally everything they do, using technology to do so. To continue on our path, we have to find ways to be better than any plant at everything they do. Solar cells will be our leaves, spread out to catch the radiance of Sol. Batteries or other storage will be our sugars and fats.  Will it be enough power?  For a while, surely, and it will get us further along the way to whatever comes next.

I'd much, much prefer fusion, by the way.  We should still beat plants at their own game along the way, but fusion is nearly a necessity if we ever want to leave the solar system.

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Meat Week - day 5 recap? Not gonna happen

Since this'll be the last post on the subject, it goes above the jump.  I cracked.  I skipped breakfast because I couldn't eat at the time.  By lunch time I was ready to throw in the towel on the experiment, and grabbed myself a chicken pesto grinder.

Can I survive on just meat?
Probably, at least for a while.

Is it any fun?
No.  It is categorically not fun.  Not after the first day, anyhow.

Any other lessons learned?
Pleasure from eating is important.  I'm not a hedonist in any other way, but I really love food, and denying myself that pleasure -- while possible in the short term -- makes life immediately feel less worth living.  Many people effortlessly stay thin and fit throughout life.  I'm not one of them, and it's easy to feel jealous of that trait.  I just have to recognize that, and put in the effort.  I can't stay out of shape forever, and waiting for the cure for exercise and crappy diet is a fool's gamble.

Yes, I'm aware there's nothing profound here, and nothing you can't find whined about on any number of personal blogs.  Unless asked about it, this is the last I'll speak of it.  On the other hand, next time I have a stupid idea, I can look at this, remember, and maybe skip it.

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Meat Week - day 4 recap

more...

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August 03, 2008

$300 M "investment fund"

Jenny swoops in to encourage local business by pledging to risk the state employees retirement funds on it. So somewhere, a bureaucrat will decide whether to invest money from the state employees pension fund into your "high growth" business, or not. Because it's important for the State to be able to pick winners and losers, play favorites, and facilitate quid pro quo. Hey Jenny, I can think a half-dozen ways to jump-start business in this state while decreasing -- or at least not increasing -- opportunities for graft and corruption among state officials.

Let's start with the easy one. You're term-limited anyhow, you've got nothing to lose, so why not announce that you're willing to sign legislation making MI a right-to-work state. I'm guessing the state legislature can have that law on your desk in a matter of days. MI wins by breaking the Big Labor stranglehold, you get to be on the side of freedom and prosperity for a change. Of course, you may want to get as far from MI as you can after your term ends.  Possibly back to Canada.

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Meat Week - day 3 recap

more...

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