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Archive for the ‘war on reality’ Category

58% of Trump voters say higher education is bad for the country.

Fifty. Eight. Percent.

And this surprises me not at all. The worship of ignorance is rampant in the United States. Experts who’ve spent their lives studying and researching a subject have their expertise dismissed with a few pithy talking points by a bleach blonde Fox news bimbo, and millions believe her. Millions willingly embrace bizarre conspiracy theories like NASA is running a child slave colony on Mars or shape-shifting reptilian people control our world. Even the notion that the world is flat has taken on new life in the modern United States.

It’s no wonder, then, that so many of these pro-ignorance people willingly embrace fake news. They are so ignorant that they lack the fundamental knowledge to tell the difference between fake news and real news. And furthermore, they’re proud of their ignorance. None of that sissy intellectual stuff for them, nosirree! And science might contradict the Bible, so it’s clearly out too!

It’s not some foreign enemy that’s going to destroy the United States. It is the cult of ignorance that dominates the nation, where everybody thinks they’re an expert after a couple of Google queries turn up a few web sites. There’s no way that a population so ignorant, so hateful of education, can maintain or sustain an advanced economy. No way. In the end, the United States is going to collapse from within, hollowed out like a rotten apple by the ignorance of the people charged with keeping it intact.

– Badtux the Educated Penguin

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How about 13.82 billion years?

That’s the latest numbers crunched from, like, actual observations. Turns out that light has Doppler shift just like radar. And the Planck spacecraft has been measuring that all over the galaxy to see how fast the stars and galaxies are moving away from the Big Bang that started it all.

And the number is reproducible if someone else makes the same observations.

That’s what makes it science. This isn’t just the Planck spacecraft. The WMAP spacecraft a few years back arrived at pretty close to the same number. Multiple spacecraft, from multiple nations, with competing scientists backing them, all peered out at the universe and observed pretty much the same damned thing. No faith required. Just brains.

Which, of course, is why 81% of Americans think a vicious sky demon either created humanity out of whole cloth 10,000 years ago (40% of them) or think this vicious sky demon guided evolution to create humanity (41% of them). Because these people, like Trump’s new communications director who believes the Earth is only 5500 years old, observed this great sky demon, and thus this great sky demon is a scientific fact. Right? RIGHT?!

– Badtux the Snarky Penguin

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No, I’m not joking. A guest on Alex Jones’s show claims that NASA has a slave colony on Mars populated with kidnapped children.

Kidnapped children.

Sent to Mars.

A planet that we still haven’t sent people to, because it will require an effort bigger and more expensive than Apollo to send humans there, and Apollo consumed 5% of the nation’s budget at its peak. NASA’s budget has been infinitesimal ever since. Where did they get the money to send these child slaves to Mars? Apparently from thin air, I guess.

And Alex Jones did no pushback at all at this batshit insanity. He is one of our President’s most trusted news sources. As is the National Enquirer. Whose current owner is friends with Donald Trump, and Donald Trump has threatened reporters with hit pieces in the Enquirer if they report things he doesn’t want reported. Frankly, we haven’t seen anything this bizarre since it was revealed that Nancy Reagan used astrologers to make big decisions for the Reagan White House. But Nancy was just the First Lady. Not the President.

We are so, so fucked.

– Badtux the Waddling Penguin

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I’ve never been a fan of tribalism. Most of the world’s problems are because people put tribe above truth, tribe above morality, tribe above wisdom. They pretend their tribe is the sole possessor of truth, their tribe holds the only moral way, their tribe has all the wisdom. Too often what they serve up instead are self-serving lies posing as truth, excuses for atrocity posing as morality, and facile trite platitudes posing as wisdom.

Watching Republicans trying to put a gloss on the shit sandwich that was Donald Trump’s first week in office is a perfect example of watching tribalism in action. About the only thing Trump did that was reasonable in any sane world was to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which had a lot of evil shit in it that had nothing to do with a trade agreement and everything to do with imposing a particular neoliberal order upon the world. Watching the MAGA red-caps reflexively defending a shit sandwich immigration order that resulted in people who’d been living in the US for literally a decade left outside the borders or stranded in airports has been instructive. Count up the excuses for atrocity posing as morality that you encounter in their statements, the self-serving lies posing as truth, the facile trite platitudes posing as wisdom. They fall from the lips of red-caps like water from Niagara Falls.

Hurting people is wrong. Handcuffing a 5 year old child is wrong. Splitting up families is wrong. Keeping out dedicated doctors and nurses and other professionals who’ve been here for years contributing to our country is wrong. Anybody who says different is putting tribalism above truth, tribalism above morality, tribalism above wisdom. They have demonstrated with their own lips that tribe is more important to them than truth, morality, wisdom.

So be it.

– Badtux the Truth-tribe Penguin

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We have a truth problem, America. Fake news is retweeted and Facebook-shared as if it were real. And a large percentage of Americans believe shit is true that’s completely not true. Like 67% of Trump voters think the unemployment rate went up under Obama — when it actually improved drastically. Like 39% of Trump voters think the stock market went down under Obama — when it actually improved drastically. Like 40% of Trump voters think that Trump won the popular vote — when he actually lost it by almost 3 million votes. And so on and so forth.

What this points out, I think, is that for a lot of Americans, truth is not something you seek out. Truth is not a hypothesis that is constantly tested against reality to validate that it’s true. Truth is an absolute, handed down by an authority figure. When they were a small child, truth was what their parents said it was. When they were in their sad little K-12 schools, truth was what the teacher said it was. If they went to college, usually to learn a trade of some kind, truth was whatever the professor said it was. But of course that’s not, well, true. A lot of what we were told back then turns out to actually not be true. It was the best that they could do with what information was available to them, but continued testing found that their hypothesis was, well, false. Pluto is not a planet, it’s just a big Kuiper Belt object, for example…

What is sad is that in today’s world, it’s ridiculously easy to actually go the sources of information and get the information directly. I don’t need to trust news reports on the stock market. I can go to NASDAQ’s web site directly and look up what the current stock prices are. I don’t need to trust that the news media did the job on the Sandy Hook shooting. I can look up the phone book for Sandy Hook and call people directly and ask them if they heard about the shooting and if they knew any of the people who lost children there. I don’t really have to trust anyone other than my Internet Service Provider and my phone company, though it makes it easier once I find secondary sources that do this work for me and who have proven trustworthy once I test some of their work against my own work and other third party sources that have also proven trustworthy in the past. But it seems like most people think truth is something handed down by authority figures, rather than something you explore and find out for yourself, and they choose whatever authority figures tell the “truths” that they want to hear. Facts have become whatever we want to be true, rather than something continually tested against reality to validate that they’re true. No wonder we are so fscked.

Conversely, there are things that you can’t really test. At that point, you can’t make any statements. You wonder why I haven’t posted anything about what’s happening in Aleppo, for example? Simple: I can’t validate a damned thing except that there’s a lot of fighting and people are dying, something that every side admits. Beyond that, all I have are the statements of the various sides and of refugees who’ve fled, all of whom have their own agendas and most of those that don’t have an agenda know little more than what I’ve already said — that there’s a lot of fighting and people are dying. I can’t condemn things that I can’t verify are happening. There’s no way for me to test any of these statements coming out of Aleppo. It’s certainly too dangerous for me or any citizen journalist to go there and see what’s happening for myself, and there’s no working phone service there even if I spoke Arabic (which I don’t). Thus I assign them all to the “unverifiable, thus won’t say anything about it” bucket. Which is a big-ass bucket, BTW — there’s a *lot* of things I don’t talk about because of that.

Remember: Truth is something you test by testing it against reality. It isn’t something that’s handed down to you by an authority figure. If you can’t test it, it isn’t truth, it’s just an interesting hypothesis. Bigfoot is helping Hillary Clinton with the recount in Wisconsin. How do you test that statement? You can’t say it’s true or it’s false until you say, “how do I test that statement?” And then either do so, or find multiple trusted people who themselves have done so. Until you test it, all it is, is an interesting hypothesis. \But simply accepting a statement as fact because it came from a trusted person like me, who would never lie to you about the recount process in Wisconsin? Dude. Stooo-pid! Just sayin’.

– Badtux the Reality-testing Penguin

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It isn’t. It really isn’t. It is a set of techniques for statistically measuring and evaluating the world, and comparing the results of those measurements with what theory says should be happening. If the measurements don’t match, the theory is discarded. If the measurements match, the theory is tentatively held to be true — until other data comes in that, most of the time, refines the theory rather than overthrow it entirely. For example, Einstein’s theory of relativity did not overthrew Newtonian physics. Rather, it found that Newton’s equations were a fine description of how things worked at low speeds, but did not work as you approached the speed of light. We sent Apollo to the moon using Newtonian physics, because everything was at slow enough speeds that Newtonian physics was accurate enough. This despite the fact that Einstein had proven over 50 years prior that Newtonian physics was not an accurate description for how mass, speed, force, and acceleration interacted as the speed of an object approaches the speed of light.

This tentativeness confuses people raised to believe there are truths that are handed down by God, Mommy, or Preacher Bob. They think this makes science somehow inferior to their handed-down truths, which have no such tentativeness attached to them. But this tentativeness is exactly why science has been so successful at improving our quality of life, decidedly more successful than God, Mommy, or Preacher Bob. This very computer that you’re reading this on is proof enough that science works. Yet there are people who, if they read this, will deny that fact, and claim that science — things like evolution, global warming, etc. — is a “liberal conspiracy” because of that tentativeness, that inherent lack of absolute truth that characterizes science. Science cannot provide absolute truth, because the universe is too large for human brains to comprehend, but science can provide approximations of truth — like the Newtonian equations — that are “good enough” until refined further by later scientists to create a better approximation of reality.

In short, the inherent tentativeness of science is not a reason to claim science is a liberal conspiracy. Rather, it exists because that’s how science works. Sometimes awkwardly, sometimes heading down wrong paths for decades, but there are no sacred cows in science. There are only measurements, and theories to explain the measurements. And of the two, only the measurements are held as true, and only if they can be repeated by third parties using different methods. Such as, for example, the multitude of methods that have been used to approximate global temperatures over the past 2,000,000 years, which show that the Earth is warming rapidly right now in a way that hasn’t been seen anywhere in the lifespan of humanity on this planet, and that this rise has been correlated with a steep rise in carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere. At that point the question becomes not, “is global warming happening”, but, rather, “how much of global warming is caused by increases in this potent greenhouse gas.” Scientists then develop models and test their models against the actual measurements. Models that match the measurement are then the models that they adopt as tentatively true, until other data arrives and refines them. And what those models show, right now, is that we’re going to bake ourselves off this planet if we keep going this way.

That is not a liberal conspiracy. That is a model that fits the data. If there are other models that fit the data that show we are *not* going to bake ourselves off this planet, those models would be welcome. Unfortunately, no such models exist — just handwaving on the part of Preacher Bob and Oilman Steve and Politician Don about how science is a liberal conspiracy. So unless Preacher Bob and Oilman Steve and Politician Don can pull out some models that explain these temperatures we’re seeing that do *not* end up with us baked off the planet, they have no cause to claim “liberal conspiracy” — the data is the data, and the model is the model, and the way to refute them is to provide more accurate data and a model that better fits the data. Ranting about liberal conspiracies doesn’t do that, it just makes the ranter look like an idiot.

– Badtux the Science Penguin

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This could well be the motto of Google. Eight years ago, Google Voice was introduced. For eight years, people have been asking for a “mark all as read” option for their Google Voice inbox. For eight years, Google just replies with stone silence. Because they’re Google. They don’t care, they don’t have to. When you have 85% market share in the search engine and related market, well.

I’ve been playing with Amazon’s Postgres RDS. Access to Postgres servers is dictated by a file called pg_hba.conf. It turns out that Amazon’s default settings don’t work with pgpool-II, the main way to scale across Postgres clusters. People have been asking for access to pg_hba.conf ever since Postgres RDS was introduced three years ago. The response from Amazon has been… [crickets]. Because they’re Amazon. They don’t care. They don’t have to. When you have 85% market share in the cloud services market, well.

This is the problem with building these gigantic “too big to fail” companies. They lose touch with their customers, and competitors get stomped flat by their sheer scale so there’s no real competition. This despite the fact that they’re in unregulated sectors of the economy and thus Libertopians whine, “if people don’t like them, they can just go to the competition!” I’ve looked at the competition to AWS. The only one that is competitive on price is Microsoft Azure, and Microsoft isn’t finished building out Azure yet (it’s still missing some critical services that I need, the most important being DNS and auto-registration of instances with DNS when they’re spawned). Where is this mysterious competition that the Libertopians cry will arise, arise I say, at any moment? Could it be that very few companies have a spare $5 billion to spend on creating a large scale cloud service, and nobody in their right mind wants to go up against Amazon while Amazon has a 50% gross margin on their cloud products yet still can sell cloud for less than anybody who has to amortize that $5 billion that Amazon amortized long ago?

Goddamn it, where the fuck did that free market fairy go, anyhow? Oh wait, yeah, I remember, here he is….

freemarketfairy

Yeah, looks like the Free Market Fairy is a bit… hairy. And not very pretty. And not very effective once someone gets 85% of a market. Libertopians may suck the free market fairy’s little hairy, but that ain’t producing a competitor to AWS. Funny, huh? Yeah, funny like a goddamn broken leg, if ya ask me…

– Badtux the Reality Based Penguin

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