Jealous Scientists (Argument is a Whore and a Cuckold)

Every now and then on this blog, I poke fun at oversensitive “scientists” who are so wrapped up in the theology of science that they would greet Francis Bacon with Cartman-esqe screams of RESPECT maaah authori-TAY!!!

So I just love that “Nature’s Fundamental Laws May be Changing“.  To me, it is common sense.  Francis Bacon would have totally predicted this.  BTW, Francis Bacon is the ultimate authority in “scientific method”; any true scientist would never argue with Bacon.  It would be like a Republican arguing with Charlton Heston (he’s MOSES!) or anyone arguing with Clint Eastwood.  Just don’t even try it.

Somehow, I was lucky enough to be trained in scientific philosophy without being exposed to too many authoritarian scientists.  So when I read Michio Kaku’s lucid explanation of why superstring theory might make sense, I remember thinking, “duh!  how obvious!  doesn’t everyone know this?”  Even if you don’t buy superstring theory, the premise of limited knowledge he describes in his fishpond analogy is dead obvious.  Only someone locked in the grip of theological science could deny it.  This is the premise to which I alluded in my response to Doug’s post on directed panspermia and von neumann probes.  I’ve used the fishpond/dimensional anaology many times before; and am continually shocked when people need to be convinced.  It’s the same base idea that underlies Korzybski and much of western philosophy.

In fact, I have a secret about Michio Kaku, which perhaps I will reveal here some day.  And perhaps I will further elaborate on “dead obvious”, one day.  But today I am speaking only to “them who has ears” without trying to speak to scientific pharisees.

You see, science is like a jealous husband.  Science seeks to arrive at “truth” by constantly seeking to disprove the prevailing theory.  Even results which fail to disprove a theory must be tested repeatedly, in different contexts, before the scientist will accept them — and even then, the true scientist must reserve the possibility that the theory might be wrong.  The jealous husband always holds to the suspicion that his wife might be cheating.  He might explain his obsessively suspicious behavior by explaining that, “I can never be SURE that she’s not cheating, unless I fully test every possible situation and collect a complete data set of information!”

The beautiful thing is that, if he tests often enough and vigorously enough, he’ll either waste his life testing or find the evidence he seeks.  Then, when she promises not to do it again, the fun begins all over again!

Iago knew that jealous lovers can be a boatload of fun.  Even while they “protest too much” that “my lover would NEVER cheat on me!”, the Iago knows that a simple whisper in the ear is enough to set the poor cuckold off in paroxysms of self-doubt and obsessive “research”.  But the Othellos don’t hate Iago — Iago tells Othellos what they want to hear.  Othello’s reserve their blinding hate for the likes of Camus, because he is the one who tells them, “chill out, you can never know if she’s cheating or not anyway!”  That is sacrilege!

Perhaps this is why the authoritarian pharisees of the scientific community dislike Michio Kaku.  He doesn’t say “you can never know”, but he sure makes knowing a lot harder.  And this is certainly why they hate Ibrahim — not only does he say, “you can’t know”, but he adds I know, through a process of faith, not suspicion”OMFG, burn him at the stake so I can get back to my jealous obsessions!!!

And those of us “that has ears” know full well that William Shakespeare was the pen-name for Francis Bacon.  Francis Bacon; the messiah who delivered us the cult of reason/science, is the same man who gave us so many literary works revealing the mind of the jealous lover, and who penned the words “All the argument is a whore and a cuckold, a good quarrel to draw emulous factions and bleed to death upon!”

If Bacon were Heston, he might come back from the grave and humiliate them with a whip or a stick.  But if you read any Shakespeare, you see its better to just laugh at them.  Yes, he’s laughing from the grave.

“Othello, I only tell you this because I am your friend and I respect you.  I have heard that Francis is making fun of you, and people are whispering behind your back.  I pray that it’s not true, but I just thought you should know.  Not that you need it, but your gun is in the second desk drawer.  I am sure it’s just a baseless rumor; please forgive me — forget I said anything!”

~

Scientist, you know I loooove you.  Don’t be like that baby!  I’m sorrrry!!  I didn’t mean anything by it.

In fact I think that people who challenge science’s authority are a little bit like the article in The Onion.  “Rogue Scientist has Own Scientific Method“.  When I see sensationalist media report that speed of light is not constant, I am reminded of this comical loser’s assertion that the boiling point of water is “actually 547 degrees Fahrenheit”.  When I see the biased news media reporting that glass has a state between gas and liquid, I am reminded of the ficticious Hapner’s claim that “matter exists in four states: solid, liquid, gas, and powder”.  What is he on, cocaine?!?  Silly humans; lucky for them we have the church of science to keep them in line.

Ruby, Rails, Box, and Gosling

Today Don is talking about Gosling’s anti-scripting rant. When Gosling wrote this, I found it rather “interesting”, since I had just finished having a similar debate with David (inventor of Ruby on Rails), and Anders (architect of .NET and C# among other things). David and Anders are both from Denmark, so they decided to hang out when David was in town, and I got to join the spirited conversation for a couple of hours.

Basically, David argues that Ruby on Rails is appealing, specifically because it limits it’s scenarios to attack a very specific set of problems. Attempting to address the last 20% of potential scenarios would complicate the platform by 80% — essentially this is the argument. David was quite eager to say, “if RoR doesn’t meet someone’s specific scalability, functionality, or whatever neeed — they should just use something else.” David argued that .NET has become too bloated and too complex, in an attempt to please too many masters.

This was striking to me, because Anders is famous within the company for “protecting the purity of the golden platform”. That is, Anders will fight tooth and nail to keep stuff *out* of the platform, if he feels that it disrupts the elegance or consistency. I recall many past frustrations trying to get Anders to approve my particular XML APIs, when he seemed more concerned about elegance and purity than the number of customers I could bring to the table.

Of course, I grudgingly accepted and understood the reasoning — but the point here is that I always saw .NET as a glowing example of a Dane’s quest for elegance; so it was interesting to see Ruby positioned as an opposite. David clearly hasn’t looked at a lot of Win32 code (or Linux code, for that matter).

The uber point is about specialization, though. When *Gosling* talks about specialization, I think he means something different than David, although I suspect that Gosling took his cues from hearing David speak or reading some of David’s writing. In fact, I think David is talking more about “willfully ignoring nice, but inessential features”. While Gosling is talking about “lacking essential features for many scenarios”. And it should be clear by now, where someone draws the line and where someone decides to spin, is rather subjective.

No Mr. Ballmer, You Cannot Have the Web

For the past couple of months, I have been heads-down organizing content for MIX06, a new conference to be held approximately 8 weeks from now.

People might have rightly seen some indicators of a larger trend in deals with content owners like MTV, and carriers like Verizon. People might have seen the numbers showing how installed base of Media Centers connected to Cable/Sattelite compares to TiVo. People might have started to realize that there is a vast fabric that can be used to extend web services out to people who might not be sitting at a PC. And people may have begun to grasp the way that gadgets platforms create opportunity and level the playing field.

But I don’t think many people realize all the ways that they can participate in these things. Just like RSS made it possible for everyone to participate in publishing on equal technological footing with NYT, the new networks are creating new opportunities that level the playing field for smaller content and service providers, and create new opportunities for the bigcos.

One thing that will come across loud and clear is that Microsoft isn’t about to 0wn the web. We’re featuring sessions owned by some of the biggest web companies on the planet, many of whom compete with us and use competitor platforms. We’ll be showing lots of Microsoft technologies, but we won’t be shy about showing scenarios where Firefox, Linux, PHP, or similar play a part. We’ll be focusing largely on user experience (which is technology agnostic), and specifically on what attendees can do today to get business value from the new models and technologies on the web.

Is this the kind of competition that Microsoft can win? As I opined before, this isn’t a “winner takes all” situation. We believe that we have a lot of strengths compared to companies where we directly compete, and are positioned well within the overall ecosystem. But Yahoo and Google have strengths too. If you want to understand the true lay of this exciting part of the industry — and better how we compare and complement the rest of this industry, MIX06 is the conference for you.

Complex Navigation in Cities

I’ve blogged a few times about the London cabbies, and the potential to help people grow hippocampal neurons through use of simulated landmark navigation problems. The natural question for someone seeking to develop a therapeutic video game would be, “just what sort of map layout is best for neuronal activation?” This summary of recent research suggests some answers.

First, it is interesting to note that real cities are more difficult than randomly-generated maps; apparently due to clustering or lack of homogeneity. Second, it is not surprising that grid layouts are less challenging. In places like Manhattan, or Kenosha, WI, it is easy to find places on novel routes without relying on landmarks or much of a sense of direction. The act of navigation is pure sequencing; caudate nucleus. On the other hand, older cities have circle and spoke layouts and other tricky features; and hilly areas like Seattle tend to “ease” off of ninety degrees and end or merge parallels in unexpected places. Such deviations from the 4 cardinal directions wreaks havoc on mental sequencing and forces you to switch back to landmarks and sense of direction; hippocampus.

Interestingly, one study used the number of network nodes to prove that older cities are more complex. However, I believe that the number of nodes is not the key factor — especially in grid versus old city design. On the one hand, inplaces with very dense grids and a number of missing nodes (dead ends, non-intersections, etc), it is not that difficult to navigate. Such navigation can be done as a sequence of steps filtered against a mental blacklist of known missing intersections. If you miss a turn, there are lots of alternative turns you can make up on the fly to get the same result. A map with fewer intersections but more curves and merges would be significantly harder for people to navigate, and would activate hippocampus much better.

We in the mood to fight

My daughter’s ballet recital yesterday featured music by Ying Yang Twins, 50 cent, and Moby. It was not that long ago that each of these acts were underground.

This is a topic Dare blogged recently; calling out his favorite dirty south acts. I’ve followed the evolution of dirty south music since Master P and Silk da Shocker through 3-6 Mafia and onward. I guess it was around DJ Skrew that the “sizzup” culture started to get integrated into the music; and it’s been amazing to see a totally fresh and creative new branch of the art develop from that. I think the stuff around 3-6 Mafia time now looks pretty lame in comparison to what’s out today; but that’s just because the stuff out today is so good.

In addition to the songs Dare mentions, I think Jim Jones & Juelz Santana “Crunk Muzik” is a great introduction to state of the artform today. The music is so different and fresh, you’ve never heard anything like it. And it is really, really good; you wonder how it wasn’t invented before now. As long as mankind can keep channeling brand-newworks of pure genious like this, you know the world is all right. The lyrics are nice, too:

“You know what the movements like
You know how we movin’, right
Move, cause we in the mood to fight”

I think the current Pistons vs. Spurs NBA championship has some parallels to the current music industry. Detroit has to take notice when Atlanta and Texas start dominating the hip-hop charts. I’m still not quite sure how Houston went from being the land of a million bottlebags to being a leader in urban culture, but it’s a welcome change.

The Flipside of Identity

Yesterday, while discussing some of my favorite topics with someone, I argued that identity and semantic web are two sides of the same coin. This is a recurring theme in the 10^10 vision, and it turns out I’ve touched in the topic in this blog before.

Oneperspective is that consistent identityis necessary forbroad implementation of semantic web. It is true that reliable global identification is the biggest immediate roadblock to the potential of microcontent sharing (with trust configuration next in line, IMO). However, that is only the superficial connection.

To go deeper, you need to realize that when we talk about “identity”, we are rarely (if ever) talking about the actual identity of anything.I previously argued that ourreliance onartificial surrogates of identityhas all sorts of consequences. These tokens are incredibly useful, but we have to remember that they are simply tools that help us achieve goals within our current constraints. There is still immense room for improvement. It may never be possible to completelyisolate and latch the true essence that identifies an individual (and who cares about perfection, anyway?), but we are getting closer every day, and that’s where the deeper connection is.

Every token that you obtain (PIN for your bank account, your car key, credit card, etc.) is an attempt to assert a relationship between your physical essence and some other physical state or historical event has been confirmed. For example, your voter registration card vouches the following:

The person holding this card has been verified to have the same physical appearance and signature as the person who has beenbeen confirmed to be a resident of a certain locale, above a certain age, and meet a laundry-list of requirements for citizenship.

There are probably ten other indirections inthe custody chain which I’ve left out, but that’s OK. Since it wouldn’t be scalable for the poll workers to troll through all of the relevant recordsto verify this on-demand, you get a card.

The important thing here is to realize that the “identity tokens” you useare a combination of a bunch of historical assertions all keyed indirectly off of your physical description. The root key can be Photo ID and signature, fingerprint, DNA, or even a pattern memorized in your memory (in absolute terms, only slightly less permanent than your Photo ID). In other words, you can think of identity as consisting of two separate components:

  • A unique key that can be deterministically derived from the physical entity and supports unambiguous and repeatable equality testing. It’s very important to realize that this key doesn’t need to contain any actual information; it just needs to support those three requirements to an acceptable tolerance. In fact, it is often best if this key does not contain any information.
  • A bunch of metadata keyed off of that identifier. The more metadata tied to that identifier, the more valuable the metadata and identifier become.

You want the equality-testing operation to move to the essential, converge, and be as shared as possible; while you want the universe of metadata keyed on that operation to explode. The fact that the first piece (pure naked authentication) is often mixed all up with the metadata is mainly due to pragmatic implementation considerations and can sometimes obscure the fact that these are two distinct concepts.

Once you have nailed the naked authentication,identityis the sum total of your memory and experiences (“renmin voice“) and everyone else’s memory and experiences about you (“committee of gossips“). Storing this metadata in a universally accessible way is the long-term vision of all of these microcontent efforts.

Note that I’m not arguing that semantic mesh will make tokens irrelevant; I am just pointing out that in the bigger picture, these efforts are pursuing exactly the same goals, and security tokens can be seen as architectural optimizations and a flipside of the bigger problem.

Spelunking my DNA

Well, the very first results from my DNA spelunking have arrived. So far I have received only Y-chromosome 12-marker test; much more detailed tests will be available over the next weeks. I was not surprised to confirm that I am haplotype R1b. One interestingfinding was in the ethnic origin of currently living people who are exact genetic matches for me on the 12 genetic markers. As a percentage, more people from the Netherlands than anywhere else are exact (Y12) genetic matches for me. Then it is Scotland, England, and Ireland (in that order), which is no big surprise.

It is not uncommon to have exact 12 marker matches for people who do not have a recent common ancestor, so I expect the dutch to fall off in the 25 and 37 marker tests (and of course mtdna). The sample size for Netherlands is much smaller than the others(129 people).15 of those people are exact Y12 matches, which is nearly 12%. I doubt that 12% ofpeople from Netherlands match me on all Y12 markers, sothis suggeststhat the sample is skewed. On the other hand, no such pattern appears in other Northern European countries, so it is not purely random either. I am sure there is a good explanation for this skew, and I’ll be checking other databases as I get more complete tests.

~

Update: All matches on Y25 and Y37 are via Scotland. Still Y-Chromosome only, so not representitive of mother, or father’s mother.

~

Update: All tests now complete; including mtDNA HVR1+HVR2. I am mtDNA haplogroup T2, and it is no surprise to see HVR1 matches all over the map. I don’t think it’s possible to deduce anything about my ancestry from these matches, since matches could simply indicate parallel forks back 50 generations or more (although I got a good number ofNative American, Ashkenazi, and Czech in addition to the dominant Britain, which match my expectations to some degree). HVR2 matches so far confined to England and Germany; again nothigh enough fidelity to say much conclusively.

One pleasant result of this excursion is that I have helped two individuals get closer to identifying their male ancestors — in both cases the father was not known and the male ancestors were raised by stepfather under an adopted name; both around 1890. Both are Y37 matches, so it’s almost certain that the real father was an Allen (unless of course I am not an Allen prior to that date, which I believe is rather improbable). This is recent enough that it does not represent a very broad set of parallel forks, so I think it will be possible to find the truth here.

On balance, however, I think that the current set of alleles tested on both Y chromosome and mtDNA is still too coarse, and the number of people in the database too small to give as much information as I would like to see. I look forward to the day when sequencing is much more detailed and registration at birth is standard practice.

The Web Outliner for OPML?

A couple of years ago, someone e-mailed me saying that they had taken my JavaScript Outliner (sample) and built a bunch of additional features into it. I would really like to try doing more of my outlining in a web browser now, and I like the Radio UI. However, I can no longer find the pointers to this application. If anyone reading this knows where the tool is, please post in my comments section.

Will Blogging help a Realtor?

Roland Tanglao is discussing the value of blogging for a Realtor. The realtor claims that there is no gain for realtors in blogging, even with high Google rank.

When I looked at the Realtor’s site, I could see why he says that. I might go to a Star Trek convention with the guy (if I did that sort of thing), but I wouldn’t depend on him to help me buy or sell a house. Nothing personal; the guy seems like my kind of geek. He just doesn’tseem likesomeone who is passionate about becoming a kung-fu master of the real estate profession.

Just like some real-estate agents use e-mail very appropriately to stay in touch, many real estate agents benefit from a web presence, and a blog can be a good tool for this. Good real estate agents don’t need to go prospecting for clients; they get their business through word of mouth. Word of mouth referrals come from satisfied clients, and having a blog is one low-cost way to keep the relationship alive long after the sale. It’s an easy way for current clients to refer you — although the majority of clients may not be aware that you have a website, for the ones who know, sending a URL is much easier than digging up a business card.And to top it all off, you can use your blog to help as you establish a niche (much more effective that blanket cold-calls or open houses). For example, my real estate agent is especially good at finding homes for people who are relocating for work, very busy, and don’t know the neighborhoods yet. If you’re moving here from out of state, do you want some random realtor from the yellow pages, or do you want someone who knows what it’s like for employees at your company and can show you everything you need to know to ensure you settle in comfortably? Having that niche is worth a steady stream of referrals; several from me to friends already. Real estate agents should use their blogs or websites to recommend trusted contractors, too. This is how I first hired ?Larry the Circuit Detective?, another guy who understands how to market a niche. Again,I doubt that Larry gets the majority of his customers from people who find him randomly on Google, but the web site is brilliant. Imagine that Larry just helped you troubleshoot a really strange electrical problem, and gives you his business card. You see the interesting URL and decide to visit it — yeah, he isn’t just an electrician, he’s a circuit detective! Next time a co-worker starts telling you about a basic wiring job, you might not even think of Larry. But if your co-worker starts complaining about a really strange electrical problem, the first thing that pops in your mind is ?I know this circuit detective guy; let me find his site for you!?.

In short, if you’re a realtor using your blog as a way to generate leads, that’s going to be pretty weak. And, on the other hand, if your idea of having a relationship with your clients is to blog what you ate for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, pour out your soul about your kite-flying passion, and put up pictures of your cat, that’s going to be really weak too. But somewhere between those extremes, blogs can be a great tool to stay on clients’ radar and help communicate your professional image.

Lost Some Comments

All blog comments postedin the past three years (since I switched to dasBlog/blogx) have been deleted. In an abortive attempt to combat comment spammers, I ran a script that determined that 100% of my comments were spam, and the upgrade to captcha failed anyway. I have backups of everything, but I don’t have time to figure out how to re-upload the comments right now. All new comments should be fine; the old ones should be back up in the next 3 months.