Sunday, May 28, 2017

Clobbered By Climate AGAIN-

It's not that I want to post a list of new ways climate change is messing things up.  It's that new and unheard of things keep hitting.  ME.

Got a seriously weird one for ya.  Did you see the news going the rounds this week about "global warming is messing up our sleep"?   It's not that.  But.  Sleep is involved.

One thing that has been consistent over the past several years is increased cloudiness here.  Being off grid, relying on solar electricity and solar heating- we really really notice, and take data.  It's been a lot more cloudy, to the point where we have to buy more gas for the backup generators than usual (expensive) - and run them more often (wore one out, had to replace it this winter; expensive).

And here we are, nearly June- and over the past week we've had maybe 1/3 of normal full sun.  Most of the plants don't care, they only need a small fraction of full sun to have all they can use; but my older solar panels don't work at all except in full sun.

So; had to run the house generator last night; batteries really low, so left it to run all night.  It's fairly quiet; not intrusive as far as sleep goes.  But there is a low solid "hum" that is always there.  No biggy.  And my brain is tuned to the hum - if it coughs, sputters, or the hum changes the note; I hear it instantly; the generator is going to need my attention immediately.

Except.  This morning, the generator was still going; but during my coffee, did finally run out of gas.  Ah, the hum is gone.  All good; all normal.  Not going to start it again, sunny today, batteries well up.  More coffee.  Up to the morning computer chores.

Wait - the generator is running again; the exact exact hum is right where it should be located from where I'm sitting; same tone, same volume.  EXACTLY.

What the hay?  Did someone put more gas in and start it up?  Odd, but not impossible.  Downstairs?  Still humming, just right.  Outside?  Humming.  I had to walk all the way to the generator to check- is it running?

No, it's not.

But the generator hum- is right there.  It has been all day; no drop in volume.  Somehow- my brain assimilated the generator hum; and is now playing it back for me.  All day.  It actually has the same little normal variations that come from changes in wind direction; head movements.  Exactly.

Ignore it?  I'm tuned to it; listening for malfunction.  Yes, I can tell myself to ignore it, since I've now proven it's a phantom noise of some kind - but - in a few minutes, my watchdog will notice the hum again; breaking off my concentration from whatever I was working on.  What?  Generator?  Oh, right, nope, phantom.     What?  Generator?...

"Stuck song syndrome", now known as "earworm" - would be nice.  I'd love a melody.  This- is a familiar sound from my world- that is now running full time- with no cause.  And sucking up a few more neurons to keep noticing it's not gone yet.  They tell you to do something "moderately engaging" do a cross-word; sudoku-  nope, not for this.  It hums right along.

And why?  Cloudy weather, from climate change.

Have you got a weird one?  This may be the place- let me know in the comments.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Understanding The Trump Phenomenon. No kidding.

It took me a while, but a few days ago I finally "got a handle" on the Trump phenomenon.  Really,

The amount of ink, physical and digital, that has been expended so far on "understanding" what we are currently going through is likely already the all-time record.  And it will certainly get far worse before it gets better.  We are, pretty much entirely, baffled.  How is this possible?  We cry repeatedly.  This makes no sense!

I'm afraid I know; and the outlook is not wonderful.  But- any real resolution is only possible if we can somehow begin to understand.  I'm driven to understand not only as a scientist, but as a father, and husband to Spice- who is rabidly obsessive about the whole thing.  Inescapable, for poor me.

How does one "get a handle" on what appears incomprehensible?  There are, in fact, historical precedents- which is where one needs to start.  This all makes no sense?  Then - your perspective is wrong.  The universe always makes sense- if you look at it from the right angle.  Find some other viewpoint where the problem at least does not look entirely chaotic.  (Not at all easy.)

One of my starting points was the example from Carl McDaniel; who set out to examine the question of how humans can survive the most extreme evolutionary challenges; looking for any hints as to how we might, perhaps, survive climate collapse.  He wrote a book, which I reviewed here about a year ago.  It is a spectacular example of how to do Science right.  The important bits for this discussion; A) Find a historical example; B) start analyzing it.  I recommend the book not only for the story and analysis but for the beautiful example of how to start tackling what appears to be an intractable problem.

I set out to follow his lead.  Are there historical examples, parallels to the Trump phenomenon?  There certainly are; too many, actually.  The word demagogue goes back to ancient Greece, to at least 5 BCE.  The phenomenon was very well known before the word was coined; demagogues are something humans are susceptible to.  We have been, as far back as we can see historically; and we clearly still are right now, all around the globe, in all cultures apparently.  I prefer Napoleon to Hitler as a quintessential example- millions dead in both cases; and both sold their genocides under the illusion that it was for the benefit of humanity that millions must die.  Napoleon was more cheerful about it, I think.  Which is worse, to me.

But.  When you start looking at parallels from "politics" and/or "governments" - it quickly becomes clear that sifting truth out of such history is problematic- facts are slippery, and very frequently intentionally distorted.

So- I asked myself; are there other human phenomena that parallel the Trump phenomenon, non-political ones?  Realms where humans will faithfully stick to beliefs with not only no evidence of truth, but with actual repeated proofs of fallacy?

A big fat obvious one suggests itself - Astrology.

Astrology is very ancient indeed- and during its entire existence, serious thinkers/philosophers have taken considerable pains to point out that it cannot possibly be true.  Modern science has actually tested the validity of Astrology with full rigor - and found zero evidence that it works - ever.

And - in all those thousands of years - people have continued to believe in it, defend it, and order their lives by it.  Regardless of the absurdity.  And - trying to talk them out of it - never, ever, works.  They will continue to believe.

Just exactly like Trump believers.  Exactly.  I would challenge you to find some way in which astrology believers differ from Trump believers.  I can't find any, so far.

Is this helpful?  Maybe.  It suggests no solutions; but it does suggest one solid point - it is an utter waste of effort to try to find some key fact that will suddenly open the eyes and minds of the Trumplings.  We should quit wasting time on that idea- it is clearly pointless.

That, for many of us, should be a relief.  "There's got to be a way to make them see this!" we keep hoping - and?   Nothing.  Not one Trumpling converted.  A few middle-of-the-road types, perhaps; but they are not the problem.

Us reasonable types will quickly ask "why?"  Why do people continue to believe- in Astrology, and Trump?  My firm belief is - why does not matter.  And it may not be easy to find out- remember rationalists have been trying to find an answer to why for Astrology literally for thousands of years- and have discovered nothing that will help to free these delusional people from blatant fallacy.  There is a suggestion in there that perhaps current human thinking is not capable of understanding why.  Fine- the heck with "why" - move on to - finding a way to go around them.

What is needed is a way to change the outcome of voting; and hence the makeup of our government.  There are plenty of ways to work on that which have nothing to do with enlightening Trumplings.

And who knows; thinking about it all from the Astrology perspective might eventually lead to some way to reduce their impact on the world.  Think about it.

One more starting point - it's fascinating, to me, that the percentage of Trumplings, and the percentage of people who say "astrology is scientific" - are shockingly close; hovering around 30% each by multiple measures.  And- both have been increasing, in the past decade - not decreasing.

Chew on that.  It just might go somewhere.