Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Tooth Fairy- a Growth Industry!

Now that we all know economic "growth" is dead- the realization is spreading, and turning up in non-intuitive places.

I tripped over this one (on BBC), and laughed so hard I had to share it with you.

Really perfect Polka Dot Gallows material- you don't know whether to laugh or cry; you just kind of sit there, jaw dropped, and boggle.

It's the only remnant of The Capitalist Dream! Enough money to bury you. Obtained, you hope, by a gambling proposition (insurance: I bet I'll pay less in than they'll pay out)- which you believe you'll win. Although all the calculations of the insurance company say- you won't. Their profits depend on that. Do insurance companies make profits? Do fish have sex in the water?

And if you can zoom your screen a little, and get a good look at the fairy's face- it strikes me as skeptical, with a little secret smirk. Right up front.

That's what they're selling, to a herd never weaned from Disney.

I would like to know, scientifically, how many are buying.




Ok, can't help it, it's raining today so I'm inside reading too much.

And just boggling all over the place at the substitution of polysyllabic incompetence for "thinking".

Started off with a diatribe on the NYT "GreenInc" blog. Not posted yet, so who knows; but I'll repeat it here:

All the critics here are correct; but you’ve fallen into the trap set by the scheme instigators.

You’re fighting fire with logic. Doesn’t actually work, in terms of putting any fires out; it just generates committees.

The real problem is professors. (don’t you just love it when people say ‘the real problem is…’ )

Professors- not known for their broadscale thinking, repeatedly find they have a hammer in their possession. And they get enthusiastic about it.

“Look at this huge beautiful hammer!” they cry- attracting many who got Cs in science in high school, and assume professors know what they’re talking about.

“We have to use this hammer! And your problem looks to me like the perfect nail!”

Except is isn’t a nail, at all. This problem right here is an Allen head bolt, and the hammer is not useful.

But the hammer is big and shiny- and expensive, so there’s loads of money to be made studying it all, and building prototypes.

“Hey, technology is huge these days! We’ll figure out fixes for the problems later!:”

Just like they did for corn ethanol- a direction now abandoned by all not brain dead or deeply invested.

CEOs of power companies; and legislators, really need to ask for a full-scale, long term (500 year) plan and extrapolation. If the process proposers don’t have one- that’s really really good evidence they haven’t thought beyond their big shiny hammer, at all.

Do we have time to waste, and money- on Allen head bolts flattened and mashed beyond extraction by big shiny hammers?

That’s supposed to be rhetorical.


Used to be only ninnys didn't think problems all the way through- but it seems to be a pathway now being taught to PhDs.

The next example, which pushed me over the edge, is from BBC Science.

This professor guy (and not a minor professor, but "the director of the scientific aquaculture programme at the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) in Woods Hole, Massachusetts") is spending huge amount of money working on training aquaculture fish to come back when called, in the ocean; by a specific sound.

Then, see, they could go find some of their own food, and wouldn't always be pooping in the same toilet, but would come back when you wanted to feed- or kill them.

First try didn't work. Predators ate them, as soon as they were allowed to escape from the cage. I'll be darned.

Besides which- gosh, if you've got your fish trained to come and be fed, and the signal is a sound... exactly how long do you think it will take the predators to learn that the sound means- time to come and get fed? Right here?

I think any signal, in any medium, you can use to train your fish will emphatically be intercepted by the predators, immediately.

At first, the fish began to forage outside of the aquadome, moving in and out at the prompt of the sound, just as the researchers had hoped.
"But then we start seeing these bluefish circling our cage. And these are notorious for being ravenous and ruthless hunters," he says.
"Very frustratingly, we went back day after day to find these fish still showing up at the cage, and we couldn't for the life of us call the black sea bass back.
Tagged black sea bass (Scott Lindell)
The tags helped the researchers to identify their bass
"They were scared to death - we went diving, and we could see them amongst the rocks, but nothing was going to make them run that gauntlet between the rocks and the cage when it would put their lives at risk."
And the fish had good reason to be scared.
When the team caught one of the bluefish and slit open its belly, they discovered 12 tiny tags - the fish that they had been attached to had already been digested.
But. Big, hopeful, news coverage on the BBC!! Hey, the funders will love it.
And his answer? Gonna build robotic sheep-dog sharks to keep the little predators away.

What a good idea.


Ok, so the hammer is not working on this machine screw. Maybe if I hit it from the side, with more money...


Anonymous said...

So when you are dead money will give your family a happy ending? Nice sales pitch - if you don't think too hard...

Jim R said...

Just bury me under your compost heap. I'm organic, give or take a couple amalgam fillings.

And you can use the phosphorus.

Belinda said...

I certainly have seen that track in science over here. It seems to relate at least in part with lack of non corporatised labs. Gone are the days where science got funding and lab space just because it was something useful to know, now unless you have a business plan you may as well not even bother applying.

The more concerning one I have personally witnessed that might be feeding in is that PHD's can't be wrong. I have seen smart people who should very well know their limits attempt to answer questions way outside their field rather than admit less than accurate knowledge on a subject.

Honestly what is wrong with saying "I don't know".. you are not saying I couldn't ever know. You are simply saying the information in your current possession does not make you feel comfortable to answer that question accurately. Something about the process seems to encourage this and honestly I feel it is really bad for science. Scientists that refuse to acknowledge the need to change track if the results don't support their assertion start doctoring results.

Kind Regards
**Oops sorry for the essay, hit a nerve here it seems

Greenpa said...

DIYer- nah. we got high P soils- recommendation for corn here is zero. :-) Extra organic material is always good, though.

Belinda- not to worry, essays quite welcome.

" Something about the process seems to encourage this and honestly I feel it is really bad for science."

ABSOLUTELY! Nerve here, too. My own guess from watching the dynamic at meetings is it's the competition for funding. If I can get my colleagues to think I know more than my competitor- they will back me against him for funding. And it's disastrous.

There IS one thing that's useful about "I don't know" though. And I'm totally serious- when you meet a new scientist, and you're sniffing each other- the sooner the other guy says "I don't know" - the smarter, wiser, more competent, more collegial, and more honest they are.

No kidding. Good test.

Anonymous said...

i disagree that professors are *the* problem -- they are a useful smokescreen to the people behind the scenes that use them to obfuscate the obvious. (note that the essay below was written long before van jones, mentioned in the article, was ousted from the obama administration) eg:
Getting Beyond The Narratives: An Open Letter to the Activist Community

To my mind, one of the most striking essays in “Globalize Liberation” is Van Jones’ piece “Behind Enemy Lines: Inside the World Economic Forum” (pp.87-96). It’s especially valuable because it brings core assumptions of the progressive community up against the very different world of industrial society’s ruling elite.

Jones was astonished to find that the vast corporate structures against which he and many other progressives had been campaigning so hard — the WTO, the World Bank, and so on — were treated, by the people who run them, as mere tools to be used or tossed aside at will. The elite see themselves personally as the holders of power, and institutions as their means and modes of power. The activists outside the police barricades, by contrast, see the institutions themselves as the problem. The scene from “The Wizard of Oz” comes forcefully to mind; Dorothy and her friends try to figure out some way to deal with the terrifying apparition of Oz, the Great and Powerful, but never notice the little man behind the curtain.

This is only one form of a pervasive problem in today’s progressive politics: the way that identification so often transforms itself into reification. In magical tradition, names are a source of power, since to name something is to give it a context and meaning of the mage’s choosing. In struggles for social change, it’s therefore crucial to name what one is fighting; that’s identification. But to go beyond this, to forget that every name is an abstraction imposed on a complex reality, and to treat the name as though it’s an independent reality lurching around all by itself causing problems — that’s reification, and it’s fatal.

The economic elite Jones encountered at the World Economic Forum use reification as a form of protective camouflage. The WTO and its like distract protest from the people and interests who shape, operate, and profit from them. The elites could discard any of them in a heartbeat without bringing the world one step closer to progressive goals.


Greenpa said...

sgl -"i disagree that professors are *the* problem -- they are a useful smokescreen to the people behind the scenes that use them to obfuscate the obvious"

Oh, that. sure. :-)

Doing a little herding of my own- once you have some of the herd attention- don't spook 'em! Going too fast, pushing too hard, will spook them- then they run off in all directions.

If you possibly can, get a copy of "The View From The Devil's Mountain", by Philip Regal, possibly available used from the U of Minn book store. Not published, but he used it in a course, so they printed some up. You will not be sorry.

Still learning said...

I initially read your comments on TAE, and yesterday stumbled across your video of the water running in your valley. Do you have any posts describing your farm's growth and evolution in more detail? I'm new to the thought of self-sufficiency, and am trying to learn as much as possible quickly. I am located in California's foothills, so your experience will not all directly translate, but it may still be helpful. I was really impressed by the return of water, having read "Unbowed" by Maathai regarding her experiences with trees helping to maintain the water table in Kenya.

mellycooks said...

Where'd you go Greenpa??

JN said...

Logic doesn't work to fix problems? That author is either a female of a feminist or worst, both. Logic is the man's gift, ignored or discredited by the weaker vessel unless she has been properly trained.

Logic works. It is not the logic that fails to fix, but the emotional compromise of anyone who recognizes the validity of logic but fails to implement it, as given.

The only reason I buy life insurance (specifically without cash value) is because American is preparing to sieze citizen assets in banks and investments, and that means my prefeered alternative to life insurance, CDs, are subject to forfeiture, without notice. And that just doesn't fly with me.