Tuesday, March 02, 2021
  Constants and Variables 163, serendipit√† edition

I've been focusing lately on old Italian technology.

Browsing through Quora, I ran across a spirited defense of Antonio Meucci as the real inventor of the telephone. Hadn't heard of him before.

I went back through old books as usual and found an inconclusive mess. This article at a telephone collecting blog appears to gather the information objectively.

Meucci was certainly ONE of the earliest experimenters with telephones. No doubt about it. But the stories about extreme poverty and lack of connections don't work, because Meucci and Garibaldi ran a successful candle factory in NYC and held a dozen patents related to candle-making. So he had money, and he was able to write and acquire valid patents. He submitted a couple of applications for telephony, but they weren't approved.

It's entirely possible that Bell saw some of Meucci's work. Bell was acquainted with the existing work, and didn't pretend to be the first of all inventors. It's also undoubtedly true that Bell had better connections than other inventors. His victory over Elisha Gray was definitely by superior connections, not superior technology.

But Meucci's work wasn't notably better than the other experimenters, and wouldn't have developed into a large system.

This little excursion wasn't wasted. One of the old Italian books had an ad for an Olivetti device that I can "build", on the same page as the Meucci article. Serendipità!


Monday, March 01, 2021
  Random auto thought

Ford has always been confused about the branding of Lincoln. Henry originally bought the company to give young Edsel a hobby, a way to seem respectably busy. Edsel showed real talent, and in '36 used the Zephyr to set trends for the rest of the industry. Unfortunately Edsel died in '43, leaving the Lincoln without its internal champion. From '49 to '51, Lincoln looked like a Mercury that had fallen on hard times. Sunken eyes, missing teeth. From '52 to '55, Lincoln looked like a cheap version of the Ford, while Mercury looked like the luxury brand.

To make it worse, Lincoln was sold as the performance brand from '52 to '55, which is NOT what luxury buyers want, and duplicated** the earned reputation of Mercury as the real performance brand.

Finally in '56 Lincoln got its own body, and for the first time Lincoln looked and felt like a luxury car, a proper answer to Cadillac.

Today I noticed a visual clue proving that Ford KNEW which of their '55s was the luxury brand.

When they designed the '56 Lincoln from scratch on its own body, they copied the '55 Merc front end, NOT the '55 Lincoln front end.

** Fussy language footnote: Duplicated isn't quite the right word. We need a word that means was redundant with. Etymologically, redound is exactly the word, but redound has come to mean something like improve the reputation of.


  Nice clear article on Bitcoin

Atypically, BBC has a wonderfully clear account of recent moves in Bitcoin, plus a straightforward and understandable description of how the crime works. The latter is remarkably hard to find.

The article compares Bitcoin's total energy usage with several countries, which has been done before and isn't really useful. Countries have a wide variety of climates and use energy in a wide variety of ways, so the total energy of Holland or Chile can't be compared with anything else.

The article also compares Bitcoin with the total power usage of all data centers, which is a precise comparison. Bitcoin and the cloud are the same thing working for different purposes. Bitcoin uses HALF AS MUCH POWER as the total of all other data servers. The cloud is working for real business and government. Some of what the cloud does is horrible by my standards, but it's unquestionably REAL. Bitcoin is working for nothing at all, just running calculations that are discarded. Absolute pure total purposeless meaningless waste, and mostly run by fossil fuels.

= = = = =

Calibrating: I've been puzzled or bothered lately by the convergence of Bitcoin sellers and truth-tellers. Several of the best HARDASS truth-tellers are also Bitcoin cultists.

Are they cynically using the truth as a 'loss-leader' to attract followers? Or do they have a blind spot? The latter is always possible. Everyone has blind spots, everyone sees the truth about some things and deludes themselves about other things.

No puzzle about McAfee. He is total HARDASS. He tells the truth (as he sees it) about everything, and openly states that he's pushing Bitcoin solely to make money. Sucker Filter right out front.

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  Self-explanatory Scan Skip

Polistra loves Self-Explanatory Sentences. Here's an unusual example of a self-explanatory scan.

American Radio Library has uploaded a few issues of a newsletter published by DuMont in the '50s. DuMont is best known for its early TV programming, but it was making CRTs and oscilloscopes before it expanded into content, and continued making TV sets and similar items afterward.

The Library's scanner had a skipping gear or a loose belt or something:

The text is talking about the undistorted scanning of a DuMont oscilloscope in magnified mode.


Sunday, February 28, 2021
  Four layers of defiance

Ran across a fairly typical math answer to a non-math question on Quora.

The question is about structures defying gravity, like the Tower of Pisa. The math answer is the Law of Centers, which is valid TO SOME EXTENT, but only under ideal circumstances.

In reality there are two distinct ways to defy gravity. Nature uses both, and human structures use both. The Pisa kind is risky and fragile. The other kind is somewhat less risky.

Perceptually, anything above the ground without direct support immediately under it defies gravity.

The Pisa way, as seen in Nature:

A tree that grew naturally at a 45 degree angle, with root structure designed to take the stress. The roots extend out to directly under the center of gravity. Towers like Pisa do the same thing.

If you look closely enough, every living thing defies gravity in the non-Pisa way, sometimes called dynamic stability.

Happystar is showing the simplest natural defiance, flying. Totally unsupported by a vertical structure under him.

I've placed Xs on several of the non-Pisa defiances. These are basically cantilevers, extensions of a vertically supported structure that can go beyond the roots because they don't affect the center of gravity. On the streetcar the cantilevered ends are balanced, but the balance (passenger placement) needs to be actively maintained by the conductor. Polistra's waving hand is actively balanced by her internal feedback system. Polistra is also leaning forward in a Pisa way, even though her toes are NOT extending out under her head. Again the complex system of reflexes and acquired skills adjusts the center of gravity constantly to keep her upright on a moving vehicle.

The rigid Pisa defiance is far more risky. A wind gust can break the root or foundation structure easily.

= = = = =

I've got trees on the mind right now because the neighbors to the west are FINALLY cutting down a row of six wood weapons that have been threatening both their house and mine for many years. In last month's windstorm the middle tree came down at just the right lucky angle to miss their house, their garage, the power lines, and my house. The topmost branch broke off and brushed against my house, making a terrible noise, but didn't do any real damage.

When the tree went down, its balancing root structure pried up part of the fence near it. If the roots had extended a few more feet, they would have pried up the house to the north. Just lucky enough again.

I'm happy and relieved to have all of those killers down. Four layers of luck is WAY too much to count on. (Or, returning to overterse math answer form, conjunctive probabilities multiply.)

Comparing what I hear in current discussions with what I hear on old radio from the '30s and '40s, I noticed that radio in those decades didn't talk much about stocks and shares and dividends. Stocks were mentioned in cop shows and racket-warning shows, in the context of stock swindles, but otherwise didn't seem to be a common topic of discussion. No jokes about the stock market in comedy shows, no focus on stocks in news or analysis shows. I've previously noted the non-discussion of scrip, which was organized quickly and efficiently to compensate for the closure of most banks in early '33.

Google's Ngram thingie disagrees sharply, but Ngram is processing books and a few magazines, not radio and newspapers.

Here's "stocks and bonds":

And "stocks":

And "government securities", an odd phrase that was fairly common in those cop-type shows:

Books and radio sharply diverge on "stocks and bonds", but agree on "government securities".

Why the disparity? Guessing:

Non-fiction books were either defending the market's crimes against FDR's newly energized cops, or defending the cops against the criminals.

Ordinary people had been deluded by Rockefeller and Morgan into thinking that they could be the next Rockefeller or Morgan. After they lost their shirts**, they felt miserable and didn't want to be reminded of the delusion. Radio writers and advertisers picked up on this misery and avoided the topic.

The same delusion is running now. Bezos and Elon are deluding ordinary people into believing that they can be the next Bezos or Elon. This delusion is much more durable than the 1920s delusion. Even 2008 didn't cause a hangover.

One oddity that doesn't fit this explanation: "Stocks" started to fade from books around 1975, at the same time when dividends and profit and real business were replaced by the Share Value crime. "Government securities" rose at the same time, but then dropped sharply in 2000 and didn't return.

= = = = =

** Irrelevant language puzzle: Why shirts? The basic reference is obvious. Gambling until you have nothing left to lose but your clothing, then stripping off and losing your clothing. But the shirt isn't the last thing you'd strip. Also, in cartoons from that era, the gambler is always wearing a barrel instead of clothes. This doesn't make sense. Bars typically had leftover kegs around, but it takes a lot of work to remove the bottom of a keg so you can wear it. I'd think you'd grab a towel or blanket first.

Oh. Later and better thought: The shirt isn't the last available piece of clothing, but it IS the last thing you'd strip. If you wanted to get home without being arrested, you'd stop before losing your pants.


  Reading the original

I'm tired of the constant and intentional lies about the Soviet system. The biggest lie is the misquoting of From Each. A classic Shared Lie. The R side says it's bad, the D side wants to implement it.

The first 1917 Soviet constitution said only: If you don't work, you won't eat.

The 1977 Soviet constitution states:

From each according to his abilities, to each according to his WORK.


The Soviet system was always about REQUIRING and ENABLING everyone to use their unique talents and abilities. Everyone can be useful and everyone must be useful.

But I didn't know if Marx had said the 'needs' crap or not. So just for fun I read the original Communist Manifesto. The saying doesn't appear at all. The closest approximation seems to be this:

8. Equal liability of all to labour. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture.

Stalin tried industrial armies for agriculture and quickly abandoned it. Later Mao tried it for a longer period, and caused far more harm than good.

The Soviet system was an experiment, first trying out the original theory, then using negative feedback to modify it.

Marx also wanted to abolish families. Lenin tried it briefly and abandoned it. Mao tried it in 1968 and abandoned it. Western Deepstate has been trying it since 1946, and hasn't yet abandoned it.

'Equal liability for labor' is a good idea, still active in Belarus and a couple other Soviet remnants. Industrial armies and abolishing the family are bad ideas, which were abandoned by the Soviets.

In short, Marx was a mix of good and bad ideas. Equal liability for labor is one of the good ideas.

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Saturday, February 27, 2021
  In or out. Pick one.

More "working inside the system" crap.

Google has specialists working on AI "ethics", which is an oxymoron. Some of them found that Google wasn't "ethical" enough, which means that it wasn't crazy enough for their tastes. Google fired them.

Leaving aside the specifics, why would you expect ANY company to PAY you for criticizing what the company does? It's just naive. Some companies will allow it, but you shouldn't expect it.

When you're IN, you're IN. If you don't want to be IN, get OUT. Find another company, work on your own, or start a new company if you have the resources and influence to make it happen.

This is EXTREMELY SIMPLE and not at all new.


  Why colleges like online courses

I'm putting together a graphic tribute to Leeds and Northrup, including one of their 'kits' for student lab use.

From a Central Scientific catalog, here's a list of the equipment needed for one popular physics course in the 1920s. (Here's the Hall and Bergen book.) Note that "each student should have his own kit" for most of the equipment.

By a quick estimate, the set for each student would be $150 in 1920 dollars, or $3000 today. If you had 20 students, that would be $60k up front. About 1/4 of these items look like they'd be partly or entirely consumed during the year. The rest would have to be maintained, with inevitable breakage from student use. (Failure = learning.)

When I was taking physics in the 1960s, we had no 'per student' equipment at all, and the labs used only a tiny fraction of the items seen in these catalogs. Some of these items would have been tremendously fun AND instructional, especially the liquid stuff.

One kit per student is ideal in many ways. First, separate carrels or stalls would make it possible to set up an experiment and leave it for several days while you work on it. STABILITY IS CRUCIAL FOR LEARNING. Second, you maintain your 'own' equipment more carefully, even if you don't legally own it as property. Third, the usual lab hour starts with a mass attack on the equipment bins. Nobody wants to be the last, nobody wants to be stuck with the broken voltmeter or a substitute part. With 'owned' equipment and separate stalls, no rush hour.

= = = = =

It's not surprising that college administrations have cheerfully shifted to online lectures and courseware. With textbooks the student pays directly, avoiding the need for lab space and lab maintenance. Textbooks with courseware are expensive, but not dramatically more expensive than before when you account for inflation. This Central catalog also sold textbooks, which ranged from $2 to $5 wholesale, or $40 to $100 today.

The administrators themselves now receive most of the money from taxes and tuition, after applying good old Market Efficiency to eliminate the costs of REAL skills and REAL instruction.


Friday, February 26, 2021
  Possible schism

Real schisms led by powerful people can make a real difference.

I've been generally anti-Catholic for a few years, since reading the full story of the Inquisition and noticing that nothing has really changed. I don't WANT to be broadly anti-Catholic, and wish I could see a reason for optimism. There are many people inside the church who disapprove of the permanent evil. Unfortunately those good people stay inside the church, where their talents and money inevitably assist the permanent evil.

"Working for reform inside the system" is a cruel myth. You're IN or you're OUT. Gang rules. No gray areas, no middle ground, no compromise. When you're IN, you're a full participant whether you think so or not.

When a powerful leader cuts loose and gets OUT, things start to happen. Both Mohammed and Luther were Christian leaders who got tired of the permanent evil and started their own movements.

On a much smaller scale, corporate leaders like Charles Nash and Walter Chrysler got tired of Billy Durant's permanent evil and started their own companies, aiming to serve the employees and customers in a more moral and responsible way. If they had continued using their talents for GM, nothing would have changed.

Now we have Cardinal Sarah resigning from Rome, with a possibility of leading a new separate church in Africa.

For damn sure Africa is the bright future of the world. Africans have an unbreakable morality, and have been rejecting Soros-style "human rights" for a long time. This year the heroic Magufuli rejected the bribes from the "virus" holocaust and used REAL SCIENCE to disprove the fraud at the start. Many African countries have thoroughly modernized in tech and business, WITHOUT losing their deep morality and culture.

Good luck to Cardinal Sarah, and I'm hoping and praying he can lead a successful schism before he gets too old to energize it.

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Wednesday, February 24, 2021
  Rare common sense about common sense

Via ScienceDaily, a study that separates FACT knowledge from SKILL knowledge properly.
"Current machine text-generation models can write an article that may be convincing to many humans, but they're basically mimicking what they have seen in the training phase," said Lin. "Our goal in this paper is to study the problem of whether current state-of-the-art text-generation models can write sentences to describe natural scenarios in our everyday lives."

Specifically, Ren and Lin tested the models' ability to reason and showed there is a large gap between current text generation models and human performance. Given a set of common nouns and verbs, state-of-the-art NLP computer models were tasked with creating believable sentences describing an everyday scenario. While the models generated grammatically correct sentences, they were often logically incoherent.

For instance, here's one example sentence generated by a state-of-the-art model using the words "dog, frisbee, throw, catch":

"Two dogs are throwing frisbees at each other."

The test is based on the assumption that coherent ideas (in this case: "a person throws a frisbee and a dog catches it,") can't be generated without a deeper awareness of common-sense concepts. In other words, common sense is more than just the correct understanding of language -- it means you don't have to explain everything in a conversation. This is a fundamental challenge in the goal of developing generalizable AI -- but beyond academia, it's relevant for consumers, too.
This also applies to the deification of theory among "human" scientists. As every branch of science departs from PHYSICAL experience, theories become weirder and crazier and more murderous. 100 years ago, theorists like Lodge and Faraday and Ayrton worked constantly with REAL PHYSICAL EQUIPMENT, and depended on close teamwork with mechanics who could build and maintain the REAL PHYSICAL EQUIPMENT.

When every idea is applied directly to Nature, Nature will TELL you which ideas are sensible. ... but you need to LISTEN as well, and you need to break out of Parkinson. You need to use negative feedback, not positive feedback. With negative feedback, constant failure tells you to stop and try something different. With positive feedback, constant failure tells you to try the same shit EVEN HARDER AND BIGGER.

The omnicidal "physicists" at LHC are using positive feedback. Their attempts to obliterate the universe just go on and on and on. They never find the mythical unicorns they're supposedly looking for. Every failure becomes an urgent requirement for more speed, more energy, more staff, more funding.

Common sense and physical reality should tell you when to stop. If the unicorn is a real part of Nature, you should be able to find it at ordinary scales and ordinary energies. If you have to use energies trillions of times beyond anything in Nature, you're not going to find a unicorn that occurs in Nature.



  Random thought about feedback loops

As I get older I can tell that my negative feedback systems are getting weaker. More sensitivity to temperature, more difficulty with balance, less regular sleep, etc. All of these functions were automatically held constant when I was young. Now I have to apply more conscious thought and caution.

Parallel: The same thing happens to countries and empires as they age. Before 1946 we had a somewhat functional feedback system. Bad decisions led to economic consequences that forced governments to revise the bad decisions. Error signals were carried by taxation.

Starting in '46 and accelerating after 1970, the economic loops were weakened and deleted. Now the feds don't need taxes at all. They function solely on counterfeit numbers. Without the dependence on tax, the feds don't need industry or production or work or people. They've already killed most of the industry. Since 2008 they've been openly killing the people.

Negative feedback is life. No feedback is tyranny. Positive feedback is instant death.

= = = = =

Later: The parallel fails because nobody is applying conscious thought and caution. Instead, the elderly country is chained and muzzled in the attic while competing fake "heirs" gamble and drink up the remnants of the estate and sue each other over the provisions of the will. Our politicians are Anna Nicole Smith vs Erin Fleming.

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Tuesday, February 23, 2021
  Of value just now

Thinking about dissidents and printing presses led back to this short 2017 item. Not exactly about dissidents, but certainly "of value just now", as Gernsback put it.

= = = = = START REPRINT:

Part of today's Forecast Discussion from the Weather Bureau:
Monday and Tuesday...There are still some differences in the model guidance, but it now looks like a cold front will pass through the region Sunday night or Monday with the upper level closed low lingering over the region likely until Thursday. This will result in widespread showers and thunderstorms, much cooler temperature and gusty winds through mid-week. For the record...expect the extended forecast to change and likely by a lot as closed lows tend to meander around an area and give forecasters fits as to the timing of various weather features. Tobin

This is why the Weather Bureau is TRUSTWORTHY. Even though they carry some of the national Carbon Cult nonsense in their Twitter stuff, they always SHOW THEIR WORK in their actual forecasts. Here's what we're sure of, here's what we're not sure of, and here's why we're not sure.

When you SHOW YOUR WORK, people trust you.

Wouldn't it be nice if media demons followed the same rule? O'Keefe exposed the inner feelings of real CNN producers. They KNOW they're killing viewers with toxic poison. Their casual way of expression showed that the knowledge is not Shocking Dissent; it's commonplace inside the demoncoven.

Many decades ago the major media were more open about their inner workings. CBS newscasters like Bob Trout constantly illustrated how their information arrived and how it was edited, and gave us a sense of their degree of certainty on major stories.

The current Magician's Secret approach began in the '80s. I think Rush may have been the prime mover. For many years he didn't even tell us that he had a staff of editors and writers; he made us believe that the output magically sprang from his more-than-Godlike superbrain. You could never tell if each item was meant as parody or fact, which made it easy to switch back and forth when facts inconveniently changed. Nevertheless, all of it is FACT BECAUSE I SAY SO.

= = = = = END REPRINT.


  Cat doors and cancelers

... have been around forever.

A couple items from Gernsback's Science and Invention, 1923.

Pompeian hinges weren't unusual. This type of hinge was common on two-way kitchen doors in the '20s. The unusual part is the cat and dog door.

= = = = =

A reminder that censors and cancelers and life-destroying Karens have been in charge in most places and most times, long before Pompeii. Smart dissidents have always found ways to get a message across, via poetry or songs or images or carefully chosen words or carefully chosen missing words.

The only modern difference is that dissidents before 2010 didn't expect the censors to PAY THEM for using the official printing presses and broadcast studios, and didn't whine when one publisher decided not to print their material. They just found other ways to get the message through.



Speaking of long-term skill memory, here's an item that popped out this morning after sitting dormant and unremembered for 60 years.

In elementary school the teachers saved their own labor and helped the students gain more skills by trading and grading. After a quantifiable quiz in spelling or arithmetic, we traded papers and checked answers while the teacher read them off. The trading method wasn't constant, presumably to avoid partner collusion. Sometimes each column was a recirculating shift register, sometimes each row recirculated, sometimes the columns moved boustrophedon-style, with the NE student carrying his paper over to the SW corner.

This was good empathy exercise, letting us see how other people got answers wrong or right, and giving us practice in clerical work.

Why didn't I use this trick when I was teaching in the '80s? Did I actively decide against it, or simply didn't think of it? I don't remember the reason for that decision.

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  Nature stores SKILLS.

As usual, stupidly pondering the crucial importance of STORAGE vs Just-In-Time Desperation.

I hadn't stopped to ask what Nature thinks.

Nature stores nutrition in various ways, mainly as fats. Every species has a different form and place for storage. Some (eg whales and camels) have large specialized storage, some don't have any storage at all, some store fats for the next generation in seeds and eggs. Overall, Nature doesn't think storing nutrition is tremendously important.

Nature believes storing INFORMATION is vastly more important. DNA/RNA is the core of life, in both hardwired genes and semi-variable epigenes. DNA is skill info, not fact info. Each gene tells the developing organism where and when to make specific types of cells, where and when to fold, where and when to stop or delete.

Nervous systems devote most of their space and energy to SKILL storage. 80% of all our neurons are in the cerebellum where they gather, store and revise SKILL information. The parts of the brain that we usually associate with IQ and fact knowledge are much smaller and weaker.

Our immune system is a separate store of INFORMATION, gradually accumulating through life and using induction to generalize from each learned microbe to similar microbes. Needless to say, the muzzles and distancing of the current holocaust are precisely and fiendishly designed to stop the immune system's learning.

Our human technologies, from speech to books to art to computers, mainly store fact knowledge. We didn't have a way of storing SKILL info until motion pictures and videotape came along, and both of these are much less effective than internal experience and apprenticing.

Wildly speculative question: Did earlier civilizations find other ways to store and pass along skills, aside from the obvious drawings and maps? Did some pots and arrowheads and cooking utensils serve as non-verbal self-explanatory templates? Start cutting here, turn the flint here? Fill with water to this line, boil as long as you'd normally boil barley, then add the next ingredient? Some of these stones marked with patterns might fill the bill if we understood them.

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