Fermi paradox

I had been thinking about the Fermi paradox the other day for no real reason but then XKCD had this comic:

That captures my opinion on it. The Fermi paradox is a bit too anthropocentic, assuming that other life would be like ours and not just happily swimming in oceans, not exploring the universe. Or being bigger than us or smaller or just other.

But then XKCD had this comic today which argues for the Fermi paradox. It is a bit concerning the temperature change estimates when viewed this way.

I suppose I did read this wrong the first time, it’s not as scary as I originally thought! My poor reading comprehension had us off the scale but we’re only at the question mark for now. I suppose in 100 years we’ll have it figured out, we’re good at figuring things out. So I’ll still scoff at the Fermi paradox.

Gerrymandering

I read quite often that gerrymandering of political districts is a cause of the current mess of our republic. That’s fine and makes sense but this is a bit abstract how drawing the lines can make sure the Republican districts always stay Republican and Democrat districts stay Democrat. Or how overall it’d really affect anything. You’d think the law of large numbers or such would even everything out. This image and description from Wikipedia makes it clear why it doesn’t even everything out very well – this is all from the Wikipedia article on gerrymandering.

Example for a state with 3 equally sized districts, 15 voters and 2 parties: Plum(squares) and Orange(circles).In (a), creating 3 mixed-type districts yields a 3–0 win to Plum—a disproportional result considering the state-wide 9:6 Plum majority.

In (b), Orange wins the urban district while Plumwins the rural districts—the 2–1 result reflects the state-wide vote ratio.

In (c), gerrymandering techniques ensure a 2–1 win to the state-wide minority Orange party.

All the cases are interesting in their own way. (a) seems interesting in if you don’t do any thought to district membership the minority can lose everywhere.  You can’t just let the boundaries be indiscriminate perhaps. (c) is the opposite, the minority can rule with wise redistricting.

Pandora’s promise

Pandora’s Promise makes a well laid out argument as to why nuclear fission is the way we need to go for our energy needs if we want to save the planet and keep our same levels of consumption. It’s just a very well done documentary, I won’t say much so as to deflate it’s fine argument for nuclear fission. Ignore everything else I say below and just watch the movie.

It is interesting to call out that they went to outside the sacophagus in Chernobyl and the radiation level was lower than that on a beach in Brasil where people go to lay in the sand for health benefits. Also that nuclear is cleaner then every other source of energy except for wind. Also the number of ‘environmentalists’ who have come around to support nuclear is interesting. The movie is sort of an interesting commentaty on ‘environmetalism’ as well. A fine scene is when there are people protesting a nuclear power plant. They go around handing out bananas for a ‘banana break’. Of course bananas put off radioactivity along with a common lot of things.

The thing I’ve always seen is nuclear is an invisible sickness that everyone fears. However for some reason no one fears the pollution from fossil fuels or solar panel production nearly as much although (at least the fossil fuels from power generation) kill many more people than nuclear (from power generation at least) has. Maybe I should do a chart of that if I can find the data to actually support that statement!

Thanks to the wonder of the internet (don’t let anyone restrict it!) I found random proof of the statement here. A good image for the claim:

This is a nice visualization to play around with as well – of course who knows where the data comes from.

At the same rate I do like this page that shows that we are nowhere near the evacuation area of any nuclear power plant. But I still don’t like the fact that we have high air pollution days because we have many coal plants nearby. The invisible menace of radiation is scary somehow but unbreathable air is more immediate.

Random handy links I recently used! Install CM 10.2 on TF300T and create a recovery partition on Mavericks

Recently I installed CyanogenMod 10.2 (Android 4.3) on the Asus TF300T. I’d already had it on the Nook Tablet and it really seemed to be working well on the Nook. Much better than CM 10.1 (Android 4.2) on the Nook. As I’ve commented before the TF300T has become dogged slow due to its cheap flash storage. However, there is such a thing as TRIM support that was added into Android 4.3 which supposedly makes this not as bad. After installing on the TF300T it does seem to have helped a lot, almost like new! (So far)

Installing CyanogenMod on TF300T – just install CM 10.2 if you want Android 4.3:

http://blog.askseb.com/1567-unlocking-and-rooting-asus-transformer-tf300…

I also recently bought a shiny new Mac Mini and the storage seemed dogged slow on that as well. I was hoping it’d be quicker than the USB drive running the old iMac with failed internal harddrive. What with the 5400 rpm drive it just wasn’t fast and that seems to affect OS X pretty significantly. Everything seems slow to me since I’ve an SSD in the 6 year old MacBook Pro and everything is very quick just thanks to the SSD.

However, I also bought the Mac Mini knowing it had the Thunderbolt port. So I got a LaCie SSD drive with Thunderbolt, got everything moved over, and the Mac Mini is blazing fast when run off the external SSD via Thunderbolt!

The thing I forgot to do was create the ‘recovery parition’ when I copied over the old hard drive. You need this to encrypt the drive for example using File Vault. I need to find that link still but one page gave good enough instructions to do that. In summary you resize the boot partition in Disk Utility (this works fine), in Disk Utility create an image from another hard drive with the recovery image, then (again with Disk Utility) copy that image to the partition you just created. Make sure it’s the recovery partition is after the main partition. That’s easy if you just have 2 partitions.

George Washington was pretty darn wise

(2016 update – And who knew Hamilton helped him write it! :))

If ‘pro’ is the opposite of ‘con’, what’s the opposite of progress? Congress!

In George Washington’s farewall address he warned about the problems of political parties. Just a few relevant quotes from 1796.

A bit on how the few can control the government – this applies to both parties equally:

All obstructions to the execution of the laws, all combinations and associations, under whatever plausible character, with the real design to direct, control, counteract, or awe the regular deliberation and action of the constituted authorities, are destructive of this fundamental principle, and of fatal tendency. They serve to organize faction, to give it an artificial and extraordinary force; to put, in the place of the delegated will of the nation the will of a party, often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community; and, according to the alternate triumphs of different parties, to make the public administration the mirror of the ill-concerted and incongruous projects of faction, rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans digested by common counsels and modified by mutual interests.

A bit more on the rule of the few via their two parties, sounds pretty darn familiar to our current situation:

The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.

Also nothing is new in the ‘divisions’ we often fall into just in association to where we live:

In contemplating the causes which may disturb our Union, it occurs as matter of serious concern that any ground should have been furnished for characterizing parties by geographical discriminations, Northern and Southern, Atlantic and Western; whence designing men may endeavor to excite a belief that there is a real difference of local interests and views.

The wikipedia article explains his view here a bit more succintly but I thought it nice to actually look to what he said also. We’ve too much trust anymore of the first source of whatever fact we want to hear on the internet or in general.

Tora Tora Tora!

The Tora Tora Tora group at Oshkosh 2013 was pretty impressive. Here’s a bit of it, it’s always so hard to believe these days being attacked from air. You really have to feel for the normal folk who really went through things like this, I can’t imagine living through the Battle of Britain, the bombing of Germany, you name it.

We were on a rowboat on Lake Wingra when that B-17 flew over on its way to the airshow. Glad it didn’t bomb us!

Bees need honey

A new study appears to have come out supporting the belief that you shouldn’t feed bees foods other than honey. Honey contains chemicals in it which strengthen the bees immune systems. Take that away and bees are more susceptible to disease. Ours bees certainly have been doing fine on a honey only diet. Of course you get less honey but you keep the bees around which is a decent trade-off.

A couple of related links if you want to read more:

Ars Technica

Science World Report