Just Odds (no Ends today)

Luna thought that Ron might suffer from a variety of this problem.

Awe-inspiring: a type II-P supernova caught in mid-burst. The explosion takes months, then hours, then no time at all. (Kind of like Hemingway’s character’s bankruptcy.)

An MIT course in how to make your own videos to publish on YouTube. (Ignore the headline.)

Finally, a beautiful video of undisturbed places. Trust me.

Arctic Climate Change and Extinction

I can barely understand the abstract:

The Arctic Ocean is undergoing rapid climatic changes including higher ocean temperatures, reduced sea ice, glacier and Greenland Ice Sheet melting, greater marine productivity, and altered carbon cycling. Until recently, the relationship between climate and Arctic biological systems was poorly known, but this has changed substantially as advances in paleoclimatology, micropaleontology, vertebrate paleontology, and molecular genetics show that Arctic ecosystem history reflects global and regional climatic changes over all timescales and climate states…. Climate-driven biological impacts included large changes in species diversity, primary productivity, species’ geographic range shifts into and out of the Arctic, community restructuring, and possible hybridization, but evidence is not sufficient to determine whether or when major episodes of extinction occurred.

Tab Sweep

Walter Russell Mead talks about liberalism 5.0. Mead is always worth reading, but I’m more interested in the death of liberalism 4.0 than in what follows it. Enjoy every small victory, because it is temporary. Dave Barry once said that no truly stupid idea ever dies: they keep coming back, like horror-movie zombies, to eat the brains of the living. That certainly describes liberalism.

A lawyer dissects the contract governing Bilbo Baggins’ employment in the Hobbit. The analysis is amusing, except it shows how difficult the lawyers have made it for non-lawyers to make agreements with each other. I know that interfering in every aspect of society is necessary to keep lawyers in their hand-made Italian loafers, but I’m tired of the drag on the economy these leeches represent. In a better society, we could name and shame people who rip us off (without fear of being sued for defamation) and then honest people could simply avoid doing business with bad actors.

Human eyes are unique in three ways (at least). This gives us the ability to communicate with each other in ways that no other animal is capable of doing.

And the ever-enjoyable Daniel Hannan argues (convincingly) against the proposition that the Oxford Union ought to occupy Wall Street. Even if you can’t stay for the whole thing, the first two minutes should be unobjectionable to pretty much everyone:

This next item won’t be news if you’ve ever tried to have a conversation with anyone in their twenties, much less someone in the #ows crowd, but we are raising a generation of deluded narcissists:

A new analysis of the American Freshman Survey…reveals that college students are more likely than ever to call themselves gifted and driven to succeed, even though their test scores and time spent studying are decreasing. Psychologist Jean Twenge, the lead author of the analysis, is also the author of a study showing that the tendency toward narcissism in students is up 30 percent in the last thirty-odd years.

The next generation may be narcissists, but they aren’t the first generation to be convinced in the absence of much evidence of their own intellectual awesome-sauce. Consider, for example, everyone in the entire post-War era:

The underlying assumption of brainstorming is that if people are scared of saying the wrong thing, they’ll end up saying nothing at all. The appeal of this idea is obvious: it’s always nice to be saturated in positive feedback. Typically, participants leave a brainstorming session proud of their contribution. The whiteboard has been filled with free associations. Brainstorming seems like an ideal technique, a feel-good way to boost productivity. But there is a problem with brainstorming. It doesn’t work.

Why are Pixar movies so good? According to John Lasseter, the reason is something you can replicate for your own creative work, namely:

Pixar’s in-house theory is: Be wrong as fast as you can. Mistakes are an inevitable part of the creative process, so get right down to it and start making them. Even great ideas are wrecked on the road to fruition and then have to be painstakingly reconstructed. “Every Pixar film was the worst motion picture ever made at one time or another,” Lasseter said. “People don’t believe that, but it’s true. But we don’t give up on the films.”

Watch this talk by the late Aaron Swartz, whom the government hounded until he committed suicide, where he explains how and why he helped stop SOPA. In addition to pointing out some of the problems with today’s copyright environment, and with the way our “two party” system is wholly-owned by the intellectual property industry, he also highlights how these laws keep shrinking the area in which people can exist without violating the law:

Zubrin: Mars the Hard Way

Bob Zubrin’s not enamored with NASA’s Mars proposal:

The kindest thing that can be said about this quintuple rendezvous plan is that it is probably the unplanned product of the pathology of bureaucracy, rather than the willful madness of any individual. For a fifth of its cost, NASA could fly five simple direct sample return missions, each of which would have (at least) five times its chance of mission success. So it’s hard to imagine any sane person inventing it on purpose.