Dark Energy Isn’t

Professor Imous Crank was giving a talk on his latest unpublished paper.  It was of course fully available on his Universe City website but no reputable journal would publish it.  Even the Journal of Irreproducable Results wouldn’t.  But that didn’t stop him from giving his talk.  The lecture hall was nearly empty and those that were there were non-human visitors in with amazing good bioengineered avatars.  The aliens were amazed that Prof. Crank hadn’t actually been able to convince some of his colleagues.  They needn’t have been.  The man had lived up to his name in his dotage.  He had too many ideas that had been proven to be so far-fetched that even his own former students had given up on him.

“So, from this equation we can see that space-time will expand due to the prior expansion of the non-gravitationally bound non-local super-groups exhibiting linear frame dragging from the original vector bosons, gluons, created in the first quintillionth of a second of the Big Bang.  One can think of it as simply following Newton’s second law, this created the inflation of the early universe but that doesn’t explain the acceleration of the expansion we have labeled “Dark Energy” for want of a better or more accurate name.  That comes about due to frame dragging from the later luminous vector bosons.  In other words, as this equation shows, the expansion of the universe is being accelerated by photons and gravitons in the form of intergalactic light and gravitational waves and the universe simply has to make more room so that they can go on forever on their massless journey in the vain hope of reaching the end of the universe… and edge that like Tantalus’s grapes, forever receed.”

It was so simple… yet… physicists would never accept it… knowing it was just another Crank idea.

 

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Aircraft For Sale

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1974 Piper Aztec Turbo E – For Sale $80K

Sadly, I’m just not flying this aircraft as often as I used to.  The kids are grown up and I’m not traveling for biz with employees anymore.  I’m mostly flying my Cherokee solo.  So, time to find N500EG a new home.  I purchased her in 2009.  I earned my Commercial MEL and CFI MEI in her.  She is currently kept under the shades at KSTS.  Since I’m an active CFI, CFII, SEL, as well as MEI, you could buy her and I could train you for your MultiEngine rating if you stay here a while.

Trade-A-Plane has an aircraft value estimator.  When I punch in the numbers and avionics description, it says that the aircraft is ~$80K value… so… I used that number.

Email at Candice@monitor.net

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The photo is years old… showing what she had when I bought her.  Since then I added a co-pilot airspeed indicator and an LCD attitude indicator, moving the existing pilot AI over to the co-pilot side.  I changed the compass to an upright card type.  Otherwise, this is a pretty accurate view of the panel today.  She has an above average avionics panel which makes flying IFR so much fun:

Garmin 530W w/ terrain & sat wx receiver

Garmin Audio Panel /  Intercom / marker beacon receiver

Sandel 3308 HSI coupled to GPS & Nav (including ADF)

RCA Electronic Attitude Indicator

Bendex King Nav/Com, XPDR (digital), and DME (the face plate is in poor condition)

L3 StormWatch / Traffic (CRT indicator) w/ audio traffic warnings – and digital checklist

Engine Analyzer (both engines, all cylinders CHT & EGT, one of the turbo TIT is INOP)

Shadin digital fuel flow & totalizer (coupled to GPS)

Compass is upright card type (looks like DG – easier to fly by)

Astrotech digital clock

Digital OAT / Voltmeter

Co-Pilot has five instruments.  (no Turn Coordinator – the engine analyzer is in that position)

It has a 406Mhz ELT (needs to have its registration updated)

Radar INOP (sat wx & StormWatch are almost as good… plus… here in California, we only have five days a year when TS occur, I’m staying on the ground thank you very much!)

The post lights combined with built in lighting in some of the instruments makes this a great bird to fly at night.

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The seats are dove grey leather and wool in very good shape.  The carpet is matching wool in fair condition.  The panel is matching grey in color.  The headliner is is good condition.  Pilot side shoulder harness could stand to be replaced as it is twisted such that it has trouble retracting.

The top engine cowlings have quick releases instead of screws… makes it far easier to remove for inspections or cleaning the sparkplugs.  Oh… and I have a gas tug and Bruce custom cover that goes with the aircraft at sale.

 

N500EG

TTAF 3376 hours

Engines: TT 3376  TSMOH 1790  Compressions: Left Engine in cylinder order from one to six: 75/73/75/73/70/72 Right: 65/72/65/70/72/65

Props: TT 1740 TSMOH 263

Mags: TT 3376 TSOH 109

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Privilege; What it is and how it works

Candice eetimesThis past year, I’ve noted an increase in discussion of “privilege”, who has it, and who doesn’t.  Or in far too many cases, people who clearly have it denying it exists.  But, as usual, I find that most of the discussion misses the mark by a very wide margin, largely because of a combination of failing to define what and how privilege is and operates and conflating privilege with advantage and entitlement.

Privilege is the flip side of bias and discrimination… one is privileged if they are free from laws, custom, or bias that reduces their rights and puts obstacles in the way of one’s pursuit of happiness.  Privilege doesn’t mean that one’s life is, or will be, easy; it means that law, custom, or bias doesn’t, or won’t, make it harder than it does for others.

The term “privilege” comes from “private law”, the acknowledgement that some people have legal rights and some don’t.  A king had a special status, a private law, that didn’t apply to his subjects, “rank hath its privileges”.

But there is another form, that which is given by custom and bias.  It should come as no surprise that, even today, most people, both men and women, still hold irrational biases that grant men more privileges than to women.  That bias is so strong that study after study have shown that women and minorities have to be demonstrably more competent and accomplished than white men to even hold their own in many domains. (Look up the “Matilda Effect“.)

Privilege of this sort does not lie within the individual.  It lies in those who surround the individual.  It is granted automatically, by law, custom, or bias.  One cannot consciously disown such privilege since it is not within their control to bestow it upon themselves in the first place.

From privilege can, and usually does, come advantage.  It is what allows some people to move forward in their lives in an easier manner.  It also accumulates.  When someone is accustomed to having privilege and to accumulating advantage, it often engenders ‘entitlement’, the personal belief that such privileges that come from law, custom, or bias are ‘owed’ to them, or that they ‘earned’ them, that they are due to them because of a perceived sense of superiority.  It should come as no surprise that most men, accustomed as they are to socially granted privilege, fail to see their privilege over their female peers.

Until very recently, men had legal rights that women did not in nearly every nation (and still do in far too many).  For example men had the right to vote, women did not. In Saudi Arabia, men can drive, women cannot.  Men weren’t likely to be fired from a job because they got married, women often were.  Men whose wives got pregnant were congratulated.  Women who got pregnant were often fired.  When I was young, one could open the newspaper to the “Help Wanted” ads to find that they were divided into two major sections, “Help Wanted – Male” and “Help Wanted – Female”.  Guess which category all of the higher paying jobs like tech and management positions were in.  This is ‘male privilege’ in its most naked and raw form.  But even when the laws change, the bias and discrimination will continue for generations.  (See my essay on James Damore and women in tech.)

During the first nine decades after the United States declared independence, people of African descent were legally held as chattel slaves with no legal rights while people of “pure” European descent were not.  This is ‘white privilege’ in its most naked, raw, and brutal form.  Even after slavery was abolished with the 13th Amendment and legal equality established by the 14th, many states, mostly in the South, found ways to legally restrict the rights and human dignity of their black citizens with “Jim Crow” laws; laws that only slowly were dismantled, mostly by courts showing that they violated the 14th Amendment on one hand, and the passage of the Civil and Voting Rights Acts in 1964 & ’65 on the other.  The Federal government began to actively discriminate against blacks in the ’30s through redlining of largely black neighborhoods discouraging banks from lending money to buy homes and  investing in businesses.  This practice continued until the late ’70s.  This was also ‘white privilege’ in its naked and raw form.  But even when the laws change, the bias and discrimination will continue for generations.

Around the time that the US declared independence, one of its leading statesmen, Thomas Jefferson, turned to reforming the laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia including making gay male sex punishable by 20 years in prison.  This was considered very liberal in that it had been punished by death.  The year I was born, 1957, homosexuality was criminalized, punishable by years of imprisonment, in every US state.  Illinois became the first state to decriminalize homosexuality in 1961.  A smattering of states slowly decriminalized it in the following decades.  But it took the Supreme Court to decriminalize it in all of the states in 2003.  There are teenagers today who were born in states where it was still punishable by years of imprisonment!  In 1953, the President of the United States signed an executive order calling LGBT folks “perverts” and declared them ineligible to be employed by the Federal government, government contractors, or organizations receiving federal monies in any capacity and strongly urged our international allies to do the same in their nations.  Thousands lost their jobs, some committed suicide.  For decades lesbian and bisexual women would lose their children as courts terminated their parental rights and handed over their children to heterosexual couples to adopt.  The ban on gays and lesbians in the military was only repealed in this past decade.  Marriage equality for all couples, regardless of sex, was only enforced by the Supreme Court in 2015.  There are school children alive today whose parents were denied the right to marry when they were born.  Recently some states have passed laws that allow governments to outsource foster and adoption placement to private agencies that will deny LGBT people the option of adoption under the thin guise of “religious liberty”.  This is ‘straight privilege’ in its most naked and raw form.  But even when laws change, the bias and discrimination will continue for generations.

During the 19th and until nearly the end of the 20th Century, transgender people were criminalized in nearly all cities and larger towns by “anti-impersonation” laws.  Laws that prescribed fines and jail terms for wearing clothing not considered appropriate for their biological sex.  These laws were still on the books and enforced into the 1970s and in some locales even into the 1980s.  Beginning in the 1960s, transgender people who were under physician care for “transsexualism” were careful to carry letters and special ID cards from clinics that some, but not all, localities would honor, a sort of, “get out of jail free card”.  Beginning in the ’70s, some states would allow change of gender status on ID, others would not.  Today, there are states and localities which are passing so-called “bathroom bills” which would de facto criminalize transgender people again.  And of course, the current president has called for the continuation of the ban on transfolk in the military.  This is ‘cis privilege’ in its most naked and raw form.  But even when laws change, the bias and discrimination will continue for generations.

privilegeSo, yes, “Straight White Cis-Male” privilege, the freedom from bias and discrimination, and the accumulating advantages that brings, most definitely does exist.  And when a straight white cis-man denies it… well… I know entitlement when I hear it.

Further Reading:

Essay on James Damore and Women in Tech

 

 

How to Save American Education?

Candice eetimesCan We Solve The School Funding Crisis?

For years, we have seen a growing crisis in American schools as funding cuts force teachers to buy school supplies and textbooks fall apart.  Our best teachers burn out and teaching to the test mentality tells potential educators that they wouldn’t be allowed to teach anything else.  It’s a lose-lose for everyone… except it seems, for the football coach and the PE instructor.

So how do we fix this?

First, we have to admit that schools, especially high schools don’t actually focus on education.  Yes, I know you think that is a strange statement; but hear me out.

Visit any high school during the weekend or evening.  Walk through the halls past the big and prominent trophy case.  What do you see?  You could be forgiven for thinking that you weren’t at a school at all, but a sports club.  All those trophies are for sports, not the school’s academic excellence.  Oh, some schools may have a small plaque, though more likely a mass-produced paper certificate, declaring the school to be “Excellent” and signed by a school administrator somewhere.  But come on… we all know those really big trophies go to the school with the best sports teams.

Visit any high school during the day.  Look at what the kids are wearing.  Notice something odd?  Some of the kids are wearing special clothing in the school’s colors.  Usually it’s the boys who are wearing jackets with school letters and girls wearing tight-fitting tops and short skirts in school colors… skirts that would be deemed to be against the school’s dress code if it didn’t have the official blessing of the school because of their special status as a uniform for… well.. not for academic excellence or achievement.  So, just who gets recognition and rewarded for what activities in these schools?

Can you imagine a school that awarded special clothing to elite academic performing students instead of elite athletes?

Take a look at how much land and monies are devoted to what activities.  Those big gyms with roll-up bleachers and electronic scoreboards aren’t cheap.  The plumbing in the locker rooms took a pretty penny.  Those lawns and outdoor bleachers aren’t cheap either.  All of that expense for only a small handful of students who will never participate in any meaningful way in those activities, save as parents sitting in those bleachers, once they are adults.

How many of the teachers at the school became teachers so that they could be coaches of those sports?  Does the math teacher have a degree in mathematics?  Or does he have a degree in physical education and coach a team after school?  Does that science teacher have a degree in chemistry, biology, or physics?  Not likely given that they could make five times as much in industry if they actually learned something of those subjects in university.  If your school was anything like mine, most of those teaching STEM courses barely passed an intro survey course.  (Our physics teacher had no idea what anti-matter consisted of… and failed me for using trigonometry to solve a physics problem involving light refracting through different media because he didn’t understand the math.  My freshman algebra teacher taught us to “guess” what values would solve the equations.  Yes, PE majors in college teaching future STEM students is a great idea.)

Is it any wonder that our schools are in trouble and that our students do so poorly in academic subjects like science and mathematics, especially compared to students from other nations?

“Sports are embedded in American schools in a way they are not almost anywhere else. Yet this difference hardly ever comes up in domestic debates about America’s international mediocrity in education. (The U.S. ranks 31st on the same international math test.) The challenges we do talk about are real ones, from undertrained teachers to entrenched poverty. But what to make of this other glaring reality, and the signal it sends to children, parents, and teachers about the very purpose of school?”

So why do we spend so much effort on physical education and sports at the expense of actual education?  The reason may surprise and even anger you.  It certainly does me!

WAR!!!

It’s so that we can turn young people, especially boys, into cannon fodder!  Yes, the requirements of the military who would draft and then have to train up young men to be big tough soldiers ready to slog through mud and march many miles with a heavy backpack, to make them into able-bodied infantry ready to die for his country.  The military can save time and money getting our youth ready to be grunts by transferring that task to our schools.  Just consider this bit from “A Brief History of Physical Education In America’s Schools”,

“Interestingly, the driver behind the establishment of the physical education system in America was war—in short, the fitness of soldiers in combat became a country-wide priority. After the end of the American Civil War, school systems implemented physical education programs and enacted laws that would make the inclusion of physical education programs compulsory in all public schools.

After World War I ended, distressing overall health statistics revealed that one-third of all drafted recruits in the U.S military were not physically fit for combat. The government interceded and passed legislation intended to advance the quality of physical education classes throughout the country. During World War II physical education programs became more common for men and women due to the physical fitness that was required in military service and for manual labor jobs.”

It’s no accident that during the Cold War and the Vietnam War, during a large military draft and build-up, that the Federal government ran television ads from the President’s Council on Physical Fitness.  In fact, the Council was created in 1956 after a conference held at the Naval Accademy.  The next conference on the subject was held a year later at the Military Academy at West Point.  Years later, the Council was renamed to include sports as a means of increasing physical fitness, readiness to be foot soldiers.   Our nation’s school’s focus on sports and PE are the direct result of our military’s intervention in our educational policies.

Our schools care more for preparing our students to become cannon fodder than educated citizens.  So, knowing this, one understands what’s wrong with our schools and how to fix them.  Stop being a pre-boot-camp for the Army and become a true school for the future of our democratic republic.

We could easily find the monies needed for our schools… by simply eliminating PE and after school sports.  School should be about learning.  Athletic Clubs shouldn’t double as schools.

(Addendum 5/27/2018:  In case you were wondering just how badly America stack up against other nations in science knowledge and understanding:

https://amp.businessinsider.com/science-questions-quiz-public-knowledge-education-2018-5 )

Further Reading:

Essay on how to ensure higher education opportunities for all

References:

A Brief History of Physical Education In America’s Schools

The Case Against High School Sports

History of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness

 

 

The Misguided IQ Debate

Candice eetimesThere has been an uptick in the number of articles, podcasts, and online debates about IQ differences between groups, most especially regarding the so-called ‘races’ and of course between the sexes.  There are typically two sides, both equally right and at the very same time equally wrong.  One side cites IQ studies that show that there are differences between groups and thus conclude that there are genetic differences between them.  The other side says that is pure racism or sexism.  The first side then claims that the second side is anti-science and knee jerk “social justice warriors”.

In all of this debate, I have read only one man, who straddled both sides, who came closer to the right answer when he said that those talking about the IQ differences in the science literature is about two different phenomena.  One, is where we note that there are average differences between defined groups.  The other is where we research the genetics of IQ.  The two do NOT meet.  Sadly, he failed to go into enough detail to explain why.

First, lets talk about the genetics studies of IQ.  The first thing researchers wanted to know is what it the “heritability” of IQ.  To do this they used twin studies, noting the differences and similarities in IQ scores of  identical vs fraternal twins in situations where they are raised together vs apart.  This leads to four different cases.  In one case, it is assumed that both siblings share both genetic and environmental influences while in the other case, only 50% of the genes are shared while maintaining the same early environmental influences if they are raised together.  If raised apart… well, you get the idea.  From this, studies have led to estimates of 50% to 80% heritability.  That is to say, that genetic differences can account for half to 80% of the VARIABILITY of IQ scores.

Remember, so far, we’ve been looking at the variability of individuals within a population, not the differences between populations.

Here we need to understand why the studies show such widely different results.  It is caused by the very nature of environmental influences.  The closer to optimal environmental conditions, the greater the genetics will explain the variability and thus the presumed heritability.  If everyone in a study had absolutely perfectly optimal environmental conditions, ALL of the variability would have to be from the genetic differences and thus a study would show that IQ was 100% heritable.  But life is never the same for two individuals.  And they certainly aren’t the same, nor optimal, for all individuals everywhere for all time.

Thus, the differences in environmental conditions may (they don’t have to automatically be this way) lead to greater variability in a population and thus lower the estimates of heritability.  The question to be asked is how sensitive is IQ to differences in environmental conditions?  The answer is… an amazing amount !  How do we know this?  The Flynn Effect.

Please take a moment to read the Wikipedia entry on the Flynn Effect (so I don’t have to repeat what it says):

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flynn_effect

The Flynn effect describes the changes in average IQ scores in the same genetic population (gene pool) over a very short period of time.  We don’t have to know what causes the effect.  We need only note that the effect has caused a significantly larger change in average IQ within populations over time than the putative differences found between populations (and in the difference in range of IQ between the sexes).  Is it too much of a stretch to conjecture that any putative differences found between populations is more likely to be attributable to environmental differences, that populations are distributed along different points of the Flynn Effect, than to any putative differences in genetics?

Thus, we see that one group has jumped to the wrong conclusion about the differences between populations because of ‘racial’ bias and another group is reacting in an anti-science manner out of fear that any conclusion will adversely effect disadvantaged populations. Both are wrong.

The number of genes and the number of environmental factors are both very large… too large to come to any conclusion regarding putative differences between populations at this time.

Besides, this argument is looking at the wrong thing.  We shouldn’t be looking at the genetics.  We should be looking at the data to find out what is the optimal environment and ensuring that each and every human being on the planet experiences it.

Free Speech vs. Academic Freedom

Candice eetimesHow do you define “free speech”?

We need to ask because lately, people have been arguing that our college campuses have abandoned free speech.  However, it would appear that they are confusing “freedom of speech” with “academic freedom”, a much different concept.  Further, many outsiders, visitors and speakers not part of the official university community, have claimed that their “free speech rights” are being denied on campuses.

Lets clear a few things up.  First, “free speech” rights are part of the American value system both culturally and legally, codified right in our Constitution in the Bill of Rights.  However, that right is NOT the right to be heard.  It is the right to NOT be arrested when speaking out.  That is to say, if you say something critical of policy or politician, you may NOT be arrested and prosecuted.  It does not give a person the right to demand that an institution provide a platform to disseminate that position.  A university is well within its rights to turn away a would-be speaker.

What people are really asking for is a form of “academic freedom”… another value occasionally professed by centers for higher learning.  But once again, not a right guaranteed by any law.  This freedom is usually granted to instructors or researchers who have gained a contractual protection called ‘tenure’.  But even tenure may not protect an individual who steps outside of other norms and values held collectively by the university community.

No university or college is under any legal or moral obligation to provide a platform for an outsider, either under the rubric of “free speech” nor of “academic freedom”.  An invited speaker does so purely as a courtesy on both sides.  No one’s rights have been abrogated if a would be speaker is disinvited for any reason.

Having dispensed with the notion of rights, we may turn to the question of wisdom of turning away such speakers.  There is something to be said for providing a wider range of ideas and opinions to be heard on campus to provide a better education, or perhaps to bolster deeper cultural understanding.  However, when a would-be speaker’s primary reason for speaking is to gain the imprimatur of respectability and even of implied correctness for their ideas from having spoken at an institution… and that institution’s values would oppose those ideas and would seek to deny attaching its reputation to those ideas, the institution would be better served by denying that platform.

Let’s be specific, speakers calling for discrimination or other illtreatment of others do NOT have a right to expect university support for their ideas nor to provide a platform from which to call for these injustices.

On the other hand… when an institution has invited a speaker, that speaker has the moral expectation that they will not be subject to undue harassment and physical danger.  Members of the university community have the right to speak against the ideas of the speaker, but not the right to shout them down, as that interferes with right of other members of the community to hear out the speaker, which was after all, the reason for inviting the speaker.  One does not have to be respectful of the ideas or opinions of the speaker; but one must be respectful of the rights of others to civil conduct during a presentation.

Video Review: The Expanse

Candice eetimesI finally had the chance to watch the first two episodes of The Expanse.  It has been well reviewed by others.  Those reviews all speak well of the production values and the scientific realism of the show.  Sigh…

First, there are lots of wonderful high quality details… but as I’ve explained before, one of my pet peeves is the fetish that Hollywood has for transparent displays.  This show has them in abundance.  It’s irritating and pulls me out of the story and into my career as an expert on display design.  But that isn’t the only problem with science and technology on the show.

In one scene, a hard-boiled cop with a streak of cynical corruption pours liquid from a bottle into a glass… that goes sideways… SIDEWAYS!  Ummmm… if that’s the effect of gravity of Ceres, then the engineers of the habitat messed up and didn’t plumb the building.  Then it occurred to me… perhaps they are trying to show the effect of Coriolis?  No, that can’t be right as Ceres has a rotation (day length) of nine hours.  The coriolis effect would be far too small to be noticed.  Ok… could it represent that the bottle was under some pressure and Ceres tiny 0.03g gravity wasn’t involved?  This would make more sense… but the bottle didn’t seem to be a pressured bottle.  Nothing I can think of would explain the behavior of the liquid.

Thinking of gravity… at that tiny gravity, everyone on Ceres should have been loping, not walking… and certainly NOT running as occurred in several scenes.  The moment someone tried it, they would be bounding off the floor!  And then there is the issue of shipboard gravity/acceleration.  While it may make superficial sense for people to use magnetic boots in zero g, a long time favorite staple of budget limited science fiction film, actual walking in them makes zero sense.  Walking is a form of “falling” forward and toward the floor then catching yourself.  Without real gravity/acceleration walking just isn’t possible.  The best that could occur is to use the mag boots in situation where one wants to lock oneself into one “standing” position so as to enable working on tasks that require that torque be applied by one’s arms.  Then… there are the scenes where ship acceleration is used to provide gravity.  Yes, the physics allow that… the energetics do not.  One would not provide constant moderate g burns to rocket around the solar system.  It would take more reaction mass than the mass of the ship!  Then there is the sillyness of the design of the chairs used during high g burns… sigh… one would not be sitting upright!  One would be lying down, lazyboy fashion, so that one’s heart didn’t have to fight the acceleration to keep blood flowing to one’s brain (drugs or no drugs).

Speaking of energetics and economics.  The notion of capturing ice in the outer solar system and storing it in a ship that then brings it back to the belt makes zero sense.  Ice is very plentiful in the outer system in the form of comets and Saturn’s rings.  One would simply (as if anything in space is “simple”) strap an ion rocket powered by plutonium Radioactive Thermal Generator (RTG) to nudge it into a least energy orbit to the belt.  If that’s not enough water and other gasses… do it over and over.  No human should be riding it back down to the belt.  There should NEVER be a shortage of water available to the belt.

OK… I love the show for it’s hard science fiction feel… I just wish that they had a better science advisor!  Or perhaps, had chosen to base the show on a SciFi book series where the author knew better?

Additional Reading:

What Hollywood Gets Wrong In Futuristic Science Fiction