3.23.2008

SCI-FI


  


     “If the facts don’t fit the theory, 

     change the facts.” 


  ~Albert Einstein
~Albert EinsteinIf the facts don't fit the theory, change the facts.
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/topics/topic_science.html
If the facts don't fit the theory, change the facts. Albert Einstein
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/topics/topic_science.html





If the facts don't fit the theory, change the facts. Albert Einstein
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/topics/topic_science.html
       I've been a sci-fi fan since the late 1940's, when in grammar school I first started reading sci-fi comics, and later reams of pulp fiction short stories by masters like Bradbury, Heinlein and Lester Del Ray. I loved hiding under the covers at night listening to fascinatingly weird sci-fi radio shows like "Quiet Please." Old sci-fi movies were great (the original black-and-white "The Thing (from Outer Space) starring James Arness is still one of the best. Even early tv offered primatively produced sci-fantasy series such as Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon, and of course "Outer Limits."
      Like many fans, I thought sci-fi had reached its pinnacle with movies such as Arthur C. Clarke's "2001, A Space Odessey," "Forbidden Planet," the original "War of the Worlds," and others of that period. Personally, I prefer Clarke's "2010" - the follow-up to "2001" - to the earlier opera grande.
      There is no doubt that Clarke was a talented visionary; we have lost a man with a very fertile imagination. While it's true that many of his ideas were based on those of earlier thinkers (there’s little brand new in this world), Clarke had the ability to transform a cold idea into an interesting saga which put behinds into seats at movie theaters.
      At some point along the way, I lost my taste for sci-fi stories and movies. I suppose the main reason is America's changing culture. Whereas earlier sci-fi tales were essentially dramatizations of scientific ideas, with just enough "life-style" of their characters thrown in to give them dimension, Hollywood decided it needed to appeal to a broader audience (a euphemism for greed), sci-fi scripts heavied-up on human foibles as complex romantic relationships entered the story lines. As kids usually put it; yuck, kissing. Then, sci-fi began injecting insufferabe politically correct themes. If I want that sort of thing, I'd much rather watch any movie with Bogart and Hepburn. The minute you introduce sex, complex relationships or political correctness into a sci-fi movie, you can start deducting stars and thumbs-up for that flick.
      Of course there are some notable exceptions. "Blade Runner" has strong sexual and romantic content, but with a difference. The human protagonist (convincingly played by Harrison Ford) isn't sure if the beauty he falls in love with (portrayed with cool heat by Sean Young) is or isn’t, well... really human. It's the crux of the story; when androids become convincingly human, will we “real” humans develop romantic relationships with them? It’s not an incidental side trip.
      But the primary reason I lost interest in sci-fi, I'm sorry to say, is that most of it just devolved into plain boring crap. So-called “big ideas” which are nowadays so highly touted are in reality simply simple-minded. No more science-based than the fire-breathing dragons or magic swords so prominently featured in sci-fantasy, the sister genre of sci-fi.
      One of Clarke's big ideas was the space elevator. The concept preceded Clarke's writings on the subject by decades. Be that as it may; here we have a large space station parked in a geo-stationary orbit, physically connected to the Earth by - let's call it a tether - a large tube. The tube acts as an elevator shaft (90 or more miles long!) wherein heavy objects and people can be lifted into space without the use of massive fuel-gulping spaceships. At the time of this writing, we were told that NASA has plans on paper for this kind of contraption. Okay fine. Look, there are so many holes in this space elevator concept that we ought not waste a nickel of taxpayer money on it.
      The science which is most interesting today is not what's on the minds of sci-fi writers, but on the production lines of real manufacturing companies. It appears that few if any sci-fi writers ever envisioned something like a wireless laptop computer which works at the speeds we now commonly experience; everybody connected via a world-wide internet where almost anything you want to know or see is available with the tapping of a few keys, within seconds. We can’t include Dick Tracy’s wrist-watch radio since it did little more than a two-way radio. But I'm sure you can think of other amazing things to come down the manufacturing conveyor belt of ingenuity in recent years, things which were not conceived in the pages of sci-fi.
      Today, accolades for creativity should go not to sci-fi writers or theoretical physicists but to the manufacturing geniuses of our era. They are so amazingly good they have forced sci-fi writers and theoretical scientists to go farther and farther out on the limb - into true borderland science - where most of the ideas are just plain, well... borderline.
      Who fills you with wonder more? People who can fit something that used to be the size of a two-car garage onto a tiny silicon chip the size of a Sen-Sen... or people who preach "dark matter" as mediator of the Cosmos’ movement (when they can't even really explain what gravity or electricity are)?
      Theoretical scientists may still be scratching their heads about exactly what electricity is... oh they can define its properties, interactions, et cetera, but as they say, let’s not confuse the map for the terrain.  Manufacturers and their engineers, on the other hand, aren't allowing any of that to stop them from bringing more and more amazing electronic marvels to market.
      Electronics product engineers may not know exactly what electricity is but they sure know how to make it do somersaults, don’t they?
      

3.18.2008

Greasing the Skids

~
The economic recession we are currently experiencing shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who has been keeping their eyes open. It's easy to pin the problem on well-hyped things like the housing bubble, or the high price of oil, or any one of a hundred other mangled financial causes.

But these aren't really causative factors. Rather, they are symptoms. The real cause of our growing economic crisis is the decline of morality in our culture.

The drive for wealth and power have always been the major driving force behind the forward progress of any nation; it is the enormous force of our commerce which has made the United States the most powerful and influential country the world has ever seen. But never before in our history has the drive to aquire wealth for its own sake been so venal.

For example, you elect people to represent you in Congress. To make laws and watch over the long-term welfare and day-to-day operations of the Nation. Your Congressperson goes to DC, perhaps (and this is very iffy in my opinion) the freshman Congressperson even goes with the intention of doing good for his Nation. I rather suspect he goes just to increase his wealth and influence. How else can you account for the fact that he spends as much as he does to get elected to a job which doesn't pay enough to make him as wealthy as he seems to be after a few years in office?

We are told everyday in the news, the moment he gets to DC, he is targeted by an army of lobbyists who offer him... well, let's be polite and call them financial "incentives" to vote in favor of whatever the lobbyist is lobbying for. If the Congressperson figures out how to cast a vote without having a spotlight cast on it, something he can weasel around in the future with some plausible rationale for casting that vote; boom. Another bad decision gets written into the lawbooks. Everybody is a little richer for it. Except you. In the end, you and get hosed and wind up paying for the ensuing train wreck of unintended consequences. Bridges that go nowhere. "Virtual" border fences that don't work. Housing programs which create more problems than they solve. Pouring money into the bottomless pit of an education system that feeds administrators' bank accounts and starves children's minds.

The housing and mortgage banking industries use powerful lobbyists to grease the skids of Congress with cash. All parties get rich quick. Except you and your neighbors. You wind up with your houses in foreclosure.

The energy industry greases Congessional skids and the price of energy continues to climb without any tangible reason. They get obscenely rich. But families can't afford to fill their gas tanks, keep their lights lit, or heat their homes.

The education system greases the halls of Congress, and our children emerge from high school barely able to read, write and add. These are the kids who can't find their ways into the world of commerce; shocked when they learn they have nothing to offer.

The legal "industry" greases the skids and because of their massive lawsuits, the price of everything rises.

The medical/pharmacological industry greases the skids and you can't afford your healthcare.

Foreign powers grease the skids and jobs fly out of our country, yet cheap labor continues to be encouraged to flood in to claim the few jobs which are available. You find it increasingly difficult to find a decent job.

Our foreign policy as regards the economy seems to treat America's treasure as if it were an infinitely rich piggybank. Our Federal Government pours out spending like water over Niagara Falls. The Feds print money with no backing. The value of our dollar drops below all records. Everything you buy costs more. Your personal piggybank is not unlimited. And tempting as it may be, you aren't able to print money.

Okay, let's get off "poor" Congress. Aren't there some "healthy industries" in America? Sure. Gambling, prostitution, pornography, drugs (both illegal and legal), websites that denigrate people, and things of that ilk. If this is what we have become, if this is the measure of America's New Morality, we have passed the point where anything rational can be done about it. So many want to get rich and get rich as quick as they can, and they don't care how low they have to go, or how many people they have to hurt to do it.

Now, don't get me wrong. In good hands, wealth is good. Wealth is freedom. Wealth is health. Wealth can do a lot of good things ...even buy happiness. It's just a question of how you get there; and once there, what you do with your wealth. If these folks will stop at nothing to get there, they will leave a wide swath of personal destruction in their wake. And there-in lies the real cause of our current economic problems.

Too many of our fellow-Americans will stop at nothing if it pays off quickly and well. This collapse of morality and attendant collapse of the dollar are forcing their way into the average citizen's life. Few are able to save money anymore. So the average American has less "cushion" - less fat in his piggybank - for that rainy day. It's the same thing with the Nation. Our cushion is gone, and the forecast is for heavy rain.

Now you know the rest of the world pretty much despises America. When they see our piggybank is empty, what do you think they will do? Help us as we have helped them in the past? No, they will do their best to take advantage of us. Some will try to hurt us. Unfortunately, some may succeed.

The fault lies with Congress and their refusal to see their oversight function as anything more than an opportunity to line their pockets. They are disloyal, unfit representatives of the people and of The Constitution. It's quite disgusting to hear them now tell us why we should reward their disloyalty by sending them to the White House.

Our leaders, elected and appointed, are an irresponsible, greedy lot. Their morality has decayed beyond our Nation's ability to cover the bill. It may not be your personal morality that's decayed, but it's your personal checkbook that's gonna go to hell.
~

3.09.2008

McCain and Reparations

I believe reparations can certainly help soothe African-American/white American relations. But perhaps it is African-Americans who should be paying.

Start with the cost of burning down several major cities several times. Add punative damages for emotional stress caused by a century of guilt heaped upon white America for something it and most of its ancestors had nothing whatsoever to do with. Perhaps those white families who lost sons in the Civil War, young men who died to free blacks, should receive a special share of the reparations. Add half a century of special benefits, welfare - free rides - that have been meted out to African-Americans in our education system, business world, sports and entertainment industries. Reparations? I rather think white America has already overpaid.

Which brings me to the real point of this. Most of the give-aways to the African-American "community" (as they like to call it) have been invented and engineered by the liberal Democrat Party and its propaganda arms, the liberal media and Hollywood Establishments. Liberalism has become the Establishment in America. Now it is the far Left which taunts this liberal white Establishment, daring it to say "No" to each and every outrageous demand in the name of the African-American community. In too many cases, Republicans and conservatives in general, are quick to acceed to these demands for fear of being labeled with that most odorous of all charges, the "R" bomb... Racism.

At this point, the reparation being demanded by the Left is the very White House itself. If their half-black man doesn't get the presidential nomination, it will be the Al Sharptons marching out there crying "foul." They are already accusing their "first black president," Bill Clinton, of trying to screw their new man, the first "real" black president, out of his rightful place at the top of the ticket. And if Barak ultimately gets the nod, they will be marching out there accusing the Republicans (and somehow Bush) of trying to screw their man out of his rightful place in history.

Barak Obama seems like a good man. He has talent. He looks good, he gives good speeches and knows how to smile for the camera. But right now, he's not saying anything that reveals who he really is. He's simply riding on giant wave of sentiment generated by the guilt-pushers of the Left. It's Mrs. Obama who is doing all the saying. If I detected one shred of gratefulness for all they have already achieved by the graces of this great country and its good people, I might feel more inclined to believe the "change" they talk about might be something good. But my "BS meter" is beeping loudly, and what I see is another Hillary Clinton - a bright but hostile, ambitious woman whipping her easy-going, populist husband like a puppy dog, trying to get him to pull her wagon all the way to the White House.

If Senator Obama is the Democratic nominee, will Senator McCain have the stomach to take on this opponent? John endured years of torture at the Hanoi Hilton, which in my view makes him brave and a true American patriot (though not neccessarily a hero in the mold of Audie Murphy or Chuck Yeager). But this... this will be the true test of John's mettle. Will he pull his punches and pay his own ultimate reparation? Or will John McCain write himself into the history books as the iron-willed man who went from POW to POTUS?
~