In 1987, a bunch of sci-fi authors were polled for their views on who the world of 2012 would look. How does the “time capsule” of these projections match up? Not bad, with some unsurprising inaccuracies. Go have a look–the second link has all of the predictions in full, while the first link looks at pieces of a few and analyzes their accuracy.
It should come as no secret or surprise that I love Cracked’s lists that focus on correcting cultural misperceptions or raising awareness of things most people don’t know. 5 ways you odn’t realize movies are controlling your brain is of particular interest to me as a writer, because it deals with how fiction alters our perceptions in subtle ways. Here’s the bullet-point rundown, but you should read the article to get the full explanation.
- No, you can’t separate fact from fiction.
- Stories were invented to control you.
- The writer of a story always has an agenda.
- You were raised–and educated–by pop culture.
- Everything in your brain is a story.
Saw a link on Facebook to “the most terrifying video you’ll ever see”, which dealt with explaining why inaction on global warming is very bad thing to do in a way meant to be inarguable. Rather than examining the question “is global warming occurring?”, he instead looks at the consequences of action or inaction in the extreme cases of “global warming definitely isn’t occurring at all” and “global warming is occurring and will result in catastrophe.”
In two of the four cases, nothing happens and everyone is fine. In one of four (acting to combat global warming, it’s for nothing), we’re a worse off due to mass expenditure for no apparent gain.1 And in the final scenario, humanity suffers a complete and total global catastrophe. His conclusion is that the consequences of the catastrophe being more dire than the consequences of acting in error, it only makes sense to act, even if it’s in error.
While I applaud the guy for presenting the argument in a way most people don’t generally think about it, and agree with his ultimate conclusions, I have some misgivings about the method in general. It’s basically using the same ploy that Pascal’s Wager uses to justify religious belief.
That said, he is correct to point out that we don’t get to choose whether or not global warming is happening; it either is or is not. We do get to choose how to act.
The Best Of The Internet’s Reaction To The Mars Rover Landing has a bunch of fun meme images around Curiosity’s successful landing.
It seems inescapable, though, that scientific accomplishment will be met with asshattery. I saw an image meme going around on Facebook with the text “Congratulations on wasting $100 billion dollars landing a remote controlled buggy on Mars. Not sure how this is supposed to help us poor people here on Earth but great job.”
The amount of wrong in that statement borders on physical pain. First, NASA’s entire annual budget is ~$18 billion, which represents less than 0.5% of the annual federal budget. What’s more, Curiosity’s total project cost is estimated at ~$2.5 billion, which spans its entire construction history and launch. Not only is that less than 15% of NASA’s annual budget, it’s less than 3% of the quoted number in the meme!
Second, I posted a Cracked article few days back about the “god(damned) particle” and ridiculous things people believe about it. I highlighted a particular passage from point #6, and I’m going to re-post it for emphasis.
When people ask, “What’s the point in understanding everything?” they’ve just disqualified themselves from using questions and should disappear in a puff of paradox. But they don’t understand and just continue existing, which are also their only two strategies for life. These are the apes who sat in the back of the cave, scratching themselves while ooking about how bashing rocks together was a total waste of time. Except back then they had a better excuse for their sloping foreheads and scratching themselves in public.
So outraged was I by seeing this2, I immediately posted a distilled version of this section of the post, with an ultimatum that demanded anyone who agreed with the sentiment unfriend me. As I said there, I do not have time for people that small-minded.