Is Ignorance Bliss? Or is it Red?

I’ve been content to leave up-top my big, controversial posting about Ayn Rand and her novel/film Atlas Shrugged,   in part because the ferment was cool and fun.  And also because I am neck-deep in copy-editing my big new novel EXISTENCE. (Appearing in June!)

But I owe you all something new, so here’s a potpourri of science snippets and other cool stuff. Starting with — the poetry and Symphony of Science, as well as The Case for Mars.

== TED Brin? ==

TED style public talks are short but punchy and usually fizzing with possibilities! Watch them all!  Here are two of my 2011 performances — idea-packed splashes in the deep end of the pool.

“The World of 2061 Re-inventing Civilization”  – from the recent TEDx Brussels conference.


Making Gods: Will That Bother Anyone?” a fun romp showing how scripture can – and must -be interpreted in science-friendly ways!  Amaze your friends, especially the believers! Performed for the great big Singularity Summit in New York City.

Oh, any folks following the new TV series “Prophets of Science Fiction”? I seem to be on every week. But don’t let that keep you from tuning in to shows on Asimov and Dick and Clarke and Bradbury and Heinlein!

Now for a glimpse at three disturbing scientific studies that have bearing on America’s silly, fratricidal, lobotomizing and treasonous “culture war.”

== Ignorance is Blissful Certainty? ==

The less people know about important complex issues such as the economy, energy consumption and the environment, the more they want to avoid becoming well-informed, according to new research published by the American Psychological Association.

And the more urgent the issue, the more people want to remain unaware, according to a paper published online in APA’s Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

“These studies were designed to help understand the so-called ‘ignorance is bliss’ approach to social issues,” said author Steven Shepherd, a graduate student with the University of Waterloo in Ontario. “The findings can assist educators in addressing significant barriers to getting people involved and engaged in social issues.”‘

Sigh… Sometimes I feel we’re in Stapledon’s Last and First Men. Barely comprehending the range of curses, embedded in human nature that wage war against enlightenment.

Next: Read this Rolling Stone article: “How Ignorance, Greed and Ideology Are Warping Science and Hurting Democracy” by Julian Brooks.  It reviews a book we all should buy and then quote extensively to our friends.” As science writer Shawn Lawrence Otto points out, in his tough-minded Fool Me Twice: Fighting the Assault on Science in America, too many Americans are either plain ignorant of science or actively hostile to it, or both. The very thing responsible for half of U.S. economic growth in our lifetimes, putting food on their very tables. And that’s as true of political leaders and journalists as it is of ordinary citizens.

After those two downers, Let’s Talk About the Future We Want – a UN-related effort to “launch a global conversation to learn what people want their communities to be like in 2030. “We want everyone — all ages, cultures, religions, genders and countries – in the conversation. If we finally confront head-on the economic, social and environmental challenges we face, and if we get busy building more just, peaceful, and sustainable communities, what would ours look like?”

It’s aimed at the UN’s Rio+20 international conference next June on sustainable development. Seems like people reading Contrary Brin would have thoughts to contribute to this effort.

== Miscellania ==

Armed police drones? Jeez, let’s dig in our heels over this one. Surveillance is one thing. But anyone shot by a cop should at least get to see the badge, look a human in the eye, and get a chance to yell “I give up, copper!”

Breaking the Deep Space Barrier: A reusable, electrically propelled spacecraft would open up vast realms of deep space to human exploration.

Scientists have outlined which moons and planets are most likely to harbour extra-terrestrial life, via the Earth Similarity Index and Planet Habitability Index. (A big topic in Existence!)

Dolphin whistles help solve mysteries of cosmos, from black holes to supernovae. A dolphin’s variable frequency sonar helps un-muddle signals reflecting off many objects (multipath interference). Scientists are using this same technique to better design neutron detectors.

How Star Trek imagined the iPad 23 years ago. In Star Trek: The Next Generation, crewmates had widespread use of smooth, flat, touch-based control panels throughout the Enterprise. These were known as , or Personal Access Display Devices.

Eeek!  It’s the ‘Brinicle’ ice finger of death! Filmed in Antarctica. You’ve now been warned: don’t cross Brin the Eskimo!

Some are hoping to pin down the last universal common ancestor (LUCA)—not the first life, but the most recent organism from which all life on earth descended.  3 billion years ago, did there live a single mega-organism, filling the planet’s oceans before splitting off into three groups: single celled bacteria & archaea and complex eukaryotes? Eerily like Chris Moore’s lovely, gonzo science novel FLUKE.

Frank Herbert, in an old interview, agreeing with some things I’ve said… before I ever said them! 😉

Worth six minutes of your time: Six Thought Experiments humorously explained in a minute apiece by David Mitchell: Zeno’s Paradox, The Grandfather’s Paradox, The Chinese Room test of Strong Artificial Intelligence, Hilbert’s Infinite Hotel, The Twin Paradox, Schrodinger’s Cat.  Way fun!

Remember this from a year or so ago? A “time traveler” tries to disrupt the Large Hadron Collider?  “Countries do not exist where I am from. The discovery of the led to limitless power, the elimination of poverty and Kit-Kats for everyone. It is a communist chocolate hellhole and I’m here to stop it ever happening.”  The story sounded lovel-quasiy-plausible (with the presumption that the fellow was mental) till the very last line, when it seems sure to be a “gotcha!” practical joke. If it were true with the last line? Brrrr!  Can someone report back to us that this was definitively (instead of 99% sure) a hoax story? A sunday-afternoon investigation for our proto-smart mob.

== Of practical Use to Parents and Teachers! ==

The curse of the gifted child? This study suggests that when students are praised for their intellect (You must be really smart!) rather than their effort (You must have worked very hard!), they come to believe that such abilities are innate, unchangeable. The ‘hard-working’ kids may be more likely to persist, believing if they try hard enough, they will succeed.

See? That’s a piece of wisdom you can’t cram onto the stupid left-right axis. It just is.


Filed under politics, society

3 responses to “Is Ignorance Bliss? Or is it Red?

  1. It should be pointed out that the LHC story was posted on April 1, 2010.

  2. Yeah… just thought I’d milk it a bit more! 😉

  3. But anyone shot by a cop should at least get to see the badge, look a human in the eye, and get a chance to yell “I give up, copper!”

    Heck, we haven’t had that right since the US Supreme Court allowed “no knock” warrants. Nowadays, there is nothing to prevent some random, bumbling, Rambo-wannabe from storming into your house on the flimsiest of evidence – and God help you if you try to defend your home!

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