Internet – World Wide Web Consortium

W3C LogoThe perception is that the internet is without controls or standards and while there is truth in this idea the reality is that an organization founded by Tim Berners-Lee, The World Wide Web Consortium, is largely in charge. The W3C is located at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and manages the standards for the World Wide Web.

Standards might not be exactly what you think they are. It is not an organization concerned with moral or ethical factors. The standards of the internet are the programming languages used by those who create web pages. It is an important organization because there are a number of different browsers like Internet Explorer, Safari, Firefox, Chrome, and others less well-known. Each of these browsers interprets documents or pages which are written in languages like HTML, XHTML, CSS, ASP, and many others. If there were no standards on how to construct pages then browsers would have an impossible task trying to interpret whatever people used.

However, I don’t want to spend this blog in a technical discussion of web site building, alphabet soups of initialisms, and things of that nature. I do want to talk about how the W3C standards function on the basis of what works best. This embodies the ideas of Ayn Rand and Ojectivism. Rand envisioned a society where the most creative and dynamic people were allowed to pursue their dreams without restraint and were rewarded for those efforts. She believed that such a society would develop generation after generation of achievers. I’m not going to comment on her philosophy as a whole here and now, but I do think there is a lot of merit to this idea.

Now, as for the W3C. While the member groups of the W3C decide on the standards there is a specific process of making these decisions that works as follows:

  1. Working Draft
  2. Last Call Working Draft
  3. Call for implementation
  4. Call for Review of a Proposed Recommendation
  5. W3C Recommendation (REC).

The basic gist of this is that proposals are created and sent out to every web developer to use as they see fit. This is what we chess players call Best by Test. In chess it is often jokingly referred to as the first move of 1. e4 but there is deep meaning in the phrase. In this case it means that a web standard has been used by literally millions of people and after an analysis phase deemed to be superior to other methods. Were that everything in life went through such a process. Think about all the things you do at work and at home and imagine if millions of people tested each process first and came up with the most efficient way to do it!

This is a powerful, powerful tool.

This is something that is available to us as a world thanks to the ability to communicate across any distance with anyone who is connected to the internet. The potential to create products, methods, processes, and communicate ideas is open to each person on earth. Everyone can contribute and more ideas, more tests, more people doing crazy experiments increases the potential for better things.

So, in summation, the W3C does things in a fashion that should be emulated. Use the power of the internet and its ability to reach billions of people to test your ideas. Don’t be afraid of the new technology as, sadly, many industries remain. Be a leader at your company. It’s a new way of thinking about things but one well worthwhile!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

Black and White

Psychology Sunday – Splitting

Black and WhiteToday I’m going to talk about the psychological phenemonon called Splitting. It seems innocuous enough verbally but it’s a huge problem particularly seen in people’s voting rational. It is defined generally as the splitting of mental concepts (or black and white thinking). This sort of thinking has, in my opinion, caused the country to become driven into two different camps when in actuality most people are nearer the center of political ideology.

It is encouraged by the two viable parties, Democrats and Republicans, because it assures that if one doesn’t win the election the other will and this keeps out those who threaten their dominance of power. It is also encouraged by yellow journalists in their endless pursuit of ratings which, naturally, is a product of our viewing habits. I’ll probably talk about how we drive the media and not the other way around in a future blog.

Splitting is a dangerous way to think in many ways. It occurs not only in the political spectrum where you are inclined to believe a candidate not because of what they say but because of what party they are affiliated with but also in personal relationships when you attribute a person with particular virtues or vices. A person lies to you once so they are forever a liar or a person tells the truth once and so you believe everything they say. This is a natural phenomenon to some degree but it should be tested constantly. You should try to critically analyze each event in your life so as to properly judge it.

Splitting was first described by Pierre Janet and later analyzed by Sigmund Freud and his daughter Anna. However, in the sense that I am using here today we have Melanie Klein to thank. She argues this comes from when we are babies and there are good things and bad things and this mode of thinking haunts us into adult life.

Otto Kemberg argues that the ability to overcome splitting is one of the important developmental tasks of children. This ability to view the world in more complex shades is important for our overall development as adults. Generally things are complex and when we view them as simply good and bad we are acting like babies. This is the view that politicians would like us to have. They don’t want us to examine their propositions closely. They sieze upon relatively innocuous statements and turn them into full blown splitting insanity. President Obama says 57 states instead of 57 elections and he must be a moron. Newt Gingrinch mentions moon bases and he must be a lunatic. A political ally of Mitt Romney says Etch-a-Sketch and that means Romney will totally change everything he believes in after the primaries.

This sort of thinking leads us to vote for politicians who are uninterested in deep thought and real solutions. Simple splitting is the act of babies. Babies. Grow up and examine situations with an adult, critical mindset and we will get politicians who cater to that mindset. Keep thinking like babies and we’ll keep getting politicians who think the same way. And the country will suffer.

Tell me what you think!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

Home Team Blackouts

BlackoutIt was a happy day for me when my Uverse was finally installed after much bickering with AT&T. I gave up my television years ago and streaming sports on ESPN3 was choppy and Hulu television troublesome on my old DSL connection.

My beloved World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals are in Spring Training as I write this and I haven’t been able to watch most of their games for the last couple of years. I certainly got my high-speed connection for a number of reasons and watching the Birds on the Bat was one of those.

Major League Baseball offers an internet package where, for $124.99, you can watch every game of every team streaming on your computer, tablet, phone or other device. Imagine my joy. I get to watch my World Series Champion Cardinals play every game! Then I clicked on the little blackout link and read this:

All live games on MLB.TV and available through MLB.com At Bat are subject to local blackouts. Such live games will be blacked out in each applicable Club’s home television territory, regardless of whether that Club is playing at home or away.

It goes on to mention the blackout applies even if the game isn’t televised. Home or away? Televised or not? Sold-out or not? I can’t watch the Cardinals!?

I’ve got $124.99 burning a hole in pocket to watch the 11 time World Series Champion Cardinals. Take my money, please?

Ok, wait, catching breath, bulging eyes recessing, fist pounding abating, let’s look at this rational, from a critical perspective. Perhaps MLB is justified in this policy. Think, Tom, don’t scream and rant like a radio talk-show host who would sell his mother into slavery to get a ratings point.

First stop, MLB Blackout policy page of Wikipedia. Have I mentioned my love of Wikipedia? Calmly reading. Keep blood pressure under wraps. Learn rational reasons behind policy. Keep calm … calm … soft music … calming waves … soothing … EXCLUSIVE TERRITORIAL RIGHTS! What? What? What?

Do we live in Communist Russia? Wait, stop , be rational, Russia isn’t communist any more … Do we live in Communist China? Socialism? Media control? Freedom Revoked?

Ok, breath slowly, long breaths, I mean, technically, television broadcast in St. Louis city could somehow be seen to be owned by the local team … the ENTIRE STATE OF IOWA blacked out for Cardinals, Cubs, Twins, Royals, White Sox and Brewers. HEAD EXPLODING!

Freedom being taken away, grab rifle, oh wait unarmed, maybe good thing, calm, calm, soothing sounds, ocean, babbling brook.

I know, let’s look at the easy to understand map of blackouts … ARGHHH … BUNNIES MUST DIE … DIE … DIE!!

Wipe frothing away from mouth, think happy thoughts, don’t kick cat, it’s going to be all right. There has to be a rational explanation, doesn’t there?

What is the idea? Ok, here we go, a broadcaster pays for the right to exclusively show the games on their channel. That’s capitalism, NBC shows, CBS shows, FOX shows. But, wait, don’t they stream on Hulu? I mean, the idea is get as much revenue as possible, isn’t it? Isn’t my $124.99 lost revenue? There are plenty of World Series Champion Cardinals fans all over from the great states of Iowa, Arkansas, Tennesse, Kentucky, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Southern Illinois, isn’t that a lot of $124.99s? Wouldn’t it be easy for MLB to distribute a percentage of that money to the broadcasters? I mean, that’s a lot of lost revenue.

If you think I’m a diehard Cardinals fan you haven’t been to Germantown, Illinois! You haven’t been to Busch Stadium after a Cardinals win to see a family of four, kids decked out in Cardinal gear, taking pictures for their once a year trip to St. Louis from Lawton, Oklahoma to see the Birds on the Bat.

This policy is denying all those fans the opportunity to watch the Cardinals. It is denying the children of die-hard Cardinals fans from all over the midwest the chance to learn, like their parents, to love the best team in baseball (Shut yer yaps, yuse Yankee bums). It is killing marketing, it is throwing money away! Do you not want more fans?

Why are the Cardinals so beloved all over the midwest and beyond? Because KMOX radio was a clear channel signal that broadcast the games to all those areas, that’s why. Now, we live in the television era and you want to LIMIT BROADCASTING of games only to areas nowhere near the actual team? Where does that make any sense? MLB, broadcasters, work out a deal, there is money on the table. There are millions of fans waiting to be made. This is capitalism! This is marketing. This is America! Isn’t it?

Why does Fox Sports Midwest care where anyone watches the game? My tv, my computer, my phone, my tablet? It doesn’t make any sense! You want more audience, do you hear me, MORE AUDIENCE! Not less. More. Do you see? Hands shaking … must calm down.

Shower, must have cold shower, brain exploding, stupid, morons, idiots, more audience, spasm-spasm, more audience, more revenue, spasm-spasm, can’t understand, does not compute, spasm-twitch-spasm-twitch-twitch-spasm … more audience … more revenue … twitch-spasm-spasm.

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Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

You can do Anything if You Set your Mind to it

PlatitudeThe final day of my weeklong attack against Facebook Platitudes has arrived and I like to think I’ve save the best, and by that I mean most egregious, for last.

You can do anything if you set your mind to it.

I can do no better than to quote the magnificent Penn Jillette, “Eat the sun”.

I’m fairly certain I could simply call it a blog right there but I’m going to analyze the idea behind the platitude, the well-intentioned hopes, and the disastrous results.

There are two thoughts behind making this statement one of which is well-intentioned and the other is malicious. The first is to encourage a person to be adventurous and try things. This is excellent advice. Life is better if we enjoy it broadly rather than narrowly. There is much that is good in this world and being afraid to try things leaves us with a less than full life. It’s great to encourage a person to try things. This is just a poor platitude to do it.

Parents encourage their children with this platitude in the hopes the kids will leave their fear behind and experience life to its fullest. Again, excellent sentiment, I wholeheartedly approve.

The negative situation where I see this platitude thrown around is to blame people for failing to complete a particular task. It is often used when the failure is beyond the person’s control and is the tactic of a bully to deflect their own culpability in the events leading up to the failure.

You didn’t finish the job? Why not, you can do anything if you set your mind to it.

The bullies of the world take over when the achievers are not allowed to succeed. This is one of the central messages of Randian Objectivism and I’ll talk about it in another post.

Now let’s move onto why this idea is not only silly but dangerous.

If we tell children they can do anything they might actually believe us. A child that is told they can do anything is doomed to disappointment. They cannot do anything. They can accomplish more than they think they can, they can do amazing things if they plan and execute with realistic, objective thinking. But, this platitude sends a ridiculous message of entitlement. I’m going to talk about the sense of entitlement that pervades our culture in a later post. I really do think that telling kids they can do anything leads to adults who are unrealistic and entitled. This is bad for our nation. When we talk about greatness it is usually in reference to people who achieved after a great struggle. People who think they are entitled don’t bother with struggle. They quickly give up. Having to work for something is not a bad thing, in fact it is the opposite.

I’m playing a lot of chess lately and because I live in St. Louis, Missouri with its world-class chess club I get to see guys like Hikaru Nakamura play. Thanks to modern computers I get to watch a fellow with the monikor Chess Network play live on Twitch and actually get to play him now and again. I’m not of the opinion that I can beat either of them. However, I’m working on my game, playing better chess, advancing, and feeling pretty good about that.

This to me is the most important thing of all. We can’t raise a generation of people who have unrealistic expectations about themselves and about the world and hope to see western style democracy finish what the founding fathers started. So, don’t tell your children they can do anything. Teach them to think objectively, to plan, to try new things. And don’t just teach them. Show them. Be the example. It can be something as small as trying a new thing at the restaurant but not with peanuts if you are allergic to them! Be bold but understand the challenges and your limitations. Be prepared!

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Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

The Secret

PlatitudeToday I take on not a single dumb platitude but the concepts of the book and movie, The Secret, which takes much of its philosophy from the biblical quote: “And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.”

The idea being that if you believe something to be true hard enough you can make it true, particularly by praying for it. What’s interesting about this philosophical idea is that it actually has some pretty firm roots and there are ideas here that are quite worthwhile. But, on the whole it is a dangerously delusional idea to promulgate.

The platitude that I’ll choose from the book/movie, which in all fairness I’ve only read summaries, is the one used on Wikipedia:

“One of the most powerful uses of gratitude can be incorporated in the Creative Process to turbo-charge what you want”

This is one of the main tenants of the Laws of Attraction that are the fundamental backbone of the philosophy. This Laws of Attraction essentially state that our thoughts can change the physical state of the world around us and much of this philosophy comes from books written by Thomas Troward.

First, I want to talk about where this idea has a lot of merit and then I’ll move on to why it is incredibly dangerous. Positive thinking is a great idea. Confidence is good. When I played a lot of golf the last thing I wanted to think before I began my swing was “Don’t hit it in the water”. Much better was “Hit it in the Fairway”. So, the power of thought on our physical actions is, in my opinion, unquestionable. When we do something with confidence the chances are better that we will carry the action through to success than when we move with hesitation.

The physical manifestation of this idea is expressed in the platitude, “Put your head down”. The idea here is to charge forward with confidence rather than with hesitation and, again, this has merit. I really like the concepts of positive thought. Before you try something look at yourself in the mirror and say, “I can do it.” Put your fears away and attack the issue. This is all good and I approve completely.

The idea that things are going to work out helps you become more confident and that confidence in turn leads to actual success. I know, I know, it seems like I’m a proponent of The Secret and the concepts it promulgates. But, here’s where things take a turn to the very bad.

It’s dangerous to tell people that all they have to do is think their way to success. You can’t just put your head down and jump the Grand Canyon. You’ll die. You can’t just tell yourself you’re going to get rich and then get rich. You have to have a plan of action that is based on the real and tangible world. You can’t expect tens of thousands of people to purchase your novels if you don’t write them, publish them, and promote them.

This is where I have the big problem. The movie/book promotes the idea that thought and prayer are the mode to achieve whatever you want in life. This is false.

The way to succeed in life is to critically analyze the situation, come up with an objective plan to achieve the goal, and physically carry out that strategy. Even then, success is not guaranteed, happiness is not guaranteed. Hard work is mandatory!

I’ll make no secret about it. The primary reason I’m writing this blog is to bring attention to my novels to promote sales. If people learn about Libertarianism, Ayn Rand, Objective Thinking, and other concepts that I think are valuable then so be it. But, I’ll tell you this much, I’m not going to get sales by thinking my books will sell or praying they will sell.

So, get out there, think positively, be confident, make a realistic plan, objectively analyze each roadblock as it arises, act on the plan, persevere through obstacles, and find success and happiness! That is the real Secret!

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Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

Don’t ask for a Lighter Load, Pray for a Stronger Shoulder

PlatitudeDumb platitude week starts off with this gem that’s been making the rounds on Facebook of late.

Don’t ask for a lighter load, pray for a stronger shoulder.

First let’s examine the meaning of the platitude and then I’ll move on to why I think it is unhealthy and destructive. Basically, it is saying that life is difficult and rather than proactively trying to make it easier, simply accept the burden.

A charitable interpretation might be that it is encouraging people to struggle past obstacles rather than give up. This is a reasonable platitude but I don’t see that as being the meaning here. To me, this is something that the sadistic boss would say to the meek employee.

The reason I think it is destructive has everything to do with Libertarian ideals. It’s might seem backwards as individual freedom and achievement is one of the main themes of Ayn Rand and the Libertarianism as a whole, but there is nothing in the philosophy that tells a person not to ask for help when it is required.

If we look at this statement in a more objective fashion let’s examine the results.You are given a heavy load to carry. It is too heavy, you aren’t going to make it. Rather than simply ask a friend to help with the load or ask for a lighter assignment you simply struggle through and eventually collapse or injure yourself. Not good.

When I worked at the golf course years ago one of my friends was the assistant pro. At a golf course you work long hours and weekends over the summer and thus miss most of the summer holidays. My friend’s family had a lake house and he complained to me that he never got to go because he was always assigned to work. I simply advised him to ask for Independence Day off but offer to work another day in return. Can you guess what happened? Of course, he got the weekend off and had a great time with his family.

Even more destructive is the idea that prayer can lighten a load. The load is going to weigh the same no matter what (unless we take it to the moon or some other body where gravity is increased or diminished). This, by the way, is a good experiment for those who believe in the power of prayer. Pray all you want the chair on which you sit will turn to gold. Not going to happen. Prayer, like a placebo, can be effective but only when the person praying or being prayed for believes it. The chair doesn’t think and therefore isn’t going to change to gold. It is important to understand this, no matter how many million people pray for that chair to turn to gold – it never will. Never.

If we don’t ask for the things we want then no one is going to give them to us. This is a central theme of Libertarianism. We can’t expect people to give us things and if we work hard and don’t ask for a prize we aren’t going to get it.

So, for this platitude I would substitute: When the load is too heavy, lighten it.

Or: God helps those who help themselves. I strongly urge you to follow this link to learn about that platitude. You will be surprised.

As always, Like, Tweet, Stumble, Pinterest or otherwise share and if you disagree feel free to Comment!

Speaking of which, my mother sent me an email in partial disagreement over a recent post. Hey, mom! I’m trying to drum up publicity for my books, don’t send me a private email, comment! Let’s get some controversy started.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

Don't ask for a Lighter Load, Pray for a Stronger Shoulder

PlatitudeDumb platitude week starts off with this gem that’s been making the rounds on Facebook of late.

Don’t ask for a lighter load, pray for a stronger shoulder.

First let’s examine the meaning of the platitude and then I’ll move on to why I think it is unhealthy and destructive. Basically, it is saying that life is difficult and rather than proactively trying to make it easier, simply accept the burden.

A charitable interpretation might be that it is encouraging people to struggle past obstacles rather than give up. This is a reasonable platitude but I don’t see that as being the meaning here. To me, this is something that the sadistic boss would say to the meek employee.

The reason I think it is destructive has everything to do with Libertarian ideals. It’s might seem backwards as individual freedom and achievement is one of the main themes of Ayn Rand and the Libertarianism as a whole, but there is nothing in the philosophy that tells a person not to ask for help when it is required.

If we look at this statement in a more objective fashion let’s examine the results.You are given a heavy load to carry. It is too heavy, you aren’t going to make it. Rather than simply ask a friend to help with the load or ask for a lighter assignment you simply struggle through and eventually collapse or injure yourself. Not good.

When I worked at the golf course years ago one of my friends was the assistant pro. At a golf course you work long hours and weekends over the summer and thus miss most of the summer holidays. My friend’s family had a lake house and he complained to me that he never got to go because he was always assigned to work. I simply advised him to ask for Independence Day off but offer to work another day in return. Can you guess what happened? Of course, he got the weekend off and had a great time with his family.

Even more destructive is the idea that prayer can lighten a load. The load is going to weigh the same no matter what (unless we take it to the moon or some other body where gravity is increased or diminished). This, by the way, is a good experiment for those who believe in the power of prayer. Pray all you want the chair on which you sit will turn to gold. Not going to happen. Prayer, like a placebo, can be effective but only when the person praying or being prayed for believes it. The chair doesn’t think and therefore isn’t going to change to gold. It is important to understand this, no matter how many million people pray for that chair to turn to gold – it never will. Never.

If we don’t ask for the things we want then no one is going to give them to us. This is a central theme of Libertarianism. We can’t expect people to give us things and if we work hard and don’t ask for a prize we aren’t going to get it.

So, for this platitude I would substitute: When the load is too heavy, lighten it.

Or: God helps those who help themselves. I strongly urge you to follow this link to learn about that platitude. You will be surprised.

As always, Like, Tweet, Stumble, Pinterest or otherwise share and if you disagree feel free to Comment!

Speaking of which, my mother sent me an email in partial disagreement over a recent post. Hey, mom! I’m trying to drum up publicity for my books, don’t send me a private email, comment! Let’s get some controversy started.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

Science Rocks

Science Week – Geology

ScienceYep, you probably guessed it. Geology. It’s probably not the most exciting of the sciences but its study has incredible implications as far as they way we think about our world. And by that, I mean it presents tremendously strong arguments for critical thinking and against faith based thinking. That’s why I’m going to devote the last day of Science Week to Geology.

Geology is the study of solid Earth, the rocks of which it is composed, and the processes by which it evolves. Simply the study of the planet we live upon. This study is a critical tour de force destruction of the proposals of the Bible and faith based thinking as a whole.

It is also important in preparing for natural disasters and is a great hobby for those of you who like to collect rocks like Andy Dufresne. It also leads to Paleontology which is a super cool science! Who doesn’t like dinosaurs?

But, onto the real reason for my post. How geological discoveries contradict faith based thinking with tremendously strong evidence. Now, there are faith based thinkers who are happy to acknowledge the Earth’s age of 4.7 billion years and allow for a deity that created the universe but those aren’t the thinkers I’m talking about here. I’m talking about those who take the bible as the literal and absolute truth.

Literal translation of the Bible places the Earth around 6,000 years old based on a counting of the ages of fathers and sons for many generation. A simple look at the stratification of river canyons seems to obviously indicate long periods of erosion which strip away layers of earth each with their own characteristic colors and compositions. This is called the Law of superposition. Basically, lower layers are older. It’s really quite simple, intuitive, and obvious. It’s only when we have faith based thinking wherein it must not be true that people find convoluted explanations that contradict the evidence.

This law is further reinforced by something called the fossil record. The idea is that in each layer of the earth we find fossils. The lower we go the more primitive the species that are found. This is called the Principal of Faunal Succession. For example, in the stratified layers that contain dinosaur fossils we find no human fossils. This is tremendously strong evidence that dinosaurs existed long before humans which contradicts literal Biblical translations. This method is so powerful that geologists can look at the fossil record, pinpoint a “missing link” and then go find a layer of the earth where that creature should reside and soon enough, they find it. This has happened again and again.

It seems patently obvious to me that if all animals were created at the same time, as suggested by literal biblical translations, they would be evenly distributed through the layers. They are not, this is fact.

There is also something called Relative Dating which again shows a particular sequence of rock layers one piling upon the next the whole world around. Absolute Dating is a method by which a more precise age of rocks is determined. There are various methods each which present further strong evidence of the age of the earth and the progression of fossil species in each layer.

Geology also gives us the field of Plate Tectonics. Any five year old when first presented with a globe immediately recognizes that North America and South America fit together like pieces of a puzzle with Europe and Africa. Plate Tectonics shows us that the earth is a fluid place with the continents drifting. Again, this is fact. This also goes into the Faunal record where we find a species in bands that include South America and Africa clearly indicating the two were once joined. If the two were always separated then one species would not exist in both places. We find this evidence again and again in the fossil record.

It doesn’t take even a modicum of intelligence to put together the pieces. But, faith based thinking doesn’t want the earth to function like this so it is forced to come up with bizarre explanations for easily understood phenomenon.

Plate Tectonics also explains why we find little fish-like fossils high in the mountains. Faith based thinking tells us there must have been a flood. If that was the case, of course, we would find fish fossils of many different, modern species in the mountains. We don’t. We find only ancient species. It’s all so apparent once you eliminate your preconceived notions and look at the simple facts.

That’s my point today. Use your critical thinking skills. Look at the evidence, make strong conclusions. This sort of thinking is not just about geology, it is about how you lead your life, the decisions you make, and ultimately how much happiness and success you have.

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed Science Week. Next week is Dumb Platitudes I saw on Facebook week so stay tuned for the fun!

As always, Like, Pinterest, PlusOne, Tweet, Stumble, Digg, and all the rest if you think someone you know might find this topic, the stunning excitement of geology, interesting.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

Science Rocks

Science Week – Computers

ScienceI don’t think anyone takes computers for granted these days so there isn’t a lot of sense in telling everyone how important they are in the world. Instead I want to talk about how they, more than any politician, altered the economic landscape of the United States and mention of few of the most important names in the field. It’s important to understand why computer technology kept the U.S. as the world’s leading economy and why we are now, once again, in some danger of losing that power.

So my loyal followers, dig into your closets, find that oft used Time Travel cap, and place it firmly upon your head as we go … back … back … back to 1971.

Computers have been around for quite some time with even the ancients using calculating machines. I’m skipping past the fascinating stories of Hero of Alexandria, Wilhelm Shickard,  Charles Xavier Thomas, Ryoichio Yazu,  Joseph Marie Jacquard, Charles Babbage, Herman Hollerith, Arthur Pollen, and Konrad Zuse among a host of others. If you’ve time and inclination these are all interesting stories. However, I’m skipping ahead a bit.

In 1971 Intel developed the microprocessor for a Japanese computer company based on an invention of Robert Dennard. What I think is important here is that a U.S. company built it for a Japanese company. At this time Japan’s economy was growing while the U.S. was beginning a period of stagnation. Japanese cars were flooding the market and American consumers rightly found them to be superior to home built vehicles. Technology from Asia was beginning a flow that continues to this day with China leading the way.

Then in 1975 a little machine called the Altair 8800 was introduced and a group of young Americans began to play with it.  A couple of young fellows named Paul Allen and Bill Gates wrote something called a BASIC Interpreter for it. Two other young guys, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak began to work on their own versions of home computers.

Now, I’m going to leave aside all the name dropping and get back to the economics of computers and how they changed the landscape of U.S. power. By the late 1970’s there was a feeling that the U.S. was losing it’s place as the preeminent economy in the world. Gasoline embargoes and the rise of Asian technological advances contributed to a perception that probably had some merit if was overblown.

Computers changed all that. With companies like Microsoft, Apple, a reinvigorated IBM, Hewlett Packard, Xerox, Commodore, and a host of others suddenly pumping huge sums of money into the economy and paying massive tax bills our economy grew at an astonishing rate. The link between economic growth and technical achievement is strong. However, the boost we gained from computers is waning as it does with all new technology. There are some arguments that this boost was less than others throughout history.

With new technology our living standards improve dramatically, our work week declines, our free time increases, and our buying power increases. I think many of these things are directly attributable to the rise of computers and their related technologies.

The lesson I take from all this is that if we want to continue to improve our lives then we need to continue to invest in emerging technologies and particularly reward entrepreneurship. Too much of late I see Crony Capitalism and regulations designed to empower the established businesses at the expense of the small innovators.

This is a core message of Ayn Rand and Objectivism. If the big companies squeezed out Microsoft, Apple and others with regulations and government intervention our lives would have suffered. The individual achiever must be allowed to innovate and achieve and then we all benefit.

In my opinion, the next new technology is alternate energy. If we continue to invest heavily in subsidies for oil we will fall behind other nations researching nuclear, wind, solar, wave, thermal and other sources of power. If this happens will will lose our place as the most powerful economy in the world. I’ll take that topic on in more detail soon.

For now I simply want to say thank you to all the men and women who bring me computer technology! Gentlemen, Ladies, thank you! Maybe you can take the time to head down into the little cave where your IT staff resides eating donuts and making fun of the technologically illiterate. Ignore the odors, the dank depression, the wild eyed maniac drooling in the corner, and any other strange things you might see, pop your head in with a cheery smile and say, “Thanks!” Then get out of there while you still can!

Tell me what you think in the comments. Like, Tweet, Stumble, Pinterest, PlusOne, and otherwise share with your friends if you think this is worthwhile subject matter.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

Nuclear Power Plant

Nuclear Power – from a Critical Point of View

Nuclear powerNuclear Power is a controversial topic to be certain. In the next couple of days I’m going to try and look at the arguments for and against while applying my critical thinking skills to the debate.

I think first we have to actually define what nuclear power means. There are a lot of misconceptions and the topic is more than a little complicated. I don’t fully understand the nuances of the reaction by any stretch of the imagination but I’ll try to couch it in relatively easy to understand terms. By the way, this definition of a problem is critical in the analysis process. Read my Root Cause article.

Nuclear power plants, in their simplest concept, turn water into steam which is pressurized and fed into a steam turbine. The turbine then rotates and drives an electrical generator. Steam turbines of this nature account for about 90% of all electrical energy produced in the United States. A lot of this comes from coal and other non-nuclear sources but the basic process is similar.

Now, I know all my chemist and other scientifically knowledgeable friends and nieces will probably say this is too much of a simplification but my point isn’t really the process, so please bear with me.

In order to generate the heat to boil water and produce steam a nuclear reactor introduces an extra neutron into some uranium or plutonium. This generates a chain reaction wherein more and more of the uranium or plutonium splits into smaller elements and produces heat.

There are a number of arguments for and against nuclear power. I’ll get into the pros and cons tomorrow I just want to go over a few facts about how nuclear power is currently being used throughout the world.

It is estimated that about 16% of all electricity generated in the world comes from nuclear sources although because of ineffeciency of distribution it accounts for only about 2.6% of consumption.

The United States, France, and Japan are the leaders in production with France most of all depending on it for their energy demands. France in particular is used by proponents of nuclear power as a success story but there are nuances to that argument as well. Again, I’ll spend some time tomorrow talking about pros and cons.

Nuclear power also accounts for a huge percentage of the total energy produced in the universe. It’s what makes stars glow. That is something to think about.

I think I’ve laid out the concepts of nuclear power here pretty well and tomorrow I’ll talk about the pros and cons. I might end up having to split that into two articles because the arguments are complex and interesting and I like to keep these blogs relatively short so that you can read them easily during a break at work.

As always, tweet, comment, like, share, and otherwise tell your friends if you think this is worth reading.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

Love

Love

Love Love. Once again Valentines Day has rolled around. Those of you in relationships find ways to show your love to one another and those of us who are single either look on bemusedly or with envy.

I could examine the commercial and predatory nature of the holiday but instead I will look at emotional thinking and its relationship with logical thinking. In all fairness I must admit that I tend towards logical thinking. I remember getting angry as a kid when Mr. Spock didn’t do the most logical thing!

I’m a proponent of logical thinking and when we let our emotions “get in the way” we often impair our decision making process. But, well, but. Emotion is not something that easily conforms to the Randian philosophy of objectivism. It is currently impossible to treat love or its counterpart hate like a scientific experiment. It isn’t something that is repeatable on a regular basis. People will argue that lighting, music, proximity and other factors certainly can “cause” love but at best it is an inexact science. The other factor that cannot be denied is that we are unable to remove our emotions completely. They will always play a role in the decision making process.

I think it’s clear that emotions can send us in the wrong direction. We’ve all made horrible decisions when we ignored the facts and let our emotions rule our thinking. The counterpart is true as well. Sometimes an emotional decision turns out well. Often when we take unreasonable chances it is because emotions control our thinking. The odds are against a particular plan but it works because we were fueled by powerful emotions. Great advances are possible because people take risks that seem foolhardy in retrospect. Of course, people die in similar circumstances.

So, what do we take from this debate of logic versus emotion?

Despite my love of logical, critical thinking, there is no denying the factor emotions play in the advancement of the human race. I must come to the conclusion that the two types of thinking are forever partnered. Awww. They complement one another and must work as a team to be successful.

Without logic we are doomed to misunderstanding situation after situation and our efforts are doomed to failure. Without emotion we cannot make the foolish decisions that end in greatness. I suppose it comes down to finding a fair balance of the two. I would lean towards giving logic the lions share of the process but to ignore emotion is to not truly live.

Happy Valentines Day!

Like, Tweet, Comment, Stumble, Plus, or otherwise share if you think others might be interested in these thoughts.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

I blame you … and me

VotingOne of the common themes I see in politics is frustration with our representatives in Washington. They are perceived to be partially if not fully responsible for the woes of our nation. Personally, I don’t find fault with them. I blame me and and I blame you.

In the United States we live in what is called a Representative Republic. This basically means that the voters elect representatives who make the decisions. Now, we are slowly becoming a democracy but I’ll save my opinion on that development for a future post.

One argument here is that if we don’t like what our representatives are doing in Washington, in our State, or in our home town, then we have a simple remedy. Vote for someone who makes better decisions.

However, this is not my main argument. In a representative Republic the politicians are representative of the voters. So, if we don’t like the politicians then our problem is with ourselves. What has happened to the United States? Or has anything happened? Have we always be selfish, bickering, and out to gratify our immediate needs regardless of future consequences?

I think the evidence suggests that there was a time when Americans cared about something besides themselves. Certainly the Founding Fathers were trying to build a nation that would change the world, not just their circumstances with England.

I realize there are many wonderful people in this country but the we must look to our politicians because they are a reflection of who we are. Our votes, our values, our desires. That’s what we see in Washington, us. I see men and women who desire election more than governance, whose decisions are based on what will grant them immediate gratification (election victory, donor money) and no stomach for painful solutions. Why do I see this? Because this is us. We vote for them, we, apparently, want them.

Don’t get me wrong here. I’m still an Objectivist of the Ayn Rand school. People need to do what is in their self-interest. But, it is in our self-interest to have a strong country.

Your next question is, and should be, so Tom, complain away but what do you offer as a solution? Stop telling me what’s wrong and start telling me how to fix it.

Here it is. Teach people to think critically.

Write blogs on how to make good decisions. Think everything through so as to be a shining example for your friends and your family. Listen to the political pundits and then research their words. Read articles, come to an informed, critical decision. If the majority of people can do this, and it’s not easy, then we will elect politicians who do the same thing. Then, well, anything is possible.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist