Hot Stuff

The Sun has a mass slightly less than 2 e+30 kg, and radiates a bit less than 4 e+26 Watts (Joules/sec). That amounts to about 2/10,000 of a Watt per kilogram. For comparison, a 60 kg human (132 lbs) produces about 100 Watts. On a Watt per kilogram basis, a human is thus producing about 10000 times as much heat as the Sun. So why is the Sun so much hotter and brighter that you are? One way of looking at it is that the Sun has far less surface area per kilogram than you do - something like a billion times less, so the amount of heat leaving it per unit area is about 100,000 times more. Another thing to think about is the reaction rate. Conversion of Hydrogen to Helium is quite slow in the Sun - an average Hydrogen nucleus (proton) may bump around for ten billion years or so before it (and three friends) get converted to Helium. A molecule of ATP in a human cell only lasts a couple of seconds.

We Are With Stupid

There is a tiny bit of satisfaction to realize that we aren't the only country run by idiots. Right now, though, the toughest competition seems to be coming from our long time ally and former colonial master, the no longer so very United Kingdom. Brexit is turning out to be a disaster, surprising absolutely no one with a positive IQ. Although I don't know of any evidence that the British leadership is in the pocket of a hostile foreign power, it does seem that the two chief political parties are both dedicated to the same stupid idea. It looks like the Brits are coming face to face with a serious "now what?" moment.

What is IQ?

Most of us have some idea of what we mean by intelligence, but putting it into precise words is not so easy. Arun Gupta, who has seemingly been obsessed with IQ for a while, has collected definitions of intelligence from a thirty odd people who spent much of their careers studying the question. While the definitions have considerable overlap, they are anything but isomorphic. Some of the definitions are peculiar enough than one might reasonably deduce that cockroaches are smarter than people and bacteria are smarter still. Francis Galton seems to have been the first to systematically attempt to measure intelligence, but the tests he devised were failures. Alfred Binet wasn't actually trying to measure intelligence - he called what he measured "mental age" - but the mainly verbal tests he devised to measure educational readiness became the first IQ tests. (See the Wikipedia article: Intelligence Quotient for this and much else. Unlike Galton's attempts, these t…

Wall Flowers

If we are going to build a wall, can we just do it right? It needs to be tall, at least 20 meters, and there needs to be a road along the top, wide enough for two chariots to pass without slowing down - say ten meters. It should be stylish, continuously decorated with murals extolling the many virtues of the USA. There should be flower beds on the US side, carefully tended by gardeners from down south. It could be paid for with a wealth tax on billionaires only - say 2 % of net worth per year..


Not quite 3 months after being kidnapped by a man who murdered her parents, Jayme Closs managed to escape and go for help. I just watched a press conference where police and FBI congratulated each other on how hard they had worked on the case and were grateful that she had been brought "home." I almost threw up - however hard they worked, they didn't free her, she freed herself. In effect they spent three months ineffectually spinning their wheels. Well, that happens, but it doesn't exactly call for congratulations - an apology might be more appropriate. And the poor kid is hardly home - her parents are dead. Thank goodness she is free of the kidnapper, but recovery will still be very hard.

Teach A Man to Fish

And you are giving him a skill that's probably increasingly obsolete in a world of ocean warming and increasingly oxygen poor waters. Or maybe just making him unfit for more productive activity. In any case, if you then want to teach another guy to fish you need to do the whole rigamarole over again. Other economically valuable skills also take a lot of time and training. To make a radiologist, say, takes 12 to 14 years of postsecondary training, and the radiologist then may have a career of another 30 but likely not more than 40 years. Teach a robot to fish though, or how to read radiological images, and you have (potentially) taught them all. Human to human information transfer is slow and very error prone, but computer to computer transfer is millions or billions of times faster and nearly error free if done properly. I mention this because the AI deniers are at work. The usually acute Sabine Hossenfelder is the latest offender in my mandatory read list. Here is the mo…

The Speech

I disagree with almost everything the President does, but I have to give him this one one points. He gave a simple,m Presidential sounding speech, and made an emotional case - which probably much more important than a logical one. I think that the emotional case he made was deeply dishonest, but does that even matter any more? The responders are always on the back foot in these things, and I think Pelosi and Schumer did about as well as they could, but I think they lost. They missed their chance to make their own emotional case, and maybe that's just as well. Will it make any difference?