Showing posts from 2018

Auto Autos

If you live in a major city and haven't seen an autonomous vehicle yet, you probably will soon, but if you want to buy one for personal use, it might be five or ten years. The NYT has a story on the state of play. The basic conclusion is that limited applications like buses and maybe taxis in central cities, farm tractors, and long haul trucking are pretty close, but all weather operation on all roads, not so much. Right now this technology is driving big chunks of both artificial intelligence and sensor technology. The side effects of these developments may be even more important than the transportation revolution they will bring.

Digital Attitude

I have both the Amazon and Google versions of the verbal assistant, and I had asked Alexa (the Amazon version) to set a timer for me. When it went off I mistakenly said "OK Google, stop", Alexa didn't turn off the alarm or say anything, but she did display "Try Alexa, stop." The digital servants are developing an attitude. I don't think that it's a good sign.


I expect the world will be watching what happens to US stocks tomorrow. My (totally worthless) guess is that we see the market gain back much of Monday's damage, but if carnage continues, that will be a pretty bad sign.

Rough Beast

Eugene Robinson, writing in the Washington Post , quotes Yeats re our current catastrophe of a President: “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; / Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world . . . And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, / Slouches toward Bethlehem to be born?” Robinson has seen that beast: The chaos all around us is what happens when the nation elects an incompetent, narcissistic, impulsive and amoral man as president. This Christmas, heaven help us all.

Bearly Here

The NASDAQ and S&P are in Bear territory, and the Dow is very close. Trump is furious with the Fed, but he would do better to look in the mirror. His reckless incompetence is almost surely a major factor in the decline, but diagnosing stock futures is an art I had best leave to its own witch doctors. If I believed the Fed, I would probably be buying right now, but while I somewhat trust the Fed, my faith in Trump's demonstrated reckless stupidity and likely treason is unbounded from above. I'm also profoundly suspicious of a boom founded on massive government borrowing.

Fiat Money

The subject is a favorite bugaboo of Ayn Randers and various other nutjobs of the right. The first fiat money we know about was the silver coinage introduced to replace the somewhat cumbersome barley money previously used in ancient Mesopotamia. That barley money, in turn, was the last true commodity money. Silver and gold, like paper money, are valuable mostly because people think they are, though they are decorative and have a few technological uses. Just sayin'.

What Would Superintelligence Look Like?

I have been known to mock those* who think that selective breeding plus maybe a bit of CRISPR could produce humans with IQs of 1000. Whatever that means. Whatever does that mean? My only, or at least main, guide, is what I would wish to be able to do better, intellectually speaking. I'd like to have a better memory, an eidetic memory, that could recall everything I had learned. I'd like to be able to understand complicated arguments and equations at sight, and I'd like to see remote analogies and connections better and faster. Most of these seem to reduce to better memory and faster processing. Does that sound like anything that we've ever heard of? If you said computers, you might be right, but there are still some things people do that computers can't do (yet!). The most important is constructing sophisticated generalizations from what they know, and storing them as meta knowledge. I think that we humans usually do that by creating narratives - from Gene

Climate Catastrophe

WC has another post on (I think) climate and economics. As usual, I find his post somewhat inscrutable, but after scruting my best, I think that he's arguing that effects on GDP are the best, or at least a good, way of quantifying the effects of human induced climate change. I have a few problems with this, one of them being that predicting GDP change seems to be a hell of a lot harder than predicting climate change, especially over time periods greater than a decade. I'm more interested in the prospects for climate catastrophe - climate caused changes severe enough to seriously disrupt civilization. The history of Earth offers us plenty of such catastrophes. The collapse of Bronze Age civilization in approximately 1177 BCE was a good example, albeit one almost certainly far more limited in scope that the kind of global climate change we are now making. The draught that apparently precipitated that collapse saw most major cities destroyed and the hordes of the so-called

Bernie and Biden

I like Joe Biden a lot, and think that Bernie Sanders has done a good job shaking up some of the settled wisdom of the Democratic party, but they are too damn old to be President. So is Trump, so was Reagan in his second term, and, for that matter, so was Hillary. I think that it's crazy to elect anybody over 65 as President, and somebody in their mid forties through fifties should be ideal. I also think judges should face retirement at 70 or 72, and Senators and Congressmen at 75.


Michael Flynn's lawyers and allies don't seem to have done him any favors by pushing the theory that he was somehow tricked into lying to the FBI. The judge looked at this stuff and cross examined the General about whether he had been tricked, felt he was innocent, and so on, and he was forced to deny it all in court. The judge went further and asked Flynn about some of his other likely illegal activities that were excused on account of his cooperation, even pointing out that working for a foreign power while ostensibly the US National Security Advisor was tantamount to treason. Flynn richly deserved this comeuppance, but Mueller clearly has bigger fish to fry.

What's Philosophy Got to Do With It?

The traditional subjects matters of philosophy are Metaphysics , Epistemology , Ethics , Logic , Political Philosophy , and Philosophy of Religion . If GRE scores by intended major are a guide, philosophy continues to attract many top students. They top the charts in two of the three categories, Verbal Reasoning and Analytical Writing, and even manage to get barely above average in Quantitative Reasoning. So what do they learn, and what is it good for? My philosophy prof had an ironic joke: what's the difference between a philosophy PhD and Large Dominos Pizza? The Pizza can feed a family of four. In the real world though, philosophy PhDs who don't get tenured faculty spots are smart, recognized as such, and usually get smart people jobs as computer analysts, executives, comedy writers, and so on. Their chances of getting good jobs in their field are probably a bit worse than, say, astrophysicists, but for both, most will wind up doing something else. So what about wha

Robbie's Got Your Job and Gone.

A recent economics paper looks at the effect of robots on employment and pay. The authors conclude that each robot decreases employment in the affected sectors by about 5 jobs. Thomas B. Edsall discusses this and other robotic effects in this NYT opinion piece , and concludes that these effects fall hardest on the people who voted most heavily for Trump - blue collar workers without college degrees. Some of this effect can be traced directly to the Trump tax cut, which which accelerates depreciation of money spent on robots. As we know, though, there is no shortage of jobs in the US right now. However, there is a shortage of high value-added jobs. The kinds of factory jobs lost to robots were classic high value-added jobs, since the combination of man and machine could produce far more than a man unaided, and the machines without people to run them couldn't produce at all. The problem with robots is that they need far fewer people to run them and most of those people need s

War on Christmas

Trump cancels Christmas Party for press.

Taking Out the Trash: Philosophy

One trouble, anyway, seems to be that in philosophy, bad ideas are immortal. I was made painfully aware of this when I took a course in Ancient Philosophy, though I think that I already suspected it. A course in ancient philosophy is about what the ancients thought, of course, so it has considerable historical and anthropological interest in any case, but what bothered me was that we were expected to take, or at least memorize all that stuff at face value. Some of those ancient ideas, like Zeno's paradoxes and the atomic theory of Democritus were of deep and lasting value - we know, today, the resolution of Zeno's paradoxes, and it's a crucial foundation of mathematics - calculus and analysis, and Democritus was spectacularly prescient. Other stuff, like Plato's theory of forms, is mostly an illusion, and Aristotle's Physics is deeply misguided though his Poetics is still profound. If physics were done that way, students would still waste years studying phlogis

Such Stuff As Dreams Are Made Of

My neighbor pointed out to me that when you are retired, you never get a day off. With classes over, though, I have a bit more time on my hands, and so I'm paying attention to my dreams. Basketball: I've mentioned before that I've noticed that I can't shoot or pass accurately in my dreams, and I don't dribble well either. Maybe my cerebellum is asleep. I can dunk, though, somewhat clumsily, but it helps that I can get well above the rim. I'm also a hell of a skater - I can even skate on waxed floors in my socks. Oddly enough, I can also tap dance, which is impressive since I can barely waltz when awake. I'm also pretty dangerous in hand to hand combat - it's not technique, it's just raw power. Hordes of enemies are crushed by me. In my dreams.

My Inner Bigot

It seems that psychological studies have revealed that even people who hate bigotry and consider themselves open minded have a lot of implicit biases. They have even developed a test for it. I took it, as you may if you follow the link, and discovered that yes, I do have a lot of implicit biases. This disappointed but did not surprise me. It's not like I didn't have a lot of clues. ESPN or somebody has experimented with letting a woman call football games. I listened and hated it. Why? No clue. If she was bad at it I certainly couldn't identify how. Implicit bias seems like a good guess though. Today while riding the campus shuttle bus a young woman in traditional Muslim head scarf got on, and I felt a small twinge of antipathy - quickly squelched but there, lurking evilly in my subconscious. There is lots of evidence that we all have such prejudices, even if we work to suppress and overcome them. Such, apparently, is human nature.

Good Guy With A Gun

An Alabama mall had a shooter. A citizen with a concealed carry - apparently the proverbial good guy with a gun -drew his gun and tried to lead people away from the shooter. Police showed up and gunned down the good guy, who happened to be black. I have a hard time constructing a scenario where either the citizen with a gun or the police made an egregious mistake. So who should we blame? How about the NRA and idiots who constructed our absurd gun laws. The shooter has not been caught.


Having gotten a cooperation deal with the prosecutor, why would Paul Manafort lie? I can think of a few possibilities. a)Lying is so integral to his nature that he, like Trump, probably can't tell the difference. b)He fears something more than life in prison. The wrath of the oligarchs he cheated? c)He is counting on a pardon from Trump. d)He is so conceited that he thought he could get away with it. My guess is c? Anybody? Former Deputy Attorney General Harry Litman reads the tea leaves. He can't figure it out either. He thinks that a late pardon deal would be perilous for all concerned.

Book Review

Perhaps some might guess that NY 2140 was not my cup of tea - and I don't drink tea. As a thriller it has lots of faults: slow pace, punch of suspense repeatedly pulled, characters not either well developed or interesting and a lot of dry exposition. There are a couple of villains in the book: finance and capitalism. I have my problems with both, but the author, I think, doesn't really understand what he is talking about. So what about the future world he created? It's wetter, sea level having risen 50 feet or so, but somehow, much of the drowned part of New York and other cities continues to be occupied. This is probably more interesting to those intimately familiar with the geography of the city than to me, a fairly infrequent visitor. It's a largely post carbon burning world, but I didn't find that especially interesting either.

NY 2141 WTF?

Scenario - 6-10 cops show up at a finance firm, with a warrant, and demand record. CEO summons security, and cops leave. WTF? That's ridiculous. Even if they were outnumbered 100 to 1 cops would point guns at CEO and summon backup. CEO and security guys would be arrested for obstruction.

NY 2141 Numbers

I think my SF novels should try to get basic numbers right. Without major spoilers I think I can say that two chests of gold coins figure in the plot. Small heavy chests, but still something a couple of people could pick up. The gold allegedly in each of the chests is supposed to be worth about two billion dollars. Right now, a kilogram of gold is worth about $40,000 dollars. At that rate, $2 billion would weigh 50,000 kilograms. I don't think two people could pick that up. Hundred dollar bills pack more buck per kilo. At 1 gram per bill, a million bucks is 10 Kilograms, but a billion is still ten metric tons = tonnes. You will need a super-duty pickup to pull the trailer. A semi for $4 billion, and a small fleet if it's in gold.

Inequality II: Social Capital

What capitalism is good at allocating capital to exploit market opportunities. In particular, it has done a good job at exploiting the technological opportunities opened by the scientific revolutions of the past centuries. In the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, the big profit center was using the African slave trade to staff the sugar plantations of Brazil and the Caribbean, and the cotton plantations of the American South. Europe's taste for sugar and rum was sated, but this was not a rising tide that lifted all boats. Sugar productivity was increased but millions of slaves were worked to death in abysmal conditions. The narrowly economic minded, especially libertarians, think that a productivity increase that distributes 99% to the few and 1% to the many is a good deal all around, but is it? The clearest evidence against that is assessment of the effect on social capital. Wikipedia: Social capital broadly refers to those factors of effectively functioning social gr

NY 2140

I really hate giving up on a book. This leaves me deeply conflicted when I don't like the book. There are many things to hate in NY 2140, starting with the structure, a series of episodes each starring one of the not very interesting characters. Many of these episodes seem utterly pointless, not advancing the plot nor saying anything interesting. Many seem devoted to the author's theory of finance, a subject I don't think he understands at all well. Others consist of dialog less interesting than anything you might here in the grocery store. A who done it ought to have a plot, and it ought advance at a sprightly pace. Nobody seems to have mentioned this to the author. It's like one of those amateur play productions where you spend more time watching the stage hands move the furniture than watching the action. To be continued. UPDATE: 51%, Story picking up speed, finally.

Inequality I: Net Worth

The great failure of capitalism is enormous inequality. Inequality has been rapidly growing in the US, and has recently reached levels never seen before. The richest man in the US has more than a million times the net worth of the median household. He had about 100,000 times as much as a 90th percentile household (top ten percent). He even has ten thousand times as much as as one of the top 1% households (99th percentile). The curve may steepen. A top 0.1% household (99.9 percentile) only has about 1/3000th of Richie Rich's wealth and even the 99.99th percenter has only 1/1000th as much. The 1% are very rich compared to me and almost everyone I know, but in the grand scheme of things, the poorest slave in ancient Greece was economically closer to its richest man than a 0.1 percenter is to the richest American.

A Star is Born

Caption: the Pillars of Creation, dark cloud remnants of a giant molecular complex backlighted by reflection nebulae illuminated by bright young stars. Some evidence suggests that this complex has already been blasted apart by a supernova still enshrouded in dust. Definitive evidence should reach us in a thousand years or so. So you say you want to be a star. A lot of success in anything is about being in the right place at the right time. In the case of becoming a star, that place is in a galaxy with sufficient dust and gas, and getting down to the nitty gritty, being in a massive molecular cloud complex , in one of the cores of such complexes. Such clouds are the coldest (10-30K) and densest parts (up to 10^6 molecules/cm^3) of the interstellar medium - the gas and dust that occupies the space among the stars. The big ones have masses from thousands to millions of times the mass of our Sun. It seems to be only in these massive, cold, and dense clouds that gravity can


What are the unsolved problems in science today? My list: Origin of life: this is one where we really seem to be closing in. I would be surprised if it's still unsolved twenty years from now. There are still plenty of crucial steps to be filled in. Finding life on another planet would probably help answer a lot of questions. What is dark matter? It's probably some new particle, but all attempts to detect it have failed. No clue as to when or if this one can be solved. And how about dark energy? This one is a real stumper. What is consciousness? I can't decide if this is a real problem or not. And then there are questions which we may never have any answers too: The origin of the universe, the nature of time, and why it is like and unlike space. Anybody got any other good ones?


Socialism seems to be picking up a bit of speed lately. Not Leninist Communism, which has pretty much retreated to a couple of backward redoubts - and I suspect that it's crumbling pretty fast even in Cuba and Venezuela. I'm talking instead about the kind of democratic socialism that flowered in Europe after the war. Leninism only seems to be able to grab power by more or less violent revolution. It's big scores were Russia and China, and in each case succeeded due to the hopeless incompetence of the predecessor states. It's probably worth noting that neither of these revolutions was an utter failure. They were bloody, murderous, and ultimately economically disastrous, but they also destroyed some of the most backward elements of their local cultures. Both Russia and China remain unfree autocratic states, as they were before their revolutions, but neither is still Communist or even socialist. That happened because their leaders realized that the Communist system


Capitalism seems to be a fairly successful economic system when it's tried, in the sense that it seems to be pretty good at producing economic growth. It has a few powerful enemies. As Adam Smith pointed out in his seminal book, nobody hates a free market like the capitalists who have to compete in it, and since successful capitalists get a lot of money and concomitant political power, they work like crazy to shut down competition. Fascism, crony capitalism and oligarchical kleptocracies are a common result. Every once in a while, oligarchies get so inefficient and cumbersome that they trigger a successful revolution. That's the fate that the hysterics on the anti-left would lead us to. Those who see Communists under every bed and in every closet would turn the nation over authoritarian minded would be fascists like Trump.


Science fiction was a big part of my youth, from age ten until at least the end of my teens. Much of what I loved was already classical, from Jules Verne to Edgar Rice Burroughs to the golden age of SF in the 1930s-1950s. Lately, I've turned back to SF in a small way, but mostly been disappointed. Currently I'm reading New York 2140 , a fairly highly praised book by Kim Stanley Robinson. The hard SF of my youth was filled with astonishing predictions: nuclear power, space travel, robots, communication satellites, smartphones. There were some others that didn't work out: time travel, psychokinesis, and that staple of Popular Science, flying cars, but overall, guys like Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, and Robert Heinlein were amazingly prescient as well as entertaining. The central conceit of New York, 2140 is that sea levels have risen 50 feet due to global warming, but that Manhattan underwater is still thriving, and many major buildings of today, suitably reinforced

Sauron Happy With "Almost" All The Nazgul


Buck Sawbuck for President

The Campaign Video (Buck, standing in a field of short grass. He is wearing a black Stetson, alligator cowboy boots, faded blue jeans, and the kind of shirt real cowboys might wear to a dance. He is carrying a Remington Versa Max semi-automatic shotgun. The background is a hilly pasture with real longhorn cattle in the distance.) BUCK: In these threatening times a man isn't judged by what he's for so much as what he is against. (Camera moves right until Buck is seen in front of small billboard proclaiming: GUN CONTROL NOW!) BUCK: I'm against gun control. (Raises gun and fires twice. Billboard shatters. When debris clears, two partially clad and slightly bloody young people stumble out, pieces of billboard stuck in strategic places.) BUCK: Get a damn motel! I'm against the Democrat Party, RINOs and WINOs - that's women in name only for the unwoke. (Fires into the sky. Large bird plummets to ground.) BUCK: I don't care much for Dinos either. I'

Useless People

The New York Times has a profile on Yuval Noah Harari and the infatuation of Silicon Valley's elite with him. The opening line of the story: The futurist philosopher Yuval Noah Harari thinks Silicon Valley is an engine of dystopian ruin. So why do the digital elite adore him so? I first became acquainted with his work through his online class based on his book Sapiens and one thing I immediately noticed was that he sat so still during his lectures that I thought he might be paralyzed from the neck down, but no, he is just that quiet. The story is great and I heartily recommend it. When Mr. Harari toured the Bay Area this fall to promote his latest book, the reception was incongruously joyful. Reed Hastings, the chief executive of Netflix, threw him a dinner party. The leaders of X, Alphabet’s secretive research division, invited Mr. Harari over. Bill Gates reviewed the book (“Fascinating” and “such a stimulating writer”) in The New York Times. “I’m interested in how Sili

School Days

You are probably not having the real grad school experience until several major and complicated homeworks are due and you suddenly realize that that pleasant seeming professor is actually Satan or maybe Voldemort in disguise.

Trump Moves to Shut Down Mueller

Firing Sessions and appointing an anti-Mueller lackey to supervise him is an obvious prequel to shutting down the probe. Only Congress has any power to prevent this, and Congress will be one hundred percent controlled by Republicans for more than two more months. With Republicans in Congress and the Senate more dependent on Trump than ever, will they act to shut down this obvious obstruction of justice? It seems improbable.

Trump +1, Pollsters -1

Either pollsters can't find Trump voters, or they won't tell pollsters the truth.

Book Preview: 21 Lesson for the 21st Century

Some readers may recall that I'm a fan of Yuval Noah Harari, the Israeli historian making waves with his analyses of the human past and future. I just started reading his latest book, and I'm quite enthusiastic about the first chapter, about the current global disillusionment with liberalism. Some excerpts: Humans think in stories rather than in facts, numbers, or equations, and the simpler the story, the better. Every person, group, and nation has its own tales and myths. But during the twentieth century the global elites in New York, London, Berlin, and Moscow formulated three grand stories that claimed to explain the whole past and to predict the future of the entire world: the fascist story, the communist story, and the liberal story. The Second World War knocked out the fascist story, and from the late 1940s to the late 1980s the world became a battleground between just two stories: communism and liberalism. Then the communist story collapsed, and the liberal story re

Worst Case and Best: Elections

From my point of view, the worst case election scenario is Republicans retaining control of House and Senate, while the best case is Democrats winning both. FiveThirtyEight, the stat masters, think the worst case is slightly more probably than my best, but that the intermediate case is distinctly more probable, with House and Senate going Dem and Pub respectively. Their stats predict that none of the three cases is very improbable, with odds of about 1 in 7 for the two extremes, that is to say more likely than a terrible NFL team beating a very good one. So how bad could an abrupt slide into fascism be? Pretty damned bad.

What is Liberalism?

Liberalism is a political and moral philosophy based on liberty and equality....... Wikipedia . Liberalism has been under attack in the US and around the world, so I thought I'd take a brief look at the history. The idea grew out of the Enlightenment and its emphasis on reason as the basis life and policy. It's enemies were hereditary privilege, state religions, and absolute monarchy, but it also became associated with individual rights, representative democracy, free trade and free enterprise. Initially, of course, those rights were reserved for the elite - wealthy white men in a few advanced countries. The internal logic of freedom and equality was biased in favor of expansion of those rights, though, and gradually, ponderously and against ferocious resistance it was expanded to end slavery, enfranchise women, and largely end colonialism. Revolutions in England, the US, and France announced liberalism to the world, but absolute monarchy didn't end until after Worl

What is a Galaxy?

It's pretty hard not to have sometime seen pictures of the beautiful island universes, or galaxies, in which all stars are apparently born and most live out their lives. So what makes a galaxy, and what is their history? Unlike stars, there don't seem to be any young galaxies. They all seem to have been born shortly after the big bang. There are, however, galaxies with lots of young stars and galaxies consisting almost entirely of old stars, but so far as I know, there aren't any galaxies with *no* old stars. I mentioned that some stars no longer live in galaxies, but they are thought to have been expelled by various cosmic accidents, the most important of which are collisions between galaxies. Many or perhaps most of all existing large galaxies are the product of multiple mergers of smaller galaxies. Our own Milky Way galaxy, for example, is currently in the process of gobbling up several smaller neighbors, and almost certainly has dined on many more in the past.

The Greatest

We Hominids are fond of ranking stuff. Sometimes that's easy, like picking the greatest rock drummer. Most of the time it's more disputable, like naming or ordering the best ten or one hundred books. Connolley mentioned and knocked one such list in his review of Heart of Darkness . In particular he was offended that The Great Gatsby got a much higher rank than Conrad's work. That of course is the fun of such lists. HoD does a bit better (#23 vs. #57) on the metalist compiled from 119 other lists here , and Gatsby does a bit worse (#4 vs. #2), but still beats the Conrad book handily. I'm very fond of both books and would not like to compare them. Joyce's Ulysses gets headed by Proust (ISOLT) and Cervantes (DQ) here, which suits me, but I would put War and Peace ahead of them all. What I like about these lists is the potentially great reads I haven't met yet. Numbers 12 and 22 look like candidates.

The Problem With Calling Trump a Fascist

This is a guy who long kept a book of Hitler's speeches at his bedside - perhaps this was before he discovered twitter. He has been quick to dip into the fascist playbook, demonizing opponents and minorities, he worships at the feet of the Big Lie. The problem is not that the man lacks fascist inclinations, indeed, he revels in them. The problem is that the word is worn out. For a few generations there have been college students proclaim fascism every time somebody takes french fries off the lunch menu. Others think meter readers are jack-booted thugs. The other problem is that the world, having perhaps forgotten what Hitler, Mussolini, Franco and their ilk wrought, seems to have developed a lot more tolerance of intolerance and thuggish leaders. I want to look at that in a future post.

Two Murdered Saudi Sisters?

In a bizarre development, two Saudi sisters were found dead in the Hudson River , their bodies duct taped together facing each other, one day after their mother says the family was ordered home by the Saudi government because the sisters had requested asylum. This seems especially sinister after the murder of a Washington Post columnist by a Saudi hit team in Istanbul. There are many questions here, including the cause of death, how the Saudis found out about the asylum request (it's protected information), and, of course, was this yet another Saudi hit? If so, we should have no choice but to terminate all relations Saudi Arabia, and give Saudi Arabia the choice of surrendering the perpetrators, including the homicidal prince, or facing war. Of course given that our first family is in the pocket of said prince, that might be difficult. There is a popular impression that the US is heavily dependent on Saudi Arabia. This is almost entirely a myth, since the US is almost entirel

The Times They Are A Changing

In the old days we used to get hundreds of trick-or-treaters. A hundred or so from the local neighborhood and later in the evening van loads of twelve or fifteen kids from somewhere or other. The neighborhood has aged, so there are fewer local kids, and at 8:30 PM I have yet to see a vanload. Maybe they found greener pastures. This is a disaster, since I bought enough candy to induce diabetic comas in a couple of elementary school classrooms, or maybe a whole school, and, so far, at least, I've seen less than two dozen kids. I've been giving out four fun size candy bars per kid. I should have made it twelve. I will stay open until 9 - where are you van kids?

They've Gone About As Far as They Can Go?

Has the human run his race? The picture in art, science, and politics isn't encouraging. Sculpture reached its apex somewhere between 500 and 2500 years ago. Music, painting, and literature all topped out at least 150 years ago. Attempts to go beyond the works produced then either produced disasters like Ulysses or throwbacks like abstract art. Physics was the glamor science of my youth, but it hasn't produced anything notably new for almost 40 years. Chemistry has been reduced to a computer exercise in quantum mechanics. Biology is still mining the last gems of the DNA revolution, but the end certainly looks in sight - it's hard to imagine any more great revelations. Cosmology may have gotten us almost as close to the beginning of everything as we can hope to get. What about the supposed mystery of consciousness? My guess is that there won't turn out to be much there there. Robots (today) and earthworms will turn out to have a little bit of consciousness, ho

Incarnate Metaphor

I was driving home from the dentist when a campaign poster caught my eye. "Taxation is Theft" it proclaimed, along with the name of somebody whom I assume was running for something not mentioned. I could make a pretty good guess that he was affiliated with the Libertarians. They seem to have a predilection for this kind of metaphor made incarnate. Nobel economist and Libertarian icon Milton Friedman used to say that the draft was "slavery." Others on the fringe are not immune. Communists and Anarchists are known to propound that "property is theft." Right-wing cartoons of Obama liked to portray him as a monkey, and others compared the Affordable Care Act to Hitler's genocides. These abuses of language and thought exploit some point of resemblance to equating the phenomenon in question with the despised counterpart. If somebody steals your wallet by force or stealth, that's theft. Taxation also compels you to surrender some of your mone

Of Course Trump is to Blame

He assigned the bomber his target list. Essentially every person targeted by the bomber had been targeted by Trump lies and abuse. Trump wasn't alone, of course, all his lies were repeated and amplified by Fox Lies and the right-wing radio and social media freak shows - but something said by the President carries a lot more moment than the even the rantings on Fox. Trump is not innocent in the Pittsburgh and Kentucky murders either. Despite his Jewish Son in Law and family, he has trucked often in anti-semitic and other racist tropes, as well as giving comfort to various Neo-Nazi groups. Equally important, he devotes his public speech to dividing Americans and fulminating hatred among them. Trump, though is anything but sui generis . He is the organic product and natural culmination of the modern Republican Party as created by Richard Nixon, Roger Ailes, and Lee Atwater - a party created out of racism, fear, and envy. Maureen Dowd notes that Ailes, whose other poisonous creat

Red Giants and the Horizontal Branch

When stars of moderate mass start to exhaust the amount of hydrogen in their core, the core has to heat up to keep the fusion rate high enough to balance the pressure of the gas above it. As the core begins to exhaust all its hydrogen, burning ignites in a shell above the core of helium ash. This causes the overall luminosity, or brightness, of the star to increase, the overlying volume to expand, and the atmosphere of the star to cool - the star ascends the so called red giant branch, becoming brighter, cooler (and consequently) redder. Many find this intuitive, but there is one strange thing - why should the interior of the star becoming hotter make the exterior cooler? Our friend the virial theorem, which says that 2K+U = 0, where K is the kinetic energy and U is the gravitational potential energy, might have something to say. The interior getting hotter, and the star consequently expanding, increases both K and U, since U becomes less negative. Consequently K for the outer re

False Flags

The RW conspiracy sites were quick to claim that the bombs sent to prominent targets of Trump were some kind of left wing false flag plot, and parts of the so-called mainstream media were quick to pick it up. What little we know about the arrested suspect strongly argues against this notion - never very credible to anyone with a functioning brain. Not that fact and logic are likely to dissuade any of the inhabitants of Trumpistan.

Why Does the Stratosphere Cool When the Troposphere Warms?

There is more than one way to explain this, but one of the deepest relies on the Virial Theorem. The Virial Theorem says that the kinetic energy of a system of particles (atoms, stars, or galaxies) bound by gravity, and in suitable equilibrium, is equal to -(1/2) times the gravitational potential energy. This powerful idea explains a lot of things about stars and galaxies, one of which is why when the center heats up, the surface cools down. Thus, the Sun today is both redder and brighter than it was a couple of billion years ago. Let us see how this idea applies to a planet like ours with a warming surface. the kinetic energy of a molecule is given by (1/2)*m*v^2 and its gravitational potential energy is given by -m*M(r)/r, so virial equilibrium implies that (on average) v^2 = M(r)/r. When the lower layer of the atmosphere heats up, the kinetic energy per molecule increases, the layer expands, the average molecule moves up, and M(r)/r decreases (potential energy becomes less neg

Good Bombers On Both Sides...

Of course we don't know yet who the bomber or bombers are that sent their bombs to Obama, Hillary, Soros, and CNN, but it's easy to see who has been feeding the fires of paranoia and hatred: Donald Trump, Fox News, and their even more egregious fans on the extreme right. It is no exaggeration to say that we are moving into fascist territory here. If history is a guide, fascism can't triumph without a lot collaborators who are just around for the ride, and in this respect the modern Republican party fits the description perfectly. They will probably condemn the bombs, but which of them will condemn those who incite?

Senator Lindseed

... was deeply disappointed by Saudi Crown Prince MBS (AKA, Mr. Bone Saw). He says he feels betrayed. It's a hard lesson Linz, but here's the deal: a whore just can't always count on it being true love.

Teaching Corporate Ethics

Kara Swisher, writing in the NYT , ponders whether ethics officers for tech companies could make them better citizens. Swisher ponders all the Saudi and Chinese money propping up tech stocks, but I have what I call a market based theory. I say send a CEO or three to the slammer. The others are mostly pretty bright - I bet they will get the hint. I'll guess three to six months would serve to clarify many a mind. After Britain suffered a major defeat in one of its wars, it hanged an admiral. I believe it was Pepys who noted that it did serve to get the attention of the other admirals.

Choosing Your Identity

Trump's administration has apparently defined the "transgender" identity out of existence by saying people are stuck with the sex indicated by their chromosomes. There are lots of other possible arguments about identity. Elizabeth Warren has been pilloried both by Trump and Native Americans for mentioning and proving that she has Native American ancestry. Another woman was drummed out of a leadership position by apparently falsely claiming to be black. So which categories are up for choice? We mostly agree that Americans are allowed to choose their political party, religious affiliation, and what sports teams they cheer for - though some religions don't allow that kind of choice. Ethnic identity seems to me a lot more socially determined than biological gender, so why is that off the table or delegated to some bureaucracy? We know the reason. It's because some privileges or opportunities are reserved by ethnic identity. It's possible to argue that the

Indian Country

Evidently Elizabeth Warren became so tired of Trump's gauche "Pocahontas" taunts that she got a DNA test. If she had been a bit more cunning she would have waited to spring this on Trump in a debate, but she did spill the beans. Naturally Trump promptly welshed on his bet (that he would give a million dollars to the charity of her choice if she proved to have Indian ancestry). She also managed to annoy a number of Native American activists. Why exactly? Well, Native American tribes are jealous of their ability to control their own membership. This has emotional and social roots but is also based on the bones Congress has thrown to the tribes in scanty recompense for having stolen their Continent - a very limited sovereignty and some affirmative action competitive advantages in certain economic ventures. In particular they don't want tribal membership expanded by DNA test. I'm pretty sure that Warren has not claimed tribal membership in any economically or

The Long Con

Ever since Ronald Reagan, running large deficits has been part of the the Republican strategy. So why should their plutocratic masters want large deficits? It has never been a secret. These guys hate Social Security and Medicare more than anything, except perhaps the thought that some non-rich person might breathe an untroubled breath. If the deficits become large enough, the strategy goes, they can target these hated "socialist" programs. That's why Reagan financed his star wars program with increases in Social Security taxes and debt. That's why W. financed his Iraq adventure with the biggest deficits ever, and why W's Mega Recession was as much a feature as a defect. HW got the boot for quailing at going along with the program. As I say, it's not like it's a secret - you can find it right wing think tank stuff from way back. Still, I was a bit surprised to see Mitch McConnell brazenly proclaim his plans *just before* the midterms. I thought th

Murder Most Foul

The apparent murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi Security forces was one of the most cold blooded and blatant assassinations of recent times. Israelis and Russians usually attempt to at least conceal or disguise their murders. The Saudis carry it out in their own consulate, and come prepared with their most senior forensic physician, armed with a bone saw, to dismember the body. Nothing is more startling than the flagrancy with which the murder was committed. Evidently the Saudis believe that the financial grip they have on Kushner and Trump gives them impunity, and it seems likely that once again they are right - the Trump family is already pushing the coverup. Right now, even Republican Senators are making noise about doing something, maybe because their constituents are no big fans of Saudis and Muslims more generally, but I suspect that they will fall into line when Trump whistles. Of course many are terrified that punishing the Saudis will trigger a

Entitled Rich Kids Stick Together

The late Michael Kelly cast some justifiably famous shade on liberalism. From Bret Stephens: [he] once wrote that the “animating impulse” of modern liberalism was to “marginalize itself and then enjoy its own company. And to make itself as unattractive to as many as possible.” “If it were a person,” he added, “it would pierce its tongue.” Pretty funny, even if one thinks that it was itself animated by some ugly prejudices against liberal support for then unpopular causes like gay rights. Kelly himself was killed in the idiotic Iraq invasion that he helped promote, but Bret Stephens liked his joke enough to make a whole column based on it. So what are the ways that Democrats ("liberals" in Stephens' parlance) are piercing their tongues these days? Opposing his fellow entitled rich kid and fellow Brett, Kavanaugh? Daring to actually question BK about the crimes he accused of. Daring to suspect him of transparent perjuries. Responding with measured anger to the


One other damned thing about getting old: I am increasingly impatient with stupidity. Especially my own.

The Supreme Court

I think that even Libertarians would concede that courts are an indispensable function of government.  In the case of the United States, where the Supreme Court is not only the ultimate interpreter of the laws but has also appropriated the right to judge laws against the template of the Constitution and strike down those it finds wanting, that function is exceptionally powerful, since the Constitution is concise, sometimes imprecise, and very difficult to amend. Which I suppose is why a group of American oligarchs, featuring some familiar figures like the Koch brothers and the Mercer family have poured millions into the so-called Federalist Society, an institution dedicated to getting its choices onto the Supreme Court.  To that end they have promoted partisan figures like the current conservative bloc on the Court by systematically recruiting them early in their careers and greasing the skids to get them appointed. The exceptional success of this project has now produced a US judi

Sorry Alexa

Amazon is flacking a new voice controlled microwave.  Because punching in 2:00 minutes or pushing the popcorn button is really difficult I guess. I like the idea of robotic food prep, but I want my robochef to take the stuff out of the fridge (or better, do my shopping), peel and chop the onions, and follow the recipe. Come on back when you've got something useful.

The Big Defeat

It would be silly to think that the Kavanaugh appointment to the Supreme Court is anything but a giant defeat for worker rights, voting rights, health care and reproductive choice.  Kavanaugh made it clear in his "goes around, comes around" remarks that revenge on his real and imaginary enemies is high on his priority list. Democrats' talk of reinvestigating him if they get a house majority is just a good way to ensure that they don't.  The whole struggle, well intentioned and necessary as it was, has probably torpedoed Dems chances of taking the Senate.  Don't ask me how Americans could be so stupid, but polls suggest that they are. Personally, I'm starting to look forward to the robot takeover.

Tribal Triumph

Once again we see the triumph of tribe in American politics.  Perhaps not since the Civil War have we seen a more odious tribe than the Tribe of Trump, but there it is. Once again we have seen Susan Collins do her Hamlet act, and once again she collapses with the vapors when faced with the question.  Not for her to strike out against a sea of troubles - rather the choice of the coward, but I'm really getting a bit tired of watching her work through her thousand deaths on national television. I suppose this conclusion was evident as soon as we saw that the FBI "investigation" was to be a fake, a little phony cover for all the Republican Hamlets. Apparently Kavanaugh's sterling demonstration of character and judicial temperament went over well with Republican women, who seem to have been energized by the spectacle.

Galaxies: Books

The study of galaxies has radically transformed our ideas of the universe, but there is also the fact that they are gorgeous photographic and romantic subjects.  We rely on a few textbooks in the graduate galaxies class I'm taking, so this has capsule reviews of the main ones.  Roughly in order of  how technically demanding they are. BOB - The famous Big Orange Book, An Introduction to Modern Astrophysics by Carroll and Ostlie.  1359 pages of reading fun on all aspects of Astrophysics.  Aimed at undergraduates and demands some calculus level physics and math.  Fear of this monster was one reason I decided to start my astrophysical study at the graduate level, but it is a great book.  Develops your mind and your biceps. Galaxies in the Universe: An Introduction by Sparke and Gallagher (2007).  Aimed at Junior and Senior undergrads in physics.  Easy to read with lots of good problems. Extragalactic Astronomy and Cosmology , by Schneider.  Aimed at the sophisticated advanced p

Cover Up

The so-called FBI investigation is looking a lot like a cover up whose only purpose was to give protection to a few GOP Senators who wanted to look open minded.  Not only did the FBI only interview only a few witnesses, they apparently ignored numerous individuals who attempted to come forward with directly relevant testimony.  Did they even interview Blasey Ford?  Not at last report.  Meanwhile, Grassley and company keep circulating anonymous and uncorrelated smears against Kavanaugh's accusers.  What scum! I hope I'm proved wrong, but from here it sure looks like another Trump special.

The Junk Drawer

The New York Times advises that if you hate leaving random stuff around the house, you need a junk drawer - a drawer reserved for all that random stuff that doesn't fit anywhere else. I have one.  I call it "the garage." Now if I only had a place to put my cars.

Republican Senators Know They Are Sending A likely Rapist To The Court

The evidence, from Phillip Bump of the Washington Post: Grassley's abrupt adjournment, the dismissal of designated questioner Rachel Mitchell, and Lindsey Graham's ugly little tirade directly followed Mitchell's questioning of Kavanaugh about the July 1 entry on his calendar.  That entry turns out to point to his attendance at a party very like the one described by Blasey Ford.  Even more interesting is the fact that it implicitly contradicts a central element of Kavanaugh's narrative - that he and Blasey Ford did not run in the same social circles, because said party included "Squi," whom (as Mitchell's questioning revealed) was then dating Blasey Ford. It's clear that Grassley and or Graham realized that Mitchell's questions pointed clearly to some easy ways to check out Blasey Ford's story, and decided to terminate that line of questioning immediately. Note: The American Bar Association, which endorsed Kavanaugh, is now calling for a d

BK Once More

I won't pretend to be a disinterested observer, but Kavanaugh could hardly have done more to discredit himself in my eyes.  Snarling, Snivelling, Sneering, he was the apotheosis of a man lacking judicial temperament.  Dodging, filibustering and evading every significant question, he looked like the most unreliable witness since Donald Trump.  From the Daily Beast: The 53-year-old nominee shouted through his opening statement like an Applebee’s customer demanding a bloomin’ onion over a waitress explaining that Applebee’s doesn’t sell bloomin’ onions. Kavanaugh vowed to never give up, even though the Democrats were trying hard to stop him (unfortunate phrasing for a man facing sexual assault allegations). Kavanaugh had difficulty disguising his contempt for the people questioning him for most of the hearing. At one point, he started raising his voice to Rachel Mitchell before apparently remembering that she was the GOP’s ringer, hired to make him look innocent. He responded to

Elon Musk

looks like he may be finished, what with the SEC charges.  It's a shame, since he was that rarity, an original. He has seemed increasingly unhinged lately.  I wonder if it was a consequence of his 120 hour weeks trying to save the Tesla.

Kavanaugh: One Crucial Question

I thought one question from Senator Feinstein revealed more than his whole angry, weepy, blustering opening statement.  She pointed out Ford had asked for an FBI investigation to bring out the facts, and asked if he would do the same. He didn't answer.  He bobbed, he weaved, he obfuscated, and most of all blustered angrily.  He's good at blustering angrily.  I don't think his non answer was the answer of somebody who didn't have something big to hide. There is one more key question: will he, like Blasey Ford, take a lie detector test? I also thought that the bullshit about the "Renate Alumnius" was an obvious lie.  He is going with the choirboy defence, and I don't think it holds any water. Nope, he won't ask for an investigation and he won't take a lie detector test.  And yes, it sure looked like he was lying his ass off wrt drinking, drunkenness, and sexual claims.  Lindsey Graham was an embarrassment - you would think she had passed meno


Despite the love lavished on Brett Kavanaugh by every right-winger from Sean Hannity to Amy Chua to ..., his nomination to be one of the Supreme's looks to be hanging by a thread.  Unless there is a total collapse of the witnesses against him, I don't think the Judiciary Committee can resist calling for an FBI investigation, and only that has a chance to clear him.  I would be surprised if he is able to keep his present position on the bench. Of course my record as a prophet is probably better only than that of Star Trek's Mr. Spock, whose precision of predicting probabilities was only exceeded by his consistent inaccuracy. UPDATE: So far the most obvious result is to demonstrate that Grassley is totally incompetent at even engineering an obvious cover-up.  His ridiculous five minute rule has made his designated prosecutor unable to finish questions or construct a coherent narrative.  If Kavanaugh is not guilty of something, why the frantic effort to hide and obscure hi

Bubble, Bubble, Toil and Trouble

The WaPo has a nice picture story featuring an Arctic lake that's leaking methane like crazy. Methane, of course, is a greenhouse gas that's far more potent than CO2 but has a relatively short half life in the atmosphere - over twenty years it is about 85 times as potent as CO2, but most of it is converted to CO2 in less than 100 years. Melting permafrost is a source of greenhouse gases, but this lake's methane has a chemical signature of carbon that's been buried for a long time, and it's feared that this may be a signature of a major reservoir.  If these turn out to be common, they could be a powerful positive feedback for global warming.

The Farmer and the Cowman Can't be Friends?

Yet another chapter in a five or six thousand year old drama between farmers and herders is playing out in Nigeria today.  From the NYT: Across parts of Nigeria , conflicts that mirror the 20th Century range wars in the American West have broken out between farmers and herdsmen vying for land, leading to bloody battles. Twentieth Century?  Sure you don't mean largely in the late Nineteenth Century?   Nevermind.  This war started when the early Indo-Europeans overan Europe and Asia. The core problem, though, is as modern as it is ancient (NYT again): Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Kenya and other  areas across the continent where populations are rising struggle with the problem as well. Here in Nigeria, where the population has quadrupled in the past 60 years to nearly 200 million, the fighting has been so fierce that the government deployed the military to contain some of the battles. It might be more efficacious to deploy birth control pills and education for women.

Really Stupid Stuff I Read in the New York Times

Sam Tanenhaus on Atlas Shrugged, J. Robert Oppenheimer, and John von Neumann: The advance guard of Cold War planners, space and weapons theorists like J. Robert Oppenheimer, John von Neumann and James R. Killian, the president of M.I.T., chosen by Eisenhower to oversee the creation of NASA, were administrators rather than doers, unlike the executives at New York Central Railroad and Kaiser Steel whom Rand had interviewed while writing “Atlas Shrugged.” It would be hard to imagine a more monumental mischaracterization of Oppenheimer, and von Neumann, especially.  Not only did von Neumann essentially invent the modern digital computer, but he was also a profoundly creative mathematician.  Tanenhaus not only gets administrator vs. doer completely backwards, he also confuses Galt and Rearden, a couple of the cardboard characters in AS.

Where the Stars Live

If you've ever spent any time under clear dark skies, you've seen the cloudy band of light running across the sky that we call the Milky Way.  Its name comes from the resemblance the ancient Greeks saw to  milk, which gives us our other name for it, the Galaxy.  Galileo was the first to penetrate the nature of this cloudy band of light when he turned his telescope upon it and saw a myriad of stars. As telescopes and astronomical techniques improved it became clear that the Milky Way, our galaxy, was a sort of island universe in which our star, the Sun, was embedded as one of enormously many stars.  There are a few other cloudy patches of light in the sky, three of which are visible to the keen eyed - Andromeda and, very prominent in the Southern Hemisphere, the Magellanic Clouds.  There are also more temporary cloudy glows, the comets, which were long found more interesting.  Telescopes revealed ever more of these cloudy patches. It eventually became clear that at least som

Kavanaugh and Rape?

According to a letter received by a couple Democratic lawmakers, as a high school student Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh attempted to rape the author while she was in high school.  It's a serious charge, and it deserves careful consideration even it was a long time ago.  It's been a while since Justice Thomas (very likely) lied his way on to the Supreme Court, with plenty of help from good old boys Arlen Specter and Joe Biden, and it looks like Kavanaugh is on his way to a similar feat. Of course Kavanaugh denies it and his alleged helper claims not to remember.  Say what?  You assisted in so many rapes that you can't be expected to remember every one or what? Usually sexual abusers don't stop at one, so if BK is guilty, there might be other women out there.  If so, I certainly hope some have the courage to tell their stories.   It's probably too late in recent history to think that highly skilled Jurists are unlikely to be sexual abusers - everything we

Conservative Theory and Conservative Humbug

Those who pass for conservative intellectuals usually have some principles they like to claim as foundational: small government, states rights, that old time religion.  It can't be denied that humans have some tendencies well described by the word "conservative" - the impulse to resist change, especially change that might be personally inconvenient.  My contention, though, is that conservative theory is essentially humbug - an intellectual Potemkin village to distract us from the real objectives of those who claim to be conservatives. What about the small government claim?  It's true that modern American conservatism wants to shrink some government functions - any such that attempt to protect the citizenry from the depredations of the rich.  Of course they are also quick to attempt to regulate the most fundamental aspects of private life - anti abortion fanaticism is one of the key motors of the current conservative dominance. Conservatism has two key kinds of sup

Taking Offence

At a recent wedding party I happened to be seated next to a teen-aged girl.  She asked me what my ethnicity was.  I replied that I was some kind of Northern European stew.  23 and Me says English, Irish, German, French and Scandinavian with a dash of Central European.  She said that she was Chinese and Japanese. I mention this because it has become fashionable in some circles to claim that any questions about ethnicity are micro-aggressions.  I'm pretty sure that this young lady was either just curious or just wanted an excuse to talk about herself.  We did then have an ordinary conversation which wasn't about ethnicity. Shortly after, I heard the story of a professor lecturing her anthropology class happened to use the word "Oriental" in describing people from the Orient.  The whole class then got up and left the room in protest.  No doubt they were all deeply offended - especially the Caucasians.  The fact that the Professor herself was of Japanese extraction ap


I live about half a block from an elementary school.  Every day a long procession of cars appears on the surrounding streets as parents of kids more than a couple of blocks away drop off their kids.  Of course kids that live more than a few blocks away are picked up and delivered by school bus.  Often as not, those children on the block are walked to school by a parent. This didn't surprise me too much of this since I sometimes walked my own five year old to school, clinging and protesting, only to see him greeted by the other students like a minor rock star (girls flirting, boys high-fiving).  Of course when I asked him about this, he quite logically replied "I just hate giving up my freedom." Of course, like others of my generation, I walked to school a mile or so myself. Anyway, I didn't think much about the modern system until I read this WaPo story by a mother who sent her son to school in Japan: All Japanese children go to school on their own. My son at

Rosy Fingered Dawn

... is one of the famous Homeric epithets.   I happened to be up early today and noticed the pink fingers of dawn quite prominent in the morning sky.  A closer look revealed that the pink fingers were in fact jet contrails illuminated by red morning light filtered through a dusty atmosphere. So what were they in Homer's day?

The Conservative Position

... you are too deficient too know, or (it would appear) even to care, what "conservatives" think....... William Connolley, addressing your (no doubt insufficiently) humble correspondent. Well, yes, Mr. , er, Dr., Connolley has managed to irk me.  Fair enough, I suppose, since I suppose I have done the same by abusing some of his sacred bovines.  A couple of his changes of subject later, he further accuses me of ignorance of the conservative position.  Of course that was never the subject of my post - I was talking about mutual opinions of conservatives and liberals, and, more importantly, their neural substrates.  However, WC is rarely guilty of either that foolish consistency that Emerson called the hobgoblin of little minds or any other kind of logical consistency. Of course it's true that I don't know what conservatives think, though I think the functional MRI brain studies provide some strong hints.  So, I imagine, are the actual words of those selfsame con

Of Mice and Men

If you bite into rancid food, the insula activates, just as in every other mammal. You wrinkle your nose, raise your upper lip, narrow your eyes, all to protect mouth, eyes, and nasal cavities. Your heart slows. You reflexively spit out the food, gag, perhaps even vomit.  Sapolsky, Robert M.. Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst (p. 713). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.  Man and mouse activate the same or at least analogous neural circuits in these reactions.  Humans do the same if they witness or think of something they find morally or esthetically disgusting.  Mice, probably not.