Saturday, August 18, 2007

Faster Than Light? Not so Fast

In case you're interested in such things, the latest claim to have exceeded the speed of light has been debunked. I won't pretend to understand everything in this Ars Technica article (and if the author did, then kudos to him), and so I wouldn't know what would be relevant to quote.

So, if you want to know what's up, go read the story.

Hollywood Butchers Science

I agree that movies play havoc with science, in particular with physics. This Ars Technica story lists just a few, from a report by Praxis der Naturwissenschaften Physik (and no, I have no idea who they are).

Some examples:

Gravity takes a vacation in Speed: There's a gap in a freeway bridge with a relatively flat surface. A bus, traveling about 70 mph, crosses that gap, flying along an apparently horizontal path. Gravity was apparently taking a well-deserved break.

Spider-Man's military genius fails vector math: The Green Goblin cut the cables on the Roosevelt Island Tram but held the loose end to keep it from plunging into the East River. Although he was well positioned to handle the vertical component of the force, the horizontal portion of the pull from the tram car would have wrenched him sideways and into the river.

The Core rings hollow: On their way towards the center of the earth, the crew takes a break 700 miles beneath the surface. Oddly, gravity is normal, despite the fact that a significant fraction of the Earth's mass is now above them. Meanwhile, a dead crewman's body sinks into molten rock, despite the relatively low density of its primary component, water.

Read the story for more.

Cox and Forkum on Chinese Product Quality

Cox and Forkum's take on the Chinese product quality question. As usual, right on target.

Digg Report

Digg Report: Today's #1 Digg, at 4549 Diggs, is a link to a page about blocking FireFox because of an add-on--endorsed by the Mozilla organization--that allows FireFox users to block ads on Web sites.

Now, first, the Diggster who posted this mischaracterized the message, which is here. Second, I happen to agree with some points made on the linked page in general principle. I'm not sure I'd go as far as they go, but they make some valid points. And third, somewhat ironically, Digg itself has ads, and so if it is a sort of theft to make use of a Web site's resources without at least giving the advertising a chance, then Diggsters who use the Firefox add-on are stealing from their own favorite site.

Russia and China - Military Partners?

And to rub salt on the wounds, it really does appear that Russia and China (and the rest of the SCO, which hardly matters unless Pakistan and India join) are moving closer and closer together. Their recent and planning military exercises are unnerving to some:

President Putin of Russia and his Chinese counterpart, President Hu, will attend an unprecedented show of joint military force Friday amid fears that the Russian leader is trying to turn an increasingly powerful central Asian alliance into a second Warsaw Pact.

Although I mentioned in a previous post that the SCO isn't likely to admit Iran, it does create a dangerous situation:

Yet the SCO has wider ambitions. Pakistan, India, and Mongolia all want to join Â-- as does Iran, whose president, Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, attended the summit as guest of honor, a title bound to rile Washington. Iranian membership of the SCO would pose an enormous headache for the American government. Like Nato, its treaty states that an attack on one member is regarded as an attack on all, raising the prospect that the American government could find itself aligned against both Russia and China if it invaded Iran.

In that previous post, I also optimistically predicted that the SCO would retain its largely economic agenda. That might indeed have been optimistic.

Russia to Continue Soviet-Era Strategic Air Space Patrols

It seems that Putin has found it necessary to resume strategic air space patrolling in remote reaches of its territory, something the was ended with the downfall of the Soviet Union. This, along with wargames conducted with China and the rest of the SCO, is interesting, to say the least.

More and more, I fear that Russia is not our friend (which is fairly obvious, I think), and--worse--has no intention of becoming so. The idea that it's "American hegemony" or somesuch that pushes Putin to these measures falls flat when one considers that we've invited Russia to participate in much of what we've planned.

And America has not acted unilaterally in anything over the last few decades (although perhaps we should have), but has built coalitions for every major action we've taken. I point this out only because, despite Leftist claims to the contrary, America has not acted as an imperialist, sole world superpower. If we had, as the Soviet Union would have done (and Russia already has with Chechnya), then the Middle East would be decimated, a wasteland, turned into rubble as an example against others who might decide to take such actions against us.

No, I believe the Putin simply lusts for the "power" of the Soviet Union (false though it was, other than its nuclear deterrent), and is trying desperately to return Russia to this level of world influence. Of course, Russia has quite a ways to go before it gets there; it wouldn't last long in a shooting war against the US. But Putin likely feels, and probably rightly so, that he has plenty of time to work on it.

MTV's Kurt Loder Rips Into "Sicko"

I was pleasantly surprised to find a very rational and thorough review of Michael Moore's "Sicko" by none other than MTV's Kurt Loder. Now, I know it's not good to generalize people, but I wouldn't have expected anyone from the MTV staff to be so rational about such a topic. My apoligies to Kurt Loder.

But, on to the story. We all know (or should) that Michael Moore is a sensationalist who will twist any statistic or anecdote to make a particular point. His movies are not documentaries, they're fictional and based only thinly on valid evidence. He's even admitted as such in the past, and I believe this to be a fair paraphrase: he's a propagandist, not a documentarian.

In the linked review, Kurt Loder does as well as anyone I've read to show just how one-sided and misleading Moore has been with "Sicko." And, contrary to most reviews, Loder even points out that getting government out of healthcare would be the only real solution. I've pointed out in the past myself that healthcare has been on a dangerous path since the 1930's, when the Blue Cross/Blue Shield entities were first established with government blessings.

I won't quote from the review, because it's fairly well-composed. That is, there's not much that doesn't flow and so if quoted would be taken out of context. So, I recommend that you go read it yourself.

It's well worth the time.