URLs du Jour


  • Yes, finally, it's Earth Day. Today's image is one of Getty's oh-so-precious, you'll think better of me because I'm so sensitive offerings.

    Meanwhile, at Reason, Ron Bailey celebrates in his own way: Earth Day Turns 50. He looks at the predictions made back in 1970 by the "Catastrophists" and the "Prometheans". Examples of the former:

    Harrison Brown of the National Academy of Sciences published a chart in the September 1970 issue of Scientific American projecting that humanity would run out of copper shortly after 2000; lead, zinc, tin, gold, and silver would be gone before 1990. Brown claimed that his estimates took into account the possibilities that "new reserves will be discovered by exploration or created by innovation." The February 2, 1970, issue of Time quoted the ecologist Kenneth Watt: "By the year 2000, if present trends continue, we will be using up crude oil at such a rate…that there won't be any more crude oil."

    And in January 1970, Life magazine warned: "In a decade, urban dwellers will have to wear gas masks to survive air pollution."

    We wish urban dwellers had handy gas masks to wear.

  • Kevin D. Williamson has some thoughts on that Harvard Magazine article (see yesterday if necessary): The War on Homeschooling.

    [Anti-homeschooler Elizabeth] Bartholet is pretty open about her program, which has less to do with ensuring equal educational opportunity across socioeconomic groups (ho, ho!) and more to do with extending the surveillance state, lest unsupervised proles make child-rearing decisions at odds with the priorities Bartholet would prefer to see enforced.

    The conception of the public schools as a coercive and homogenizing moral force is fundamental to the mandatory-education project — our very first public-education law (known by the wonderfully evocative title “Old Deluder Satan Act”) was explicitly anti-Catholic in its intent, as were many of the public-education laws (Blaine amendments, etc.). Like our Puritan forebears, contemporary progressives believe that what keeps the infidels from the One True Faith is mostly ignorance, which can be cured through coercive indoctrination.

    Wikipedia on the Old Deluder Satan Act here.

  • At the Federalist, Neal Pollack offers his Brilliant Nine-Phase Retractable Plan For Reopening The Nation.

    My plan operates in phases. In Phase One, we must re-open essential businesses, plus the local gourmet shop in my hometown of Mount Winchester that sells duck confit. However, no one must get within six feet of the open storefronts. Shopkeepers must shoot pre-purchased goods out of a T-shirt cannon, and we can only catch them if we’re wearing gloves.

    If we leave our houses, we must allow medical authorities to stick a three-foot swab up our noses and a two-foot swab in our ears. If these tests prove inconclusive, then we must take the SAT, even if we haven’t studied.

    Preschools should re-open, but without teachers. Grade schools should remain closed. High schools should remain open, but only for sophomores and juniors, and only if they maintain strict gender-neutral bathroom policies. Students are allowed to make out behind the bleachers, but only if they remain six feet apart. Trigonometry classes will be canceled, because everyone hates them.

    Neal provides the expertise and wisdom we need in these trying times.

  • And moving on to an even funnier story, from the Free Beacon: CBS Anchor Tells Stacey Abrams She's 'Extremely Qualified' to be Vice President.

    CBS This Morning anchor and Barack Obama donor Gayle King gushed over Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams on Tuesday morning, saying the former state legislator and failed gubernatorial candidate is "extremely qualified" to be vice president of the United States.

    Abrams is openly lobbying to serve as Joe Biden's running mate come November, despite never being elected to any office beyond the state legislature. As she touted her voting rights work and "competence and skills and willingness to serve," King cut in to praise her as ready to be a heartbeat away from the presidency.

    As someone said on Twitter: Stacey Abrams in 2020 is far less qualified than Sarah Palin was in 2008.

    But we should be grateful to Gayle King for reminding us (yet again) that CBS News is pretty much an uncompensated offshoot of the Democratic National Committee.

  • And Jonah Goldberg shares his Cataclysmic Feelings. Specifically, he looks at a recent podcast that considered Richard Feynman's idea, which appeared in Chapter 1 of Volume 1 of his Lectures on Physics:

    If, in some cataclysm, all of scientific knowledge were to be destroyed, and only one sentence passed on to the next generations of creatures, what statement would contain the most information in the fewest words? I believe it is the atomic hypothesis (or the atomic fact, or whatever you wish to call it) that all things are made of atoms—little particles that move around in perpetual motion, attracting each other when they are a little distance apart, but repelling upon being squeezed into one another. In that one sentence, you will see, there is an enormous amount of information about the world, if just a little imagination and thinking are applied.

    This question was posed in a recent podcast to a bunch of Modern Deep Thinkers. The results were… not as good as Feynman's. Unexcerptable, so I urge you even more than usual to Read The Whole Thing.

The Diamond Age

Or, a Young Lady's Illustrated Primer

[Amazon Link]

Amazon tells me I bought my copy on October 30, 2002, and my blog tells me that I initially read it sometime in 2003 (before the blog itself actually started). Getting around to re-reading.

A very meta comment: it strikes me that if I were a wannabe writer, reading this book would be utterly discouraging. With 99% probability, you look at this honestly and say: there's no way in hell I could ever be this good. Stephenson pins the needle on imagination and style.

Neal Stephenson's game here is to visit a near-future world where (a) nanotech, AI, and virtual reality have fulfilled all their promises (and threats); (b) as an unexpected result, a neo-Victorian resurgence, with a technology-driven aristocracy. (And the Queen is, guess what, Victoria II.)

There's also an underclass. Widespread nano-abundance means nobody's starving, but there's a lot of petty crime and familial abuse.

The plot driver: Hackworth, a genius nano-architect, has been commissioned to generate a "primer" for a daughter of the aristocracy. It is, literally, a complete teacher and companion to whatever young female initially opens it. It tells immersive princess stories while painlessly teaching the reader/pupil the three R's and much more. (Like, eventually, theoretical computer science.)

Illegally, Hackworth conspires to generate a second copy for his own less fortunate daughter. But fate intervenes when a roving band of youths mug him, liberating his pirated copy. Which falls into the hands of the main protagonist, urchin Nell. Her subsequent adventures are thrilling, and occasionally poignant. (And sometimes hilarious. Page 175 of my copy describes the ingredient list for the condiment Hackworth glops onto his steak sandwich:

Hackworth took a bite of his sandwich, correctly anticipating that the meat would be gristly and that he would have plenty of time to think about his situation while his molars subdued it. He did have plenty of time, as it turned out; but as frequently happened to him in these situations, he could not bring his mind to bear on the subject at hand. All he could think about was the taste of the sauce. If the manifest of ingredients on the bottle had been legible, it would have read something like this: Water, blackstrap molasses, imported habanero peppers, salt, garlic, ginger, tomato puree, axle grease, real hickory smoke, snuff, butts of clove cigarettes, Guinness Stout fermentation dregs, uranium mill tailings, muffler cores, monosodium glutamate, nitrates, nitrites, nitrotes and nitrutes, nutrites, natrotes, powdered pork nose hairs, dynamite, activated charcoal, match-heads, used pipe cleaners, tar, nicotine, singlemalt whiskey, smoked beef lymph nodes, autumn leaves, red fuming nitric acid, bituminous coal, fallout, printer's ink, laundry starch, drain deaner, blue chrysotile asbestos, carrageenan, BHA, BHT, and natural flavorings.

(And there's a lot of other stuff going on too.)

Last Modified 2022-10-02 7:13 AM EDT