The Geocentric Model (Universe Today)

The principle known as Occam’s Razor states that all other things being equal, “entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily” in any theory. The most parsimonious, or least elaborate, theory that is (a) falsifiable by experiment and (b) adequately explanatory of observed facts, should be preferred over its competitors.

The poster-child for the principle is Ptolemaic astronomy, which starts with the premise that the Earth is the centre of the universe and everything else (sun, moon, planets, stars) moves around it. This geocentric view prevailed for quite some time; but its math grew ever more baroque, as optical technology improved and…

Honore Daumier, L’Accusation (Morgan Library & Museum)

A lot of epithets get slung around like spitballs in the highly polarised politics of the crumbling American Empire. After a while, they’re just angry noises and we hardly pay attention to their meanings. But if what if we slow down and consider them seriously…?

When you call someone a name, and by doing so assert that they are sad and bad and simply awful, you necessarily imply that the opposite of that name must be a good thing.

Obviously when someone disses eco-activists as “tree huggers”, the implication is that the speaker doesn’t give a toss about any tree…

Image Credit: Al Jazeera

Just when you think things can’t get any stranger

It’s a bit of a puzzler, why the minds of that hall full of Bible-reading, God-invoking radical rightwing, whitewing Americans didn’t immediately leap — as mine and many others’ did — to the beginning of Exodus 32. If the reference isn’t familiar, allow me to retell the story in (very) brief.

Moses went up the mountain to keep his date with destiny. But he was a long time coming back, and the people got nervous. One bright soul among them, by name Aaron, had the idea of melting down all the…

The future as it looked in 1967

Actually, there’s a whole lot of Star Trek tech I wish we had. Clean energy generation via dilithium crystals, nice. Transporters, very nice. But the thing I was actually thinking about was that seldom-mentioned medical instrument, the Dolorimeter. It could measure — actually quantify — pain and suffering. I suspect the Star Trek version was conceived as measuring purely physical pain, as in neurological activity; but this is fantasy, so why stop there?

How I wish I had millions of them, billions of them, all networked, installed all over the world, reporting and geotracking and aggregating their data in an…

Every now and then you need a word, and it comes to you. Except it isn’t a real word, and you just made it up. But it’s a good word…

So I’m starting a mini dictionary of words that I’m pretty sure I made up. Hope someone else finds them useful at some point, or at least amusing. I’ll update it now and then when inspiration strikes.

Boonbarrel — see porkdoggle.

Chimpletons — human beings sufficiently untrained, uneducated, unreflective or otherwise undeveloped that they can’t recognise their own behaviour as embarrassingly primatological. Hence also, folks who are easily led, buffaloed…

There is perhaps no better moment than right now to be reading Malka Older’s Centenal Cycle, a trilogy of medium-future novels mostly about — wait for it — electoral politics. Oh meh, I hear you mutter, what more boring subject could a novelist choose as the armature on which to hang her tale?

But surely the last few months have reminded us all that electoral politics is only boring when it works. When it becomes dysfunctional, it’s far from boring — downright scary, in fact. Many people are thinking, these days, that familiar political systems seem to be breaking —…

Legless Avatars: image by CNBC, story “Within a decade you may be working with a digital twin” — Dec 2020

Whether you’re an old VR hand or one of the legions of newbies discovering the technology during this time of lockdown and tele-whatevering, you’ve probably discovered a couple of things about VR.

One is: VR is just plain awesome. There is nothing in our previous computing experience like being able to look around freely and naturally, have full depth perception, and “touch” and manipulate game objects with our hands (either directly or via controllers). It’s a whole new world, and it puts a big dumb grin on most of our faces.

The permanent precariat, then and now

Men lining up for a chance to work, Victorian England

Sometimes the path to a realisation, to the moment when a pattern emerges, is obscure. At other times it’s crisply defined, like a set of GPS waypoints defining a route. Something came into focus for me recently about the state of affairs in the US, and for once the waypoints were clear in memory.

The first waypoint was a couple of articles I read (well-intentioned, serious articles) advising readers how they could supplement their income by “thrift store flipping.” This was never a thing when I was young, but now it is: buying stuff…

The King’s Chessboard (source unknown)

[A version of this article was first published as a comment at European Tribune in 2006, which explains why some of the references are a bit stale now. But the point being made is not, I think, invalidated by subsequent changes in the price of gold and other indices.]

Perhaps what we call ‘capitalism’ today might better be called ‘interest-ism’ or more simply ‘usury’. Our financial system relies heavily on the magic of compound interest, a dangerously aphysical concept. Why aphysical? Because it cannot be reconciled with the realities of biotic systems or the energy or mineral budget of a…

Demolition of Beirut Hilton 2002, photo by Jamal Saidi (Reuters)

When tall buildings have to be taken down in a built-up area, some highly and specifically skilled people are called in. Demolition experts place carefully weighed and shaped charges in very carefully calculated locations throughout the building structure; a lot of complicated wiring harness gets installed… and then one day, those lucky enough to get a front-row seat can enjoy a remarkable spectacle and a tribute to modern engineering.

The charges go off in a precisely choreographed order, so that the building collapses within its own footprint — pancaking downward floor by floor like a reverse rocket launch, folding up…

De Clarke

Retired; ex-software engineer. Paleo-feminist. Sailor. Arduino tinkerer. Enviro. Libertarian Socialist (Anarcho-Syndicalist, kinda). Writer. Altermondialiste.

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