Things To Do Instead of Transformers 4…

Transformers: Age of Extinction recently came to Netflix. Yay!

And I sat down and watched it… Yay?

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Reviews the world over have pretty much panned it, so I can’t add to that. Instead, here is a non-comprehensive list of things you can do instead should anyone suggest watching it even for Bad Movie Night:

  • Literally nothing – Sit in a reasonably comfortable spot, stare at the wall, and do nothing. Don’t even think. Through this, you run a small risk of entering a Zen-like meditative trance and experiencing Enlightenment. Meanwhile, there is no place in the infinite reaches of the multi-verse where this is possible by watching Age of Extinction. The potential drawbacks including DVT and existential dread of wondering why you’re doing this are the same in either case here.
  • Watch 9 Songs – Until very, very recently, if anyone asked me “what is the very worst film you’ve ever watched?” I would answer, without a beat, 9 Songs. It’s pseudo-pornographic crap held together by the worst the 2000s’ Indy music scene has to offer and some additional supposedly-deep and meaningful claptrap about ice cores. I can’t quite remember the details, I mostly recall a strong feeling of “Thank Christ that bullshit is over” at the end of 9 Songs and a desire to get wasted to blot it out. It is still better than Age of Extinction.
  • Get a prison-tattoo – With a blunt needle. And infected ink. Of a swastika. On your genitals. It’ll be an actual good story to bring up on a first date, and may give you a sense of achievement.
  • Read John Knox’s Monstrous Regiment of Women or some of John Norman’s Gor series – In either of these cases you will find a better, more progressive, enlightening, balanced and respectful treatment of women than you will find in Transformers: Michael Bay’s Ode To Statutory Rape.
  • Watch the YouTube video of all the dinobot scenes from the movie – If you watch Optimus riding Grimlock while wielding a sword, your inner Transformers fanboy will certainly be sated. You can then watch this for two-and-a-half-hours on a loop and pretend it’s part of a much better story that makes actual sense.

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  • Experiment with auto-erotic asphyxiation – A lot of people say it’s terrible, and it’s not worth it. And they also say that it could actively damage or harm you. But hey, a lot of people like it, and do it, and say it’s worth it if you’re into that sort of thing. You know, the exact same line of reasoning that says “go see a Michael Bay movie that isn’t Bad Boys“.
  • Find an internet comments section and read it – Like “doing nothing” this has a small but finite chance of causing enlightenment.
  • Floss your eyeballs – This entirely fictional health tip is likely to cause a lot of confusion and discomfort, is totally unnecessary and will make you question what you’re doing and why you took this advice. The same thing will happen as you watch Michael Bay slowly pan over an underage teen’s hotpants while openly discussing how she’s getting the D from a 20 year-old. Except after this, your eyes will at least be a little cleaner.
  • Figure out of Mark Wahlberg is a net-positive to humanity – Wahlberg is the best thing about this movie. He acts his little pudgy nose off fully realising all the dimensions (all none of them) of the flat, motivation-free character the writers bestowed upon him in Age of Extinction. So good. On the other hand, Planet of the Apes. So fuck me. On the other hand, Ted. So good. On the other hand, Ted 2. So fuck me. Then try to fit Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch into that puzzle. It’s likely that 2 hours 45 minutes later, you may have come to an answer satisfying enough that you could write it up and submit to a sociology journal.
  • Inject marijuana into your nipple and breastfeed your partner – I just can’t find this one in my copy of The Encyclopaedia of Unusual Sex Practices. So if you do manage to do this in the space of three hours, it’s three hours well spent pushing back the boundaries of human imagination.
  • Listen to Linkin Park – All of it. Every album. Track their slow decline from nu-metal superstars to post-modernist, self-mythologising “Artistes” of some description. You also get to hear their contributions to the Transformers soundtracks, which I kinda like in an easy-listening, non-offensive, wouldn’t-throw-a-brick-at-the-DJ-if-they-played-it-in-the-10pm-slot sort of way despite the general flat, triteness of those three songs. You also get to throw yourself to your knees and scream along to Numb like you’re still 15 and hate your parents. And that’s basically Jailbaity McJailbaitface’s entire character development in Age of Extinction.

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  • Watch the first (live-action, 2007) Transformers movie – hey, it’s a big dumb blockbuster tent-pole release, but it does exactly what it says on the tin: giant freaking robots kick the shit out of each other for a bit. And thanks to Speilberg’s “a boy and his car” concept, actually gives it a human dimension that may make you give a shit about the characters as they run and scream from the destruction on screen. Yes. I feel this film is actually good. In fact, watch Dark of the Moon instead, that also holds up as vaguely-coherent entertainment. Don’t watch Revenge of the Fallen, however. See the rest of this list before sticking Revenge of the Fallen on. In fact, watch Age of Extinction before Revenge of the Fallen.
  • Or fuck that, watch the 1986 animated Transformers: The Movie – You get G1 Optimus not acting like a murderous psychopath. You get Galvatron. You get Unicron. You get the Dinobots. You get ‘You Got The touch’. You get the death of Optimus Prime, too. You get Orson Welles for fuck’s sake. Sure, it’s an objectively kinda-not-that-good film, and, yes, the animation is dodgy as all hell, and yes, it’s painfully ’80s, but you can watch it twice in the space of 2014’s offering.
  • Write a blog post reviewing a bad film – Hell, it’s working for me right now. I’d say this is 2 hours 45 minutes of my life I’ll never get back, but in reality it’s 2 and a half – because the only reason to sit through the credits is to find out which writer needs shot as an example to others.

7 (un)Surprising Signs That Astrology Is Total Bullshit (part 1)

A day or so ago, Matthew Currie posted an open letter to James Randi (and foundation) on BeliefNet.com, purporting to show how he was using unfair straw man arguments against astrology. Part 2 then arrived, where Currie goes through a JREF booklet page-by-page trying to show its errors. The only appropriate response is this:

I’m not even sorry, it really is that bad. It’s pages and pages of whining and moaning about either pedantic details or nothing at all. Currie even ends the article saying he’s not even going to go into:

…the false equivalency on Page 12, the deceptive test results on Page 13, the phony take-down based on The Forer Effect on page 14, the stunning irony of the invocation of Confirmation Bias on Page 15, and the ridiculous misuse of Sun Sign Forecasts on Page 16 and 17 and 18.

So yeah, seriously, Currie ends his “epic take-down” by saying he isn’t going to bother with the real meat of the skeptical opinion on astrology – the underlying psychology, the cognitive biases or the actual results data. As a result, responding to and refuting (in fact, merely even bothering to read) Currie’s article is what I would call “a complete fucking waste of my time”. But he did conclude by pointing readers in the direction of this piece. Considering the context, this should be the greatest evidence that astrology really works ever assembled, right? Yeah, you know exactly where this is going…

So, here are the first 4 of 7 supposedly surprising signs that astrology works.

Astrology & Your Love Life

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Jung was a bit of a mystic and flake, so has become the go-to person for astrologers and New Age types when they want a “reputable scientist” to back them up. Yet, he’s hardly the be-all and end-all of authority on psychology – indeed, how can he, considering he’s been dead for over fifty years? Criticism of Jung can, and has, filled countless pages, and is hardly new.

He once noted that “astrology represents the sum of all the psychological knowledge of antiquity” – while his spiritual influence are well known, it seems that some of his approaches were to explain astrology with psychology, not the other way around. He did play a part in developing the concept of “synchronicity“, which states that events may be connected by a common meaning that human experience gives to them. This relationship may not necessarily be causal, but entirely within the mind. As a result, Jung’s psychological theory – one that has little evidence or predictive value associated with it – has been widely criticised as simply being apophenia, aka, seeing meaning in random noise.

As for Jung’s study of married couples, there are quite literally no sources that I’ve found so far outside of astrology websites (sigh…) and many of them conflict on the details. As a result, it’s near impossible to criticise in a meaningful sense – yet is impossible to take seriously, too. However, a more intuitive explanation presents itself if we take the qualitative conclusion at face value; if people believe that birth charts affect their relationships and put stock in it, is it a surprise to find married couples matched by astrological “predictions”?

Astrology & Weather

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Astrology is known in skeptical jargon as a “protoscience” – something that, although it pre-dates the scientific method and methodological naturalism, still relied on some observational methodology to reach its conclusions. As a result, records kept by these protosciences can be of use; astrologers charted the position of planetary bodies, and alchemists recorded the first chemical reactions. However, this has no bearing on the supernatural predictions and assertions they make.

As for Sergey Tarasov and Alphee Lavoie, no link is given to this apparent study. After a few attempts at tracking it down, I kinda gave up. What I could figure out is that Lavoie and Tarasov sell astrology software aimed at market trading – little word on how effective it is, although it’s worth noting that “selling astrology software” is a common theme uniting many astrologers cited in this list. They do appear to be linked not to weather cycles, but predicting apparent tough economic times between 2012 and 2015. But considering these predictions were made about two years before, while planetary positions are known hundreds of thousands of years in advance (as the chaos caused by the n-body problem doesn’t kick in for a while), we can respond to this with “no shit, Sherlock”.

Astrology & Fertility

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There may be a good reason that female fertility follows patterns related to phases of the moon – the moon orbits once every 28 days, while the female reproductive cycle coincidentally happens to also follow 28 days. Fancy that. Wait, this isn’t news to people, right? Okay, just checking.

Actually, fuck it, just read the Skeptic’s Dictionary entry. Basically, Eugene Jonas merely stumbled upon just another variant of the “Rhythm Method”, which isn’t, as it may sound, a prog R&B band, but a birth control method preferred by the Catholic Church because it doesn’t involve evils such as condoms (often referred to as “Vatican Roulette”). We all know how effective that can be – a failure rate of ~10% or so based on even perfect use. So, by telling couples who want to avoid pregnancy to have less sex, and couples who want to conceive to have more sex, while not offering any guarantees despite a claim of “100%” effectiveness, Jonas had stumbled upon a remarkable discovery; being able to sell the bleeding obvious for good hard cash.

Astrology & Family Patterns

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Because this list insists on me looking things up myself, I found Bernadette Brady – an astrologer who says she has an MA in  Culture (sic) Astronomy and Astrology from Bath Spa University, UK. Now, I don’t want to disparage a distance-learning course provided by an ex-polytechnic college that kicked their cultural astrology programme out of their prospectus in 2008 shortly after it gained “proper” university status but… never mind, that’s beside the point. You can find this study, and “extensive research” here.

The first thing you notice reading this study is the sheer number of astrological alignments that can be made. At any one point in time you have seemingly thousands of confluences and positions to take into account – making it a discipline ripe for data mining (this isn’t limited to astrology). Secondly, you’ll see that there’s no test that gathers people together and tests the proposal about whether similar groups have similar astrological charts and groupings – certainly the test is blind or randomised or anything that would seriously back up the assertion made in BeliefNet’s puff-piece there.

In fact, the main worked example in Brady’s paper is about the Kennedy’s. Considering it was written in 1997, and JFK was assassinated in 1963, you can hardly say this is generating new information – the second example is older and even more esoteric, looking at the Dutch royal family in the 19th century. Confluences in astronomical bodies are known centuries in advance – where are the infallible predictions of the future, where you’re not just stating the obvious?

Anyway, this is getting a bit long now. I’ll shove the last three into another post for later.

Dear Mr Cameron

Dear David Cameron, you right-wing fucktard (no, wait, a bit harsh)

Cameron! How, man, ye little radgey!! (no, bit too Tyne and Wear, they’ll assume I’m stupid)

Dear David Cameron, (alleged) quasi human,

I read with a combination of bafflement and alarm (that’s suitably middle class, right?) of your proposals to solve All The Problems In The World by attacking that horrid beast known as Internet Pornography. I would like to express my disagreement (read; am about to shred your entire argument into small chunks and pass them through my digestive system) with your proposals and your motive.

Firstly, I must question your choice of target. Creating an opt-out only filter for all pornographic images and video at the ISP level is tantamount to the old idiom of using a sledgehammer to crack a nut (or perhaps using the UK’s stock of atomic weapons on Belfast in order to deal with the IRA). It sets a dangerous precedent for a government enforced, high level censorship campaign against content generators on the Internet. This is something we expect from China and North Korea, but not the United Kingdom. I fear that this is the thinner end of a wedge that will seek to remove the online presence of any dissidence once the precedent and infrastructure for such a move is in place.

You aim to clamp down on pornography depicting child abuse, yet there is already sufficient momentum across the internet to deal with this. The Internet Watch Foundation, for instance, is remarkably zealous in policing the internet (well, blacklisting the cover of Virgin Killer was fucking hilarious, at least) and can be very effective (when it’s not making a cunting balls up censoring Wikipedia, of course). Google, which despite its flaws (Evil. Evil bastards) deals with indecent images of children very effectively by taking a zero-tolerance approach. Further, being one of the leaders in internet technology, it is undoubtedly better equipped to deal effectively with the cited problem of illegal images and acts (Google is scary-fucking-good at what it does) than any government endorsed filter. Content hosting websites also police themselves effectively, and always report as much detail as possible about offenders to the relevant authorities – those that don’t are usually dealt with by the search engines and ISPs that do deal with it effectively. If this is somehow insufficient, then how would making further amendments to the law without further provisions for enforcement, as was the case with The Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008, improve the situation? (Let me answer that one for you; it won’t, you stupid piece of shit)  There is very little evidence available that current laws and practices are not sufficient to deal with a problem that will only be driven more underground, and become more subversive, should we attempt to take broad (and stupid) actions against it online.

We all know this will be ineffective (that is, it won’t do jack shit) overall. Anyone who has used the internet for any length of time will quickly come to a few conclusions on the subject. Firstly; internet porn isn’t as easy to merely “stumble” across as is widely advertised (if you stick Google’s safe search on, and look up “Disney Princess”, you’re not going to be immediately met with one of the countless pieces of “fan art” depicting Jasmine riding Aladdin’s rock-hard and oversized cock) and simple precautions are already widely and freely available for responsible adults and parents to use. Secondly; where generic web filters are in place (Fucking Scunthorpe!), they usually don’t work. Trying to instigate an opt-in policy for indecent images will likely create a false sense of security for parents, leading them to avoid the basic courses of action they should be taking when raising children in the internet age. (but, hey, it’s just too much fucking effort to supervise Little Timmy’s internet usage. He’s just fucking fine having a DeviantART account age 8.) There are many problems with attempting to block “pornography”; how to define it, for one, is a major hurdle. What about, say, DeviantART, where the line between “smut” and “artistic nudes” is blurred, or YouTube, where people post explicit material daily, but only just get through by making sure nipples are sufficiently covered? The line needs to be drawn somewhere for such a hard-and-fast (hurr hurr) approach, and it is almost certain that innocent material will be taken offline while offending material gets through. Normally, it would be fallacious to say that less-than-100% effectiveness means we should avoid attempting a reduction in harm, but here we are talking about state-wide censorship based on zero evidence that harm will actually be reduced. In this case, such a problem is not a fallacious one, but a serious issue that casts doubt over whether such a proposal is anything more than a complete waste of our collective time. (Also, Cameron, don’t lie; I bet you’ve tossed one off to a pair of barely-18 tits in your time. Though, back when you had a functioning sex drive we were probably all still on 28k dial-up)

What is most disturbing, however, is the targeting of “extreme” pornography in the 2008 act and the current focus on depictions and simulations of rape. Not rape. Depictions and simulations of rape (see, you’re not going to get a fucking heading saying you want to ban rape, as that was dealt with nicely in the Sexual Offences Act years ago).  “Depiction” and “simulation” notably implying that consent was exchanged prior to the act; what does this sort of message send to the population, and our children, about the nature of consent in sexual activity?

Let’s be frank here (i.e., the sexually repressed should skip to the next paragraph). “Extreme” pornography is, by and large, not a problem. Because laws against rape and child abuse, as well as physical abuse to adults, are already in effect, producers of “extreme” pornography (“BDSM” if you want the actual factual technical term) have to tread very careful grounds in order for their material to be sold; yes, it’s also policed effectively by credit card processors (often, the adults involved will happily go way further than they do, with full consent, but the legal eagles working for the payment processing companies say “no”).  This started a movement towards what is known as “ethical” pornography; a move towards business transparency, codes of conduct, fundamental rights for the talent and more openness about how what was occurring was simply fantasy. This often includes bookending scenes with interviews and behind-the-scenes footage to underscore both the fantasy and consensual aspects of the scenes being produced (for those interpreting this as “porn addict”, this sort of information is readily available online to research and is basic and fundamental knowledge for anyone who is not a complete fuckwit expressing an informed opinion regarding online censorship). Contrast this to the experiences in so-called vanilla pornography, where fewer legal restrictions are in place. Women rail-roaded into the business, underpaid, overworked, forced onto drugs, controlled by pimps, taken in, chewed up and spat out, and regularly beaten and abused by directors; all of this stems from “normal” pornography rather than its “more interesting” sub-genres. So, indeed, this extreme form of pornography that you personally find most sickening is the most ethical, consensual and progressive of all pornography (admit it, it’s all just right-wing squeamishness about the sick fact that people fuck and dare to enjoy it).

As for the choice of motive, this is also questionable (read; royally fucktarded). How can someone, with a straight face, declare that they’re taking a decision to protect children (a decision that won’t actually protect children) while simultaneously dismantling the welfare state and taking country-wide financial decisions that are actively driving people into poverty? (Really, how the fuck do you sleep at night?)

Statistically, the greatest potential harm to a child is its own parents, whether it be physical or psychological abuse, or simple neglect. Being exposed to a pair of naked breasts (or even a pair of massive quintuple Ds getting splashed by 6 ball-sack’s worth of salty Man Juice at the same time) is unlikely to lead to everlasting trauma. You know what does cause harm? It’s assertions such as the fact that girls can only wear pink, or that boys must play with cars rather than dolls. It’s the idea that we should never discuss issues such as consent and personal agency with young children because that would “destroy their innocence” (I mean, for fucksake, most sex education has pretty diagrams of internal reproductive organs, but the first time a young boy might see the outside of a growling vagina is when, aged 16 he awkwardly tries to stick his cock in her bellybutton).

In short, what is being proposed is the perfect combination of ineffective and pointless, headline-grabbing but meaningless, and needlessly oppressive to free expression. It serves to undermine legitimate, consensual activity, while generating some air of useless complacency amongst the “concerned” and those easily susceptible to such scaremongering.  But most of all, it sets a dangerous precedent for how a government can control the content communicated between its citizens.

Sunday School Environmentalism

For the two-and-a-half people who care, I recently added an entry to the RationalWiki quasi-official blog on Sunday School Environmentalism. Having spent a not-insignificant part of my university eduction doing environmental chemistry and studying impact metrics (even this extensive blog scratches the surface of that topic) it’s something I’m quite involved in.

Refuse in Absurdity

It’s been a while since I’ve looked at some true internet weirdos, and so I’d like to bring everyone’s attention to this one; Orgy of the Will.

It’s spectacular, isn’t it? It’s like a thing of beauty and a work of art. It’s brings satire and parody to new heights – or maybe not, since you wouldn’t necessarily want to blow that much time writing a merely satirical piece. It ticks all the boxes from extreme length, to batshit crazy asides from all the way out of left-field. There’s racism, sexism and a tiny bit of homophobia. It has it all except, perhaps, a terrible design – it’s actually quite readable.

I wouldn’t recommend going through it all – it took me a long time and a lot of professional procrastination to get through all of Time Cube – but you can get some great highlights by picking a word you just know will be in there and doing a quick Ctrl-F on it.

By the way, it is totally natural that women, by and large, are horrified by children’s deaths. What is not natural is that men have been feminized to a degree that they effectively feel the same way, and that they have allowed women’s narrowmindedness… to lay hold of the whole of society and tyrannize it with the values of small and petty creatures.

The guy isn’t a fan of women. The philosophy is to keep them down and submissive, because it’s just, you know, their place.

“Waaaaaaah, mooooooommy, he swears a lot, I don’t like him!” — I don’t like you either, fuckface. As for the swearing, Earth to flaming faget: that’s how men talk. If you don’t like it, go sit with the womenfolk.

Oh please, there’s hardly any swearing in this at all. Believe me, if you want to see a lot of swearing, I’m the fucking master.

Wittgenstein is — once you have got past “that hocus-pocus of mathematical form”, in which, like Spinoza, he encased and masked his philosophy — utterly exasperating. Ethics is transcendental, aesthetics is transcendental, logic is transcendental! — everything is transcendental! But all these things are in the universe, you goddamn brainless twit, how can they be transcendental! The universe is everything, nothing is transcendental! that’s just a word imbeciles use to signify that they are incapable of understanding something! — And sure enough, he understood neither logic, nor ethics nor aesthetics — among a great many other things, practically everything! — partly because he didn’t bother reading enough of what his predecessors wrote, but mainly because he was a little man with small experiences and therefore incapable of making any progress in psychology, which is where all these “transcendental” categories begin — and end.

Convoluted sentence structures, with many asides, which, like a a large building, with floors stacked upon each other, where you push from one level or pop to the next constantly, so that it’s hard to keep track, is difficult, take time to reconstruct, to distract you, don’t make you smart. I’ve read better criticisms of Wittgenstein on the toilet paper the morning after I’ve had an especially warm curry.

Semiotic optics: the time for it has come. The idea is basically that no one (and nothing) is “wrong”; they can’t be wrong because they are part of the universe, and whatever is in their brains — in the brains of even the stupidest person — is as correct as what’s in my mind or Nietzsche’s or Baudrillard’s. What we need then is an art of interpretation so subtle and powerful that it can bring out the “truth” that’s hiding inside even the dumbest person’s brains. […] Which is why I say that true genius ultimately lies, not in proving anyone wrong, but in proving everyone right.

This is just hilarious. It’s taking subjectivity and solipsism to even further absurd reaches.

Getting a woman is very different from keeping her. Here, perhaps, Machiavelli was wrong. Wanting, and getting her, is normal and highly laudable; the expression of a natural desire, etc. Expending any great effort to keep her, on the other hand, is ignoble; a sign that you are dubious about your chances of getting another, perhaps a better one in future.

AVFM or MGTOW should totally get this guy to speak at their next big gig – should they ever, of course, do anything of note. This is real hardcore philosophifisising, guys, and it clearly proves life is about fucking sluts and whores without overpaying the stuck up bitches. Righteous!

Napoleon and Hitler: two faces of the same coin, with devastation following at the end in either case. Why the extra hatred for the latter? Partly increased brutality in the man, partly increased power in the means of war and the ensuing devastation, partly Jewish lies and propaganda.

Anti-Semitism, with a slight build-up towards holocaust denial. DRINK!

We die twice, once when the last breath leaves our bodies, and again when the last person who knows our name dies.

Actually, I like this one. I’m putting it here just to be fair (unsurprisingly, it’s not original not even remotely).

The popular metaphor that a man “takes” a woman is well-meant, but wrong. For it is obviously the woman who takes, and the man who gives. He who gives, however, is stronger. And since from the slaves’ inverted perspective the opposite appears, it has come to pass that popular usage has created this expression.

I ain’t saying she’s a gold digger…

The best thing that happened to the blacks was that they were taken slaves.

I like racists when they’re not-even-in-the-closet about it. Like when John Safran tried to join the KKK and and the Grand Dragon outright said “I am a racist”. I respect them more for their honesty. It means we can at least agree that they hold those views. It’s dealing with fucktards who outright deny their fucktarded opinions exist despite evidence to the contrary that are the trouble.

When simulation is preferable to reality. E.g. it is sometimes better to masturbate with the idea of a beautiful woman, either using the imagination or some sort of simulacrum, than to have actual sex with an actual woman. Because sexual pleasure is physical and mental, there is a threshold of female ugliness past which the simulacrum is preferable. The same with videogames and war or business — or real life. The aesthetic wretchedness of activities, which may be more demanding physically, accounts for people preferring the simulated, i.e. physically debased, but aesthetically heightened, alternative. Sex with an ugly woman is terrible. Past a certain point it’s not even physically possible, since one cannot even get an erection.

That’s just too good not to share.

And just as the weak creature inserts God wherever it feels its weakness, the strong creature inserts itself wherever it feels its strength, and ultimately in itself. To believe so much in oneself as to become one’s own religion. And people think that I am an atheist. I am not an atheist, I am God.

Glad we cleared that one up.

Archimedes Plutonium

Addendum: Oh wait, you’re serious? Let me laugh even harder.

Via PsyGremlin via PZ Myers, this is Archimedes Plutonium, my new favourite crank hat. I was really fucking surprised to have taken this long to come across his own breed of Wrongness, having been a fan of the internet for many years, as apparently Mr Plutonium (yes, allegedly his actual deed-poll-altered name) has been a Usenet Celebrity since before the beginning of time. Or, about the time of the early 1990s Usenet boards at least. Plutonium is the perfect crank. The whole package. A perfect, crazy blend of Gene Ray’s Time Cube and Dewey Larson’s Reciprocal/Reciprocating System and ramping it up a notch of “I can do bullshitting better than you, you pussies”.

For those who might not know (and we all have to experience this thing for the first time at some point), Time Cube is a badly-written, badly-formatted, horrific eyesore of a website which is internet-famous for being long, virtually incomprehensible in content, and so off-the-wall rambling that it’s author, Gene Ray, was invited to speak at an MIT conference specifically for students to laugh their asses off at him. Time Cube’s four-corner-day non-Singular-God fag-hating educated-stupid hypotheses can’t even be judged on the criteria of whether it’s right or wrong, because there’s hardly an idea there to judge. The interpretations vary, but the most realistic is that Ray simply jumped up and down a keyboard several times and out it popped. The late Dewey Larson (and his extant successor, Ron Satz), meanwhile, presents something more coherent (only just), and perhaps evangelises my favourite theory-of-everything going. Being qualified engineers, they at least can string sentences together, but that hasn’t stopped them being considerably wrong about everything. Larson’s biggest claim to fame (he’s not even Wikipedia-notable) is gettings The Case Against The Nuclear Atom read and reviewed by Isaac Asimov, who promptly dismissed it as a ludicrous that doesn’t stand up to testing (though frequently the review is quote-mined to the part where he calls it “an interesting exercise”). Larson doesn’t use 10 words when he can use 500, and despite his insistence that ideas should stand up to both logic and evidence, presents neither in his work.

Ray brings the crazy, Larson brings the wrong. Archimedes Plutonium manages to bring both to the table in one solid block.

Like Larson and Satz, Plutonium’s claims rest on pimping his extensive collection of self-published books. Over 100, it seems, are in Plutonium’s pipeline and due for completion. Some are already out there in the wild, with bemusing titles like “All Matter is made up of atoms, and the Universe is matter, hence the Universe is one big atom; Syllogism”. Which certainly puts the most commonly-cited unwieldy book titles to shame, and has the founders of formal logic spinning in their graves. The only difference being that at least Larson was self-publishing back before internet-based print-on-demand rendered the enterprise depressingly hilarious.

The central thesis that Plutonium has been peddling since the days of Usenet is the “atom totality” theory. This states that the structure of the universe is actually that of an entire atom. Specifically, the plutonium atom. Why the plutonium atom? It’s the first synthetic element, as naturally occurring elements end at uranium (well, to a first approximation) but other than that it seems like an arbitrary choice.

Why? That’s summed up, of course, in the book title above. The universe is made of atoms, therefore the universe is a giant atom. The logic is as airtight as P(A|B) = P(B|A).

Okay, so time for some more specific crazy. This is the fun part, after all.

Plutonium Atom Totality theory. According to this theory, there was no Big Bang, but rather progressive growth from a Hydrogen Atom Totality into the present “Plutonium Atom Totality”, in which the galaxies are dots of the electron-dot-cloud.

Now, I’ll go ahead and assume no prior knowledge of quantum mechanics for a moment and go through this really quickly. An electron isn’t the little planet-like thing orbiting the atom that you were lead to believe at GCSE-level science. Your teachers lied to you, kids. They lied big. The electron’s position isn’t fixed in a circular orbit, but is actually governed by a three-dimensional wave (it’s just a mathematical function, not too significantly more complex than, say, y=sin(x). It’s nothing disgracefully scary) that represents the probability of finding it at any one place around the atom. Some of the time we expect to find it over here, other times we expect to find it over there. But we know the equations governing this probability. In chemistry it’s convenient to represent it as a boundary that surrounds the space where we expect to find the electron 90-99% of the time. On a chemical scale, it’s easy enough to think about this as the actual shape of the electron itself, or the density of it as it’s smeared out over time.

This is the shape a 2p orbital looks like, which is like a big fuzzy dumbbell. Though the dz2 is my personal favourite, these higher functions do put to rest the idea of circular, planet like orbits.

This can be a bit misleading for some tastes, as this sort of representation removes much of the 3-dimensional component. If we were to freeze this function at any one time, we’d locate the electron precisely – not that the uncertainty principle makes this possible, but lets assume for the sake of argument that it does. This allows us to build up a picture of the electron cloud as a series of dots, with each dot representing the randomly selected “position” of the electron at any “one time”. Like so:

This is what Plutonium is saying the universe looks like. It looks like this sort of structure, a dot diagram of an electron cloud, or building up the time-averaged probability density of finding an electron at any one point in space. Specifically he talks of an f function in a plutonium atom, not a p function, but the difference is negligible for our purposes here. Trouble is, the universe doesn’t look like it’s governed by the spherical harmonics of Laplace’s equation. It looks like this:

On huge scales the universe and the galaxies in it do seem to form structures that are bound by gravity. These seem to be filament-like structures scattering across and stretching from one end of the observable universe to the other. If Plutonium was suggesting that galactic super-clusters looked a little like neurons in the brain, he might be onto something. But no. He says it looks like an atom. Specifically a plutonium atom.

 The large-scale structure of the universe is fairly well known (dark energy/matter excluded) and the equations governing the electron are also pretty well known. Forget the horrendous syllogism Plutonium uses to come to his conclusion, the bottom line is this: these two types of structures are characterised quite well, and don’t match up.

The Nuclear-Coulomb force arises from the *nuclear electron* which is inside every neutron in the nucleus of atoms wherein this nuclear-electron spills out and runs around holding together all the protons in the nucleus.

I really don’t want to get into this shit right now…

Now, this is why I brought Dewey Larson into the equation earlier. In The Case Against The Nuclear Atom, he makes a staggering claim against the electronic structure of the atom as described above. He actually claims (as I made the mistake of actually reading it, I know he gets to this point by about 70% the way through it; he doesn’t get to the point very quickly) that the electron is part of the nucleus, much in the same way Plutonium assumes an electron does here. It’s a shame Larson died a few years before Plutonium became really active, seeing those two in a debate would have been priceless!

The main error here is that we know quite a lot about the strong force that holds the atom together. Particle physics explores this all the time when it decides it wants to start the day blowing atoms apart. The forces governed by the Standard Model are pretty much correct as far as we can tell right now.

As a result of these forces, an electron won’t go running around inside the nucleus as described. The energy barrier is simply staggering for a particle to do that, and the wave nature of the particle itself simply doesn’t allow it to do so. The lowest ground state of a free electron is in the 1s orbital. If the electron could conceivably get closer to the nucleus – bear in mind that it’s being continually yanked in there by the highly attractive positive force of the protons – it would. It’s the energy-quantised nature of quantum mechanics that actually stops it from doing that. Once it’s in that 1s ground state it doesn’t go any lower, and it’s this property that keeps atoms stable – otherwise they’d just collapse into a dense steaming heap of neutronium. At least, it can’t do this without hopping a serious energy barrier to instigate a fusion process – a process that can have its energy barrier reduced by replacing the electron with an analogous, but heavier, muon. Again, this is nicely quantified stuff. If there is an “electron” running around inside the nucleus, its properties will be nothing like the electron we know and love, and so it may not make sense to even call it an electron.

But the main problem with how Larson and Plutonium treat the behaviour of electrons is that the theories we have about how they work are very, very successful. The wave mechanics governing electrons and the molecular orbital theory (or band theory in solids) explain, very successfully, all of chemistry. Literally everything that atoms and molecules do can be framed in terms of electronic structure methods. We don’t simply fail to gain an improvement in accuracy by switching to these crank theories, we can’t even begin to make any predictions about the world by using them.

For biology, the theory of Darwin Evolution is flawed, it is not a theory but a rule or algorithm that captures some of what happens in biology. What replaces Evolution is Superdeterminism. The Bell Inequality with the Aspect Experiments show us that Quantum Physics is on the large-scale and that events are connected stretching across the entire distance of the Universe. You cannot have both Evolution which is based on free-will and probabilities, and also have Superdeterminism. Only one can be true.

Now, this is special. Really fucking special. It’s common amongst cranks who think they understand quantum mechanics, and, naturally, they all seem to have problems with evolution.

Bell’s theorem basically states this: Nature doesn’t give a fuck what you think makes sense and is under no obligation to bow to your opinion. Or, in less colourful terms, that classical or quasi-classical physics (i.e., the physics/mechanics that “makes sense”) cannot replicate quantum mechanical effects. No matter how you fudge your theory and your equations, if you try to make it “classical” the actual experimental results of quantum mechanics will throw it back in your face and tell you that you’re wrong.

This is unless you have a loophole that gets you out of this obligation, and one of these loopholes is superdeterminism. This states that the universe is entirely deterministic with zero deviance from it, and so the indeterminacy we see in quantum mechanics (such as the probability function of the electrons described above) is actually a complete illusion. Indeed, this is generally considered incompatible with “free will” (Plutonium is just about right here), but that depends entirely how broadly you want to even define free will in the first place (it’s not that simple) and whether the lack of it even matters. It’s also considered a highly unlikely proposition to be true.

Plutonium simply thinks superdeterminism is the only way quantum theory can make sense. And given his horrific understanding of the spherical harmonics of an electron, where he seems to think a dot cloud represents some kind of real picture rather than a very strained abstraction of a probability distribution, this is unsurprising.

Alain Aspect is a French physicist most notable for his work into quantum entanglement; how particles can apparently interact at a distance and supposedly violate a lot of known laws and “common sense” at the time. Whether it be people trying to say the universe is a simulation inside a giant alien supercomputer or whether it’s a crank pushing a Theory of Everything, or some naive idiot who thinks entanglement can cause information to go faster than light, they will probably cite Alain Aspect or a branch of his research as confirming their theory. If you drink every time you see a crank reference Alain Aspect’s experiments, you will die a horrible alcoholic death.

What unites them all, however,  is that they never say how this exactly happens. I’ve never seen any of them even vaguely attempt to make this leap. That would, you know, require actually understanding what is going on.

Though not 100% conclusive, Aspect’s experiments into entanglement have been cited as strong proof for quantum mechanics being non-deterministic, and that Bell’s theorem holds true (that it can’t be married up with “common sense”). So, this is where I don’t quite get what Plutonium is even hinting at here. He’s actually trying to get two things that say completely different things, (that the universe is superdeterministic, but Bell’s theorem is true, I think…) and get them to say the same thing. As I said, this is nonsensical on a level with Time Cube, and wrong on the scale of Larson and Satz.

How this fits in with a macroscopic theory of evolution, which certainly does not rely on free will, isn’t clear. In short, even superdeterminism isn’t incompatible with evolution. Evolution is simply a process. If the universe repeats itself and does exactly the same thing again because of superdeterminism, this doesn’t violate the mechanism of action involved in making evolution by natural selection occur. And therein lies the problem with conflating determinism and no free will – can you even tell the difference? That’s beyond the scope of this rant right now. Regardless, the theory still retains its predictive qualities – which is why it’s a theory, despite Plutonium’s objections – and its explanatory nature for the processes involved on a higher, slightly heuristic, level than brute sub-atomic collisions.

There’s a lot more in Plutonium’s work, including the idea that all anthropology can be explained by people throwing rocks, but I’m hitting the limit of how long these things can be and remain sensible. Maybe another time.

Now go away.

The Citadel

This is The Citadel, one of a myriad  hyper-libertarian utopia projects based upon the idea that if you just get enough people with the same views and values in the same place, then everyone will live happily ever after. It’s unusual compared to most grandiose pipe dreams of this type in that it’s actually situated within the country of origin itself, rather than an attempt to create a new one from scratch (often called seasteading). It’s a sort-of hybrid between the usual attempts of creating an autonomous floating tax-dodge, that emphasises independence and tight community, and the Free State Project, which attempts to create a libertarian utopia only via the democratic process, by migrating like-minded voters to the same region.

By no means am I saying this is going to work. These projects never do. The FSP is one of the largest and best known, but is moving at the pace of an asthmatic ant with heavy shopping, having only got a thousand or so signatures pledging to do it and no one actually doing it. Meanwhile, the most successful seastead (based on longevity) is arguably Sealand, which when you look into it reads more like a situation comedy than a serious attempt at starting a country/state. Hell, even the 1978 invasion of Sealand by Dutch and German  mercenaries reads as quite hilarious despite the injuries and actual seriousness of the situation. The history of Sealand should be accompanied by the Benny Hill theme tune.

Nor am I saying that this sort of thing is a good idea. After all, critics of the libertarian view often point to Somalia as a pime example of government-free paradise and we all know that there’s nothing wrong with that place. Not at all. When you bung a load of people together assuming they’ll just get on and mind each others business, you’re setting up for failure. Good luck trying to kerb the rapid spread of disease when you realise there aren’t any hygiene regulations keeping unscrupulous individuals in check.

And don’t immediately assume some form of consumer natural selection, or the Invisible Hand, will fix all this. Shops in the UK have been selling “beef” burgers featuring horse meat (a problem mostly due to the accountability and traceability of the product rather than any factor about what animal people are consuming) for months and sales weren’t magically hit. Now imagine how much such retailers could hide in the name of profit margins and meeting demand if they weren’t regulated on any level. Got that? That’s the natural consequence of living in “Liberty” Town for you. It may sound like a weak argument from over-simplified and cherry picked examples, but the entire concept of these gated (or walled) communities based on live-and-let-live principles works purely on trust. And evidence suggests that we simply can’t trust people not to start preying on the vulnerable with some scam or another.

Speaking of scams, back on topic. The Citadel is likely to join the ranks of other laughable failures. Or, at least, it’s unlikely to advance to the point where it can be even considered a failure. So far there’s a website and a pipe dream to go with it, in its current state there’s little or difference between The Citadel and the layout for a D&D game, so if it fails to produce a great big castle at the end of the decade, no real harm done. Except to the dignity of people who may have fell for it and signed up in all seriousness, intrigued by the prospect of being required to carry a gun to the town centre at all times (yes, that’s in the Agreement you have to sign, more on that later).

There area  few specific areas of the project worth looking into, though.

The language used by the people who think this is a good idea is really interesting. They repeatedly refer to their marks, I mean, potential Residents, as Patriots – capital P and all – as if this automatically makes it a Good Thing. Remember, people who would fall for this sort of con, I mean, erm, proposal, are the kind who are easily swayed by such flattery. Say the right words and they’ll be yours. Kiss a few babies and they’ll worship the ground you walk on. Agree with all their prejudices and enhance their fears and you’ll be raised up to the level of a visionary. Call them any positive word you can think of and they will flock to you to be part of such a club.

But Patriots? Really? I’m not political philosopher, but last I checked “Patriot” referred to someone who was loyal to a country, or that loved a country unquestioningly. Now, regardless of whether unquestioning patriotism is a good thing or not, somehow I don’t see it as entirely compatible with building a whopping great big wall around your town specifically to isolate yourself from that country. Surely, Patriots want to live in their country, not try to put a barrier between themselves and the rest of it. After all, a Country or State is a group of people all banded together, it can’t exist without basic kinship and co-operation. The way The Citadel is set up to work (not that it will work, of course) means that the suckers drawn to it would be pledging allegiance not to America – a legitimate State by most acceptable and meaningful definitions – but to the personality cult of its self-appointed community leaders and the ideology they claim to represent. That doesn’t really sound like Patriotism. Unless it’s the kind of Patriotism you’re using only to lure in the people who think Alex Jones tells it as it is.

Now let’s look at the layout for a moment. The designer clearly has no interest in looking at the realities of building a realistic community, and instead has focused on everything to do with the pseudo-romance of building a castle. In reality, it’s more feudal than anything else, based on concepts rightfully buried in the past. The logistical difficulties of walling off two square miles of land from the outside world are immense. To fortify on that scale is a grander project than building the town itself.

Why build a wall anyway?

The answer to this appears in the mission statement of the Citadel where it hints at “man-made” catastrophes, and this goes beyond the “power failures” mentioned on the front page and into economic collapse and invasion. Yes, these people are the paranoid nuts who think the US is literally just days away from government (specifically the Kenyan Muslim Atheist Homosexual, Barack Obama) coming to take their guns by force. Personally, of course. You can see that plain as day from their advert telling people to buy an AR-15 “before it’s too late”.

But back to the walls and a quick history lesson on fortifications. Walls allow people to retreat behind a barrier from an invading force. It keeps the bad guys out and at bay, so that the population couldn’t be mercilessly slaughtered. The trouble being that walls could only encompass the smallest amount of space, and couldn’t really include things like fields and farmland. Hence the way to take on castle walls was to simply surround them and starve the population out. Disease and famine became rife during any siege, and often techniques to exploit this were used by invaders. Techniques such as lobbing dead and rotting carcasses over the walls to help spread pestilence. Walls only let you stay alive long enough for reinforcements to arrive and wipe out the besieging army. The idea of castle walls repelling invaders directly basically ended the day gunpowder was invented. The ability to throw heavy metal or stone cannon balls at greater speeds than catapults and trebuchets ever could reach, and the sheer kinetic force of such weapons, meant that walls had to change. From an average of only a metre thick at the time of bows and arrows, to 4-5 metres by the time cannons were a realistic and common threat. The layout of defensive walls also had to change to react, and walls become something that had to be structured by design as well as brute thickness. The layout of the average later fortification looks nothing like the artists impression of The Citadel, nor the medieval castles that it seems to be based on. It seems to suggest that the strongest physical threat the designers want to ward off is a crossbow. And Communism, of course, as if potential invaders are going to throw nothing bigger than The Little Red Book at them.

The realities of any modern fight that this structure would have to work against are much different. In short, that cute little “inner defensive wall” is going to last less than 6 seconds against an F-22, or an M1-A2, or even a drone strike, as that would be far more efficient. They’d be better off forgetting the wall and trying to build some actual social amenities… No, wait, that would be a little too close to socialism. Indeed, dispense with the walls and build larger bunkers, or individual basements and shelters for each home. That is something that might be realistic. It would still be based purely in the spirit of paranoia The Citadel is born from, but it would at least be true to the realities of modern defences.

But why worry about this? After all, this isn’t a serious endeavour, that much is plain to see. It’s just a publicity stunt for a gun shop, III Arms. Let’s review the evidence that even the founders of this project aren’t entirely convinced that it’s going to actually happen.

  • “III Arms” being emblazoned on the layout impression.
  • The III Arms factory getting pride-of-place in the design.
  • The “get an AR before it’s too late” advert all bold as brass at the top of the website, linking directly to III Arms.
  • The III Arms factory being at the very top of the list of features of the Citadel, as if it was a higher priority than things like houses.

…and finally, the Patriot Agreement. It’s all well and good having plans and designs, but it’s these contracts and agreements that form the meat of trying to form a new community based on ideology. The “agreement” uses the usual sort of magical wording to make it seem like a Constitution, no different to the Facebook meme of “I hereby declare by this communique…”. It’s all there. Number-by-number clauses, the entire thing being prefixed by “we the people”, and the general wording of each clause. It tries to make it look like a nice tight legal document, but it really isn’t. The content does nothing of the sort. Firstly, a matter of confusion. Is it voluntary, or not? The wording suggests voluntary, but the context suggest obligations. It says you take it freely, but you must take it. How does a voluntary obligation that you must agree to make any coherent sense? If you opt out, are you still in the group, or not? What rights do you get, or by opting out does it mean you’re just acting like any other sane person and just not involved at all? It’s all unclear, and obfuscated by the kind of language that makes it seem like these people believe agreements and contracts consist of just magic words.

At best, we can accuse them of naivety with respect to how communities work. Their entire nod to the concept of law and governance is covered in a couple of lonely sentence at the end of the agreement, where it says disagreements will be presided over by an arbitration panel. But of who? And how? And how do we prevent favouritism and unfairness? Or are these things just how hyper-libertarian culture should work? Presumably, The Citadel runs by US Law, in which case how is this Agreement amending that, and does it really overrule local, state and federal laws? Can the FBI or ATF come in and investigate their arms stashes? Will their defence drills include shooting at local police? Who knows.

Instead of this sort of essential clarification, the Agreement, the apparent pseudo-constitution of the Citadel, is dedicated entirely to firearms proficiency. In fetishistic detail it explains how everyone must use a gun, and demonstrate their use of it. Not just any gun, but a range of handguns and rifles – all of which are happily sold by III Arms – on a range of targets. So, serious endeavour, or an advert for a gun shop? Most sane people will probably spot that it’s the latter from this alone.

Defence drills, military training, battlefield medicine. All of this is enshrined in he agreement – basically all people joining the group are actively conscripted into the militia of the collective. Quite how such enforced militarism matches up with the concept of live-and-let-live liberty isn’t explained. This is do-as-you-please, without infringing on the rights of others, keep your nose out of other peoples business, liberty. A simple concept to grasp until you realise it’s not always that  straightforward.

How is freedom compatible with conscription? Where are the provisions for getting food, doctors, educators, maintenance, infrastructure, fuel, lighting, heating or social events? Why are the obligations of people simply restricted to shooting a rifle and not on gathering resources to live? Life in the Citadel looks far from free, and more harsh and boring. By the content of the agreement it’s a near-Fascist militaristic state. Everyone can wield a gun to defend themselves against invaders, but no one will be able to defend themselves against simple starvation, or illness, or getting old.

Everything in the concept relies on there being an America outside the walls to support it, which doesn’t exactly bode well in the face of the massive economic meltdown that it’s supposed to survive. “Provisions for a year” isn’t going to help there. You need self-sufficiency, and simple stockpiling that paranoid lunatics involve themselves in won’t help. What’s the power source, and how do you fuel it? I can assume based on inference from other Right Wing groups that renewable energy isn’t on the cards here, windmills and water wheels are a bit too Commie, a bit too Hippy and Pinko for them. Which, naturally, is just denial about where oil and other fossil fuels actually come from. And let’s not even begin on the hard work required to make sure water is drinkable.

This little project, even though it’s never going to come to fruition, has nothing to do with forming a utopian community to get away from Marxists and socialists, nor about surviving an economic apocalypse, and everything to do with worshipping the cult of the gun. Buy your AR-15 before it’s too late!