A bit of a holiday

Lindisfarne castle

You may have noticed that it’s been a little quiet here lately. That’s partly because I’ve had little to say, but also because I’ve been away on holiday with the family. We rented a cottage and spent a week on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne. In case you don’t know, it’s a island off the coast of Northumberland which you access via a causeyway that you can only cross when the tide is low enough.

There’s not a great deal to do on the island, but there is a castle (picture on right) an old priory, a few pubs and cafes, and some really nice walks. You can also cross to the mainland along the Pilgrim’s Way, which is marked by poles and is also only accessible when the tide is low enough.

What was nice was that it would be very quiet either before people could cross the causeyway, or after they had left in order to avoid being trapped for the next four to five hours. I’d mostly use these times to go for a cycle without having to dodge all the other visitors. There was a headland where you could sit and watch the sea birds, look out for dolphins (which I did see on one of the days) and even watch the lifeboat crews try to free a yacht that had managed to get some rope wrapped around its rudder when it sailed over some buoys that were marking lobster pots.

I was also going to comment about the state of the discourse which, as usual, I find somewhat disappointing. However, I’ve probably written enough, so may expand on this at a later stage. I’ll just highlight a tweet from Mark McCaughrean that mostly illustrates the issue that I have. Essentially, I find it difficult to know who to trust when it comes to topics I’m not that familiar with, such as how to implement climate policy, or what is realistic when it comes to energy policy.

It almost feels that everyone is engaging in rhetoric styles that are more aimed at appealing to certain audiences than in providing reliable information about complex issues. Maybe this is simply unavoidable, but I do find that it makes it difficult to sift through things to try and work out what to trust and what to be more dubious about. Maybe this is unavoidable, but I do find it frustrating at times.

Advertisement
This entry was posted in Personal, Philosophy for Bloggers, Policy and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

27 Responses to A bit of a holiday

  1. we can all elevate the discourse a bit by doing our best to communicate effectively and without too much rhetoric or concern about scoring debating points. A worthy enterprise

  2. small,
    Indeed, but my impression is that those who don’t do that, end up more prominent (i.e., you get more exposure if you confidently say things that people want to hear, than if you highlight nuances and acknowledge that you don’t necessarily have all the answers).

  3. Tom Fuller says:

    I hope you enjoyed / are enjoying your holiday.

  4. Tom,
    Yes, very enjoyable. Thanks.

  5. Joshua says:

    My view is that most of the comments in the blogosohere, or at least in the climate-I-sphere are about rhetoric more than about discussion. Has been that way for a very long time.

    Of course, the rhetorical engagement versus actual discussion ratio varies by website.

    So then, I think, the interesting question is why do people spend so much time engaging in rhetorical engagement where there’s little actual discussion going on?

    Probably not surprisingly, I think a lot of the explanation lies in identify-based cognition (primarily identity-aggressive and identity-defensive cognition), although that’s really an answer as to the WHY people are so identity-focused.

    Some people like Jonathan Haidt seem to lean, more than seems quite right to me, towards social media and the corresponding algorithmic structures, playing a causal role. In my view, social media may be an amplifier, but the real crux of the biscuit is more heavily centered around basic human cognitive and psychological attributes. Although, those different attributions maybe can’t be disaggregatesd in any meaningful sense.

  6. Joshua says:

    Heh. Climate-o-sphere…a Freudian typo of ever one existed.

  7. Joshua,
    Yes, I also agree that it’s mostly to do with basic human cognition than something new, like social media. Interesting that you mention Jonathan Haidt as I’m currently listening to the latest Guruspod episode, which is covering Lex Friedman and Jonathan Haidt.

  8. J says: “social media may be an amplifier, but the real crux of the biscuit is more heavily centered around basic human cognitive and psychological attributes. Although, those different attributions maybe can’t be disaggregatesd in any meaningful sense.”
    https://theconversation.com/dont-feed-the-trolls-really-is-good-advice-heres-the-evidence-63657
    https://www.searchenginejournal.com/defeat-online-trolls/323439/
    I like the idea that what you think of me is generally none of my business. That’s a helpful idea to embrace when I feel like I am getting baited/trolled or the discussion has taken a personal turn with an underlying current of hostility and/or one-upmanship. I sometimes get a whiff of that kind of thing on the internet.
    Maybe a holiday is also good way to raise the level of discourse.

  9. Joshua says:

    Yeah, I just listened the other day too, so his schtick was on my mind – although he’s been on my radar for a while now. I pretty much agreed with their take on Haidt’s work.

  10. Joshua says:

    More specifically, Re Haidt generalizing from a local (US centric) phenomenon (and attributing causality to social media), I think Ezra Klein presents a highly relevant insight: in the US polarization maybe isn’t really higher than, say the 60s, but arguably the polarization is more dichotomous or binary along a party identity Republican vs. Democrat vector. Previously, say hard hats vs. hippies, was no less hateful – but the groups weren’t so aligned along political dimensions. Ie., there was more diversity within parties. This has lead to a greater political disfunctionality. Which, I think perhaps, makes the polarization that exists FEEL more salient even if there isn’t more of it.

    But for a while now, while I generally have a favorable impression of Haidt’s academic approach, his conclusions about causality are not terribly convincing for me and I think they do have an old man saying “get off my lawn” feel to them – without a careful quantification of how things are really different let alone why they’re different.

  11. Willard says:

    Listened to the episode last weekend. Matt & Chris is the perfect clown show for my cleanup routine. I say this affectionately. As I said in my interview with Matt, Chris plays the Red Clown, and Matt plays the White Clown. The dynamic between Auguste and Pierrot may outlive us all. For those who don’t know them, think Punch and Judy, Abbott and Costello, Laurel and Hardy, Terence Hill and Bud Spencer, Valdimir and Estragon, and famous Climateball duo that is now retired. There are infinite variations on the theme, and psychological characteristics are more or less interchangeable. It is the contrast between the roles that gives life to the plays.

    Lex makes sense as a Pierrot:

    [I]mperturbable sang-froid [again the words are Gautier’s], artful foolishness and foolish finesse, brazen and naïve gluttony, blustering cowardice, skeptical credulity, scornful servility, preoccupied insouciance, indolent activity, and all those surprising contrasts that must be expressed by a wink of the eye, by a puckering of the mouth, by a knitting of the brow, by a fleeting gesture.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pierrot

    For some reason Jonathan seems to be reddening. At least his “get off my lawn” act sounds clumsy to me. I suspect that’s the very point of his newly acquired rhetoric: it gets our attention. Otherwise he’d turn into another platitudinous scholar who says bland things.

    Reactionaries express reactance to make people react; hippies will hippie to get them punched.

    ***

    And so I think we all know that that media kerfuffles are clown shows. Yet we like them. Yes, we all love Climateball, at least a bit. Why? Probably for the same reason that wrestling fans love wrestling:

    When you think of professional wrestling, you probably picture cartoonish characters like Hulk Hogan and Macho Man Randy Savage. But after the Montreal screwjob, the real world lurked just beneath the scripted spectacle of professional wrestling.

    https://radiolab.org/episodes/montreal-screwjob

    This Radiolab episode explains how wrestling became very popular by transgressing the boundaries between fiction and reality. Basically, real connoisseurs are smark: they know it’s scripted, but they also know one must fall for the script to enjoy it. So they cherish when real life events got included into the scripts, and when scenes go out of script.

    Those who would dismiss all of this as pure theater discount the sacredness of theater. We are living beings. We only have one life. Why not make it fun?

    If in the end, there is only physics, I do hope there is something else before that.

    Enjoy your summer, AT.

  12. good to read you again willard

    of course dont forget
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alazon#:~:text=Alaz%E1%B9%93n%20(Ancient%20Greek%3A%20%E1%BC%80%CE%BB%CE%B1%CE%B6%CF%8E%CE%BD),greater%20than%20he%20actually%20is.

    and his pair
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eiron

    ill also recommend a handbook by one of my grad school teachers

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_A._Lanham
    “The Motives of Eloquence: Literary Rhetoric in the Renaissance”

  13. attp

    do you get time on webb?

  14. Steven,
    I’m not part of any of the formal programmes, although I have been co-supervising a PhD students with one of the JWST project scientists (the goal was to basically do the modelling that you saw in the figure showing the spectrum of WASP-96b). However, many of my colleagues are involved in programmes and, as far as I’m aware, all of the data becomes publicly available straight away, so anyone can really use it.

  15. Steven,
    I’m not part of any of the formal programmes, although I have been co-supervising a PhD students with one of the JWST project scientists (the goal was to basically do the modelling that you saw in the figure showing the spectrum of WASP-96b). However, many of my colleagues are involved in programmes and, as far as I’m aware, all of the data becomes publicly available straight away, so anyone can really use it.

    i was just wondering if you had any things you wanted to look at, like proxima b.

  16. Steven,
    Yes, Proxima b would be very interesting. I’m probably more interested in some of the wider orbit planets that have already been directly imaged, but that’s mostly because I’ve been working on models of how they might have formed 🙂

  17. angech says:

    Enjoy the holidays.
    From a physics point of view I do not see a lot of out of the box thinking as there should be.
    One has to be able to conceive that one’s ideas might be wrong .
    No, one has to consider the opposite of one’s views and see where that leads to be more confident in the beliefs one has been fed.

    Re planetary formation and the new telescope views many things apart from dark matter seem poorly explained by standard theory.

    One is the comment that we can see galaxies 13.8 billion years ago.
    No one explains how the further out we look we find galaxies and stars That we compare to our own even though they have not existed as such for 13.8 billion years.
    We should instead be seeing mega stars, chunks of primordial mega energy flashing on the horizon.
    If our stars and galaxies are the second or third or thirtieth redux of the original “stars” why do the original ones ( most of them at least) look like us?

    Our physics teacher is going through atmospheric formation at he moment.
    Working from a theory of hot masses congealing into a sun and planets.
    Personally this concept is a squib.
    The absolute opposite of it would be this.
    Galaxies are built from cold, not hot material, coming together due to velocity not gravity.
    Happy to discuss further.

    If interested.

  18. angech,
    As I understand it, the galaxies in the galaxy cluster that was imaged by JWST were about 4.6 billion years old. There were some lensed galaxies that are more distant (older) one of which was about 13.1 billion years old. It turns out that galaxies actually form fairly early in the universe. The first stars form when the universe was only a few hundred million years old, and live such short lives that they enrich the universe with heavy elements pretty quickly. The first galaxies then form soon after. One of the science goals of JWST is to try and see these first stars.

  19. dikranmarsupial says:

    “We should instead be seeing mega stars”

    should we? How bright would a mega star have to be to detect it at a distance of 13.8 billion light years?

    “From a physics point of view I do not see a lot of out of the box thinking as there should be.”

    From an engineering point of view, I don’t see as many “back of the envelope” calculations or checking assumptions as there should be ;o) It could be that someone thought outside the box, di the required “back of the envelope calculation” and then though, “oh…” (which might be why you didn’t see it).

    [actually b.o.t.e.c. are as much a part of science as engineering – vaguely recall Feynman saying something about it as a stage in the scientific process?]

    “chunks of primordial mega energy flashing on the horizon.”

    we do see that, it is called the cosmic microwave background radiation.

    I would have thought the metalicity of stars (detectable by spectra?) would decrease as a function of distance, but I couldn’t find anything obvious on google scholar (using the wrong search terms)?

  20. To be fair, angech isn’t completely wrong. We do expect the very first stars to be very massive and it is hoped that JWST might observe them.

  21. izen says:

    @-angtech
    “One is the comment that we can see galaxies 13.8 billion years ago.
    No one explains how the further out we look we find galaxies and stars That we compare to our own even though they have not existed as such for 13.8 billion years.”

    The universe is much larger than 13.8 billion years across due to space expansion, the most recent estimate I have seen is around 95 billion lightyears.

    “Galaxies are built from cold, not hot material, coming together due to velocity not gravity.”

    As I understand it according to current theory, the earliest stars were large hydrogen masses that supernova-ed quickly. The galaxies coalesced along the filaments of dark matter due to gravitational attraction. Gravity is the main component of velocity in the universe, when matter falls into a gravity well it heats up.

  22. dikranmarsupial says:

    Indeed, I saw that in your answer (and it would be very deeply cool). The point I was making is that we need both “out of the box thinking” and (at least) “back of the envelope calculations” before ideas are really worth talking about. The only time you really see public “out of the box thinking” in science without at least a rudimentary proof of concept calculation is when people have “gone emeritus”. If JWST *might* observe them, then that implies that they are so feint that to assert “we should instead be seeing mega stars” requires an envelope or two.

  23. dikranmarsupial says:

    Just to add to that – if we don’t see scientists with views that we expect them to have, then we should assume they know something we don’t (and may well have thought about it already and discarded the idea), rather than that there is a lack “out of the box thinking”. For example, my intuition about metalicity and distance seems somewhat conspicuous by its absence in the literature (from what I can tell from a quick googling), so my assumption is that my intuition is likely to be wrong. I suspect it may be because low metalicity stars tend to be large and small long-lived early generation stars (like Methusala) are rare, so perhaps the average metalicity of stars went up very rapidly at the start, so we don’t see much variation? Dunno, but I can see that one is beyond my capability of producing a back of the envelope calculation – just don’t know enough. Inverse square law, perhaps…

    Sadly this is why there is so much nonsense on the web, not enough envelopes around these days (or self-skepticism).

  24. Joshua says:

    > To be fair, angech isn’t completely wrong.

    Time to get in on the ground floor investing in snowmobile franchises in hell.

  25. something i didnt know about the turing test

  26. izen says:

    @-SM

    The gendered nature of the Turing test, which was derived from an original version that posed the problem of detecting a man from a woman, gets added piquancy when you realise that Turing was homosexual.
    Given his own problems with defining his self, within a society that saw his behaviour as not just aberrant but illegal, the adoption of the gendered test may reflect his own problem of imitating a ‘man’ who is therefore truly sentient.

  27. Willard says:

    > Time to get in on the ground floor investing in snowmobile franchises in hell.

    John Templeton made a fortune using a similar strategy.

    Just wait for blood on another street than yours.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.