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August 17, 2005

Everything you know is wrong
Posted by Patrick at 04:28 PM *

Evidently we’re not living in a standard spiral galaxy, but rather a barred spiral. This Explains Everything.

Comments on Everything you know is wrong:
#1 ::: Jim Henley ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2005, 04:37 PM:

Cut to the chase. Do the Puppeteers get away or not?

#2 ::: David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2005, 04:47 PM:

I always thought barred spirals were cooler anyway.

#3 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2005, 04:51 PM:

Actually, I understand the Puppeteers are actually in charge of the West Wing policy shop.

#4 ::: Lois Fundis ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2005, 04:53 PM:

Stars and bars? Wrong flag. Unless we're in an Alternate History, that is.

And I guess that means Andromeda isn't our twin anymore.

#5 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2005, 05:02 PM:

Well, the supermassive black hole at the center is comforting. It means the whole galaxy is circling the drain, not just Earth.

#6 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2005, 05:05 PM:

That's so... urm, reassuring, Xopher.

#7 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2005, 05:09 PM:

It's all a matter of perspective, isn't it?

I'm quite pleased this thread hasn't descended into a Milky Way Barred candy pun cascade yet. It's quite sweet really.

#8 ::: John Scalzi ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2005, 05:30 PM:

Hmph. I can think of at least one astronomy book, published in 2003, which noted that evidence suggested the Milky Way was a barred spiral galaxy. It's right there on page 185. And page 190, too, come to think of it.

Welcome to my universe, people. Mind your feet.

#9 ::: echidna ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2005, 05:52 PM:

For a change, the press release for this one actually acknowledges in the first sentence that this isn't a new result (it refers to "previous evidence"); usually press releases trumpet every slight advance as a shocking new discovery (I think the black hole at the center of our galaxy has been "discovered" half a dozen times now, going by press releases). This is a somewhat more robust result than previous analyses of the bar since the infrared wavelengths at which these observations were done are not significantly obscured by dust in the Galaxy, unlike shorter wavelengths.

#10 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2005, 05:57 PM:

There was an acceptance speech (I cunningly disguise the recipient here with vagueness) at the Science Fiction Research Association's annual conference in Las Vegas this June.

In said speech, said recipient at one point said: "a solar system is bigger than a galaxy. Or is it the other way around? I can never remember."

Afterwards, this being a banquet, I thanked said speechifier for that passage. "I'm assuming, as a former Astronomy professor, that this was a clever joke about academics and the 'Two Cultures' hypothesis, and alluding to Sherlock Holmes telling an astonished Watson that he didn't know if the Earth revolved around the Sun or vice versa, and didn't care unless it was germane to a case...?"

"Oh, right," came the awkward reply. "A joke. Yes. Of course..."

#11 ::: Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2005, 06:42 PM:

IJWTS that *of course* any galaxy with British Fandom would have a bar.

It's been known that the Milky Way was a barred sprial for quite some time, but all the observations were radio based. Getting IR imagery confirming it (and indicating the bar is longer than we thought) is a win, though.

Remember, also, that were on a collision course with M31. So, you've got about 3 billion years to get your affairs in order and get out before a few hundred million stars come storming through the gates.

#12 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2005, 06:43 PM:

The first thing that came to mind was the one class in astronomy I ever took -- descriptive astronomy, generally referred to as "astronomy for mindless humanities majors". Dr. Tai Chow taught it, a rather good astrophysicist and all around nice guy, who had one problem. Born and raised in Taiwan, he had (and I hear still has) the thickest accent in the CSU system. I still can remember the mystified looks he got when he tried to explain "spiro" galaxies. I had no idea Agnew knew which end of a telescope was which.

#13 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2005, 06:58 PM:

Remember, also, that were on a collision course with M31. So, you've got about 3 billion years to get your affairs in order and get out before a few hundred million stars come storming through the gates.

Clearly you aren't familiar with the broad outlines of PNAG. But then, so many people are still part of the carbon-based community.

#14 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2005, 07:06 PM:

I'm just glad we don't live in a $^#$%(@# elliptical. Really, I'd have to move if that turned out to be the case.

#15 ::: Mark Bourne ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2005, 07:30 PM:

As an erstwhile planetarium professional, I can now reveal that not only has the "bar" been suspected through indirect evidence for some time, it's also not merely a "bar." You see, since 1947 the population centers on the far side of galaxy have been aware of our progress, and have determined when we will probably achieve FTL interstellar travel, so they're building this great honkin' wall....

#16 ::: mary ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2005, 08:29 PM:

What a relief. But is it a whiskey bar? Quoting Billmon quoting Bertolt Brecht: "For if we don't find the next Whiskey Bar, I tell you we must die."

#17 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2005, 08:55 PM:

Okay, this brings me to one of the great questions of my childhood that I keep forgetting to ask. I look at those pictures of far-off galaxies, and there seem to be thick clouds of light all around them. I always assumed those clouds of light were clumps of stars....

But if we're in a similar cloud of stars at the outer arms of our galaxy, then why isn't there more light running around? Why do we have night at all? After all, if those clumpings of stars can make big light clouds from across the far reaches of space, then why are the close reaches so dark?

I know there has to be a relatively simple explanation for this, but my brain isn't really up to figuring it out. Anybody know?

#18 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2005, 09:49 PM:

PiscusFiche: I hereby politely decline the tempting request to launch into a lecture...

#19 ::: Becky ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2005, 09:58 PM:

I still can remember the mystified looks he got when he tried to explain "spiro" galaxies. I had no idea Agnew knew which end of a telescope was which.

Ah, that reminds me of my mechanics professor, who was very good but had a thick Russian accent. On the first day of class, he was discussing coordinate transformations, and he said, "And then you get . . . a magic lambda!" My friends and I, in our first upper-level physics course, dutifully wrote "magic lambda" in our notes. It wasn't until after class that someone realized that he had meant matrix lambda . . . which was pretty sad, considering that we had been dealing with matrices throughout the lecture.

PiscusFiche, far-off galaxies appear to have "clouds" of light because they are so far away that we cannot resolve individual stars in a distant galaxy (the exception is Andromeda, and the brightest stars in the Virgo cluster). So even though the outer regions of galaxies are relatively sparsely populated, those stars appear as a faint cloud of light in observations.

#20 ::: elizabeth bear ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2005, 10:08 PM:

The question in my mind is, is it a Milky Way Dark, or a Milky Way Light? And does the Bar at the Center of the Galaxy serve pan-galactic gargle blasters?

#21 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2005, 10:19 PM:

Becky: Ah, that reminds me of my mechanics professor, who was very good but had a thick Russian accent. On the first day of class, he was discussing coordinate transformations, and he said, "And then you get . . . a magic lambda!"

LOL.

One of my Computer Science profs (IRRC, he was from Armenia) was putting forth a logic puzzle in which people in a small village "had only one Babar, and nobody saves themselves, so they are all saved by Babar. So, who saves Babar if he cannot save himself?"

We all stared at each other blankly, and he repeated the puzzle, astonished that we were so slow. By the third repetition, someone realized he was saying "shaved by the barber."

Personally, I preferred the image of Babar the Redeemer.

#22 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2005, 11:10 PM:

Well, there goes our membership in the Standard Spiral Galaxy Lineage Society.

#23 ::: Matt McIrvin ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2005, 11:46 PM:

PicusFiche, more to the point, those beautiful galaxy images are taken with telescopes with apertures much wider than a human eye's pupil, and often with long exposures. Telescopes do more than magnify; their main job is to serve as huge light-buckets to increase the brightness of the image. If you were looking at one of those spiral galaxies from somewhere just outside it, it would look about as dim and indistinct as the Milky Way, not bright as day.

You can see this by looking at the Andromeda Galaxy with the naked eye on a clear, dark night; you can see it, and it's close enough that it extends over a visible area, but it doesn't look like the pictures.

#24 ::: Matt McIrvin ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2005, 12:01 AM:

...By the way, that also goes for all of those beautiful emission nebulae. If you were up close to them looking with your unaided eyes, they wouldn't actually look like much; as you approach a visibly extended object, the brightness of any little piece of its apparent extent doesn't increase, just the apparent size of the whole thing. The big telescope isn't just bringing them "closer", it's brightening up the image so you can see it clearly.

#25 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2005, 12:25 AM:

PiscusFiche, there's a larger version of the "with all those stars, why is the sky dark" question, known as Olbers's Paradox. (If you know all this already, ignore at least the first reference below, though the second one is still worth examining in a Particulate sort of way.)

The short answer is that, because the universe is both expanding and not infinitely old, a good deal of the light just hasn't gotten here yet.

Good analysis here, with some equations (though it's comprehensible without them):

And then there's this, which is a nice example of what an energetic mind can do when it is compeletely unclouded by facts or understanding. He's got a book for sale, too. (It's a little scary that this came up just a couple of googleslots below the U. Oregon piece.)

#26 ::: Jesse ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2005, 02:00 AM:

In the "foreign teachers" line, I had a physics TA who was a Japanese man. He was a good teacher, very patient and attentive, but we had the misfortune of having him for the optics part of the course. "Reflection" and "refraction" became "refregkshun" and, well, "refregkshun". Someone finally told him that we couldn't distinguish between the two, which he found hard to believe ("They're very different! Can you not hear the difference?")

He finally solved the problem by writing both words on the board at the beginning of each lecture and pointing to one or the other. Like I said, he was a pretty good teacher.

#27 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2005, 02:46 AM:

Pay no attention to the heathen, Piscusfische. It's dark at night because that's when all the dark stars come out. (You can't see them because they're dark.) They radiate all the darkness around us, and without them we would never have discovered fire and stuff, or learnt to put coals in the stockings of bad children on Christmas eve. So you see dark stars are very important.

They don't work during daytime because every morning Fenris eats them. Then each evening he gets Grumbly Tummy, and out pop the dark stars, no worse for wear.

The One True Faith holds that someday Iams will introduce a new line of Premium Fenris Kibble, and on that day, all will be dark forever. Or at least until Ilmarinen forges a new Sampo.

#28 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2005, 06:14 AM:

The reason the Andromeda galaxy looks different in photos is that only the core is bright enough to be seen with the naked eye. The whole galaxy is actually more than three degrees across, much wider than the full moon, as this comparison shows.

On the topic of this thread: The Andromeda Galaxy and the Milky Way go into a pub and order two pints. "Here's yours", says the barman to the Andromeda galaxy, "but I'm not serving him, he's barred".

#29 ::: Stefan Kapusniak ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2005, 07:32 AM:

Pincusfiche, in addition to pericat's very astute warning against Heathens and their denial of Fenris' Grumbly Tummy and the Dark Stars, you should also be on your guard against all those preaching a faith they call 'Thermodynamics'.

This, amongst other things, goes so far as to deny the coming Fimbulwinter by insisting that heat will always pass from the that which is hotter to that which is colder, when we of the one true Faith know that it is cold which moves, and indeed passes from that which is colder to that which hotter. Precisely the reverse!

The passing of Flu rather than Cold is, of course, still a matter of intense theological debate.

#30 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2005, 08:07 AM:

Good gentles, I have here a deed of property that clearly and distinctly states, in part, "located in a standard spiral galaxy." Since it is now clear I did not receive what I paid for, I am looking for a lawyer (or barrister, or barrista, whichever may be appropriate) experienced in property law, advertising law, astrophysics, and consumer relations to file lawsuits and complaints on my behalf. If you are such an entity, please contact me before tort reform takes place.

#31 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2005, 08:10 AM:

Well, if you pare down Thermodynamics to:

1. You can't win.
2. You can't even break even.
3. You can't get out of the game.

. . . a very wide variety of philosophies, by no means all of them secular, have already assimilated it, at least for what happens here on Middle-Earth.*

*Or, to borrow another illustration, "while the bird is flying through the rafters and thinks the whole world's warm and smells like le Spam de le sanglier roti."

#32 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2005, 09:23 AM:

"Sampo! Ask for it by name!"

#33 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2005, 09:26 AM:

Hey, John M., what is this comment about spam made from roasted boar?

#34 ::: Richard Brandt ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2005, 10:18 AM:

Oh, well. Now everything makes sense, then.

#35 ::: Stefan Kapusniak ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2005, 11:30 AM:

Serge...

...well, when Obelix threatens you with a Menhir then you put what he says into your industrially processed meats.

Umm, what were we talking about again? Oh, barred spiral galaxies. Tasty, tasty, fried in boar-fat, barred spiral galaxies. Mmmmmmmmmm.

Sorry, I need to go eat.

#36 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2005, 11:46 AM:

Obelix... Goodness, that's a real blast from the past. (And probably one of the reasons why I have no problem with Lyndsey Davis's Falco mystery series set in Ancient Rome.)

#37 ::: Michelle ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2005, 12:35 PM:

The question in my mind is, is it a Milky Way Dark, or a Milky Way Light?

Dark. That was a silly question. Light Milky Ways pale in comparision.

And does the Bar at the Center of the Galaxy serve pan-galactic gargle blasters?

It better.

And no, I feel no need to appolygize.

#38 ::: Mark Wise ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2005, 12:59 PM:

The universe is jam-packed with darkons.

Stars are just efficient darkon annihilators.

#39 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2005, 01:10 PM:

===================
The Converse of Making Light
===================

You ask: "What goes faster than light?"
I know, sure as day follows night.
It's the inverse of spark,
that old demon Dark,
It always gets there first, alright?

#40 ::: Michelle ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2005, 01:18 PM:

The universe is jam-packed with darkons.

Stars are just efficient darkon annihilators.

Are you sure about that now? Even on a starry night, it's dark out.


#41 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2005, 01:39 PM:

Thanks for the explanations and links, all. :)

(Before I'd read any of your explanations, my brain got busy in that half hour before drifting off to sleep, and decided that it thought the reason was similar to how we can see electron clouds in microscopes but the individual electrons are hard to pull out. The brain didn't get any further than that, being distracted by a shiny dream involving the launch of the Apollo space craft and Paris Hilton's dog, Tinkerbell, doing backflips. In the same dream!)

#42 ::: Beth Meacham ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2005, 03:35 PM:

Does this mean that we'll find all the intelligent aliens in the Bar?

#43 ::: Will Entrekin ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2005, 03:40 PM:

Beth: As a single guy, I'm going to ask--when anyone has met intelligent beings in any bar?

#44 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2005, 04:21 PM:

Don't bring bricks to build the con hotel, bring anti-matter to fuel the starship.

(And has anyone else noticed how Atom's aliens resemble Clangers. How many filkers with electric guitars does it need to achieve Warp Speed?)

#45 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2005, 07:43 PM:

I don't know about Milky Ways, but the big favorite at this year's county fair is deep-fried Oreos.

#46 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2005, 08:04 PM:

Will, at SF conventions, the hotel bar is the detent stop for a great many people, particularly writers and editors, who are not otherwise occupied at the moment; it's generally the first place one looks if there is no other glaringly obvious place to look. Also, the failure mode of this strategy has a high minimax coefficient, as if you don't find the target, at least you're in the bar. Somebody's going to be there.

#47 ::: Michelle ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2005, 10:38 PM:

Marilee if that's not a heart attack in the palm of your hand I don't know what is.

Why is there always some yahoo willing to roll it in batter and bath it in hot oil? It's like some sick American fetish.

#48 ::: Alexis ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2005, 11:43 PM:

Michelle, I don't think it's just American. The Brits do it with Mars bars. If you can't deep-fry a galaxy, have to settle for a planet...

#49 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2005, 11:46 PM:

I understand fried Twinkies are also popular. Clogs arteries at twenty feet?

#50 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2005, 12:09 AM:

I've heard tell of deep-fried moon pies.

Never had any, mind you, but I've heard of them.

#51 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2005, 12:52 AM:

One of my son's friends had a deep fry party. People were supposed to bring things and he would deep fry them. Whatever you brought, he would fry. Somebody brought lettuce, but I can't remember what else was odd.

#52 ::: A Lurker ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2005, 01:06 AM:

So this spiral galaxy goes into a pub, and the landlord says, "Sorry, I can't serve you."

"Why not?"

"You're barred!"

#53 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2005, 01:43 AM:

And all he wanted to do was unwind a bit...

#54 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2005, 01:47 AM:

As someone who spent a lot of time in the back of his granddad's diner, could I point out that, when properly done, deep-frying adds very little oil to the food?

Frying batter is a grain meal/flour with a liquid to hold it together; using eggs as the liquid (which is optional) will give it some cholesterol, but not much, unless the coating is the consistency of spackle. The main problem, however, is that most home cooks -- and way too many restaurants -- don't get the oil hot enough to begin with, and then put in too much food, causing the temperature to drop sharply. The coating doesn't harden, allowing it to soak up lots of greas, and the e extra time it takes to get back to browning temperature allows even more saturation. With an overly thick coating, you're both spending a lot of effort just cooking the crumbs and providing more absorbency for grease.

Indeed, the entire point of an immersion fryer is that it contains a large volume of oil in comparison to the food, so the temp loss is reduced, and since it cooks on all sides at once, the cooking time is at a minimum. There's also a steam-pressure effect, where the water at the food's surface flashes to steam and pushes back at the oil -- which, as you might expect, doesn't last forever.

Okay, Alton Brown act over. Maybe I can make some of you my ale-battered walleye one of these days.

#55 ::: Will Entrekin ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2005, 09:25 AM:

Mike: Ah, right, thanks for the clarification. I've never been to a con; my sole experience with bars has been the sort of divey place you go to where your there for the beer and the band, and the music's loud enough to prevent good conversation. Which, of course, means that you have to lean in toward the people to whom you're speaking and nearly shout into their ears.

And, of course, you end up there on Karaoke night, and some tone-deaf lush gets up and mangles Bryan Adams' "Summer of '69," which is ironic if only because, looking at him, you wouldn't think he was born until at least a decade later.
(yeah, I was that guy the other week. What? Somebody's got to be him)

I need to start hanging out at better bars.

#56 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2005, 11:13 AM:

Will: I think someone calculated it and Bryan Adams himself would actually have been About 4 (Or is it 6? Somewhere close to there, anyhow) in the Summer of 69, and since he's the first to have mangled the song, I think that's just part of its natural "charm".

#57 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2005, 11:18 AM:

It isn't the deep-frying so much as what's being deep-fried: it would seem to be cruelty to something-or-other to deep-fry Oreos, or candy bars. Although as an exercise in how far deep-frying can be taken, it's certainly interesting (would this include, say, ice-cream tempura?)

#58 ::: Michelle ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2005, 12:26 PM:

Though Ford is right, it is what your frying as well.

Fried ice cream is good but still a steady diet of it will probably kill you, like most things.

Now for a recipe:

soak chicken bits in sake.

role in tempura mix or potato starch (yes I know)

fry.


As for the galaxy I think it's much more pretty now.

#59 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2005, 12:29 PM:

Mike,

I would be happy to eat your deep-fried walleye, if you and I are ever in the same place and have access to a deep-fryer and the fish.

I can make apple cakelings for dessert.

#60 ::: yabonn ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2005, 01:31 PM:

Is it me or is there something Puppeteer-ish (in the Pierson kind of way) to the current U.S. administration/policies? Comfy-cushy S.U.V. and painkillers on one side, smart bombs on the other?

... Hoping not to derail this charming, galactic, thread into some Bush love-fest - but that goes without saying.

#61 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2005, 01:59 PM:

The Bushies? Superintelligent, vegetarian, conflict-averse aliens? Ha. If only.

No, the current Bush admin - especially the Department of Defense - are clearly kzin. Because, obviously, they always tend to attack before they're quite ready.

See press statements like:
Look, plant-eater, you go to war with the attack horde you have, not the attack horde you want.

A formal challenge is unnecessary. You scream and you leap.



#62 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2005, 02:59 PM:

No, no, no. I think the Puppeteer label fits the Bush clan perfectly.

They send *others* into battle, leading from behind.

In Bush's case, from somewhere behind a bunch of brush down on the ranch. Gotta clear that brush and git on with your life, you know.

(Aside: Did Niven have a *clue* about animal behavior when he made up those aliens? I'd rather deal with a "ferocious carnivore" cougar or wolf than a "cowardly" vegetarian bull. One of my best friends is an 80 lb. carnivore.)

#63 ::: Janet Croft ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2005, 03:15 PM:

No -- Bush is clearly Saruman -- sends others out to fight, cuts down trees for no good reason, tries to seduce untrained minds with his words, has nasty whispery little hangers-on with descriptive nicknames, has a conflicted relationship with a much stronger force and thinks he's in control...

#64 ::: Laura Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2005, 03:30 PM:

Who's the much stronger force?

#65 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2005, 03:57 PM:

Obligatory astronomical comment:

Somewhere between 60 and 80 percent of spiral galaxies have a bar of some kind, though it's not always dramatically big or strong. So the Milky Way is really pretty typical in this respect.

Strong evidence for a bar in the Milky Way goes back at least ten years, including infrared data from the COBE satellite. Estimates of its size and orientation have differed significantly, though.

Of course, these new results probably are a step up from what's gone before. A preprint of the actual paper can be found here:

http://xxx.arXiv.org/abs/astro-ph/0508325

-- Peter

#66 ::: Alex Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2005, 04:26 PM:

Is it me or is there something Puppeteer-ish (in the Pierson kind of way) to the current U.S. administration/policies?

I propose we begin referring to Bush as "Hindmost."

#67 ::: mds ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2005, 04:48 PM:

No, no, no. I think the Puppeteer label fits the Bush clan perfectly.

They send *others* into battle, leading from behind.

Yeah, but the Puppeteers were also really smart, subtle, pro-science, and excellent at long-term planning.

I'd rather deal with a "ferocious carnivore" cougar or wolf than a "cowardly" vegetarian bull.

Well, the effect is slightly different if it's a ferocious carnivorous tiger contrasted with a cowardly vegetarian mule deer, and sentience is added to the mix. Which is a little bit closer to Kzinti and Puppeteers, IMHO.

#68 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2005, 06:49 PM:

Eh, let's not be too harsh on Niven; it was forty years ago he invented the Puppeteers, after all. And for a short story at that. He made up for it later by explaining what that reflex turning-away-from-danger was really about.

#69 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2005, 07:09 PM:

Actually, you could interpret the Known Space stories as depicting sophonts trapped by their ideologies, their possibly erroneous beliefs about what it means to be a Puppeteer, a Kzin, a Pak -- sometimes beyond the point of folly, as with the project that resulted in Teela Brown or the Nth Man-Kzin War -- yet with individuals (or species) eventually learning some wisdom.

Parallels with any present-day follies, I leave as an exercise for the reader....

#70 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2005, 12:10 PM:

P J Evans: I have eaten fried ice cream on several occasions, always in Mexican restaurants. It's pretty good actually. You freeze a ball of ice cream hard as a rock, dip it in flour then a heavyish batter and deep fry that sucker. Serve with a cinnamon sauce. Yum.

I think the deep fried lettuce would be very good in a tempura batter say.

As Mike says -- the secret is the temperature of the oil

MKK

#71 ::: Matt McIrvin ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2005, 12:30 PM:

usually press releases trumpet every slight advance as a shocking new discovery

This has always bothered me about reports of experiments on the foundations of quantum mechanics: results that are intuitively weird, but simply predictable from quantum mechanics, are commonly reported as if they were unexplained anomalies.

Also, you make the good point that it's often press releases from the scientists' own organization that cause the trouble. The journalists are just repeating what they read. Granted, it may reveal a lack of willingness to talk to primary sources, but the PR office really ought to do better in the first place.

#72 ::: Nix ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2005, 05:02 PM:

Sorry, but there's no way Bush is Saruman.

`... mostly they remembered that it was a delight to hear the voice speaking, all that it said seemed wise and reasonable, and desire awoke in them by swift agreement to seem wise themselves. When others spoke they seemed harsh and uncouth by contrast; and if they gainsaid the voice, anger was kindled in the hearts of those under the spell... For many the sound of the voice alone was enough to hold them enthralled... But none were unmoved; none rejected its pleas and its commands without an effort of mind and will, so long as its master had control of it.'

Bush is at the other end of that scale of elocutionary brilliance. Bush the Stumble-Tongued.

(I can't talk, really: I'm far worse than Bush, stammering in a robotic high-pitched monotone.)

#73 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2005, 05:51 PM:

Tailgunner J/o/e George and his associates with the punji pit-making habits....

#74 ::: Terry.karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2005, 11:26 PM:

Jesse:

Oddities of learning.

The Army, in its infinite wisdom made it possible (incumbent even) for me to study Russian, and gain some small fluency.

It was an interesting year. In the course of it I learned my teachers' English was worse than it at first appeared, though as our Russian got more fluent this mattered less, and how to hear things which previously hadn't existed.

There is a sound in Russian, the soft-L, which is fleeting, and basically invisble to the untrained mouth (until one can pronounce it, one cannot truly hear it).

On a different note, when I was in high school I was on the campus paper (James Monroe High School, the Paper was "The Doctrine"), and there were three staff-members named "Terry".

The staff learned to pronounce the name three, slightly, different ways, and we to hear them. Which meant only the right Terry would answer.

Until someone who wasn't a staff member would come into the chaos of the room and ask, "Is there a Terry here?" and get three heads swivelling to look, and saying yes.

TK

#75 ::: Leslie ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2005, 12:35 PM:

Nix,

For those who belong to the Cult of the Shrub,

if they gainsaid the voice, anger was kindled in the hearts of those under the spell... For many the sound of the voice alone was enough to hold them enthralled...

this part at least is pretty accurate. Completely baffling to those of us not under the spell, but true nonetheless.

#76 ::: Anarch ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2005, 01:22 PM:

The first thing that came to mind was the one class in astronomy I ever took -- descriptive astronomy, generally referred to as "astronomy for mindless humanities majors".

We called our Moons For Goons, the spiritual kin of Rocks For Jocks.

#77 ::: Janet Croft ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2005, 10:51 AM:

Leslie's right -- there ARE people who hang on the Shrub's every word as if he were Saruman. However, it's true Shrub-speak doesn't work quite as well on the rest of us as Saruman-speak seemed to work on Theoden's soldiers. Something about the grating smugness and invincible sense of entitlement undemines the attempt at sweet reasonableness and appeal to higher powers.

#78 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2005, 11:53 AM:

Part of Shrub-speak may be that hurt-puppy look. And he does have incredible luck as well. (I want to try spraying the hall with water that's been blessed by as many priests, ministers, shamans, rabbis, etc, as can be arranged, just to see how many of his aides and supporters will melt.)

#79 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2005, 03:08 PM:

"And he does have incredible luck as well."

Sacrifice enough freshly deflowered black goats to M'Hup-Tep, the Thousand-eyed Beast of a Thousand Spindoctors, and luck will go your way too. For a while.

It does make a mess of the ranch though; "clearing brush" is Bush-speak for covering up blood orgy evidence.

#80 ::: Josh ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2005, 03:20 PM:

I think someone calculated it and Bryan Adams himself would actually have been About 4 (Or is it 6? Somewhere close to there, anyhow) in the Summer of 69, and since he's the first to have mangled the song, I think that's just part of its natural "charm".

This presumes that the "69" in the title and the song refers to the year... Adams is, I believe, on record as saying that that's an incorrect assumption. (I leave it to your imagination as to what he says it really refers to.)

#81 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2005, 03:30 PM:

Reverse the argument. If GWB were Saruman, wouldn't Gandalf have gotten a hint? Before going down to Crawfordgard to look at the boss's new teevee? Maybe sometime around the Project for the New Mordorian Age?

#82 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2005, 06:15 PM:

(Aside: Did Niven have a *clue* about animal behavior when he made up those aliens? I'd rather deal with a "ferocious carnivore" cougar or wolf than a "cowardly" vegetarian bull. One of my best friends is an 80 lb. carnivore.)

The late Mark M. Keller (who taught bio) was very sarcastic about Niven's alleged biology. He was especially scathing about the idea of non-sentients (i.e., female Kzinti) raising sentients.

#83 ::: Brooks Moses ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2005, 06:47 PM:

Anarch - I actually have a copy of the book Physics for Poets; I find myself wondering if that started the phrases like that, or merely was a self-mocking usage of them.

#84 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2005, 12:12 PM:

This presumes that the "69" in the title and the song refers to the year... Adams is, I believe, on record as saying that that's an incorrect assumption. (I leave it to your imagination as to what he says it really refers to.)

If it refers to anything but the year, the phrasing is so badly strained it makes the song WORSE than it already is.

#85 ::: neotoma ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2005, 02:09 PM:

Personally, I preferred the image of Babar the Redeemer.

First Church of Jesus Christ, Elephant?

#86 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2005, 03:16 PM:

Inversely, there's Poetry 4 Physicists
The only poetry that has a dual wave-particle nature, until you observe it, of course.
Hannah Rose Baker

Hark! The quark! Wilson Laboratory hosts first-ever poet-in-residence, By Franklin Crawford

David Cassel, Cornell physics professor and associate director of Wilson Laboratory, shows Bridget Meeds, the lab's new poet-in-residence, the synchrotron's vacuum status panel in the facility's control room. Charles Harrington/University Photography

POETRY FOR PHYSICISTS

About a year ago, while conducting Rutherford Backscattering Spectroscopy experiments in the 2 MEV Van de Graff Accelerator Lab, I was seized by a startling revelation. I am sure that I will look back on the insight as the happiest thought of my life. "What," I wondered to myself, bathed in the soft green glow from the controlling terminal, "would it be like if words meant things?" I was caught off guard. For in such an imaginary world, one could use words to say things that meant something! Emotions could be captured, laughter could be preservered, and thought could be expressed! I quickly recorded this profound discovery in my lab notebook before it had a chance to fade from my mind. The proof of my theorem was trivial in one and two dimensions, but I had a hard time extending it to the twenty-four dimensions in which we live. It wasn't until 6:00 AM the next morning that I realized the magnitude of what I had discovered. I had discovered the New Conservative Literature.

#87 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2005, 05:34 PM:

How about Intelephant Design?

#88 ::: [intensely boring spam deleted] ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2007, 09:28 AM:

[posted from 208.108.138.191]

#90 ::: Tania agrees with the weird sighting ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2007, 03:11 PM:

puppyiteres = puppeteers??
wtf? How strange...

#91 ::: [sadly unimaginative spam deleted] ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2007, 10:50 PM:

[posted from 24.60.169.90]

#92 ::: [badly spelled spam deleted] ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2007, 10:54 PM:

[posted from 24.60.169.90]

#93 ::: Andrew Willett sees 11-year-olds ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2007, 11:06 PM:

No idea how they ended up here, but still: find somewhere else to play, kids. (presently at #88, 91, 92)

#95 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2009, 02:12 AM:

If it's spam, please say "spam." That's the word we search on.

#96 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2009, 02:08 PM:

Will do so in future, and thanks for mentioning it.

#97 ::: kk ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2010, 08:44 AM:

I suppose that the coolest thing in universe is the pulsars.

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