Today’s hobby: correlate news.
News item 1: Polish Catholic church received from the state 33 million PLN (over €8 million) more than officially announced.
News item 2: A ginormous, 33-meter high statue of Jesus Christ which is in production, is almost ready.
During TAM London 2010, the infamous Insane Clown Posse Miracles video was given as an example of an anti science manifesto. The catchphrase about magnets became quite popular among the conference delegates, as an example of stupidity. However, I didn’t think that the phrase, or rather, the question itself is stupid. We know that magnets repel or attract each other by the means of “magnetic forces”, but the explanation usually stops at the magnetic field, which is explained as “magnetic field means that if certain objects are placed within the magnetic field, there’s a force exerted on them”. To my liking, that’s hardly satisfying.
It turns out, that the topic of magnetic force and ways of explaining it has already been discussed by Richard Feynman in an interview.
Feynman asks the interviewer “What do you mean when you ask ‘why?'”, and proceeds talking about various kinds of explanation that can be given. Explanations need to be given using terms that the audience either already understands, or accepts as a satisfying without actual understanding. The framework which allows to answer the “How do magnets work?” question, is utterly unfamiliar to lay audience, and cannot be used. Analogies could potentially help, but there’s a problem. Concepts within that framework are so different from anything that the audience is familiar with, that invoking analogies will be more confusing and misleading than helpful.
The question about workings of magnets is not as easy to answer as it seems.
As part of being a bit crazy I flew over to Las Vegas for TAM6: The Amaz!ng Meeting 6. As far as I can tell, there are no other Polish people here; everybody is either American or Canadian. I’ve met only two people from the UK and I’ve heard there’s somebody from Ireland, but I haven’t managed to find them yet.
TAM6 opens today. I’m blogging about it on my Polish blog. If you’re curious, you can try using Google Translate which has now Polish language support, although I might use weird language structures and obscure words (hey, that’s part of writing fun!). Your mileage may vary.
Randi shares some stories regarding his friend Arthur C. Clarke and makes a comparison of Stanley Kubrick to Steve Jobs.
I bet you guys have a hard time figuring out how it works with woo-woos. Here you have it black on white. If a woo-woo would be a sysadmin, they would do more or less:
$ dd if=/dev/urandom of=i-believe bs=1 count=$RANDOM
18676+0 records in
18676+0 records out
18676 bytes (19 kB) copied, 0.172968 s, 108 kB/s
$ chmod 755 i-believe
And voila! All the work is done!
Richard Dawkins’ Deschner Prize acceptance speech.