American Elephants


Just What is the Common View of Technology and Artificial Intelligence? by The Elephant's Child

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Headline: “Mark Zuckerberg Warns Elon Musk: More People will Die if We
‘Slow Down Progress’ on AI” from PJ Media.” This made me laugh.  Mr. Zuckerberg is suffering from a bad case of poisonous publicity, and has been doing a vast round of public appearances to show everyone what a very nice chap he really is. I’m sure he is, and he really means well. But his Facebook business was founded on a childlike idea of real people. He began on the assumption that people would really like a platform where people could share thoughts and ideas, news and events with their friends and relatives. Uh huh.

I say “childlike” because any person who has been a part of a family knows that the average family gets along part of the time, and it’s better the greater the distance between you. That seems true for most families that I know. There are big resentments for a slight maybe 20 years ago. Have you read the ordinary ‘comments’ column on any news article? People not only don’t like each other, they are downright vicious and vulgar.

Elon Musk seems to be better at getting government money to finance his experiments than in actually developing the experiments, but then I haven’t the slightest knowledge of engineering, so perhaps it’s always like that. Driverless cars that run people down and crash into other vehicles don’t inspire a lot of confidence. His people tube under Los Angeles may turn out to be the transportation idea of the future, but I lean towards the Wright Brothers who tested out their ideas at Kitty Hawk themselves.

If he has a wonderful idea, he should sell stock to those who expect a huge windfall, but I don’t want to support driverless cars with my taxes. I don’t believe governments should be in the business of supporting untested pipe dreams. We have a lot of Teslas around here in the neighborhood of Microsoft and other high tech companies, so perhaps they are more confident in high tech wonders than us ordinary people.

I’m not convinced that people have any interest in driverless cars either. The people I know like to drive, and like the freedom that a vehicle provides. I think of roads I have driven that have a 200 foot dropoff on one side, and when you go around a corner there might be a deer in the middle of the road. Driverless cars, so far, don’t always recognize a pedestrian, or another vehicle. How are they on deer and mountain goats? Get the problems worked out, test in all kinds of terrain and conditions and perhaps we can talk again.

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New Study Finds Variations in Global Warming Trend are Caused by the Oceans by The Elephant's Child

A report from the University of Southampton says that “new research has shown that natural variations in global mean temperature are always forced by changes in heat release and heat uptake by the oceans, in particular the heat release associated with evaporation.” What, what? you mean it is not burning evil fossil fuels?

Analysing data from six climate models that simulated future climate change scenarios for the last International Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) Report, which appeared in 2014, University of Southampton Professor Sybren Drijfhout has shown that in all cases variations in global mean temperature were correlated with variations in heat release by sensible and latent heat. Writing in the journal Nature Scientific Reports, Professor Drijfhout says these variations are associated with heat transfer due to temperature differences between the surface ocean and the overlying air, and heat transfer associated with evaporation. The heat fluxes are also called the turbulent heat fluxes.

“The relation holds in all models and is independent of the time-scale of the variation in temperature”, says Professor Drijfhout, Chair in Physical Oceanography and Climate Physics at Southampton. “When the atmosphere gets extra warm it receives more heat from the ocean, when it is extra cool it receives less heat from the ocean, making it clear that the ocean is the driving force behind these variations.”

The full report can be found here. It’s not that long, but fascinating for those of us interested in both the science and the politics of the current global warming “crisis.”

If the variations take longer, sea-ice becomes the trigger, and the variations peak over areas where surface water sinks to great depth and deep and bottom waters are formed which are transported by the global overturning circulation, or more popularly dubbed — the Great Conveyor Belt.

Powerful images. Do read the whole thing, it will only take you about 3 minutes if you don’t stop too long to try to figure out how the good professor’s name is pronounced. And if you can figure it out, let me know.
I have no idea.



Meet Tammie Jo Shults, Southwest Airlines Heroine by The Elephant's Child

You may have heard the tragic news of the death of a passenger on Southwest Airlines when an engine caught fire and disintegrated at more than 30,000 feet spraying shrapnel through the fuselage. Metal pieces ruptured a window behind a wing, fatally injuring a passenger in the first airline fatality since 2009, and the first fatality in the history of Southwest Airlines.

Southwest pilot Tammie Jo Schults executed an emergency landing in Philadelphia after the Dallas-bound flight departed from New York’s LaGuardia Airport. In the Wall Street Journal article, an experienced amateur pilot was deeply impressed with her inspiring calm control. He added:

Listen to the cockpit recording of the incident. She is so calm it is amazing. She says that a passenger may have been sucked out of the plane and that they are missing part of the aircraft like she is talking about the time of day. Yes, they train for emergencies and yes, they are expected to land on one engine. But her calm and composure is inspiring. When they tell her to switch from approach to tower frequency she even says, “Good day.”

Someone copied the plane to tower control conversation and posted it on You Tube.

An incredible demonstration of real air traffic control, and how the most professional pilots deal with an emergency. Here’s a real hero for all those whiny women complaining about work and not being paid enough.

Among the offerings at the end of this video is a conversation with a passenger on the plane phones in his story to the local news channel. It is also a rewarding conversation.

At American Thinker, Thomas Lifson extols the management at Southwest Airlines, and points out that in the wake of a tragic accident, there is usually hysteria in the media, resulting in a drop in the company’s stock value, but in this case the airline stock went up in the wake of a disaster.

After she graduated from college, Shults applied to the Air Force, but they wouldn’t allow her to take the test to become a pilot, so she turned to the Navy.

Shults became one of the first female fighter pilots in the history of the U.S. Navy and one of the first women to fly F-18s. She landed her fighter plane on boats at 150 miles per hour and eventually became an instructor. Although she wasn’t allowed to fly in combat, she did fly as an aggressor pilot. After a successful career, she resigned her commission in 1993.

Shults and her husband Dean, are both now captains with Southwest Airlines. Passengers last Tuesday were able to see a calm professional at the moment they most needed one.

ADDENDUM: Southwest Airlines has sent each of the 144 passengers on their deadly flight a $5,000 check with their heartfelt apologies to cover any of their immediate financial needs, after the flight suffered an engine failure and had to make an emergency landing in Philadelphia, on it’s way to Dallas. The letter also says the passengers would separately receive a $1,000 flight voucher for  future travel.

While the National Transportation Safety Board investigates the catastrophic engine failure, the airline’s “primary focus and commitment is to assist you in every way possible,” said the letter, signed by Southwest president Gary C. Kelly.

“We value you as our Customer and hope you will allow us another opportunity to restore your confidence in Southwest as the airline you can count on for your travel needs. In this spirit, we are sending you a check in the amount of $5,000 to cover any of your immediate financial needs. As a tangible gesture of our heartfelt sincerity, we are also sending you a $1,000 travel voucher (in a separate e-mail), which can be used for future travel.”

Tom Lifson said that Southwest had very good management.



Business is Demanding to be Regulated. Bad Idea. by The Elephant's Child

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We seem to have entered an age where business executives assume that it is acceptable to do politics with their business. Businesses have, of course, long favored policies that help them to do business, and supported whatever politicians established the policy. That’s perfectly natural. But suddenly we have private-sector businesses entering the political fray, using their corporate budgets to silence free speech, sign on to very contentious political issues without the slightest awareness that there is a large mass of customers who may be offended.

“The reason that capitalism has managed to create real economic growth of 1.5% annually, and a 19-fold  increase in living standards over —the last two centuries — is because when people treat the marketers and inventors  as having some dignity and liberty, innovation takes hold.” (Those words are from economist Dierdre McCloskey). The reason why innovation has created and is continuing to develop computer connectivity, artificial intelligence and all that can lead to— is because business has been free of government control. There are many countries where such freedom does not exist, and government tells business what to produce and how and when, where and with whom.  Perhaps these executives were too busy with technology to study a little history: perhaps The Gulag Archipelago, or maybe Milton Friedman’s Capitalism and Freedom.

Milton Friedman, in his 1962 classic, presented his view of the proper role of competitive capitalism — the organization of economic activity through private enterprise operating in a free market — as both a device for achieving economic freedom and a necessary condition for political freedom.

Economic freedom is not going to work when some businesses chose to boycott other businesses for political reasons. They are dealing with the public, their customers, who can choose to boycott too, and are doing so.



Science and Health and Science Scaredy-Cats by The Elephant's Child

Oh dear, O dear! I believe this was the evening when we were, all across the world, at precisely Eight o’clock — supposed to turn off all our lights and sit in the dark for an hour to save the earth, or show our empathy for those who are deeply concerned about the climate and the earth and the future. I usually see enough reminders to remember to turn on all my lights to demonstrate my skepticism.

I grew up in Idaho, in what you might call the foothills of the Rockies,  mostly outside, winter or summer. Winter was for sledding, and we had a splendid sledding hill, or building snow forts, but let me not drift off into reminiscing. Some winters we had little snow, not much more than 3 feet on the level. Other years, 5 or 6 feet. Some years we could skate on the river, others not. Been snowed in. When it gets down to 20° below, all the hairs in your nose freeze. The climate has warmed over the last century, somewhere around one degree. The Paris Climate Agreement would not have prevented any measurable amount of warming.

The Paul Erlich’s of the world have always believed in overpopulation and consequent hunger and starvation. Yet what has happened is that the very small amount of increased CO2 in the atmosphere has meant the greening of the planet, less famine and more food.

Most packaged goods in the grocery store will carry the admonition somewhere on the label that there are no GMO ingredients  (genetically modified organisms) in their offering, yet I just saw the notice today that another country (in this case Canada) has approved “golden rice”, a strain of rice to which a carotene-producing gene is added.

In many areas of Asia, vitamin A  is devastatingly rare in the diet of many children, causing blindness and altered immunity. Since rice is the dietary staple, adding it to rice can save children from the deficiency.  Nearly 500 million children are said to be deficient. Yet the usual suspects (the anti-GM foods nuts at Greenpeace) have fits claiming all sorts of disasters from the golden rice. The link is to a story from ASCH which also explains the Gates Foundation’s work in fortifying bananas with beta-carotene for the highlands of East Africa where the dietary staple is bananas. There is another banana in Papua New Guinea that contains so much beta carotene that they are orange, and they can simply transplant the gene that produces it into Africa’s cooking banana.

I wandered a bit all over the planet with this post, which started with telling you that I forgot to turn on all the lights to celebrate President Trump’s exit from the Paris Climate Agreement, the loonies who flunked high school biology and chemistry and are terrified of science, and the advances of science in preventing blindness and death in the children of some areas of Asia. ASCH — the American Council on Science and Health is a dandy website for understanding what’s going on in this part of the world. You can sign up for a free subscription, and they’ll send a brief note to your mailbox with the latest news. The Little Black Book of Junk Science by  Alec Berezow is newly available and is just what the title implies.



California: A Failing Utopian Vision by The Elephant's Child

California is becoming the most watched state in the union. The worst-managed state. threatening secession, or division, insisting on whatever the rest of the country is doing, they will go in another direction. And Washington State is trying to follow in their wake,

Here’s Victor Davis Hanson trying to explain what’s gone wrong and why. Our most populous state, a sanctuary state, broke, and people and businesses are fleeing the state for anywhere where taxes are lower and housing costs are sane. People are living in motor homes, sheds, turning a single apartment into a dormitory. Facebook and Google are apparently building a new town to house their workers.



The Strange Adventures of the Venus of Willendorf and Mark Zuckerberg by The Elephant's Child

This pudgy figure, the Venus of Willendorf, is to be found in the Naturhistorische  Museum in Vienna, Austria. She is a fertility figure, without face or feet, and one of the oldest sculptures we know. She was found in 1908 near Willendorf, Austria. She is a lonely representative of Stone Age sculpture, approximately from 28,000 — 25,000 years B.C.  She is carved of Oolitic limestone in the Paleolithic Period or the ‘Old Stone Age’. She’s about 4½” tall, and was covered with red ocher paint when found. An image of the work was posted on Facebook by Laura Ghianda last year, and removed as ‘inappropriate content’—despite four attempts to appeal the decision.

Ghianda, who is an activist, denounced the Facebook ruling,  The Museum protested in January requesting that the Venus be allowed to remain naked, and of course great fun was made of Facebook, and a spokesperson for Facebook apologized in March, saying that they had confused the post in question with an advertisement. “Our policies do not allow nudity or implied nudity, but we have an exception for statues.” Ms. Ghianda has launched an online petition asking that Facebook change its algorithms that are censoring art online. And so it goes in the halls of Silicon Valley.

Silicon Valley has a lot riding on its algorithms, and people are getting a little testy about being banned or wanting someone banned. The companies depend on their algorithms to help them define who is likely to be a customer for what to tell their advertisers about how much they are going to have to pay for an advertisement on a particular page, which is why you get ads for shirts when you were just looking at shirts on someone else’s website. And future gadgets and photos of you and yours will tell them even more. They want to know everything useful about you, so they can monetize it . Privacy is a thing of the past.




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