Who were The Computers?

Socializing over lunch. From left to right, Barbara Paulson, Vickie Wang and Helen Ling. (Credit: JPL)
I have found truth to be malleable in the hands of historians. Writing people out of history or rewriting history so important people are deleted or even replaced with preferred characters seems not uncommon. While some people might have heard of the first programmer ever (Lady Ada Lovelace), the names of the six females who started modern US programming were conveniently hidden from the public. So were their images. In fact, the idea that they were models posing in front of the ENIAC was encouraged. Not until Kathleen Kleiman went searching for female role-models in computer programming did the world get to hear about these six “Computers”: Kay McNulty, Jean Jennings, Betty Snyder, Marlyn Meltzer, Fran Bilas, and Ruth Lichterman.
Any person who differed from the idea of a white male persona were hidden from public mention and public viewing. Many “Computers” who were part of launching NASA’s manned rockets flights, were denied recognition.
The US were far from alone in this regards. British, names like Kathleen Booth or Stephanie Shirley, have probably not been heard of.
It is important that we realize that information will be kept from the public if it suits the purposes of the majority within any field or in any country.

Propaganda, another name for PR

Any person who thinks that they come from a background without propaganda must be blind or deaf. Perhaps they find fault with the word “propaganda”. PR is another word that is used when public relation people want to convince us of their message. “All they want to do is to bring us information”.

Propaganda usually holds elements of truth interweaved with lies or exaggerations. Politicians seem to favour adjusting statistics to fit their party programs. Historians may tell stories about the “good” (winners of wars) and the “bad” (losers of wars). Scientists can interpret their findings to fit their world-views. Religious leaders threaten dire spiritual consequences unless people part with their money. And we fall for this propaganda.

All we have to do is open our eyes to see it. Take something like GMOs. Now there’s a kettle constantly boiling over for yay- and nay-sayers. GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organisms (large and small). The nay-sayers would have us believe that GMO’s will destroy us and the world around us while the yay-sayers would have us believe that they will save the Earth (meaning humanity) from being destroyed. Reality is somewhere between those extremes.

Ever since humans settled down we have been genetically modifying ourselves and our environments. We have modified many prey animals to the extent that they accept living in our vicinity until we slaughter and eat them. Even predators have been modified to want to lend us helping paws during hunts or be protectors in return for companionship and food. In many cases humans have ended up modifying the animals to such a degree that they have problems with respiratory systems or need cesareans to reproduce. We have done the same thing with plants and experimented until the original versions have nothing to do with what we use today.

What GMOs do is significantly speed up that process. Perhaps that is what frightens people so much. What used to take a good many years, may now be done in a fraction of the time. Personally, I’m fine with GMO’s as long as they do not result in regulations that make it impossible for others to produce products the old-fashioned way. I certainly eat GMO foods and have plants that must be the product of serious experimentation (or perhaps faulty gardening – my thumbs are not exactly green). There may be “evil” scientists planning on making life worse for us by tinkering. However, accidental mistakes are more likely. In fact, I find myself wondering why people believe some of the messages anti-GMO factions preach. That is not to say that there aren’t problems with intentional genetic engineering.

Most propaganda suffers from the same forms of misleading. We need to look beyond the message they want us to hear and dig into what lies behind them. If someone is trying to use scare-tactics or make something seem too good to be true, then we should probably watch out.

When it comes to propaganda horror stories, anti-vaccine people take the prize. It is difficult to phantom the number of people who continue to spread the idea that we should stop vaccinating our children. They claim that vaccines are more dangerous than the disease being vaccinated against. In this case propaganda has killed people by bringing back diseases, such as polio and measles (both deadly). What I would like to do to such people is definitely not considered politically correct.

If you don’t think there is propaganda in your social arenas, you should look again.

The illusion of equality: Donations

I’ll be writing quite a few posts on “the illusion of equality” because it is the topic I think about most of the time. Part of those thought processes is the question of whether or not anything can be done to reduce inequality. Of course, there is. Some opportunities to reduce inequality require changes in regulations, while others can be done by individuals. These two girls have found their own way. Until Dec. 19, you can donate money to worldbuilders.org. But first, check out this enthusiastic video that I just discovered.


The illusion of equality: Wealthy Countries

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights uses “equality” as a description for an imagined, not real, state. Cambridge dictionary defines equality as:

“the right of different groups of people to have a similar social position and receive the same treatment”

Except for the fact that people are born and die, there is no equality in this world. People highest on the human pyramid stand firmly on the bodies of those below, keeping them in their place. Any perceived threat to their position, is stomped out as soon as it is revealed. Organizations and countries join in the battle to get to the loftiest position. After all, no one wants to be at the bottom. Do we? The three wealthiest countries in the world, in December 2016, are Quatar, Luxembourg and Singapore.

Qatar is the richest country in the world. Their borders are shared with the Persian Peninsula and Saudi-Arabia. Languages in Qatar are Arabic and Farsi (spoken by Irani descendants). Its area is 11,586 km2, or 4,467.6 sq mi, with a population of about 2,383,705 people (86% who are foreign workers). Qatar’s wealth is mainly due to rich oil- and gas-resources, and that wealth goes to its citizens and toward foreign investments. Qataris do not seem to have poverty. The Qatari do not work at jobs they consider beneath them, something they can afford to do because their living- and education costs are paid for by the state. Yet, Qataris make up only 6% of the work-force. All of this wealth is built upon the backs of South-East Asian domestic and migrant workers who are treated like slaves and Western foreign workers who are treated better.

Luxembourg is a tiny country. Its population is 576,249 and has a mix of French, German and Luxembourgish as official languages. With an area totaling 2,586.4 km2, or 998 sq mi, it is in 172nd place in country-size. It is surrounded by Germany, France and Belgium and has been gobbled up by one party or the other until the end of WWII. So why so wealthy? With such a small area, it has low infrastructure costs. In addition, military spending is a minimum. The populace is well-educated and well-tended by the government, and unemployment is low. 85 percent of its wealth comes from being a tax haven and having attractive banking regulations draw corporations to set up head quarters there. Another important factor, that contributes to Luxembourg’s status as 2nd wealthiest country, is that 60% of its work-force does not live in Luxembourg. Therefore, that majority does not take money from Luxembourg’s privileged population yet pay taxes to it, adding economic pressure to surrounding countries. Poverty is not at large problem among the population, but there is be relative (compared with) poverty.

The Republic of Singapore comes in third. Singapore’s official languages are English, Malay, Mandarin and Tamil, although English has precedence as teaching and business language. Its area is 719.1 km2, or 278 sq mi, making it smaller than Luxembourg but with a much larger population (5,610,000 people). Singapore is surrounded by the Johore Strait, the Singapore Strait and the Strait of Malacca. One reason for its wealth is location. Singapore is a transportation hub between 123 countries and refines oil on a large scale. New businesses get large tax exemptions. Education is supported by the state up through high school and college and there is some housing assistance. Individuals pay a small tax. However, they must save 20% of their income, savings that go toward housing and retirement, savings that are managed wholly by the State. Wealth inequality is a large problem, a matter Singapore is trying to address by collecting data on income differences and types of poverty experienced by its populace.

Both Qatar and Luxembourg are parasitic countries. Both siphon work-force from other countries, keeping benefits to themselves while leaving their workers without access to state funds. Unless they are over a certain wage-bracket, Singapore’s workers are poor in practical terms, yet that poverty is not necessarily revealed on statistics, the same kind of statistics that sugar-coat actual conditions of workers in Qatar and Luxembourg. Imagine what the poorest countries must be like.

“Funny Numbers” with Robert Osserman, Steve Martin and Robin Williams

A goal of The Mathematical Sciences Research Institute at University of California, Berkeley, is to communicate its love for mathematics and the mathematical sciences. Professor Robert Osserman (1926-2011) held a series public conversations on how cultural matters relate to mathematics. One of those conversations, entitled “Funny Numbers”, was with Steve Martin (actor, play-writer, author and musician). The San Fransisco Chronicle’s Jonathan Curiel described the December 15, 2002 event as

“Martin taking out a banjo and playing the instrument like a country music star; Osserman saying some things as wittily as his famous guest; and — halfway through — Robin Williams suddenly walking onstage, where he bantered, imitated, cajoled and gesticulated (about math, Trent Lott, French people, etc. ) as only Robin Williams can do.”

I laughed. Three incredibly intelligent people playing with conversation, Osserman helpless with laughter at times, held the public in the palms of their hands.

The videos that were previously on youtube are gone. Instead you may see the entire show on Vimeo: Funny Numbers: An Evening with Steve Martin in conversation with Bob Osserman.

2015 Jun 15: If I hammered and flattened a penny enough, could I cover the entire earth with it?

The answer to this question is kind of given. But the why is something that needs explaining and is something I do not have either the math nor the ability to explain. Chris, on the other hand, does. His explanations are in layperson terms and fun to read. So: “If I hammered and flattened a penny enough, could I cover the entire earth with it?”

Public Domain Image, source: NASA/JPL-Caltech.No. If you spread out the atoms from a single penny over the entire surface of the earth, you would no longer have a single piece of solid material since the atoms would be too far apart to bond to each other. Let’s do some careful calculations to show this result. A modern Unites States penny has a mass of 2.500 grams according to the US Mint. Since a penny is composed of 97.50% zinc and 2.50% copper, it therefore contains 2.4375 grams of zinc and 0.0625 grams of copper. At a molar mass of 65.380 grams per mole for zinc and 63.546 grams per mole for copper, a penny therefore contains 0.037282 moles of zinc and 0.00098354 moles of copper. Since a mole of atoms contains 6.0221 × 1023 atoms, there are 2.2452 × 1022 zinc atoms and 5.9230 × 1020 copper atoms in a penny, for a total of 2.3044 × 1022 atoms in a penny.

The earth has a surface area of 510,072,000 square kilometers, or 5.10072 × 1032 square nanometers. The surface area of the earth really depends on what you include in your definition of surface. For instance, if we wish to cover the area of every leaf on every tree and shrub with atoms from the penny, then this will change our answer. Surprisingly, it will not change our answer very much. Most of the earth is covered in relativity flat oceans, sandy deserts, snow fields, barren rocks, and meadows. Trees, shrubs, buildings, and other irregularly-shaped objects only cover a very small percentage of the earth (trees and buildings seem common to most of us humans because most of us live near crowded concentrations of trees and/or buildings). At any rate, we must pick some definition of earth’s surface area to make any calculations. The number cited above does not include the surface area of tree leaves and other small irregularities. In the context of trying to cover the earth with a flattened penny, you can think of this definition of surface area as us lowering a sheet of zinc so that it drapes along the tops of the trees, but does not wrap around any of the leaves or branches of the trees. The thinnest we could ever hammer a sheet of material is one atom thick. We therefore assume that we are creating a one-atom-thick planar sheet of material. Using the above value for earth’s surface area, we divide it by the number of atoms in a penny to find how much area each atom will occupy when the atoms are spread evenly across earth’s surface. We get the value of 2.21347 × 1010 square nanometers per atom, or 0.0000343 square inches per atom. This may seem like a small area, but it is huge compared to the types of areas spanned by simple molecules. ………………………………

The rest of the article can be found on Christopher Baird’s blog

More / Visual – Word Brain

Makes sense to me that the written language is NOT a requirement for being human. Writing is learned behavior, like so many, that needs time and practice, practice, practice to be used in any sort of understandable manner.

Asperger: The HypoSocial Human

I agree that dependence on symbolic (word) language sets modern humans apart from ancestral hominids, but does that dependence constitute a “new” species?

Some thoughts on what this implies or reveals:

1. The “language ready” infant brain, if healthy, is also “vision ready” “movement ready” “hearing ready” “odor ready” “digestion ready” – a number of physical states and abilities must be developed in childhood through learning and practice, or be acquired from the environment, such as establishing gut bacteria for digestion or immunity to disease from the mother.  This is not exclusive to humans. Animals have varying ratios of instinctual / learned behavior.

2. The brain has been established as a plastic organ, in which neural connections and pathways – “circuits” must be established, and indeed, learning language is one means to change / construct the brain, along with hand-eye operations, exercise, movement, balance and exposure to new and novel objects and environments. (Just about everything is new and novel for an infant!) Stimulation…

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The “magical” quantities of Quantum Physics

For some strange reason people I know have told me that I need to try Quantum medicine so I may get rid of my health issues. I am NO expert on Quantum Theory, nor could I be considered even an amateur. However, some of Quantum Theory’s basic principles have settled into my brain. I imagine I must look completely baffled when offers as the above are presented to me. And these offers include me paying HUGE amounts of money.

Quite accidentally, I happened upon this article by Doug Bramwell. Well, actually I googled “Quantum Theory explained” and it came up, so accident isn’t even an honest explanation. But accident would be mysterious, now wouldn’t it?

Source: The Mathematics of Quantum Atom Theory | youtube.com
Source: The Mathematics of Quantum Atom Theory | youtube.com

by Doug Bramwell

‘Quantum mystery’ and ‘quantum magic’ – both these expressions are used by many physicists when they are trying to explain quantum theory to the layman. Presumably they are trying to convey a sense of the strangeness of quantum theory but, sadly, the rather mystic overtones of the expressions have probably encouraged pseudoscientists and New Agers to find, in quantum theory, a justification for their particular brands of nonsense. There are unanswered questions about quantum theory, and there are unanswered questions about, say, channelling. Therefore quantum theory must explain channelling – easy isn’t it?

Quantum theory is ‘spooky’, as Einstein expressed it, in the sense that, at the microscopic level, the world does not behave in the way that everyday objects have led us to regard as common sense.

Physicists and philosophers, too often with little respect for each other’s views, have been trying to interpret quantum behaviour for some seventy years, with little or no progress. It just does not make sense.

The mathematics of quantum theory in unquestionably correct and the theory’s predictions are probably the most accurate in all science. But, however the mathematics is interpreted, nonsensical behaviour is predicted – and confirmed by experiment. Despite this strangeness, quantum theory is the firm foundation of the ‘new industrial revolution’ – the electronics industry and its progeny TV, video, computers and the rest of information technology.

Before looking at the way quantum theory is used to ‘explain’ pseudoscience and the supernatural, let us look at some odd quantum behaviour. A much quoted example is the case of two particles which, having interacted, have opposite ‘spins’ (analogous to the spin of a top in the familiar world), and remain strangely ‘entangled’ as they move away from each other.

According to quantum theory, neither particle has its spin determined until one of the two spins is measured – the two potential spins remain ‘superposed’ – neither is decided. What is determined is the fact that they are opposite. When one of the particles is measured, however, its spin is determined randomly and the superposed state is said to ‘collapse’. At any time after that instant, even if light – the fastest messenger – could not have travelled the intervening distance, measurement of the second particle will reveal that it has a spin opposite to that of its already measured partner…….

The rest of the article can be found at aske-skeptics.org.uk

Autistic mom / dyslexic daughter

What dyslexia might look like
Source: Flinders University, Australia

Dyslexia is a strange syndrome. Some scientists even deny its existence and seem to think that all a dyslexic person needs to do is have reading intervention to  “get over it”. Other scientists have found factors that indicate that dyslexia is a real thing. As a mother, I am going to state here and now that dyslexia is a very real thing.

The members of this family are fairly intelligent. My dyslexic daughter is no exception to that. In college he does well on her oral exams (at least thus far) and not so well on her written. It has been this way all his life. Sometimes that has caused laughter. When it comes to educational institutions anger, frustration and sadness have been more common emotions. We have even had teachers wondering if he was still dyslexic when he got to high school. The lack of knowledge among educators of what dyslexia entails is staggering.

Source: Reach, Don't Whine
Source: Reach, Don’t Whine

The traits my daughter shows are:

  • Appears bright, highly intelligent, and articulate but unable to read, write, or spell at grade level.
  • Labelled lazy, careless, immature, “not trying hard enough.”
  • Isn’t “behind enough” or “bad enough” to be helped in the school setting.
  • Tests well orally, but not written.
  • Feels dumb; has poor self-esteem; easily frustrated and emotional about school reading or testing.
  • Difficulty sustaining attention.
  • Learns best through hands-on experience, demonstrations, experimentation, observation, and visual aids.
  • Confused by letters, numbers, words, sequences, or verbal explanations.
  • Reading or writing shows repetitions, additions, transpositions, omissions, substitutions, and reversals in letters, numbers and/or words.
  • Reads and rereads with little comprehension.
  • Spells phonetically and inconsistently.
  • Trouble with writing or copying; pencil grip is unusual; handwriting varies or is illegible.
  • Clumsy, uncoordinated, poor at ball or team sports; difficulties with fine and/or gross motor skills and tasks.
  • Often confuses left/right, over/under.
  • Computing math shows dependence on finger counting and other tricks; knows answers, but can’t do it on paper.
  • Can do arithmetic, but fails word problems; cannot grasp algebra.
  • Excellent long-term memory for experiences, locations, and faces.
  • Can be class trouble-maker (in the sense that he was often told to be quiet and stop asking questions).
  • Had unusually early or late developmental stages (talking, crawling, walking, tying shoes).
  • Prone to ear infections; sensitive to foods.
  • Unusually low tolerance for pain.
  • Strong sense of justice; emotionally sensitive; strives for perfection.
  • Mistakes and symptoms increase dramatically with confusion, time pressure, emotional stress, or poor health.

Source: http://www.dyslexia.com/library/symptoms.htm
Font from http://www.dyslexiefont.com/

What dyslexia might look like 2
Source: ETNI-English Teachers Network

Having two brothers with dyslexia and a sister who worked/had worked at the Dyslexia Foundation in Norway, I knew what signs to look for and what needed to be done when it became apparent that dyslexia had joined our family. Early on I started telling educators what I suspected. Alas, being a parent with expert knowledge about one’s child does not in any way result in being taken seriously.

We went through kindergarten and seven years of Skjetten primary school doing their very best to ignore the problem and place all blame for failure on my daughter. For quite a few years home-schooling would probably have been the best solution for us (hind-sight knows all). It seemed as though I had to go through everything her teacher had taught over again at home. At home we had me read out loud the texts and take breaks when attention flagged. We were also able to discuss the topics we read and try out alternative ways of getting through the material.

Source: Gentle Stress Relief for Peace Health & Happiness
Source: Gentle Stress Relief for Peace Health & Happiness

As more and more written material had to be handed in, I helped her by going through his texts making sure he had remembered to punctuate, have a capital letter at the beginning of sentences, check spelling and split her sentences.

One of the problems for dyslexic with both reading and writing difficulties is that they tend to not punctuate. Not a single period, comma or capital letter in a whole paragraph. Add to that the letters that get turned around, words that are spelled phonetically, double and single consonants and more, and the need for someone to look through their work is obvious. I would read the text back to my daughter and ask her if that was what she meant. Sometimes we would laugh because her intended message was not the words on the page.

At times we quarreled about the meaning of the assignment. After a while, she realized that I needed to teach her how to decode the wording of assignments. Then we worked on how to set up an essay. Right away I need to tell you that I am absolutely not the best teacher when it comes to writing essays. Autism tends to take over and I write in bullets rather than paragraphs. But I do know what the textbooks state and that is what we worked with.

Poetry. Oh, how I hate analyzing poems. But we could work with the basics – spotting metaphors, allegories and type of rhyming. Analyzing other texts was no easier, but somehow all of this knowledge was placed into her head by us.

Artist: Tamara Adams
Family Reading Together – ethnic print of folk art original / Artist: Tamara Adams

We read together. Homework and pleasure reading has taken hours and hours of our lives. Audiobooks and practicing reading texts that interested him added to her sense of accomplishment and pleasure.

Now she has school-books for the blind (when they are available). Other than that, my daughter scans texts to be read by her reading program. When she comes home we sometimes read through material and talk about what on earth these incredibly wordy scholars are talking about. Without auto-correct her spelling is still unusual. Modern technology has made life a whole lot simpler for the dyslectic (unless they are unfortunate enough to have the kind that completely messes with their sight).

Having a neurodivergent mother has in this instance been a good thing for my daughter – especially a neurodivergent mother with a love for words. I don’t know if we could have done the same thing if my interests had been otherwise. My daughter and I were extremely LUCKY that our loves and struggles could work together.

We still read together – he is now 20. I write about those experiences on my book blog humanitysdarkerside.com.