This is what happens when asocial trans lesbians go back to school and rediscover the internet

So since my big mental snaffu a few years ago I’ve been hearing a lot of folks throwing this word, “asocial”, around in reference to me. At first I was a little irritated and offended, because I thought “asocial” was like “antisocial” and the only time I ever do anything truly antisocial is when I think that the relevant social norm/custom is anti-humanist. Anyway, I did some research and found out that “asocial” is basically just a fancy clinical word for folks who are pathologically critical of society, which, to me, sounds like it’s actually a good thing. For that reason, I’ve come to embrace the fact that I’m a pathological outsider. Really, it explains a lot about me.

Anyway, part of being asocial is that I never really understood the social media jazz. I’ve had a Facebook account since 2004 (or 2006: the first got deleted for making too many “mean” joke groups so I made a new one), but I’ve never really used it much. Anyway, my thing with friends is I have a few close ones that I deal with all the time, and then a bunch of acquaintances whom I hung out with regularly for a short time before deciding that thy bored me. So, I’ve never really understood the point of Facebook or Twitter or any of that jazz. If I want to know what you’re doing (or vice versa) I can text you or call you. Chances are, I already have a rough idea of what’s happening. Why you need the interweb machines for friend things?

Anyway, my internet horizons were broadened when I went back to school last spring. It started with the porn. You see, I had never really been exposed to pornography until the summer of 2007 when I got a job at a video store that sold it. Before I found out what pornography really was, I thought it was probably just videos of people making sweet, passionate love after a really romantic evening. (No, I’m not kidding; I really thought that’s what porn was like.) Turns out it’s not like that at all. It’s a bunch of sociopaths treating human beings as sub-human pleasure objects and forcing them to do the most ridiculously raunchy things they can imagine. Totally not hot. So, when I went back to school and took Philosophy of Feminism and saw that one of the paper topics was porn, I went crazy on that shit and got me an A. Anyway, part of my research for that paper was surveying internet porn sites, which tipped me off to the fact that there are such things as porn aggregators. Seriously. Google “Darlina.” And on these porn aggregators there is a category called “pizza porn.” Yes, people get of on jamming manly meat parts through the center of a pizza pie. I wish I were making this shit up. Anyway, this made me look at the internet in a whole new light.

Then, last fall, I took a political science class for which part of my participation grade was opening a Twitter account and twitting away about the news. At first I was kind of irritated, because to me this was like requiring students to go to a bar and make small talk with the other drunks, but then I discovered that Twitter is really secretly the world’s greatest news website. Seriously, just follow every new outlet you can find there and you’ll never miss out on what’s happening in the world. Fucking amazing! And then there are all the awesome radical twits. Just twenty minutes ago I discovered that Twisty Faster of I Blame the Patriarchy fame is actually on Twitter now. Now I can get Nobel Prize-worthy radical writings delivered straight to my phone device. Huzzah!

Finally, about a week and a half ago, I discovered that “liking” people and things on Facebook is akin to following them on Twitter, and you can repost whatever they post. This has lead to an orgy of me reposting everything on George Takei’s wall. This shit is fucking awesome! And now, just yesterday, I discovered Google+, which appears to be the new hangout for trendy artists and tech geeks. Totally the coolest of them all. Too bads most of my friends seem to think it’s not the coolest thing since Creepy Crawlers. Oh well, they’ll come around.

Anyway, I guess the point I’m trying to make is that all this social media bullshit might not be total bullshit. It does seem to help people spread news and share opinions. It seems like these sites have replace the Greco-Roman forums (or fora, if y’all wanna be smart about it). The internet really is the greatest invention in the history of inventing.

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Religion, conservatism, and low IQs

So, for a paper I just turned in about two weeks ago I wrote about the debate over whether or not atheists are qualified to hold public office (50% of Americans say no). I’ll be posting some stuff relevant to that in the next few days (as soon as I get some comments back on it), but until then I wanted to throw out some stuff I discovered in the process of doing research for that paper.

First, I discovered an article in Social Psychology Quarterly from 2010 entitled “Why Liberals and Atheists are More Intelligent.” It was a fascinating read. It was the product of two studies, which found (among other things) that adolescent intelligence is one of the biggest predictors of atheism, liberalism, and monogamy in men. Atheists and liberals tend to score higher on verbal intelligence tests than people who are religious or more conservative. To be honest, it doesn’t really shock me that much, since I’m a liberal atheist and as such I’m biased in that direction. Anyway, it was kind of nice to find out that there was some empirical evidence that my bias is founded. According to the author of the article, intelligent people are more likely to be atheists or liberals because they are more likely to think in evolutionarily novel ways.

I told one of my liberal atheist friends about the study and sent it to him, and a few days later he sent me this blurb on Live Science about a study which found that conservatives are more prejudiced and have lower IQs than non-conservatives. So, apparently conservatives really are just ignorant bigots. Again, didn’t shock me, but it’s nice to have some evidence.

Finally, just now Tony (the guy who sent me the above blurb) told me about this new study which found that religious people are less motivated by compassion than non-religious people. That seems to go well with a 2009 paper by one Gregory Paul in Evolutionary Psychology (which I have on my computer but currently can’t find online) which found that religiosity is strongly correlated with social dysfunction. Once again, I’ve always thought atheists and agnostics are more compassionate that religious folks, who are big on the fire and brimstone thing, but it’s nice to have some evidence.

Also, atheists know more about religion than religious people. Shocker! (Not.)

Obviously not all conservatives or religious folks are ignorant assholes; some are fairly intelligent. However, there seems to be a growing body of evidence that intelligence is not conducive to religion or conservative values. My theory as to why religious folks are less compassionate is that their god judges, so they think it’s okay for them to judge. As for the intelligence bit, progressives and liberals and atheists all tend to arrive at their conclusions through careful, well-reasoned critical thinking, which is usually easier to do when you’ve got a lot of brain-power. As for knowing more about religion, it makes sense to me because we get a lot of people trying to convert us, so we like to know what we’re up against. The easiest way to do that is to read the holy books and such. Maybe religious folks should give it a try.

The only thing that remains to be seen is if atheists and liberals get big heads with all this evidence that we’re smarter. Of course, we’re more compassionate, so at the very least we won’t hold it against you that you’re inferior.

(I was being sardonic there. Apparently it doesn’t come thru on the interwebs.)

I thought there was a law against false advertising…

So this morning as I was getting ready for school and watching CNN I saw an ad for “clean” coal technology which claimed that “clean” coal technology has made a demonstrable impact on the environment. I found this a little fishy, since last I knew the earliest projected payoff from research into “clean” coal was 20-30 years from now. Granted, I haven’t done any reading on “clean” coal research since about last February, and it’s entirely possible there was a quantum leap in the technology while I was out to lunch, but I’m pretty sure one of my crazy liberal friends would have told me something about it. Anyway, it got me thinking about the real solution to the energy crisis: nuclear power!

In the nuclear business, there’s a saying that goes “the less you know the more you fear.” Essentially, the people who gripe about how horrible this truly amazing energy source is are all completely ignorant and have no right to bitch about a solution that could save the environment and create jobs. First of all, nuclear energy is more than 95% efficient, more than coal’s 90%, much more than wind’s max of 40%, and light years ahead of solar energy, which tops out at about 17%. Then there’s the footprint: the average nuclear energy facility takes up less than 1/3 of a square mile and can power an entire city. You’d need at least several hundred square miles worth of wind turbines or solar panels to get the same amount of energy. Also, for small developing communities, miniature reactors such as Toshiba’s 4S can be buried underground and maintained from a facility about the size of a city block. Then there’s the fact that it’s always on, unlike wind or solar, which require just the right conditions (I remember hearing that although wind’s peak efficiency is 40%, it usually operates around 10%, but I can’t remember the source so that may not be reliable). Also, government regulations stipulate that nuclear power facilities may not release more than 15 mrem of radiation into the surrounding area. Just to put that in perspective, the background radiation of the U.S. from radon and other naturally-occurring substances is 230-320 mrem. Breathing is a better was to get cancer than living near a nuclear facility.

But what about the risk of a major meltdown? Well, first of all, there has never been a true meltdown in more than 50 years of nuclear energy. Chernobyl was the worst nuclear incident (not counting the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, obviously), and that little snaffu only happened because the USSR was didn’t know what they were doing and the Chernobyl plant was so unsafe it’s a miracle it lasted as long as it did. Every nuclear country today has strict codes which would prevent anything on the scale of Chernobyl ever happening again. In all, there are only seven nuclear incidents at energy facilities I can actually think of. In about 60 years of developing the technology. There are or have been literally thousands of nuclear plants operating these past 50-60 years, and only 7 incidents. Furthermore, France, the world’s leader in nuclear energy, has never had an incident. They get 60% of their power from nuclear and shut down their last coal-burning plant in 2004 or 2005 (I forget; it was my freshman year of college). Their emissions are among the lowest in the industrialized world. Also, they make a killing selling nuclear-produced energy to neighboring countries. So does Italy. Sounds pretty good for the economy to me. We can either sell to Canada or buy from them; which do you want it to be?

About now I’m sure some ignorati is thinking I forgot about the whole “nuclear waste” issue. While it is true that nuclear reactors produce radioactive byproducts, I don’t like to call it “waste,” mainly because most of it is reusable. The only problem is that the U.S. government, which is loaded with ignorant nuclear-haters, will not fund research into the best way to reclaim this “waste.” Nuclear could be a renewable source of energy if only the government would cut the crap and get on the side of science.

In closing, I would like to say that I have heard some radical skeptics claim that radiation from Chernobyl has never been linked to a single case of cancer or a birth defect. Technically, this is true, but only because there’s no real way to tell exactly how most cancers or birth defects come about. The cancer and birth defect rates of people living in the area at the time were actually closer to the norm than one would think, but I am pretty sure it’s going too far to claim that it didnoharm. Also, there’s the issue of the people killed in the actual explosion. However, if you’re looking for damage to the environment, you’ll have to look elsewhere. The Chernobyl incident may have been the best thing to happen to the ecosystem in the area since humans first settled there. Now it is a beautiful forest absolutely thriving with wildlife, none of which seem to be suffering any ill effects from the remaining background radiation.

So, in a nutshell: coal is never clean and wind and solar are impractical. It’s time to go really green.

The amazing properties of Chinese purple

So I’ve been celebrating my Spring Break by geeking out and watching PBS and National Geographic documentaries on Netflix. I’ve always been a big Nova fan, but now I’m starting to get into the newer series Secrets of the Dead. I just watched an episode of the latter about the ancient Chinese terracotta warriors and learned something interesting about a rather popular ancient Chinese synthetic pigment. It’s called Chinese purple and its origins are most likely rooted in ancient Chinese alchemy. The theory advanced in this episode of Secrets of the Dead is that it was first created in experiments to synthesize jade, which the ancient Chinese believed to bring immortality (I guess it was the ancient eastern version of the philosopher’s stone). Anyway, the evidence for this argument is that the chemical composition of Chinese purple is identical to the chemical composition of a form of synthetic jade from that period known as Chinese glass.

Being more well-versed in Egyptology that ancient eastern anthropology, I was familiar with a similar pigment, Egyptian blue, but this Chinese purple stuff seems a lot cooler because of an interesting discovery.

A physicist inserted a sample of Chinese purple into the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory’s 45-Tesla/32mm Hybrid Magnet’s core (the world’s strongest magnet) and super-cooled it in order to analyze its physical properties and found that at extreme temperatures the pigment actually loses its third dimension! Not being a physics expert (but having been raised by one, if that counts for anything) I had heard that stuff such as this was theoretically possible, but I didn’t think it had ever been observed (some scrounging on the internet confirms that this is the first time such a miraculous occurrence has been experimentally observed). Being a computer nerd, I’m quite excited about what this could mean for the future of computing. (Secrets of the Dead tells us it also has some bearing on rail travel, if you’re a real nerd.)

More about Han purple and super-science.