Linky Friday: (Un)earthly Affairs

Politics:

red vs blue photo

Image by Masked Builder

[Po1] Walter Olson makes the libertarian case against gerrymandering.

[Po2] A look at politics and personality in the UK.

[Po3] Undermining the FDA? Where do I sign? Also, an interesting look at the history of the FDA.

[Po4] I am increasingly convinced that this is true. It’s been confirmed at least on one side of the aisle, but if we’re honest it’s true of the other side as well as those on the fence, in aggregate. This is also an argument for strong parties with good party elites. {Related?}

[Po5] This may evolve into the most important offshoot of #MeToo. And we’re off!

Media:

Image by ricketyus

[Me1] The rise and fall of Playgirl.

[Me2] The Chinese, evidently, are comfortable with their media and its limitations.

[Me3] Katherine Goldstein argues that news organizations need to do a better job of accommodating mothers.

[Me4] The strange story of an internet media commentator with a penchant for harassing women who turned out to be a teen girl.

[Me5] When tallying the dead, how do you count fetuses?

[Me6] Contrary to conservative complaints, the media hasn’t really buried the Menendez story. MSNBC, though… (and their excuse sucks)

[Me7] The Wall Street Journal reports that Buzzfeed, Mashable, and Vice are all missing their financial targets.

Religion:

playgirl photo

Image by Jazmin Million

[Re1] Jemar Tisby was a rising star in the white evangelical community in Mississippi, but he has become disillusioned.

[Re2] A video on what happens when ex-Muslims go public.

[Re3] As someone that’s not especially religious (or “spiritual” in the normal sense) but who believes in believing in god, I often look interestedly at the community of church.

[Re4] EdWeek has an article on how to teach religion in schools, without blowing everything up.

[Re5] Hal Boyd argues that it’s to mock the Mormon beliefs is to mock the things about Mormons we often profess to admire.

Science:

sperm photo

Image by Grace Hebert

[Sc1] What a Star Wars spoof revealed about sperm penetration.

[Sc2] According to Razib Khan, the fierceness of the blowback against social psychology is due to pent up demand. Think of it like finally getting to pee after holding it in forever. More, from Andrew Gelman.

[Sc3] Scientific disagreements ending in lawsuits is likely to be a problem for the climate sciences in general.

[Sc4] Asymmetrical scrutiny is an ever-present concern with science, and it’s hard to find a better example than this.

[Sc5] A look at turning heat into motion using magnets.

Space:

red vs blue photo

Image by cuatrok77

[Sp1] When is a giant world not a planet?

[Sp2] Chris Russell looks at what we can learn by going back to the moon.

[Sp3] Studying the plumes of Enceladus.

[Sp4] I’m just glad this didn’t happen those few months when everybody was telling everybody else they had to see Crash. What if China meets the aliens first? We’re already sending stuff out.

[Sp5] If there are aliens out there, they may be a lot like us.

[Sp6] A big new advance for terraforming Mars? Now, if ewe can just get a comet full of water to collide with it.Image by cuatrok77


Editor-in-Chief
Home Page Twitter Google+ Pinterest 

Will Truman is a former professional gearhead who is presently a stay-at-home father in the Mountain East. He has moved around frequently, having lived in six places since 2003, ranging from rural outposts to major metropolitan areas. He also writes fiction, when he finds the time. ...more →

Please do be so kind as to share this post.
TwitterFacebookRedditEmailPrintFriendlyMore options

58 thoughts on “Linky Friday: (Un)earthly Affairs

  1. Roy Moore has some classy defenders.

    Po4: I largely agree except calling Donald Trump a “confused ex-Democrat” is to kind. So far the policies advocated by Donald Trump are Republican orthodoxies on steroids like the current tax bill.

    Me6: Perhaps conservative media should look at all the times Fox & Friends (or Fox News in general) decides not to cover things that make the GOP look bad.

      Quote  Link

    Report

     
    • We are never going to have perfectly moral politicians en mass. Especially not in this country. We also know that the American political system is at least a little dependent on corruption to function. A lot of the current era of hyper-partisanship has its origins in getting rid of earmarks and pork. Living with a bit of corruption and greed is better than other vices.

        Quote  Link

      Report

       
  2. Re3: as someone far from family (and with relatively little family left) and without a Significant Other, church is incredibly important for me. When I had to go to the ER last year, it was someone from church who went with me. I suspect if I had to have minor surgery it would be someone from church who would drive me there and home.

    Sadly, a lot of the “growing” churches tend to be less open to single people (at least some places) unless they’re 20-somethings looking to marry. This may partly be, at least in the evangelical type church, a concern that they don’t want gay people in their midst but….yeah. As a long-term single it’s worrying not having a family network because life feels more precarious.

    I am part of a DOC congregation. We are small and I worry that we won’t still be here five years hence, which will mean I’ll have to find another one to take me in….and will have to decide whether doctrinal similarity or feeling welcomed is more important to me.

    Perhaps some social clubs (like bicyclist clubs) offer similar support, I don’t know, there aren’t many in my area that overlap with an interest of mine.

      Quote  Link

    Report

     
    • By “growing” I suspect you mean White Evangelical Protestant. They adopted the “church growth” movement back in the 1980s. A big part of this marketing strategy was to identify a target demographic. “Young and preferably affluent” was a popular choice. Couples with young children were a particularly popular choice, as having kids traditionally brings marginal members back to church anyway. Church as a singles meet-up followed naturally, both to attract young singles looking for marriage partners and as a lead-in to their becoming couples with young children. At this point it is kind of baked in. I am prepared to blame White Evangelicals for a lot, but I don’t think this particular trait is due to fear of the Teh Gay.

      As for your particular situation, I would expect that all else being equal, you would be welcomed in any of the traditional mainlines. Methodist is a good bet, if only because they are pretty much everywhere. Of course every individual congregation has its peculiarities, so any given congregation could be a bad fit. Another possibility that might not be immediately obvious is a traditionally black church. I would try an AME church if there are any around you. They often are quite welcoming and supportive, even of white folk.

        Quote  Link

      Report

       
      • We don’t have a large enough Black population to support a local AME church. We do have a large Methodist church and a Presbyterian one (probably doctrinally closest). And there’s a small Episcopalian congregation I’ve heard good things about. (And my brother and sister in law became Episcopalians after getting fed up with the “megachurch” nondenominational options near them)

        Part of the problem for me is that no one knows what to make of a 40-something, never married, no kids, not dating but heterosexual woman. I’m sure I’m seen as deeply weird and viewed with suspicion by many. But my desire to “fit in” to polite society is less than my desire to continue to avoid the meat-market type of dating, so I presume unless a miracle occurs, I will remain single.

          Quote  Link

        Report

         
        • Although I am married, I have never attended church with my very-atheist spouse, so when I go (I take years off at a time), I get treated as a single woman, at least until people get to know me (and sometimes even afterward).

          In my experience Episcopalians have been very welcoming, not creepily singles-must-date!!!, and with less pressure than any other Protestant denomination (other than the Congregationalists) to conform my beliefs to theirs. They merely expected me to be warm and supportive to my fellow churchgoers once I’d been there a while, and maybe to start pitching in on some projects as I was able, eventually.

          This has been true in both conservative and liberal Episcopal congregations. Heck, it was/is even true of the Anglican church in Canada that my second family went to when I was a kid.

            Quote  Link

          Report

           
        • What Maribou said, re the Episcopalians. Were I to find myself in a place without a good Lutheran option, I would look to the Episcopalians next. On the other hand, if you are looking because your small, financially non-viable church gave up the ghost, it would be understandable if you wanted to look into the small Episcopal church’s finances before making any commitment. (Pro tip: Never–Never!–join a church that keeps its finances hidden.) Regarding the Presbyterian church, they come in different flavors, which vary wildly. The two largest are the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the Presbyterian Church in America. You would want to do your due diligence before walking in the door. To their credit, they are pretty good about not hiding who they are, which is not true of all churches, but you need to know the code.

            Quote  Link

          Report

           
        • Methodists, at least their mainstream ones, are very doctrinely close to mainline Lutherans and Presbyterians. So much so that my grandmother, a life-long Lutheran (i the classic German style), found the Methodist doctrine and service to incredible easy to follow, even as she was declining. The differences between their doctrine weren’t large, and the liturgy was almost identical.

          My local Methodist church (I’m not a member, though my wife is) would be delighted to have you, for the simple reason that it meant you could sit in fellowship with your brethren in Christ. Everything else is…unimportant. (I can think of at last a dozen “members” who have never joined, will never join, and show up more often than anyone but the pastor. Who is just glad they’ve found a place they’re comfortable to worship.)

          That being said, that’s got more to do with the congregation than the pastors who rotate through. (Methodist pastors don’t stick around for more than a few years. They rotate them around.)

            Quote  Link

          Report

           
  3. Po4: As Jonathan Bernstein frequently observes, if you think a lot about politics your weird. Most people, and this includes some very well-educated people, don’t think deeply about politics or at least all of politics. They approach it from a more inchoate and tribal thought. Because I belong to X group, I vote for Y party and don’t have a systematic way of seeing issues. A person I know supports tough gun control but thinks the entire kneeling for the flag to protest police brutality is disrespectful These are not two opinions that most ideologues would see as going to gather but this person seems to have no problem with the cognitive dissonance.

    Most people really do not operate with any sort of consistency in their ideology and seem perfectly fine with believing mutually contradictory things. People who are concerned about consistency find this weird and troublesome.

      Quote  Link

    Report

     
  4. {Sp4} there was a thing on twitter about the ethics and wisdom of shouting out into the darkness yelling “HEY WE’RE OVER HERE” at random extraterrestials with unknowable motives. I still think it’s fine. (And I think we have some sort of detectable signature already from any interstellar civilization that could possibly do us harm)

    {Sp6} The ethics of terraforming Mars is an actual ethical conundrum for me. Could we wall off of a chunk of the planet and keep it as a wilderness preserve in its pre-human state?

      Quote  Link

    Report

     
      • Yeah, that’s why it’s a dillema. On the one hand, it’s probably the most practical place for human off-earth permanent settlements in the next few generations, but on the other hand, it is a unique place as it is right now.

          Quote  Link

        Report

         
        • Clarification: when I say it’s a tough sell, I mean it’s tough to make the argument that there is any reason to preserve Mars as-is. And when I refer to an organic ecosystem, I mean in the sense of being carbon-based and containing life.

            Quote  Link

          Report

           
          • The only arguments I’ve ever heard that I was deeply sympathetic to are that it may in fact *be* an (organic or otherwise) ecosystem, and we don’t know enough to be 100 percent sure it isn’t, yet. I have an aesthetic appreciation for the idea of not screwing up planets b/c they are so different, but aesthetic only. Ethically I’d turn the whole world into paperclips as long as I wasn’t harming sentient (meaning emotionally, not rationally, intelligent) life in the short- or long-term.

            And even if there is some sort of (non-sentient) life on Mars somehow – deeply sympathetic doesn’t mean “insistent.” We’re kinda desperate here, in some ways. If Mars became easily terraformable, I’m not sure I could ethically even ask people to slow down in the surge to terraform it.

            I could imagine there being value to humans in a nature preserve though, even if it was as artificially maintained as significant chunks of our state and national parks are…

              Quote  Link

            Report

             
            • Oh, boy howdy.
              Someone (who will for the purposes of this remain nameless) went off on Kim Stanley Robinson for all the inaccuracies of his Mars Trilogy.
              (specifically, the idea that we’d actually be able to make it work at all. Knowing this person, he brought tables and evidence too).

              So what does Robinson do?

              He writes a book based on THAT premise.

              Which everyone hates, because any of the true hardsf people had run away screaming after Green Mars, and it’s blasted depressing to boot.

                Quote  Link

              Report

               
          • Yes, I agree that ‘Mars Preservationists’ are probably going to be a minority and more than likely lose out. (And on balance, if pressed, I think they should)

            But I think they will have a point, and can’t be dismissed as luddite hippies or whatever.

            Eta (we are going to see the same arguments, but substitute ‘rocks’ for ‘owls’ and ‘snail darters’, etc

              Quote  Link

            Report

             
            • Once the atmo begins to change, preserving any part of Mars in a pre-human state will be near to impossible.

              On the plus side, we will be living in habitats for a very long time prior to any attempt to terraform, so if there is significant life on the planet, we should find evidence of it before we drop an ice comet on the place.

                Quote  Link

              Report

               
              • Our scientists seem stumped by the problem of keeping Earth’s temperature from increasing a couple of degrees every century. You want me to go to Mars and live in a geodesic dome until they build a rain forest? Prove to me that you can make Brazil into a rain forest. That should be easier, since it already is one. It should be easy to terraform Terra, right?

                  Quote  Link

                Report

                 
    • If by “detectable signature” we mean palpably artificial electromagnetic radiation, then the leading edge is only about a hundred light years from us. This is to say, it only encompasses a tiny bubble of space, on the galactic scale. And even if the space monsters seeking earth women are learning about us this very moment, if they don’t have FTL drives it is going to be a very long time before they reach us and our women. If they do have FTL drives, all bets are off regardless.

      Preserving a chunk of Mars: Terraforming pretty much by definition will involve massive modification to the atmosphere. Unless you are talking about hermetically sealed domes with primordial Mars inside, I don’t see how walling off a chunk is meaningful.

        Quote  Link

      Report

       
  5. {Sp4} Interesting this seems a bit different than what I took for the state of thinking 20-30 years ago. There was even a trend in science fiction literature (which Asimov might have even spearheaded) to make alien life forms *a lot different* from earth-familiar ones, as the pulps and then Hollywood production realities made most aliens just close approximations of earth species.

      Quote  Link

    Report

     
    • Asimov didn’t write aliens for most of his career, because he didn’t want to either write them as obviously inferior to humans, as John Campbell wanted, or have a fight with Campbell.

      When he finally did, in The Gods Themselves, they were very alien.

        Quote  Link

      Report

       
  6. Sp4: Considering that one out of every five humans have been Chinese for thousands of years, they probably should meet the aliens first. Chinese civilization is one of the oldest continual human civilization on the planet and it represents the biggest plurality of humans.

      Quote  Link

    Report

     
  7. Re4: First off, I’m strongly in favor of teaching about religions in public schools. In private schools and homeschooling too, for that matter.

    But this particular article wasn’t really about teaching about religion. It was about teaching about Islam without Islamophobes getting in the way. It was also about, in passing, how those Christian-types want to teach about Christianity in schools so we better keep an eye out for them.

    I suppose the advice it gives is good, although I’m stunned that teachers would think about packing up the kids into a bus and taking them to a house of worship. I mean, the best case scenario is a bunch of kids pointing and gawking at people in prayer, and that’s ignoring all the potential church-state issues. Yes, show a video. Yeesh.

      Quote  Link

    Report

     
    • The whole “teach kids about religions” thing seems pretty simple to me. I remember covering the basics of the major world religions in public middle school and high school in California without much controversy or ill effect. It was mostly not about rituals and garb but just the basic tenets and history.

      Putting kids in a situation where they might feel like they have to *participate* in some other religion’s rituals seems like playing with fire. Taking them to a service where they might be asked to get involved or having them wear religious garb doesn’t seem to add much to the educational experience in exchange for the risk of putting a religious kid in a really awkward situation.

        Quote  Link

      Report

       
    • I think the part about taking students to a house of worship with some participating in the call to prayer probably violates the Establishment Clause. When you have court decisions that breathlessly exclaim that students on the way to graduation in a church auditorium will be required to travel on streets with the names “Agape” and “Barnabas,” you have to figure the courts think that students old enough to graduate from high school are completely unable to think for themselves.

      That makes it pretty hard to imagine public schools doing any of this. They cannot imply support or non-support.

        Quote  Link

      Report

       
  8. Sp1: A question for the astronomers – When an odd planet is found, one that scientists claim shouldn’t be in the orbit it is in because it couldn’t have formed there, why is orbital perturbation or object capture never considered as a possible explanation (at least, not in the articles I read)? Rogue planets are theorized to exist (planets just traveling through space, not in orbit around a star), and it is possible for one to have been capture by a star. Likewise, a sufficiently massive object making a near pass of planets could pull a planet further out, or in. Or a combination of the two events (capturing a rogue planet perturbed other orbits).

      Quote  Link

    Report

     
  9. Me1: During my high school years, a few other kids and I found quite of lot of Play Girls in our high school. We were on Stage Crew and needed to go up into a storage space near the auditorium because thats where the furniture and other big props were kept for school plays or where we adjusted the lights. We were doing some clean up work and found at least one or two boxes filled with old copies of Play Boys. This was probably in 1995 or 1996 and they seemed to be from the late eighties or early nineties.

      Quote  Link

    Report

     
  10. [Po4] I am increasingly convinced that this is true. It’s been confirmed at least on one side of the aisle, but if we’re honest it’s true of the other side as well as those on the fence, in aggregate. This is also an argument for strong parties with good party elites.

    I think this is, in a way, both true and false. Voters mostly do not care about, or know anything about, political specifics. (In fact, you can say that about most things that are not required for daily living. People mostly do not care about, or know anything about, how to write a screenplay or how to build a house. Most people are kinda dumb about most things. People tend to specialize in just a few areas of knowledge.)

    But I think each voter has a vague sense of direction, of what things are wrong and what sort of things can be done to fix them. (Just like people kinda know how to write a screenplay, or build a house. They’d come up with something, it would just probably be crappy.)

    I think these ‘vague directions’ or ‘vague philosophies’ might be taught by the parties in some sense, but voters are not blank slates that the party can project anything on.

    And I think we’ve recently learned that the vague direction of Republican voters is not even slightly pointed where party leaders imagined it was pointed.

    But this doesn’t mean the Democrats are the same. In fact, Trump and Sanders basically prove they aren’t.

    Trump and Sanders both hijacked part of their respective party by leading a mob of voters in the direction the voters mostly wanted to go, instead of where the party wanted them to go. And we can make some fairly obvious conclusions based on the directions they picked. Trump went off in a random, somewhat crazy direction, whereas Sanders doubled down on the direction the party had been pointing but didn’t bother to go.

    What I think this article is measuring is actually something else entirely: What _label_ people are using to describe themselves. Which can, indeed, vary while party identification stays the same.

    But the article presents very little evidence this change in label is actually a change in any political position.

      Quote  Link

    Report

     
  11. Regarding aliens, I just saw “Arrival” and found it really annoying. It was interesting and the sort of movie I’d be really into — and was, for much of it — but the big reveal felt cheap. I hate when movies go for the BIG TWIST but give no ability to predict it. It’s one thing jf the clues are subtle, but they were simply absent. That isn’t good story telling; it’s just cheap.

      Quote  Link

    Report

     
    • “BIG TWIST but give no ability to predict it”

      Huh. My mileage varied a lot on that, I saw it coming from before she met the aliens.

      It’s possible I’d already read the story and it was lurking in my subconscious, though.

        Quote  Link

      Report

       
      • As soon as the final sequence began, I realize, “Oh, yup… here we go. Here’s who he is/was and here’s how it all went down.” But that was still the end.

        I’d be curious if you could point to specific elements of the film that allowed you to see it. Or if it was more just a matter of your own perception and understanding of narrative elements and the like. I reckon you’re far more advanced in those areas than I am.

          Quote  Link

        Report

         
        • Honestly when I see twists coming it’s always intuitive so it’s hard to point out specifics, just an “oh, I think…”. Good thing I don’t mind the lack of surprises :D.
          I have a friend in their mid-20s who is a writer, and they are 100 times more perceptive than me – they’re constantly saying “do you want me to spoil this episode?” about the dumb CW shows we watch together, at least 10 minutes before the resolution has occurred to me.

          I think, based on seeing what they’re doing which is the same thing I’m doing only more self-aware, that it’s just about having spent a lot of time with stories (in my voracious reader case) and being trained at pulling them apart (in their case; they have a BA in Creative Writing). There are only so many possible ways for stories to go. And a good story will have the ending built into the beginning, and if you’ve read a million beginnings and seen where they ended up, you kind of can’t help but recognize the pieces of the ending in it.

          I wasn’t 100 percent certain, in this case, mind you. I just thought, “oh, okay, these stories probably fit together in this particular way, it’d be weird if it turned out differently.” Then, when I had that INTERRRRRRRRRRRMINABLE ride upward toward the aliens in the elevator-shaft-like thinger to sit through, it gave me time to sift through the story some more in my mind and draw some conclusions (only less analytically than that makes it sound) – things settled into place.

            Quote  Link

          Report

           
          • That makes a lot of sense. I watched this with my new girlfriend, who was initially hesitant because suspense movies aren’t her cup of tea. Then there was the opening sequence which had her in tears saying, “That is my biggest fear! I hate this movie!” (She’s a mother of one.) And all I could say was, “I had no idea this was a part of the movie.” So, yes, there was definitely some dots to connect and it doesn’t surprise me that someone with your brain and experience connects them more quickly and easily than others. What you describe in terms of your ability to break things down and your friend’s even more advanced ability to do the same is what I was referring to.

            It is interesting to think about how differently we engage with a work of art. It can be easy to accept, “You feel differently about this work of art than I do.” It is much harder to really understand, “You experience this work of art differently than I do.”

              Quote  Link

            Report

             
    • I am with you on that . I generally refer to it as an O. Henry ending, something out-of-the-blue happening to finish the story. I prefer a story that you can see the ending coming subtly or clearly, but feel powerless against its glory/horror.

        Quote  Link

      Report

       
      • I don’t mind a big twist. It is often fun to go back and find all the clues that seem so obvious in hindsight. And *maybe* “Arrival” has those, but I can’t remember a one? It feels like they very intentionally wanted to lead the viewer one way and then *BAM*… look how clever they are!

        I would like to rewatch. Maybe there is more than there I realize. And it is the kind of movie that done right would be sooooo up my alley. Especially with the focus on language, which I find endlessly fascinating, and recent readings I’ve done that explore one of the main themes of the movie, that of the ability for language to shape our understanding or perception of the world (with this obviously being an extreme degree of that).

          Quote  Link

        Report

         
        • The short story by Ted Chiang, which I did seek out after the movie (still not sure if I’d read it years before!) has even more about those themes, so you may want to check it out as well… It’s really beautiful.

          It’s in a book called The Story of Your Life and Others, all of which I love even though I generally hate short stories far more often than I like them, so I’d recommend it – or if you are just interested in hunting it down online, you probably could. I don’t know of any legal venues offering it for free, so I shan’t link it.

            Quote  Link

          Report

           
          • Thanks, . I did see that it was based on a book and I instantly became curious to read it. I should have been a little clearer — and tamer — in my criticism. I didn’t think it was a bad movie but DID find it annoying (not really annoying). But some of that is probably on me.

            I felt similarly about “Big Little Lies”, which has an unexpected ending that I understand was explained/foreshadowed much more thoroughly in the book (the character in question has a specific backstory that explains her actions that simply isn’t there in the show… or so I’ve been told).

            I like putting the pieces together and felt like I missed the chance to do so here. But, again, maybe that is on me. says there was a big one (maybe I can rewatch it but if you don’t mind sharing it under a spoiler-tag, I’d be curious to hear what you saw). And suggests maybe I just sort of missed the point… which is entirely possible. My brain don’t always work so good.

              Quote  Link

            Report

             
        • “Especially with the focus on language”

          Can I make a recommendation ? You might really like the book The Sparrow. If you like language and lingistics, cut with a health bit of SF/thriller AND philosophy, it will be right up your alley.

            Quote  Link

          Report

           
    • It’s foreshadowed far more heavily in the short story. There are hints in the movie, IIRC, but they’re very obscure. (One is, IIRC, a throwaway line in the background about the weird gaps in exchanging mathematics. The short story went into more detail.)

      I recently watched it again (my brother wanted to see it), and I enjoyed it even more — because all snippets of her daughter were woven so well into it, that it both held up and didn’t spoil the later moment of understanding.

      And honestly, I don’t think you’re supposed to see “the twist coming”. You’re supposed to grasp it as she does. (It’s not even “the twist” so much as it is the moment where a puzzle is solved. More than a Eureka moment, it’s the point where the main character makes a mental leap, utterly shifting not a scientific paradigm but the very underpinnings of how she understands the universe to work.)

        Quote  Link

      Report

       

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *