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Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Antimatter

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Click here to go see the bonus panel!

This also explains the abundance of normal matter in the universe is the result of a battle against the Diraculons.

Today's News:
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64 days ago
65 days ago
Washington, DC
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66 days ago
I will always re-share a "what idiot called it X and not Y" joke.
South Burlington, Vermont

Abe Assassinated

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Abe Shinzo has succumbed to his wounds.

Shinzo Abe, Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, died on Friday at 67, after being shot while campaigning for a candidate ahead of national elections.

The police arrested a suspect, Tetsuya Yamagami, 41, on an initial charge of attempted murder before Mr. Abe’s death was announced.

The Japanese Fire and Disaster Management Agency said that Mr. Abe had been shot in his right neck and left chest. Footage on social media showed Mr. Abe collapsed and bleeding on the ground in the western city of Nara, near Kyoto.

I’m no expert in Japanese politics but Abe may have been the single most important figure in post-Cold War Japan, and arguably in Japanese politics since 1945. His influence on Japanese foreign and defense policy was enormous and dramatic.

A bit on his legacy:

Abe built off Japan’s long-standing security alliance with the United States. Wary of an assertive China, he also developed close ties between Japan, Asia’s richest democracy, and India, the region’s most populous. Abe was a strong proponent of the Quad, an informal gathering of Japan, India, Australia and the United States that is a counterweight to Beijing. He also joined forces with Australia to save a major regional trade deal after Washington pulled out.

But relations with Tokyo’s closest neighbors were strained during his time in office. He bolstered right-wing nationalists by visiting the controversial Yasukuni Shrine, which honors, among others, World War II war criminals. Abe also enacted laws to allow Japan’s Self-Defense Forces to fight alongside allies overseas, in a move that alarmed South Korea and angered China.

Gun violence in Japan is extremely rare in large part because gun ownership is tightly controlled, which is probably why the shooter had to build his own gun.

It is absolutely insane to think that Abe may be the first person murdered by a gun in Japan in 2022, which is to say that it’s absolutely insane how we think about guns in the United States.

There’s no clear indication of the motive of the shooter, other than a claim that he intended to kill and that he was dissatisfied with Abe. Obviously there’s a lot more to come, including more thorough discussion of the assassin’s intent and of the impact of the murder.

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86 days ago
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Everything Everywhere All at Once

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There's a problem I've talked about before on this blog, of trying to review something really good and not knowing what to say about it beyond "it's really good, guys". When a work is bad, or even just flawed, you have an access point. When something works on all levels, though, it can be hard to tease out the threads that makes that success happen, to find the specific selling point that might
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122 days ago
A well stated review, and it doesn’t even get into how the Daniels managed to make one of the most emotional scenes in the movie using nothing but a lingering shot of motionless rocks. Rocks!
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Anti-fandom as identity

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This essay takes as its starting point the people on the Internet — there are apparently a huge number — who are currently obsessed with the idea that Amber Heard is a manipulative liar, who is making Johnny Depp look bad to the public, which is why he was “forced” to sue her for defamation after she published a WAPO op-ed back in 2018 about how her marriage to him had been abusive in various ways (the more general topic of the op-ed was #MeToo).

But that’s just the jumping off point for a discussion of what could be called anti-fandom:

Some of the most active commenters aren’t so much determined fans of Johnny Depp as anti-fans of Amber Heard.

Hilde Van den Bulck, a professor of communication at Drexel University, has studied the version of fandom that inverts its practices and creates a community of denigration. Where fandom tends to derive from a positive emotion (I love this actor; I love that character), anti-fandom draws from just the opposite, and nurtures negative feelings toward a famous person or character. Fans and anti-fans both express themselves through online sleuthing: They hang on the object of their fascination’s every word, and analyze every detail of that person’s wardrobe and hairstyling and self-presentation. “Anti-fans know as much about their object of anti-fandom as fans do about their object of fandom,” Van den Bulck said. Their relationship with the celebrity they despise is “often very deep, very emotional.”

Some anti-fans are disillusioned former fans (I used to love celebrity X, but now … ). Others’ hatred may be unprovoked (I just can’t stand celebrity X, and resent their place in public life). In many situations, as Van den Bulck explains it, anti-fans and fans are overlapping groups: The anti-fan of celebrity X hates celebrity X because celebrity X harmed celebrity Y, of whom the anti-fan is a fan.

I’ve come across this latter group before. In 2020, I reported on fandom communities that were fixated on theories that the male objects of their fandom were being manipulated and tortured by less-famous, female romantic partners. A faction of Benedict Cumberbatch fans believed that his wife, Sophie Hunter, was part of an international crime ring and had faked all of her pregnancies. (This is not true.) A faction of One Direction fans believed that the band member Louis Tomlinson was gay and forcibly closeted by the entertainment industry, and that his ex-girlfriend and the mother of his child, Briana Jungwirth, was central to the conspiracy. (This is not true.) The anti-fans I wrote about tried to prove their claims by examining hundreds of photographs and video clips—just as the Depp fans and Heard anti-fans are doing now. They also hunted for evidence that their beloved celebrities were winking at them, offering tiny, secret rewards for seeing the truth. One Direction fans claimed that Tomlinson was posting things on certain dates or at certain times so that the digits would make a coded message, just for them. Similarly, Depp fans look for signs that he is grateful for their support, and that he is trying to entertain them from inside the courtroom.

These fans, who are also anti-fans, subject the women they hate to body-shaming and wild criminal accusations, and skewer them using sexist tropes. The targets of their anti-fandom are manipulative and ambitious, as a rule, but also stupid. They are glamorous and seductive, but also secretly disgusting. When I interviewed a Cumberbatch fan who was a firm believer in the conspiracy theories about his wife, she identified herself as a feminist. It was Hunter, she said, who was “setting women’s rights back [and] making everybody look bad.” Many Depp supporters now make the same argument. They insist that they are not a reactionary movement trying to undo the work of the #MeToo movement, and that questioning Heard’s claims does not make them misogynistic. If anything, she is the one who is making a joke out of #MeToo, and making things harder for “real” victims of abuse. Lady Victoria Hervey, a small-time British model and socialite with some 300,000 Instagram followers [jfc], has written that Heard “sounds like she would be more at home in a psych ward,” and referred in a recent Instagram story to “girls like these that constantly make things up.” “So many are sick of these fake me too movement victims who are ruining it for real victims of domestic abuse,” she wrote to me in an email, declining to speak further. (Hervey has also espoused “New World Order” conspiracy theories and described the pandemic as a “eugenics program.”)

There’s a lot going on here.

*The idea of inverted fandom seems to have a lot of saliency to contemporary politics. Many people have noted that the current version of the Republican party seems to have practically no positive ideological identity at all: it doesn’t stand for anything so much as it stands for being against whatever liberals/progressives/the “woke” etc. are for.

*Part of Donald Trump’s peculiar hold over American politics is, I think, a product of his ability to generate not only fanatical support but also fanatical hatred — well-deserved in his case. Nobody is neutral or indifferent about Trump, except people who are completely disconnected from politics altogether.

*There’s a kind of leftist or pseudo-leftist who isn’t a fan of any particular country or social system, or at least not of any that actually exist, but rather organizes his (this is almost always a man interestingly) identity around hating everything about the current social order. A lot of Bernie Bros were obviously anti-fans in this sense. Glenn Greenwald — who of course has never been a leftist but still sort of plays one on TV — is a classic version of this sort of anti-fan. The entire dirtbag left, see for example Chapo Traphouse, consists of overgrown boy-men with major Mommy issues who just want to bitch about how everything sucks.

*And then there’s the whole celebrity obsession/cyber conspiracy side of this issue, which is also intimately connected to larger political goings-on. (The people who scour the Internet for conclusive evidence that Amber Heard ingested a “bump” of cocaine on the witness stand are clearly the same kind of people who end up believing in QAnon, The Big Lie, and so forth).

*Then there’s the misogyny running through all this, as so many of the stories of anti-fans, at least in the celebrity cyberworld, seem to be about the obsessive hatred of women connected in some way to famous men.

As I said, there’s a lot to think about here, so I hope you do it for me.

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135 days ago
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PyCon US 2022 Recordings Update

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We understand that the PyCon US recordings are an incredibly important resource to the community. We were looking forward to providing the PyCon US 2022 recordings very soon after the event – especially since we know many of you weren’t able to attend this year’s conference in person. Regrettably, we have encountered some technical obstacles this year. We are working with our AV partners at the venue to resolve things as soon as possible.

Because of the ongoing pandemic, we were unable to work with our usual vendor for PyCon US conferences. They are based in Canada and understandably didn’t want to commit to travel to the US this year. This resulted in PyCon US contracting with a new AV vendor for the first time in many years. We were very thorough in providing details, but ultimately this was a new team doing work to new specifications.

The onsite AV team has provided an update on the technical issues as follows: “Some of the sessions are missing audio or graphics and are being worked through. There is a backup drive of all the content that has been mailed to the editing team to hopefully resolve those that are missing graphics and/or audio.” We remain hopeful that everyone’s sessions will eventually be posted with all audio and graphics intact, but it is going to take more time than we would like.

We hope the community understands the challenges in planning this year’s event and we greatly appreciate your support and patience as we work through this issue. Planning a safe, comfortable in-person event after two years of virtual added many additional pieces that took the PSF’s small staff time and effort to implement. We will continue to provide updates on the status of the recordings and will release an announcement once they are uploaded to the PyCon US YouTube Channel and available for viewing.
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138 days ago
I was wondering about this. Going to hold tight a bit longer it seems.
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The impotence of the long-distance trillionaire

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(In other news, I finally send off the novel manuscript I've been working on for the past 18 months. Taking a couple of days off before getting back to work on a novella I started in 2014 ...)

(Disclaimer: money is a proxy for control or power. I'm focussing on money rather than political leverage only because it's quantifiable.)

To you and me, a billion dollars sounds like a lot of money. It's on the order of what I (at peak earning capacity) would earn in 10,000 years. Give me just $10M and I could comfortably retire and live off interest and some judicious siphoning of capital for the rest of my life.

So are there any valid reasons to put up with billionaires?

There's a very fertile field of what I can only describe as capitalist apologetics, wherein economists and others try to justify the existence of billionaires in terms of social utility. Crude arguments that "greed is good" are all very well, but it begs the question of what positive good billionaires contribute to the commonweal—beyond a certain point the diminishing marginal utility of money means that every extra million or billion dollars changes nothing significant in the recipient's life.

For example, Steve Jobs had pancreatic cancer, as a result of which his liver was failing (after he underwent a pancreaticoduodenectomy ). As a very rich man, he could afford the best healthcare. As a billionaire, he could do more than that: he reputedly kept a business jet on 24x7 standby to whisk him to any hospital in the United States where a histocompatible liver for transplant surgery became available. (Livers are notoriously short-lived outside the donor body. Most liver transplant recipients are only able to register in one state within the USA; Jobs was registered in two or three.) But at that point, it did not matter how many billions he had: once you've got the jet and are registered with every major transplant centre within flight range, no extra amount of money is going to improve your chances of survival. In other words, in personal terms the marginal utility of money diminishes all the way to zero.

So, personal wealth has an upper bound beyond which the numbers are meaningless. Which leads to the second common argument for tolerating billionaires: that they have the resources to undertake tasks that governments decline to address. For example, there's the Gates Foundation's much-touted goal of eliminating childhood diseases of poverty in South-East Asia (which I haven't heard much about since COVID19 hit—or, for that matter, since the allegations of a Gates-Epstein surfaced in the press). Or Elon Musk's avowed goal of colonizing Mars.

Contra which, I would argue that in planetary terms a billion dollars is peanuts.

Gross planetary GDP (GWP—gross world product) is on the order of $85Tn— that is, $100,000 billion—a year. It's hard to pin it down because it's distributed among multiple currencies with varying PPP, so it could be anywhere from $70Tn to $100Tn.

Anyway. Those insanely rich guys, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos? Each of them is worth less than the growth of GWP during 2019. The richest billionaires are barely visible when you look at wealth on the scale of GWP. Collectively, along with Gates, the Waltons, Putin, et al, they represent only about 1% of GWP.

They can fund lobbying groups and politicians, rant about colonizing Mars, and buy midlife crisis toys like Twitter or weekend getaways on a space station, but their scope for effecting real change is actually tiny on a global scale. Even Putin and Xi, who are at the state-level actor end of the scale (individually they're multi-billionaires: but they also control nuclear weapons, armies, and populations in 8-9 digits) have little global leverage. Putin's catastrophic adventure in Ukraine has revealed how threadbare the emperor's suit is: all the current gassing in the Russian media about using nuclear weapons if he doesn't get his way actually does is to demonstrate the uselessness of those nuclear weapons for achieving political/diplomatic objectives.

So I conclude that they probably feel about as helpless in the face of revolutions, climate change, and economic upheaval as you and I.

Which in turn suggests something about the psychopathology of billionaires. They're accustomed to having their every whim granted, merely for the asking, as long as it exists within the enormous buffet of necessities and luxuries that are available in our global economic sphere. But they're all going to grow old and die. They can't really avoid the threat of creeping disablement within their own body, although they can buy the most careful attendants and luxurious bedpans and wheelchairs. They can't insulate themselves from objective reality, although they can pretend it doesn't exist and buy their very own luxury apocalypse bunker in New Zealand.

So they're likely to succumb to brutal cognitive dissonance at some point.

Elon Musk turns 50 this year. He's probably finally realized that he is not going to have a luxurious retirement on Mars. If the Mars colony isn't established within 20 years, he'll probably be too old to make the trip there (and I'm betting 20 years isn't long enough for what he'd want).

Vladimir Putin turns 70 this year. He's been treated for thyroid cancer, and may well be quite ill. Only one former Russian or Soviet leader lived past 80 in the past 400 years, and that's Mikhail Gorbachev (who was out of office, and insulated from its premature ageing effects, after only 5 or 6 years). My read on the situation is that Putin hadn't been impacted by external reality for decades before his Ukraine "peacekeeping operation"; his 70th birthday present to himself, intended to secure his legacy by re-establishing the Russian empire, has turned into a nightmare.

Jeff Bezos is 58; keep an eye on him in January 2024, that's when he's due to turn 60. (He seems to be saner than Musk and Putin, but his classic midlife crisis year falls around the start of a presidential election campaign in the US and he might succumb to the impulse to make a grand gesture, like Mike Bloomberg's abortive run on the presidence.)

More to the point?

Granting individuals enormous leverage can sometimes be socially useful. But before you point at Musk and Tesla or SpaceX, I need to remind you that he didn't found Tesla, he merely bought into it then took over: SpaceX's focus on reusability is good, but we had reusable space launchers before—the only really new angle is that it's a cost-reduction measure. Starlink isn't an original, it's merely a modern, bigger, faster version of 1990's Teledesic (which fell victim to over-ambitious technology goals and the dot-com bust). Meanwhile, billionaires can do immense damage: the Koch network has largely bankrolled climate change denial, Musk's Mars colony plan is fatally flawed, and so on. We inevitably run into the question of accountability. And when one person holds the purse-strings, we lose that.

I can't see any good reason to let any individual claim ownership over more than a billion dollars of assets—even $100M is pushing it.

Can you?

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141 days ago
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147 days ago
"I can't see any good reason to let any individual claim ownership over more than a billion dollars of assets—even $100M is pushing it.”

Yes: Number goes up!

That really seems to be a main driver for a lot of people, even below the $100 Million mark.
iPhone: 49.287476,-123.142136
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