Thursday, July 30, 2015


If all individuals devoted themselves to caring for existing children  to such an extent that they never brought any new ones into the world, the population would quickly become invaded by mutant individuals who specialized in bearing.
-- Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene (1976; 2nd edn. 1989), p.  109

That observation was brought to mind by an unsettling article from the pen of Larissa MacFarquhar in the current New Yorker,

The aberration is not isolated.  Compare the following quotations (cited in our essay Singing Nuns):

Q: You just took office as the first woman to head the Episcopal Church…
Episcopalians aren’t interested in replenishing their ranks by having children?
A: No. It’s probably the opposite. We encourage people to pay attention to the stewardship of the earth and not use more than their portion.


I don’t know which Mafia I dislike the most.  I’m leaning toward liking the Italian Mafia  because they are just immoral  and still believe in mother and child.  But the Art Mafia is immoral and, from what I can tell, they’ve stopped procreating.
-- Spalding Gray, Swimming to Cambodia (1985)


Saturday, July 25, 2015

Quantum poem

Schroedinger’s Cat

Silent as twilight,
Shadowcat glides by.
Like the Moon, she moves in phases.
Like Time, she’s blind as ice.

Delicate as melancholy,
as distant as though nearer,
it seems as though she senses me;
I sense as though I see her.

I reach out as to pet her,
but my hand goes through her.
Years later, someone asks me.
I say “No, I never knew her.”

You are in my dreams;  I am in yours ...

Informative tautologies

Technically, for a logician, or a semanticist of the Snow-is-White school, tautologies convey no information;  but to linguists and pragmaticians, in context they often do.  In fact, we may state that they usually do, since otherwise why utter them?  “Business is business” is flint-hearted;  “Boys will be boys”, tenderly exculpatory.

The opposite of an utterance that pretends to contain no information (and thus, in particular, to be inexpugnable) but actually does (and often of a trenchant sort), is a definition that, ex cathedra, is all about informing, but which melts to the touch.  Cf. our essay here:

A recent example of the uses of tautology:

Robert Buissière on Médi1, re the  (presumable eventual) Presidential front-runners (after the Trumpwad has been flushed):

Jeb Bush, frère de son frère,
et Hillary Clinton,  épouse de son époux.

As they stand, these are “analytic”; but we understand the import:  Jeb and Hillary got where they are today, largely owing to family association.

Cf. & contrast the common expression “He is his father’s son.”  Normally this means that he takes after his Dad, and not that he is getting any special favors from other people owing to that filiation.  To imply the latter, you might say “Daddy’s little boy” or something.  By contrast, the French phrases in the above context  do not imply that Jeb’s politics are a close match to Dubya’s, let alone that Hillary’s are a close match to Bill’s.

For the full essay to which that is an appendix, click here:

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Esse est percipi

The spot on the branch where the bird perched,
lo these several seconds, few minutes,  now an hour ago,
still bears the shimmering imprint
of that perfect bird.


Sunday, July 19, 2015

Found Monostich

~        ~

A baby in a state of busy wonder

~         ~

(I don’t know where I first encountered this,
 but it glows in the mind like a gem.)

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Motifs and imitation

I thoroughly enjoyed Joseph Finder’s 2014 thriller Suspicion.   The only other book of his I’ve read -- likewise excellent -- is his industrial-espionage thriller Paranoia (2004).    Only after-the-fact did I realize that the books share an identical premise to trigger the action.
In both cases, a likeable protagonist engages in a piece of legally sketchy behavior, not for selfish reasons, but to aid another.  And in both cases, another party, with a sinister agenda of their own, discovering his role, use that leverage to grab him by the short-hairs and force him into extremely delicate and dangerous behavior.
The fact that I didn’t realize until afterwards that, to that extent, I was reading the same book over again, simply illustrates the role of motifs in literature.  It is no crime to swipe them, to reuse them consciously or unconsciously.  In the Middle Ages, that was taken for granted.   And even today, in genre fiction, it is recognized to be no harm no foul if the book or movie employs such tried-and-true vignettes as the Spy Called Out of Retirement (the Cincinnatus motif), or car chases, or femmes fatales.

[For the full essay, of which the above is an update, click here:]

[Update 19 July 2015]  By an accident of meteorology, I found myself in the atrium of the local library, a lethal heat outside, and A/C like an ice-blanket within.  Seeking an excuse to remain amid the soothing cool, I browsed a bit, and stumbled upon another Joseph Finder -- Buried Secrets (2011).
Today, sheltering indoors, I curled up with the book.   This time, parallels to Suspicion  leap to the eye  immediately.

*  Both novels focus on a teen daughter, product of swank New England boarding schools, abducted by a sinister crime organization (in one case genuinely, in the other only initially-supposedly, a Latino drug cartel).
Now, I myself never had a daughter, and didn’t attend prep school:  but with the slightest tip of the die, I might well have done so.  Therefore these themes are of personal interest, as being might-have-beens, real in a closely adjoining alternate universe.  
So, I read and imagine.  Along the way, I meet the slang that has come into currency since the Beatles broke up.

*  The central target of elaborate blackmail is a very wealthy man who made his pile in high-finance, hedge-fund type activity.  In either case, he has an over-manicured tarty trophy bride, whom we see in her “soapstone-topped” sparkly kitchen.  In both cases, in addition to his criminal pursuers, the magnate is being closely monitored by Federal law enforcement (FBI bzw. DEA), who are wise to his game.

[T B C]

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Upcoming polar reversal event

Most of us are aware that the Earth’s magnetic polarity  periodically switches.

North and South flip: Earth's magnetic field may be on brink of switching, warn scientists

Strange things might happen:

Frogs levitate in a strong magnetic field

(A frog just floated past my window.  Could that be a harbinger?)

Less well-known  outside of the physics community itself  is the fact that gravity too is about to reverse polarity -- probably before the end of the month.  Instead of being an attractive force, it will become repulsive.   Objects will fall upwards. 

As anyone knows who has been paying attention, this has happened before in cosmic history, during the era of the Inflaton Field, which put the “Big” in “Big Bang”.  (Or was it the “Bang”;  I forget. )  Anyhow, it’s That Time again.

All that may necessitate some changes in our daily routines.  Of particular concern is the possible impact upon women and minorities.

Going out on a limb a bit, some Democrats wonder whether this impending change might influence our planetary orbit.   Republicans, however, denounce such speculations as just more climate-change speculation.

Candidate Trump has charged
that these impending developments
will cause illegal Mexicans
to be sucked northwards.

Notice the effect of these disturbing reversals  upon The Donald's coiffure.
Seeing is believing.

~  The World of Dr Justice ~
~~  Science You Can Trust  ™~~


These creatures, by contrast,
have been adapted  by far-sighted, all-seeing
Natural Selection
for exactly this event.
 So who's smiling now??

The effect upon pigs
is expected to be
especially dramatic.

Official anthem for this grand event:

Commemorative stamp
for the Great Gravity Polarity Event

Meanwhile, Pravda (“News U Can Trust”) is predicting that the polar reversal will lead to a Transvaluation of All Values:

War is peace; slavery is freedom; ignorance is strength

Fraternity boys will be delighted to learn that, in this new gravitational regime, “No” will in fact mean “Yes”!

Vanguard artists
embrace the new
gravitational regime


Another upcoming event that might effect your travel plans is that the Pacific Northwest is about to be utterly destroyed.   And no, not the old San Andreas fault -- something less well-known but potentially more deadly:  the Cascadia Subduction Zone.   Nor is the Big One quake the worst of it:  rather, the ensuing tsunami.  As one seismologist put it:  “We expect everything west of Interstate 5  to be toast.”  (Soggy toast, actually; FTFY.)
Anyhow, don’t take my word for it:  see  Kathryn Shulz's excellent feature article in this week's New Yorker:

For those of you who lack the time to read the entire detailed article, or who, not being subscribers, lack access to it, we shall summarize its contents:

For most of us, the phrase “Ring of Fire” connotes only the exasperation, the agony, and, yes, the ecstasy of hemorrhoids.   But for a seismologist …

No, sheesh, what kind of journalistic lead-in is that.  Anyhow, what I wanted to lead up to was, the New Yorker writer predicts a local post-seismic version of The Singularity (when the phone system goes sentient and robots take over the planet):

Refrigerators will walk out of kitchens,
unplugging themselves
-- Kathryn Shulz, “The Really Big One”, The New Yorker (July 20, 2015, p. 57)

Now, frankly, we here at The World of Doctor Justice ™  run a pretty trim scientific ship, and can scarcely endorse such flights of fantasy (more Ferlinghetti than Wegener) as evidently appeal to the dope-smoking interns who run The New Yorker while the grown-ups are off at Martha’s Vineyard during the summer months.  Even so, there might be some truth in it, and we thought we should warn you, as you might wish to take some precautions against an insurrection among your appliances.