Sunday, August 9, 2020

The Kurzgesagt Cases: Thinking About Human Origins and Our Civilization; The Possibility of a Universal Great Filter; and Real Vs. Simulated Reality -OR- The Case for Optimistic Nihilism


"What Happened Before History?
Human Origins"

The above 10-minute YouTube video takes us on a journey -- at once fascinating, humbling, and oddly uplifting -- through human history, and puts our own present-day civilization in a context whereby we can appreciate just how unusual and, indeed, wonderous it is -- and so provides a badly needed appreciative uplift from our current woes.


The video was put together by the outfit known as Kurzgesagt, in whose YouTube channel I've taken a real interest in recent weeks. Indeed, this particular entry contains five Kurzgesagt videos along with a brief description.

I think it best if I just let The Keeper of All Knowledge explain what is Kurzgesagt:

Kurzgesagt (German for "in a nutshell") is a German animation studio founded by Philipp Dettmer. The studio's YouTube channel focuses on minimalist animated educational content, using the flat design style.

It discusses scientific, technological, political, philosophical and psychological subjects. Narrated by Steve Taylor, videos on the channel are typically 4–16 minutes in length, with many of them available in German through the channel Dinge Erklärt – Kurzgesagt.

As for Steve Taylor -- the narrator for all of videos -- he is a British radio and TV presenter and voice actor. I had a difficult time finding a photograph of him, but I eventually found it here. That site contains his bio and voice snippets. It also suggests he is fluent in both English and German.

I would have thought "Kurzgesagt" literally means "short said" in German.

The outfit also has its own website: https://kurzgesagt.org/

That website describes Kurzgesagt as both an animation studio and a design agency that creates unique explanatory videos, along with offering various graphic design services.


It contains the following description on the "About" page:

German for "In a nutshell" is a Munich-based YouTube channel and design studio with a unique perspective on design, color, and storytelling. We engage in information design projects of all kind, but are best known for our distinctive animation videos. We want our work to raise awareness for topics from the fields of science, space, technology, biology, history and philosophy. Our goal is to inspire people to learn – and we believe humor and a good story to tell are just as important as straight facts.

And this brings me to the next three Kurzgesagt videos that I'd like to feature in this entry ...


"Why Alien Life Would be our Doom -
The Great Filter"

The title of this video essay is a bit upfront misleading because it does NOT mean that the discovery of extraterrestrial life itself would be the active cause of doom of human beings.

Rather, it is saying that evidence of extraterrestrial life -- implicitly, either primitive and extant OR advanced and extinct -- indicates that while life can arise (via abiogenesis) easily enough throughout the Cosmos, whenever it arises and reaches a certain level of intelligence, it will inevitably wipe itself out before it can colonize other planets throughout its home galaxy.

The "great filter" refers to getting over that potentially insurmountable barrier to achieve a galactic civilization, of which we have no evidence that any exist ("space seems to be empty and dead" -- which means something is preventing a species from climbing beyond a certain point.


And the big relevant question for humanity becomes: Is that barrier behind us or still ahead of us?

The "null hypothesis" here, so to speak, is: "Once a species takes control over its planet, it's already on the path to self destruction." It would seem to be technology-based or ecological destruction (or a hybrid of the two).


The former manifests itself either technology that it fails to control and results in something like a nuclear war, out-of-control nanotechnology, genetic engineering of a virus or bug that exterminates the species, AI run amok either by accident or intentionally.


The latter refers to an old-fashioned ecological catastrophe whereby a species that takes control of its planet and changes its atmosphere and ecology invariably ("100 percent of the time") sets in motion an ecological collapse of its biosphere.


In summary: The more common and complex life is in the Cosmos, the more likely it is that the Great Filter is ahead of us ... hence the undesirability of finding life beyond our planet.


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The next video ponders the question of reality itself to include our place in it ...


"Is Reality Real? The Simulation Argument"

Specifically, it addresses the question of whether or not what we perceive as reality -- not just physical Universe we inhabit but our very own self-consciousness and what each of us calls our "life" -- are really just some inconceivable simulation being run by some lifeform so advanced that it, for all intents and purposes, is godlike (indeed, IS God) to us.


I found also interesting the computing power that would be needed to simulate the Observable Universe:


Counting all brain synaptic interactions that give you 1 operation, then the human brain runs at about 10^17 (i.e., 100 quadrillion) operations per second. "Rounding up" -- a full three orders of magnitude -- it estimates that 10^20 (100 quintillion) operations are needed to produce one second of consciousness.


Now if you simulate all of human history, and assume that 200 billion humans have ever lived (it avoids the question of how many humans ever WILL live), and give each one a 50 year life span, the number of operations is:

30 million seconds / year x 50 years x 200 billion people x 10^20 operations / second = ~3 x 10^40 operations. That's 300 duodecillion operations, which is vastly (as in, 10 quintillion times) more than the estimated ~1 septillion (10^24) stars in the Observable Universe.


Let me just add here that while the idea behind this video may seem like a particularly weird type of lunacy, or Matrix-like reality writ large, I actually think it describes a more fundamental reality.

Why?

Because even if there is a God in that Western Judeo-Christian anthropomorphic way -- namely, a Father-like God who watches over us, loves us in whatever that may mean, a God that once in a while protects us, and is the Source, Maker, and Keeper of All -- well, that is functionally no different than being in that "God's" simulation, i.e., Creation.


Of course, calling it a "Simulation" implies it isn't "real" when that's not at all what it means for a simulation such a scale and complexity. That is, the Simulation IS reality as far as we are concerned.


This video essay does not get into the topic of a Boltzmann Brain, but that is something to consider, as well.

And that is a nice segue into the final Kurzgesagt video that addresses the question of "What if this is all there is?" How do we respond to living in a Cosmos in which there is no God, no Afterlife, no nothing -- we all just randomly pop into existence for a brief period and then disappear. Forever.

"Optimistic Nihilism"

This video lays out the case for what it calls "Optimistic Nihilism" -- that is, why even in that case, we should just be happy, give it the meaning that makes sense to us, and build our own utopia. (I'm going to skip all the problematic aspects embodied in those concepts, and let's just go with it in a happy and good sense.)


Below are some quotes / ideas from the video (paraphrased):

You only have one shot at life, which is scary, but it also sets you free ... If the Universe ends in a heat death (entropy), then everything good and bad that ever happened to you will be "forgotten" by the Universe ... Every mistake you bad, every bad thing you did will be voided.


If our life is the only thing we get to experience, then it is the ONLY thing that matters. If the Universe has no principles, then the only relevant ones are the ones we decide. If the Universe has no purpose, then we get to dictate what is its purpose.


We get to feel and experience the Universe -- and in that way, we are not detached at all from it but are every bit the part of it, as important, as any astrophysical object. In fact, it's even better because we are the Universe's thinking and feeling part. We are the sensory organs of the Universe.


We are truly free in a Universe-sized playground. So, we might as well be happy and aim to build a utopia in the stars. What's more, there is so much we still don't know including about life itself that we have all of our lives (as a species, that is) to figure it out and journey across the Cosmos on that quest. And so we should just be happy and strive to make others happy while building that galactic human utopia.

Simulation indeed. Enjoy.


Of course, FOREVER is such a long time that well before then, the entire Observable Universe that we inhabit would -- for any number of reasons -- spontaneously recreate or just quantum mechanically return reassemble itself, and we would do all of this over again. And again and again. In infinite combinations and permutations.

And on that note, I'm going to wrap up this entry.

--Regulus

Saturday, August 8, 2020

On Stars and Spam: Regulus Blog Approaching Entry #3,000


A really awesome "zooming in" animation using actual telescopic images of the fantastically awesome star Betelgeuse.

By the way, Betelgeuse has resumed its normal brightness -- with that truly startling dimming late last year into early this year ended for now.

*******

Saturday afternoon.

Here in my little spot of Planet Earth, it is a cloudy, warm, and humid afternoon, air temperature at the 1 p.m. hour 80F with a 69F dew point, at least as measured at KDCA.

I'm having a series of issues with Blogger to include the following:

Blogger is trying to force me to switch to the Blogger format, which I realize is inevitable, but I don't want to do it at the present time because, well, I'm just resistant and reluctant to make those kinds of changes. I'm a middle aged white man (is that a hate crime now?) and that's how I am.

Secondly, Blogger is forcing me to do the two-step authentication whereby you get a text code that you have to entire as part of the logon process.

Such two-step authentications are pretty much de rigueur now for any internet-based account logon activity, but I don't recall setting it up for Blogger.

When I look at my broader Google account, it indicates that two-step authentication is turned off, but that might be referring just to Gmail.

Thirdly, Blogger is telling me I've had too many failed authentication attempts, which I don't understand -- unless something else more insidious is happening -- and I was only able to logon by using my email backup.


This Regulus blog is now 12 years and 4 months old, or rather, 100 months old, having begun on April 15, 2008 -- and I'm approaching 3,000 entries. This particular entry is #2,980. I should reach entry 3,000 at some point in September.

This blog's namesake star, Regulus, a.k.a.,
α (Alpha) Leonis.

*******

It would have happened this month, but because I will be away for 10 days (visiting my father down in Florida between Aug 14 and Aug 23) with little, if any blog activity, that will probably push the 3,000th entry into September.

Just FYI, entry 1,000 occurred on August 31, 2013 (just about seven years ago) and entry 2,000 occurred on August 28, 2016 (just about four years ago) -- so these "millennial" entries tend to occur in late August.

(I need to update the video link in entry #1,000 and get rid of M. SHIT-A-BILLION garbage. I'll do it later tonight.)

Regulus compared to the Sun; Regulus spins so fast, it is far more oblate-spheroid shaped than our fair star.

*******

Speaking of big stars, Antares is an incomprehensibly gigantic star -- not to mention a prime supernova candidate -- that manages to be even larger at the end stage of its life than Betelgeuse. If placed where our Sun is, it would extend out into the Asteroid Belt -- about midway between Mars and Jupiter. But even with that gargantuan size, Antares' mass is only 12 times that of our Sun.

The actual photosphere disk of Antares as seen via the ESO's Very Large Telescope Interferometer (VLTI) Interferometer.

*******

I estimate that the last 100 months, I have spent at least 10,000 hours blogging -- which is to say, just over 14 months (!) of total time. Now that's assuming 3.5 hours per entry, and some have certainly taken 5 to 6 hours to compose.

Yet, someday, this entire blog will just disappear into the internet ether and leave nothing behind. But that's true of life in general.

Size comparison of some notable stars with our own Sun ("Sol") that tiny speck in the lower left

FYI: Our star is "Sol," which is why we are in the Solar System -- technically, the Solar Stellar System.

*******

My original Arcturus blog (I have a second one that I never update) dates back to mid-2006, and it lasted about 18 months with approximately 200 entries. I'm not including that in the above tally of blogging time. (The original reason for it has long since vanished as anything of meaning.)

Arcturus as a bloated, late middle-aged red giant of a star

*******

But I don't want to make this an extended afternoon entry. My plan for today is to trek on the Metro down to Old Town Alexandria. I will try to post another entry tonight.

--Regulus

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Excerpt of Alex Berenson's New Book on the Stupid Origin of Very Destructive, Self-Defeating, Melbourne-Style Covid Lockdowns; Plus, Images of That Massive, Mushroom-Clouded Beirut Explosion and Horrific Aftermath

Summer day, West Potomac Park near the Washington Monument, Washington, D.C., 12:30 p.m. August 5, 2020

*******

This entry includes both a discussion of the most destructive and extralegal feature of our current Covid-19 media pandemic, namely the hard lockdown. Specifically, it features some non-panic porn Covid-19 information from Alex Berenson in the form of an excerpt he provided on Mr. Berenson's website of the just-published second part of must-read book [link embedded]:

Unreported Truths about COVID-19 and Lockdowns - Part 2: Update and Examination of Lockdowns as a Strategy.

Just fyi, the first part was: Unreported Truths about COVID-19 and Lockdowns - Part 1: Introduction and Death Counts and Estimates.

Part 1 appeared on June 4, 2020.

It includes a curio discussion of Neil Ferguson, the Imperial College "mathematical biologist" with PhD in theoretical physics whose cartoonish epidemiological models in March gave political figures and the virulent media across the Western world ammo for open-ended hard lockdowns.

These are lockdowns that are in total contravention of everything WHO and CDC had ever once recommended.

The text is broken up with images of Berenson tweets and relevant images.


The second part of the entry -- while continuing the discussion -- features what are topically-unrelated pictures of that massive explosion in central Beirut his past Tuesday.


The explosion -- which created mushroom cloud and shockwave that visually had more than a passing resemblance to a small atomic bomb -- killed at least 135 people (quite likely more) and injured 5,000. It also caused catastrophic destruction to a portion of the city near the port resulting in the at least temporary displacement of perhaps a quarter million residents (!). The overpressure from the blast shattered windows well over a mile away.


The cause of the explosion has been tentatively pinpointed to a massive stash of 2,750 metric tons of ammonium nitrate (!!) that was [either] aboard [or stored next to] the MV Rhosus, a Russian cargo ship that for convoluted reasons had been "squatting" -- functionally abandoned -- at the Port of Beirut since its inglorious arrival in October 2013. That is, the ship's cargo was a floating time bomb.


I would have posted this as a stand-alone second entry, but in my search for additional imagery to break up my own commentary, I ended up conflating the two topics.

Above: The ~140 meter crater (in the harbor itself) created by the blast and the adjoining destroyed silo storage building as seen the following day.

*******

By Alex Berenson
Source here.

In March, as the Sars-Cov-2 epidemic jumped to Europe and the United States, epidemiologists and public health experts told governments to lock down – fast and hard. Not just mass gatherings, but schools, offices, malls, even parks and beaches. To do anything less would be to sentence millions of people to death, the experts said.

Above: Brit Hume's nice, spot-on shout-out tweet on the occasion of the publication of Part 2 of Berenson's book.

*******

Most infamously, the Imperial College London report of March 16 – written by researchers who were working with the World Health Organization – predicted more than 2 million American coronavirus deaths without immediate action. It called for a policy of what Professor Neil Ferguson, the report’s lead author, termed “suppression”:

See here.


(Of course, Professor Ferguson exempted himself from his mandate. Two weeks after the report came out, as the entire United Kingdom had locked down, and while Ferguson himself was still supposed to be self-isolating after contracting the coronavirus, he had an affair with a married woman who traveled across London to meet him.)


The stunning impact of the Imperial College report made Ferguson arguably the most important public health expert in the world. Yet he was neither physician nor virologist. His PhD was in theoretical physics, arguments about the structure of the universe that are something close to pure math.


But he and the other Imperial College researchers appeared to believe a handful of relatively simple equations would predict the coronavirus epidemic. At their core, these models are simply software programs designed to simulate reality, based on the assumptions that the person who creates them inputs into them. They are as realistic as a game of SimCity, though less colorful.


Nonetheless, Ferguson’s model produced highly precise answers. Lockdowns could reduce coronavirus deaths 95 percent if they continued until a vaccine was developed. Ferguson and his team even offered different death projections based on the severity of the lockdowns and benchmarks used to lift and reinstate them.


These details gave the Imperial College model an undeserved sense of certainty and reliability. In this sense, they were like other mathematical simulations of real-world events – like the ones that helped fuel the 2008 housing and financial meltdown.


But for all the complexity of his equations, Ferguson really offered nothing more than an updated version of the original frightened rationale for the quarantines European city-states had imposed during the Black Death seven centuries earlier: Keep strangers away and we’ll be safe.


The idea of using widespread lockdowns to slow epidemics took off in 2006, as The New York Times reported in April. After a flu scare in 2005, then-President George W. Bush asked scientists for research on slowing epidemics. Dr. Carter Mecher, an internist at the Department of Veterans Affairs, connected with Robert Glass, a computer scientist at Sandia National Laboratories.


For a science project, Glass’s 14-year-old daughter had created a model of the way social distancing might slow the spread of the flu. Glass built on it to create a simulation “proving” lockdowns could reduce an influenza epidemic in a hypothetical town of 10,000 people by 90 percent. “Dr. Mecher received the results at his office in Washington and was amazed,” the Times wrote.


Robert and Laura Glass ultimately became the first two authors on a paper about the simulation. Inevitably, it contained a shout-out to Neil Ferguson. And sure enough, it showed the “mitigation strategies” worked.


In the retelling of this heroic lockdowns-for-all story by the Times, the conclusions of the paper took the CDC by storm. “In February 2007, the C.D.C. made their approach – bureaucratically called Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions, or NPIs – official U.S. policy.”

The reality was different.


The 2007 CDC paper ran 108 pages and included descriptions of many ways to reduce transmission, from “voluntary isolation of ill adults” to “reducing density in public transit.” (See here.)


Crucially, it also contained a “Pandemic Severity Index” that included five categories. On the low end, Category 1 represented a normal seasonal flu season, which still might kill up to 90,000 Americans. On the high end, a Category 5 pandemic, like the Spanish flu, would kill at least 1.8 million Americans.

CDC Pandemic Severity Index

This is the table referenced in the sentence directly above. The chart, made in 2007, doesn't show Covid-19 (say "Chinese flu" to get the liberals to go batshit crazy), but if it did, as Berenson writes in the sentence below, the virus would be classified as a category 2 (and no more than a borderline category 3).

*******

Based on the CDC’s scale, Sars-Cov-2 almost certainly should be classified as Category 2 epidemic, meaning it will cause between 90,000 and 450,000 deaths. For an epidemic like that, the CDC merely said governments should consider school closures of less than four weeks, along with moderate efforts to reduce contacts among adults, such as telecommuting.


The prospect of closing all retail stores or offices is not even mentioned in the paper, not even for the most severe epidemics. Yet the Times glossed over these distinctions in its article. It wrote instead “the (Bush) administration ultimately sided with the proponents of social distancing and shutdowns” and claimed the coronavirus response came directly from the original CDC report. “Then the coronavirus came, and the plan was put to work across the country for the first time.”

Even as the CDC was putting its 2007 plan together, many scientists and physicians with expertise in treating pandemics worried about the weakness of real-world evidence for lockdowns and other interventions.


Among the most vocal critics of lockdowns was Dr. Donald Henderson, who led the successful effort to eradicate smallpox. In December 2006, Henderson and three others wrote an 11-page paper called “Disease Mitigation Measures in the Control of Pandemic Influenza.” After outlining potential lockdown measures, they wrote, “We must ask whether any or all of the proposed measures are epidemiologically sound… [and] consider possible secondary social and economic impacts.”

(See here.)


Efforts in past epidemics to slow – much less stop – the spread of the flu had largely failed, the authors wrote. They attacked quarantines, travel bans, and school closings of more than two weeks as likely counterproductive. They did not even mention full lockdowns, presumably because they viewed those as so unlikely. And near the end of the paper, they made a heartfelt plea:


Experience has shown that communities faced with epidemics or other adverse events respond best and with the least anxiety when the normal social functioning of the community is least disrupted.

In 2020, their warning went unheeded.

************


At this point, I'd like to add a bit more commentary, specifically, on the ever-more-punitive and grotesquely extralegal "techniques" that certain politicians -- in the United States, invariably shitty, worthless Big Blue City liberal Democrats, and their pussy governor counterparts-- are using to ensure endless lockdowns and destruction of society itself on the bitterly and darkly ironic pretext of "saving" it from "the Covid-19."


We're talking forcible quarantines, massive fines, and bullying with threats to cut off people's power and water. This is jointed, of course, by a degenerate, whore media shrieking about "SUPER SPREADERS!!!" or in an endless shitstorm of liberty-choking, spiritual-crushing death for an ever-more-fraudulent "pandemic" pretext.


These are the same Democrat politicians -- with their media enablers -- who can't get enough of the rioting, looting, and general mayhem of Antifa / BLM or Maoist WOKE lunacy. Rather than cutting off water and power, they will be offering both FREE for those engaging in "morally clear" violence against "systemic racism" wherever they perceive it.


But, at present, the biggest Covid-19 dystopian nightmare unfolding is not in the United States but rather in Australia, specifically, in Melbourne -- in the Australian State of Victoria -- where, recounted by this lady named Katie Hopkins that was reposted on the Twitter feed of a man named John Kirby in this tweet -- the entire city is under a quasi-totalitarian lockdown for six weeks because seven old people (in their 70s, 80s, or 90s) died of "coronavirus-related" issues.


[OK, the rest of this entry contains topically-unrelated images of the Beirut explosion including the aftermath. Many of the aftermath images are from here.]

And always remember:

LOCKDOWNS KILL.

They disproportionately kill young and poor people, those who lack means and resources, and those who must interact with the world on a daily basis just to survive. Yet lockdowns create long-term human and economic mayhem.

Yet they are being wildly and irrationally imposed by Illiberal Left local political leaders in a medical version of lunatic WOKENESS with zero accountability.


The fact is, the stated purpose of "stopping the disease" is nonsense -- and it is immaterial whether they "believe" that what they are doing is right. The deeper totalitarian aim here is as it is always: Complete and total control of everyone and everything.

Destructive society-wide lockdowns for this Covid-19 (Wuhan flu) are just that -- destructive -- and, invariably, do not and cannot work.

And given Covid-19's impact almost entirely on elderly and people with compromised immune systems, it is severely counter-productive to force lock downs on young and healthy people for whom it is no worse than seasonal flu.

Indeed, getting to herd immunity is PRECISELY what you want to happen among the young and healthy.

But stupid, spasmodic public policy responses combined with a socially destructive Media Infotainment Complex -- characterized by panic porn, endless fear-mongering, and nihilism -- DEMAND endless, open-ended hard lockdowns.

Thankfully in the U.S., we still have a strong pushback against this totalitarian mindset -- especially in certain regions of the country -- but it's difficult given the all-devouring, endless media shitstorm.

OK, that's all for now. I still need to post an entry about the impact of Hurricane Isaias.


Even more than that, as mentioned at the start of this entry, I had want to post an entry on that titanic explosion in Beirut on Tuesday that killed at least 135 people and injured 5,000+ with an estimated quarter million people displaced from their homes and hospitals overwhelmed.


*******

The images of the explosion are transfixing and of the aftermath are horrifying. The aftermath images really don't need captioning.


*******


*******

Filmed from many angles -- because a giant fire was already intensifying -- it looked like nothing less than a small atomic bomb detonating.

The detonation of ~ 2,750 metric tons of ammonium nitrate on a timebomb of a Russian cargo ship (berthed at the Port of Beirut for nearly 7 years) produced a blast wave with over-pressure that resulted in massive structural damage within a mile radius and shattered glass for miles.

OK, I'm going to wrap up this entry. Given the length and complexity of it, I'm probably not going to have another posting until over the weekend, perhaps Saturday night.

--Regulus