Worthwhile Reading & Viewing

John Barnes asks: Are we as a society putting too much emphasis on abstract categorization rather than practical application? The so-called Flynn Effect says that average IQs worldwide rise by about 3 points per decade, but:

Stuart Brown has described younger engineers at advanced research facilities who are “good at filling in bubbles” but don’t seem to be able to make a machine work. Senior engineers lament that the next generation overvalues its high test scores and undervalues the things that get the job done. Fine arts teachers tailor assignments to students who want to express simpler ideas with easier tools rather than acquire more open-ended and sophisticated skills. 

A smug and depressing post on “innovation” by a French bureaucrat. Reminded me of my old post Leaving a Trillion on the Table (although “trillion” probably considerably understated the real amount of potential wealth left on the table in this matter.)

Should Apple get into the 3-D printing market?

Speaking of 3-D printing, GE is running a couple of interesting contests. First, there is the GE jet engine bracket challenge–participants submit a design taking advantage of additive manufacturing capabilities to meet all performance criteria while minimizing mass. Submitted designs will be evaluated by simulation: the top ten will then be fabricated and subjected to actual loads. There is also the 3-D printing production quest: high precision and advanced materials. This one is focused on making parts requiring extreme precision with complex geometries, especially for healthcare applications–entrants are going to need production as well as design capabilities, and in addition to the $50K prizes there may be an opportunity to become a GE supplier or otherwise “collaborate” with the company.

John Hawkins and friends select the 20 hottest conservative women in the new media. (photos, obviously)

15 thoughts on “Worthwhile Reading & Viewing”

  1. Thanks for the link to Troy Senik (and your own words, of course).

    I’ve been struck more and more about the difference between beliefs that are grateful – for grace, for this world, for love – and a culture of entitlement and nihilism. The former has a long span – the latter a short (what have you done for me today? some ask). A retreat, surely, into the past rejects much that makes our lives longer, easier, and more contemplative. That that retreat comes from bitterness rather than gratitude seems to be true of the watermelon environmentalists and the jihadist alike. No wonder they both seem to hate life itself.

    Gratitude comes from a longer time span – if a problem of the twentieth century was trying to retain religious faith as the universe, which had so expanded in space, now expanded in time, that time span must also, surely, make us grateful to be where we are and awed by – well the size and space we don’t understand. But surely such awe should invoke gratitude rather than a desire for other’s goods and certainly not bitterness that we are small when we are in the midst of something so large.

  2. It’s TV. It’s stupid and to watch any amount, as most people seem to, will make you stupid too.

    I kept TVs away from my children as they grew up. I did not own one. I did not care about what they did at other peoples houses but I was not going to inflict that on them.

    I just download the few shows I care about. Neither of my children or I use TV, have it coming into the house, although we all have big screens.

    Oh yeah both are scary smart and support themselves very well, with their art yet.

  3. Abstract Categorization
    Many young women go to fashion design school. Their first jobs are with retail clothing companies who need tailors to provide fittings and alterations. Unfortunately, most do not know or learn how to sew or alter, and they have no training or inclination to work with customers.

    They graduate with the feeling that the actual sewing is beneath them, just an unpleasant step on the laddar to drawing clothing designs for production. So, they have little interest in learning the structural and procedural details needed to make clothes fit people. One can only guess how successful they would be in designing fashion for real people, made from materials which are not perfect ideals.

    This is part of the despicable con game being run by schools of “higher education”. They know that students want to learn the skills for a good job. But, they neglect to inform the student that they don’t teach that. If a student asks, they say that they provide a basis for intellectual enjoyment, separate from any practical skills. Students see that as unbelievable, so they don’t think much about it until they discover that employers don’t care about what they learned.

    A few technical areas are the exception.

    The French bureaucrat says: “Innovation is driven by men and women who enjoy taking risks and who have an entrepreneurial spirit.” That is the view of a cloistered intellectual who understands nothing. She looks for the magic sauce which produces wealth, and thinks it has something to do with looking for risk.

    No sane person likes risk. Risk is the probability that the investors will lose their savings and the managers will have a failed business on their resume. Innovation is finding a new and better way, planning in detail how to refine the product or service while finding and keeping customers. The entrepreneurial spirit is about detailed planning and work.

  4. “I kept TVs away from my children as they grew up. I did not own one. I did not care about what they did at other peoples houses but I was not going to inflict that on them.”

    PenGun, same here. This much we agree on.

  5. Re the last item: I doubt that Sharyl Attkisson of CBS considers herself a conservative…but she’s shown an unusual level of courage and dedication in attempting to *actually do some reporting* of the Benghazi debacle. Thus, I nominate her as an HONORARY “hot conservative media woman.”


  6. Great link on the Flynn Effect. People are more willing to think in abstract terms and no doubt this can be a useful tool BUT… Abstract ideas have to be connected to the reality of facts and everyday life. Our chattering classes seem to fall in love with ideas with little connection to reality and have thus rendered themselves largely worthless.

    When I visited the Smithsonian American History Building I looking for the once great Transportation exhibit. Couldn’t find it. When I asked, I was told “.. look for America On The Move”. What does something like this do except obfuscate? Note too, that over the last seventy years or so,while raw IQ scores have been rising, there has been a decline in Verbal and Math SAT scores. Worse yet, the decline is just as sharp for the top few percent. Friends in academia tell me students have less academic skill now and do not take criticism well.

    Take a look at the Britanica from before The Great War. It was not always right based on today’s knowledge,but everything was put in concrete terms so it could be understood.

    That French is also a wonderful illustration of how BS rules today’s world. Great post,Mr.Foster and it has drawn great comments.

  7. Renminbi…my mom has a Brittanica from 1912. If you needed to rebuild civilization after total collapse, it would come in very handy. Be sure to have a magnifying glass, though; that type is SMALL.

  8. “Take a look at the Britanica from before The Great War. It was not always right based on today’s knowledge,but everything was put in concrete terms so it could be understood.”

    When I was in 8th grade, I found my cousin’s World History textbook from his high school in 1936. It began with the Doric invasion and went to the Punic Wars, then on to world history. I wish I still had it. It read like a novel and I was 14 and read it a couple of times.

    Even my own high school years in the early 1950s were far superior to what I see of my children’s. I sent them to private school so I shudder to think what public schools were like.

    Speaking of SAT scores, to this day I don’t know what mine were. They were good enough to make me a national merit scholar the first year it was in existence but no one was told the scores. No prep courses either.

  9. Renminbi Says: Take a look at the Britannica from before The Great War. It was not always right based on today’s knowledge, but everything was put in concrete terms so it could be understood.

    A few years ago I read an introductory text to geology. It was written in 1905 by a Yale professor of Greek, Latin and geology at Cornell and is considered a classic in the field. It was clear and lucid and beautifully written. Almost poetic at times. I wonder why more textbooks aren’t written that way.

  10. If something is difficult to read,it follows that it is profound. I think this is now the mentality in much of academia, possibly because our verbal class is increasingly inbred intellectually. Clear writing is the enemy of fallacious argument, which becomes much easier to call out. One can make a living in the academic liberal arts writing obscure crap because,while no one will read it, it is subsidized. I suspect this will not go on forever.

  11. Yep definitely with Pengun on the T.V. scourge.

    Obliquely this reminds me of something I remembered recently when I was home and Mom was watching the 6:30 national news. When I was a kid the routine was: watch the 6:00 local new; watch the 6:30 national news; eat supper. Then I went college and watched no T.V. at all, as I was preoccupied with studies and socializing. Went home for Thanksgiving break, and watched the news as usual with Mom & Dad.

    After that lapse in TV news watching, I guess I became a bit desensitized, because the presentation by the newscaster seemed incredibly manipulative – facial expressions, tone of voice, etc. It wasn’t that I thought what was presented was false, or even intended to deceive, it was that I saw the format itself tended to be powerfully suggestive outside the content of what was presented.

    I found it distasteful. Ever since then, I have never relied on T.V. news as my primary information source. I also developed an allergy to political documentaries of any stripe. With those it’s not “trust but verify” it’s “distrust and verify”.

  12. To add to Renminbi,

    Don’t spend time diving into the following quote, just get a feel for it.

    === ===
    The Rubicon of Reality: Precultural Socialism, Socialism and Neomaterial Capitalist Theory

    In the works of Gibson, a predominant concept is the concept of textual art. It could be said that Baudrillard promotes the use of neostructuralist constructive theory to deconstruct capitalism. The subject is contextualised into a predialectic paradigm of expression that includes narrativity as a reality.
    === ===

    This quote was constructed by the computer program Postmodernism Generator. It produces senseless texts which mimic postmodern, deconstructive “thought”.

    Even better, Professor of Physics Alan Sokal submitted an article of nonsense to the respected journal Social Text in 1996, as a hoax. They published the paper without consulting any physicists to check if the concepts were true, then they refused to publish the story behind the hoax. Postmodern social theorists don’t show much humility, humor, or competence.

    An Intellectual Program

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