Wow. Wild digs.
Tell me about it. My googoomomometer is going babies.

Thursday, May 31

Art

The Finest Expression Of The Visual Arts

Brickmuppet is off on active duty (Coast Guard), but has left us with this fine bit of pinup art in his absence.  Seeing it stirred an ancient (in web time) memory, and I followed the link to the artist's page (some NSFW), and there she was:


/images/Benten.jpg?size=510x&q=95

Benten from Urusei Yatsura, looking just fine.

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Rant

Neurophysics For People Who Don't Like Neurology... Or Physics

Or objective evidence.  Or so-called "logic":
Stuart Hameroff, an anesthesiologist who has spent many years studying brain functions, has collaborated with renowned Oxford University polymath Roger Penrose on a model that explains consciousness as the result of quantum processes occurring in tiny structures called microtubules in brain cells. “I think consciousness under normal circumstances occurs at the level of space-time geometry in the brain, in the microtubules,” Hameroff says. “But the fluctuations extend down to the Planck scale [far smaller than an atom] because the microtubules are driven bioenergetically to be in a coherent state. When the blood supply and the oxygen stops, things go bad and the coherence stops, but quantum information at the Plank scale isn’t lost. It may dissipate into the universe but remain somehow entangled in some kind of functional unit, maybe indefinitely. If the patient is revived, the information gets picked back up again.”
To be kind, it is not immediately obvious to the average layman that this is a complete load of bullpucky.

Penrose's (and by extension, Hameroff's) hypothesis fails on three fronts: First, it does not accurately describe what we know the brain does; Second, it does not accurately describe what we know consciousness does; Third, it is physically impossible.*

It is important to note that when Hameroff says "microtubules are driven bioenergetically to be in a coherent state", that this is a hypothesis, and there is no evidence that any such thing occurs, and considerable evidence that it cannot occur.
Where did the Planck-scale processes that cause it come from? Penrose’s answer: They came from the Big Bang. In this view, consciousness - all consciousness - was created at the same moment when the universe was created. If the soul exists, it, too, might be anchored to our moment of cosmic origin. This is what Italian astrophysicist Paola Zizzi terms the “Big Wow,” shorthand for her description of the connection between “the very early quantum computing universe and our mind.”
Again, this is the most astounding nonsense.  We know how quantum processes behave: Quantum mechanics is perhaps the most successful theory of physics, ever.  Even if Penrose's ideas were correct, there would be no informational connection between a human mind today and the formation of the universe.  Complex quantum states simply don't hang around that way; it is, again, physically impossible.  And simple quantum states don't possess any attributes that can carry information like that.  Like black holes, subatomic particles have no hair. When Hameroff says:
When the blood supply and the oxygen stops, things go bad and the coherence stops, but quantum information at the Plank scale isn’t lost. It may dissipate into the universe but remain somehow entangled in some kind of functional unit, maybe indefinitely.
He is flying in the face of all of quantum mechanics and modern neuroscience.  Complex entangled states do not survive like that; do not carry information of the sort he is implying; are not in evidence anywhere in the physical brain or in its function; and do not share any significant characteristics with the way the human mind actually behaves.  Quantum information at the Planck scale is not lost, that is true, but what that information tells us is that this particle is an electron; this particle is a neutron. 

And that's all. 

Persistent quantum information of that sort is very specific and very limited.  It is impossible to tell, from observing an electron, anything of its past.  All electrons are identical except for position and momentum.  This one may have been part of an atom of lead a second ago; this one in an atom of gold.  There is no way, not even theoretically - indeed, particularly not theoretically - to tell, unless you have continuously observed the two electrons over that period (a process that has its own quantum mechanical difficulties).

Penrose surely knows better, at least on the physics side, so I assume that something he has said has been misunderstood.  On the other hand, I have seen nothing to suggest that he knows anything of modern neuroscience.

Because modern neuroscience shows quite clearly that consciousness is brain function, that aspects of consciousness can be tied to very specific brain functions, and that neither the mind nor the brain exhibit any quantum properties except in the bulk, statistical sense that they share with prosaic objects such as frozen fish and pocket calculators.

The best layman's introduction to modern neuroscience I know of is MIT's 9.00 Introduction to Psychology as taught by Jeremy Wolfe.  You can download the lectures, and I can't recommend them highly enough to anyone interested in the subject (and it is a subject I think everyone should be interested in).

(Wishful thinking by Brendan Loy found via Insty.)

* Why is it that some of the smartest people have some of the ugliest websites?  Okay, the answer is that they have better things to do, I know that.  But still...

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Saturday, May 26

Anime

The Deneotenisation of Megumi Morisato

I started posting this as a comment on Steven's blog, but it got longer and longer and in the end I decided it was better as a post in its own right, so here it is.  It's a discussion about the art styles in the various incarnations of Oh My Goddess! - particularly the OVA (which is a classic) and the recent TV series (which is a pile of poo).  See hideous thirty-year-old transvestite Megumi and ugly flat-faced Urd for background.
Joe wrote:

I've been an AMG fan for close to a decade now, and I have a nearly complete collection of the original Japanese-language manga all the way to the latest volume (34), so I'm able to review the way in which the drawing style has changed over the eighteen-some years of the manga's run (the way Belldandy was drawn at the beginning is RADICALLY different from the way she looks now, so much so that if it wasn't for the identifying marks on her face, you'd wonder if they were even the same person). To me, Belldandy, Urd, Keiichi and Megumi have always looked like what they were meant to be - young adults - in the manga as well as the anime.

Joe is right that the artwork changes substantially over the course of the manga - with such a long-running series, that's not surprising.  And the changes to Belldandy are the most significant (with Keiichi coming second - early Keiichi was kind of ugly, and that seems to be the version they picked up for the TV series).
Steven wrote:

Within that context, Megumi as drawn in the TV series looks scandalously mature, even old -- but only because the context itself is distorted. Megumi doesn't look 29; she looks 18. The reason she looks out of place is because so many other girls that age (or slightly younger) in anime are drawn to look 12.

18-year-olds tend to look more like kids than not (though of course there's a lot of variation).  And Megumi is not just an 18-year-old, she's a cute and bubbly 18-year-old.  The artwork in the anime is dull and flat; it shifts the colour of her eyes and hair from red-brown to grey-brown, elongates her face, makes her chin pointed rather than round.  All it really succeeds in doing is making her look tired and washed-out, which makes her look older than she should be.
Steven wrote:

The difference in art style between Skuld and everyone else is the source of one sight gag. Urd senses that Skuld is hiding something and needles her by imitating something that Skuld would say. The seiyuu makes her voice sound like Skuld's voice, but they also change Urd's face art so that her face has the same proportions as Skuld's. That gag wouldn't have worked if everyone had been drawn like Skuld is. And everyone is drawn that way in the manga and in the OVA. Irrespective of body proportions, they all have the faces of kids.

But the change there is the eyes, Skuld being wide-eyed and childlike and Urd being narrow-eyed and mischievous - even in the manga.  Manga Urd may have a similarly-shaped face to manga Skuld, but the expressions are different, and the proportions of the face are different.

I don't recall that gag from the manga, but what Fujishima did do was have them swap ages, so that Urd was a little kid and Skuld was grown up.  And their faces changed appropriately.  They're similar, because that's the artist's style; they aren't identical.  (And even if they were, the gag would work just fine - c.f. Jungle Guu.
Steven wrote:

As it turns out, Megumi is quite slender and isn't at all top-heavy; and that's realistic.

Actually, Megumi is supposed to be short and... well, not particularly slender. (As in, solidly built, not top-heavy.)  Megumi is supposed to be cute, in contrast to characters like Belldandy and Urd and Sayoko, who are tall and slim and beautiful.

Height's another age cue, but Chihiro is short like Megumi and Sora (and not particularly slender, either), and her face is drawn in the same style, but she still looks older.  Fujishima does this using facial proportions and expressions - and hairstyles.
Steven wrote:

Pixy is, I think, reacting first to the series history and objecting to the changes that were made. (Fanboy loyalty.)

That's partly true, but it's a small part.  Anime Megumi's face looks tired and old, because they've washed the colour out of it.  It just doesn't suit her personality.  And the artwork of the entire show is ugly and flat.
Steven wrote:

But he's also reacting to the current anime context where "adult" girls are being drawn more and more young looking, a kind of genre-wide pervasive lolicon.

Well, where you define 'current' as everything since Osamu Tezuka first picked up a pen.  And he stole the concept from Disney.

Oh My Goddess! is supposed to be cute and bright, and it is, in every version except the TV series.  The characters look older in the movie, but that's because the movie comes late in the ongoing story, and the movie doesn't make Megumi (or anyone else) look washed-out.  (In fact, the movie is gorgeous.)

It's not simply a question of neoteny, it's that the art style in the TV series is both ugly and inappropriate.

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Monday, May 21

World

A Thing Of Beauty

Heliocentrism is an Atheist Doctrine.

(via James Nicoll)

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Friday, May 18

World

Neutrality, BBC Style

Audio at LGF.

The worst part is, I suspect the "interviewer" really believes he is unbiased.

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Wednesday, May 16

World

Blog Declares For Thompson, Finds Use For [vimeo] Tag



You think BDS is bad?  If Fred Thompson gets elected, DailyKos will spontaneously combust.

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Monday, May 14

Geek

SCO Writ Large

Microsoft wakes up and smells the coffee, and it smells like doom:
So Microsoft took the third choice, which was to begin licensing its patents to other companies in exchange for either royalties or access to their patents (a "cross-licensing" deal). In December 2003, Microsoft's new licensing unit opened for business, and soon the company had signed cross-licensing pacts with such tech firms as Sun, Toshiba, SAP and Siemens.

At the same time, Smith was having Microsoft's lawyers figure out how many of its patents were being infringed by free and open-source software. Gutierrez refuses to identify specific patents or explain how they're being infringed, lest FOSS advocates start filing challenges to them.

(My italics.)



They're screwed, and they know it.  And like the even more thoroughly screwed SCO, they're going after soft targets:
Since the GPL covered only distributors of Linux, nothing stopped Smith from seeking royalties directly from end users - many of which are Fortune 500 companies. He would have to proceed carefully, however, because most of those users were also major Microsoft customers.

"It was a conversation that one needed to have in a thoughtful way," says Smith, with obvious understatement. In 2004, Microsoft began having those conversations, and Smith claims they were cordial. "Companies are very sensitive to the importance of protecting intellectual property," he says, "because ultimately they know that their own businesses similarly turn on [such] protection."

Indeed.  It's a protection racket.

That's illegal, guys.

Expect to see the lawsuits start flying, and soon.

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Tuesday, May 08

World

France - Not Quite Dead?

Well, M. Sarkozy certainly seems to be annoying all the right people.  And 53% of the vote on an 85% turnout is, while not a great result, at least somewhat encouraging.  It's France, after all.  Baby steps.  They're still learning how to run a country without demolishing it every twenty or thirty years.

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Rant

Soylent Green Is People!!!

I was at TownHall.com just now following a link from Instapundit about the Lileks debacle (the Minneapolis Star-Tribune newspaper has reassigned its best writer as a local-stories reporter) when I ran across this link: Why ATHEISTS are 1000% percent out to lunch...

And yes, it's the usual drivel.  Kevin McCullough criticizes Christopher Hitchens for making "consistent strawman arguments" against religion, then comes up with this:
In Hitchens' own life, he wants it both ways.  He wants to acknowledge the evil of Islamic radicalism; he wants to fight a war against Jihad; but he's not willing to say that evil has a source.  He wants to say that we should be outraged and fight for the protection of our future, but if there is no good and there is no evil - and if there is no God there is neither of those - then there can't be any rationale for saying that their way of believing is any different than ours, therefore if they want to murder us, they should be allowed to.
(My transcription.)

How about a rational rationale?  How about the concept that we'd rather not be murdered?  Does that make no headway with you, Mr McCullough?  Are you really unable to distinguish between the ethical and moral values of Islamic extremism and Western civilization without reference to your personal religious beliefs?

Sheesh. more...

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Friday, May 04

Anime

Yes! Pretty Cure 5

This is the fourth instalment (and second reboot) of the Futari Wa Pretty Cure franchise.  Gone are Nagisa and Honoka (sadly) and Mipple and Mepple (thankfully).  Cure White and Cure Black are replaced with Cure Dream, Cure Rouge, Cure... Cure Lemonade?!  Oy.  I won't look up the other two to avoid spoiling the surprise.*

The original was quite a good show, though it did to some extent fall into the monster-of-the-week trap as magical girl shows so often do.  The heroines were very engaging, and the opening and closing themes kicked ass.

The sequel and reboots haven't managed the charm or originality of the first season, though it's been successful enough to run to nearly 200 episodes and several movies - as much as the entire run of Sailor Moon.

I'd give this season a miss unless you're a Pretty Cure completist or a mahou shoujo addict - or a ten-year-old Japanese girl, in which case, I must congratulate you on your grasp of the English language!

Quote almost worthy of Gir: I wish I could go to sleep at night wrapped in fried eggs!

* It's called Pretty Cure 5 not because it's season five, but because of the mandatory number of any sentai team.

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