Californian kingsnake!

I know, it sounds like a phrase you’d encounter in a political rant about California, dream to nightmare, blah blah.

Actually, it’s an actual type of snake.

“The overall impression is that of a giant, frowning woodpecker.”

Here. In America “top secret” only seems to mean that the details of exactly what it consists of are kept out of sight. If this airplane really was top secret, we’d not even have been told of its existence.

Another metallic/feathered posting. This time the former sort of bird is being likened to the latter sort.

Do you love robots now that they can dance?

I watched this video, and resolved to repost it here, only then to realise that I had encountered it because my favourite Twitterer, Steve Stewart-Williams was the reason I was seeing it in the first place:

Remarkable. And, I agree with SS-W, a bit scary too.

“This video makes me feel like CRT is a cult …”

CRT, as referred to in this posting, and in this tweet, stands for Critical Race Theory. I say that because I very much like the idea that at least some of my readers here have no notion of what “CRT” stands for. After all I do not bang on here very much about such things, having other preoccupations nowadays, here anyway.

However, this snatch of video strikes me a truly remarkable:

(“CRT” also causes me to remember a libertarian collaborator from my earlier late twentieth century life, Christopher Ronald Tame. Chris would have detested what CRT means now.)

I doubt that “Cardinal Pritchard” is really a cardinal, and if he’s not then I don’t know what else he is besides a (Not The) Babylon Bee writer, but this is what the Cardinal says about this bit of video.

In all seriousness though, this is one of the strangest things I’ve seen in a while. And I’m willing to bet that only like four people in that entire group found the experience “a little weird.” Cuz it seems like most of them are super into it.

If this feels like a “cult”, then I say that, in the days of my youth when I was an unwilling participant in it, Church of England congregations sounded to me just like this also. I suppose a religion is a cult that has achieved social respectability, by stabilising into a part of the social furniture and by becoming less pushy and obnoxious, and people no longer want to complain about it by calling it a cult.

But cult, religion, whatever. This is very clearly a religion-like event.

“Students stopped caring about literature because the professors stopped believing in its promises of revelation and delight.”

Arts & Letters Daily sent me to this piece, by Mark Bauerlein, about the study of literature in American universities. It made particular sense of way that the descent into wokeness was not one single process, but a series of processes.

Quote, from near the end:

Fifty years ago, a university couldn’t call itself “Tier One” unless it had a renowned English department. No more: Abysmal enrollment numbers in the humanities at such universities prove the irrelevance of literary study. My colleagues around the country bemoan the decline, but they blame the wrong things. English did not fall because a bunch of conservatives trashed the humanities as a den of political correctness. It didn’t fall because it lost funding or because business leaders promoted STEM fields. It fell because the dominant schools of thought stopped speaking about the truth of literature. Once the professors could no longer insist, “You absolutely must read Dryden, Pope, and Swift — they are the essence of wit and discernment”; when they lost the confidence to say that nothing reveals the social complexity of the colonial situation better than Nostromo; if they couldn’t assure anyone that Hawthorne’s sentences showed the American language in its most exquisite form, they lost the competition for majors. Students stopped caring about literature because the professors stopped believing in its promises of revelation and delight.

Meanwhile, outside of universities, the internet has made it massively easier to study literature, and also have a life beyond and beside that, not least because it’s now so much easier to get hold of whatever books you want.

I’m sure, if it’s taught inspiringly, that it’s much more fun to study literature in the face-to-face company of like-minded enthusiasts. But it’s not essential, the way it is if you want to become something like a structural engineer. And if you do want to meet up with fellow enthusiasts, the internet is good at arranging that also. I have organised monthly meetings for nearly half of my life and the admin for this got a lot easier when email, and then the internet, kicked in.

My spell checker says “enrollment” in the above quote ought to be “enrolment”, but I’ve left it as was.

Another Golden Gate photo

Big and brand new bridges are pretty rare these days, after a burst of them (or such is my recollection) around two decades ago. So, here is a photo of an Oldie But Goldie, which I encountered on Twitter recently:

This posting is partly because I love that photo, but partly also because I am lunching tomorrow with GodDaughter1’s Dad, who is a renowned bridge engineer, and I need to remind myself to ask him about any good new bridges. If there have been any, he’ll know.

Charles Murray: “Our Chinese will beat their Chinese …”

Charles Murray:

I’ve been saying it for years. Don’t worry about China. Our Chinese will beat their Chinese.

That being a photo of the USA “Olympic” Maths team, which defeated China for the first time in 30 years.

Although, I found another photo of the triumphant USA Maths (that’s twice I have here corrected the spelling of that word) Team:

So, white supremacy is hanging on in there. Or to be more precise about it: ginger supremacy.

However, it would appear that this happened before lockdown, in July 2019. Maybe the Chinese Chinese have bounced back since then.

You can bet that Xi wouldn’t have been amused by this.

Diabolical Davies

I’ve just been catching up with my Facebook lurking, and therefore have only just come across this:

I started listening and didn’t stop until it did. And I learned a lot.

I really like how Davies writes, and am particularly looking forward to reading his book about the history of the horse, which I trust is still happening.

Monkey plays pong just by thinking about it

Earlier today I talked with my friend Bruno, who told me about an unusual monkey. Unusual to me, anyway.

This monkey had electrodes inserted into his brain, and then they got him to play a favourite game of his: pong. As he played pong, he was rewarded with banana juice, which made him enjoy it even more.

He played pong with a lever. While he was doing this, they analysed his brainwaves and learned to decypher these brainwaves in real time, and used the result to control the movement of the pong thingy on the screen.

Then, they unplugged the lever. The monkey carried on using the lever because he still assumed that this was how he was controlling the pong thingy, but actually he was controlling what happened on the screen only with his brain. The same signals he was sending to his hand were being interpreted by the computer, with the result that what the monkey saw on the screen was unchanged.

The final step was to remove the lever, and get the monkey to carry on playing pong, which he was now able to do merely by thinking of how he would have controlled the lever. That worked. And there you have it, technology controlled by pure brain activity.

Video here. The application they talk about is to help people get around being paraplegic. But think about it, and you’ll soon realise that there are many, many more amazing ways that this sort of brain-only techno-control could be made to work and to change the world.

If you’ve heard about this before, fine. I too have heard about such stuff before. The difference, for me, was how clearly Bruno explained the successive stages of how they made all this work.

The man writing out the cheques for all this – or whatever you do these days to pay for things – is Elon Musk. Who, I understand, is also becoming quite successful with his rockets. So, it’s only a bit of a stretch to say that Musk is now big both in brain surgery and rocket science.

Deer with reflections photo on Twitter

I just encountered this photo by Austin O’Connor on Twitter:

This was the sort of thing I had in mind when I did this earlier little posting. For me, this photo is, if anything, too picturesque, like a very sugary pudding. But, I can definitely see why he’s proud of it. I would be if I’d photoed this, sugar or no sugar.