Real science, personified

We live in a time where science has become The Science, a regime-affiliated religion whose purpose is to justify ill-gotten profits and tyrannical policy.

This goes together with many other failures: bias due to funding, the replication crisis, p-hacking, the pressure to publish positive results and data falsification. Here is a good summary to get you started on the scale of the problem (HT).

What a perfect opportunity to recall and admire real science. The following story is a perfect example.

Scientists were once certain that stomach ulcers and gastritis are caused by either stress or too much acid – the sources vary. Perhaps they thought the stress caused the acid.

In any case, these conditions were treated with antacids, antidepressants or psychotherapy.

A gastroenterologist from Perth, of all places, thought that was wrong. Barry Marshall reckoned that it was caused by harmful bacteria, based on earlier research that had shown a weird type of spiral microbe was present in sufferers.

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Sunday Story – Pod People


Peter’s boredom had reached its limit.  It had compounded over many years but today it reached a kind of terminal velocity: he was as bored as it was possible for a man to be.

After waking, he entered his favourite breakfast buffet room.  He was sick of food.  All fruits regardless of season, many cereals, eggs every way, French toast, sausages, bacon and eggs, lamb curry, chicken stir-fry, a dozen cakes, endless juice, tea and coffee.  He could eat for hours without getting full or fat.  But what was the point?  A lot of people didn’t bother eating any more.

He skipped breakfast and checked the Game of Thrones room.  AI was constantly generating new episodes with deepfakes of John Snow and the other characters which mimicked the scripting of that era.  Peter sighed.  He’d done it to death.  Even the interactive mode where you could play a role was dull after the hundredth time.

There was a fully pornographic version of the series but instead Peter went directly to one of the dedicated adult rooms.  There were as many to choose from as human and AI imagination could conjure – spa baths, secluded beaches and presidential suites stocked with every variety of nubile woman, plus rooms specializing in anime characters, monsters, robots and a thousand other things.  There were some very disturbing rooms.  These used to be banned out of concern that someone might be conditioned to harm others in real life but over time that fear had faded.  The only rule in the Pod now was that you had to be respectful towards real people.  Computer-generated non-player characters, or NPCs, were fair game.

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McNamara’s morons

Image source: Full Metal Jacket

Review of McNamara’s Folly: The Use of Low-IQ Troops in the Vietnam War by Hamilton Gregory, 2015

It is an eternal fallacy to imagine that we live in uniquely corrupted times. Reading any good history book reminds us that we’ve always been this bad, but then we put the book down, check social media and go back to thinking we are in the End Times.

In America, the 1960-70s hosted an evil that I’m unaware of in any other time or place: forcibly recruiting mentally disabled men to fight in the Vietnam War.

Men who could not learn how to independently load or maintain a rifle. Men whose disability affected their physical coordination, meaning they could not pass the required tests.

The demand for warm bodies was so great that they deployed them anyway.

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Sunday Story – The Death Room

Photos taken by the Hong Kong-based social welfare group Society for Community Organization highlight the cramped living conditions of poor people in one of Asia's richest cities. This apartment is just four feet by seven feet.
Image source

Takahashi showed Kanta the death room. 

Takahashi looked more like an accountant or a mobile phone salesman than a real estate agent who specialized in suicide houses.  Kanta was unkempt from manual labour and from living in shared accommodation where he had to vie with vile-breathed old men for bathroom space. 

Takahashi opened the door and the pair winced.  The smell was neither strong nor overpowering.  It was faint.  It would have been barely noticeable except that it was so . . . evil.

“There’s still a little smell, isn’t there,” Takahashi said professionally.  “We’ve had the room professionally cleaned so there’s no problem with hygiene.  The remaining odour is caused by trace amounts of gases that have permeated porous surfaces, mostly the wooden floor.  It helps to keep all the windows open but of course that can make the room very cold in winter.”

“Can you show me the spot?”

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Friday Finance – have you ever benefited from financial advice?

Image source

This is a question to anyone who’s ever received financial advice.

I’ve received advice a few time and on each occasion there was some good with the bad.

Occasion 1

Good: I should not lock up all my savings in superannuation as I may need it for other goals before reaching retirement age.

Bad: You need geared investing in shares to get anywhere (he told me circa 2006).

Occasion 2

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Sunday Story – The Gospel of Judas

Amid the rocky hills and olive groves of Cappadocia, there was a large, Greek village.  On the outskirts stood a house just like the others from which many chanting voices could be heard.

Inside, former pagans recited a hymn for which there would one day be music.  There were men and women, the latter covering their heads.  The church leader, Abas, spoke of the miracles of Jesus.  A freedman who looked like he had suffered much, Abas had studied under Peter himself.

As the Saturday congregation filed out, they noticed an old man standing in the shade of a nearby grove, watching them.  He was dressed like a poor Jew, sun-blackened and unkempt from travel.  There was a bundle on his back.  He was bent with the exhaustion of the road.

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Friday Finance – money milestones

I’ve noticed that those who are good with money when they are young rarely have money problems when they’re older. Careful management of their assets will enable them to reach escape velocity so long as they get a good decade of growth somewhere along the way.

Those who piss money up the wall when they’re young often continue to do so throughout their lives, though some reform and sort themselves out.

Happily, the number of reformed prodigal sons is much greater than the number of prudent young people who become profligate oldies.

Having said this, how much money should you aim to have at different ages? What amount means that, all things being equal, you’ve pretty much made it?

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Literally Churchill

Previously: Literally Hitler

Book review of Churchill, Hitler and The Unnecessary War: How Britain Lost Its Empire and the West Lost the World by Patrick J. Buchanan, 2008.

Executive summary: Churchill and friends ruined Britain by blundering into both world wars.

The claim about the First World War is much less controversial than the Second. In fact, I considered skipping the section on the lead-up to WWI because I’d read a lot about it already. A few pages in, I changed my mind.

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Sunday Story – Sweet Sixteen

Everything sucked.

Annie had just had her braces removed.  She still wore glasses rather than contacts because she thought they were cute.  Looking at her sixteen-and-three-week-old self in the mirror, she decided that she looked dorky but moderately attractive.

But what was the point?

She’d never kissed a boy, never been on a date, never even visited the mall.  She hadn’t physically attended school since Second Grade.  Never been to a dance or a cinema, never seen a live concert.  Never been bowling.

Life sucked and it would continue to suck until her twenty-fifth birthday, which seemed an impossibly long way off.  By then, a quarter of her life would have been stolen away.  The best quarter.  The most important part.

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Friday Finance – are you rich?

“Darling, I can’t even afford an iPhone.” Source

As Thomas Sowell says, questions like the one in the title are meaningless unless you add, Compared to what?” Are we comparing ourselves to Congolese farmers or to the Bohemian Club?

So here we go: Are you rich compared to your same-age peers in the United States? That’s specific enough.

Before you read on, guess what percentile you’ll fall into. Got it? Alright, let’s have a look.

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The madness of crowds

Review of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds by Charles Mackay.

We are living through some very silly times right now. From 2013, the Woke movement swept up many and in 2020, what little sanity we had left went out the window.

That’s normal.

Writing in 1841, long before many well-known bouts of hysteria, Charles looks further back into history and sees a pattern in our madness.

The most fascinating aspect of these accounts is how familiar they are. Forget smartphones and social media; we’ve always been like this.

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