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Open Thread 91.5

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315 Responses to Open Thread 91.5

  1. av says:

    I think Leibniz is one of the most underrated philosophers in history. He took so much flak for his comments that the universe is the best it can be but I think this idea is quite powerful and makes a lot of sense.

    • Aapje says:

      Isn’t it true that the physical constant would have to be only a little different for the universe not to be able to support life at all? If so, our mere existence is already one of the best outcomes.

      • markk116 says:

        While this is true, the doesn’t really tell you anything. If you, like some physicists, believe that our universe is just one of many random universes in existence it just turns into a numbers game. It’s like spilling a cup of water and being surprised that the puddle looks like Elvis Presley. Furthermore if we were in another universe where it didn’t quite work out so well we wouldn’t be able to exist. There is a selection bias where we only see the universe where things did happen to work out.

        • Mary says:

          IF.

          That’s a rather big hypothesis, without any evidence for it, merely to avoid thinking our universe is fine-tuned.

      • Alethenous says:

        Yeah, one of, but the universe where everything is exactly the same but everyone is by some mysterious biochemical happenstance immune to malaria is still better.

      • Mary says:

        A Fortunate Universe: Life in a Finely Tuned Cosmos by Geraint F. Lewis and Luke A. Barnes. A great deal of details, if you’re interested.

    • Nick says:

      I agree that he’s seriously underrated (and Voltaire’s mockery besides, the calculus controversy didn’t help his reputation either), but his optimism isn’t the only controversial part of his philosophy. Pre-established harmony is weird. Monads are pretty weird in general, at least as weird as various forms of idealism and especially more so than Aristotelianism*.

      *ETA: In my humble opinion, of course. 😛

      • Scott Alexander says:

        I was never able to understand monads despite trying pretty hard, anyone want to take a stab at explaining them to me?

        • Andrew Hunter says:

          They’re just monoids in the category of endofunctors, what’s the problem?

        • av says:

          Scott, it’s probably best to try to approach them not through their characteristics, but instead through the perspective of what problems Leibniz was attempting to solve. It’s like an inversion of reductionism, almost like one started with the real numbers and then constructed the integers from them, rather than the other way around. Leibniz wanted to address dualism and causality, which have been no small trouble forever.

          What follows is, perhaps, an overly simplistic analogy:

          With our hindsight of Hume, Leibniz tried to address the problem of causality through the rather degenerate technique of banishing it altogether: monads do not interact. What we think of as interaction is more like an epiphenomenon on the monadic substrate, like a moving message across a giant screen when the lights themselves only go on and off but never move, nor cause neighboring lights to turn on or off, yet we still see the message. Then what “causes” the message? This is just the work of god, who programmed the screen and turned it on.

          • doubleunplussed says:

            Huh. Reminds me of how in quantum mechanics, given a time independent Hamiltonian of interacting subsystems, you can always diagonalise it to find a basis of states that are non-interacting.

            Like, you could say that atoms are interacting in a way that allows sound waves in a solid, or you could diagonalise that Hamiltonian and instead talk about non-interacting wave modes, with the individual atoms no longer taking centre stage.

          • Scott Alexander says:

            That’s just pre-ordained harmony, right? Are monads something else?

        • Pseudocydonia says:

          Epistemic status: I once had to teach Leibniz’s Monadology to some undergrads.

          Leibniz is trying to solve the problem of information transfer in physics. The first time I read about monads I thought they were totally crazy, but they’ve grown on me as an impressive first attempt from the 17th century.

          In Newton’s Principia, it is taken for granted that gravity, in the sense of the inverse square law, is just a fact of the universe; Newton is explicit that he is not addressing why or how masses act upon each other at a distance. But let’s try and think about how this might be possible.

          Roughly, Leibniz argues as follows. In order for one mass to be acted on by a second mass under gravity, the first mass must have some capacity to perceive the second mass – not only its existence but its relative position. Therefore, in addition to the inert portion of the mass, Leibniz concludes that there must be “attached” a thing-which-perceives. Moreover, the thing-which-perceives does not just perceive, but it has, in a word, a will: having perceived the presence of a distant mass, it responds by willing to be closer. And for the sake of pithiness, an entity which has both a will and a faculty of perception has a strong analogy to a “soul”, so let’s call it that.

          Here we remember some things about the universe. One is that a mass is acted upon not just by mass #2, but by _every other mass in the universe_, if we believe the inverse square law. Thus the soul must perceive the entire universe. (though Leibniz allows that its perception might not be totally accurate.) Another is that if we take our first mass and divide it, the inverse square law continues to apply to the two new masses. Thus it makes sense to say not that the mass had one associated “soul”, but a continuum of infinitesimal soul-elements, which are associated to the continuum of infinitesimal atoms. (Leibniz believes the continuum is made of infinitesimals in calculus as well, of course.) In any case, when we observe matter obeying the inverse square law, it is because it is bound to these soul-atoms, which are the actual agentful part of the universe that carries out the physical laws. We use the term “monad” for the soul-atoms, given that atom is reserved for inert matter.

          Anyway, suffice to say that one hard problem Leibniz is attempting to solve with the monads – that of how matter interacts at a distance, how do two particles in the universe actually affect each other – is solved somewhat differently in modern physics, with force-carrying particles. But as you well know from “Quantum Computing Since Democritus”, we’re still grappling with how exactly communication and information should fit into our picture of physics today.

          There is more stuff in the Monadology about how the souls that humans and animals have relate to the monads, and also of course God, but I think this is the most interesting piece.

          (The place where pre-ordained harmony is that God ordains in advance that the monads’ wills elect to obey the physical laws God selected for the universe.)

          There are multiple interpretations of the Monadology floating around, but I think this one is pretty robust and checks out with Leibniz otherwise not being, uh, crazy in the same way that the early psychedelicists were. Rather he’s just an old-time rationalist who deduced his way into panpsychism by accident. This interpretation also has the benefit of having a cameo in the Baroque Cycle 🙂 although I’m not sure which sources Stephenson was drawing on.

          • toastengineer says:

            So it is these monads that the functional programming concept of a monad is based on, right?

          • av says:

            Pseudocydonia, I have some troubles reconciling your account with the notion that monads are, to Leibniz, “windowless,” only capable of self-perception. Can you elaborate at all on this?

          • rlms says:

            Sounds like someone should tell Brian Tomasik that Leibniz’s theories are no longer widely considered to be true.

            @toastengineer
            No.

          • Pseudocydonia says:

            @av, you’re right, I’m being somewhat abusive and using “perceive” in a different sense than Leibniz. To be more careful, one would say that the monads already contain an image of the rest of the universe (thanks God!), so their self-perception entails knowledge of everything else. I think this is more confusing in a first summary than abusing the term “perceive”, but YMMV.

            (This is very late, but I realized I never replied, oops.)

      • av says:

        Weird is probably an understatement, Nick. It’s like an early pilot wave theory.

    • Jeremiah says:

      Have you read the Baroque Cycle by Neal Stephenson? Leibniz is portrayed very well. Also a great series (though LONG).

    • BBA says:

      I don’t see “this is the best of all possible worlds” as optimistic. It means a better world is impossible. That’s a deeply pessimistic view of the utter futility of any effort we make to improve the world.

      • markk116 says:

        That’s not true, it means the present is the best it could have been and the future is the best it can ever be, but not how those two are relative to each other. So a better future is possible, just not a better present.

      • JulieK says:

        Do you think the present is better than the past? If yes, you should believe the future can be better than the present.

        • BBA says:

          The present is a little better than the past, but not as much better as I would want it to be. It’s an endless slog, with repeated backsliding, and the notion that things couldn’t possibly have turned out any better is a cold comfort.

          Under these circumstances, I still consider the Sisyphean task worth it, but I don’t know why.

      • baconbits9 says:

        Best possible could mean “a world in which improvement is possible” not “a perfectly constructed world”. The first could be a requirement for becoming the second.

      • Don P. says:

        I’ve heard it as an aphorism: “The optimist thinks this is the best of all possible worlds. The pessimist agrees.”

      • Mark Atwood says:

        re “The Best Possible World”, I was amused and impressed by Scott’s version of the Story of Job, where God admits that he did in fact create all the Best Possible Worlds. And then all the worlds that are epsilon less Good. And then so on down. He couldn’t create two identical Best Possible Worlds, because it would just be the same world. Anyway, continue the process down through the gigantic-num possible worlds, down to where we are here.

        It doesn’t make any less sense than any other the other attempts to explain away the apparent contradiction of the axoims “God Exists”, “God is Good”, and “Evil Exists”.

  2. Deiseach says:

    Okay, it’s a little early yet but to those who celebrate the festival, Happy Christmas; to those who don’t, Compliments of the Season; and may next year be better to and for us all than this year!

    • Anonymous says:

      Merry Christmas!

      BTW, do the Irish celebrate Shepherds’ Mass?

      • Deiseach says:

        Since I had to look it up, not traditionally 🙂

        We do of course celebrate the three Masses of Christmas, but most people go to the Midnight Mass (now moved to 9 or 10 p.m. for various reasons). Masses the next day are mostly for “kids too young to go to the Midnight Mass/get people out of the house while Mammy cooks the dinner”.

    • S_J says:

      Merry Christmas to you, also!

  3. JulieK says:

    What do you think of Harry Potter & the Methods of Rationality?

    I thought it was quite good for fanfic. I liked the early humorous scenes, like the trip to Diagon Alley. I even liked the Ghostbusters filk.
    I especially liked when it skewered the stupider parts of canon, like the supposed good guys leaving Harry with abusive foster parents for 10 years (notice that when they finally intervened, what a little effort it took to get Harry moved from the stair closet to an actual bedroom) or the bad guys taking all year to make their move in the 4th book.
    On the other hand…
    If it was supposed to be a novel and not just a bunch of events, it desperately needed an editor.
    One of the most charming things about Rowling’s work was the combination of mundane British culture and magic, and I think it was a big mistake for EY to move away from that in direction of typical fantasy-novel culture, full of medievaloid or purely invented details. Example 1: Hogwarts dining hall serving meat of fantasy animals. (n.b. When I first read HPMOR, I thought EY invented these animals. Since then I’ve read Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and I saw that the diricawl, at least, was Rowling’s invention. Even so, I think not serving diricawl meat was a good call on Rowling’s part.) Example 2: the role of “noble houses,” which only rated a throwaway reference in canon.
    A minor point- I was annoyed to see Hermione engage in stereotypical girly activities, like her romantic “date” with Harry, or being on a diet. It certainly doesn’t fit the character of canon-Hermione.

    • Anonymous says:

      I think I got as far as the train ride before (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻

      The protagonist was insufferable. I recall reading a similar thing, Luminosity, the rationalist retelling of Twilight. I actually found it *worse than the original book*, purely on the sheer arrogance and insufferability of the main character.

      • JulieK says:

        I read part of Luminosity, but I never read Twilight, so I don’t know how it diiifers from canon. I stopped around the point where it’s suggested the main character can have her ova harvested before she becomes a vampire, and afterwards they can be implanted in her womb, or that of another female vampire, at which point I’m thinking, “What makes you so sure that a vampire’s body can sustain a pregnancy?”
        Also, when the main character decided to become a vampire as soon as possible, I was thinking, “Do you want to spend the rest of your life (or your undead-ness) with everyone assuming based on your looks that you are not an adult?”

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          I’ve never read or watched any of the Twilight canon and never will.

          “What makes you so sure that a vampire’s body can sustain a pregnancy?”

          There is blood and thus nutrient flow within a vampire’s body. A human embryo can implant and grow anywhere within the human body cavity. The special thing about the uterus is that it stretches to accommodate the growing fetus.

          • Lillian says:

            Not only can embryos implant and grow anywhere in the body cavity, they grow better everywhere outside the womb don’t have to deal with the endometrium. Books about pregnancies tend to describe the endometrium as a snuggly welcoming environment for the embryo to implant into. In reality it’s a thick wall of blood-restricted tissue whose purpose is to weed out weak embryos so the mother doesn’t waste resources on them. The fetal tissues must aggressively burrow through it in order to get at the mother’s blood supply. Human pregnancies work on the principle that a developing baby is not worthy of nutrients if it’s not strong enough to take them for itself. This is why pregnant women are so mood swingy and prone to weird cravings, their babies are literally manipulating them through hormonal signals in order to get what they want.

          • Aapje says:

            It’s the Hunger Games of reproduction 🙂

          • JulieK says:

            Maybe a tiny embryo can implant anywhere, but are you saying that any body cavity can provide the nutritional needs of a full-term fetus?

            Also, if reproduction were as simple as once you have an embryo, you’re home free, there would be no such phenomena as women experiencing repeat miscarriages, or premature birth.

            Also, what if the perfect vampiric immune system decides the embryo is an intruder?

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            but are you saying that any body cavity can provide the nutritional needs of a full-term fetus?

            Yes, that’s exactly what’s being said. Nutrition is not fed to the embryo by the womb, it’s taken by the embryo’s invasive placenta (this is generated by the totipotent embryonic stem cells). I guess the real risk is that the embryo dies from growing out of control thanks to not having to fight the womb for survival, or of genetically defective embryos not being spontaneously miscarried.

            Also, what if the perfect vampiric immune system decides the embryo is an intruder?

            You may be right. It would depend on whether total immune inactivation is peculiar to the decidua or something which an implanting fetus/placenta can generate in any tissue it implants in.

          • John Schilling says:

            There is blood and thus nutrient flow within a vampire’s body.

            Citation very much needed, else s/blood/demonic ichor. Vampires drink blood, but that’s an entirely different matter.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Citation very much needed

            I give you the unimpeachable authority eonline: http://www.eonline.com/news/270948/vampires-101-how-does-edward-cullen-get-it-up-in-breaking-dawn

            And if you don’t prefer eonline, how about vampires.com?: https://www.vampires.com/blood-sure-they-need-it-but-do-they-have-it/

      • baconbits9 says:

        I read the first two chapters. I couldn’t get past Harry watching transfiguration, mentally realizing that everything he knew was wrong, and then just pretty much, kind of accepting it. Two reasons here, first is that Harry isn’t a genius, that is Hermoine and Dumbledore’s arena. He isn’t even particularly brilliant, mostly nicely above average. If he is anything it is exceedingly brave and self reliant. If you want to have this scene you should have set it at Hermoine’s house (after all you don’t need to introduce the characters the same way that Rowling did, they are cultural icons now).

        Secondly you don’t react mostly calmly to finding out your whole universe is a lie, that deeply held beliefs aren’t true. Potter can react to the Hogwarts letter with joy in the books because he has fantasies of escape, he hopes his world isn’t all there is. That kind of realization for a kid with a good life isn’t getting swallowed nearly as well.

    • fortaleza84 says:

      Like most of EY’s work, there are some real nuggets of gold mixed in with a lot of rocks. I agree that he desperately needs a good editor.

    • Deiseach says:

      The supposed good guys leaving Harry with abusive foster parents for 10 years

      Yeah, but that’s because the story starts off as a version of Cinderella. You could equally argue why doesn’t the Fairy Godmother ever show up to help Cinders before the Prince’s Ball but that’s not how the story works. Rowling’s writing was improving as she went along, so it changed from “rather conventional fairy-story remake” to the monster it is now 🙂

      Hogwarts dining hall serving meat of fantasy animals

      Well, I didn’t get that far into it, and I’m glad I didn’t. Given the big deal Rowling makes out of killing unicorns, and the understated critique we see of the Wizarding World’s attitude to non-human sentient magical beings, having the Hogwarts kitchens serve up fantastical beasts is tone-deaf to say the least. A bit like having a mundane school story making a point of “and this is dolphin-meat! specially sourced from non-dolphin safe fishing practices!” On the other hand, if it was intended to make the reader go “I want every single one of these people to be destroyed in fire from the heavens and not a stone left on a stone of their world”, congratulations, it worked for me.

      Mainly what little I read of Harry Three-Names made me want to see him served up on a platter with an apple in his mouth 🙂

      • Anonymous says:

        Did you look at Luminosity too?

        • Deiseach says:

          Way too old by the time Twilight came out so never got into that (thank God) and hence have never read, or gone looking for, any Twilight fanfiction.

          Though I have read really bad fanfiction in other fandoms, so I have a high (low?) bar for “this is so bad, it’s not even it’s so bad it’s good“.

          I think HPMOR would appeal more to Americans, since you guys seem to love the systematising aspect of things (e.g. batting average in baseball) and probably, if you’re nerdly, have cut your teeth on the D&D type stats of spell classifications and what components are needed and where the magic comes from and all the rest of it.

          I do notice a lot of American readers seeming to find it hard to come to grips with “This is a British story set in a British universe with British mores and customs” so they ‘fix’ that in fanfic with introducing American terms and usages for everything from school to the wider world outside to make it comprehensible in American terms. Same reason the US publishers changed “Philosopher’s Stone” to “Sorcerer’s Stone”, I suppose.

          So the “but how does magic work? what is the source of mana? what are the principles upon which it runs, and how is it some people can cast spells and not others? can anyone do it if they got a wand and learned the spells?” type of questions that American readers ask (and produce fix-it fanfic for) don’t apply in the case of British (and Irish) readers.

          Harry Potter is in the tradition of (a) the kind of kid’s magic/fantasy stories that have a tradition from C.S. Lewis through to Alan Garner and onwards (if you want a really confusing magical/mythological system, read The Weirdstone of Brisingamen which layers all the traditional folklore and mythology over millennia of different invaders and cultures on top of each other, so you have the wicked witch casting traditional mediaeval spells in Latin while Nordic mythology Dwarves, Arthurian magicians, and Celtic myth figures contend in the landscape of the northwest of England on the border of Wales) – Rowling is writing the same kind of story as Jill Murphy’s The Worst Witch, not a plotted out “this is how magic works and you need X points of mana to cast Level III transmogrification” (b) boarding school stories like Malory Towers (c) Harry is Cinderella, not American YA novel hero.

          • J says:

            If D&D stats is what you want, HPMOR’s got nothing on Harry Potter and the Natural 20 (which is awesome in its own way… GLITTERDUST!)

          • rlms says:

            IIRC, Yudkowsky says he’s only ever read half of one Harry Potter book.

          • Anonymous says:

            IIRC, Yudkowsky says he’s only ever read half of one Harry Potter book.

            That’s ridiculous.

          • Deiseach says:

            If D&D stats is what you want

            I don’t. I really don’t 🙂

            IIRC, Yudkowsky says he’s only ever read half of one Harry Potter book.

            Let’s hope that’s his usual boasting rhetorical exaggeration to make a point, because otherwise that kind of “I understood it all completely, and even better than the original author, in only a few pages so once I’d figured out their easy, obvious trick I resolved to do it the way they should have done in the first place” is the kind of smuggery that makes me want to dangle Harry Three-Names head-down over the scorpion pit.

          • Anonymous says:

            scorpion pit

            Snake pits, I believe, are the traditional British way. For want of actual scorpions living there before modern times. 😉

          • Deiseach says:

            If scorpions are good enough for the Patrician, they’re good enough for me! Also no native snakes (either venomous or non-venomous) in Ireland, unlike Britain which at least has adders.

    • Jeremiah says:

      I enjoyed it quite a bit. Been thinking of rereading it. That said as an advertisement for behaving as a bayesian rationalist it makes it sound VERY Machiavellian… And yes, it could definitely use an editor.

    • mustacheion says:

      Honestly and without exaggeration, to me HPMOR was the best or very near to the best piece of literature I have ever consumed. However, I think the reason I feel that way about it is mostly luck; I just happen to be exactly the correct audience for that story. Immediately after reading it, I remember feeling like it was the best thing I have ever written but believing that the vast majority of other people would hate it. It certainly has a lot of flaws as a piece of literature. I like it because it is so similar to my own HP fantasies.

      For background, I am exactly the right age where I grew up with HP. I was introduced to the book close to when it came out at a time when I was exactly the right age to have a story like that appeal to me, and grew older as the series did, so HP was a pretty big part of my life growing up. But I always hated how silly the rules of magic in the HP universe are. Most other systems of magic I am familiar with feel to me like they have much better rules and structure. But I have always felt like HP magic has a massive disconnect between how difficult some piece of magic is to cast, and how dangerous/powerful/difficult to achieve in real life the effect is. Also, HP magic seems to have no source of energy that powers the magic, unlike many other magical systems that at least make some attempt in that direction, like deriving magic from mana or crystals or something. So even as a young child while I was enjoying reading the HP books on the side I was constantly imagining that the magic was artificial: casting spells was just an IO layer that allowed certain humans to access the abilities of a globe-spanning far-future technological computer/machine built by aliens (or something) and buried in the crust of the earth. While reading the HP books I tended not to associate with any of the characters too closely but rather to imagine that I was another student in Hogwarts watching the events of the story from afar, and that the story would end when I would use science to study magic and find the machine that was implementing magic.

      So to sum up, I agree with a lot of the criticisms here, but this story just happened to hit me in exactly the right way that I absolutely loved it.

    • Sniffnoy says:

      Short answer: Not recommended.

      Honestly I had a really hard time following the plot.

    • sty_silver says:

      I think the technical writing is somewhere between decent and quite good, and the ideas are phenomenal. It’s by far the best portrayal of highly intelligent characters I’ve ever read – on that metric, nothing else is even a contender. On the metric of having a believable complex plot, it’s also number one. Same on “how much does it teach me about reality”. On “how much emotional attachment have I built to the characters” and “how much did I enjoy reading it”, others would score higher.

      I don’t quite consider it my favorite piece of fiction, but it would be what I’d tell my past self to read immediately.

      I don’t see much that would be improved by an editor.

      • Deiseach says:

        It’s by far the best portrayal of highly intelligent characters I’ve ever read

        That’s horribly depressing, since my reaction to the vaunted Boy Genius Harry was wanting to punch him very hard in the face! Probably being unfair because I keep getting told it gets better in the later chapters and Harry becomes a lot less objectionable by having a lot of the conceit knocked out of him, but honestly, the introduction to Really Really Smart Harry makes him come off as an insufferable little know-it-all (and the hilarious anecdote about biting his teacher where his aunt and foster father chortle about that? yeah not making them sound any more appealing either).

        • Aapje says:

          Lots of highly intelligent kids get punched in schools, so…

          • Deiseach says:

            Ah, but do they think they’re getting punched for being highly intelligent as against getting punched because they come across as smug know-it-alls? Not that I think anybody should be punching/getting punched, but sometimes it’s understandable.

          • Viliam says:

            I suspect that highly intelligent people come across as smug by default.

            What I mean is that the popular model suggests that a highly intelligent people must do something really wrong (must have really bad character traits or really low social skills) to appear smug to normies. That they get punched as a result of being on the left extreme of some bell curve.

            I suspect that a highly intelligent person with average (i.e. not too high, but neither too low) social skills will be perceived negatively. Because in order to be perceived as non-smug, they are required to play a different game than normies. For a normie, the social commandment is: be what you are. For everyone else, the social commandment is: pretend to be what you are not. The latter is more difficult than the former. Instead of directly using your mirror neurons, it requires that you have a simulation of someone with different intelligence, and determine which things they will perceive as obvious, easy, or difficult; because getting this wrong is what gets you punched. (Say that a difficult-for-normies thing is easy, get punched for being smug.)

            Ironically, the only way not to come across as feeling smarter is to be constantly aware of being smarter, and adjusting your speech accordingly. If you are on the right end of the social skills bell curve, perhaps you can do this automatically and get it reliably right, but at the average you will inevitably make some mistakes.

            Essentially, high-IQ kids at elementary schools are required to have social skills of a professional therapist or mediator in order to avoid being punched, and – completely unsurprisingly – most of them fail at this point. (Another way to avoid being punched is to excel in something socially valued, e.g. to be a good football player, because high-status people are socially allowed to come across as smug.)

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Essentially, high-IQ kids at elementary schools are required to have social skills of a professional therapist or mediator in order to avoid being punched

            Or training from their parents during their formative years.

          • Creutzer says:

            The years in elementary school are their formative years. And nobody learn social skills from their parents, and even if they did, who would guarantee that the parents themselves have sufficiently good social skills?

          • gbdub says:

            I know that I have a normie filter, because it turns off when I’m drunk. I tend to use bigger words, spout more random trivia, and be less graceful in responding to dumb statements. It could certainly come off as smug if I’m not careful / you don’t know me. My girlfriend finds it hilarious and tries to get me drunk precisely to trigger my filter shutdown.

          • baconbacon says:

            Snakes won’t work, Harry is a Parsletongue.

          • Mark says:

            I suspect that highly intelligent people come across as smug by default.

            Hmmmm… I’ve never met someone so smart that I wanted to punch them.

            I guess most of the time, if it’s something technical, I’m happy for them to do their smart thing.
            In terms of general conversation, maybe all the smart people I meet are just dumbing themselves down, but thinking about it, I can’t remember ever hearing anyone, apart from me, saying anything that struck me as particularly intelligent.

          • rlms says:

            None of the very smart people I know are irritatingly smug. Perhaps they’re in constant crippling pain from pretending to be normie, but that’s not the impression I get.

            In my experience, irritatingly smug people are not irritating because they are highly intelligent, but rather because they think they are highly intelligent and therefore right about politics etc., not because they are actually really at good at e.g. physics and know so.

          • toastengineer says:

            Yeah, I never got any crap in school for my intelligence. I had one person say “you know, this person I know thinks you’re a know-it-all asshole” and I said “I don’t care” and never actually spoke to the person in question.

            I mean, I never got particularly close to people either but I don’t think that had anything to do with coming off as “smug.” I got a pretty clear message that intelligence made me high-status in most people’s eyes.

          • Deiseach says:

            I think Viliam has a point about learning social skills in school at that young age; it’s hard to understand why your classmates might resent you always being the one with your hand in the air answering the question first until someone sits you down and walks you through “so how do you think they feel?” and that yes, knowing the answer is good, but the teacher knows you know, so they need to ask the others from time to time to check if they know or are getting it wrong, so slow down a bit and give others a chance to answer first.

            If somebody doesn’t explain it, you will forget to take human feelings into consideration and imagine that their resentment is fuelled solely by their sense of being your intellectual inferiors, and you don’t get the checking of looking at the situation from an outside view.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            And nobody learn social skills from their parents

            I was told by my father to “never toot your own horn” ad nauseam, but it wasn’t until adulthood that he first said what he obviously thought was the obvious corollary: “have someone else do it for you” (i.e. by impressing them such that they will).

            My father was very social (not necessarily in a good way). You bet I learned behavior from him.

          • I have a high IQ and low social skills, but so far as I can remember nobody ever punched me for being smug–or for any other reason.

          • Viliam says:

            Maybe I am just making my hypothesis less falsifiable here, but if you never felt the desire to punch someone for being smart, the simplest explanation seems that perhaps you are pretty smart yourself; i.e. it is not the absolute height of IQ that irritates people, but the relative one. For example, people at LW meetups are typically smart, and typically do not spend their time punching each other.

            Or, you are simply a peaceful person in general. Or you don’t have the “status-regulation emotion”, if such a thing even exists.

            Alternative explanations for having high IQ and not being punched: maybe you were physically strong, or maybe someone else was even better target for punching.

        • JulieK says:

          EY clearly knows how annoying know-it-alls can be. In canon, the first time Harry is in Snape’s class, Snape asks him a lot of questions he can’t answer and Hermione is waving her hand the whole time. In HPMOR (IIRC), Hermione has more emotional intelligence and stops waving her hand, out of sympathy for Harry.

          • Anonymous says:

            emotional intelligence

            Is that even a real thing? Persisting in waving the hand or not sounds like the Agreeableness dimension, not anything related to intelligence. EY looks to have altered Hermion’s personality. (He might have also altered her intelligence, but I’ve not read enough of HPMOR to know. Maybe I’ll read it more someday, in a Let’s Read-type of thing, where you do running commentary on notable events in what you are reading.)

    • baconbits9 says:

      I especially liked when it skewered the stupider parts of canon, like the supposed good guys leaving Harry with abusive foster parents for 10 years (notice that when they finally intervened, what a little effort it took to get Harry moved from the stair closet to an actual bedroom) or the bad guys taking all year to make their move in the 4th book.

      The purpose of the series of trials is not to make Harry a happier person, but to make him strong enough to face Voldemort at the end. Living with the Dursley’s also teaches him about the true cost of losing your parents and the possibility of almost anyone to be redeemed. You can also see it as an important lesson, that love is not about protection. Harry has protection at the Dursley’s house, but that is insufficient.

      • JulieK says:

        So you’re saying the good guys knowingly left Harry in that situation?
        Even aside from the cruelty, I think they risked giving their Chosen One PTSD.

        • baconbits9 says:

          I am not saying that we know their motivations, I am saying that his time with the Dursley’s was a necessary portion of the journey required to defeat Riddle. If you are going up against the most evil and powerful wizard of the age then you are going to need more than a warm up of how to hold your wand and a few incantations. He also ends up needing to understand Voldy to be able to search out Horcruxes, having a similarly crummy upbringing aids that.

          As far as their motivations go Minerva is appalled at the thought of leaving Harry with people like the Dursley’s, so it isn’t some blanket “just suck it up” attitude, but she defers to Albus.

          • Jiro says:

            I am saying that his time with the Dursley’s was a necessary portion of the journey required to defeat Riddle.

            This sounds like the literary analysis equivalent of a just so story.

            I doubt that if Harry Potter had not had the Dursleys in it, a common criticism of it would be “it was pretty good, except it was missing a necessary part of his journey because he didn’t have any abusive family”. You can argue that pretty much anything is a necessary part of a character’s journey.

          • baconbits9 says:

            @ Jiro

            It is a part of the journey that THE AUTHOR chose. Part of the journey that Harry undergoes is worrying that he is becoming and identifying with Voldemort. Partially because he actually carries some of Voldemort with him and partially because he understands some of his motivations. It isn’t a just so story, the connection between Harry and Riddle is intentionally a major portion of the story. Having Albus marry Minerva and raise Harry as their own would mean a lot of the later scenes just flat out don’t make sense.

          • rlms says:

            Also, having Harry raised by muggles makes exposition easier. Having him raised by unsympathetic muggles also simplifies things, for instance it avoids the question of why he doesn’t bring his family into the magical world.

          • baconbits9 says:

            If we want to give maximum credit to Rowling we could also say something like by giving Harry a terrible upbringing and then informing him of Voldemort you give some scale to the evil that is possible. You give him a miserable time for a dozen years and then introduce him to an entity that is far more powerful, far more malevolent and actively searching for him and you have an introduction of evil that guides him. His job then as the chosen one isn’t to solve individual suffering or to repair people’s childhood trauma, but to engage and defeat pure evil.

            This might be giving to much credit to what was intended, but it is very clear that a lot of what happened early in the series was intentional to character(s) development. It wasn’t simply a Dragonball Z situation where you just throw another hyper strong villain at the hero for him to overcome. There were levels and specific attributes that facilitated growth.

          • Mary says:

            Exposition could as easily be handled by having Harry befriend a Muggleborn on the train.

          • Evan Þ says:

            @Mary, not so easily. There’re any number of background details we readers need to know that would be second nature to AU!Wizard-Raised!Harry. Hermione (or some other Muggleborn) would always need to be around asking questions so we’d get them all, and that’d be intrusive on the narrative and feel weird. Imagine something like the first scene with the ghosts from the perspective of a wizard-raised kid who’s already seen ghosts and knows about them; you’d strike completely the wrong tone.

          • Mary says:

            Why? It’s just as intrusive to have them endlessly explained to Harry, because he is pretty much always with the friends who explain. If you want more variety, you can have additional Muggleborn students to listen.

        • baconbits9 says:

          Even aside from the cruelty, I think they risked giving their Chosen One PTSD.

          If you assume that they dumped him and left, then yes. If you look at the whole series in that Dumbledore always gave Harry what he needed to succeed then no. Two notes, one is that they don’t physically abuse him, and secondly that they get a reminder from Lily about their promise. I think we can take the two together to mean that there is a basic level of protection that is above “PTSD” inducement in his life.

          An additional theme is that the father cannot protect the son, but the mother can. James and Sirius’ attempts to keep Harry safe fail, while Lily’s protection extends from beyond the grave. In this motif a mother’s job is protection, and the father’s job is to strengthen his son to eventually face the challenges. Dumbledore accepts the role of the father while letting Lily’s sacrifice play the role of the mother (which expires when he comes of age and becomes a man).

          • baconbits9 says:

            Additional piece of evidence, there are two potential chosen ones. Harry and Neville. Neville grows up under semi similar circumstances, but is a total wreck when he gets to school. We can reasonably assume that his grandmother is giving him more than the Dursley’s give Harry, but Neville grows up under the weight of expectations just to be a good wizard like his parents, which is enough to stunt him for a long time.

        • Deiseach says:

          It’s also protective; the one place that Voldemort and his disciples will not be looking for The Boy Who Lived is in the Muggle world. Keeping Harry away from magic until he’s old enough to start his education is keeping him off the radar. If we compare Neville Longbottom (who nobody seems to know is the other candidate for the Prophesied One), he seems to have had surviving family members who were capable witches and wizards. On Harry’s side, who could have taken in a baby? We hear nothing about the Potter side of the family, so it looks like his near relatives on his father’s side aren’t alive, and that only leaves his mother’s Muggle family.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      I tried to read it multiple times and I couldn’t force myself to read past the first chapter. I also tried to read synopses of the fic but, while they were better, the exerpts of Potter-speak had the same effect and I couldn’t make myself keep going.

      I was an insufferable smartass, militant atheist and budding high modernist as a kid exactly how Harry is supposed to be. Even I would have stuffed this kid in a locker. If anyone in the history of fiction ever deserved a swirlie it was him.

      • Deiseach says:

        Even I would have stuffed this kid in a locker.

        Yes. If Harry Potter-Evans-Verre is meant to be a stand-in for E- Y- as a precocious child who had few to no peers and lacked any meaningful interaction on an intellectual level with adults (and ended up re-inventing wheels for himself as an autodidact), then it presents a view from the inside of how a kid like that, who gets bullied in mainstream schools, has no idea why he’d be bullied other than “they’re jealous of my obvious superiority”. Harry’s problem is his lack of self-awareness, made worse by the fact that he thinks his intelligence is sufficient to enable him to deal with everything and anything and he is blind to the fact that a more experienced and subtle person can easily manipulate him by pushing his very obvious buttons (vanity is a pitfall, made even worse by an attitude of “humility is for people who have something to be humble about, I have no vulnerabilities to be exploited because I’m smart enough to figure out how things work”).

        But as a representative of “this is the kind of budding rationalist in the wild”, it just makes the youthful reasoner look like a dreadful jerk who prefers to boast about his massive brain, thinks everyone else is an idiot, patronises or insults his peers, thinks adults have nothing to teach him, latches on to a pet theory or two and uses them as a One Size Fits All explanation of how things work and is completely oblivious to how he is alienating even those who might be otherwise sympathetic.

        • Nornagest says:

          But as a representative of “this is the kind of budding rationalist in the wild”, it just makes the youthful reasoner look like a dreadful jerk who prefers to boast about his massive brain, thinks everyone else is an idiot, patronises or insults his peers, thinks adults have nothing to teach him, latches on to a pet theory or two and uses them as a One Size Fits All explanation of how things work and is completely oblivious to how he is alienating even those who might be otherwise sympathetic.

          Not to put too fine a point on it, but that is, in many cases, a fair portrait of the budding rationalist in the wild. If I met fourteen-year-old me, I’d want to wring the arrogant little brat’s neck — and I’m far from totally comfortable with the “rationalist” label. Those who are, might have been worse.

          Doesn’t make it any more pleasant to read, of course.

          • Deiseach says:

            Doesn’t make it any more pleasant to read, of course.

            If, like The Screwtape Letters, it gives that unpleasant but salutary little “ouch, that’s me” recognition in parts then it serves a good purpose. On the other hand, if young folk* are reading along nodding approvingly about how this is totally what they’d do in the same circumstances and this validates their self-perception as persecuted geniuses, not so good.

            *If you’re younger than forty, you’re “young folk” to me, okay?

          • Jiro says:

            It boils down to “do you think HPMOR is just showing an arrogant know-it-all with no social skills, or glorifying being an arrogant know-it-all with no social skills?

            It seems to me like the latter.

          • Nornagest says:

            I suspect Eliezer was going for the latter but ended up identifying too strongly with HJPEV for that to be apparent in the story’s tone, as opposed to its plot.

    • Petja Ylitalo says:

      Probably the best fiction i´ve read.
      Many nice & inspiring ideas per chapter, an world that makes sense as much as it can while still somewhat sticking to the original, and a protagonist i can identify with as “this is what i might do in that situation, and if not then that is because i need to become better & faster at thinking, which reading these kinds of stories should help with”

      I´ve read some of the original HP books in when i was young, but didn´t like them very much, not enough to read more.

    • J says:

      If you want to see Hermione really outshine Harry, you want the unofficial sequel to HPMOR, Significant Digits.

    • Creutzer says:

      I enjoyed roughly the first 10 chapters immensely. I found they had a sense of wonder and discovery about them, almost similar to the original, and the jokes were hilarious. Harry being extremely obnoxious didn’t bother me, but to the contrary it contributed, becausea it was all about discovering the bizarre, unexpected, but shockingly sense-making ways in which Eliezer was twisting the familiar setting. (I mean, granting that an 11-year-old could have this level of cognitive ability, their being exactly this kind of obnoxious strikes me as perfectly realistic.)

      After that, as it devolved into everyone constantly double- and triple-crossing and outwitting each other (and started to completely ignore the fact that the protagonist and his peers were 11-year-olds), I kind of lost interest (and so I never finished it), because once the new discoveries became fewer and the jokes became less funny, the questionable characterisation of many personae (esp. Herminoe) and the very mediocre style came to dominate the impression I got. The intriguea was just not sufficiently engaging for me to keep my attention away from these flaws.

      • Deiseach says:

        Harry being extremely obnoxious didn’t bother me, but to the contrary it contributed, becausea it was all about discovering the bizarre, unexpected, but shockingly sense-making ways in which Eliezer was twisting the familiar setting.

        Okay, a story about a smug smart kid who is convinced that (1) SCIENCE! is the answer to everything and (2) he is The Biggest Brain in the Room and he knows all the SCIENCE! there is to know, ergo he knows what is and is not possible, getting smacked in the face with “magic does exist, bitch” and having his world-view knocked from under him would be good, but Harry P-E-V then switches to “Obviously the witches and wizards of this world are too stupid to have investigated the underlying principles of their craft because none of them are SCIENTISTS! like me, so I have nothing to learn from them about something that up to ten minutes ago I denied even existed, and what is more by applying SCIENCE! I will figure out more, know more, and be able to do more than they can”.

        Snape being perfectly aware of atomic theory and thus taking the wind out of HPEV’s sails when he’s about to deliver a smug put-down is very good, I’ll admit that 🙂

        • The original Mr. X says:

          he knows all the SCIENCE! there is to know, ergo he knows what is and is not possible, getting smacked in the face with “magic does exist, bitch” and having his world-view knocked from under him would be good, but Harry P-E-V then switches to “Obviously the witches and wizards of this world are too stupid to have investigated the underlying principles of their craft because none of them are SCIENTISTS! like me, so I have nothing to learn from them about something that up to ten minutes ago I denied even existed, and what is more by applying SCIENCE! I will figure out more, know more, and be able to do more than they can”.

          That was the aspect that ended up putting me off. I don’t care how smart Harry the Trinominal is, an eleven-year-old boy wouldn’t know more about magic than his teachers less than a month after first discovering that magic exists.

      • GrishaTigger says:

        @Creutzer – That was pretty much my impression as well, though for me I enjoyed the complexity of the interactions (e.g. the multilayered dynamics between Harry and Draco) enough to keep me interested through about the first half, and then the plot meandered enough to make the stylistic flaws too much to deal with, so I didn’t make it quite to the end.

        I also greatly enjoyed the attempts to dissect the nature and limitations of magic, and was disappointed that they didn’t lead to much. I’ve always thought that, just because there is magic in a world, there is no reason it has to be handwavy nonsense. Personally, I find more pleasure in works of fantasy where there is clearly some kind of systematic thought behind the workings of magic. An example might be the second series of the Chronicles of Amber, where Merlin is clearly drawing on a theoretical framework, even if the details are never fully fleshed out.

        On the whole, I agree with other commenters who have said that an editor would have made the whole thing much better, but I can’t think of a fanfic that I have enjoyed as much as HPMOR.

  4. Collin says:

    What is your favorite thought experiment?

    • Anonymous says:

      Probably the Prisoner’s Dilemma.

    • Anatoly says:

      Probably still the world, although it isn’t as funny as it used to be.

    • fortaleza84 says:

      The Galileo thought experiment where you take two objects of different weight, connected with a string, and throw them off the tower of Pisa at the same time. If heavier objects fall faster, then the heavier object will eventually pull the string taught, at which point the entire two-weight system should fall faster still — faster than the heavier weight falling alone. Either that or the two-weight system would fall faster than the heavier weight alone from the get-go.

      Either way, just by doing the thought experiment, you can see that it actually doesn’t make much sense for heavier weights to fall faster.

      • Incurian says:

        I thought heavier weights fell faster, but that any two weights we could compare on Earth would be basically equal compared to the Earth?

        • Dacyn says:

          Heavier weights experience greater force but equal acceleration assuming equivalent aerodynamics. However, objects often do not have equivalent aerodynamics.

          • Incurian says:

            Aren’t the heavier weights causing the Earth to accelerate towards it in turn, and faster than the lighter weights would? So wouldn’t the closing speed of the heavier weight and the Earth be faster?

          • Dacyn says:

            Oh I see what you are saying… but yeah, this effect is so insignificant that it is cancelled by just assuming that each weight is on the ground while the other is dropped, so that each weight has to experience the gravity of the other as well as of the Earth.

        • A1987dM says:

          any two weights we could compare on Earth would be basically equal compared to the Earth

          Yes, but the prediction of Aristotelian physics, which Galileo introduced his thought experiment to argue against, is that falling speed would be proportional to the weight (i.e. an iron ball would fall an order of magnitude than a wooden ball the same radius).

        • Mary says:

          Nope. The stronger gravitational attraction is counterbalanced by the stronger inertia. Which is why they are both mass.

      • Dacyn says:

        Why would you expect the entire two-weight system fall faster than the heavier weight alone? Shouldn’t you expect an average instead?

        It seems to me that this thought experiment doesn’t distinguish between gravity and magnetism, so in the same manner it would prove that any two objects in a magnetic field would experience the same acceleration. But this just isn’t true.

        • CatCube says:

          Well, once the string is taut, the two-weight system becomes a one-weight system, with a weight equal to the sum of the two.

          • Rick Hull says:

            Is it though? What provides the tension on the string, other than the heavier weight dragging the lighter weight?

          • CatCube says:

            A cable in tension is functionally indistinguishable from a solid rod, so long as there’s no loss in tension. If the heavier weight is accelerating faster, that would keep the connecting string in tension.

            What happens after it goes into tension and the two-weight system begins acting as a heavier one-weight system (and should fall faster) is the part that can’t be explained adequately, and is the point of the thought experiment.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            I have a thought experiment of a helium filled balloon tethered to a lead ball.

            The air is obviously acting as a fluid. Wouldn’t there be ever-so-slight bounce (and consequent loss in tension), even in the two heavy object model?

          • Rick Hull says:

            Hmmm, so what if the lighter weight is a parachute? I would expect it to provide tension on the string due to the relatively higher drag. And I would expect the combination system to fall slower. An average, as Dacyn says.

          • Dacyn says:

            Ah I see… the point of the thought experiment is not to prove that a heavier weight can’t fall faster than a lighter one, but to prove that it can’t be the case that every heavier weight falls faster than every lighter one. So the two-weight system is supposed to be an example of a “heavier weight” that clearly falls more slowly than a lighter weight (i.e. the original heavy weight).

            Rick: yes that’s what we would expect, but it is in contradiction with the thought experiment premise that every heavier weight falls faster (thus showing that the thought experiment premise is contradictory).

    • Philosophisticat says:

      It’s like choosing between my (purely hypothetical) children, but probably Newcomb’s problem or Parfit’s psychological fission case.

    • sty_silver says:

      Without thinking hard about it, Counterfactual Mugging.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Any materials engineers in the readership?

    I’m looking for materials suitable for multi-millennia-resistant text tablets. The stuff needs to be relatively cheap, easy enough to work with that someone could write on it with household tools, extremely durable in long timeframes, and not anything that pre-industrial people could usefully break apart or smelt down. Some candidates I’ve found so far are ceramics and marble. Steel and other useful metals are right out.

    Any ideas?

    • johan_larson says:

      Clay tablets have an excellent record of durability. Easy to write on when wet; plenty tough once fired.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clay_tablet

      • toastengineer says:

        Seems like the trouble there is that while a high fraction of ancient clay tablets have survived, Anonymous seems to want one tablet that has a high probability of surviving on its own…

        Seems like if what you want is for people 4k years in the future to be able to read what you’ve written, material choice is a lot less important than order of redundancy.

        If I had need to do something like that, I’d just go in to a couple thousand little caves not too far from civilization all around the world and chip what I’ve got to say in to the rock somewhere where folks would see it if they went in exploring.

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      The tools aren’t quite household, but are getting there.

      Genomic DNA.

    • markk116 says:

      Like toast engineer said, redundancy is much more important. If you want your message to come across copy it fifty times and start hiding it in caves, burying it in parks, and stuffing it into sewer pipes. You might want to translate it into two/three different languages to be sure that language family still exists and maybe make a list of words used and build a dictionary. Start with the ones that can handle pictographic representation and build from those.

      If you do want to go the stone route etching might be an easier way. First you get some wax and cover you stone. Then you scratch the message into the wax and apply acid to the surface. The acid will eat away the stone, which is way easier than doing it manually.

      • Anonymous says:

        If you do want to go the stone route etching might be an easier way. First you get some wax and cover you stone. Then you scratch the message into the wax and apply acid to the surface. The acid will eat away the stone, which is way easier than doing it manually.

        That sounds very useful, thank you. Except it also sounds like acidic conditions will be destructive to the etch.

        • johan_larson says:

          What message are you thinking of sending into the far future?

          • Anonymous says:

            A brief history of our civilization’s rise and destruction, in Rosetta format.

          • Nick says:

            A brief history of our civilization’s rise and destruction, in Rosetta format.

            A little premature, don’t you think?!

          • Anonymous says:

            If I am wrong, I just waste some effort and some future historians are going to have a giggle at my expense. If I am right, starting right now, while resources – information and infrastructure – are still available, is the correct time.

        • markk116 says:

          I think that won’t be too much of a problem, seeing as how many of the stone tablets we have today are produced similarly. If you really want to go overboard, you might take something from this: http://rosettaproject.org/blog/02008/aug/20/very-long-term-backup/

        • Deiseach says:

          So what do you think is the cause of our destruction, what makes it different from the falls of previous civilisations, and why would a future civilisation think that they too could fall and could learn to avoid the traps that brought us down?

          We have the lessons of the past to profit by, but by your estimation, we’re still going to crash. The only lesson may be that every civilisation will inevitably crash, but again, we thought we would be the special exception to that, and a successor civilisation (if one arises) probably will be convinced likewise that this time, they will be the ones to last indefinitely, so are unlikely to decide “well going by this historical record X, Y and Z took down the West last time round, this time we should be careful to avoid X, Y and Z”.

          • Anonymous says:

            So what do you think is the cause of our destruction

            A multitude of concurrent factors, chief among them: genetic damage, urbanization, overeducation (females, especially), overtaxation, overcentralization, barbarian invasions.

            what makes it different from the falls of previous civilisations

            The above is probably perfectly applicable to the fall of the Roman civilization. Part of it, AFAWK, is also the probable cause of the collapse of the Bronze Age civilization in the second millennium B.C.

            and why would a future civilisation think that they too could fall and could learn to avoid the traps that brought us down?

            Chances are slim, I admit. But “attempts must be made, even when there can be no hope. (…) And betimes, some wonder is wrought to redeem us.”

            We have the lessons of the past to profit by, but by your estimation, we’re still going to crash. The only lesson may be that every civilisation will inevitably crash, but again, we thought we would be the special exception to that, and a successor civilisation (if one arises) probably will be convinced likewise that this time, they will be the ones to last indefinitely, so are unlikely to decide “well going by this historical record X, Y and Z took down the West last time round, this time we should be careful to avoid X, Y and Z”.

            Nolo contendre.

      • SamChevre says:

        THE poem on redundancy–from John M Ford on Electrolite:

        The worm drives helically through the wood
        And does not know the dust left in the bore
        Once made the table integral and good;
        And suddenly the crystal hits the floor.
        Electrons find their paths in subtle ways,
        A massless eddy in a trail of smoke;
        The names of lovers, light of other days —
        Perhaps you will not miss them. That’s the joke.
        The universe winds down. That’s how it’s made.
        But memory is everything to lose;
        Although some of the colors have to fade,
        Do not believe you’ll get the chance to choose.
        Regret, by definition, comes too late;
        Say what you mean. Bear witness. Iterate.

        • Deiseach says:

          Ah well, if we’re quoting poetry!

          Dirge Without Music
          BY EDNA ST. VINCENT MILLAY

          I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
          So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
          Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned
          With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.

          Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.
          Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
          A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew,
          A formula, a phrase remains,—but the best is lost.

          The answers quick and keen, the honest look, the laughter, the love,—
          They are gone. They are gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled
          Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do not approve.
          More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world.

          Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
          Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
          Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
          I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.

          And then there’s Zelazny’s A Rose For Ecclesiastes, where the protagonist defeats the Martians’ pessimism by reading them a pessimism even greater than their own, the Book of Qoheleth.

          • Evan Þ says:

            Ooh, someone else who read Rose for Ecclesiastes! I wish there were more good stories about aliens meeting human philosophy and theology – but they’re hard to do well, since the author really has to understand the philosophy himself.

    • Mark Atwood says:

      Sounds like you are trying to solve the same problem the Long Now Foundation is trying to solve with Rosetta Two project.

      If you are on the cheap, fired clay tablets. And then try to get one into every vault, archive, library, and time capsule you can. Offer people $100 each to bury a few under every new foundation pour.

      If you can keep it hidden, and don’t mind the fact that if a grave robber finds it “too soon” it will be lost: thin sheets of hammered gold. You can literally write on it with a graphite pencil, and the writing will last for geologic time, until someone melts it down for jewelry or bullion.

      If you have MONEY, sheets of pressed tungsten, scribed with an electron beam, and then encased in glass. Again, make tens of thousands of them, and then try to get them into vaults, archives, and time capsules.

  6. tayfie says:

    I just noticed 7/10 of the top 10 listed posts for SSC are from 2014.

    Why was Scott particularly productive that year?

  7. Jack Lecter says:

    So, did something just happen involving aliens? Or UFOs?

    My Mom is saying something about it, and there do seem to be things in the news, but my 30 second search failed to turn up a clear, concise explanation. (As a news article grows in length, the probability that the reporters screw up some crucial detail approaches one. So ‘concise’ is an important criteria if you get your news from The News.)

    So I’m Asking the smart sane people directly: is this just another hoax, or did we just get really, really bad news?

    EDIT: How does the Fermi Paradox factor in here? If there were aliens, aren’t we finding out about them kind of late? Does this increase the probability that they were deliberately hiding?

    I mean, my prior is that it’s probably a hoax, but in the worlds where it isn’t, what does the evidence suggest? Is there any way this makes any sense? If so, how many such ways can we find? And how likely are they?

  8. GrishaTigger says:

    I have a couple of puzzles that share a neat feature, and would like to find a third puzzle with the same feature, then present the three as a metapuzzle, where people first solve each of the puzzles, then identify what they have in common as the “meta” element. I am having trouble finding that third puzzle, and thought I’d turn to you smart people for ideas.

    The feature I have in mind is that the puzzle looks at first glance like a numerical or logical puzzle, but is actually impossible to solve in abstract terms, and becomes relatively easy to solve once you think of the puzzle in concrete physical terms.

    One puzzle – a classic – is the one with three regular incandescent light bulbs controlled by three regular on/off switches in another room (figure out which switch controls which bulb, with any amount of switch manipulation followed by ONE visit to the room with the bulbs).

    The second is the puzzle with a photo of billiard balls showing the numbers 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, and 15. You are asked to pick three balls, place them into 3 outlined circles with plus signs between them and an equals sign leading to “30”, to generate a valid equation.

    I haven’t given the solutions here, but knowing that you have to think of real physical objects should make these two relatively easy (one of them is a “golden oldie”, the other went around widely on social media recently).

    What I haven’t been able to do yet is come up with a third puzzle like that: seemingly numerical or logical, but not solvable without thinking about the actual physical objects involved.

    Any ideas?

    • beleester says:

      I remember reading a matchstick puzzle (arrange N matches to make a certain shape) where the solution was to break one of the matchsticks so you have two shorter sticks, but I can’t remember the details.

      There’s another famous puzzle: How do you cut a pizza into 8 equal slices with only 3 straight cuts? Cut it into quarters, then stack the quarters on top of each other and cut through them all with the third cut.

      • anonymousskimmer says:

        Yeah, except the pizza slices will no longer be equal thanks to topping and wet bread stickiness which causes tears and transfer upon pulling the pieces apart. (And if you don’t pull them apart you don’t have 8 pieces, you have one 8-decker slice of pie.)

        These puzzle makers think they are clever but ignore what actually happens in reality.

      • GrishaTigger says:

        Thanks! The idea of breaking a matchstick is a great start, since that’s concrete and physical.

      • shakeddown says:

        my solution was a horizontal slice. Rather more impractical.

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      I googled “concrete thinking puzzles”. Here’s one of the first results:

      https://www.aimsedu.org/2017/07/25/green-wall-challenge-1/

      The Lion, Llama, and Lettuce tri-lemma.

      There once was a farmer who was taking three items to market; a lion, a llama, and a large lettuce. He came to a river crossing which had a boat used to ford the river. However due to the size of the boat, the farmer could only fit one of the items he was taking to market with him at a time. He could not leave the lion alone with the llama (for obvious tasty reasons), nor (for similar reasons) could he leave the llama alone in the presence of the lettuce. He was successful in getting his goods safely across the river. How did he accomplish this using only the boat? Do not bring any information not introduced in this paragraph into the situation.

      • Deiseach says:

        Isn’t that a retread of a similar puzzle about sheep and a wolf? If I’m remembering the solution correctly, the farmer should first bring across the llama, leaving the lion and the lettuce on the near riverbank; then bring over the lettuce leaving the lion alone on the riverbank; then leave the lettuce on the far riverbank and bring back the llama, leave the llama on the near riverbank and bring the lion over leaving the lion with the lettuce on the far riverbank and the llama on the near riverbank and then finally row over with the llama.

        One of these stupid complicated puzzles because why can’t he just tie the head of lettuce round the lion’s neck, or carry it on his own head, or hang a net with the lettuce off the side of the boat or something? But yeah, it has nothing to do with reality, it’s just a logic puzzle.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          That is a wonderful rebuttal. I’m serious.

        • BBA says:

          Also, why does he have a lion to begin with? What kind of farm has lions, and who’s buying them?

        • GrishaTigger says:

          This is indeed a terrific classic puzzle, which I first saw posed with a wolf, a goat, and a head of cabbage. It’s not quite what I’m looking for, because it is actually more or less a logic puzzle – one that is solvable with a series of abstract operations. The thing with the light bulb and the billiard ball puzzles is that at first they look like puzzles that just require logic or arithmetic, but are actually unsolvable in those terms.

    • Uncorrelated says:

      Reminded me of this one about an hour glass floating in cylinder of water. Kind of. link text

    • Lillian says:

      The second is the puzzle with a photo of billiard balls showing the numbers 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, and 15. You are asked to pick three balls, place them into 3 outlined circles with plus signs between them and an equals sign leading to “30”, to generate a valid equation.

      I haven’t given the solutions here, but knowing that you have to think of real physical objects should make these two relatively easy (one of them is a “golden oldie”, the other went around widely on social media recently).

      Except that being familiar with the physical objects in question can lead you astray and make the question impossible to answer. This is what a standard 9-ball looks like. Notice that if you turn it around it’s not a six, but an upside down nine. It would not occur to a billiard player (pool player in my case) that you can turn a ball around to change the number, because the balls are turned around all the damn time while playing. Even if it was a non-standard ball that didn’t have the underline, which is not strictly necessary since 6-balls are solid and 9-balls are striped, it doesn’t change the fact that it’s a 9-ball regardless of orientation. The puzzle should specify printed numbers rather than billiard balls to avoid this source of confusion.

      • Charles F says:

        I assumed the answer was to hfr gur frira avar naq svsgrra onyyf ba gur yuf naq chg gur bar onyy vafvqr gur mreb va guvegl. That makes more sense to me than trying to turn a nine ball upside-down and I’d like to formally petition the internet to correct this.

        • Lillian says:

          That’s not a valid solution because it goes outside the parameters of the puzzle. You are picking four rather than three balls, and placing one of them outside the three circles. The puzzle is only solvable is you’re not familiar with billiard balls, and instead think of them as just numbers printed on circles.

      • GrishaTigger says:

        @Lillian,

        I did not include the detail in my description of the puzzle, but the “9” ball in the photo version of the puzzle I described was, in fact, the 6 ball turned upside down. Thus, being familiar with actual billiard balls would help solve the problem, because you’d recognize that the ball shown was a solid, not a stripe, and thus should be the 6 ball.

        • Lillian says:

          Ah, okay then that visual version of the puzzle is actually really clever in a way i can definitely appreciate. The one i saw when i looked for the solution just presented a 9-ball without an underline, which to me seemed like a cop-out. You can’t do it the clever way through text without giving the answer away though, thus the need to specify printed numbers rather than billiard balls.

    • Samo says:

      Zl fbyhgvba jnf gb cvpx svsgrra, svir, naq guerr, naq ghea gur cyhf fvta “+” fvqrjnlf vagb na “K” fb vgf svir gvzrf guerr cyhf svsgrra rdhnyf guvegl.

    • Randy M says:

      There’s a puzzle my grandfather showed me that I’ve seen recreated on social media. I don’t know the exact set up, but the gist of it is a series of glasses, some full, some empty, and you want to make a pattern of alternating full and empty by moving only one glass, which looks impossible at first but the trick is to pour one into another, thereby changing the state of two of them with only moving one.

  9. bean says:

    Armor Part 2 is now up at Naval Gazing.
    Also, I’ve recently put together a Topical Index to make it easier to find posts. It covers the latest published, both at SSC and the new home.

    • cassander says:

      I think you left a sentence out of this paragraph “Another factor that could affect penetration was the shell’s filling. A solid projectile, known as shot, is very good at penetrating armor, but it’s also not particularly effective at doing damage behind it. However, poor choices of filling can render shells ineffective. The British used Picric acid, which they called lyddite, throughout most of WWI. It was too sensitive, and had a bad tendency to detonate while penetrating the target’s armor. Many fuses from different powers had the same problem, detonating outside of the target’s armor.”

  10. maintain says:

    I might be wrong about this, but I’ve always thought that the entire anti vaccination movement clearly exists solely because people started making elaborate rationalizations to justify their fear of needles.

    Has anyone tried to test this hypothesis to see if it’s true? And if it’s true, couldn’t we help increase vaccination rates by doing things like:

    -using topical novocaine before doing injections
    -making syringes that don’t have a visible needle

    P.S. Just having to type the world “needle” in this post creeps me out a little.

    • toastengineer says:

      I don’t think so; there’s less elaborate explanations that seem like they do the job. People hear about the tiny minority of people who actually are harmed by vaccine fuckups and they don’t actually see the massive upside of vaccines, so they conclude that vaccines are dangerous and unnecessary. Everything else is just confirmation bias and contrarianism.

      • maintain says:

        My first impulse is to say “Yeah, but how do people decide to be anti vaccine, but not anti car. Cars kill way more people than vaccines.”

        But then I thought about it, and I could see what you’re saying.

        For instance, if someone lives in an area where they can walk everywhere, they might start to think that people shouldn’t drive cars, since they only hear about accidents, but they don’t get any benefit from cars.

        Or, someone lives in an urban area, where guns are not a useful tool. They might think that guns should be banned, since they only hear about the bad side of guns on the news, and they don’t get any of the benefits of owning guns.

        (I’m not saying anything either way about banning cars or banning guns, but in my experience, everyone I’ve met who is anti car or anti gun fits those descriptions: someone who sees the downsides, but doesn’t get to benefit from the upsides.)

        On the other hand, check out these quotes from the Wikipedia article on Ali Maow Maalin, the last person ever to acquire smallpox naturally:

        In an interview in 2007, Maalin said that he had not been vaccinated, explaining: “I was scared of being vaccinated then. It looked like the shot hurt.”

        He ended up getting smallpox. Afterwards, they tried to prevent it from spreading:

        Maalin’s contacts were all traced by the WHO eradication team. A total of 161 contacts were identified, 41 of whom had not been vaccinated. There were 91 people who had been in face-to-face contact with Maalin, 12 of whom were unvaccinated. Some of his contacts lived up to 120 km outside the town. All contacts were kept under surveillance for six weeks.

        They had to go through all that just cause one guy was scared that vaccination might hurt. That’s a heck of an inefficient way to save a couple cents on a plastic thing that keeps you from seeing the needle, and a little bit of novocaine. (Or if not novocaine, just put ice on the injection site for a minute before injecting.)

        I don’t know if my hypothesis is right, but I think it might be worthwhile for someone to test. If it’s true, it could be a low-hanging fruit that no one is picking.

        • Deiseach says:

          Maybe training for the medical staff who administer vaccinations? Some nurses/doctors are great at giving shots, others do the “stab you in the arm, what are you crying for, ignore that spurting blood” technique.

          I hate needles because of painful mandatory school vaccinations, so having to give blood for regular blood tests means I need to screw my courage to the sticking point to go and do it, and it certainly didn’t help that the last time round the nurse left me with a punctured vein, bleeding under the skin, and a huge painful bruise that took a week to dissipate.

    • sierraescape says:

      My aunt is very active in the movement. I’d say in her case anti-vaccination is more a consequence of globalist paranoia. For example she also believes the fires in California were started by government laser-touting planes, the U.N spreads disease (sometimes through vaccines) to control population, etc.. Even if this whole perspective started with her viscerally disliking needles, I think it’d be inaccurate to blame the whole conspiracy on that one experience. I’d sooner blame the vaccine-specific paranoia on its link with abortion.

      • albatross11 says:

        Well, if you’re Haitian, I think you have a pretty good case for claiming that the UN spreads disease. (UN peacekeepers sent after the earthquake brought cholera to Haiti a few years back.)

        • Evan Þ says:

          And if you’re Pakistani, you have a pretty good case for believing vaccine workers to be CIA spies.

    • Rex says:

      A lot of procedures besides vaccinations involve needles. Why is there no comparable opposition movement to any of them?

      • baconbits9 says:

        How many of them are mandatory (or semi mandatory)?

      • anonymousskimmer says:

        The funding of Theranos was a pretty major opposition “movement”.

      • Deiseach says:

        Why is there no comparable opposition movement to any of them?

        Because some people do have bad reactions to vaccinations; my father had to get a vaccination before going out on peace-keeping duty when he was in the Army and it caused a bad reaction that not alone made him sick but also ended up giving him a weird allergy to citrus fruit and tomato sauce for years (yeah I know, why tomato ketchup?, but every time he ate an orange he would come out in huge weals, and he never had it before, and it gradually faded over time).

        Ordinarily, giving blood/other procedures involving needles won’t give you anything like that. But someone gets sick after a vaccination, especially a child, it’s not hard to go overboard about “these things are dangerous!” and then take into consideration that “we’re giving you a dose of a disease* to cause antibodies” and they may only hear “giving you a dose of a disease”.

        *Before y’all jump on me, yes I know – EXTREMELY SIMPLIFIED VERSION

      • JulieK says:

        Maybe the others have more immediate benefits, like treating a disease you already have?

    • MrApophenia says:

      I used to have a job where I had to become very informed about the anti-vaxxer movement back when it was still getting started. And I think the fact that it eventually became so undeniably bonkers does obscure the fact that there was something like a real reason for people to get all heated up about it in the first place.

      So you have the Wakefield paper linking thimerosal (mercury-based preservatives used in vaccines) to autism. This paper is bullshit and has since been discredited, but at the time, reasonable people didn’t have that information.

      And the medical establishment didn’t do itself any favors in how it responded, either. There was an (also since retracted) story in Rolling Stone about how the CDC were engaging in a cover-up of the results. And while this article, too, overstated a bunch of stuff, it did direct a bunch of people to the transcript of the CDC meeting that inspired it, and honestly, there are parts of that transcript that seem pretty fucked up. It’s a bunch of CDC doctors who appear to be talking about how the science isn’t in yet, but this mercury-autism link actually seems pretty plausible based on their own review of their internal data, how all of this is is going to be a lawsuit nightmare, and how it’s really important that no finding is published which makes people not want to get vaccines due to the public health risks.

      So then the studies come in saying the link isn’t there – except hey, didn’t the CDC just all get together and say they need to makes sure that’s what the studies say?

      (Here’s the transcript in question, by the way: https://web.archive.org/web/20110921062947/http://www.safeminds.org/government-affairs/foia/Simpsonwood_Transcript.pdf)

      So far, I kind of get where the anti-vaxxers were coming from. Except… then they won! Due to the controversy – and also the fact that all the attention also shined a light on the fact that thimerosal had a somewhat checkered history totally aside from any possible mercury-autism link – they actually did take all the thimerosal out of the vaccines! Even if you think they really were giving kids autism, the problem got fixed!

      Everyone who had some thread of reasonableness (even if they were wrong) got off the train at that point, and after that it was all just cuckoo-town.

      • Deiseach says:

        Yeah, what I remember of the British NHS response to Wakefield back at the start was not so much “this guy is wrong and this is why” as it was SHUT UP! SHUT UP! SHUT UP! which didn’t leave any good impression, nor did it address “so how come mercury in vaccines is okay, anyway?”

        Honestly, the impression I got back then was that the medical establishment really were scared that mercuric preservatives were not that great, but admitting any doubt would lead to such public panic and outrage, and vaccines were too valuable, that it was worth having a few (dozen/hundred) kids get autism to preserve the status quo.

        • MrApophenia says:

          One of the bits that always stuck with me from back when I had to research this was that when thimerosal was first invented, it was considered too toxic for veterinary use.

          It turns out it wasn’t causing autism, but I am still pretty glad they wound up getting it removed regardless.

          • rahien.din says:

            too toxic for veterinary use

            There’s a slight misconception here.

            You seem to be saying something like : if it’s too toxic to give to a dog, then it’s definitely too toxic to give to a human. That’s not necessarily true.

            “Too toxic for veterinary use” means “in the risk:benefit analysis, the risks of using it on dogs do not outweigh the benefits it would provide those dogs.”

            This could mean something like “it does worse things to dogs than it does to humans.” Examples : chocolate, grapes, and macadamia nuts.

            It could also mean something like “It helps dogs, too, but the overall benefit given the dog and its owners is outweighed by the risk to the dogs.” Perhaps we calculate QALY differently for dogs than we do for humans, in which case the mercuric preservatives could be worthwhile in humans, but not worthwhile in dogs, despite identical risk and benefit probabilities in both species.

      • albatross11 says:

        One thing that’s striking about the vaccine safety stuff is that vaccine safety isn’t some kind of feature of the universe, like evolution or thermodynamics. There have been unsafe vaccines on the market which were taken off, contamination in vaccines, and health problems associated with vaccines, and there are some vaccines whose likely side effects are serious enough that they don’t give them to you unless there’s a very good reason for you to have them.

        To trust vaccine safety in the US (or EU, or wherever else), you need to trust that the drug manufacturers and regulators and medical community are paying attention and doing a good job of noticing risks[1], and that they’re trying to make a good risk/reward tradeoff for those vaccines. As best I can tell as an interested outsider, they actually are doing a pretty good job, and they really are trying pretty hard to do so. (I suspect the FDA is probably a little too conservative–suppressing some innovation in order to play it extra-safe with current patients in the US.)

        So the antivax movement seems more like the anti-nuclear-power movement than the anti-theory-of-evolution movement, to me. You could be convinced that safe vaccines were possible, but still think your country’s health regulators were inept or captured by drug manufacturers and come to believe that the current crop of vaccines were unsafe.

        Now, my not-very-informed impression of the antivax (and antinuke and anti-GMO) movements is that most of their members aren’t looking at actual risks and competence of regulators so much as engaging in a social movement. But that’s true for most movements. And presumably there are intelligent people thinking pretty clearly in those movements, who get drowned out by the social-movement types most of the time.

        [1] One indicator of this is that the FDA pulls vaccines off the market from time to time when they show some problems.

    • Viliam says:

      Typical “skeptical” debates about vaccination split people into two camps: “yay, (all) vaccines!” and “boo, (all) vaccines!”. Okay, maybe most people actually are like this, but there is more subtlety when you look at the details.

      For example, there are about dozen legally required vaccines. (Depends on country.) Out of all possible vaccines, someone made a selection. I believe it is possible to rationally argue that some specific vaccine should be added to the list, or removed from it. And that arguing for removal of one specific vaccine for specific reason does not put one person into the same category as those who oppose all vaccines on principle. Yet, the majority of “skeptics” would most likely miss that difference, because mocking people is much easier than listening to what they actually say.

      What specific arguments could there be against a vaccine? Each vaccine is a trade-off: some small possibility of a bad side effect (e.g. a rare allergy, or a chance that the supposedly weakened virus actually remained strong enough to cause the disease the vaccine was supposed to protect from), versus protection from some serious disease. To evaluate this, one must know both the probability and seriousness of the side effect, and also the probability of the disease. If the disease appears regularly in the wild, and the side effects are on a “one in million” scale, it makes sense to take the vaccine. However, there are also vaccines where the disease is quite rare, and the side effects are somewhere in the “one in thousand” range. There, it could make sense to stop requiring this specific vaccine, at least temporarily.

      To show that this is not a purely hypothetical concern, different countries actually have different lists of mandatory vaccines. The charitable explanation is that in different countries people are at risk of different diseases. (The uncharitable one is that medical establishments of different countries have each their own version of “science”. I think this is actually quite likely, but now I am role-playing a typical “skeptic” who is totally unskeptical about official medicine.) By the same logic, it can be possible that some specific vaccine was needed in the past, but is not needed now; or is needed in some parts of the country, but not in others. Thus, one can oppose a specific vaccine for scientifically valid reasons.

      • CatCube says:

        On confounder for this is that the reason that some diseases against which kids are vaccinated are rare is because vaccines.

        I think that this is one of the drivers of antivaccine feeling these days, because the medical and civil engineering professions have done such a good job of getting rid of lethal pandemics that it’s not seen as so unreasonable to fret about tiny chances of side effects from vaccines. If a significant fraction of the kids you know got whooping cough that laid them out for months and killed some, a push to take the vaccine seems reasonable and a refusal would make you seem like a monster. When this is no longer visible, maybe you’re not quite as much of a monster, especially since now the reason to keep doing it is the much more nebulous herd immunity (just as important, but harder for a fretting parent to see).

        • Controls Freak says:

          Right. I’ve always thought that this, combined with Viliam’s framing, “[S]ome small possibility of a bad side effect …, versus protection from some serious disease,” basically implied a distributed prisoners’ dilemma. Then I thought that if I ever dug into the research on one of these and came to the conclusion that it was net harmful to my hypothetical children, I’d want to be shouting to the rooftops about how everyone should get vaccinated… while quietly not vaccinating my own. That’s the proper way to defect!

          • The Nybbler says:

            Well, if you’re talking about whooping cough specifically, vaccinate. The pertussis vaccine probably isn’t effective enough to result in herd immunity.

          • albatross11 says:

            I recall an episode of TWIV a couple years ago that suggested (based on a paper they reviewed) that the older version of the pertussis vaccine (whole cell) was effective at bith preventing disease and transmission–if you got that vaccine, you wouldn’t generally get sick with whooping cough, and you also wouldn’t spread it. But the modern acellular vaccine (with fewer side effects/reactions) is apparently great at keeping you from getting sick with whooping cough, but not all that great at keeping you from being able to carry and spread it to other people. It seems like moving from the whole cell to the acellular vaccine actually trades off fewer side effects for less herd immunity.

          • albatross11 says:

            There’s an interesting point here somewhere: To what extent should a doctor make recommendations to you based on what’s best for *you* vs what’s best for *everyone*. In a society where everyone else gets the MMR, it’s probably better for you not to get it (no risk of measles, mumps, or rubella thanks to herd immunity, and no risk of rare reactions to the vaccine thanks to not getting it). But if everyone does that, herd immunity goes away and everyone goes back to having an incentive to get the vaccine so they don’t get the measles.

            There’s a similar tradeoff w.r.t. antibiotics, I think–doctors have become more reluctant to hand out antibiotics over time, which is good for the world, but maybe bad for you when you end up needing to come back to the doctor a week later because the damned sinus infection isn’t going away.

      • rlms says:

        “I believe it is possible to rationally argue that some specific vaccine should be added to the list, or removed from it.”

        True in principle, but AFAIK most anti-vaxers complain mainly about the MMR vaccine, where it is uncontroversial that the benefits outweigh the costs

        • Evan Þ says:

          What about all the opposition to the HPV vaccine? It’s so vaccine-specific that I’d hesitate to even lump them under the term “anti-vaxxer.”

    • zoozoc says:

      Just want to chime in as I know several people who lean towards anti-vax. There is a lot of skepticism about the vaccine schedule itself (when vaccines are given, how often, etc). It is probably the most common concern that I hear, that they are concerned that there are too many shots at too young of an age. It seems very common for parents to delay/spread-out vaccines more compared to the recommended vaccine schedule. This concern will only grow as more vaccines are added.

  11. anonymousskimmer says:

    People still salt the earth. In the Bay Area, even.

    http://homeguides.sfgate.com/kill-weeds-rock-salt-38330.html

  12. ohwhatisthis? says:

    Why is the word “significant” in statistics used in such a way?

    Shouldn’t there be a new one? I don’t know if something is significant colloquially or its significant statistically.

    • S_J says:

      Statistics is a branch of mathematics.

      The world of mathematics (like many academic domains) takes words from common use, and applies a special/limited meaning to those words.

      Other statistics terms (deviation, range, spread, variance) are also borrowed from common use, but it is typically easier to distinguish their statistics-domain meaning from their outside-of-statistics-domain meaning.

      A better term might be invented/applied, but I cannot think of one.

      Though I do have a habit of distinguishing Statistical Significance from other types of significance.

      • ohwhatisthis? says:

        Oh I know that. I was doing a bit of lamenting on the poor usage of the word whenever I read anything besides an actual paper in statistics.

    • alef says:

      Instead of “statistically significant”, say “statistically discernible”. The idea has been around a long time; don’t remember who to credit. But I’ve yet to see any argument as to why the latter phrase, while not perfect, isn’t just hugely better on every honest dimension than the former.

      Statistics, valuable as the field can be, just cannot do anywhere near as much as people would wish it to or think it can (it inherently cannot show us how to: reach very strong usable conclusions from simple statistical data alone, in a fully objective fashion, using simple, domain-independent, rote techniques). So it shouldn’t be a surprise that when a very technical definition becomes attached to an every-day sounding term that implicitly overpromises (significance, ‘hypothesis test’, ‘unbiasedness’, and so forth) that terminology has an institutional sticking power that something more neutral but accurate would not have.

  13. Well... says:

    I don’t like how much food my wife and kids throw out, especially food that was designated to be eaten as leftovers but then gets forgotten about in the back of the fridge. I realized it’s part of their mentality (I grew up on the poorer, hungrier side; they did not — but also I’ve just always thought of food as something that is terrible to waste) and my attempts to reform their behavior through verbal persuasion, clever placement of food items, etc. have hit diminishing returns.

    To remedy this situation I was thinking about getting one of them kitchen vacuum sealers. Anyone have any experience with one and would recommend (or recommend avoiding)?

    Also soliciting other ideas for getting wasteful people to waste less food.

    • Orpheus says:

      Maybe buy/make less food?

    • Anonymous says:

      Get some chickens. Chickens eat the leftovers, and produce free eggs.

      • Jaskologist says:

        Worms are easier, but more limited in what you can give them.

        • Winter Shaker says:

          Also less likely to give you free eggs, unless the plan is to feed the leftovers to the worms, and the worms to the chickens…?

          • rlms says:

            At least, you’re probably less likely to want to eat their eggs.

          • Deiseach says:

            KING CLAUDIUS
            Now, Hamlet, where’s Polonius?

            HAMLET
            At supper.

            KING CLAUDIUS
            At supper where?

            HAMLET
            Not where he eats, but where he is eaten. A
            certain convocation of politic worms are e’en at
            him. Your worm is your only emperor for diet. We
            fat all creatures else to fat us, and we fat ourselves
            for maggots. Your fat king and your lean beggar is
            but variable service — two dishes but to one table.
            That’s the end.

    • Deiseach says:

      Also soliciting other ideas for getting wasteful people to waste less food.

      I too am one of those raised that “it’s a sin to waste food” 🙂

      – Put the leftovers in front so they don’t get shoved to the back and forgotten.

      – Use them up fast – if you intend to make sandwiches/fry those leftover potatoes and vegetables in a hash/have a salad with the leftover chicken, then do it the next day at the latest.

      – Don’t buy more food until the leftovers are used. If you have a lot of a joint of meat left over, for instance, don’t buy more meat.

      – Threaten them with the displeasure of the goddess Matangi for wasting food 🙂

      • ohwhatisthis? says:

        That’s the best response. Go full doom and gloom. Add Disciplina in there too.

        But it’s no fun unless you put your act in it and decorate the house while everyone is sleeping.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      As someone whose dad grew up poor and hungry: changing your perception might be more valuable than changing their habits.

      You have succeeded as a father and as a husband. Your family has never known true hunger and you’ve done as much as you can to ensure that they never will. The fact that they throw away food so casually is a sign that you’ve surpassed your own upbringing.

      View it as a positive and it won’t bother you as much. Food isn’t particularly expensive or scarce so no matter what you do they’re never going to treat it as something precious.

      • Viliam says:

        In case the food includes meat, there may be an ethical objection even if the food is cheap.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          The only time I’ve run into that sort of ethical outlook is with hunters. And that generally only applies to the game they’ve caught personally, not to hamburger meat.

          Generally it seems like people either don’t care at all, and throwing away meat is no worse than throwing away lettuce, or they think any consumption of meat is immoral.

          • Deiseach says:

            throwing away meat is no worse than throwing away lettuce

            I’m literally cringing in my seat reading this; an upbringing where waste is bad because no, you’re not sure that there will be more of this tomorrow, and where meat was expensive (the irony that cod is now a scarce, expensive good and steak is cheap and plentiful, when the reverse was true when I was growing up, is not lost on me) does leave a mark even decades later where, as you say, “Food isn’t particularly expensive or scarce” now and is affordable and easy to get so throwing it out may be wasteful but nobody is going to go hungry.

            It’s hard to get past the “eat that, eat it all up, and if you don’t then it’s that or nothing” rearing.

      • JulieK says:

        It’s not just you personally – our society in general is so prosperous that commodities are not valued as they used to be. We no longer try to be frugal with *things*, at the cost of expending *human* time and effort. If our socks get holes, we throw them out rather than sewing them. (Disclosure: I used to darn my socks, back before I had children. I still mend more important garments, when I get around to it.) This column relates how the writer was replacing the heating system in his house and (recalling folk memories of metal being collected during WW2 and used to build battleships) called a scrap metal dealer to ask if he wanted 300 pounds of old iron. It’s only worth a penny a pound, the man told him.

        • CatCube says:

          I work on old civil works projects, mostly built before 1965. It’s amazing how much effort they put in to save a little material.

          I’ve talked about this here in other contexts, but one of my go-to examples was a lock gate we recently replaced. The gate carries the loads from the water through horizontal girders. The girders, being simply supported (roughly) require more bending capacity in the middle than on the ends. The original designers picked a steel wide-flanged section (think I-beam) that was sufficient for the ends, then welded cover plates on it to give the required strength in the middle. This required a lot of welding effort. We wouldn’t do that nowadays; we just figure out what’s required at the middle and generally just use it all the way along the span. All the extra welding is far more expensive due to the labor than you’d save in material.

          One other advantage is that it turns out that cover plates are extremely susceptible to fatigue (this was discovered well after the gate was in service), and were probably responsible for the gate needing to be replaced in the first place.

        • bean says:

          recalling folk memories of metal being collected during WW2 and used to build battleships

          First, to be pedantic, I doubt very much of that metal made it into battleships. All the ones completed were started before the war, and I suspect that most of the steel was already on order in 1941.
          Second, this was already a problem back then. A lot of British (and maybe American) parks lost their wrought-iron fences/railings, but it turned out that wrought iron was pretty much useless for the war effort.

          • rlms says:

            “A lot of British (and maybe American) parks lost their wrought-iron fences/railings”
            Quite a few never got them back; you can see the stumps on the walls of my local church.

    • littskad says:

      To help with this exact problem, I bought a magnetic whiteboard and put it on the refrigerator. I write any leftovers and the date they were made on it. It’s been pretty effective.

    • Lillian says:

      What i do to avoid food waste is to dissociate specific food items from particular meals. It’s a trap that many people fall into, in that they think of each meal as something new, and then struggle with how to incorporate the leftovers into the new meal. Don’t do that, don’t think of leftovers as something that is to be eaten later, but rather as something to be eaten the next time you’re hungry. For example, if i made too many devilled eggs for breakfast, then lunch is going to be devilled eggs. If the leftover eggs weren’t enough to sate me during lunch, then i’ll make something else, eat that until i’m no longer hungry, and save whatever’s left for dinner. To me, leftovers aren’t leftovers, they’re food i’m still working on and haven’t finished yet.

      Granted i don’t do this specifically to avoid food waste, i do it because i’m lazy. It’s much less effort to eat whatever it is i already made and didn’t finish than to make something new. It also strikes me as ironic that so many people seem to feel pressured to eat everything on the table in an effort to minimize food loss, when it would be much more efficient for them to stop and save it for later.

      • Viliam says:

        don’t think of leftovers as something that is to be eaten later, but rather as something to be eaten the next time you’re hungry.

        Exactly. If you ask yourself “am I going to eat the leftovers now?” and the answer is NO, why would the answer magically change to YES later? Also, later the leftovers will only be older, making you less likely to eat them. The most realistic options are “now” and “never”.

        Saying “later” is usually just avoiding the issue; procrastinating before you throw the food out when it is already too old. (Or hoping that someone else will eat it first.)

      • Aqua says:

        interesting, I do this too, also because I’m lazy. Food rarely goes bad (though ingredients might). I didn’t realize people left leftovers for an extended period to be honest

      • Well... says:

        This is exactly what I do personally but I can’t get them to do it.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Food Saver is great. We’ve used ours several times a week for the past…I don’t know, 10 years now? Just about anything you vacuum seal and freeze reheats like it were fresh. You will not regret buying one.

      ETA: Also, it’s not just about waste of food, but waste of cooking and shopping time.

      Also also, you can cook up large batches of things you plan to eat for ready-made lunches. Every 6-9 months I’ll spend a day slow cooking ribs in a crock pot (put it in the garage so the whole house doesn’t smell like bbq all night) and then portion and Food Save them. Now I get delicious BBQ ribs for any lunch I want. Just take them out of the freezer and thaw.

      • albatross11 says:

        I’ll just comment that having a couple teenaged boys in the house is the most effective way I’ve found to make sure the leftovers are eaten.

        Me: “Say, where’s the rest of that mac and cheese we made last night?”

        Kid: “Oh, I ate it for breakfast this morning.”

        I try to put dates on our leftovers, and sometimes stuff still gets shoved to the back of the fridge and eventually thrown out, but hungry teenagers are pretty effective at finding anything edible in the fridge and eating it before it goes bad….

      • I use a foodsaver as well. It’s a pretty good device, but their support is poor.

        I had a problem with the device failing to function at all for the first step (sealing one end of the bag). The web site could not find my model. The recorded phone support gave me instructions which had to be for a different model. I eventually got through to a human being, who was very patient and helpful but not very competent. For quite a while she was insisting that the information I gave her implied a different model. Eventually, after I mentioned that I had bought it a year ago, she found the right model and started working through the instructions–which were on the machine itself and I had already followed.

        At which point it turned out that the device had started to work again, so I thanked her and ended the call.

    • Aqua says:

      why is this so important to you? perhaps just let them do what they want if there is no financial concern now?

  14. Deiseach says:

    Reading the live blogged match report in The Guardian online of today’s victory against Swansea, and I particularly liked this snippet of commentary; succinct, informative and explanatory. Tells you who, what, why, when, where and how without unnecessary drama or opinionating:

    23 mins: Firmino intercepts the ball and passes to Can, who advances before shooting with insufficient power and accuracy from too great a distance.

  15. buntchaot says:

    How would one go about using cannabis “rationally”?

    I recently learned i enjoy it. I guess I would not enjoy psychosis and anxiety.

    My quick internet search has brought up not much substantial. Extrapolating from the fact there are people who use it and they seem to be doing okay, I suspect there would be a sweet spot of doing the thing that makes me feel good and doing it so much its not worth it. I have also seen claims to the opposite, but couldnt discern if thats different from the unsubstantiated “drugs are bad hmkay”. But also nothing really reassuring me that this is a good idea.

    So please share you wisdom with regards to the adverse effects of cannabis and specifically to how they relate to dosage & frequency a bit more specific than “a lot is probably bad”, or as that is maybe too much to ask, is there an equivalent to european drinking culture with regards to cannabis? Or give me the SSC version of the drug talk and whatever advise you can give.

    • toastengineer says:

      It’s your choice to make, but unless it’s a treatment for severe disease or for some other reason you really just don’t value your life without it, the evidence I’ve seen says the nice feeling is a very poor trade, even at “one every couple months” levels.

      See c0ncordance’s videos on the subject: (most of them ~10 minutes)
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lkNIRZXraY4
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yNxhuxV7FV4
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wk50Szx_des
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nEpfS780kQ8
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nnNPm5cG85c

      There’s also the “it makes it easy to waste massive amounts of time and never accomplish anything” factor. Seems like most people who regret cannabis use regret not actually doing fufulling things instead of just wireheading more than the health effects.

      Plus, yanno, it’s still smoke.

      I think one of the biggest issues with marijuana is the unpredictability of it; you can’t really make any blanket statement about what smoking it is going to do to you because growers are trying to breed stronger and stronger strains of the plant, and plants from different lines have wildly different doses of the psychoactive chemicals in them. Even people who use a lot recreationally have talked about having horrible experiences with marijuana they got while on vacation in another state.

      • Dog says:

        I do not currently use cannabis, but I have in the past, and I feel like your characterization of the experience as as simply wireheading is at least incomplete. Certainly it can be that for some people, but it is also somewhat psychedelic and has been used traditionally as an aid to introspection and meditation.

        For myself, it lead to a method of visualizing musical relationships as spacial forms that improved my ability to understand and enjoy certain types of music (particularly contrapuntal classical works). That increased enjoyment has persisted even though I no longer use it. It also, as best as I can describe it, temporarily reduced the distance between type 1 and 2 thinking, which was useful for realigning my value system and my actual day to day behavior.

        In cultures with long traditions of cannabis use, it is used in a structured and often ritual manner. I think that is more likely to lead to positive outcomes than using by yourself just for kicks.

      • ADifferentAnonymous says:

        > Plus, yanno, it’s still smoke.

        An argument for vaporizing?

    • Reasoner says:

      Cannabis has harmful effects on motivation and memory if overused. It also becomes less enjoyable if you use it a lot during a concentrated period (referred to as “developing a tolerance”). To deal with this, you can take periodic “tolerance breaks”. Personally, I’m a pretty ambitious person. I find cannabis useful for generating ideas and thinking of novel ways to look at problems, which can be good for productivity. But it can also lead to bouts of useless gaming/junk food/porn consumption. So I rarely use it. I don’t miss it when I’m not using it, because I know that the longer I wait in between uses, the greater the degree to which my tolerance will get reset and the more incredibly awesome and profound it will be the next time I use it. (“Absence makes the heart grow fonder.”)

      I think my general heuristic for recreational drugs is: only use them if you have a reason. For example, having a great time with friends on a Friday night is a reason. Feeling really depressed and being in need of a pick-me-up is a reason. (I think cannabis use at a time your tolerance is low can be antidepressive, but I suspect chronic cannabis use actually causes depression, so be careful with this one.) Needing to fall asleep is a reason. (Some strains of cannabis are among the most reliable insomnia cures I know of; leafly.com has information on which strains to use for which purposes.) Wanting to experiment with cannabis’ effect on your flute playing (or math problem solving or whatever) is a reason. Wanting to make the most of an awesome, rare restaurant meal or concert is a reason. Desiring to kick back on the sabbath is a reason. Wanting to spend time in the woods introspecting with a notebook (or editing your personal wiki in a library on your laptop with the internet off) is a pretty excellent reason; I recommend trying something like this at least once in your life. (If only to see what it’s like when your brain’s “perception of idea awesomeness” dial is turned to its maximum value…) Desiring to brainstorm ideas for some purpose is an excellent reason; again, I recommend trying this at least once before you die, probably in the company of other stoned people. Being on a date is also a pretty excellent reason. (If you do it with the person you’re on a date with. Doing it before the date as a form of prep is not recommended. Try ashwagandha or kratom if you need something for that purpose.)

      What I do not recommend is getting home from work/school and saying, “oh, I’m kinda bored… there’s my pipe. Time to get high and watch tv until 3 AM!” And I definitely do NOT recommend saying “I’ve smoked weed 3 times this week. Every time I smoke the high is less pleasant than the last time. But it’s really boring being sober. Maybe if I just take a ton more hits then I can replicate the sensation of the first time I got high this week…” This is the kind of behavior you can engage in when you’re an old person in a retirement home, you know the singularity is not happening in your lifetime, you are signed up for cryonics, and there’s no reason not to wirehead anymore. But until then, you’ll experience much greater satisfaction in life if you have some purpose that’s bigger, more important, more valuable, and more helpful to others than just getting stoned. Don’t waste your youth.

      Hope some of my rambling was useful.

      • Aqua says:

        really great reply and matches my thoughts. you should never really get into a situation where you crave it or do it out of boredom. even socially could get too much depending on the crowd. probably <1/week is a good rule

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      From where is your marijuana sourced? If you live in a state with legal weed and it’s grown on a legal farm, okay, but remember if you’re buying stuff smuggled in from Mexico then you’re giving money to people like the Zetas. They behead people and stuff. Those are the victims of the “victimless crime.”

      • Alternatively, those are the victims of war on drugs. When they abolished alcohol prohibition the distributors stopped shooting each other.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          I completely agree with you, David, but until the drug war ends, some of the dollars you give to your friendly neighborhood weed dealer who wouldn’t hurt a fly are ending up in the pockets of some of the most murderous people on the planet.

          You’ll notice I specifically said this is not a problem if you’re in a state with legal weed. That is, a state that has opted out of the drug war.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          But blood diamonds still exist.

          States which legalize a drug need low prices and strong import controls to prevent murder within the supply chain.

          Import controls need tax dollars to enforce. Taxes are also used to pay for the externalities of drug use. Taxes increase the cost of (legal) drug prices which encourage gray-market purchases, which allows murder in the supply chain.

          There isn’t a neighborhood diamond-dealer, as people are disproportionately interested in the more easily regulatable final product. There is, however, still a complete supply chain for blood drugs.

  16. mankoff says:

    tl;dr Didn’t know I was autistic, but scored a 34 on AQ

    I just took the AQ for the first time, scoring a 34. This is what a peer-reviewed source has to say about the scoring:

    Group 1: 58 adults with Asperger syndrome (AS) or high-functioning autism (HFA); Group 2: 174 randomly selected controls…. The adults with AS/HFA had a mean AQ score of 35.8 (SD = 6.5), significantly higher than Group 2 controls (M = 16.4, SD = 6.3). 80% of the adults with AS/HFA scored 32+, versus 2% of controls (Source).

    The bolded part implies with high statistical certainty that I have AS/HFA. In hindsight, there have been myriad clues hinting at this conclusion, so I can corroborate the test results with hindsight. Can anybody point me to resources that can help me understand/contextualize this phenomenon? [For perspective: I am 21, Male, Cis, Hetero, Atheistic but Spiritual, Far-left-politically/economically, and my big 5 test indicates very high scores in conscientiousness and intellect/imagination, and also quite neurotic]

    EDIT: I am aware that the AQ is not meant to be used for diagnostic purposes.

    • baconbits9 says:

      80% of the adults with AS/HFA scored 32+, versus 2% of controls (Source).

      Don’t forget that a whole bunch of people took this test for this site, you would expect a couple of the “controls” to score highly.

      • mankoff says:

        1) The controls are not people who are not on the spectrum, they are just people who have not been diagnosed as on the spectrum.
        2) Those who are on the spectrum are such regardless of if they have been diagnosed: the state of reality exists in the absence of validation.
        3) Wouldn’t it thus be safe to say that an individual who scores 32+ and has technically never been diagnosed as on the spectrum is more likely to be on the spectrum than not?
        4) Even if I am not on the spectrum, doesn’t my score of 34 indicate that my attitudes and behaviors resemble those of somebody on the spectrum regardless? Begging the question:
        5) is the only distinction between a 32+ in the control vs AS/HFA group a diagnosis, or is there some other relevant difference? I have read that you can’t get diagnosed with AS/HFA unless your symptoms cause you distress. If this is true, why is it a relevant criteria for diagnosis?

        • Nornagest says:

          Even if I am not on the spectrum, doesn’t my score of 34 indicate that my attitudes and behaviors resemble those of somebody on the spectrum regardless?

          No, it means your scores on the test resemble those of most people on the spectrum.

          But that’s too glib, and too narrow. The real problem here is that you trust the test too much and attach too much importance to it. All the test is really doing is asking “do you feel like you match X, Y, and Z from the autism criteria?”: it wouldn’t be too far wrong to describe it as a measure of self-reported autism. Thing is, self-reporting is an imperfect measure of actual attitudes and behaviors, sometimes a very imperfect one. There are all sorts of ways people could be calibrated poorly on those kinds of questions, which is why a professional’s supposed to be in the room to diagnose somebody.

        • quanta413 says:

          On (1) and (2), the controls who scored highly on AQ should not be assumed to be undiagnosed individuals on the spectrum if we are using them to validate the test. This would be circular logic where we assume that the test works in order to prove it works. Any test has false positives and negatives, the controls should be considered to give an indication of the false positive rate.

          I’m now going to answer your question 3.

          3) Wouldn’t it thus be safe to say that an individual who scores 32+ and has technically never been diagnosed as on the spectrum is more likely to be on the spectrum than not?

          No, the test and autism are not directly causally related. Ignoring bigger issues for a moment, it depends upon the base rate of autism whether or not someone who scores high is likely to be autistic.

          Let’s assume the test works really well for the moment. Let’s also assume that the measured rate of autism here is correct. If 2% of controls (and here I am assuming the controls are not autistic because otherwise the control group is a terrible mistake) score 32+ then that means .985 (the fraction of population that isn’t autistic) times .02 (fraction of controls who score as autistic) is the fraction of people who are non autistic and score 32+ (.0197). Using the other numbers for autists we find .8 * .015 = .012 is the fraction of people who are autistic and who score 32+. This means that of the people who score 32+, more of them are not autistic than are autistic (because .0197 > .012).

          So assuming the original study is extremely valid and using it as a diagnosis tool (which we shouldn’t), a score of 32+ would still only mean that you’re 37% likely to be autistic and 63% likely to not be autistic.

          4) Even if I am not on the spectrum, doesn’t my score of 34 indicate that my attitudes and behaviors resemble those of somebody on the spectrum regardless? Begging the question:

          It indicates that your attitudes and behaviors with respect to these questions at least resemble someone on the spectrum. This isn’t rarer than autism itself given that controls (i.e. probably not autistic) who score high on the test are slightly more common than individuals with autism. IIRC, I scored a 36 on AQ last time I took it. I think I’m probably not autistic (see calculation for question 3 above; also, life evidence) No one I know has described me as autistic, but I fit some of the stereotypes of a high functioning autistic person.

          5) is the only distinction between a 32+ in the control vs AS/HFA group a diagnosis, or is there some other relevant difference? I have read that you can’t get diagnosed with AS/HFA unless your symptoms cause you distress. If this is true, why is it a relevant criteria for diagnosis?

          I’m not going to read the paper right now because it’s late. But I read the DSM-5 criteria for diagnosis, and I would be very surprised if the 32+’s in the control group turned out to be autistic. It seems clear to me that you could score highly on the AQ and not fulfill the diagnostic criteria. The DSM-5 criteria does not mention distress being required for diagnosis. To use myself as an example again- when I read the criteria for diagnosis, my layman’s reading is that I fulfill only a few of them and at only low severity at worst. But I scored 36 on the AQ test.

          EDIT: Fixed incorrect wording.

          • Creutzer says:

            Using the other numbers for autists we find .8 * .015 = .012 is the fraction of autistic people who score 32+.

            You mean “the fraction of people who are autistic and score 32+”. (I know you know what you mean, I just stumbled for a moment when reading, that’s why I’m pointing it out.)

          • quanta413 says:

            @Creutzer

            Yes, thank you. That’s what I meant. I think I fixed the words to say the things I mean now. A little tired though, so I’ll see if that’s actually true when i wake up.

          • Creutzer says:

            Seems true to me.

            Also, even if I’m not that someone, I’d like to say I think it’s very good of you to explain to someone in detail what’s going on, instead of just saying “that’s the base rate fallacy” and leaving them to figure it out.

          • albatross11 says:

            +1

  17. johan_larson says:

    This is a thread to discuss the film The Last Jedi, spoilers included. We can do this in some privacy, because 91.5 is no longer the active open thread.

    Some thoughts:
    – Mark Hamill did a great job. Pitch-perfect frustration and rejection of the world, only slowly won over by Rey.
    – Snoke was a disappointment, a one-note caricature of eeevil. Ugly too.
    – It’s a bit late in the sequence for an inspire-the-populace effort. If if the remaining Resistance is supposed to win against the First Order, they have only one film in which to do it. It would have been better to let them spend one film building support, and the final one striking down the First Order.
    – I could have done without Force-ghost Yoda.
    – Yay for vice-admiral Holdo. Nice maneuver.
    – Anyone else catch the steam-iron-as-space-ship bit?
    – A fitting end for Luke, and a hell off trick to pull on Kylo Ren.
    – Now they’ll have to find a way to kill off Leia in the next one. Or bring her back as a 3D puppet, I suppose.
    – I still say Rey hasn’t paid her dues. She shouldn’t be as powerful as she is with as little training as she has had.
    – Why design a ship that can almost fly, but which needs just a little bit of support from a piddly ski dragging on the ground? Idiots. OK fine, it looked cool. But still, idiots.

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      Snoke was a disappointment, a one-note caricature of eeevil. Ugly too.

      You’d think if the darkside had any power it would let them be beautiful as Lucifer, unfortunately Lucas threw this possibility in the trash. I disliked that Snoke looked so much like Voldemort.

      It would have been better to let them spend one film building support, and the final one striking down the First Order.

      I was surprised with how much was packed into the one movie. I expected credits to roll two or three times before they finally did. We can likely expect the same in the next movie.

      Anyone else catch the steam-iron-as-space-ship bit?

      Nope.

      She shouldn’t be as powerful as she is with as little training as she has had.

      There aren’t that many highly-trained light-side force users anymore. Luke still had a living Yoda and Obi-wan to distribute the power among (this is the reason Obi-wan sacrificed himself). Rey only has Luke, and he took action to hide himself from the Force.

      Why design a ship that can almost fly, but which needs just a little bit of support from a piddly ski dragging on the ground?

      Because then you can build 10 instead of 5 by using half the engines per machine, or they eliminated the need to use stabilizers.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      My thoughts are a big fat “meh.” Abrams made a terrible movie and then handed it off to Johnson, so it was predestined to be A No Hope.
      I strongly agree that Rey is way too powerful. In TFA, she was pulling Obi-Wan’s Jedi mind tricks before ever meeting a Jedi. Compared to Luke’s OT powers and when he got them, that’s pure Mary Sue.
      I strongly agree about Snoke. Gollum-Voldemort as the embodiment of evil in a space opera feels like parody. He reminds me of reading the TVTropes article “Dark Lord” and being informed that some book had an entire race called the Dark Lords. Must have immigrated to the Star Wars galaxy from there!
      Leia using the Force to telekinetically fly to safety is structurally dumb for the sake of a cool set-piece. Luke couldn’t fly after being trained by two Jedi masters, and Leia’s actress is dead so they should have updated to let the character die instead of turning Carrie Fisher into a CGI zombie like poor Peter Cushing.
      It’s stupid that the First Order is now the main power in the galaxy, warping it’s economy to the point where “the only way in the galaxy to make that much money is selling weapons to the First Order” immediately after Starkiller Base destroyed a few New Republic planets in one star system.
      Stop building Death Stars, you idiots! The enemy destroys them with cheap fighters every time!

      EDIT: it suddenly occurs to me that Rey and Snoke are both grating for the same reason. They come from nowhere to become galactic-scale players for no reason explained to the audience.

      • johan_larson says:

        Leia using the Force to telekinetically fly to safety is structurally dumb for the sake of a cool set-piece. Luke couldn’t fly after being trained by two Jedi masters, and Leia’s actress is dead so they should have updated to let the character die instead of turning Carrie Fisher into a CGI zombie like poor Peter Cushing.

        Yes, that would have been a good change. Let her die in the explosion, and let her funeral be the second-last scene of the film.

      • pansnarrans says:

        Leia using the Force to telekinetically fly to safety is structurally dumb for the sake of a cool set-piece. Luke couldn’t fly after being trained by two Jedi masters, and Leia’s actress is dead so they should have updated to let the character die instead of turning Carrie Fisher into a CGI zombie like poor Peter Cushing.

        I agree with the bulk of this (and with the rest of your comment), but if you can pull smaller objects towards you in atmosphere you can presumably pull yourself towards larger objects in a gravity-free vacuum, and that’s going to look like flying.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Gotta disagree with doing without force-ghost Yoda; him blasting the tree while Skywalker was wavering was a great scene.

      No origin story for Snoke. He makes no sense. Nor does Rey, though she may have been lying or mistaken when she claimed her parents were nobodies. She only makes any sense at all as Luke Skywalker’s daughter, or perhaps Vader’s or Palpatine’s, if either had a few backup plans we didn’t know about. Or someone pulled the same hide-the-twin game on Han and Leia that Leia’s father played on Vader. And yeah, she’s WAY too powerful for an untrained Jedi regardless of parentage.

      I like the musical reference to Darth Vader’s theme when Luke Skywalker walked out to battle Kylo Ren.

      Anyone else catch the steam-iron-as-space-ship bit?

      I saw what looked like some sort of weird automatic iron at one point, I think in the Imperial flagship. I assume that’s not what you mean?

      Finn’s piddly little ship should have been wrecked in the outer part of that super-beam; no need for Rose to save him. But I guess they had to set up the romantic triangle for IX.

      The rebellion deserves to lose; they’re Galactically stupid. Luke gets Vader to kill Palpatine and himself, the new Death Star is destroyed, the Rebellion is poised to take over…. and the whole thing falls apart thanks to one ugly overpowered Sith? Then they’re beaten down to one fleet, which they lose, and it turns out they haven’t managed to cultivate one ally anywhere else in the galaxy? Forget it, I’m making my tax check out to the First Order. Not that they’re all that much brighter, blasting away at transports while completely ignoring the fully-armed hyperspace-equipped cruiser turning towards them until it’s far too late.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        My head canon is that, after RotJ, the heroes of the OT founded the New Republic in that one star system with multiple habitable planets we saw Starkiller Base blow up and created an elaborate republican Constitution. Han was declared Senator for Corellia, Luke Senator for Tatooine, etc. and the Senate elected Leia Prime Minister.
        … and that one star system is all the territory the New Republic ever controlled. Coruscant, the Wookiee planet, the Ackbar planet, and all the rest became sovereign states and didnt even pay lip service to the New Republic. To them it was just another star-state with an unusually pompous government. Tarkin was right.
        This explains why Han and Leia moved on from their galactic republic fantasy to moving cargo around and becoming a guerilla General.

        • johan_larson says:

          I think the discontinuity between RotJ and TFA is so stark that it’s best to treat the new trilogy as a new work rather than a faithful continuation of the saga. It shares some characters, an aesthetic, and some themes. But the locations are different and the major players are different. Trying to fan-wank continuity into place sounds like an exercise in frustration.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          The new trilogy reminds me a bit of the old TV show Heroes. There, the writers seemed to have some sort of aversion to actually moving the plot forward, so whenever anything important happened, you knew it would be undone a few episodes later. (Several times, for example, characters were killed and brought back to life, or it turned out that they were only pretending to be dead, or whatever.) The net result was that it very rapidly became impossible to care about anything, because nothing happened and no actions ended up having meaningful consequences. Similarly, the new trilogy’s determination to stick to the “Rag-tag band of rebels vs. omnipotent space empire” setting ends up completely ruining the Star Wars series. Why should we care about all the battles and sacrifices and hardships of the original trilogy, if in the end nothing changes? Why should we care about Han’s romance with Leia and his character development from a self-interested smuggler to a responsible military leader, if he just ends up backsliding into being a self-interested smuggler again? Not to mention the fact that, as The Nybbler says, undoing the Rebels’ successes requires making them look like a bunch of complete morons. I think that if I were part of the Republic/Resistance, I’d defect over to the First Order out of sheer disgust at my side’s incompetence.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        Gotta disagree with doing without force-ghost Yoda; him blasting the tree while Skywalker was wavering was a great scene.

        This was another scene that looks cool but ruins the setting once you think about it for a bit. If force ghosts can call down huge bolts of lightning on things, why haven’t they done so before? For example, when the Death Star looks set to destroy the Rebel base in Episode IV, why didn’t Obi-Wan materialise in the Death Star reactor and destroy it, rather than just hanging around Luke’s cockpit giving advice?

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          Obi-Wan was only the first or second force ghost ever (or at least of the modern era).

          I’m sure the small group of force ghosts have learned over the years.

        • temujin9 says:

          I suspect that could be adequately explained by locality: it was at a Jedi temple, during an existing thunderstorm.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Nor does Rey, though she may have been lying or mistaken when she claimed her parents were nobodies. She only makes any sense at all as Luke Skywalker’s daughter, or perhaps Vader’s or Palpatine’s, if either had a few backup plans we didn’t know about. Or someone pulled the same hide-the-twin game on Han and Leia that Leia’s father played on Vader. And yeah, she’s WAY too powerful for an untrained Jedi regardless of parentage.

        I agree about the untrained part, but I don’t know why parentage should matter in terms of force ability. The Jedi were celibate. Apparently so were the Sith. Even in non-canon media I’ve never seen the Sith interested in sex and reproduction, which seems odd for people who believe their power derives from strong emotions and passion. You’d think the Sith would be keeping harems. The only “force family” we ever see is the Skywalkers. They’re the exception, not the rule. Unless they have a no sex rule that everyone is constantly breaking, then Obi-Wan’s parents weren’t Jedi, Yoda’s parents weren’t Jedi, Palpatine’s parents weren’t Jedi, etc.

        I think assuming force power is dependent on bloodline is generalizing from one example. Or just looking at the OT and applying it to everything. Like how Ben Kenobi wore desert hermit robes because he was a desert hermit, and then when Lucas made the prequels and said “what do the Jedi wear, even in the techno-city-planet-marvel of Coruscant at the height of their power and the answer is “desert hermit robes” because that’s what Obi-Wan wore in the OT. Or in A New Hope, Obi-Wan improvises a training session for Luke with the blast shield helmet and zapper orb. I assumed those (the helmet at least) were starship gear Obi-Wan repurposed. But in Attack of the Clones when they’re showing the younglings training, they’re using blast shield helmets and zapper orbs. So apparently Han Solo, who doesn’t believe the force even exists kept Jedi training gear lying around in his ship. Or, Lucas just took whatever was in the OT and assumed that was all standard for everyone.

        • John Schilling says:

          I agree about the untrained part, but I don’t know why parentage should matter in terms of force ability.

          We could fanwank this by saying the Jedi and Sith both have a strict no-sex policy because otherwise their offspring will tend to be so force-adept that they will be nigh-uncontrollable as children, untrainable, and liable to overthrow the Jedi order and/or depose their Sith Mentor by the time they are thirty. If Anakin is secretly a prior Sith’s bastard and Rey is secretly Kylo’s twin, it works. Except for the improbable genetics and physiology, but mumble something midichlorians.

          Or, Lucas just took whatever was in the OT and assumed that was all standard for everyone.

          Yeah, that’s simpler.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Conrad: Oh, man, now I can never unsee the laziness of the Jedi visuals in the prequels.

            @John: We could fanwank this by saying the Jedi and Sith both have a strict no-sex policy because otherwise their offspring will tend to be so force-adept that they will be nigh-uncontrollable as children, untrainable, and liable to overthrow the Jedi order and/or depose their Sith Mentor by the time they are thirty. If Anakin is secretly a prior Sith’s bastard and Rey is secretly Kylo’s twin, it works.

            Anakin is supposed to be the son of Palpatine’s master, though implied not by sexual intercourse.
            But if power is hereditary, celibate Sith make absolutely no sense.

          • John Schilling says:

            Power can’t be entirely hereditary, because there was a steady supply of celibate Jedi in the Old Republic. So there’s at least some natural background rate of force-adept production. Whether the Jedi want to recruit from the natural background or breed amongst themselves, whether the Sith want to do one of those or recruit disaffected Jedi, depends on the details of how that heredity works. Regression to the mean suggests trying to exploit inbreeding as much as you safely can, but if there’s some wierdo brand of quasi-genetics that makes children more powerful than their parents, well, Sith Lords whose offspring or apprentices are more powerful than they are don’t seem to come to a good end.

          • Mark Atwood says:

            My headcanon is that there were tens to hundreds of trillions of people in the Republic, and only a few thousand Jedi, and maybe a few tens of thousands of minor “sensitives”, which gives a sense of how rare it is.

            We the story readers think the Jedi are common, because, well, the story is about them.

            The Skywalkers are weird and unusual, even beyond being literally one in a billion, because, well, really the story is really about them.

            I kinda prefer the original setting of the original movie as it was originally written and then novelized, where Jedi were all but forgotten, Vader slew Kenobi’s friend and Luke’s father Aniken, the Emperor was a weakwilled old fool propped up by the Merchant Guild, and they were all in the wrong place at the wrong time and so became Heros.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Anakin is supposed to be the son of Palpatine’s master, though implied not by sexual intercourse.

            That seems like a fan speculation to me. As far as the movies go, he was a virgin birth from “the Force” not from any particular force user.

            And if it were the doing of Darth Plaugeis…why the hell did he impregnate a slave girl and leave his progeny in a wretched hive of scum and villainy? To be maybe found by some jedi by chance years later? And then maybe turned to the dark side? Why not just impregnate his own slave, kept in his own lair, and raise the kid to fulfill whatever evil plans he had?

            I mean, none of Palpatine’s plans to become emperor (or chancellor for that matter) make any sense, and work for no reason other than chance and because “it’s in the script,” but this is too much.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Conrad: because Lucas was hell-bent on having Anakin be a precocious child on the same planet as Luke, for reasons that escape the rational mind.
            I thought that since Palpatine was a Nabob of Naboo, nudging the nouveau riche who had the resources to do something about representative government in the setting being a sclerotic joke blockade his own planet to provoke a crisis in the Senate was clever enough. But a plan turning on a couple of random Jedi bumbling into the child his master made on one out of 100 billion planets, who’s both a slave and races ultralight jets for sport is a bad joke.
            “Your father was a great pilot when I met him” indeed.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            The problem with Palpatine’s “plan” is it only works by chance. His ultimate goal is the vote of no-confidence in Chancellor Valorum so that he may become chancellor. His plan to do this is to gain sympathy for Naboo by having his bug-faced buddies blockade and invade while showing that the Chancellor is unable to do anything about it neither diplomatically nor militarily (because the Republic has no army).

            When the Jedi show up to “settle the dispute” at Naboo (because I guess Jedi are experts at trade and tax negotiations?), Palpatine tells his bug friends to kill them.

            Why. How would the death of the Jedi have accomplished his goal of showing Valorum’s ineptness? Shouldn’t he have said “tell the Jedi there will be no negotiations and send them back to Coruscant?” Then the Jedi could come back and say “yeah, nothing we can do, diplomacy failed” without having been murdered, thereby possibly giving the Republic casus belli against the Trade Federation. Valorum might have even said “fuck these people murdering Jedi, let’s make a Grand Army of the Republic!” and gained popular support.

            Also, Palpatine tells the bugfaces “I want that treaty signed!” Why does he want the treaty signed. If Padme and said “oh shit, we can’t fight these guys, better sign the treaty and pay the space taxes or whatever” wouldn’t that have ended the crisis right there? There would no longer be an issue before the Senate the chancellor might be unable to resolve. It would just be done. The Trade Federation and Naboo had a disagreement, they signed a treaty, issue settled.

            Palpatine’s plans don’t make any sense. This is because Lucas basically wrote the prequels backwards. He knows how they end up (Palpatine is Emperor, Vader is in the suit) so he just has a bunch of stuff happen, with the result being “oh look, Palpatine is the Emperor now and Vader’s in the suit” but not because of Palpatine’s plans working, or making any sense. If his “plans” had gone according to plan…he never would have been chancellor in the first place.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Conrad: oh yeah, that’s right. Any violence against the two Jedi and saying ” I want that treaty signed!” should either one have ruined his plan.
            Bleh, stupid Phantom Menace.

    • Jiro says:

      1) Social justice casting; the Empire is all white male while the Rebellion has few white males (especially if you exclude Luke, an existing character who couldn’t be changed).

      2) It seemed to me like the whole Rey’s parents plot was shoehorned in because fans were saying that Rey couldn’t have all her Mary Sue powers unless she was related to someone and the writer wanted to shoot that idea down. We never saw Rey act as if her parents were important before this subplot.

      3) What is Kylo Ren’s boss doing confessing in front of Kylo that he was just manipulating him? That’s got to get you a spot on the evil overlord list.

      4) If Jedi history books are worthless, why did anyone bother keeping them in the first place? Also, wouldn’t it be better to not put all your eggs in one basket and have *only* Rey be the way Jedi knowledge is passed on? People invented books for a reason, and seriously, you’re trying to tell the audience that it’s good to burn books? (But then I was upset at the end of the Martian Chronicles where they decided to burn the Earth maps and papers.)

      Also, it was mentioned by other people in the other thread, but
      5) Why is it that the size of the Rebellion is whatever is needed for the plot, so we’re down to a couple hundred people at most yet again?

      Plus all the problems inherited from the previous movie, particular Rey’s Mary Sue-ness (when did she ever get lightsaber training?)

      This movie also made me feel worse about having the character of Kylo Ren. I interpreted the previous movie to be intentionally depicting him as an inept, uncharismatic wannabe. This movie tried to make him to be a major threat while leaving him uncharismatic.

      • The Nybbler says:

        1) Social justice casting; the Empire is all white male while the Rebellion has few white males

        Casting and writing. The smugly superior (and female) Admiral Holdo withholds information from her subordinate just to flaunt her power — which results in him successfully mutinying. Then she and Leia laugh about it, as 90% of the remains of her rebellion are being killed as a result of the mutiny (not to mention the opposite problem of really bad control of information by the mutineers. You don’t let your people on the enemy ship know exactly what the backup plan is if they don’t need to know. Especially if one of them is a mercenary). And this is treated as a good thing, because look, the wise and experienced woman put one over on the hotheaded testosterone-driven man. But HE suffers no consequences for this.

        What is Kylo Ren’s boss doing confessing in front of Kylo that he was just manipulating him? That’s got to get you a spot on the evil overlord list.

        He’s echoing Palpatine’s speech in RotJ. But as Ren is no Vader, Snoke is no Palpatine (and J.J. Abrams no young Lucas). Palpatine’s speech had a purpose; he was trying to destroy Luke’s hope and bring him to the Dark Side. Snook is just indulging in a villain speech, and gets his just reward.

        If Jedi history books are worthless, why did anyone bother keeping them in the first place?

        They’re on an island in the most unfindable place in the galaxy. They clearly weren’t all that worthwhile even when the Jedi were a living order. I’d guess they were basically historical relics rather than useful knowledge.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          Casting and writing. The smugly superior (and female) Admiral Holdo withholds information from her subordinate just to flaunt her power — which results in him successfully mutinying. Then she and Leia laugh about it, as 90% of the remains of her rebellion are being killed as a result of the mutiny

          The opportunity to show a bit of girl-power far outweighs such puny considerations as the majority of their remaining troops getting killed within a few hours.

      • Vermillion says:

        4) If Jedi history books are worthless, why did anyone bother keeping them in the first place? Also, wouldn’t it be better to not put all your eggs in one basket and have *only* Rey be the way Jedi knowledge is passed on? People invented books for a reason, and seriously, you’re trying to tell the audience that it’s good to burn books? (But then I was upset at the end of the Martian Chronicles where they decided to burn the Earth maps and papers.)

        It was only on screen for like 12 frames but I saw this mentioned in another discussion of the film so I’m pretty sure it’s right; Rey stuffed all the books from the tree into a drawer of the Millenium Falcon*. Remember Yoda’s line about how the books have wisdom but they don’t contain any that she does not already possess… Tricky, that one is.

        My biggest problem with the film was the 30 minutes almost** entirely wasted on planet Casablanca. Everything about that was dumb and boring and interrupted the flow of the plot which was none too smooth to begin with.

        Kylo Ren was great, and the way they built his and Rey’s relationship just by cutting back and forth was fantastic. His betrayal of Snoke was silly and obvious but the fight in the throne room looked amazing, if a little long, and his rebetrayal of Rey right after was well done.

        The cruiser cutting the fleet in half also looked amazing but then WHY THE HELL DID THEY EVER NEED TO BUILD A DEATH STAR IN THE FIRST PLACE IF EVERY SHIP WITH A HYPERDRIVE IS A POTENTIAL UNBLOCKABLE KAMIKAZE SUPERWEAPON. Clearly that really annoyed me for some reason and I look forward to an appropriately nerdy counter-explanation***.

        Overall I mostly liked it, I thought the characters and their chemistry with eachother was great and the plot mostly nonsense, pretty much middle of the pack for a Star Wars movie.

        *One of my favorite fan theories about the Star Wars universe is that everyone is functionally illiterate, which is why they need droids to run everything, and why Han’s comment about the Force etc being a legend in TFA makes sense, no one has any sense of history because they don’t/can’t keep records.

        **This segment was almost made worthwhile though by the very last scene of the movie which kind of put everything in context for me and also made for a pretty decent explanation for every single dumb thing in the series, e.g. that everything that’s happened was just a story (A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away…) and moreover a children’s story, told by and to children. I thought it was kind of sweet actually.

        ***Maybe the AIs that actually run everything would never normally allow their ships to be used in such a fashion, and the Admiral’s one of the very few who bothered to RTFM to override their control?

        • The Nybbler says:

          WHY THE HELL DID THEY EVER NEED TO BUILD A DEATH STAR IN THE FIRST PLACE IF EVERY SHIP WITH A HYPERDRIVE IS A POTENTIAL UNBLOCKABLE KAMIKAZE SUPERWEAPON.

          The Death Star destroyed entire planets (well, one planet). The cruiser merely damaged (not destroyed) a bunch of ships. Completely different order of magnitude, and probably if the First Order hadn’t been tactical morons who weren’t paying attention until too late, they could have stopped it. I expect initiating hyperdrive headed towards a nearby planet just gets you a big (on the order of megatons) explosion in the atmosphere, or on the surface if there’s no atmosphere.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Sure, but the Empire still should have had lots of hyperdrive missiles for blowing up enemy capital ships. Hyperdrive weapons are kind of universe-breaking.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Liked it, for the most part. I agree Rey hasn’t paid her dues, but she has been significantly nerfed in this film. She spends a long time trying to convince Luke to change his mind, she doesn’t turn Kylo, she gets manhandled by Snoke, she is clearly weaker than Kylo and nearly is bested by an Elite Mook.

      It’s clarified that the only reason she beat Kylo in the first movie was because Kylo was actually quite conflicted about killing Han Solo.

      That’s my favorite part of this movie. I hated Rey in the TFA. This movie takes her down a peg. She still is pretty lame as a character, IMO, but at least she isn’t totally OP.

      I liked Luke’s arc in general, but felt they killed him off too soon. I also am a bit peeved we didn’t see some actual Luke Skywalker Jedi action. I was expecting him to single-handedly rip up AT-ATs. Would’ve been nice as a mid-movie scene in Ep 9 to have Kylo and Luke face off again, and have Kylo axe Luke there, only to show how incredibly powerful Kylo has become.

      I am definitely digging Kylo as a villain. I was good with him in TFA, after getting past his emo-ness (which actually made sense given he was just a young kid playing at Cosplay Sith). Now he’s legitimately evil.

      Honestly, I think this series needs at least 2 more films though. I feel like we need a movie where Kylo is gloriously evil and doing evil galactic empire things, the rebellion gets pieced back together, etc. And THEN we can have a movie showing how Rey and the Resistance takes him down.

      The whole Poe story, IMO, was awesome. All those “what a twists!” felt great to me: they were believable changes in the battle situation, as a result of mistakes made by the Good Guys. They did not feel at all like out of place twists for the sake of having twists.

      Anyone else felt that there was WAYYYYY too much Leia in this one? I think this movie would’ve been better served with her dying on the bridge.

      • anonymousskimmer says:

        I think this movie would’ve been better served with her dying on the bridge.

        No, it was nice to see her use the force. She should have taken Holdo’s place, though.

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          I could not possibly believe Poe leading a mutiny against Leia, nor could I root for Poe leading a mutiny against Leia. Leia had to be side-lined for that plot to work.

          I personally thought Leia force-pulling herself back to the ship was a pointless ass pull. It’s a pretty high level of Force Mastery for someone who has had no Force Training, and if she actually did have Force Training, then that’s a missed backstory even more ridiculous than Snoke appearing out of nowhere. Leia surviving also serves no purpose in this story, except maybe highlighting how far Kylo has gone when Leia accepts how evil he is down in the Bunker. The whole story would’ve worked out just fine had Leia died on that bridge.

          Apparently she was planned to have a larger role in Ep 9, but IMO removing her as a leader gives Poe and Rey more of a chance to grow in Ep 9.

          • Jiro says:

            It’s a pretty high level of Force Mastery for someone who has had no Force Training

            Maybe she took lessons from Rey.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            General Leia had 32 years to be a galactic Sun Yat Sen wannabe, get Force training from her brother, and raise funds for a private army. The telekinetic flight was badass; the problem with it is that there’s no reference whatsoever to her ever training.
            I really thought when I left the cinema for TFA that Rey was Luke’s daughter and they had decided to do Social Justice genetics: she can do before even seeing a Jedi anything Anakin could do after many years of rigorous Jedi training at the height of the institution’s power because she’s his grandDAUGHTER. Girl power!
            But no, she’s not a Skywalker woman, the Force is just that strong in a nobody sold by her parents for beer money. So we can’t carry that explanation over to Leia.
            No explanation for Rey’ s existence. No explanation for Snoke’ s existence. No backstory for Leia’s powers. Bleh. Five minutes of Googling shows that the fanboys had a perfectly coherent theory that Snoke was the non-Sith name of Darth Plagueis, who had cheated death and was trying to manipulate the two grandchildren of his creation Anakin. Of course Johnson had to throw a curveball past that tidy prediction by explaining nothing. What a subversion! And as all right-thinking people know, True Art Is Subversive.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            I meant Holdo’s place in the cruiser during the evacuation in which Holdo committed suicide.

          • temujin9 says:

            My theory is that the force pull, Rey’s unearned power, and Han’s dice are all hints that Rey and Kylo are actually twins.

            Evidence:
            – Leia was called out as a possible force user in the original series.
            – Lei’s emotional link to Luke is similar to Rey and Kylo’s (though less OP).
            – Neither Lei nor Rey have training, but are shown to have powers, and both have a Force connection to an existing Force user.
            – Dark Side users often lie to their targets, in an attempt to break them; the “revelation” about her parents was probably one.
            – Hans dice are two identical dice, connected by a chain, in a movie that saw heavy use of visual imagery. They are last seen in Kylo’s hand, before evaporating.

            My suspicion is that Snoke was somehow responsible for their separation, used it to further twist Kylo, and its a topic of deep confusion or embarrassment for the elder Skywalkers. Say he was a trusted advisor, and told them she’d died when she hadn’t?

          • John Schilling says:

            And Rey is such an incredible Force adept that even at the age of negative fifteen minutes she was able to Jedi-mind-trick SuperLeia into not noticing she was pushing a second bundle of joy out through her vagina.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Maybe Leia’s kids were delivered by Palpatinian Section?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @temujin9

            I think you’re massively over-thinking it. Based on JJ’s past works (Lost?) and the incoherence of TFA, I was pretty sure at the time that…there was no plan. He has no clue who these people are, what their relationships are, or what the series is about. He just threw cool stuff with laser swords and space ships on a screen. And an interview with Rian Johnson bears that out. Asked if JJ handed him a story arc he said “no” and that he could do whatever he wanted. So, it’s fun to speculate about who you’d like these people to be, or what you’d like to see them do, but if you’re looking for hints or clues left by the authors, don’t bother. They couldn’t leave any, because they have no idea where this is going, either.

            That’s the thing that will probably make the sequel trilogy ultimately forgettable: it’s not really about anything. Say what you will about the horrible acting and nonsensical plots of the prequels, at least they were about something: the fall of the Republic, the rise of the Empire, and the fall of Anakin Skywalker. And certainly the OT was about the rebellion against the Empire, it’s defeat, and the redemption of Anakin by his son Luke. After episode IX, what exactly are people going to say the ST was “about?”

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Conrad: “Say what you will about the horrible acting and nonsensical plots of the prequels, at least they were about something: the fall of the Republic, the rise of the Empire, and the fall of Anakin Skywalker. And certainly the OT was about the rebellion against the Empire, it’s defeat, and the redemption of Anakin by his son Luke.”

            In hindsight, the prequel plots weren’t nonsensical. Palpatine’s manipulation of both the sclerotic bureaucracy of the Galactic Republic and the noveau riche who were the only demographic with the power to do anything about their dissatisfaction and the Anakin plot all ended up making sense.