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Researchers think they found the body of Copernicus. This raises many questions for me.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081120/ap_on_re_eu/eu_poland_copernicus


To begin, the article identifies Copernicus as the guy "whose theories identified the Sun, not the Earth, as the center of the universe."

I'm no astronomer, but I'm pretty sure our sun isn't the center of the universe either. The current thinking is that the sun is the center of our solar system. Apparently Copernicus died in vain. I wonder if his skeleton was spinning in its grave when it was discovered.

I also wonder what the researchers plan to do with his body. I recommend attaching a generator to his bones and then reading the Yahoo News report to them once a day. That should solve our energy problem.

I wonder if Polish law allows you to buy a guy's skeleton if there are no known relatives to claim it. That would make a great conversation piece for some billionaire. If I owned them I would hang them from a moving track around my office so Copernicus always revolved around me when I worked. And I would refer to my office as the universe, because apparently that word can mean anything.

 
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People often ask me where I got my inspiration for one thing or another. Or what possessed me to do something. Or why I have a passion for a particular project. The assumption behind those questions, I think, is that if one could find out where such causes originate, it would be possible to pick a promising field of endeavor then activate the inspiration to spark higher levels of achievement.

But it doesn't work that way. In my experience, I do the project I can't stop myself from doing. Passion is the thing you can't control, by definition. It's the same with inspiration. At any given time there are dozens of projects that I think make sense, but sooner or later one bubbles to the top on its own, logic ignored, and takes over my schedule.

Dilbert was like that. It drove me; I didn't drive it. It felt as if some invisible hand was pushing me. You can label it passion or inspiration if you want. Religious folks might have a different interpretation. The only point is that it controls the person, not vice versa.

If there is a logical component to chasing these passions - beyond the thin rationalizations I tend to layer on them - it is the fact that sometimes you have to get them out of your system to free yourself for the next one. For me, this was most true with my book God's Debris. It was my first non-Dilbert book, at a time that writing such a thing seemed like a really bad idea to all observers. But I had no choice. The book sprang fully formed into my head one day while I was showering, and I couldn't do anything else until I got it out. That meant writing it.

So when people ask how they can find their passion, the answer is that your passion finds you, as long as you can free up your schedule from the "must dos" enough to let it in. When I had a full-time job, before Dilbert, I awoke at 4 AM, sat alone in a comfortable chair with a cup of coffee, and waited. I did that for a year or two, just emptying my mind and freeing my imagination. I don't remember the day I picked up a pencil and started drawing instead of sitting during those hours, but I'm sure I didn't have a choice.
 
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I love pirates. I love their parrots, their wooden legs, their eye patches, and obviously their AAARGS! But I have never loved pirates more than the day they seized a fully laden supertanker off the coast of Somalia.

http://edition.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/africa/11/18/kenya.tanker.pirates/?iref=mpstoryview


We should have seen this coming. I blame Obama and his whole "Yes I can" philosophy. Suddenly even the pirates are thinking big. Six months ago these pirates were probably robbing convenience stores. After they saw Obama get elected president, they figured anything was possible.

The funny part is that they are probably right. No one is going to start shooting in the general direction of a supertanker (except pirates), and the pirates have an excellent track record for releasing hostages unharmed for a price. It looks like this scheme might work.

I wish I had seen the meeting where they first cooked up this supertanker plot. There must have been a whole lot of audacity of hope, and obviously some potent cannabis. I wonder if the other pirates laughed when one of them suggested the idea, or if it sounded like a good plan right from the start. And is there a Somalian pirate equivalent of the catch phrase "That's just crazy enough to work!"?

I have to wonder where this trend will stop. If you are hijacking supertankers, it can't be that much of a leap to complete the distribution chain and make some real money. Somewhere in Somalia a band of pirates is passing a bong and designing logos for their chain of gas stations. I can see it now: You get a free eye patch with every tank, and the price is always AAAARG!

Today only, all of your comments should incorporate AAAARG!

 
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I'm amused by things that almost make sense but don't. Arguably, that's the basis of all humor. Humor works best when there is some truth in it while still being an exaggeration into the realm of nonsense. It's the juxtaposition of truth and nonsense that triggers the brain hiccup called laughter.

I was reminded of this by a comment on this blog from Jengineer. Her argument was a bit different than the one I am about to make, but it sparked the following thought: There are only two conditions in the universe: Programmed or random. In other words, action is either a simple chain of cause and effect, or it is somehow immune to cause and effect.

Intelligence can't be random. That would be the opposite of intelligence. But intelligence also can't be programmed, for if that were allowed, your alarm clock would be called intelligent, and obviously it isn't.

So if there are only two possibilites -- programmed or random -- and intelligence can be neither then intelligence must not exist. It must be an illusion.

The thing that amuses me about that argument is that I'm sure it is wrong, but I don't know why. And that is further evidence that intelligence is an illusion. At least my own.

 
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As I (mis)understand the laws of physics, there is nothing preventing a toaster from suddenly jumping into existence from nothingness. The odds against it are in the fergetaboutit range, but that assumes the universe is only a tad over 14 billion years old. And it assumes there aren't many universes.

Suppose the Big Bang was just a Big Comma, separating what came before from what came after. After a trillion years times a trillion, the toaster's odds of springing into existence improve. The same holds true if there are lots more universes that we don't know about.

Now suppose instead of a toaster, a robot jumps into existence. (Hey, if you believed a toaster could materialize, it's not such a big leap.)  The hypothetical robot is coincidentally hardened against the harsh forces of the universe and capable of surviving almost anything. Its program, created by entirely random forces, tells it to manipulate the building blocks of nature to create life in a way that allowed evolution to occur.

In such a hypothetical situation, would you say Intelligent Design was involved in creating the universe Remember, while the robot might be extraordinarily capable, he has no free will. And his intelligence isn't the sort we generally attribute to a designer. The robot had no reason to create life. It simply followed its program.

What interests me about this hypothetical question is that most people won't be able to answer it with a yes or a no because it smells like a trap.

 
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Scientists at Stanford discovered something I don't understand. Then a writer simplified it for the Internet, making it worse. Then I read about it and my brain added a few misconceptions, as usual. That's how I roll. Anyway, now I am left with this question: Is this a big deal or a little deal?

http://io9.com/5083673/princeton-scientists-discover-proteins-that-control-evolution


This story didn't exactly set the media on fire, which leads me to believe it is a small matter, potentially adding a detail to the Theory of Evolution.

But perhaps it is the first solid evidence of my theory that spacetime is like a huge donut, or Mobious strip if you like, and future scientists will find a way for humanity to survive the black hole that devours the universe. They create the physical equivalent of a computer program that is so small it is unaffected by the forces that crush the universe. Over a few billion years, the program chugs along, guiding evolution to produce humans once again, thus we are all reborn. And since the universe is deterministic, it happens the same way every time.

Or not.

My only question today is whether this discovery might lead to a big change in the generally accepted Theory of Evolution. 

 
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I wonder how many people got the joke in the last panel of this comic. Do you know what the "lucky guess" refers to?



On a totally unrelated note, which I add because this blog post would be otherwise inadequately sized, here's an update on  my voice, in case anyone is curious. Thanks to surgery in July to correct my exotic voice problem (Spasmodic Dysphonia), I now have a virtually normal voice. It started coming back strong in the past few weeks.

This is a life changing event for me. I lived for 3.5 years without the ability to speak in most situations, and with the knowledge that the condition was considered incurable. However unpleasant you imagine it is to be unable to speak, I can assure you it was worse. But thanks to one surgeon, Dr. Berke at UCLA, apparently my problem is solved.

And so I am reborn, in a sense. Every day since the rewired nerves in my neck regenerated, and speech returned, life has been terrific.


 
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Please take a sneak peek at my new service for sending files that are so large your e-mail can't handle them. It's called dilbertfiles.com. I'd like your opinion before I do a general launch.

http://www.dilbertfiles.com/


First, some background. I often used a service called sendyourfiles.com to move my own large art files to United Media (my syndicator), to my publisher (Andrews McMeel Publishing), and other business associates. I also used the service to send large photos and videos that e-mail couldn't handle. Every person who received a large file from me in this convenient way said some version of "Hey, I could use this myself."

So I contacted the owners of sendyourfiles.com and worked out a deal for a branded version of their service that we call dilbertfiles.com. They do the business end, and I help spread the word. It's a great tool, so I enjoy letting people know about it.

As the more technical among you know, there are a number of options for sending large files. Some of them are even free, although without the features or convenience of dilbertfiles.com. For example, with Dilbertfiles.com you can download a plug-in for Outlook and send large files without even going through a web page. And if you do use the browser interface instead, you get to watch some free Dilbert comics while your file is transmitted. You also get to watch Dogbert vigorously whip the progress bar, which feels better than you'd imagine.

As the number of traditional newspapers continues to shrink, this is the sort of thing that will help keep Dilbert free online. If you know anyone who moves large files around for work, or for fun, please do them and me a favor by forwarding the link.

[Update: The link was broken when I first posted. Now corrected.]

 
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I don't know about you, but I have totally stopped worrying about terrorist attacks. Now I'm only afraid of bankers with new ideas. I'm not joking about either point.

Gas is a lot cheaper lately. That doesn't help you much if you're unemployed and can't afford a car, but for the lucky people with jobs, it helps a lot. No one saw that coming a year ago.

America is feeling a lot less arrogant and a lot more humble lately. If you believe the experts, that should go a long way toward helping International relations.

Traffic isn't so bad, bargains abound, and even the lines seem shorter.

For the half of the country who wanted Obama as President, the economic woes sealed his victory. If he's half the savior his supporters believe, something good will happen soon. I just hope it isn't the Rapture.

As painful as this recession is likely to become, everyone agrees that sometimes you have to shake the rug to get all the crap out of it. Economies don't grow in straight lines.

It's expensive to travel anywhere, but on the other hand, the new season of 24 is almost here. I don't need to go to faraway places and meet people when I can sit on my couch and watch Jack Bauer shoot those people.

I remember driving home in 1989 and thinking I had a flat tire because the car went all wobbly. I pulled over and discovered that my tires were fine; the earth was moving. It was the Loma Prieta Earthquake, and I soon discovered my apartment in shambles. But a funny thing happened. All of my neighbors were outside, stunned. We talked. We shared stories. We bonded. It was a strangely good time. And I felt connected to people at a deeper level than ever before. Shared disaster does that.

No one wants the economy to crumble. But having a reason to love your neighbor a litter better doesn't suck. If we can feed everyone - and I think we can - things will be fine. And as I have said here before, some kid in a garage has already figured a way out of this.
 
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I know a woman who "feels" words. To her, some words are ugly to the point of discomfort. Others are beautiful. Not coincidentally, she is verbally gifted. It made me wonder if genius can be defined by the degree to which something intellectual can be felt as a physical experience.

For example, most people feel something when they listen to music. But I suspect gifted musicians feel it in an entirely different way than I do. I could never memorize all the notes in a song because for me it would be an exercise in rote memorization. For someone gifted in music, memorizing a song is easier because such a person would remember how each part felt. Feelings create memories more easily than intellectual experiences. The stronger the feeling, the easier the memory.

Most of the people reading this blog are gifted in one way or another. Think about the field in which you excel the most, then ask yourself if you operate by feel more in that area than in others.

I was thinking of this the other day when I heard a new song by Kanye West, called Love Lockdown. I have never been a big fan of his music. I thought he was a bit of a manufactured celebrity. That changed when I heard this song, after I confirmed that he wrote it. The performance itself is brilliant in about five different ways. I especially like the heartbeat-beat. Perhaps he had help with the music and performance parts of the song. But the words: Genius.

Now I realize I am going to get lots of howls about this post. If you don't like this genre of music, fine. But try to suspend that for a minute to listen to the song then look at the lyrics, in that order. (Links below.)

The genius of the lyrics is how they feel as words themselves, second as a flow, and third for their meaning. In my opinion, this is the work of genius.

Song


http://au.youtube.com/watch?v=ZcjkkBtXgIc


Lyrics


http://www.metrolyrics.com/love-lockdown-lyrics-kanye-west.html


 
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