October 19, 2012

Tammy and Tommy debated again last night.

We'd gone out to the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery to hear physicist Sean M. Carroll give a talk about the universe. The universe might give birth to baby universes. Who are you to say it doesn't? And time — time is a very obvious concept, he said, before portraying time in a way that was quite weird. These cosmologists, such comedians. You can read this: "From Eternity to Here: The Quest for the Ultimate Theory of Time." Here he is on "The Colbert Report" trying to get a word in while Stephen Colbert anxiously strives to make sure it comes out funny. I thought Carroll's solo explanation of everything was highly amusing. It's all about entropy. From the Big Bang on, it's movement toward entropy, and even when things become more complex — producing all the detail of the world we live in now — it happened along a path from less entropy to more.

We walked home, talking about and reframing the discussion. The moderator — a Madison media character — fielded questions from the brainy audience and inserted a question of her own: What do you have to say to these people who won't believe in global warming? Politics. Always politics in Madison. It's our own special brand of entropy. Meade and I blabbed about such things. Did Carroll say that we only "remember" the past because, since it had less entropy, we have the sense of knowing what it was, like when we see a broken egg — Carroll had a lot of PowerPoint slides of eggs — we know the egg of the lower entropy time — a whole egg — but there are many diverse possibilities for the egg's higher entropy time — scrambled, quiche, rotten — and so we can't "remember" it?

Home, I said, "You must want to watch the baseball game" and Meade said "I want to watch the Tammy and Tommy debate!" Both of these things, along with President Obama on "The Daily Show," were preserved on the DVR. So we watched Tammy and Tommy, and that was pretty funny too. The moderation was hilarious. They'd ask a question and Tammy and Tommy each had a couple minutes to answer. Then they'd declare a 6-minute period in which Tammy and Tommy could talk about anything, interact in any way, hog the time, interrupt, be as polite or impolite as they saw fit with absolutely no intervention from the moderators.

Tommy got all impassioned and began many sentences with "Ladies and gentlemen." He assiduously refrained from calling Tammy Tammy. She was "my opponent." And the message was: Ladies and gentlemen, my opponent is incredibly, unbelievably liberal. Tammy seemed nervous but never broke from her prim, schoolmarmish demeanor, as she repeated the message about Tommy: After he was governor, he became a lobbyist and made a lot of money.

So, ladies and gentlemen, it's a simple decision. What irks you worse: liberals or rich guys?

Now, back to your regularly scheduled entropy.

70 comments:

X said...

Wow. Can't imagine garage voting for Thompson after that.

Bob Ellison said...

Why do people find Stephen Colbert funny?

I guess this is way off-topic, but I've been wondering.

Colbert is the modern, political equivalent of a blackface minstrel. If his jokes were good, it'd work. They aren't, and it doesn't.

LincolnTf said...

So what did the physicist reply to the Warm-mongerer?

bgates said...

The universe might give birth to baby universes.

It should have the right to destroy them before that happens.

Shouting Thomas said...

So, it's the angelic idealist vs. the demonic pragmatist.

I don't remember quite when the shift took place in my life. Must have been when the struggle to raise kids really set in.

I can only vaguely remember when I was the angelic idealist. I've been the demonic pragmatist for a few decades.

Now that I'm an old fart, it's time for a change. But, I'm not exactly sure what that change might be. For instance, the quota system used to really piss me off, but it doesn't actually affect me now that I'm headed for retirement.

Curious George said...

"X said...
Wow. Can't imagine garage voting for Thompson after that."

Heh.

ricpic said...

Isn't global warming anti-entropic?

Lynn Meadows said...

Non-science believing/based rich conservatives are most irksome. Followed of course by rich conservatives and then, last, just conservatives generally, rich or not.

I love rich liberals. My husband is one.

campy said...

I hope I don't have to pay for the Universe's birth control.

Shouting Thomas said...

Non-science believing/based rich conservatives are most irksome.

Lynn erects another strawman.

Rich conservatives, like the Koch Brothers, earned their riches in hard business. The Koch Brothers head a petroleum products company.

You don't suppose you have to know a little science to deal in petroleum products, do you?

I'll bet Lynn is a scientific illiterate. Stick to talking about casual sex, Lynn. Best to talk about what you know.

Sorun said...

I'd guess that Carroll is secretly skeptical that taxing CO2 emissions will have much impact on the universe.

Triangle Man said...

@Bob Ellison

Colbert's humor is parody. It is only funny if you recognize the blowhard egomaniac partisan political commentators that are the subject of his work.

David said...

bgates said...
"The universe might give birth to baby universes."

It should have the right to destroy them before that happens.

My guess: the universe already has that power. As we speak, it may be considering destroying us before we happen. Poof. We'll never feel a thing."

SteveR said...

Actually Lynn, there's a good chance that there are more science believing conservatives than you are comfortable imagining. They aren't working at universities.

Its entirely possible that you aren't very smart or to be more precise, intellectually honest, but spare us the pretense that you are.

Paul Zrimsek said...

But if the universe does make a mistake, I don't want it punished with a baby.

AllenS said...

The universe might give birth to baby universes.

Unless a man intervenes, Tammy will give birth to nothing.

Ann Althouse said...

"So what did the physicist reply to the Warm-mongerer?"

He had a great answer at first. He said that people like to believe the things that they want to be true and tend to select information that lets them avoid disturbing beliefs. He said science is badly taught to children in terms of facts instead of as a process of experimentation, discovery, and critique.

Then he said something I strongly disagree with (and this is one of the things Meade and I talked about on the way home): If someone states a position where they have no interest in that thing being true, we ought to give extra credit to what they say AND those who propound anthropogenic climate change have NO REASON to want that to be true.

But it's obvious to me why many people want it to be true. If it's taken as true, it supports many policies that otherwise lack political support, like extremely strong environmental protection involving forcing people to give up things they like (such as driving cars) and restricting economic growth. It supports the aggressive centralization of governmental power, at the national and international level.

Ann Althouse said...

"But if the universe does make a mistake, I don't want it punished with a baby."

That's another thing Meade and I talked about walking home: Can the universe get an abortion? Is there a point before "viability" where there's a right to abortion?

You realize that when you say things like that, you are being your own Stephen Colbert. I like that kind of humor myself.

TosaGuy said...

Hopefully Tommy makes some hay out of the fact that Tammy Baldwin repeated co-sponsored a bill that would allow the public to stop providing basic needs to military personnel.

It's one thing to be against war, but its quite insidious to take it out one's opposition to a military policy by denying troops body armor and medical supplies.

Patrick said...

If someone states a position where they have no interest in that thing being true, we ought to give extra credit to what they say

Even absent the policy implications, this is bullshit. Conclusions reached via scientific method - provable, repeateable and ultimately predictive are what matters. If a scientist somehow proves something that is completely in his interest, that conclusion if reached via scientific method is as valid as one reached by someone who reaches a conclusion against his interest.

I would grant that a finding that corresponds to a scientist's interest may warrant scrutiny, but the scrutiny ought to be of the science.

TosaGuy said...

I've thanked some liberals here in the past who supported the troops during previous tussles on this blog, I also expected their support when the issue would not be expedient to their preferred candidate/policy position. I anticipate they will find Baldwin's lack of support for the troops repugnant.

tim maguire said...

I stopped wayching colbert when, 6 months into Obama's term, he was still telling Bush jokes. His humor was tired and hackneyed and i filed him under "life's too short."

As for Carroll's response, he shows a remarkable ignorance of the politics surrounding global warming. And the science as well. The earth isn't warming
and hasn't for over 15 years.

MadisonMan said...

It's one thing to be against war, but its quite insidious to take it out one's opposition to a military policy by denying troops body armor and medical supplies.

Why isn't the Government supplying those things to its soldiers? I don't think I'd prohibit ordinary citizens from supplying basic needs to soldiers, but I'd really be questioning why the soldiers were so ill-equipped to begin with.

Support of that particular bill is not why I'm not voting for Tammy.

Sorun said...

"I would grant that a finding that corresponds to a scientist's interest may warrant scrutiny, but the scrutiny ought to be of the science."

Aren't nearly all scientific findings going to be beneficial to the scientists that studied them? Papers published, patents, awards, future grants, etc.

MadisonMan said...

The earth isn't warming
and hasn't for over 15 years.

NO warming since the (then) warmest year on record. Who could have predicted that? Easy to explain, of course.

ndspinelli said...

Tammy is sanctimonious. Tommy is a buffoon. None of the above needs to be a box to check on a ballot. That's the best way to get some viable 3rd/4th parties.

Sorun said...

It would be interesting to compare today's AOS faculty research interests to that of five years ago. How did things relating to AGW fade in or out of favor?

campy said...

I stopped wayching colbert when, 6 months into Obama's term, he was still telling Bush jokes.

C'mon, you can't expect him to risk being called a RAAAACIST.

Dr Weevil said...

You're surprised at a professor "portraying time in a way that was quiet weird". Come on, he's a professor! It takes a politician like Joe Biden to do loud weird.

TosaGuy said...

"Why isn't the Government supplying those things to its soldiers? I don't think I'd prohibit ordinary citizens from supplying basic needs to soldiers, but I'd really be questioning why the soldiers were so ill-equipped to begin with."

I did have everything I needed to accomplish my mission and take care of my platoon. Some of that equipment saved the lives of people under my charge. I have zero respect for Ms. Baldwin for wanting to make it harder to have such equipment.

Disagree with and fight the policy but don't take it out on those sent to implement it.

gerry said...

I love amusing typos: "And time — time is a very obvious concept, he said, before portraying time in a way that was quiet weird."

I love being loud wierd.

Until the police show up, of course.

yashu said...

Is there a point before "viability" where there's a right to abortion?

Heh, the ambiguous phrasing suggests the question whether the fetus might have a right to abortion.

A thought worthy of Silenus, Dionysus's companion, whose philosophical maxim was "That the best thing for a man is not to be born, and if already born, to die as soon as possible."

edutcher said...

Tammy and Tommy sound as if they're trying to make nice.

I guess they learned from Choom and Joe.

Ann Althouse said...

The universe might give birth to baby universes. Who are you to say it doesn't?

Sounds like you had fun. I love little intellectual toys like that.

I said, "You must want to watch the baseball game"

A lot of women wouldn't have said that.

You're a good wife.

Ann Althouse said...

"You're surprised at a professor "portraying time in a way that was quiet weird". Come on, he's a professor! It takes a politician like Joe Biden to do loud weird."

Ha ha. Thanks. I would never have noticed that typo.

Crimso said...

"If someone states a position where they have no interest in that thing being true, we ought to give extra credit to what they say"

I know I've posted this Popper quote before, but it bears repeating: "[W]henever we propose a solution to a problem, we ought to try as hard as we can to overthrow our solution, rather than defend it." It's people who do that who deserve "extra credit" for their ideas.

I suspect the simple prospect of being right is the greatest incentive of all for a scientist (i.e., to receive the credit for having uncovered a truth). We all have egos, and I've seen some scientists VERY bitterly cling to their ideas, quite unable to admit they are wrong.

rhhardin said...

Eddington quoted by Empson

"Whilst the physicist would generally say that the matter of this familiar table is really a curvature of space, and its colour is really electro-magnetic length, I do not think he would say that the familiar moving-on of time is really an entropy-gradient. I am quoting a rather loose way of speaking, but it reveals that there is a distinct difference in our attitude towards the last parallelism. Having convinced ourselves that the two things are connected, we must conclude that there is something yet ungrasped behind the notion of entropy - some mystic interpretation, if you like - which is not apparent in the definition by which we introduced it into physics. In short, we strive to see that entropy may really be the familiar moving on of time."

The Structure of Complex Words, p.365

Crimso said...

And (dare I point this out?) it can be argued that "spreading the wealth around" is in harmony with the second law of thermodynamics. Then again, so is a building collapse.

You can also argue increasing the entropy of money makes it less efficient.

furious_a said...

What irks you worse: liberals or rich guys?

Liberal rich guys, definitely.

Sam L. said...

I find rich liberals most offensive.

rhhardin said...

Google finds the the Eddington lecture.

Rusty said...

entropy-eventually everything turns to shit.


I don't find very much that is admirable in liberals, so I'll have to go with rich people.

Rusty said...

Ann Althouse said...
"So what did the physicist reply to the Warm-mongerer?"

He had a great answer at first. He said that people like to believe the things that they want to be true and tend to select information that lets them avoid disturbing beliefs. He said science is badly taught to children in terms of facts instead of as a process of experimentation, discovery, and critique.

Then he said something I strongly disagree with (and this is one of the things Meade and I talked about on the way home): If someone states a position where they have no interest in that thing being true, we ought to give extra credit to what they say AND those who propound anthropogenic climate change have NO REASON to want that to be true.

But it's obvious to me why many people want it to be true. If it's taken as true, it supports many policies that otherwise lack political support, like extremely strong environmental protection involving forcing people to give up things they like (such as driving cars) and restricting economic growth. It supports the aggressive centralization of governmental power, at the national and international level.

Then there's that whole "objective scientific proof" thing which the AGW people seem to be at great pains to avoid showing.

The universe?
Oh my. Look at the time.

Fred Drinkwater said...

@TosaGuy: In a thread about the VP debate, I commented about the non-hypocrisy of Ryan's seeking funds from a jobs program which he had opposed. I said: once the policy decision was democratically finalized, he had a responsibility to his constituency to promote their interests in that policy.
The idea that a legislator might seek to undermine a democratically approved military policy by denying basic supplies to the troops is the flip side of the concept. It's totally OK to continue to oppose the policy, and to try to get it changed. It's totally not OK to threaten the personnel who are implementing, as representatives of a legitimate government decision, that policy.
Unless one is promoting a revolution. In which case, I expect that promoter to have the guts to say so.

chickelit said...

So what did the physicist reply to the Warm-mongerer?

"Warm-mongerer" was an Annie Gottlieb twitter coinage from a couple years back, IIRC. I'm not sure what her position is on the science of it, but I think she coined it in part to capture what Althouse posted here at 9:09AM.

Amba also wrote this about entropy which stuck with me:
The cause of death is the envy of entropy

chickelit said...

Ann Althouse said...
Can the universe get an abortion? Is there a point before "viability" where there's a right to abortion?

I don't know about abortion, but wasn't the asteroid belt a planetary miscarriage?


Jack Wayne said...

You wasted your time listening to this guy. The notion that the universe will end in entropy is simply a guess at this time. I'd bet just the opposite. Entropy theory says that the universe will "run out of energy" and go cold. But they can't explain how the black holes will go cold. To "go cold" implies that matter will cease to exist because all matter is energy. So he's ignoring the idea that matter (energy)cannot be created or destroyed. My guess is that the universe will pull itself back into a single point of energy just as we had prior to the "big bang".

Michael McNeil said...

ricpic said...
Isn't global warming anti-entropic?


In the sense of violating the Second Law of Thermodynamics? No. All that “law” (actually it's a theory — gasp!) requires is that the universe as whole increase in entropy (disorder). Local regions can experience entropy decreases, as long as that's more than balanced by increases elsewhere — such as in the sun as it shines its energy substance out into surrounding space — which is exactly what is happening: the sun's enormous rush towards disorder powers increasing order (tapped into directly by living things, for instance) in places like the Earth.

This is also why 2nd Law of Thermodynamics-based (supposed) critiques of evolution are wildly off the mark. Neither evolution nor life itself violate the 2nd law — they're all powered by the sun's hurtling towards disorder at a (literally) astronomical rate of speed.

garage mahal said...

Never a good night for Republican when you get booed in a red county and are forced to disclose to the state that you're investing in Iran.

Methadras said...

You people are mad. The universe is not a sentient entity. It is a dumb envelope/boundary of mass and energy. Nothing more.

chickelit said...

Very self-effacing of you Methadras.

chickelit said...

garage mahal said...
Never a good night for Republican when you get booed in a red county and are forced to disclose to the state that you're investing in Iran.

What's the word garage? Tammy wins by how much in the election?

Rusty said...

Methadras said...
You people are mad. The universe is not a sentient entity. It is a dumb envelope/boundary of mass and energy. Nothing more.


You don't know that.
For all you know the universe is just sitting there, watching, thinking,"Any minute now..........Oh damn!"

Mike said...

Entropy my ass! So, basically he's saying that the universe has been in a state of entropy since the Big Bang -- OK so far, as all the evidence points to the validity of the 3rd Law of Thermodynamics. The big "but" in the mix is how you explain creation of the universe given the constraints of the 3rd Law. At what point did physics do a u-turn and and begin assembling all these galaxies that are now flying apart?

It cannot be "all about entropy" because entropy does not explain the origin of our universe.

Ann Althouse said...

"You wasted your time listening to this guy. The notion that the universe will end in entropy is simply a guess at this time. I'd bet just the opposite. Entropy theory says that the universe will "run out of energy" and go cold. But they can't explain how the black holes will go cold. To "go cold" implies that matter will cease to exist because all matter is energy. So he's ignoring the idea that matter (energy)cannot be created or destroyed. My guess is that the universe will pull itself back into a single point of energy just as we had prior to the "big bang"."

Believe me, he did not ignore that. This post barely begins to suggest all the things he talked about. If you are genuinely interested in what you sketch out, you would probably find the book linked in the post to be very stimulating in developing your thinking in this area.

Ann Althouse said...

"At what point did physics do a u-turn and and begin assembling all these galaxies that are now flying apart?"

That was the coolest part of what he talked about. What you need to understand that is how complexity occurs along the path of entropy. Things begin and end in a simple "unlumpy" form, and at some point in the dissipation of this uniform plasma at the beginning, the lumps begin to form. This order evolves in the higher entropy condition and then later with even higher entropy it will be gone.

So complexity and what we think of as "order" occurs as a spike in the middle of what is actually a continuous increasing of entropy.

That was amazing.

Mike said...

Thanks, Ann. I wonder if Dr. Carroll will be on the road near me soon. It's difficult to tell from his Web site. Of course, I'm only a ten minute drive from Cal Tech so maybe I can just wander over and see what he's up to!

(Yes, I did post this to the wrong thread at first. Oops.)

garage mahal said...

What's the word garage? Tammy wins by how much in the election?

I'm going to guess by 3 pts.

Alex said...

The sad thing is if the GOP had nominated a Scott Walker clone, this race would be over.

Lynn Meadows said...

Shouting Thomas said...
"Rich conservatives, like the Koch Brothers, earned their riches in hard business."

Contrare! They inherited it.

Lynn Meadows said...

Michael McNeil said...
"This is also why 2nd Law of Thermodynamics-based (supposed) critiques of evolution are wildly off the mark. Neither evolution nor life itself violate the 2nd law — they're all powered by the sun's hurtling towards disorder at a (literally) astronomical rate of speed."

well said.

Gabriel Hanna said...

@Ann Althouse:portraying time in a way that was quiet weird

A lot of things that seem simple aren't. Isn't that what you, a law professor! are always trying to show us?

@ricpic: Isn't global warming anti-entropic?

No.

@entropy: Entropy is NOT disorder, and an increase in entropy is not an increase in disorder.

Entropy is basically the distribution of energy over the parts of a system. If the parts of a system interact--and if they don't, why are we calling it a "system"--they will over time interact in such a way as to distribute the energy as uniformly as possible. That's how entropy increases.

Sometimes this requires an increase in order, such as when the surface of a lake freezes, or when waves sort pebbles on a beach by size.



roesch/voltaire said...

I found it hilarious when Thompson was confronted with the fact that he owned stock in a company that was helping Iran to mine for uranium in Africa that he pulled a Romney and claimed he didn't know what was in his portfolio but when he found out, just yesterday when it became more public news, he sold the stock--Thompson looks like the end stages of entropy so I will vote for Tammy.

chickelit said...

Thompson looks like the end stages of entropy so I will vote for Tammy

Disingenuity alert! You, like garage, would vote for Tammy no matter what.

chickelit said...

Lynn Meadows said...

Contrare! They inherited it.

Your daily pedantry outbursts matter little, Lynn. Father Koch was conservative like his sons and grandsons, and he would have strongly disapproved of the likes and ilks of Tammy Baldwin.

dc said...

"The universe might give birth to baby universes.Who are you to say it doesn't?"
Until they prove it anybody who wants to say it doesn't, can say it doesn't.

tim maguire said...

Just keep praying at your church, madisonman.

While overall i don't think much of the Bush presidency, one of his great acheivements surely is keeping the global-warming hysteria out of halls where policy is made long enough for the alarmists to peak and start to lose steam so that now you can believe all you want but you won't do any serious damage. Your moment has passed.

Tom Hall said...

Professor, you taught Tammy Baldwin and me Evidence - or maybe it was Federal Jurisdiction - back in around 1984. She skipped class so often you were compelled to send her a written reminder that the Wisconsin Supreme Court rules required attendance at X hours of class to qualify for the diploma privilege. It would be interesting if you still had that letter in your file and could make it public. How do I know about it? Tammy told me, so long ago. And you can also look me up to establish that I was one of your students.
Tom J Hall (not Tom R Hall), class of '88.

Tom Hall said...

Professor, you taught Tammy Baldwin and me Evidence - or maybe it was Federal Jurisdiction - back in around 1984. She skipped class so often you were compelled to send her a written reminder that the Wisconsin Supreme Court rules required attendance at X hours of class to qualify for the diploma privilege. It would be interesting if you still had that letter in your file and could make it public. How do I know about it? Tammy told me, so long ago. And you can also look me up to establish that I was one of your students.
Tom J Hall (not Tom R Hall), class of '88.

Shouting Thomas said...

Lynn,

Regardless of your opinion of the Koch brothers, they run a business that depends on scientific knowledge.

I have absolutely no doubt that they know one hell of a lot more about science than you do.

In fact, I'll wager that you are a scientific illiterate.

Fess up, girl. You're absolutely ignorant about science, aren't you?

AllenS said...

Thank you, Tom Hall for the information. It will be interesting if Althouse responds to you. It would have been nice if she had disclosed that Baldwin was a student of hers.