May 26, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Has Science Evolved into Technology? (Marco Andreacchio, 5/26/23, Voegelin View)

Has science evolved into technology? This question deserves unpacking.  "Science" here refers to a modern variant of rationalism, the "autonomous" one that Edmund Husserl bashed as a farce.[1] Now, at first it would seem that science and technology are two distinct enterprises.  Science provides an epistemological grounding for technological praxis.  Yet, science, as Werner Heisenberg discovered speaking of "today's physics' picture of nature," is about our relationship with nature, rather than nature in and of itself.[2] What this means is that science can no longer be merely Cartesian: it cannot be "merely theoretical."  In fact, modern science never was.  But now we have a popular confirmation of what science really is, namely a process by which theory as formal method becomes eminently practical, or as Hegel would put it, "concrete." 

Being hostile to Intellectualism while embracing the practical has been a massive boon. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Path From The Tea Party Through Jan. 6 To Today (David Kurtz, May 25, 2023, TPM)

Rhodes incorporated the Oath Keepers in 2009 (gee, who became president that year?), and you can't divorce its creation from the then-emerging Tea Party movement.

The first mention of the Oath Keepers at TPM came in January 2010 in a story by Zachary Roth headlined: "Former Marine With Ties To Right-Wing Movements Charged With Child Rape, Possessing Grenade Launcher." A lot going on there, no? Here's an excerpt:

It's not clear what Dyer might want with a grenade launcher. But he has declared himself a proud member of Oath Keepers, an organization that aims to enlist ex-military and law enforcement personnel, and has stoked fears that the federal government may try to seize Americans' guns and round people up into concentration camps.

In this video, Dyer appears at a Tea Party event to promote the Oath Keepers and to rail against what the group -- perhaps uniquely -- sees as the federal government's overzealous response to Hurricane Katrina.

A month later, in February 2010, Stewart Rhodes made his first appearance at TPM in a story by Eric Kleefeld about a Tea Party candidate for Texas governor in the GOP primary against incumbent Gov. Rick Perry and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison:

Debra Medina, the Tea Party activist and candidate in the Texas Republican gubernatorial primary who has attracted attention for her favorable comments about 9/11 Truthers and Birthers, is also involved with another extreme ideological movement: The Oath Keepers.

Will Bunch at the Philadelphia Daily News points out that Medina will appear this Sunday at an event in San Antonio, called "Taking Back Texas." The other two top-billed speakers are Stewart Rhodes, founder of the Oath Keepers movement, and Oather activist Richard Mack, a former sheriff of Graham County, Arizona.

You can see in each of those initial stories the adjacency, to put it charitably, of the Oath Keepers and the Tea Party, with a little birtherism and 9/11 trutherism thrown in for good measure.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Texas lawmakers issue 20 articles of impeachment against state Attorney General Ken Paxton (Jake Bleiberg and Acacia Coronado, 5/26/23, AP)

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton teetered on the brink of impeachment Thursday after years of scandal, criminal charges and corruption accusations that the state's Republican majority had largely met with silence until now.

In an unanimous decision, a Republican-led House investigative committee that spent months quietly looking into Paxton recommended impeaching the state's top lawyer on 20 articles, including bribery, unfitness for office and abuse of public trust. The House could vote on the recommendation as soon as Friday. If it impeaches Paxton, he would be forced to leave office immediately.

The move sets up what could be a remarkably sudden downfall for one of the GOP's most prominent legal combatants, who in 2020 asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn President Joe Biden's victory. Only two officials in Texas' nearly 200-year history have been impeached.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Succession is a Christian psychodrama (Ed Prideaux, 5/25/23, UnHerd)
The story of Abraham and Isaac has always been one of the more confounding parts of the Hebrew Bible. Even millennia later, one can scarcely imagine the doom of Isaac's revelation, as Abraham brought the knife to his throat: "The fire and the wood are here, but where's the lamb for the burnt offering?" The sudden appearance of a ram and the merciful angel that spared Isaac's life, may have provided short shrift. One imagines Isaac shattered and dissociative, wracked with questions as they walked back to Beersheba.

Many great thinkers have sought to make sense of Abraham's deranged vision - Kierkegaard, Kafka, Derrida -- and the sort of God that could have sanctioned it. For Kierkegaard, the absurdity of a father trying to kill his own son can only be grasped in its own terms. By some flavour of supreme logic, in the terrible clarity of God's command, Kierkegaard surmised, Abraham must have expected a deliverance: if not the return of his son, at least a "substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen". By trusting in the absurd, his faith was commended.

Only philosophers and theologians could make such a hash of such a straightforward tale: Isaac represents Abraham's test of whether God is worthy of Man. Had He demanded the sacrifice be carried out we would not worship Him. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Fusion Race (Packy McCormick x Rahul Rana, 5/22/23, Not Boring)

Imagine a bizarro relay marathon in which one runner carries the baton for the first 26.0 miles, opens up a backpack full of batons, and hands them out liberally to a waiting horde of sprinters to dash all-out for the final 0.2 miles. That's the best analogy we can come up with for this moment in the Fusion Race. 

Global governments are the marathon runner. From the race to develop thermonuclear weapons after World War II, to the $22 billion, 50+ year cooperative ITER reactor currently being built in France, to the National Ignition Facility's ignition achievement in December 2022, governments have led fusion research efforts for the better part of eight decades. 

The world's governments have run a well-paced marathon, producing something akin to a Moore's Law in fusion for half a century. The triple product - of density, temperature, and time - is the figure-of-merit in fusion, and it doubled every 1.8 years from the late 1950s through the early 2000s, as one type of reactor - tokamaks, a form of magnetic confinement fusion (MCF) - got larger and more powerful. 

In December, scientists at the government-funded National Ignition Facility (NIF) at Lawrence Livermore made headlines when they achieved fusion ignition, or scientific energy breakeven, for the first time in a controlled environment That is, they got more energy out of the fusion reaction than they spent on the laser energy used to drive it. The NIF used a different approach: inertial confinement fusion (ICF). 

The world rejoiced - fusion energy is possible! - and then sobered up - it was like a AA battery's worth of energy and, experts pointed out, commercial-scale fusion power might not arrive for decades. 

That's the joke in fusion, that fusion power is "always 30 years away." Funny joke, to be sure, but it may no longer be true. 

We're at the handoff point, from private to public, thanks to improving compute and machine learning, better magnets and materials, the diverse range of technical approaches that are finally becoming feasible, and dramatically increased capital availability for startups. 

Companies like Helion, Commonwealth Fusion Systems, TAE Technologies, General Fusion, and Zap Energy are the sprinters. Armed with $5 billion in funding, most of which has come in just the past two years, and decades worth of research made feasible by new tools, fusion startups are locked in a mad dash to the finish in what might be called Fusion Race 2.0. At the end stands commercial fusion and a healthy chunk of the $15 trillion global energy market.