Tag Archives: science

The Doofus Divide

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I am trying to cut down on political notions and noodling in this blog.  It is like sugar to a humor writer.  The easy laughs are sweet, but if you are diabetic, they will eventually build up and kill you.

But between Twitter-tweeting twit-wits and Facebook false-fact fools, I keep getting drawn back in.  The gang of kids I grew up with in Iowa are seriously infected with Tea Party propaganda now that they are old coots like me, and continue to vote for Teabagger trolls (And I mean literal trolls.  Steve King, Congressman from Iowa, has green skin and lives under a bridge… and maybe eats foolish children when they try to cross) for public office.  And of course, I live now in Texas where gun-toting cowboys look at you intently to find any possible reason to shoot you and then thank Jesus if you are fool enough to give them one (like admitting to be mostly a Democrat in your political persuasion).  They want to argue anything and everything I post on Facebook.  Apparently even my bird pictures and cat videos politically offend them.

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Oooh!  This one really offends Teabaggers… especially the ones who make $25/hr or less.

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Can you pick out the Trump voters in this line?  All of them maybe?

And I am not suggesting that people who voted Republican in the last election aren’t as smart as my side.  I waited until now in this essay to say that, because the childhood friends and family members in that group who read my blog will have all stopped reading by this point.  I really don’t need to give them any more ammunition for Facebook and dinner table arguments.

But my side of the table are not wholly guilt free.

 

I regularly tweet or post things like these, innocently believing these heroes of the heart and mind have universal appeal because they champion truth and science and facts.  But I become alarmed when I learn how much Bill Nye offends them.  They tell me, “That guy is not a scientist!  He has no right to argue for climate change issues or the non-existence of God.  He’s just a TV guy.”  And, I suppose they have a point.  I mean, his extensive education and background in engineering, or his years in television promoting science to kids in research-based creative ways, doesn’t necessarily make him an expert on all science.  And Neil DeGrasse Tyson is an astrophysicist.  He doesn’t have a degree in EVERYTHING.  And when I point out that their so-called experts on climate-change denial from Fox News cannot even claim to be TV weathermen, they are further put out by my brain-bashing bullying way of using my superior knowledge of science to put them down.  Okay, I get it.  I am not being careful enough of your feelings.  (Oh, I forgot, you stopped reading this a while back.)

But the point of this is, we have to stop listening to and electing stupid people, while at the same time being a bit nicer to each other.  We have to approach the discussion with the notion that you yourself may not be totally right about everything, and you may actually learn something by talking about it.  (Which is, of course, no problem for me since I really don’t know anything for certain and need to learn practically everything as if I were still four years old.)

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Okay, Bill, I get it.  I am probably wrong about that too.

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Of Rabbits and Men

I have been working on my novel The Bicycle-Wheel Genius and just now reached the part I originally planned back in 1977.  It, of course, has to deal with ten-year-old Tommy Bircher and his pet rabbit Millis.  Now, I must confess that Tommy is a real person.  He is based half on me (I was the rabbit raiser as a boy), and half on my best friend who was the Methodist Minister’s son.  The personality of the character is primarily my best friend Mark, and the inevitable parting of the two friends Tim and Tommy is based on us when his dad, the reverend, had to go to a new church in another part of Iowa.  Of course, in the book, we do to the rabbit Millis what it would’ve been impossible to do to my own alpha bunny Ember-eyes.    For those of you imagining how terrible two boys can be to a rabbit, let me give you an excerpt from the novel to explain how the boys in the story are far more terrible… but unintentionally so;

Canto Twenty-Seven – Behind the Computer Named Dewey

 

Millis was not your ordinary, run-of-the-mill dumb bunny.  He was, in fact, a highly educated rabbit.  He had eaten several of Tommy’s books.  He had chewed on the computer cords of Tommy’s video game machine and the shock it had given him had actually made him smarter.  He was more than a little conceited about how much smarter he was than other dumb bunnies. 

“You are a nicer boy than I am,” Millis heard the boy who was some sort of servant of Tommy say.  “You have a good heart and burble burble burble, blah, blah.”

The thing that had Millis’ attention was apparently a carrot.  Carrot!  Now, idiot people seemed to think that all rabbits loved carrots above all other food.  No way, monkey boy!  Nothing beats a good chunk of lettuce, a clump of yard grass, cabbage, leaves, and other green foods.  Green foods make a buck rabbit feel sexy.  But you never turned down a good carrot either. 

“Is it gonna hurt?” asked Tommy.  Tommy was a good boy.  He brought Millis green food, clover hay, salt licks, and water every day.  He almost never forgot.  And when Millis opened his cage to get out and go for an explore, Tommy gladly came to find him where ever he was when he got lost and carried him back to his house.

“It’s not going to hurt at all,” said the big owl-eyed man with the yellow fur on his head and his chin.  “Burble burble, blah, tickle.”

Millis looked at the carrot with his right eye, and then turned his head and used the left eye.  Looked the same both ways.  It had a funny leafy part that was not the right color.  And it kept going in a long vine to the back of the big red and white clink-and-bonk box.  That wasn’t quite natural.  He sniffed.  It only slightly smelled right.  Still, he was hungry, and it did seem to be a carrot, and… well, he just had to take a bite.

ZZZAKAKAKAKZZZAM! 

“Ooh, that’s hard on the teeth!” Millis said aloud.

“What?”  said Tommy.  “Did you hear that?”

“I did,” said Tommy’s servant.  “We’re not the only people here.”

“Idiot boy,” said Millis.  “You are the only people here.  I’m a rabbit.”

“Ghosts?” asked Tommy.

“I believe it is your rabbit,” said the owl-eyed man.  “He’s over behind Dewey.”

“It can’t be Millis.  Millis doesn’t talk.”

“Rabbits would never reveal how much smarter they are than people,” said Millis.

“It is Millis!” declared the servant boy as he came around the big gray clonk-and-clank box.  Actually… it was called a computer.  How did Millis know that?  He couldn’t say.  Well, actually he could say, but didn’t know and didn’t want to say.  The servant boy picked him up.  And on top of that, he didn’t really know how to hold a rabbit.

“You are hurting me, you stupid boy.”

The stupid servant boy dropped Millis as if he were on fire, his rabbity fur blazing and crackling and burning his fingers.  Wait-a-second!  He was on fire!  His skin was burning and bubbling.  “Ahh!  I’m burning!”

“Oh no, Millis.  What did you do?” cried Tommy.

“Are you brain-dead, fool?  I took a bite of the evolutionary accelerator tool created by the Xandar Empire.  It is accelerating me.”

“Gee, that’s kinda cool,” said Tommy, staring at him with wide eyes.  The owl-eyed man was staring too.  Glasses.  Those were glasses making his eyes look so big!

“Your arms and legs are growing,” said the servant boy.  “You’re getting bigger.”

“Yes,” said Millis in amazement.  “I am accelerating to become more like you.  I am still a rodent, but I’m becoming sentient and man-like!  Why would anybody be so sadistic that they would do that to a rabbit?”

“I’ll have to ask him,” said the man with glasses.  “How did you know it was from Xandar?”

“E equals MC squared.  Polytetrafluoroethylene is the proper name for Teflon.  Richard Plantagenet became Richard the Third upon the death of his brother Edward IV and the mysterious disappearance, possibly murder, of twelve-year-old Edward V, Edward IV’s son.”

“Millis, you’re a genius!” cried Tommy.

“I am suddenly very tired,” said Millis the rabbit-man.  “I must sleep now.  Good night, Tommy.  I will bring you cabbage and clover hay from now on.”

Rabbit eyes closed and the world veered away into darkness.

                                                            *****

 

 

So, there you have it.  The accelerated evolution of the rabbit-man Millis.  I will even provide a picture.  Oh, and he’s not flashing a peace sign, that’s the universal signal for “rabbit ears”.

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Alien Inversion

So, the question I am taking up now is:  What can we learn about ourselves by encountering an alien? 

Easy answer Number One: We can learn how quickly our underwear can be soiled.

Easy answer Number Two: Can a man wearing sneakers reach speeds approaching the speed of light?

Easy answer Number Three: …Well, I could only think of two that were even slightly funny.

The truth is, the thing we would most likely take away from a close encounter of the Third Kind is a deeper understanding of what it truly means to be a human being from planet Earth.

We live on a planet where people once thought the Earth itself was the center of the universe and even the sun orbited around us.  The Bible speaks of angels watching the ways of men on Earth and being impelled to “adore and draw near.”  Are we really as vain as all that?  Well, unfortunately, yes, we are.  People believe that God created the universe for mankind and put us in dominion over all the beasts in the fields, the birds in the air, and the fish in the ocean.  It would serve us right if an alien came down to planet Earth and decided humankind were basically only good for another in a long series of exotic items on the menu.  If that happens, the best we can hope for is that we don’t taste very good.

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What would an alien be able to teach earthlings?

I think, though, that it is by noting the differences between a human being and a traveler from a distant planet in a solar system not our own that we really would gain the most insights into what makes us special and unique.  We would clearly discern that an alien who can travel interstellar distances to reach Earth would make us feel like total dim-bulbs when it comes to science.  They know Science with a capital S.  We only know science like the time in Miss Murphy’s class when we cut open a frog and saw all the nasty-colored squishy bits.  We take clocks and small engines apart.  Sometimes we can’t correctly put them back together.  They can take complex biological systems, brains and eco-systems for example, and put them together as easily as finishing a jigsaw puzzle that only had four pieces.

So is that the only meaningful comparison?  We are much stupider than they are?  Not by a long shot.  Advanced, super-smart alien societies will have lost the ability that goes with being stupider… er, I mean, being simpler in their understanding.  They will have lost the ability to wonder and be amazed.  They will have lost the ability to be thrilled to their core at encountering something that no man has ever seen before.  They will simply have protocols in place for dealing with anomalies they have not previously encountered.  How dead, boring, and sterile is that?  It doesn’t make us superior in any way, but we have so many um-gollies ahead of us in the realm of interstellar travel that I would not trade places with even the best of them.  What is an um-golly, you say?  That’s when you see that bright pulsing light hovering above the pavement of Highway Three after midnight, and the green man with a fin on the top of his head instead of hair comes out to meet you.  And what do you say?  “Um… golly!”

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