Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Costs and benefits

A well-planned busy morning gets broken up by the unplanned task of retrieving a small but essential toy part from the vacuum cleaner. A picnic gone wrong is a reminder that the invention of the tin can was independent of and, in fact, preceeded the invention of a can-opener. A consortium of the EU and six states have agreed to spend 10bn Euro over 20 years on the Iter fusion reactor, outlook for success unknown. Equal temperament gradually became a standard keyboard tuning in the west (as well as in all the far east states which produce instruments for export to the west), allowing unlimited modulation at the cost of compromising the intonation of some intervals, and perhaps obliging one to said unlimited modulation. The US President pitches an invasion of anti-Islamicist Iraq as part of a war on Islamicist terrorism, creating countless new Islamicists in the course of a botched occupation. Electronic amplification makes it possible to have sophisticated sound in any location, including all the wrong places, and at large amplitudes, including too-large amplitudes. Once you've started your 12-tone row, chances are that you're going to keep going all the way to the end. Wonderbread. Robert MacNamara. Analog noise, as on a scratched record, is annoying, but usually conserves some of the continuity of the message, while digital noise can break up the message irretrievably.


Anonymous said...


Daniel Wolf said...

Yep. And Robert MacNamara, damn it.

Thomas D said...

The can *preceded* the can-opener? Who'd a thunk it. How did those poor soldiers ever eat their rations?

Digital noise? Try digital radio. Digital signals can be encoded with redundancy to protect against a certain degree of corruption and noise. Not only protect, but allow virtually 100% reconstruction of the original signal.

And those crazy physicists, eh? Spending 10 billion without the least idea what it will result in!! Why would they want to do a thing like that?

(Hint: perhaps you might find out, if you could be bothered to inform yourself about it.)

Daniel Wolf said...

Thomas --

I'm a big supporter of basic physics research, but fusion reasearch has a terrible track record over the past 50 years. The vector space, if you will, of possible ways to do fusion is huge and selecting the wrong point is not only easy but likely, not to mention the fact that all are costly. The money would have been and would be better spent elsewhere -- developing a better conductor or a better battery, for example.