Michael Eriksson's Blog

A Swede in Germany

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Never read your idols!

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“Never meet your idols!” the saying goes. A similar saying might apply to re-encountering, after too long a time, someone or something that we once admired:* Working on a text on some early influences and non-influences on my own development, I downloaded a copy of “Broca’s Brain”—a work by Carl Sagan, which I recall reading with great enjoyment at a tender age.**

*For which the title of this text is a hyperbolic special case, not to be taken literally.

**How tender, I do not know for certain, but it was tender: “Cosmos” was, according to IMDB, released in Sweden when I was 7 (1982), which provides a lower bound, while leaving “mellanstadiet” (years 4–6 of school) provides an upper bound. (A better lower bound would be given by the publication of “Broca’s Brain” in Swedish translation, but a short Internet search did not find this information.)

Having now partially read, partially skimmed the introduction and the first of five parts (“Science and Human Concerns”), I am horribly disappointed and will not read on. Not only is the writing the type of poor non-science that makes popular-science books hopeless,* but Sagan reasons poorly, is weak on critical thinking, shows a lack of understanding of what little science is present, is highly naive outside of science, and pushes exactly the type of anti-scientific Leftist populism that is so dangerous and has done so much damage to the modern world. Too often, he abuses rhetoric to spread opinions, instead of factual arguments. Above all, I come away with the impression that he has not truly thought on and gained insight into most of what he discusses.

*E.g. through an immense amount of “human interest” material with only parenthetical mentions of actual science, through sloppy or faulty science, and through more attempts at saying how wonderful this-and-that is than actually demonstrating the wonderfulness (note e.g. the first quote below).

Between the “Cosmos” TV series, “Broca’s Brain”, and one or two other books (of unremembered title[s]), Sagan once seemed an intellectual giant to me. Right now, he seems like a “mid-wit”.

To look at some details:*

*Quotes with reservations for distortions during a PDF to text conversion. Some hyphenation at line-breaks have been removed (as have the line-breaks themselves). Some formatting might have changed.

This book is written just before—at most, I believe, a few years or a few decades before—the answers to many of those vexing and awesome questions on origins and fates are pried loose from the cosmos. […] By far the most exciting, satisfying and exhilarating time to be alive is the time in which we pass from ignorance to knowledge on these fundamental issues; the age where we begin in wonder and end in understanding. In all of the four-billion-year history of life on our planet, in all of the four-million-year history of the human family, there is only one generation privileged to live through that unique transitional moment: that generation is ours.

It might well be that there were many interesting questions posed and/or answered at the time, but that has not been unique to any given “now” for a long time. Consider e.g. someone seeing the breakthroughs of Galileo, Newton, Darwin, or Einstein, or one of a number of other big names, and the ensuing immense changes to our understanding of the world. Their contemporaries might very well have expressed a sentiment similar to Sagan’s. And: We are more than forty years, or almost two generations, past Sagan’s time of writing.* I am not convinced that the set of questions has changed that much or that the answers to them have been provided.**

*Here and elsewhere, I am not clear on what material was written exactly when. The book was published in 1979, but individual copyrights go back to as early as 1974. Depending on the exact quote, and what might or might not have been revised, we land at between 43 and 48 years ago using a year-minus-year calculation.)

**Sagan mostly speaks in generalities and it is hard to make a statement about any given question, because the question is not actually given. However, off the top of my head, I can recall no true and great revelation during my own lifetime (which is approximately the lifetime of the book), only smaller and more accumulating insights. Yes, we have evidence of the Higgs boson, we are reasonably certain how the non-avian dinosaurs died out (and that birds are dinosaurs), and we have a better estimate for the age of the universe; no, we have not seen the equivalent of heliocentrism, evolution, deep space, deep time, special and general relativity theory, quantum mechanics, maybe not even continental drift. (With reservations for discoveries yet to be widely known or sufficiently understood as important.) Moreover, it is in the nature of science that new revelations raise more questions than they answer and that answers tend to merely shift the problem from the current turtle to the turtle below it.

You could feel the presence of nineteenth-century museum directors engaged, in their frock coats, in goniométrie* and craniologie*, busily collecting and measuring everything, in the pious hope that mere quantification would lead to understanding.

*The setting is a French museum, which explains the language.

Apart from being one of many, many examples of atrocious writing, this simultaneously gives a hint of the agenda pushing to come and gives signs of own prejudice and lack of scientific understanding and/or mentality.

Not only is this unwarranted speculation about the long dead, but it also misses the point of measurements and quantification: Good science, outside of strictly theoretical fields, requires measurements, be it to get the lay of the land, to develop first ideas and models, or to verify/reject/refine these ideas and models. Understanding comes from thinking, but we need to have something to think about and a connection between the thoughts and reality. That someone takes an interest in quantification does, as should be obvious, not automatically imply that this is his sole interest and that he considers quantification to be enough.

As to what is measured: Let us say that you were a 19th-century anthropologist with an interest in the physiology of the human mind. Where would you begin your measurements and investigations? With a CT-scan? With an EEG? By cutting up the skull of a living human and placing electrodes into the brain? No, chances are that you would begin with calipers. Maybe, calipers would turn out to be highly insufficient at the end of the day, but you have to start somewhere, you have to start with something realistic, and you have no way of knowing in advance whether calipers will be productive or a dead end.

An array of large cylindrical bottles containing, to my astonishment, perfectly preserved human heads. A red-mustachioed man, perhaps in his early twenties, originating, so the label said, from Nouvelle Calédonie. Perhaps he was a sailor who had jumped ship in the tropics only to be captured and executed, his head involuntarily drafted in the cause of science. Except he was not being studied; he was only being neglected, among the other severed heads.

This is one example of how Sagan seems to push an attitude of something barbaric or wasteful with the collections of a museum. (And what is the point of wildly speculating on the man’s profession and fate?) Maybe, there are some objects who have never brought value or truly do reflect something barbaric, but current neglect is not a sign of this. It might, for instance, be that this head was once an object of intense study, but that this study is now long ended. Who says that the currently neglected might not prove of value at some later time? How are we to know in advance what objects are worth preserving? Etc.

Doubtless the savants of earlier days had hoped there might be some anomaly, some telltale sign in the brain anatomy or cranial configuration of murderers. Perhaps they had hoped that murder was a matter of heredity and not society. Phrenology was a graceless nineteenth-century aberration. I could hear my friend Ann Druyan saying, “The people we starve and torture have an unsociable tendency to steal and murder. We think it’s because their brows overhang.”

This reeks of politically correct “Those people of yore were evil racists. Thank good that we are so much more enlightened!” thinking:

Phrenology was not a “graceless nineteenth-century aberration”—it was merely something that did not pan out. A priori, it might or might not have, and the general idea (but not necessarily the details) was not obviously absurd. There are even aspects of it that proved true, notably the idea of a differentiated brain with different areas having different responsibilities.* (As a contrast, note that Leftists have sometimes tried to deny that even brain volume/weight might have any type of influence, and that the considerable physiological differences between male and female brains would, by some stroke of magic, be equally void of influence. There we have a truly graceless aberration.) From another perspective, that phrenology did not pan out and that no “telltale sign” was found might merely have reflected the limits of science and measurements at the time. Today, it is known that differences within the brain** can affect e.g. behavior (even among humans, as opposed to the more obvious differences between e.g. humans and horses).

*I am not certain whether this idea originated with phrenology, however, or whether it merely was central to phrenology.

**Consider e.g. the considerable influence of the amygdala. Unfortunately, the amygdala cannot be characterized by applying calipers to the outside of a skull.

As to his “friend” (actually, future wife), the quote is a good example of simplistic Leftist thought or argumentation—lack of insight, straw-manning, and borderline sloganeering. Not only does it suggest an active oppression and a level of poverty/whatnot that is only very rarely present, but it also ignores the overwhelming amount of crimes, then and now, committed for reasons other than dire need (or e.g. a wish for vengeance). Look at the current U.S. For that matter, look at Sagan’s U.S. As to overhanging brows, they might be irrelevant, but there is considerable evidence of at least one connection between something largely inborn, IQ, and various behaviors (cf. e.g. “The Bell-Curve”).

It was difficult to hold Broca’s brain without wondering whether in some sense Broca was still in there—his wit, his skeptical mien, his abrupt gesticulations when he talked, his quiet and sentimental moments. Might there be preserved in the configuration of neurons before me a recollection of the triumphant moment when he argued before the combined medical faculties (and his father, overflowing with pride) on the origins of aphasia? [And a looong continued rambling on the same theme.]

I am no expert on the workings of human memory, but I suspect that such ideas border on the ridiculous to someone who is an expert—and would have done so even at Sagan’s time of writing. With the end of neurological activity and the subsequent decay, chances are that virtually everything would be gone. Also note how Sagan, much like a phrenologist, wishes to extract information from the configuration of the brain—the one might want to do so by looking at bumps on the head, the other by looking at neurons, but the principle is not that different.

Broca was a humanist of the nineteenth century, but unable to shake the consuming prejudices, the human social diseases, of his time. He thought men superior to women, and whites superior to blacks.

While I cannot speak for specifically Broca, these formulations, especially “social diseases”, are too far-going and speculative—likely more reflecting Sagan’s prejudices than those of Broca’s time. Leaving the specific word “superior” out of the discussion,* it was clear then and it is clear now, outside of politically correct propaganda, that e.g. great inventors, thinkers, scientists, whatnot tend to be male more or much more often than female—even given equal opportunity. The same applies to e.g white vs. black. Etc. A criticism is valid e.g. if someone were to conclude that all men are smarter than all women, but I have seen few examples of such thinking both in my own experiences of the current world and my readings of history and literature of the 19th century. Women of great actual and proven ability were not shoved off to the kitchen merely for being women—they just happened to be very rare. Possibly infected by Sagan’s tendency to speculate and imagine wildly, I cannot shake the image of someone trying to show Queen Victoria her proper place. She does not seem amused as she loads up for a devastating blow with her handbag.

*Firstly, it is not clear whether this is Sagan’s word or that of e.g. Broca. Secondly, it is unclear what type of superiority is intended, and a discussion would be hampered without clarifying this. For instance, and at one extreme, if we speak of some abstract human value, everyone might be tautologically on the same level. For instance, and on the other extreme, if we equate superiority with having a higher IQ, then these “prejudices” are correct (at the group level). I am also uncertain what the proper connotations of “superior” would have been in the original context—is Lake Superior actually better than Lake Huron? (Or is it simply further to the north? Or is there an other explanation for the name entirely?) Is your superior at work actually better than you?

Indeed, the current world suffers from massive prejudice in the opposite direction, that all are created identical in abilities (not just equal in rights), that what we accomplish in life is determined by how poor or wealthy our parents were, that a few additional years of education is what made the smart smart and the lack of these few years what left the dumb dumb, etc. (Whether Sagan did so too, I leave unstated.) This despite mountains of evidence to the contrary.

From another point of view, the defining characteristic of a prejudice is not that it is wrong, but that it is arrived at without sufficient investigation, deliberation, and whatnot. But was that truly the case with the opinions of Broca and his peers? They might have drawn from a wide range of experiences and observations, and might have arrived at these opinions in a perfectly reasonable manner. (This while their current counterparts might reject the very notion of this-or-that out of hand, because it “cannot” or “must not” be true; because a wrong word on the matter could lead to a “cancellation”; or similar—and never mind the actual evidence.)

Even so straightforward a question as whether in the absence of friction a pound of lead falls faster than a gram of fluff was answered incorrectly by Aristotle and almost everyone else before the time of Galileo. Science is based on experiment, on a willingness to challenge old dogma, on an openness to see the universe as it really is.

Hypocrite!

Where would Galileo have been without measurements and observations? Was not Aristotle’s problem (rumored to be) exactly that he failed to do measurements? Why would Galileo be better or worse than a user of calipers? The falling objects happen to be far less complex, and much more easily observed, than the human brain. If it had been the other way around, Galileo might be viewed as a quack and some phrenologist as a hero of science.

Can we know, ultimately and in detail, a grain of salt? Consider one microgram of table salt, a speck just barely large enough for someone with keen eyesight to make out without a microscope. In that grain of salt there are about 10^16 sodium and chlorine atoms. This is a 1 followed by 16 zeros, 10 million billion atoms. If we wish to know a grain of salt, we must know at least the three-dimensional positions of each of these atoms.

Do we now? Firstly, by that standard of exact and exacting detail, humans would know virtually nothing about anything, rendering the idea of knowledge nonsensical and contradictory to previous conceptions. Secondly, is this the right level of abstraction? For instance, virtually any relevant characteristic of this grain of salt will be independent of the exact numbers of atoms and their exact layout. For instance, the individual atoms are not salt. Thirdly, we have issues in the extended family of the Sorites Paradox and the Ship of Achilles. Would, for instance, a previous knowledge be invalidated if two sodium atoms changed places? (Likely with more concerns to be found on deeper contemplation.)

By analogy, would we require this level of knowledge in order to say that someone “knows his brother” or “knows math”? Well, maybe, someone could argue that there is a difference between knowing one’s brother and knowing him “ultimately and in detail”, but even here the bar must either be set lower or the exercise be pointless. If in doubt, what would the benefit of knowing someone/something “ultimately and in detail” be, if such excessive and pointless criteria are applied?*

*In addition, this is the wrong type of knowledge. (Cf. e.g. knowing his exact atomic configuration with knowing, say, his favorite movies, foods, places, whatnot.) However, Sagan notes that there is more to the grain of salt, he would presumably think the same about humans, and it would almost certainly be unfair to criticize him in this area.

If, as seems likely, every bit of information in the brain corresponds to one of these [dendrites], the total number of things knowable by the brain is no more than 10^14, one hundred trillion.

Why would this seem likely? On the contrary, from what I have read so far, as well as from common sense, it is highly likely that various memories are formed by some accumulation of something or other—and I am sceptical as to whether dendrites, per se, are these something or other. Even if we assume that they are, the equation of one bit with one dendrite is dubious, and seems like a naive attempt to apply a computer-memory paradigm onto the brain,* which simply does not pan out.

*I do not know how knowledgable Sagan was in the field of computing/computers/whatnot, but I have seen the same type of thinking from others in the past.

It is an astonishing fact that there are laws of nature, rules that summarize conveniently—not just qualitatively but quantitatively—how the world works.

Is it? Or is it merely a fact that seems astonishing to someone unfamiliar with the idea? (Here the questions should be taken at face value: it is often the case that prior exposure alters expectations, and I am not certain which set of expectations is the more reasonable a priori.)

It might be argued that rules could be found in almost any functioning system, because it is hard to avoid entering the realms of math or quasi-math beyond a certain point. Consider e.g. the “law of large numbers” and variations thereof, and how hard it would be for a large system to avoid it, even absent more deterministic rules.

We might imagine a universe in which there are no such laws, in which the 10^80 elementary particles that make up a universe like our own behave with utter and uncompromising abandon. To understand such a universe we would need a brain at least as massive as the universe.

Why? Even with a high degree of random or unexpected behavior, chances are* that abstraction and blocking of various types would reduce the load considerably—as would the likelihood that we only ever interact with a small subset of all those particles. For a sufficient level of “strangeness”,** the claim might hold, but for any reasonably likely universe, even well short of the actual universe, it will likely be false. In the other direction, for a sufficient level of “strangeness”, no brain might be sufficient—or capable of existence.

*Note e.g. the behavior of a gas or gas mixture, including the atmosphere that surrounds us: While the molecules of a gas underlie rules, they are quite chaotic when taken one-by-one, to the point that they might seem to behave entirely randomly and without rules when viewed by a naive observer. Nevertheless, when aggregated to a level that is observable by a regular human (without special equipment), they behave quite reasonably. Behavior on the quantum level might equally seem absurd to us, but still results in high-level behavior that is easily handled.

**Assume e.g. that your typical particle jumps instantaneously from one point of the universe to another in random manner, while alternating between being an electron, a positron, a beach-ball, and a tea kettle, and while its gravitational pull independently varies between zero and that of a star.

It seems unlikely that such a universe could have life and intelligence, because beings and brains require some degree of internal stability and order. But even if in a much more random universe there were such beings with an intelligence much greater than our own, there could not be much knowledge, passion or joy.

Again, why? On the first count, for a sufficient level of “strangeness”, he might be right, but for more reasonable levels he is likely wrong; and even at extreme levels of strangeness, the result might be a type of life and/or intelligence that is simply strange to us. (Contrast e.g. the eponymous entity from Fred Hoyle’s “The Black Cloud” with a regular human to see how radically different conceptions of life are possible—and then note that the unconceivable-by-humans might be far stranger yet.) The second count is ridiculous given the premise of “beings with an intelligence much greater than our own”—except in as far as passion and joy* might be aspects of life that simply do not apply to a sufficiently different life-form. This, however, does not require an extraordinarily strange universe—it is enough with a sufficiently alien life-form. (Contrast e.g. “Data” with the rest of the TNG Enterprise crew. To a lesser degree, the same applies to some other major characters in the franchise, including various Vulcans and the holographic “Doctor”.)

*Knowledge is less likely to be an issue, but maybe it is too in some extreme scenario—or maybe the idea of knowledge is different.

It is stunning that as we go close to the speed of light our mass increases indefinitely, we shrink toward zero thickness in the direction of motion, and time for us comes as near to stopping as we would like. Many people think that this is silly, and every week or two I get a letter from someone who complains to me about it.

Well, if he phrases it like that… (I am genuinely uncertain whether the formulations are idiotic or whether Sagan has completely misunderstood relativity theory.)

Firstly, if Einstein’s relativity assumption holds,* there is no such thing as getting close to the speed of light—either something is at the speed of light or it is not. To travel at 0.999999999 times the speed of light relative e.g. the Earth** has much more in common with standing still relative the Earth than it does with actually reaching the speed of light. (Similarly, the numbers 5 and 5000000000 have much more in common with each other than with, say, Aleph-0.) Indeed, from the perspective of the traveller, his own speed (“eigen-speed”) is 0—plainly and simply, or the relativity assumption does not hold.

*There is (or was, when I was at Uni) some dispute as to whether it holds perfectly or just approximately, maybe whether the distribution of mass might create a preferred frame anyway.

**Which is not the same thing as travelling at 0.999999999 times the speed of light in an absolute sense.

Secondly, no our mass does not increase, we do not shrink, and time does not come near stopping. All these things remain exactly as they were—because our eigen-speed is 0. On the contrary, it is the rest of the universe which goes through strange changes.*

*From our point of view. If Sagan means something else, e.g. the point of view of an observer in Greenwich, he should not have spoken in terms of “we”.

(One might also criticize the use of the phrase “speed of light” as it misses the point entirely, but the use is so common that it would be unfair to criticize specifically Sagan for it. Indeed, at least in this text, I follow his example for convenience. As to the correct perspective: there is an upper limit on how fast information/causality/whatnot can travel and light happens to be one of the things that travels “at the speed limit”.)

For myself, I like a universe that includes much that is unknown and, at the same time, much that is knowable. A universe in which everything is known would be static and dull, as boring as the heaven of some weakminded theologians. A universe that is unknowable is no fit place for a thinking being. The ideal universe for us is one very much like the universe we inhabit. And I would guess that this is not really much of a coincidence.

A dubious opinion (and what seems like a gratuitous swipe at theologians): A known universe need not be static at all, although a static universe might be easier to know than a dynamic one. Unless the individual individually knows and understands the entire universe, there might be plenty of surprises. (And if he does know and understands it, chances are that he is a being so different from us that Sagan’s and my opinions are irrelevant to him. By Sagan’s own reasoning, the human brain would fall well short of the mark for any universe less trivial than a grain of salt.*) As to the unknowable universe, it will depend on what exactly is unknowable, but chances are that a high degree of “unknowability” would be very tolerable.** Not a coincidence? Is he postulating a divine creator or assuming a sufficient adaption of life to the universe? If the former, he seems hypocritical; if the latter, well, then life might adapt excellently to other universes too.

*Well, maybe a grain-of-salt universe would be boring, but this is a matter of the static state of a grain, not necessarily size or knowledge. Melt the grain and it might be much more interesting.

**Consider an alternate-universe pre-historic human who has no clue why he needs to eat and breathe, maybe even one who cannot rely on night following day and water flowing downwards, but who is certain that the ground will carry him and that that weird feeling in his stomach will disappear if he does eat.

Without Einstein, many of the young people who became scientists after 1920 might never have heard of the existence of the scientific enterprise.

Heh?!? This is too stupid to comment on, beyond bringing the stupidity to the readers’ attention.

[…] the famous equation, E = mc^2, which is so widely quoted and so rarely understood. The equation expresses the convertibility of matter into energy, and vice versa. It extends the law of the conservation of energy into a law of conservation of energy and mass, stating that energy and mass can be neither created nor destroyed—although one form of energy or matter can be converted into another form.

[…]

The complete conversion of one gram of mass [sic!] into energy […]

Indeed, Sagan himself gives conflicting signs as to whether he understands the equation: Either he does not or he expresses himself poorly.

Firstly it is very disputable whether “can be neither created nor destroyed” follows from the formula, as the core is a mass–energy equivalence, not preservation.

Secondly, mass cannot be converted into energy; matter only with reservations.* What can be done is to “convert” mass associated with one type of energy into mass associated with another, e.g. by converting some type of binding** energy into kinetic energy (movement of mass) or kinetic energy into gravitational potential energy (e.g. a mass on a hill) .

*The issue is complicated by Sagan’s inconsistent use of “matter” and “mass”: Matter is a poorly defined concept separate from mass, where, depending on definitions, photons and similar particles need not count as matter, but do have a (relativistic) mass. If, for instance, an electron and a positron cancel each other with two photons as result, it might argued that they were matter “converted” into energy, but the overall energy and mass is no larger or smaller than before. Mass is also a somewhat dubious concept, especially as too many resort to special treatment of “rest mass” over mass or relativistic mass in general. (This especially when it comes to photons, which, according to some, would be massless by dint of having no rest mass. A better perspective is to say that they have mass but no rest[ing] state. Again, being at the speed of light and being at 0.999999999 times the speed of light relative the Earth are two fundamentally different things.) As an aside, I personally suspect that mass is best viewed as a manifestation of energy, which would make the conservation of mass a side-effect of the conservation of energy.

**E.g. chemical energy between atoms in a molecule or nuclear energy between protons and neutrons in an atomic nucleus.

Before Einstein, it was widely held by physicists that there were privileged frames of reference, such things as absolute space and absolute time. Einstein’s starting point was that all frames of reference—all observers, no matter what their locale, velocity or acceleration—would see the fundamental laws of nature in the same way. It seems likely that Einstein’s view on frames of reference was influenced by his social and political attitudes and his resistance to the strident jingoism he found in late-nineteenth-century Germany. Indeed, in this sense the idea of relativity has become an anthropological commonplace, and social scientists have adopted the idea of cultural relativism: there are many different social contexts and world views, ethical and religious precepts, expressed by various human societies, and most of comparable validity.

The physical part might or might not (likelier*) be correct, but I doubt his claims about Einstein’s motivations. The claim is sufficiently unexpected and counter-intuitive that a greater amount of reasoning or references would have been needed. It also reminds me of “Fashionable Nonsense”. A more plausible seeming explanation is that Einstein took a leap that others had either overlooked or not dared. I note that the idea is arguably a generalization of Newton’s laws of motion, which could be seen as putting every fix velocity on par with staying still in at least some regards. What influence Einstein might or might not have had on social scientists I do not know, but I note that cultural relativism is only superficially similar and that using the one to justify the other is ill-advised. Moreover, cultural relativism is to a large part misguided and by no means the height of enlightenment: there are types of comparisons where A vs. B does not matter, but for most As and Bs, there will be some or many comparisons where the difference does matter—and very often important such.**

*Depending on what Sagan intends by “acceleration” and “fundamental laws of nature”. The core relativity assumption refers to fix velocities, and someone in acceleration can feel or measure a gravitation-like pull which is absent when moving without acceleration. If two objects move away from each other at fix speed, they will live in equivalent worlds; if there is acceleration, they live in different worlds, as the gravitation-like pull will be different for the two—most likely entirely absent for one of them, because he is not doing anything, while his counterpart is actively changing the relative velocity between the two. Also note how e.g. the “twin paradox” is based on an asymmetry caused by acceleration. (When we move from special to general relativity, additional restrictions might be needed.)

**To look at extreme ends: (a) Whether we pick the French or English language rarely matters, except when there is a pre-existing English- or French-dominated demographic—the languages are, in some sense, equally powerful and fungible. (b) Western medicine vs. the local shaman will usually leave the shaman in shambles, but if someone has eaten the wrong local mushroom, the shaman might do the better job—the systems are neither equally powerful nor fungible.

(In addition to the above, there are a lot of biographical detail and details of Einstein’s political opinions that could be seen as Leftist agenda pushing and as irrelevant to a text ostensibly on science or scientific thought. As my own text deals with Sagan and his work, I will not go into detail, but I do note, in Einstein’s defense, that Leftist opinions were easier to understand in the long gone past than they are today. Cf. e.g. [1]. Einstein was of a generation where some naivete was understandable, even among the highly intelligent and educated; Sagan does not have that excuse.)

But a very plausible case can be made that our civilization is fundamentally threatened by the lack of adequate fertility control. Exponential increases of population will dominate any arithmetic increases, even those brought about by heroic technological initiatives, in the availability of food and resources, as Malthus long ago realized. While some industrial nations have approached zero population growth, this is not the case for the world as a whole.

And the spectre of Malthus has scared the world again and again, but we are still here. The world population is more than twice what it was back then—and there is a lesser problem with food shortages today. (Excepting some artificially created issues, unrelated to population growth, notably the recent COVID and Ukraine situations.) Maybe a truly problematic point will come some day, but there are other problems that are far worse and more urgent—and here the then zero, now often negative, population growth of “some industrial nations” is a major problem.* These problems include dysgenics within the industrial nations, a demographic shift between industrial and non-industrial nations, and the turning of industrial nations into service nations (see excursion).

*Yes, he is right that the ongoing increase in the non-industrial world is a problem, but not due to global population growth. The problem is the demographic shift.

Of course, Sagan likely commits the error that almost every invoker of Malthus does—to assume that the population will grow and grow with less and less to share per capita. In reality, chances are that we would see a voluntary equilibrium before that point was reached. (If not, we would see an involuntary equilibrium when it is reached.) In particular, any exponential population increase simply would not continue once food becomes scarce enough (or water, living space, whatnot).

Minor climatic fluctuations can destroy entire populations with marginal economies. In many societies where the technology is meager and reaching adulthood an uncertain prospect, having many children is the only possible hedge against a desperate and uncertain future. Such a society, in the grip of a consuming famine, for example, has little to lose. At a time when nuclear weapons are proliferating unconscionably, when an atomic device is almost a home handicraft industry, widespread famine and steep gradients in affluence pose serious dangers to both the developed and the underdeveloped worlds.

Sigh…

Minor climatic fluctuations? To some approximation, they could, but it is rare* and it is more likely that these populations are hit by something falling short of a climatic fluctuation, e.g. bad weather that ruins a harvest or two. Moreover, chances are that they would be partially bailed out by Western charity.

*As Sagan is not more specific, I have to be vague. If we are talking, say, the population of a small village, it is bound to happen every now and then. (But even here there is some chance that it is the village that dies, while the population moves elsewhere.) If we are talking, say, the population of an entire country, I can recall no single example.

Having many children? A half-truth at best. Chances are that having fewer children and giving them more resources and attention per capita would be better.

Little to lose? Lose in what sense and to whom/what? The last thing to do in a “consuming famine” is to have more children. If in doubt, the newly born are unlikely to live long enough to be useful.

Nuclear weapons? What do they have to do with the topic? What is unconscionable about having or proliferating them? (As opposed to using them and with restrictions to non-crazy countries. Note that the threat of nuclear weapons might well be what has prevented WWIII for more than 70 years. Also see excursion.) Is widespread famine supposed to greatly increase the risk of a nuclear war?

The solution to such problems certainly requires […] , and, especially, fair distribution of the world’s resources.

Here a specification of what Sagan considers fair would have been needed—not to mention what resources he means. It might be unfair that the Saudi’s have oil and the Swedes do not, but how is that to be rectified? What about the Swedish trees vs. the Saudi sand? A geographic lottery might see winners and losers, but is not inherently unfair, a win in one section might be a loss in another, and some degree of own choice is involved. Or does Sagan mean e.g. food? If so, much of the differences go back to whether someone works the land and how well—teach a man to farm instead of giving him bread. Or is this some hyper-naive far-Left idea that “once we have redistributed all the money of the rich to the poor, we will live in utopia for ever”?

At the other is the proposal of Gerard O’Neill of Princeton University to construct large orbital cities that would, using lunar and asteroidal materials, be self-propagating—one city being able to construct another from extraterrestrial resources. [With more on the topic following.]

Maybe one day, but here and now? It cannot be seen as a serious suggestion today, let alone in the 1970s. Focus on what is realistic and doable, including revisiting the Moon, first-visiting Mars, building more space stations, increasing space tourism, … Sooner or later, the critical mass will be there, and if the idea pans out, the cities will be built. I would suspect, however, that we would see a moon city first; in part, because benefits seem more likely; in part, because building an orbital city beginning on the moon might be a lot easier. For that matter, underwater cities might be a more reasonable first step.

We are not stronger or swifter than many other animals that share this planet with us. We are only smarter.

Apart from this claim being oddly placed and bringing nothing to its context: While humans have many limitations, in part due to trading specialisation for generalisation and physical abilities for brain power, they do fairly well in absolute strength and swiftness. (Note that most other animals are considerably smaller.) Yes, a human might lose a fight against an elephant or even a largish dog, but what about that fox, mouse, or ant? For larger animals, our brains have given us spears, guns, and other weapons. As to being smarter, I sometimes wonder.

Only a small fraction of the most able youngsters enter scientific careers. I am often amazed at how much more capability and enthusiasm for science there is among elementary school youngsters than among college students. Something happens in the school years to discourage their interest (and it is not mainly puberty); we must understand and circumvent this dangerous discouragement.

I am with him as far as the negative influence of school* is concerned, but (a) I am sceptical to the “small fraction” claim, (b) it is far from a given that school would discourage from specifically science, (c) to claim “more capability” among youngster is ridiculous. Chances are that those who choose a different career** do so for other reasons, e.g. later non-scientific interests, careers that allow better earnings, or the realization that science, as a profession, is not just fun and games but actual hard work. Maybe, some intervention in these areas might be beneficial, but the right to choose freely must be preserved. Moreover, apparent early capability can be misleading, especially when it comes to those untested in math.

*Here and elsewhere with reservations for what might be different between his and my respective school years and the schools of our respective time of writing.

**And, maybe, a science adjacent career, e.g. as a physician instead of a biologist, an engineer instead of a physicist.

It is clear that Albert Einstein became a scientist in spite of, not because of, his schooling (Chapter 3).

My point exactly—he still became a scientist. In a wider view, this chapter (Chapter 4) of “Broca’s brain” seems to implicitly commit the fallacy of assuming that the education makes the man, while the opposite is the truth. (The odder, as the preceding chapter went in the other direction.)

In his Autobiography, Malcolm X describes a numbers runner who never wrote down a bet but carried a lifetime of transactions perfectly in his head. What contributions to society, Malcolm asked, would such a person have made with adequate education and encouragement?

Probably very few and minor, even if the description is correct:* A great memory does not equate to a great scientist (or a great whatnot), no matter how much it might help, and there is no guarantee that he would even have wanted to become one. The question is not one of memory but of ability to think—the good thinker with a poor memory can use a notebook; the poor thinker with a great memory has no such aid. And referencing Malcolm X? Really? A racist, Islamist hate-monger?

*And it need not be. There might be an honest misestimate, exaggerations, misunderstandings, or even fabrication involved.

I believe that there are many more of [brilliant, daring and complex people] around—in every nation, ethnic group and degree of affluence—than we realize.

On the contrary, these make a small proportion of the population even in the West and the “smart” parts of Asia. Elsewhere they are rarer still. (Affluence, presumably in the sense of parental SES or something similar, is more secondary, once corrected for other factors, but by now, if not already “then”, there will almost certainly be a further rarity the lower in income we go, as there has been a filtering over many decades.)

Not all is bad, however. I note e.g. the implicitly anti-post-modern claim:

The well-meaning contention that all ideas have equal merit seems to me little different from the disastrous contention that no ideas have any merit.

(Although, contextually, I am not certain that his own investigation of what claims have what merit was very meritorious. Other claims might indicate a naive support of post-modernism.)

Or take a rare show of self-insight:

The question raises nagging uncertainties about which of the conventional truths of our own age will be considered unforgivable bigotry by the next.

A point which has been of great importance during the last ten or twenty years through the ever more extreme positions of the “New Left”.

Other positive examples include the use of Einstein to illustrate problems with the school system and the similarity of anti-science stances in Nazi-Germany and the Soviet Union. (The latter is of a particular interest to me due to my series on the Nazis and their correct classification as Left-wing. I also note similarities with how the current Left and the COVID fanatics treat science that speaks against their respective orthodoxy.)

As more of an aside, the long time between my current reading and the original publication has led to changes. Contrast e.g. the, by now, decades old ban on CFCs in new refrigerators with:

Steps have finally, although reluctantly, been taken to ban halocarbons* from spray cans (although no one seems to be worrying about the same molecules used in refrigerators) and as a result the immediate dangers are probably slight.

*Halocarbons include CFCs, but also many other chemicals of no relevance here.

Excursion on nuclear weapons vs. delivery systems:
I have long suspected that the creation of nuclear weapons had less impact than the creation of new delivery systems. There was e.g. an early fear that “the bomber always gets through”; and, looking at WWII vs. WWI, the main difference in terms of bombings were not the two (by today’s standards) small nuclear attacks but the massive aerial bombings of Japan,* Germany, London, and some other areas, which would have been inconceivable without a sufficient quantity of suitable** airplanes. Of course, without airplanes, there would have been no (or very different) nuclear attacks to begin with. The true killer might be the ICBM and the ability to e.g. bomb the Soviet Union from U.S. soil and vice versa. With conventional warheads, ICBMs might “only” be able to take out Moscow resp. Washington and New York instead of dozens of cities. But is that not bad enough? Alternately, countermeasures might be strong enough to ensure that “only” half the city is destroyed instead of the entire city.*** In contrast, nukes without a sufficient delivery system are of little value: What are you going to do? Smuggle a few nukes to Moscow by truck and have them waiting two decades for some future signal that their time has come?

*And the conventional bombings of Japan killed more civilians than the nuclear. (Yet, the one counts as war, the other as war crime…)

**Where suitability does not just include the capacity to carry a certain load, but also having sufficient range to reach the target, sufficient speed or height to not be shoot down, etc. Not many years before WWII, the planes for WWII-style bombings were simply not available. Indeed, even the Orvilles were just several decades back.

***Missing a single nuke can easily be worse than missing a dozen very large conventional bombs.

Then we have the question of other “mass destruction” attacks. What about an ICBM loaded with some deadly gas or infectious this-or-that?

If nukes are the larger problem, this is likely restricted to fusion-based devices, which are similarly more powerful relative fission-based devices as fission-based devices are relative conventional explosives. A dozen Tzar Bombas would be far worse than a hundred Little Boys.

Excursion on service vs. industry:
The value of services is usually far more fleeting and often more pointless than industrial production, which too few seem to understand. To this, as a personal anecdote: The first time that GDP (or some similar measure) was explained to us in school, I objected to the inclusion of services—make a toaster and someone has a toaster for ten years; give a haircut and the effect gradually wears off in a month or two. (And most other services have an even shorter period of value…) This while GDP was supposed to be used to compare different countries (with potentially differently sized service sectors) or the same country at different times (again, with potentially differently sized service sectors). Both the teacher and the class seemed to consider me silly. Since then, I have become aware of more points of criticism relating to services (and, off topic, points not relating to services), say, public sector “service” contributions to GDP often having a disputable true value (grow the civil service bureaucracy and GDP increases) or a hired maid being included in GDP while a housewife performing the exact same service is not. When push comes to shove, whether in GDP or “for real”, a service economy can be a giant on feet of clay.

(My current view of GDP is more nuanced than back then, as there are different perspectives. The perspective of the toaster vs. the haircut is valuable, as is the perspective that a toaster is often easier to store or export than a service, but there is also e.g. a perspective of spending, which pays for salaries, which pay for spending, etc., where the proportion of service to manufacture is more secondary than the circulation of money.)

Written by michaeleriksson

June 28, 2022 at 10:14 pm

That bad cosmic joke again

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And another day where the frustrations mount to the point that I feel like screaming (and did, for a very valid reason, cry a little)—and, no, I do not write about even half of these feel-like-screaming days:

I woke up in the morning to find a server hosted at Hetzner inaccessible. From the last time around, several months ago, I knew that the web/html interface for resets no longer worked in my browsers,* something that had back then cost me more than an hour of trial and error, until I had stumbled upon a web-service API that could be used from the command line. I now tried to find the commands that I used back then—but found no trace.**

*Barring later fixes. As to the reason, I can only speculate as no proper error message was given. Hetzner is yet another case of a service provider that gradually makes the interfaces less usable.

**Again, I can only speculate on the reason. Maybe this was something that was lost between backups before a notebook crash. Cf. earlier texts.

I went on the Internet to search for the API again—and found nothing. (Search engines are not what they used to be.)

Before moving on to the provider’s website,* I decided to check my emails. This, in part, because I already felt my annoyance growing, fueled by prior poor experiences with Hetzner,** and knew that a break was a good idea; in part, because I should have received email notifications about the server being down, and thought that these might contain a direct link to the right documentation. (They did not.)

*Known to be poorly structured and filled with “Buy now!” messages. There is a reason that I began with a search engine.

**Including the aforementioned issues, several others issues, emails to the support that either go unanswered or are answered weeks later, and an actual letter to complain about e.g. the unanswered support emails, which is still, it self, unanswered—after several months.

Among my emails, I found a message that my step-grandmother, one of the most lovable women that I have ever met, and as dear to me as my regular grandparents, had died. Day ruined.

I spent the next half hour writing a short email, just a few lines, to my step-father, hindered by how hard it was to find suitable words, my own sorrow, and a mind that kept wandering, especially to how different things turn out for different persons: she made it to an amazing 107, while (among many other losses) my mother died at 67, my maternal grandfather at 61 or 62, depending on the months involved, when I was 7, and my paternal grandfather at, maybe, 69, when I was 1 or 2.

Email done, I then went to the providers website. While it was as bad as I remembered, I soon found the information, and with a bit of puzzling, I managed to recreate the right commands in just a few minutes.

Things seemed to, within what was possible, be looking up a little. I went back to my emails, to clean up all the “server down”, “reset requested”, “server up” messages—and found that the half-hour email to my step-father had been unilaterally rejected by Gmail as alleged spam. Kicked when I am already down.

Now truly at the point of wanting to scream, I moved on to this text to get some pressure relief.

Excursion on Gmail:
There are a great many reasons not to use Gmail, including major privacy and security concerns. This mishandling of spam filtering is yet another.

Apart from the above misclassification being absurd in light of the contents, format, and sending address, there is not one line in the return email on how to remedy the situation. Moreover, email providers simple should not reject the delivery of emails, except in the most blatant cases: they might well classify an email as spam, but the email should still be forwarded to the recipient, so that he has the ability to override the decision. Spam-filtering is and must be a user* decision.

*I originally wrote “client-side”, which would be the typical case. However, a server-side intervention under the user’s control is equally valid. Moreover, there is the possibility of a third-party, e.g. an employer, forcing client-side filters outside the user’s control, which is at best disputable, at worst as bad as what Gmail does.

This is the more absurd, as an email to my father, who also uses Gmail, was not rejected as spam—or, if it was, I received no such notification.

Written by michaeleriksson

June 11, 2022 at 12:30 pm

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House from Hell / Construction noise

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Looking back at this week, there has been in excess of two hours of construction noise, including drilling, on Monday and Tuesday, likely* something similar on Wednesday, and right now (Friday) there has been a persistent hammering for more than half-an-hour and counting. (Small blessing, Thursday did not contain any major disturbances.)

*I left the building for in excess of two hours once the disturbances started up again.

This in what appears* to be a continuation of works than originally began more than six months ago and in a house which has suffered more than a year of construction noise over just a few years time—much of it covering entire workdays, much involving such loud and persistent noises that it was impossible to remain in the apartment, and much intruding even upon the weekends.

*There is, of course, a possibility that work in one apartment ended and work in another began.

Written by michaeleriksson

April 29, 2022 at 8:56 am

Further misadventures

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Warning: The following serves mostly as stress/tension release. With one thing and another, the Nazi series will likely see an interruption until late next week.

After my long period of problems (cf. earlier texts), things were really beginning to look up again, a day here-and-there with construction works notwithstanding. True, I had partially bought this improvement through slacking off, neglecting my writing and reading, letting the mail mount up again, and not, for now, getting to the bottom of a few outrages (notably, the inexcusable behavior of building management and the local chimney sweep, where I have put off very thorough complaints for over a year)*.

*If and when I get around to them, I might also write a few blog entries on the topic. Chances are that you will not believe me, because the situations are so utterly absurd. (And those complaints are on a very different level from the ones in this text.)

Still, things were locking up, I was beginning to get my energy back, writing was beginning to look good again, I was beginning to read heavier material, and I had the new project of researching emigration from Germany (which by now borders on being a Leftist dictatorship).

Then the screen of my newish computer just dies…

(Fortunately, just a few hours after the latest full backup. I have hopes that the issue will be repairable, as it might simply be a loose contact somewhere, but there is no guarantee, notebook repairs are often disproportionately expensive relative the original price, and there is not telling how long this might take.)

This, then, amounts to less than four months of use, while its predecessor might have worked for four years.

The next day, yesterday, I went to the local Mediamarkt to look for replacements*. Again, a bit of good luck among the bad—had this happened a little earlier, Mediamarkt might have been closed or off limits due to Covid restrictions.

*As shown both now and around New Year’s, notebooks are highly troublesome when something goes wrong, as the user has to start almost from scratch and he can be restricted in his work for days. With a desktop, I could usually just buy a new one and spend five minutes switching hard drives, while a mere monitor issue could be solved by just replacing the monitor. (Yes, notebook hard drives can also be replaced, but they are much trickier to access, might differ too much in size to fit in another notebook, and the driver situation can be trickier, which makes for more work post-replacement.)

I walked, as I always do, the few kilometers, but finding myself more tired and lacking in energy than I would have expected from such a distance. Too much time indoors due to a mixture of COVID-restrictions, low temperatures, and (during last summer) prolonged bronchitis have really damaged my fitness. (And then we have the question what this might imply for the future. If I fail to compensate through that much harder work, it might very well be a few years of my life when I am in my eighties.)

I walked around Mediamarkt, looking for suitable specimens, beginning, close at the entry to the second floor, with a set of marked-down-due-to-damage computers. Marked down? Maybe, but, apart from the Chromebooks, they were still more expensive than I cared for, and I had the slight fear that some mixture of stampeding inflation, bottlenecks for various chips and whatnots, and market segmentation* would make the affair far more expensive than intended.**

*E.g. in that only Chromebooks and various Android devices can be had cheaply, while a “grown up” computer goes for massively more. Chromebooks et al, however, are not suitable for my current purposes.

**A few years back, I wrote about an atypical lack of progress or even regression in terms of bang-for-buck when it comes to computers. At that time, the decades long trend towards ever more bang for the buck was temporarily broken. A reason for this might have been the vastly increased demand for smartphone components.

I walked over to where the regular items were found, easy to spot and well displayed—and so expensive that I could not believe my eyes. The cheapest (!) went for 900-something Euro, while the median might have been in excess of 1200.* As a comparison, my first notebook, bought in, maybe, 2000, went for less than 3000 DM or around 1500 Euro. (Yes, this was a low-end specimen and there have been more than twenty years of inflation—but there have also been more than twenty years of technological progress.)

*Reservation: I go by memory and did not take exact mental notes. The general idea holds, even should I have the details wrong.

Then, the day seemed saved: in a much less visible aisle, I found a handful of notebooks at much more moderate prices, of which I picked two (of different models) for a total of less than 900 Euro. These, while low-end, were even of better bang-for-buck than the last time around.*

*Which points to the broken trend having resumed in the interim. Imagine my relief.

Sadly, the year is 2022 and the notebooks still all came with a useless and price-increasing Windows installation. Again: 2022—not 2002. This shit should be long behind us.

I went back home on foot and, having a bad conscience about my fallen endurance, picked a road a little longer and much hillier. (Wuppertal has no end on hills, if one picks the right or, depending on perspective, wrong path.) The result: For the first time in years, even with my building in sight, I had to stop to get my breath back—and the last time around I had a loud both heavier and more awkward to carry.* Halfway up to the third floor, I had to halt again—also for the first time since that heavier-and-more-awkward load. Once in my apartment, I put my notebooks down, kicked off my shoes, dropped my jacket to the floor, too tired to hang it, and then I laid down on the floor, myself, where I spent several minutes. Now, I am not saying that this day would have been an outright pick-nick in the past, but… Two years ago, I would neither have had to stop, nor would I have found myself on the floor afterwards—and I suspect that I would have held a higher average tempo.

*The sum of bag and notebooks might have been around 5 kg, maybe less. (Weight is an area where there really has been progress.) To my very vague recollection, the prior event, involving furniture, might have been at 16 kg, but, in all fairness, over a shorter and flatter course.

After a brief excursion, at snails-pace-by-my-standards, to buy food, I spent most of the remainder of the day feeling really lousy, as I do after an overexertion. The intended high point of the day was a Tex-Mex pizza from the local store (one of my favorite dishes). I put it off until the evening—delayed gratification and all that. Twenty-five minutes in the oven, as I like the pizza crispy and firm, and it should have been good to go. But no. I tried to fish it out onto a teller with a fork, as I always do and which has never failed me in the past. This time, very unfirm dough split around the fork tines and the pizza landed in a heap on the oven lid. I tried to grab the heap with the fork and a hand, and the fork just went through it again, leaving nothing that could reasonably be eaten.*

*I do not know what the problem was. A possibility is that I had not turned one of the knobs far enough, but, if so, I should have noticed it when I turned off the oven—as I always have on the very few prior occasions when a knob has been short of the mark.

Today, I began the installation of Linux (Gentoo). Here things grew tiresome again. For starters, I had, around New Year’s, downloaded the installation manual* to an e-reader—which should be perfect right now. But no. When I opened the document, the font was on the small side, so I picked a larger one. The result: The reader locked up in “hour-glass mode” for so long that it went into power-save** mode before the document had reloaded. Once done, simply going from page 2 to page 3 caused another massive delay, after which the power-save mode was reactivated. After turning the thing on again, I was still on page 2… After several repetitions, I tried to go back in size, as things had worked to begin with. The reader worked for half an eternity, went into power-save mode—and was, surprise, still using the larger font afterwards. Several repetitions brought no improvement.

*Note that Gentoo is a distribution for somewhat more proficient users, and that there is a lot more manual work and own decisions to make than with e.g. Debian.

**Due to the minutes of waiting. The battery, to avoid misunderstandings, was fully loaded.

I gave up and began the installation on the first notebook. Just as I recalled, the installation medium did not contain the installation instructions (a bizarre choice, especially considering how little space would be needed), and the central “man” command for displaying other documentation was equally missing. Fortunately, “cryptsetup” was present and I could mount my (encrypted) backup drive, where I, among other needed things, did have a copy of the installation guide. From here on, things went much smoother than around New Year’s; in part, because I had some experience; in part, because I could forego a number of steps and just populate most of the hard drive from the backup drive. However, there were still quite a few curses, due to the incompatibilities of the defaults in the installation shell and my own ingrained-in-my-fingers preferences. Some obscure errors held me back for a while, because I had forgotten to manually add a “/tmp” directory (which I do not backup), including that tmux refused to start.*

*And why is it so hard to give decent error messages? Pretty much the first rule of writing error messages is to indicate what object caused the problem. It should never be e.g. “File not found!”, but “File XYZ not found!”. Ditto, never “Access denied!” but “Access to XYZ denied!” (unless the object is obvious from the interaction).

Still, apart from some issue with the sound,* I had a working computer and a working Internet much, much faster than last time around—and i decided to carry on with the second, too, today. (Originally, intended for tomorrow.)

*A missing driver, likely. I will look into that later. The device is found by “lspci” but is not in e.g. the “/dev” tree.

But no. While it definitely has a functioning hard drive, as it managed to boot into the pre-installed Windows when I was a little slow with entering the BIOS. However, when I tried the Gentoo installation, this hard drive simply could not be found. There is not even a “/dev” entry. If I have the energy, I will troubleshoot tomorrow, but in a worst case, I might have to replace the boot-image for the installation. Absurd. Again, the year is 2022 and interfaces should be sufficiently standardized that something like that simply cannot happen.

(I also have some misgivings about the keyboard layout. As I noticed during my brief experiments, a few keys had been moved out of position in a manner that could be extremely annoying to the touch typist. Another first rule, and another one all too often violated—if you design keyboards, keep the touch typist in mind, not just the hunt-and-peck typist.)

Written by michaeleriksson

April 23, 2022 at 9:52 pm

Semi-re-opening this blog

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In August 2020, I rather abruptly closed this blog. The result was a considerable drop in texts, but nowhere near the complete stop that I had intended. This for reasons like urgent and important topics, e.g. the 2020 U.S. elections, the ever recurring wish/need for an update on an old topic, the occasional “I must write something about this to relieve my annoyance load”, and similar. (And this even while foregoing a great many updates, potentially interesting new texts, etc.)

In addition, one of the ideas behind the closure was to give me incentives to actually get my website back running, which has yet to happen. (Apart from the work needed, there have been obstacles and annoyances every time that I have begun the attempt that killed my motivation. For instance, my ISP, in the year 2022, still has no SSH access to the server, insisting on FTP or rsync, while my model works by having a version-control repository from which the updates take place. This alone causes extra effort, e.g. throw needing FTP-mounts—and highly avoidable effort, had the ISP been more professional. But then we have issues like FTP-mounts not working as they used to, forcing trouble shooting, and a version drift in the repository software breaking readability, forcing a conversion to a new version/format, and this conversion failing. I have neither the time nor the energy.)

Another complication is that my use of writing as an outlet for the many irritations in life have been diminished, as I have been more limited in topics than before.

As a result, I have decided to try something new: I re-open the blog with the constraint of no more than one text a week. (Not counting occasional corrections/extensions/whatnot, e.g. of the “I forgot to mention” kind; and not counting the current text.)

Written by michaeleriksson

March 24, 2022 at 8:45 pm

Follow-up III: More on my current situation (and complaints about politicians)

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Early in the morning, I went grocery shopping—to find that my bank card did not work. (Fortunately, I had enough cash with me.)

Later in the day, my smartphone, used for my Internet connection, suddenly decided to spontaneously turn on WIFI and try to connect to a commercial WIFI network that I have not used in more than a year. This, of course, did not work, leaving my computer without an Internet connection; equally of course, the source of the problem was not obvious and I wasted minutes troubleshooting on my computer* before I concluded that something must be wrong with the smartphone and/or its connection.

*Which has been prone to lose the connection. (Otherwise, I might have been more suspicious of the smartphone earlier.) Both my old and my new computer tend-ed/-s to interpret a minuscule movement of the USB-connector as “someone has just pulled the plug and immediately re-inserted it”, with an ensuing loss/restart/whatnot of whatever service is involved.

After I turned off the WIFI bullshit, I found the USB-tethering interrupted and failing to automatically reconnect (which it should have done). Only after I physically detached and re-attached the USB cable did the tethering work again.

Nevertheless, on the whole, it felt like a good day, for some reason. I did not dare attack my mail, obviously, but spent a few hours watching old episodes of “Chuck”. The sun was, by the standards of February, shining, and it felt like spring. For the first time in several weeks (!), I found myself spontaneously smiling—and I realized that I had even forgotten the feeling of a spontaneous smile. I felt that everything would be alright, after all, that I was far enough in my recuperation from the construction noise and other problems that I would soon be OK.

I was very tired, as my sleep pattern was out of order, and I went to sleep sometime between 13 and 14 o’clock.

At around 14:30 I was torn out of my sleep by … construction noise.

It only lasted for around an hour this time around, but this was still enough to thoroughly ruin my sleep, my day, and my hopes, because now I do not know what will come next. This might have been a one time event, it might have been a once-every-two-weeks-event, or it might have been the renewed beginning of daily terror.

I managed to go to sleep again a few hours later—only to be awakened again by some type of ruckus from an idiot neighbor.

This is the worse as an involuntary awakening not only risks a further sleep disturbance, but also leaves the body in a very different state from a “natural” awakening, with a degree of tiredness and lack of energy that makes any type of intellectual activity (often even non-intellectual activities) harder or even, especially with an existing sleep deficit, impossible for hours afterwards.

Looking at just sleep, I realize that there can be no guarantees in the daytime. But: in this house, there are no guarantees at any time of day or night. The spans between midnight and 02 respectively 06 and 07 are particularly likely to see disturbances during the last few months. Note well: These are disturbances with a non-trivial likelihood* of waking a sleeper in another apartment (!) who wears ear plugs (!).

*I do not know what proportion of these disturbances have ruined my sleep, as I have not always been troubled when asleep at these respective times (if so, because I slept through a disturbance or because there was none?), but it is often enough. I have certainly often had stretches of consecutive days when I have not been able to sleep past 06-something-or-other because of some ruckus somewhere in the house.

Written by michaeleriksson

February 22, 2022 at 9:32 pm

Follow-up II: More on my current situation (and complaints about politicians)

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Concerning my previous text:

I have managed to print again through the pseudo-solution of removing and re-adding the printer object in “system-config-printer”. I have no idea what was wrong or how to fix it again without repeating the same pseudo-solution. I have no idea what might or might not cause the issue to re-occur, e.g. whether it will be with every printing, every unplugging of the printer, every reboot of the computer, whatnot. I do know that CUPS, or something CUPS related, has screwed up royally, as there was no valid reason for not printing (let alone pretending that printing had taken place)—the physical printer (and everything around it) was identical and identically configured before and after the re-add.

Of course, such a re-adding more than once-in-a-blue-moon would be unconscionable, as various manual settings now must be restored. Indeed, the document that I just printed was an A4 document destined for the A4 paper in the printer’s paper tray—but the default setting of the printer object in CUPS was the U.S. “letter”*, leaving me with odd margins and the spurious feed of a blank page after the two printed pages. I just hope that the config files that I backed up contain everything—and that re-adding them does not cause another malfunction. Actually having to go through the 1001 settings manually is not something that I wish to do again.

*I suspect that A4 dominates “letter” outside of the U.S. making this an odd default choice.

More generally, the delete-and-add-again, reboot-the-computer, reinstall-the-OS, whatnot school of “fixing” problems is a destructive dead-end, a sign that the “fixer” is not up to the problem. When it comes to professional IT-support, as with Chris O’Dowd’s mantra of “Have you tried turning it off and on again?”, it is an utter disgrace. In these cases, a true fix of the problem is avoided for the short-term convenience of the support—and often in a manner that indicates that the support worker knows too little about the topic at hand. (Indeed, my own knowledge of CUPS is far more superficial than my knowledge of, say, Vim and Bash.) The complete ignorance and the mania with rebooting, even among many Linux users volunteering as “experts” on stackexchange, can be disturbing. For instance, it is fairly common to see “advice” like “Add kernel module X to /etc/modules-load.d*. Reboot. If everything works, carry on. Else boot into rescue mood and remove module X again.”, where it should be basic knowledge that something like “Do modprobe X. If everything works, add X to /etc/modules-load.d* so that it will be automatically added again in two months time, when you next reboot. If not, do modprobe -r X.” is far better.

*Reservations for the exact directory. It has been a while.

Written by michaeleriksson

February 22, 2022 at 3:53 am

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Follow-up: More on my current situation (and complaints about politicians)

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Unfortunately, the problems continue and continue to block me, bring me to the point of fury, and whatnot. For instance, in dealing with my overdue (snail) mail, I naturally want to print. I have already set up printing for my new notebook—indeed, I did so well in advance so that I would not have to tackle any printer problems once I actually needed to print something. At that time, a few weeks ago, both a “print test page” from within “system-config-printer” and a manual test print with “lpr” worked perfectly.

Today, I tried to print a letter for the first time and … nothing works. Specifically, the print jobs appear in the queue, stay around for a very short time, and then disappear from the queue—without anything actually being printed. There is no error message anywhere with normal CUPS-logging; and even with logging set to “debug” nothing obviously helpful appears. On the contrary, every step mentioned is claimed as successful.

The Internet is not helpful either (so far), with most promising hits leading to someone asking a question about a similar problem but receiving no answers, a “please turn on JavaScript” page, a “too many requests” page, or similar.* Notably, the ill-conceived and does-more-harm-than-good stackexchange-network refuses to show any pages on approximately half my visits, which is horrifying in light of its near-monopoly on questions and answers. (Of course, this type of single-point of failure is yet another reason why stackexchange is a bad thing.)

*Note that I use TOR for most browsing, which could make the situation worse. However, until somewhat recently things usually worked. At some point in the last few months, these problems have exploded.

I have not dug down in detail, e.g. with “strace”, yet, but I suspect that the many indirections (for want of a better word) that CUPS has will make even that tricky—and I note that these indirections make for an over-complicated and unnecessarily error prone system for most single-user, one-computer-with-one-printer systems. I will not go as far as to call it a flawed design, as many systems have more complicated needs and there is a cost to maintaining several different printing setups. However, there are times when I really do wish that I could just pump a PostScript file into a device (in the “/dev” sense) and see printing without any middle-men.* (Maybe I can, somehow, but it is a well-hidden secret, if so.)

*Here we have a bigger problem than CUPS involved: The year is 2022 and it should be an obvious requirement that any and all printers support one of the standardized languages, notably PostScript and PCL. and/or otherwise provide a standardized interface. Instead, they continue to brew their own proprietary solutions. More generally, this attitude abounds in the hardware world. By all means, if something is not covered by a standard, a proprietary extension to allow additional functionality is fine, maybe even good, but any modern hardware should work out-of-the-box and with generic drivers for at least the basic functionality. This appears to still be very far from the case.

A similar problem happened with a tool with a simpler-but-more-clearly-flawed architecture: I use “udisksctl power-off” to ensure that occasionally used external hard drives (e.g. for backups) are safely powered down before they are detached. I set this up a few weeks ago and it worked like a charm. After a reboot, it failed to work. (I suspect, due to a not-yet-running dbus.) Interestingly, there does not seem to be any direct means of causing the same action. Instead, udisksctl goes onto the dbus, sends a message to a daemon and the daemon then powers-off the hard drive. That this is possible might be good, but why is there no direct access? A good developer would have provided a tool with the ability to directly do everything that udisksctl and/or the daemon can do in one step—if in doubt, because this would make the life for testers, debuggers, administrators, whatnot easier. This tool might be restricted to root or some other user/group of an administrative or ad-hoc character, but that is not a problem. Then write a daemon with similar capabilities/with the same API calls (or even a daemon that calls the hypothetical tool directly to ensure consistency*); then write a tool like “udisksctl” to handle per-dbus access for regular users.

*Disclaimer: Based on first principles, I suspect that this approach will often be superior to programming directly against an API; however, I have never tested the approach in real life and there might be complications that I have not considered. (Some overhead during runtime might obviously be present, but will usually not matter on a modern computer and/or with a great many tasks.)

As an aside, I very strongly suspect that use of dbus and similar mechanisms poses a greater security threat than suid programs do—and then it might be better to use the hypothetical tool above, with suid set, as the sole point of access. Certainly, it is far easier to understand who can do what with that approach–and, indeed, dbus-solutions often work on assumptions that are unnecessarily lax, that almost everyone should be able to do almost everything., which I strongly disagree with. Interestingly, when I have looked into the possibility of getting rid of dbus, the answers seem to fall into two categories: 1) “I did it, but it took days of work.” and 2) “It simply cannot or must not be done, because without dbus regular users will not be able to do X.”, where X is something that I never do, either at all or as a regular user.

More generally, many in the dbus/sudo/pkexec/whatnot camps seem to simultaneously reason that “You must never, ever, under any circumstances log in as root, because root can do anything and your system might become compromised.” and “We need dbus/sudo/pkexec so that any user can do [what amounts to everything that root can do].”—and they do not seem to see the problem with that reasoning. Looking at the above, do I really want a regular user (account) to be able to power off hard drives? Only under the assumption that the physical user behind the account is some type of administrator or other highly trusted individual. But, if so, it would be better to have him login within an administrator account or, on the outside, make him a member of a restricted group with this right.

Generally, there seems to be a strong drive to use dbus or some other client–daemon setup as a default solution, even when it is not really needed and where a single-tool solution would often be superior. Separation of concerns is a good thing, but, outside of enterprise solutions and areas where complications like networking play in, separation by means of e.g. a clean API is usually a better road than separation through e.g. client–daemon. “Let’s see. I want to write a ‘Hello, World!’ program. Hmm … I write one component that the user can call. This component sends a message by dbus. Then I have another component to serve as a daemon. It reads from dbus and outputs the text. Neat. Or … maybe I should have third component, so that the second only determines what string to print and the third does the actually printing? Oops, I cannot pawn off a mere command-line tool on my users. I’ll write a KDE application instead.”

Oddly, there seems to be much inconsistent thinking. On the one hand, when it comes to security, very many seem to work on the basis that every individual system has exactly one physical user—so why should we care about access controls? (Incidentally ignoring some arguments like lowering the attack surface and avoiding privilege escalation that apply even when there is only one physical user.) On the other hand, compare above, when it comes to tools like CUPS, very many seem to reason that the standard case is far more complicated—resulting in software that is often overkill, a top-of-the-line tractor to move a wheel-barrow’s capacity of dirt from one side of the yard to the other. (A wheel-barrow is certainly not to be underestimated.)

In a bigger picture, looking at my overall situation, it is the sheer amount of things going wrong that is problematic—and of which I have mentioned just a fraction. A great number of these fall into the category (as with e.g. CUPS above) of “should work as is, but for some f-ing reason does not”. To give an illustrative example: After my ANC-headphone issues (cf. earlier texts), I went through what various other headphones and whatnots I have available. While there were surprisingly many (at least six regular headphones, at least two “earphones”, and at least one “in-ear” set) they were not very helpful. What I really wanted to try was the in-ears, but I simply cannot find them. (They are included in the count on the basis that I know that they are somewhere in the apartment.) Earphones are fairly useless; and of the regular headphones only one set is really good (Sennheiser HD 598).* Unfortunately, these have a 6.35 (?) mm plug, while my notebook needs 3.5 mm. A search also found one adapter, but this low-quality product drove me up the wall—unless the headphone-plug and the adapter were aligned exactly correctly, the sound went monaural. That is, unless it turned into nothing or spontaneously alternated between states every few seconds. Of course, aligning it perfectly bought be very little time, because even a slight movement caused the perfect alignment to cease. Tired of this shit, I disassembled the adapter and rigged it manually. This works well—most of the time.** Usually, I get hours of sound without any issue, but maybe once a day, the sound goes and I have to re-rig it. Of course, this usually happens just when I have something ready to eat in front of a movie, which causes both the meal and the movie to be delayed. Worse, the re-rigging does not usually take on the first attempt, forcing some experimentation and repetitions.***

*I also have a good pair from Beyer, but the plug has been bent over the years and I want to avoid the risk of it breaking off inside my notebook.

**Follow my example strictly at your own risk.

***Chances are that I could find a better solutions, with no need to re-rig at all; however, when it works I have no thought on the matter and when it does not work, well, in my typical mood over the last few weeks, it is safer that I wait.

Written by michaeleriksson

February 21, 2022 at 10:08 pm

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More on my current situation (and complaints about politicians)

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Apart from a few hours on the 11th, there has been no construction works for some time. I am still bordering on being a wreck, however, between the accumulated damage from construction noise, countless other issues, and, of course, frustration with the anti-scientific, anti-democratic, anti-civic-rights, and anti-individual political climate that manifests again and again. Only over the last week or so have I moved away from having bouts of anger, sometimes to the point of shouting out loud, on a near daily basis.

Do not even try to tell me that COVID would be a problem in comparison.

To illustrate how viciously such prolonged* stress can damage someone: Yesterday, I read that Germany was finally caving and beginning to lift its destructive and scientifically unfounded restrictions of various kinds. This with the likely additional implication (knock on wood; there was no explicit mention) that the threatened forced vaccinations would be off the table for the time being. Truly good news! This is something that should have put a smile on my face and made my day. What happens instead? Within five minutes I am in fury over the situation until now, having to restrain myself from shouting out loud that Merkel should be thrown in jail and have her Ph.D. revoked.

*Note e.g. that the COVID situation has been going for close to two years and that the construction noise has, in bouts, covered more than an accumulated year of my total stay in this apartment. Also note that the COVID situation often has blocked escapes and “rest and relaxation” that would have been open to me during other times. Also see excursion on built-up tension.

It is that bad.

Indeed, I have begun to avoid some news sources, even when valuable, because the contents are too frustrating and slow the restoration of my own normalcy. Indeed, I have hardly written a word for my books since December, because I have not been able to gather the energy. (Blogging is easier.) Indeed, I have over a dozen unopened and unanswered letters lying around, the oldest from October—first because I wanted to wait until the construction works ended (but they went on forever), later because I feared that too bad news before I had reached some normalcy would cause me to snap to the point of, say, throwing my notebook at the wall. (But, no, that is not what happened to the old one.)

These letters include sources like my bank and various government agencies, notably the German IRS—exactly the type of letters that it can be harmful to neglect. Still, I have simply not dared the attempt.

Beginning today, I am going to (try to) take a few a day (with reservations for what happens). The two that I opened today were perfectly harmless, but my pulse was still raising due to sheer nervousness—what if this is some really bad news and my progress over the last week is ruined?* (Not to mention whatever the bad news might involve more directly.)

*I realize, of course, that most letters do not bring bad news—some might even bring good news. Maybe, they will all turn out to be harmless. Still, the risk is there, and, at least in Germany and at least where banks and the government is concerned, the risk is not trivial. Moreover, there might well be some item that has only grown to be a problem due to the delays.

Excursion on built-up tension, etc.:
As an extension to an earlier text, I note that any fit of anger leaves me more prone to have another fit of anger in the course of the same or even the next day. When there is no time to, to use the metaphor from that text, empty the basin, the risk of further fits increases, and when the stress is constant over weeks or months, e.g. through construction noise, it is a disaster. Positive events leave me almost untouched; negative ones, even minor, cause the basin to overflow. (Cf. above.)

Excursion on forced vaccinations:
A few weeks ago, I read a German article that loudly proclaimed that no-one would ever be forced to take a vaccine. (Bodily self-determination, and all that—we are not Nazis after all and any longer.) No, to speak of forced vaccinations would be horribly unfair towards the poor politicians, because no-one would ever be held down with violence while some physician stabbed him with a needle. No, all that would happen would be fines—honest. Well, from what has been suggested so far, and looking e.g. at Austria, these fines might have been very large, highly damaging to most and preventative to many. If that is not enough, barbaric German laws still allow for various forms of imprisonment for not paying government-proclaimed debts and whatnots to the government. An enforcement with bodily force would not be much worse, would at least be honest, and would expose the government to a greater resistance from the population. (The latter likely being the true reason for why bodily force is avoided.)

Excursion on the need for a reckoning (and Merkel et al):
In the last few weeks it appears (again, knock on wood) that the public opinion has finally turned enough that politicians begin to cave and (whether a separate event or not) journalists and government agencies appear to finally begin to report the actual science, instead of their own panic-mongering pseudo-science. This is not enough. To prevent repetitions, we need a reckoning, we need countermeasures, we need consequences for the main perpetrators—and, above all, we need the broad masses to understand how very thin the protection against another Communist or Nazi dictatorship or an Orwellian dystopia actually is. Among measures, we need more political transparency, “evidence based” politics, and a ban on politicians dictating to the people what the people should believe. (A complete discussion might take hundreds of pages.)

As to consequences for the main perpetrators: Above, I speak of wanting to shout that “Merkel should be thrown in jail and have her Ph.D. revoked”. While this, of course, was not a reasoned opinion but a “heat of the moment” thought, there is more than a little to it—and many others, including Biden, Fauci, Macron, and Trudeau, should be prosecuted.* Even if they are subsequently acquitted, this will set a warning to future leaders to tread more carefully; if they are convicted, the more so.

*Speaking from an abstract ethical point of view. Whether the current laws in their respective jurisdiction allows this is another matter.

Merkel has been a particular disappointment (for the umpteenth time!): Unlike many of the others, who have a comparatively weak education, say a bullshit bachelor and a J.D. for most U.S. politicians, she has a STEM Ph.D., she has research qualifications, and she has worked as a scientist. Nevertheless, her behavior has ranged from the un- to the anti-scientific. She has betrayed science, just like she already had betrayed the traditional values of her party (Christian Conservatives) to form repeated coalitions with the Social-Democrat archenemy and often seemed more Left than “Right”, herself. She might no longer be the chancellor, but she had done a tremendous amount of damage to Germany and her party even before COVID arrived. During the COVID-era, she has been a disgrace. Indeed, Merkel embodies the type of politician that I so loathe—and the reason that I once was a fan is that I assumed that her scientific background would make her the opposite of what she turned out to be.

Written by michaeleriksson

February 18, 2022 at 7:55 am

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Second set of ANC-headphones half-dead / Follow-up: Some UI problems and other complaints

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While the construction work has been absent for a while now (knock on wood), the stream of frustrations continues, preventing me from leaving the mire of anger and depression that the construction works brought on.

For instance, about two weeks ago ([1]), I wrote about the usability problems with (among other things) two ANC-headphones, one of which was destroyed through being the last straw on a breaking back.

This left me with only one pair and, due to COVID-restrictions, only a limited ability to buy new ones, should the need arise. But why should the need arise. Realistically, several years of additional life could be expected from the remaining set.

Today, two weeks later, need arose:

When I have trouble sleeping, or when I am very sleepy but lack the self-discipline to stop watching a movie/TV-episode, I like to put my laptop on my bed next to my head, lie on my side, headphones on, and watch something until sleep comes—which is usually quite fast, making this a good strategy from a sleep perspective.

I have done so, every now and then, for many years with several different headphones. Hardly ever has there been a problem of any kind. Today, I woke up to find that the headphone-side connector of my Bose 700s had broken off inside the headphones. Trying to listen to something, I now have either mono sound or no sound at all, depending on my luck. Even buying a replacement cable, even if possible to a reasonable price (which is far from a given), might not help, as pushing it in might be impossible or do some type of damage to the headphones as the broken-off piece of the old connector is displaced.

Now, why is there a headphone-side connector to begin with? Presumably, because Bluetooth is the preferred-by-Bose means of connection—and God forbid that someone using Bluetooth is spotted with a cable dangling from the headphones. Then again, cf. [1], I have no ability to use Bluetooth with my computer,* making this yet another case of expensive extra-functionality that I have no benefit from and which, de facto, lowers the value of the headphones to me. In this specific case, note that a fix connection with just continuous copper wire could not have broken in the same manner, because there would be nothing stiff to break (and often a smaller lever to break with).

*So far. As I am currently on a newer computer with a newer kernel, a newer set of drivers, a newer set of configuration programs, whatnot, I might be luckier this time around. (But I have yet to make the attempt. It might work trivially; it might cost me hours of time and further aggravation and, ultimately, not work—and I do not want to take that risk right now.)

After I detached the cable, the headphones played some insanely loud music and began to pester me about setup this and download that. (And what the hell for?!?) Realizing that I might have to cave and use the Bose app to have some sensible functionality without a cable (if and when I get Bluetooth to work), I had a look around on the Internet. First impression: there is no way to download it without registration and without activating JavaScript. User hostile bullshit! A customer friendly supplier had simply had a HTML page list direct links to various versions, to download simply by clicking on them—no registration, no JavaScript, no bullshit.

What I need and want are regular, over-ear, quality headphones with strong ANC—and compared to non-ANC headphones, it is the ANC that I pay for. What do I get instead and what do I actually pay for? Useless-to-me extras like Bluetooth, telephony functionality, smartphone functionality, Alexa/Siri support, whatnot. Then there are the secondary issues like on-ear instead of over-ear and that easily breakable connector that a non-Bluetooth set would not even have had.

For my own part, it is highly unlikely that I will buy another Bose product (of any kind) in the foreseeable future. Generally, I might go as far as letting my next experiment with ANC (depending on whether I can make Bluetooth work) be an in-ear one in combination with (when the need arises, e.g. during construction works) earmuffs. (To be contrasted with my previous approach of earplugs + headphones.) These tend to be cheaper and less over-loaded with functionality that I do not need and/or that outright hinders me.

This, however, seems to be a part of a bigger, negative trend, where the high prices make the manufacturers throw on as many features as they can in order to justify the price, but where these new features drive the price even higher. (By no means limited to headphones.)

I further fear that headphones have moved from something for audiophiles (or, for ANC, those who wish to reduce outside disturbances) to a status symbol, which drives prices up artificially. Much of this is likely to blame on Apple and Beats, with their image based sales-tactics. Beats, in particular, might have more in common with Nike than with Sennheiser (or, possibly, the Sennheiser of old).

Other trends do not strike me with enthusiasm either. Notably, the big buzzword today appears to be “true wireless”. This sounds impressive—like wireless-but-better. In fact, it is like wireless-but-worse, because the “true” part merely implies that there is no secondary ability to connect the headphones by wire.* Notably, the trend towards a “smartphone assumption” is quite strong—not only is the user supposed to own a smartphone and have the right app installed, but he is supposed to use the smartphone as the source of sound. Do not dare presume that your expensive headphones should be usable with, say, a computer, a CD/tape/record player, or a portable (non-smartphone) player.

*To avoid misunderstandings, I have no major objections against Bluetooth or connecting this-or-that per Bluetooth—except for the problems with Linux connectivity. However, there are some more general advantages to a wire, including that the headphones can be used with an empty battery, that the quality in poor conditions remains high, and that the risk of someone spying is smaller. Then there are all those gadgets that do not have Bluetooth to begin with.

Finally, above I said “Hardly ever has there been a problem of any kind.” and I can, indeed, only recall two instances of problems (prior to today). These two issues are very similar and add further concern as to the true quality of these expensive ANC-headphones. The first was with my Sennheiser HD 4.50 BTNC, where the covering of the earmuffs soon lost quality and eventually tore, leading to less comfort and (likely) a reduction in the noise isolation. In contrast, all other headphones that I have ever used in this manner had kept perfectly intact. The second? My Bose 700s, where the covering of the earmuffs soon lost quality and has already started to tear. Who said that newer, or more expensive, was better?

Written by michaeleriksson

February 9, 2022 at 10:00 pm