Tuesday, 1 March 2011

THE WIKI MAN

Anyone recall Eldorado?  No, not El Dorado, the mythical city of gold, but the much-maligned and short-lived UK soap set on the Costa del Sol in the early 90s.

Not really worth going into here, except to say its premise was based around assorted ex-pats living in a small community abroad.  A mythical town of supposed golden opportunity, but which soon turned out to be nothing but quicksilver.  Both metaphorically, in the storyline, and literally, with the swift cancellation of the series once the true horror of the production values turned out not to be a breathtakingly sophisticated ironic satire on the meaning of continuing drama after all.

This is my first time residing amongst ex-pats.  I did live in Paris for a short time in my 20s, and yes, I went to a few parties, but mostly I was alone, exploring the streets and the galleries toute seule, romantically crying my eyes out after a failed, erm, romance.  (If crying my eyes out was so romantic, why wasn't I happy???)

Oh, I did go out with a Sicilian for a while.  But then again, thinking back, going out meant more staying in...


Hmm.  


:-)

What???  Oh yes, the blog.


Well, here in Nice there is, of course, a large ex-pat population. (Although quite a few of us are slim, as it happens). And as, I imagine, in all such 'manufactured' communities, the constituents represent a microcosm of the society we've left behind.  Thus there are representatives of the usual 'types'; a phenomenon of human group existence, as if a higher being took a look and noticed the lack of a small, menopausal Jewish fairy in town. (And how about that, here I am!)


The other day, one of 'the types' around here made (yet another) appearance on a friend's Facebook thread.  Chloe had posted an Einstein quote:  Logic will get you from A to B.  Imagination will take you everywhere.  I made a weak joke about the trams not running from A to B during the Carnival, before the dreaded Wiki Man arrived...


...have to explain about Wiki Man.  He's nothing if not notorious here. I'd heard of him long before I had the misfortune to run into him (sadly, I wasn't in a large truck when that happened).  It was at a rather convivial party, where I was chatting to Santa.  Wiki Man appeared at our sides, completely taking over the conversation, lecturing us on whatever topic he fancied he was an expert in.  Which is everything.


Wiki Man talks in certainties, which have come not from his own conclusions.  Actually, he's one of those people who thinks knowledge is an end in itself, who doesn't see that supposed facts are just the beginning; that educated people use these merely as a starting point for thinking about the world and its meaning.


Ever see the movie The Wicker Man?  Universally slated, it related the story of a character lured by evil sirens to his ultimately grisly death by fire locked inside a giant wicker man.  My Wiki Man is in danger of suffering a similar fate to his brain by way of Wikipedia; if the internet goes down, Wiki Man cannot string one idea together by utilizing his own synapses.  He is completely in the site's enthrall...there is no escape...a slow, horrible melting of the little grey cells...


Analysis?  Isn't that something you swallow for a headache? (CAUTION: Not more than 4 doses to be taken within 24 hours).


Wiki Man is already in the third stage of wrist failure. (Due to his constant cutting and pasting - what did you think I meant???)


Somehow, Wiki Man has failed to locate 'irony' on his favourite website. Along with 'sense of humour'.  Or 'listening', or 'respect for others' opinions'...


...he was so, soooo rude to me at that party - talking over me loudly, butting in every second word in an angry fashion:-


So you FEEL it's like this???  That's rubbish, it's not a question of FEELING, you should try using your brain, it's about THINKING...I told him the words 'I feel' were just the start of my sentence, that I was about to make a particular point, if he'd be so kind as to let me finish...oh, so you're completely saying the opposite now, are you? Changed your mind already??? (How he got that idea I don't know - I wasn't able to say anything.)


Anyway, after 10 minutes of this boorish and arrogant behaviour I turned to Santa and told her I was excusing myself from the conversation, upon which I left the party and went outside to get some air.


There I found some girlfriends enjoying a fag.  They expressed surprise to see me - you don't smoke, NiceEtoile, what are you doing here? and I related to them what had just happened.


Oh, that's just Wiki Man, one of them said.  Whenever he gets like that we just tell him to f*ck off.


Oh.  OK.


Anyway, here are some of the thoughts of Chairman Wiki - all from this one thread on Chloe's quote (don't bother to read it all, it's just meant to give you an idea):-




That's the great thing about imagination, but also the problem, because "everywhere" can include not only mistaken, ineffective ideas, but also dangerous ones - Gadaffi's crazed imaginings are current examples.

So logic, or more generally critical reflection, needs to be applied to imagination. This was the basis of philosopher of science Karl Popper's outline of the scientific process: Bold conjectures followed by rigourous testing of them and rejection of those found to be false, similar to evolution; so that mistaken ideas die instead of us (they could lead to our death if followed).

Einstein was well aware that imagination was not enough by itself; he knew that many scientists had developed imaginative new theories, unfortunately most of them were just weren't correct. Fortunately for him, imagining what it would be like to ride on a beam of light did lead to a theory which, so far, seems to be correct. 





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String theory involves 11 dimensions - imagine that ! :-) But at the moment it's an untestable theory:

"Five major string theories were formulated. The main differences among them were the number of dimensions in which the strings developed and their characteristics; all of them appeared to be correct, however.

In the mid 1990s a unification of all previous superstring theories, called M-theory, was proposed, which asserted that strings are really 1-dimensional slices of a 2-dimensional membrane vibrating in 11-dimensional space.

... other prominent physicists (e.g. Feynman and Glashow) have criticized string theory for not providing any quantitative experimental predictions."

So it can't be tested.

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Chloe, while I imagine that some of the stuff done by the Institute of Noetic Sciences might be valuable, from a brief look I tend to sympathise with this guy's distrust:

Stephen Barrett, organizer of the nonprofit organization Quackwatch, whose website describes itself as a "Guide to Quackery, Health Fraud, and Intelligent Decisions," lists the Institute of Noetic Sciences as one of the 729 organizations that he views "with considerable distrust."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Institute_of_Noetic_Sciences


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NICE ETOILE POSTED:-



(Sorry, couldn't help myself at this point.  Mitigating circumstances of Severe Provocation, m'Lud).


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Chloe, your prodding made me look again at the Galileo trial and in fact one of the Cardinals was quite a scientifically sophisticated guy:

"Cardinal Bellarmine found no problem with heliocentrism so long as it was treated as a purely hypothetical calculating device and not as a physically real phenomenon, but he did not regard it as permissible to advocate the latter unless it could be conclusively proved through current scientific standards. This put Galileo in a difficult position, because he believed that the available evidence strongly favoured heliocentrism, and he wished to be able to publish his arguments, but he did not have the conclusive proof necessary to satisfy Bellarmine's requirements."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galileo_affair#Bellarmine.27s_view


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Actually very few of us have truly original ideas, and many of those are impractical, insignificant or just plain crazy. But even significant creative ideas are usually the re-combination of existing ideas. This itself is not my idea I confess :-), but that of Arthur Koestler: it is what he called the "bisociation of matrices" in "The Act of Creation".

But then one mark of an intellectual is the use of a wide range of ideas, but also conscious awareness of the sources of many of one's ideas and willingness to check and quote them. Too many people think they are practical and not concerned with ideas, and do not realise that all the time their practice is guided by the ideas of others. I am consciously aware that I owe this insight to Keynes, and it is worth quoting :-)

"Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist. Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back. I am sure that the power of vested interests is vastly exaggerated compared with the gradual encroachment of ideas."


Actually very few of us have truly original ideas, and many of those are impractical, insignificant or just plain crazy. But even significant creative ideas are usually the re-combination of existing ideas. This itself is not my idea I confess :-), but that of Arthur Koestler: it is what he called the "bisociation of matrices" in "The Act of Creation".

But then one mark of an intellectual is the use of a wide range of ideas, but also conscious awareness of the sources of many of one's ideas and willingness to check and quote them. Too many people think they are practical and not concerned with ideas, and do not realise that all the time their practice is guided by the ideas of others. I am consciously aware that I owe this insight to Keynes, and it is worth quoting :-)

"Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist. Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back. I am sure that the power of vested interests is vastly exaggerated compared with the gradual encroachment of ideas."

Time to jump on your tram to retirement :-)   [THIS REMARK WAS DIRECTED AT ME]

Oh that reminds me of something that takes us back to Einstein and is itself an example of an imaginative way to present someone else's ideas. I remember seeing a TV prog which used a tram to illustrate Einstein's ideas, the internet pins the memory down for me:

"An even better explanation of the theory of relativity can be found in the episode of Jacob Bronowski's The Ascent of Man. He shows the tram car in the centre of Berne, where Einstein worked in the patent office, heading away from the clock in the town square. Consider the light carrying the information that shows the time on the clock as it goes from the clock to someone on the tram. Then consider it as the speed of the tram approaches the speed of light. It will take longer and longer for the light from the clock to reach the tram so the person on the tram won't see the time change on the clock so quickly, so time will appear to slow down."

http://www.britmovie.co.uk/forums/looking-video-dvd-film/94426-einsteins-universe.html

Amusingly, someone has evidently seen this programme but confused it with an actual observation by Einstein - in Zurich this time - this in a book for "dummies" :-)

"While leafing through Twentieth Century History For Dummies (don't ask), I came across the following dubious description (pg. 50) of Albert Einstein's contribution to twentieth century physics:

"Albert Einstein (1879-1955) sought to use quantum theory in his work on the nature of matter. Taking the tram to his work in Zürich each day, the German-born Einstein noticed that the buildings he passed appeared tall and thin when the tram was moving but settled into their old shape when the tram stopped. Were his eyes deceiving him, or perhaps did those houses actually change shape? And why didn't they change shape for the people inside them? The answer was that, unlike the people in the houses, Einstein was moving past at speed, so to him, the houses didn't just look thin. They actually were thin. Because of the speed and the direction of the tram, Einstein was looking at the houses in a different combination of space and time from people outside the tram; or, to put it another way, the nature of space and time depend on where you are.
..."

Trams in the early twentieth century must have traveled really fast ;-)"

http://www.martinharrigan.ie/go?o=blog.html

Oh that reminds me of something that takes us back to Einstein and is itself an example of an imaginative way to present someone else's ideas. I remember seeing a TV prog which used a tram to illustrate Einstein's ideas, the internet pins the memory down for me:

"An even better explanation of the theory of relativity can be found in the episode of Jacob Bronowski's The Ascent of Man. He shows the tram car in the centre of Berne, where Einstein worked in the patent office, heading away from the clock in the town square. Consider the light carrying the information that shows the time on the clock as it goes from the clock to someone on the tram. Then consider it as the speed of the tram approaches the speed of light. It will take longer and longer for the light from the clock to reach the tram so the person on the tram won't see the time change on the clock so quickly, so time will appear to slow down."

http://www.britmovie.co.uk/forums/looking-video-dvd-film/94426-einsteins-universe.html

Amusingly, someone has evidently seen this programme but confused it with an actual observation by Einstein - in Zurich this time - this in a book for "dummies" :-)

"While leafing through Twentieth Century History For Dummies (don't ask), I came across the following dubious description (pg. 50) of Albert Einstein's contribution to twentieth century physics:

"Albert Einstein (1879-1955) sought to use quantum theory in his work on the nature of matter. Taking the tram to his work in Zürich each day, the German-born Einstein noticed that the buildings he passed appeared tall and thin when the tram was moving but settled into their old shape when the tram stopped. Were his eyes deceiving him, or perhaps did those houses actually change shape? And why didn't they change shape for the people inside them? The answer was that, unlike the people in the houses, Einstein was moving past at speed, so to him, the houses didn't just look thin. They actually were thin. Because of the speed and the direction of the tram, Einstein was looking at the houses in a different combination of space and time from people outside the tram; or, to put it another way, the nature of space and time depend on where you are.
..."

Trams in the early twentieth century must have traveled really fast ;-)"

http://www.martinharrigan.ie/go?o=blog.html


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Had never realised that posting (or, rather, reading) on Facebook could be so tiring.  


Wiki Man enlightened us all with the information that he had studied painting.  Secure in the knowledge that he had a robust sense of humour <SNIGGERS> I asked him if he could recommend matt or eggshell for my living room.  


Am currently awaiting a light-hearted, witty response.  


This is what I'm leaving behind, dear Reader (those of you who are still awake).  The group bore, too far up his own encyclopedia to be able to connect with any semblance of creative thought.  Or anyone with a sense of humour.


Oh, incidentally, he was so wound up at one of his own soirees (unaccountably, I'd been left off the guest list) that he spent the following day ringing around all the attendees, apologizing for having been so rude to them all.   


Oh yes, life's just one big party down on the Riveira...




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http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/hector

http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/pompous











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Please be nice, but not funnier than me. Thanks.