Blog Archive

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Weird Science

First, let me make clear that the scientific method is the source of practically all well-being we enjoy in modern society. We owe the comforts to engineers, the duration of our relatively disease-free life to doctors and so. There are people in this world who doubt overwhelming global scientific consensus (for example on climate change) because of their political and economic agendas, and these are the kinds of people that should not be involved in government (or society in general) at all. There are many countries whose governments are biased against science because of their religion, especially in the ultra-conservative Islamic states, and look what shit places these countries are. Science has become sexy again in the last five years or so and I am glad that is the case.

With that being said, I approach science-news with more suspicion than ever.

Frequently, there are reports on significant developments in diverse fields that fail to live up to their initial premise. Projects are oversold. This might be due to scientists having to advertise for funding, or due to journalists fighting to make readers check out their articles. Maybe that's just the small slice you get from reading the part that makes it to the news in the first place. Sensationalism has worked in other news sectors, and now that the interest in science has been sparked, the same methods are applied there - which is a shame, because a chain of scientific inquiry might yield beneficial results even when there is no gamechanger to be expected at the end of it. 
I understand that with limited budgets, only the most promising ideas can be pursued, but if everybody claims to have the ultimate MacGuffin within reach, it is perceived that nobody does. The more complex the topic, the more likely it is that the ultimate answer to the question posed will be answered by generations to come, which does not fare well with the short-lived attention span of modern media. 

An example of such exaggeration is the search for extraterrestrial life. Every unexpected finding on interplanetary missions is always commented on with "might indicate life". Methane cloud on Mars? Maybe microbes. Gleaming white spots on Ceres? Possible remains from carbon-rich asteroids that could have also brought life to earth. Enceladus is stretched and squeezed by the gravity of Saturn and its other moons? This should cause friction and heat, so maybe life will dwell in underground hotspots. Yes, it is possible that some form of life might exist in any of those places, but just because something is possible doesn't mean it's plausible or even probable. 

What else bugs me - mabye because of my lack of information or understanding, I admit - is how quickly a deduction is presented as fact in popular programs (I'm looking at you, Michio Kaku and that show narrated by Morgan Freeman). 
There are subjects not sensible to discuss yet because there needs to be a lot more evidence to evaluate. Nobody will try to debate Gravity, we have all the information we need. Climate change is a bit more difficult, but the evidence we have is plenty and it is conclusive. 
Dark Matter on the other hand (the unknown source of the excess gravity that holds galaxies together) seems to me a subject that, while of course all information should be gathered, is not worth discussing today as we have so little to go by. What if the source of that excess gravity is just regular matter that we can't detect from where we are, but would be obvious if we had data from multiple points in space? Lots of space documentaries touch on this (dark) matter, but it seems to me that most of it is just speculation.

So all in all, I glance over the science news of both general and dedicated publications, but even though the scientific method is designed to only live by facts and wash away personal bias, the same does not count for the journalism that reports on it. Take it with a pinch of salt.

(And yes, I am aware that the proportions in that picture are a total mess.)

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Year Nine

On Monday this week, A World To Come turned nine years old. Some statistics: There used to be at least 1000 posts, but I deleted all entries from 2006 except for the first one. According to the Blogger native counter most pageviews are still from Germany (switched languages in 2012), Chrome and Firefox make up three quarters of all pageviews nowadays (very different in the first years), and Windows clients make up 80 percent by operating system. The total visits are at ca. 130.000, which makes an average of about 40 per day. By far the most popular post of all time - weirdly - was about Winnie the Pooh. The most common Google search term was "fette Kinder" (fat kids). I try to get forty posts done per year, the most frequently used tag was music reviews. Looking forward, I have given it some thought and concluded that next year, I will end this site. Exactly ten years seems like a good time for that. I will probably start a new thing some time later, but I've yet to figure out the premise.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

HBO's Silicon Valley

The one reason I avoided Silicon Valley until the first season was already over was because I feared it would be another show that tries to grab onto disgusting trendy nerd-chic and do the same condescending and worthless idiot humour as a certain TV show I despise so much I won't even mention the name. Completely to the contrary though, Silicon Valley is the smartest and funniest comedy series on TV right now. It's the rare kind of show where every episode, you expect them to crash and burn, and you leave it even more hyped than before because you care about what happens.

The series revolves around "Pied Piper", a Silicon Valley based startup company whose universal lossless compression algorithm is a potential billion dollar product, but who lacks the infrastructure, contacts and know-how to bring it to market while their giant corporate competitors loom over them. It's an underdog story of people in the real tech industry.
What makes the show great is that although it is superquick to poke fun at both the peculiarities of the protagonists and the subcultural quirks of the industry, it shows a surprising insight in the mentality and style (or lack thereof) that make up modern tech companies. Mike Judge is not only a great writer but has also proven many times (Beavis and Butthead, Office Space, King of the Hill, Idiocracy) that he is able to pick apart a very specific subculture and mindset, and this is no exception. So while the show ridicules both the scene and the characters, it still takes them seriously and is never condescending. All main casting choices are fantastic, the editing works great and on top of that, it's a super funny show.
So if you even have the vaguest relationship to technology not just as a commodity but as an industry that dominates modern commerce, I highly recommend you watch this fantastic series that just went on season break and has been renewed for at least another run.

Friday, June 05, 2015


Melechesh - The Epigenesis [2010] []
The first Melechesh album I ever heard was Sphynx from 2003, which still holds up as an absolute masterpiece. I didn't really care an awful lot about their other records, because the band's one-trick-pony discography offered more of the modern black metal with oriental rhythms and melodies, only not as good - but recently, I gave 2010's Epigenesis a chance. It may not quite live up to the quality of Sphynx, yet it still stands on its own as a great record. "If Absu were from Mesopotamia" is still the trademark that permeates all songs, but compared to the older Djinn or the newer Enki this feels much tighter and more focused overall. The songs, though sharing the same tone, have a nice variety between very catchy (Ghouls of Nineveh, Sacred Geometry), melodies interludes and heavy blunt parts. Their second best album.

Iron Kobra - Might & Magic [2015] []
This is the second full length record of Iron Kobra from Gelsenkirchen, Germany. The impeccable Radio Fenriz featured "Vanguard of Doom", which is also the best song on this classic heavy metal styled record. The super old fashioned approach however limits the bands potential - the faster their songs, the more fun they are. Most of the album shuffles at midtempo through the tracks, which makes large parts rather forgettable. When they speed it up though in "Vanguard of Doom" or "Born To Play on Ten", it's a total joyride. Iron Kobra chose to pick one of the least sexy eras of metal and breathe new life into it, and despite the missed vocal notes and interchangable songwriting, they succeed in that regard because they play it with charm and authenticity and you can tell they enjoy what they're doing.

Eternal Valley - Ascend To The Unknown [2015] []
If you didn't realize that the universe is a cold, empty and uncaring void that suffocates all delusions of hope and purpose, you didn't read this site properly and you should also listen to this record. One man Depressive US Black Metal projects with at least one record per year seem to be all the rage in America, and you can tell that Eternal Valley has probably heard one or two records from Weakling, Leviathan and Xasthur. There are lots of spherical ambient synth soundscapes plastered over the stomping black metal rhythms, scratching walls of guitar noise and typical sore throat cave yelling here, only this time it's less innawoods and more inna frozen nothingness between the stars. My main criticism is that this record forgets too often how to properly balance the choir-like overlays and the neatly monotonous black metal bluster.

Dan Terminus - The Wrath of Code [2015] []
I first noticed Dan Terminus for his great synth Carcass cover. There is lots of fake 80s retrowave synth stuff and the majority is too bland to remember. This guy however takes many of those elements that work well in moderation and puts together on a record that, to my surprise, doesn't get boring after half the running time. Dan Terminus does a very good job at finding the right tone to set up an atmosphere that is not too awash in the pink plastic glow and yet uses the range available to him to flush the listener into daydreaming. There's a surprising amount of variety on here, and thankfully he packs most songs in a tight and hard beat that keeps the songs in shape, up to those ultrahacker cyberfuture lazerdisco tracks. In a densely crowded foam of synth music, Dan Terminus stands out. Best electronic music record since Cro Magnox

Further listening:
Riot - Thundersteel : If you thought Iron Kobra was old fashioned kitsch heavy metal...
Ruined - Cursed : Neat little crust punk record that fails to stand out.
Ravenous - Book of Covetous Souls : Literally "nothing but rhythm", the album
Irreversible Mechanism - Infinite Fields : I'm sure there are songs hidden somewhere in this
The D.O.C. - No One Can Do It Better : Only a very select few can do it better
Sempiternal Deathreign - The Spooky Gloom : I forgot why I find deathdoom boring

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Trans World Express

It is hard to express how unimportant I find this non-problem, so I'll make it short. A sportsperson I never heard about is plastered on the news pages because the man decided he wants to be a woman instead. As is polite nowadays, said person will now be referred to as "she" with a female name. That's the entire story. My opinion is that a man can put on as many dresses as he likes, he is still a human male because gender is not a social construct, it is a scientific/medicinal fact. All the bullshit traditionally associated with both gender roles are social constructs of course, but the gender itself is not a matter of opinion. Society can decide who is associated with high heel shoes, not who gets menstruation cramps. Chromosomes don't change because you wear makeup. A new name doesn't replace your organs. Reality does not change because of consensual delusions. That is not to say that said person shouldn't be able to live like a woman if he wishes to. Nobody is worse off, one person feels happier, so let them have it. That is still a man underneath the lipstick, but there is no shame in dressing like a woman because there is no shame in being a woman. The change does not better or worsen the person, which ultimately makes this private act insignificant.

In my next post, I shall write about more important and tasteful matters, like the correlation between big dick riffs and jerkoff guitar solos in 90s Florida Death Metal.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Escape vehicle

Found on a datapad in the digestive system of an arachnid mummy floating through empty space:

"It is not merely the complete absence of other distinguishing features, but also the unique combination of artificial and natural influences into a special symbiotic relationship that make this episode's place quite amazing.
On this otherwise utterly uninteresting provincial moon, there is a natural cave that houses a most peculiar kind of crystal. Due to its physiochemical composition, it is capable of storing electric patterns with unparalleled consistency. During the TriDominion era, this property made it the preferred method of incarceration for members of the Ultrabrutalist movement, who are now considered one of the worst factions in history, on par with the Bloodgarglers and the ancient "advertisers". Because of their violent nature, ultrabrutalists were mind-copied into their crystal prisons and their bodies incinerated, as the repairs for their cells were too much of a burden on the taxpayers of the day. With the loss of movement and clear sensory input, so scientist-wardens of the day believed, a perfect opportunity for ultrabrutalists to calm their spirits and return into the blissful stupor of society. To everyone's surprise though, the minds of the detainees were able to think their crystal cages into vibrations and thus establish a rudimentary network of communication between one another - and the surprises did not end there.
As published by Author Grxlxz Wvr in his highly regarded scientific paper "oh shit, they are everywhere - an analysis of pseudo-arachnid alien live in the galaxy", there is a sheer endless multitude of planets and moons where the local fauna, completely foreign to Terran DNA, has evolved into forms that are astonishingly similar to Earth's spiders, only significantly bigger. Eight-legged arthropods are the dominant form of life in our corner of space. This moon was no different - the apex predator of the local ecosystem was a mirror image of the classical spider. Once during the 611 day year of the moon and his host planet, the (for a lack of better term) giant spiders would assemble in herds and travel to said caves to feast on the crystals. The prisoners must have noticed the alien presences of their chelicerata neighbors and the disappearance of several of their fellow inmates as the spiders came to feast on the crystal prisons, unconsciously discharging the personalities encased within them.
The most striking part of the story might just be a sociological one: It is believed that among the inmates, there evolved a devoted cult that worshiped the spiders as a sort of godlike, mythological savior figure that would descend into the crystallized prison-city of the cave to free the detainees from their custody. As far as anybody can tell, the believe probably figured the soul escaping into the body of the alien spider creature and leaving the cave in this vessel.
Other than being considered a god by the crazed inmates of the crystals, there was another effect on the spiders: Some members of the species would return regularly, eating several dozen pounds of crystal over the years. In rare cases, it has been reported that individual spiders would become addicted to an extent that the concentration of crystal in their stomachs would exceed their digestive capabilities, leaving residue of crystal in their bodies that would eventually continue replicating. Therefore, the very old and very addicted of the eight-legged aliens would sprout new crystals out the back of their abdominal segment, breaking through their shells from the inside. These rare cases would then not only be much slower than younger spiders because of the additional weight, but coincidentally showed a much more aggressive and violent behavior than those not affected by parasitic crystal growth. Of course there is no scientifically proven connection between the change in behavior and the consumption of the crystal prison formations. So do not worry when in the next episode, your humble host will explore the deep end of the caves to look for exactly these most astonishing wonders of nature."