Wikipedia throws Britannica off of a Ziggurat

Oh Wikipedia, How I love Thee. Part I

Oh Wikipedia, how I love thee.

Though your hair may sometimes catch a snowflake of unverified information, and your eyes may sometimes catch a grain of original research from a 12 year old Japanese kid who learned English the day before, you really are a fantastic encyclopedia.

Growing up in the information age has really been a blessing for one with pretty insatiable curiosity, apologies for the cliche. I mean. I just really love looking shit up. And thanks to the fact that most people who even care to figure out how to edit Wikipedia are those who have at least a bit of moral fiber, the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit, is really a damn fine resource.

Everyone had that teacher who used to practically cry about how Wikipedia is not an appropriate reference because it is not a primary source. Well, first of all, no encyclopedia is a primary source. If your teacher had a creepy infatuation with the Encyclopedia Britannica, you know, one where all the pages in the Bo-Cu, Pe-Pu, and Va-Ziggurat book sections stuck together for some reason, and allowed you to use it as a source but not Wikipedia, they suffer from a condition we call Being a Fucking Moron (BFM, look it up: http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Being_a_fucking_moron) (They also probably really like ancient Persia). If that is someone’s reason for not allowing use of Wikipedia, let them know that there is, in fact, a cure. Though, it is important to note that the treatment for someone suffering from BFM may require the use of some sort of device or mechanism that allows someone who doesn’t know shit to learn something. Actually, Wikipedia has a great article on Primary Sources and their usage (note: people suffering from BFM may collapse into an infinite loop if this specific treatment is attempted).

Right, so if you can’t use the articles on Wikipedia as a source for that term paper you started 59 minutes before class under the influence of a trifecta Adderall/Caffeine/Modafinil Rage (Disclaimer: Drug combination to be used only by those with more than two hearts) that kept you up all night procrastinating, vacuuming the cat and and shoveling a way out of your living room so that the mole people would stop eating all of your hot pockets, then what the hell is the point of Wikipedia existing? Well, all the reasonably good articles on our beloved Wikipedia will have loads and loads of sources. These will hopefully, and usually, be cited within the sentence pointing you directly to the respective reference at the bottom of the page. In 90% of cases these references will reflect the primary source or at least a source leading directly to the primary source that, for instance, allowed one noble Wikipedian to finally convince the community to stop putting that annoying [citation needed] tag after their favorite Helen Keller Speech after which this sweet gas station/convenience store took their name. In the other 10% of cases you’ll get super useful 404 pages that you can very easily tell were in a non-English language to start with, and thus it is very likely that little sliver of information about how Shamu was named after Genghis Khan’s sobriquet for his genitalia may be questionable (only a little bit). So if your teacher says you can’t use Wikipedia as a source for whatever reason, even if they are suffering from BFM (some cases are simply incurable), you can be the better and just use one of the references cited on the page you’re after.

I know you are just dying for the next edition of OW,HILT (pronounced “Ow, Hilt”, like what your TA would say after their head slammed into the back of your Wiki-sword). Next time, I’ll be talking about the joys of editing wikipedia and how I once got into an edit war with one of the creators of YouTube… and I was all like “HEY! What I am trying to contribute is just as valid as what you are trying t—…oh.”

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Hard Magic: Book I of the Grimnoir Chronicles by Larry Correia

(Please note that this review does focus on the content of the book even though it was written specifically for the audiobook version available on Audible (http://www.audible.com/pd/ref=pr_rev_1_3_s?asin=B004XMIMHE) narrated by Bronson Pinchot. Nonetheless, even if you are not into audiobooks, this review and all of my book reviews are still completely relevant to the text copy excluding information about the narrator, of course.)

Larry Correia‘s Hard Magic: Book I of the Grimnoir Chronicles is simply the best audiobook I have ever encountered

English: New York Times Bestseller Larry Corre...

Larry Correia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

World War I was fought, in part, with magic. Hydrogen powered dirigibles dominate the skies because wielders of fire have the ability to prevent Hindenburg-like incidents. An already genius mind supplemented with magic creates unimaginably brilliant savants (Cogs) that advance technology far beyond the conceivable. Nikola Tesla provides an extremely deadly alternative to nuclear weapons… and still, I’m not even giving away the good bits!

Hard Magic is packed full of ideas, historical figures, and characters that bring a parallel universe to life so elegantly, so robustly, that you will be utterly convinced that it must exist. Every chapter begins with an in-universe quote, often from a political or scientific heavyweight of the time (who also lived in our current universe), that provides a peak inside the heads of those native to the that other reality, allowing us a glimpse into how living in a world where magic exists impacts society, ethics, science, romance, …Earth itself.

Bronson Pinchot is a truly fantastic voice actor, perhaps even dethroning James Marsters

39th Emmy Awards - Sept. 1987- rehearsal.

Sometimes Jon Stewart doppelganger Bronson Pinchot (Balki from the 1980’s Perfect Strangers) absolutely dominates as narrator. His articulation, tone, and pacing along with the accents provided for each individual character, of which there are maybe like 50, is as perfect as one could ask for.

 

English: The actor James Marsters at Grand Sla...James Marsters, Spike from Buffy and narrator of the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher (Reviews for this Urban Fantasy masterpiece of a series to follow soon), has become my favorite audiobook actor due to his ability to harness the very being of and truly speak as whichever character he’s reading for.

 

Nonetheless, in this book Pinchot provides a depth of character that is unsurpassed (though since listening to Butcher’s newest, Cold Days read by Marsters, I am a a touch undecided). Difficult characters to read for are abundant in this book, but Pinchot shines through all of them. He completely achieves the subtle and well-earned haughtiness of Japanese soldiers and officers, enhanced with magic, who are unquestionably the deadliest of deadly. Simultaneously, he becomes the orphaned southern sweetheart Faye, whose childhood innocence is ripped away from her just as she begins to learn how truly remarkable her gift is. But Pinchot’s true talent is invoked as soon as the book begins and throughout as he reads for the Pale Horse, an individual whose ability is to bring death however they wish to whomever they wish with just a single touch.

Hard Magic has the bases for historical fiction, urban fantasy, and science fiction absolutely covered. If you like the Dresden Files or other urban fantasy-type novels, you will definitely enjoy this book and the sequel.

I will concede that a few moments felt eerily like a few superhero movies I have seen. Around the half point of the book, it seemed like I was witnessing a story based within the X-Men Universe. But, do not fret over this. While inspiration and genre sampling from such sources may indeed have an impact on this story, I assure you that it really is so much more than simple power flinging and devastation. Though, to deny that there is a considerable amount of power being flung about and devastation being wrought would be dishonest. Sure, there’s a lot of action. But, it is so well done that it doesn’t feel overbearing.

Hard Magic is a truly thrilling fantastically historic narrative with lessons to be learned about the rights of those who have the ability to bring great change to the universe. Does society benefit most from a survival of the fittest mentality? Does the world going forward have no place for weakness? Should diversity be embraced and understood?

Who gets to decide which ideas are the most morally true? The individual(s) who wield(s) the most power? The masses at large? Or should the only thing we truly fight for be the ability to choose how we live our own lives? Power and control is only in the hands of those who are allowed to keep it. I believe that this truth can apply to any situation where a strong foundation is required for the continued existence of those dependent upon it.

Find these lessons within, and enjoy a damn good story while doing so.

Star Force Series

Star Force series by B. V. Larson: First scifi book review on the deliciosciphi blog!

(Please note that this review does focus on the content of the book even though it was written specifically for the audiobook version available on Audible (http://www.audible.com/pd/ref=sa_1?asin=B005R35BMW) narrated by Mark Boyett. Still, even if you aren’t into audiobooks, this review and all of my book reviews are still completely relevant to the text copy excluding information about the narrator, of course.)

B. V. Larson’s Star Force series is a genre crossing, military science fiction space opera epic that absolutely wins with narrator Mark Boyett

 

First, if I wrote the book’s blurb:

An every-man computer scientist is propelled into a cosmic landscape that will bring out his best, and, unfortunately, his worst. The ring to Hell is manufactured with Kyle Riggs’ intentions. But as you’ll find out, Riggs’ really is the right man and perfect protagonist for B. V. Larson’s genre smashing space operatic military apocalyptic science fiction pragmatic technothriller.

Second, why I chose this book:

This book caught my eye because I was looking for a new sci-fi series, and I really enjoyed  Troy Rising, by military sci-fi superstar John Ringo,  which was also narrated by Mark Boyett and has been compared to Star Force by others. Similar to at least the first book of Troy Rising (Live Free or Die), SWARM and the Star Force series in general (I’m on Book 3 as of writing this) has a strong protagonist who starts as a humble rural type with an additional edge of technical prowess (More about Kyle Riggs below). But while Troy Rising really lost its momentum after the first book, the Star Force series keeps it going and lays it on hard.

If you like military science fiction of the sort portrayed in the Troy Rising series, you will love the Star Force series. And, to those of you who enjoyed the Star Force series, you will enjoy Troy Rising. But, as of Book 3, I have to put Star Force above John Ringo’s space opera brother from another mother.

This book certainly contains some elements that will require you to significantly suspend disbelief, particularly regarding how over exaggerated some of the characters are portrayed. Nevertheless, I think good science fiction will always include a few things that make you feel a touch incredulous including the portrayal of individuals that have character flaws and other such facets tenfold as extreme as anyone you’ve ever met. Though, I really do not feel like Star Force takes it over the top in any way, and I never felt as if what I was reading was truly too absurd or unbelievable.

The technological aspects of Star Force are really concentrated on a few plot elements. Without revealing too much, I can say with high confidence that if you are intrigued by nanotechnology, this book will give you a pretty strong wondergasm. Importantly however the descriptions of said technology really do appear to be refreshingly under the regime of science fact. Larson either did his research well or has a wealth of information that I truly wish was wielded more frequently by writers of science fiction and fantasy. I believe that most who give this series a chance will find something to learn from this book. And naturally as good science fiction should, it will hopefully inspire your envisionment of things that are quite attainable given our current rate of technological advancement, even without extraterrestrial intervention. Though, I certainly won’t complain if I am able to get my hands on some bona fide ET tech.

Some analysis about the books protagonist:

Like so many nerds growing up in this wonderful information age, at some point in my life I at least considered the possibility of pursuing computer science as a career choice, and I think anyone who has ever found beauty in the workings of a machine or the elegance in a mathematical proof will have no trouble in relating to Kyle Riggs. Larson intentionally leaves out specific details about Kyle Riggs appearance and style so that the reader may fully empathize with Riggs’ through his tribulations. Alternatively, one can easily insert the image and essence of whichever heroically moral archetype they feel most comfortable with into the protagonist. Some may criticize this by arguing it leaves the main character hollow, but I believe that this allows Riggs to be less a man and more a symbol for the resilience of humanity. Kyle Riggs is not a single man, but as I alluded to in the first sentence of this review, he is every man.

Finally, While Mark Boyett’s accents may at times all sound alike, his attempts still wonderfully bring life to the characters. I really enjoyed Boyett’s work for the Troy Rising series and believe his efforts are even more radiant in Larson’s works. I will be looking for more books narrated by Boyett for his performance alone. Many audiobook narrators have a voice that brings along distracting qualities of varying degrees, making listening to the book a challenging venture regardless of the content. With Boyett, however, I have absolutely no issue focusing in on the story he brings to life without him sacrificing any of the multitude of character’s intricacies and personality.

That brings me to one more point. This is the first series where I have really noticed that the writer is incredibly effective at channeling a representative presence in his characters. What I mean is, the cast in this story are from so many diverse backgrounds, as they should be. It is pretty much a rule that military sci-fi has the United States and its citizens at the forefront with a couple token internationals sprinkled in due to necessity. Nonetheless, I feel that Larson has very effectively created a truly believable cast of characters who spring from all aspects of life and from all over planet Earth. This of course would most definitely be the case if the terrifying scenario in the book ever actually arose.

Furthermore, and somewhat importantly, he doesn’t harp on about this diversity. In the third Troy Rising book, The Hot Gate, 75% of the story was about the conflict between the culture of a number of South American countries versus culture in the US versus conservative Arab culture. So, sure, there was a lot of diversity, and sure, there almost certainly would be a culture clash provided people from diverse backgrounds were forced together in close quarters. Still, I do not think it has to be a huge focus, or a focus at all for that matter,in a story that is about the unification of humanity into an established and significant force fighting for the survival of its species.

multiverse slide

A sense of scale

The Multiverse is a pretty big place.

So large, in fact, that it has been said that every possible event, past or future, that ever could happen has or will occur in at least one universe within The Multiverse. Just take every choice you’ve thought of making and fill up a multiverse with them. That would represent your own personal bubble of cosmic possibilities. Now, take every independent entity that has ever and ever will exist and fill up all of those multiverses. That might just make up The Multiverse, capital letters and all. But, that’s assuming that such a place is only made up of all of the known possibilities any independent entity could have been aware of, or at least been ignorantly predisposed to. Unfortunately for our comprehension of such a place, it is more likely that The, capital lettered, Multiverse actually contains all of those personal bubbles in addition to every possibility that ever could have even possibly been possible. Yes, The Multiverse is a place that contains the remnants of every event that could have ever and will ever possibly happen whether or not it was even actively conceived of by an independent entity while going about in their own personal bubble of cosmic possibilities, which almost definitely although not only fills up what is called The Multiverse. The Multiverse is a really big place.

parallelMultiverses

Parallel multiverses and pocket universes Part II

The discussion on reality

(Aside: Part II follows from what I proposed in Part I. Part II was developed after being asked to elaborate on specific details mentioned in Part I. Part III will likely follow upon further investigations into explorations of reality using my own sentience as a tool.)

I define my idea of a parallel multiverse as a parallel collection of all possible universes. Of course, the first thing that came to my mind was, “Well, would that not just be a larger multiverse?” I then considered the possibility that while a single multiverse has within it all universes that include every possible outcome provided a specific framework, a multiverse parallel to that is one that has within it those universes but with an altered framework. Of course, we do not yet know for certain even between individual universes to what degree physical laws, the flow of time, the separation of dimensions and/or universes themselves, and so on may be conserved. Nevertheless, though the specifics are unknown, it is easy to envision a hypothetical multiverse parallel to the one we locally exist in where everything is essentially identical except for some variation such as a difference in the speed of light (c). In this model, all possible outcomes in one multiverse are conserved in the other but are manifest under the altered framework. Nevertheless, this is all just speculation.

Regarding my use of the word “Merge,” I admit this may have been a bit of poetic license. However, this idea originates from other possibilities I’ve considered. I do not visualize reality persisting as completely separate universes. I hypothesize that reality as perceived by the observer is actually an equilibrium between several universes that hold within them all possibilities that may actually manifest provided how the observer in a given moment may act.

Multiple dimensions are known to exist within pockets folded in on one another within a single universe. Perhaps, these dimensions allow the flow of information between the possible universes. Each observer has around them their own set of higher level (above 3D and 4D) pocket dimensions that permit the flow of information between universes. This leads to what I called the “equilibrium” of possible universes that brings forth what the observer, we, humanity, perceive as reality. Thus, while an observer may come to its end in a single universe, the sentience/consciousness/actions of that observer are shifted or merged into the adjacent universes that were in equilibrium with the dying universe. Such a model does seem to be in tune with how electrons have been found to “move” between atoms and molecules in spacetime/reality.

“How so, you insane molecular biologist-cum-wannabe theoretical physicist?!” Well…

Electrons are absolutely incredible and remarkably non-intuitive. They have been thought to potentially travel through time, although this is controversial. But, they are absolutely capable of “tunneling” through seemingly solid barriers simply because their so-called wavefunction permits them to occupy that space, in spite of the barrier. They seemingly pop in and out of existence. Thus, if they were actually just flowing through multiple universes in higher level dimensions, this may actually explain a lot about how they might be doing some of these, as Einstein put it, “Spooky” things.

…I know you are just dying to get to Part III. Worry not, friend. As long as I live, I will always be willing to throw out new propositions for the science of the philosophy of reality. I can’t wait.

parallelMultiverses

Parallel multiverses and pocket universes Part I

The world ends everyday.

However, as a result of the phenomenon described as “Quantum Immortality”, because Earth still exists in a synonymous spacetime stream in a parallel universe, the observer of the doomed Earth in the “first” universe merges with the observer of the extant, unharmed duplicate Earth. In this case the observer is we, Humanity, or more solipsistically, you, You (or me, Me).

The world shall only truly end when every single Earth is destroyed or becomes uninhabitable, depending on your reference, in every synonymous spacetime stream. Alternatively, again solipsistically, the end may arise when every observer is destroyed. Naturally, the end is absolutely certain if the multiverse itself ceases to exist, provided such a thing is possible. Though, I do not see why there could not be parallel multiverses as well. I bet you never thought of that, did you?

I do hope that you can find a way to enjoy eternity.

…discussion continued in Part II…

Hormesis slide

The antioxidant controversy, illuminated, inspired by misuse of science by Cindy Crawford’s Meaningful Beauty product

THIS IS AN IMPORTANT MESSAGE ABOUT “ANTI-AGING PRODUCTS” and “ANTIOXIDANTS” IN GENERAL FROM YOUR RESIDENT AGING BIOLOGY EXPERT:

Dear anyone who is interested in anti-aging science or products. Do not support Meaningful Beauty by Cindy Crawford. It is complete and utter bunk.

They claim that Superoxide Dismutase (SOD) is extracted from some rare melon in France, with the implication that this enzyme is only present in said melon. Number 1: This is absolutely false. I don’t know what supposed melon they are talking about, but superoxide dismutases (SODs) are extremely conserved enzymes that are present from Bacteria to Humans. They are a very large family of enzymes (Pubmed has over 5000 entries as shown in the link above) that have a variety of uses depending on the situation. Nobody ever legitimately refers to or calls any SOD “The Youth Molecule”.

Number 2: The Free Radical theory of aging holds no longer holds any ground within the scientific community. This is particularly true for those who keep up to date with research related to aging and stress. Thanks largely to Denham Harman‘s The Free Radical Theory of Aging and the models built from its foundation, free radicals, reactive oxygen species (ROS), and oxidative stress in general were once thought to be responsible for the deterioration associated with aging and aging-related changes. It is certainly the case that, in most if not all organisms, a significant overabundance of oxidative stress may have profoundly detrimental effects on cells and tissues that appear remarkably like signs of advanced age. However, for essentially all higher eukaryotes including humans, our cells have mechanisms that deal with ROS and oxidative stress very effectively.

Our cells’ repair machinery is, in fact, so effective that the compensatory mechanisms that are activated in response to ROS and oxidative stress go beyond the initial insult and act to deal with other stresses that have or will cause cellular damage. This phenomenon has recently been dubbed Hormesis (also styled mitohormesis in some articles, referring specifically to Hormesis of the mitochondria; Ageing Research Reviews has a wonderful section dedicated to Hormesis).

Put simply, Hormesis is the process whereby a threshold level of stress results in a compensatory response that goes above and beyond the initial stimulus. This therefore leads to an added protective effect for our cells and tissues. In the case of aging, limited amounts of oxidative stress can activate mechanisms, primarily in the form of stress response factors, which deal with ROS and the affected cellular components. The negative feedback activities of these stress response factors are not necessarily inhibited immediately following resolution of the stimulus. The repair mechanisms continue to propagate throughout the cell.

Other cellular components that have deteriorated, to an extent below the threshold required for stress response factor activation, may also be restored by this propagating wave of repair machinery. These damaged proteins and DNA molecules need not have been the intended “targets” for repair, but because of the cell’s overcompensation for the stress that did reach threshold levels, these other cellular components benefited as well. The ultimate manifestation of this phenomenon is an extension of lifespan and increased resistance to cellular stress. Strikingly, if animals with mildly increased levels of ROS are treated with antioxidants, this treatment completely removes the lifespan increase that would otherwise occur.

This principle is completely translatable to human beings and our lifestyles. A current model building a lot of momentum in the community is that the cardiovascular and other health benefits that have been tied to regular exercise actually extend from an increase in ROS. At least one study has shown that treating humans with antioxidants following exercise eliminates the benefits of exercise. This specific study has been published in the very reputable journal PNAS and is flat out titled “Antioxidants prevent health-promoting effects of physical exercise in humans“. In other words, if you run a couple miles then go home and chug a bunch of trendy vitamin water with loads of “antioxidants” you are actually inhibiting the benefits you obtained from that exercise. This is SCIENCE FACT.

Thus, slathering superoxide dismutase all over your skin will not inhibit skin aging. In fact, it is much more likely that any reduction of ROS due to SOD will actually prevent the live cells in your dermis from receiving stress signals that result in an upregulation of processes involved in the removal of that stress. SOD will inhibit Hormesis from occurring and you will actually be facing a detriment by using this.

Bottom line: The antioxidant fad is actually harmful if your goal is to live a longer healthier life. Let your cells’ repair mechanisms do what they are supposed to do.

Capitalized bottom line: SCIENCE NO LONGER SUPPORTS THAT SUPPLEMENTAL ANTIOXIDANTS HAVE ANY BENEFITS FOR HUMANS.

In fact, James Watson, the somewhat controversial figure and one of the initial discoverers of the structure of DNA, has recently endorsed the idea that antioxidants may actually be contributing to cancer. This is possible through the mechanism I outlined above, whereby antioxidants prevent ROS from signaling to repair mechanisms.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to ask me any questions.

PS
This post will likely be updated with more details as I see fit to add them and as the field grows to understand these processes better.