Quid Novi? | Restructuring – New Years plans


Vanakkam. Now that the year is underway, I’ve got a full weekly study and work schedule set up. This post is the last of those already prescheduled on this blog, so I’m announcing a two-week blogcation and recharging period so that I can keep things updated here and still have room for non-blogging activities while not endangering my health.

One thing I’ve added to my schedule is experimenting with recording podcast audio clips, so giving me even less time to allocate, though still within my limits. Tamil study is coming along well, while I’ve also begun lessons in precalculus, graphic design fundamentals, and in shorthand script for rapid lecture/debate transcription.

But, that being said, what’s in store for the site at blogcation’s end?

I’ll continue the Gods of Terra primer series, the next installments being part I and II of the setting’s history. I’ll also post new installments of the Lost in Translation series, for some cool mnemonics I’ve come up with for Tamil vocabulary, and some of those for Bengali past tense, present tense, and negational verb forms that I’ve found useful.

I’m doing new fiction as well, and that and the Gods of Terra primer installments will also appear on this site’s sister blog, Checkerboards of the Gods.

While I’m not writing and finalizing new drafts, I can spend time updating older posts. I’m nearly finished on a few posts in draft already, including a tutorial on Mandelbulb 3D, now for v.1.9.7.

I’ve see a need for more skeptical content on the blog, so with my tendency to binge on podcasts I’ll use that for topical inspiration. That should be fun, and a great opportunity to support the shows I enjoy.

So,

I’ll see you in two weeks, ready and recharged. May the intervening time be good for you as well!

And with my hideously amateurish grasp of Tamil, I’ll leave you with this:

Naan pooyittu varaenga.

Mr. Eccles Presents | Mindscape Podcast – Roger Penrose


Blog post with show notes and transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/…

Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/seanmcarroll

Sir Roger Penrose has had a remarkable life. He has contributed an enormous amount to our understanding of general relativity, perhaps more than anyone since Einstein himself — Penrose diagrams, singularity theorems, the Penrose process, cosmic censorship, and the list goes on. He has made important contributions to mathematics, including such fun ideas as the Penrose triangle and aperiodic tilings. He has also made bold conjectures in the notoriously contentious areas of quantum mechanics and the study of consciousness. In his spare time he’s managed to become an extremely successful author, writing such books as The Emperor’s New Mind and The Road to Reality. With far too much that we could have talked about, we decided to concentrate in this discussion on spacetime, black holes, and cosmology, but we made sure to reserve some time to dig into quantum mechanics and the brain by the end.

MetaCognitions | Cynicism: Just Another Bias


There, I said it. Cynics who view their cynicism as an asset, of course, will disagree, self-assured in believing themselves perfectly realistic and objective, completely missing the fact of their own self-deception. I will be accused of crippling naiveté. Of bias.

But that doesn’t even pass a basic prima facie, “On first face,” relevance test.

So I’m biased? So my views are skewed? So what? Who cares?

I’m biased. You’re biased. We’re all biased. Everyone is biased. To be human is to be biased. We just can’t seem to help ourselves. I’ll be up front with my biases: I’m pro-science, pro-rationality, pro-reality, pro-humanity, and anti-anything that dehumanizes or needlessly harms people.

We all view the world through a subjective lens, evaluating and passing judgment to everything and anything we come across without even knowing we’re doing it. Much of it is below the level of our conscious awareness. And there’s no way we know to step outside of our own individual brains save for the methods of science.

Complete certain knowledge about the world and perfect objectivity are impossible. Our brains and senses just don’t work that way. And to see the world and everyone and everything in it as fundamentally hopeless, ultimately futile, and irredeemably rotten is simply applying another set of value judgments, though destructively negative ones. 

I’m reasonably sure that if I had all of the same genetic contributions to my personality, all of the same upbringing, all of the same environment and life experiences of a staunch cynic, I would very likely be one now.

But I have not. Yet, I myself struggle daily with the temptation to cynicism to which our 24-7 news cycle culture subjects us. Clearly, that struggle is part of being human also. Some lose that struggle, and these deserve empathy and understanding, not the contempt they offer others, and not the loathing they often offer themselves.

If that sounds condescending or offensive, then consider this: Anything ever written or said will offend someone, and I don’t have the right to infringe on anyone’s freedom of thought to even try dictating for them what that might be. It’s out of my hands what any given person finds offensive. My point is, though, that I’m not condescending anyone. 

I’ll make the presumption here that most reading this are adults, or young and almost-adults, and should have thick skins in proportion to their own level of personal maturity. To treat others as functionally children by pandering to their feelings seems to me the epitome of condescension.

So, here’s why I’m throwing shade on cynicism as an alleged asset, virtue, or worldview: 

Cynicism means you’ve given up. Cynicism is surrender to bitterness, to an attitude of feigned superiority, and to contemptuousness. Cynicism is a cheap excuse for inaction, for fatalism, and for moral cowardice. In what universe are those anything but destructive?

All things pass, even the terrible things people sometimes do to each other. I do not have any use for a worldview that tells me that everyone by default is lying to or manipulating me and everyone else. Just because the world seems like an awful place doesn’t mean it ought to be, or that it’s useless to do something, anything, to make it less awful. Trying to make the world a better place is not a mere easily dismissed utopian faerie tale. Human effort applied unwisely causes our woes, human effort applied wisely can fix them.

I do not believe that human beings are fundamentally depraved. I view most of us as a mix of both good and evil, both right and wrong, both moral angels and devils at various times. We are all people, and people are complicated. 

I see people as having some worth, and the ability for some measure of good, skeptical thinking, a healthy blend of scientific literacy and critical thinking, though not as innately talented. It’s more of a capacity, a potentiality, and something we must learn as a skillset to do well in order to come to a more accurate, better, more useful view of the world and of ourselves. 

Good thinking ought in my view to be for everyone. It’s empowering. It’s illuminating. Good thinking is almost a kind of super-power. It’s even better than being able to throw silly comic book energy-bolts at people’s heads. It can be used for nearly everything in life. To me, it opens the gates to reality, the gates to wonder, and it’s also great fun.

Why say this? 

Because I can. Because I believe I should. To do something more useful than to merely shake my fist and simply rail and curse the night. Because I see people, even those I know and care for, fall prey some kind of pseudoscience, specious political claim, or fallacious health scare. And it’s not because they are somehow gullible, or stupid, or weak. 

Oh, no, it’s just not that simple!

I’ll let you in on a little secret: I’m gullible. There are times when I’m far too trusting, far too easily swayed by spurious argumentation, and I believe many things that I cannot possibly prove objectively. I have to watch myself daily, hourly, and despite this, I sometimes fail.

To blame the deceived for their own deception is to ignore the fact that we can all be fooled at a vulnerable moment by anyone who knows how to push our buttons. We are best of all at pushing our own buttons. To be human is to be vulnerable, no matter how smart we may think we are. To think ourselves immune to that is to ignore our own vulnerability, and we cannot be vigilant against a foe that we ignore. 

To blame the victim is cynical, and with the sense of false superiority that comes with it, that cynicism makes us lower our guard. Ironically, even con artists can be conned, especially by other con artists who know what hooks them. Cynicism easily leads to being used and manipulated, despite its frequently implied justification of defending the cynic from being used and manipulated.

I think that good thinking is a much better defense against the dark arts of scam artists, pandering politicians, and fraudsters than cynical thinking, which only makes you more vulnerable, not less.

And those, I think, are reasons enough.

(This post has been updated on 8/1/2019, 14:50)

Mongo Fiction | The Meera


A nondescript-looking young woman made her way down the poorly lit street. It was quiet, too quiet this night, and her senses were alert to the slightest disturbance to her peace of mind at this late hour. She was in no mood for threats, so she smiled when she saw the ludicrous — ahem — gentleman — step out of a side alley with shiv in hand, evidently eager to try his hand at gutting her and taking her stuff. Never mind that the only apparent goods on her person were her mirror-shades and her scavenged work uniform. She saw the idiot in augmented reality overlay in her field of vision, thinking he was hiding before he even stepped out into the street. This would be quick.

“All dressed for Halloween, are we, girly? Why the shades at this hour of night? They look good enough to take! Hand ‘em over, and your money, too, or I slit your mongrel face!” She quickly downgraded her estimation of his intelligence by several standard deviations below the mean. He waved his blade “menacingly” just half a meter in front of her, trying pathetically to look impressive and scary. Scary? To a girl who’s killed planets all by herself?

The farce was quickly ended when she casually grabbed him at the waist by his belt, and with a strength and ease seemingly impossible for someone of her size and build, lifted him over her head and tossed him headfirst into a nearby waste bin with a muted “thud,” and what sounded like the “crunch” of a likely skull fracture. Oops.

Hmm. Moron dropped his knife when he took a dive, she thought.
She picked up the blade, balancing the tip on her finger. It’s dull. Badly balanced. Crappy workmanship. Meh.

She tossed it aside, and silently giggled inside at the thought of anyone trying to threaten her with such a shoddy excuse for a weapon.

Not worth the effort of writing, “I got punked by a girl,” on his face with his own blade, she thought.

Fictitious gods. You’ve one hell of a mean streak, said the silent voice within, heard only in her mind’s ear, the constant companion riding around in her skull. She knew who it once was. A digital consciousness deep in her hypershard’s fractal-like q-bits had kept her company since she first regained control of her own mind on a dead planet. A planet that she had just killed as the resurrected Magna.

I make my own rules, Mirus. She responded. Understood. Still, you’re a wanted woman, and you don’t want to draw attention to yourself. Even during my life, I had to travel with an assumed name and identity to avoid bringing the local military down on my head. Thinking with your powers will only get you killed. Really? She asked. You had an assumed name? What was it? That was Murugan Sanchez. My real parents were of Tamil and Filipino descent, and it showed in me, so the name worked. You’ll need one too, at least for the mundane things like forging documents and such. I can teach you how to do that, and to do it well. So, what’ll it be?

The girl thought for a moment. Murugan. That was the name of an old god of war wasn’t it. So I’ll go as Korravi – and I’m stealing your surname, Mirus – Korravi Sanchez, it’ll be. There are few ethnicities I can’t easily pass as with a little touching up, and several hundred years after your time no one will notice.

For those who find out the hard way, my life as the second Magna is officially over, she thought to herself.

I’m the Meera, once the destroyer of worlds. But one day, I’ll be able to walk in the open without terrifying every planet I set foot on.

And that day will be good.

Gods of Terra Primer | Interstellar Travel Basics


Vanakkam. As the founders of the early SETI program (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) have pointed out, there are certain basic prerequisites for interstellar communication, the first and most obvious being high powered radio technology.

So too, in Gods of Terra, are there certain basic technologies needed to permit interstellar travel on ordinary human timescales, and those would be:

Helium-3 fusion power: 

For power generation of the minimum level and most economically viable reactor size needed to power a useful stardrive, thermonuclear power generation by fusing heavy helium nuclei has both a reasonable level of safety. On many gas giant planets, there’s a plentiful supply of fuel for visiting starships with good aerodynamics, fuel scoops, and purifiers. It’s safer, more efficient, and generates more power and fewer fast neutrons than deuterium-tritium fusion, but requires higher starting energies to achieve.

That’s the bare minimum, and for large spacecraft it’s a prerequisite for the next item, which would be…

The Kurtz-Dunar Effect:

Most famously co-discovered by Ouilette Kurtz of Terra and Ranan Dunar of Sirug, this is a means of generating and manipulating dark energy to expand, twist, fold, contract, and warp the fabric of space-time in useful ways. It allows at the basic level such things as riding a planet’s gravity-well like a bird riding updrafts, or achieving orbit for spacecraft without using large amounts of reaction mass as fuel. This applies for the gravity-well of a stellar system as well, allowing rapid, low reaction-mass interplanetary travel. Carried to the next level in advancement, it also leads to…

Starfold-M and Starfold-S drives:

With these two methods of interstellar flight, the first pre-Shutter, the second post-Shutter, the way to the stars is open to beings with ordinary lifespans who can now settle worlds across the galaxy on reasonable and economically feasible timescales. Both drives use the same principle, the Kurtz-Dunar Effect, but in slightly differing applications during their respective eras of use. It was the cosmological event known as the Shutter that caused the need for Starfold-M to evolve into the more efficient and powerful Starfold-S once the former was rendered ineffective.

Interstellar travel without these technologies is possible, but restricted to sublight-velocity craft, and not the sort allowing human timescale economic or military activity. Some species, like the Broogh, to be dealt with later in this series, are limited to sublight craft, but most of these are sleeper, or in the case of Broogh, generation ships or entire fleets of them. 

Rapidly traversing the Local Galaxy requires a very specific set of technologies, those listed above. So for those with short lifespans, or little patience, there’s really no other option.

TED | 3 Worldview-Shaping Cognitive Biases


What shapes our perceptions (and misperceptions) about science? In an eye-opening talk, meteorologist J. Marshall Shepherd explains how confirmation bias, the Dunning-Kruger effect and cognitive dissonance impact what we think we know — and shares ideas for how we can replace them with something much more powerful: knowledge.

Quid Novi? | 2018: Year in Review


Vanakkam. 

Namaste. 

Namaskar. 

And in Soruggon, 

Ikhtighar Furiit. 

Greetings, humans! It’s been long, long while since I’ve done a decent end-of-year piece on this site, so now that this blog has been around for some 10 years and two days, here it is. It’s been a busy year, with a lot going on. It’s the start in many ways of a new era. I’ve had to let go of things, and embraced both new insights and learned some amazing things along the way. I’ve met new people and parted ways with others. Best of all, my mental health over the past year has vastly improved as I’ve freed myself of what doesn’t work and kept at what does. This is the last post on this blog for 2018. I wish a happy and prosperous New Year for you and yours!

Blogs and Other Social Media: 

I’ve left Twitter, with both of the @Troythulu and @Mister_Eccles accounts deleted. I’ll not be returning in the foreseeable future.

I’ve deleted all but four of my blogs, leaving only two WordPress sites, my Blogger site, and my Tumblr site remaining. 

I’ve deleted two old and moribund FB pages: Mr Riccles and The Collect Call of Troythulu, the former for my cats, the latter for my blogs. 

Later in the year, I restored older blog pages on this site.  

Earlier in April, I began the first major cleanup of posts on my blogs in nine years, deleting low-impact posts and unused tags, setting up others as drafts for rewriting, updating, and reposting for better traction. 

Lifelong learning and Study: 

I’ve finished and reviewed remedial lessons in both of Algebras I & II 

I’ve completed part 1, Units 1-13 of Complete Bengali, began intermediate – level study in Part 2, units 14-26 with some interruptions. Not as much progress as I’d have liked, but no biggie. 

After a hiatus and reorganizing of my study schedule, I’ve resumed learning of Tamil and Hindi, and vastly expanded my subscription to podcasts in both of those languages and in Bengali.  

I began course in graphic design fundamentals. This will prove most useful. 

Home Affairs: 

Got a standing desk attachment for my workspace. 

Assisted with home renovations at my family’s place in the 2nd half of 2018,  

Writing and Publishing Goals Met: 

Self-published my fourth book, The Giant who Fell from the Dark beyond the Sky: And Other Collected Works.  

Throughout the year, made regular contributions to Miss Sharmishtha Basu’s PDF eZine, Agnishatdal (the lotus of fire). 

Started my own email PDF newsletter, The Pikatron Monthly, in June. If you’re interested in subscribing, email me at troythulu@gmail.com and I’ll add you to the list.

Began research on Tamil slang, history, and culture for an upcoming book to be self-published sometime in late 2019, early 2020.