Please note: the viewport design is copied from Steve Den Beste's excellent blog, USS Clueless. Used with permission.

Saturday, February 26, 2005  

via Calvin and Hobbes

The Calvin And Hobbs Archive

Complete archive of all Calvin and Hobbs here

posted by Gary Williams at 10:26 PM | link |

via MathWorld News: 42nd Mersenne Prime Found

42nd Mersenne Prime Found (And Confirmed)

By Eric W. Weisstein

February 26, 2005--Less than a year after the 41st Mersenne prime was reported (MathWorld headline news: June 1, 2004), the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search (GIMPS) project has discovered the 42nd known Mersenne prime. The candidate prime was flagged prime by an experienced GIMPS volunteer on February 18, independently verified by Tony Reix on Feburary 25, and the exponent was reported on February 26.

Mersenne numbers are numbers of the form Mn = 2n - 1, giving the first few as 1, 3, 7, 15, 31, 63, 127, .... Interestingly, the definition of these numbers therefore means that the nth Mersenne number is simply a string of n 1s when represented in binary. For example, M7 = 27 - 1 = 127 = 11111112 is a Mersenne number. Mersenne primes are Mersenne numbers that are also prime, i.e., have no factors other than 1 and themselves. So, since the number 127 is prime and is a Mersenne number, it is a Mersenne prime.

The new Mersenne prime is 225,964,951 - 1 = 12216463006127794810...98933257280577077247 (where the ellipses indicate that several million intervening digits have being omited for conciseness) and has a whopping total of 7,816,230 decimal digits. It is therefore not only the largest known Mersenne prime, but also the largest known prime of any kind. In fact, there is a particuarly efficient and, more importantly, deterministic primality test for Mersene numbers known as the Lucas-Lehmer test. The efficiency of this test combined with the high historical profile of the Mersenne numbers thus accounts for the fact that the four largest known primes are all Mersenne primes.

For those curious to see the new prime in its full 7,816,230 digits of glory, the results of the short Mathematica calculation required to generate its decimal digits are available by downloading the notebook mersenne42.nb. If you do not own Mathematica, you can download a free trial version to view this file.

posted by Gary Williams at 10:12 PM | link |

Friday, February 25, 2005  

via English is Tough Stuff


Multi-national personnel at North Atlantic Treaty Organization headquarters near Paris found English to be an easy language ... until they tried to pronounce it. To help them discard an array of accents, the verses below were devised. After trying them, a Frenchman said he'd prefer six months at hard labor to reading six lines aloud. Try them yourself.

Dearest creature in creation,
Study English pronunciation.
I will teach you in my verse
Sounds like corpse, corps, horse, and worse.
I will keep you, Suzy, busy,
Make your head with heat grow dizzy.
Tear in eye, your dress will tear.
So shall I! Oh hear my prayer.

Just compare heart, beard, and heard,
Dies and diet, lord and word,
Sword and sward, retain and Britain.
(Mind the latter, how it's written.)
Now I surely will not plague you
With such words as plaque and ague.
But be careful how you speak:
Say break and steak, but bleak and streak;
Cloven, oven, how and low,
Script, receipt, show, poem, and toe.

Hear me say, devoid of trickery,
Daughter, laughter, and Terpsichore,
Typhoid, measles, topsails, aisles,
Exiles, similes, and reviles;

Scholar, vicar, and cigar,
Solar, mica, war and far;
One, anemone, Balmoral,
Kitchen, lichen, laundry, laurel;
Gertrude, German, wind and mind,
Scene, Melpomene, mankind.


posted by Gary Williams at 11:12 PM | link |


Color Baron

Click to see larger image
Sometimes I get some interesting out of the blue email. Take this image I received the other night. Color artist David Baron saw the black and white sketch of Wonder Woman I put up on the blog several days ago and took a mighty wacom pen to tablet and came up with this amazing color piece seen closer here.

David is, of course, an accomplished colorist who worked at WildStorm for many years and is now, like many WildStorm FX alumni, charting a successful solo career.

He is currently coloring Justice League Elite and the upcoming 64 page Batman: Man who laughs. He and Joel Benjamin are also probably the two fastest at their craft. It's amazing watching them work the 'pshop.

Neither are very good at cards tho.

Tis a shame.


posted by Gary Williams at 10:09 PM | link |

via The New York Times (registration required)

Kansas on My Mind


Published: February 25, 2005

Call it 'What's the Matter With Kansas - The Cartoon Version.'

The slime campaign has begun against AARP, which opposes Social Security privatization. There's no hard evidence that the people involved - some of them also responsible for the 'Swift Boat' election smear - are taking orders from the White House. So you're free to believe that this is an independent venture. You're also free to believe in the tooth fairy.

Their first foray - an ad accusing the seniors' organization of being against the troops and for gay marriage - was notably inept. But they'll be back, and it's important to understand what they're up to.

The answer lies in 'What's the Matter With Kansas?,' Thomas Frank's meditation on how right-wingers, whose economic policies harm working Americans, nonetheless get so many of those working Americans to vote for them.

People like myself - members of what one scornful Bush aide called the 'reality-based community' - tend to attribute the right's electoral victories to its success at spreading policy disinformation. And the campaign against Social Security certainly involves a lot of disinformation, both about how the current system works and about the consequences of privatization.

posted by Gary Williams at 8:13 PM | link |

via Very Large Computing Array :: This is just a test.

Blue Skies On Saturn

If you've ever looked at Saturn through a backyard telescope, you know it's true: Yellow is the dominant color of Saturn's thick clouds. 'Sunlight reflected from those clouds is what gives Saturn its golden hue,' explains West.

But Cassini saw something different. Close to Saturn, the spacecraft was able to photograph the clear air above the planet's clouds. ('Air' on Saturn is mostly hydrogen.) The color there is blue.

'Saturn's skies are blue, we think, for the same reason Earth's skies are blue,' says West. Molecules in the atmosphere scatter sunlight. On Earth the molecules are oxygen (O2) and nitrogen (N2). On Saturn the molecules are hydrogen (H2). Different planets, different molecules, but the effect is the same: blue light gets scattered around the sky. Other colors are scattered, too, but not as much as blue. Physicists call this 'Rayleigh scattering.'

Saturn's north is so blue that West believes amateur astronomers could see the hue from Earth. Unfortunately, the north of Saturn is hidden at the moment behind Saturn's rings, a situation that will persist for another year or so.

For now, Cassini is in the best position to investigate. Will Saturn's blue skies fade? Or grow to envelop the whole planet? No one knows. It is an alien world, after all.

posted by Gary Williams at 7:18 PM | link |

via Longmire does Romance Novels

Novels Via Romance Covers...

I think a lot of us can agree that a large number of romance novel covers are pretty silly and are just asking to be ridiculed. So that's exactly what I did. I bought a few of them at the used book store and got to work on them. The artwork almost writes its own jokes.

Take a look at the following covers I 'reimagined.'

posted by Gary Williams at 4:03 PM | link |

via Library Journal - Revenge of the Blog People!

Revenge of the Blog People!

By Michael Gorman -- 2/15/2005
Commentary > Backtalk

A blog is a species of interactive electronic diary by means of which the unpublishable, untrammeled by editors or the rules of grammar, can communicate their thoughts via the web. (Though it sounds like something you would find stuck in a drain, the ugly neologism blog is a contraction of 'web log.') Until recently, I had not spent much time thinking about blogs or Blog People.

I had heard of the activities of the latter and of the absurd idea of giving them press credentials (though, since the credentials were issued for political conventions, they were just absurd icing on absurd cakes). I was not truly aware of them until shortly after I published an op-ed piece in the Los Angeles Times ('Google and God's Mind,' December 17, 2004). Then, thanks to kind friends with nothing but my welfare in mind, I rapidly learned more about the blog subcultures.

My piece had the temerity to question the usefulness of Google digitizing millions of books and making bits of them available via its notoriously inefficient search engine. The Google phenomenon is a wonderfully modern manifestation of the triumph of hope and boosterism over reality. Hailed as the ultimate example of information retrieval, Google is, in fact, the device that gives you thousands of 'hits' (which may or may not be relevant) in no very useful order.
Digitized books

Those characteristics are ignored and excused by those who think that Google is the creation of 'God's mind,' because it gives the searcher its heaps of irrelevance in nanoseconds. Speed is of the essence to the Google boosters, just as it is to consumers of fast 'food,' but, as with fast food, rubbish is rubbish, no matter how speedily it is delivered.

posted by Gary Williams at 3:44 PM | link |

via Summary of SCO GROUP INC - Yahoo! Finance

SCO To Get Hearing Before NASDAQ Delisting


Notice of Delisting or Transfer

Item 3.01 Notice of Delisting or Failure to Satisfy a Continued Listing Rule or Standard; Transfer of Listing.

As previously announced by The SCO Group, Inc. (the Company), on February 16, 2005, the Company received a notice from the staff of The Nasdaq Stock Market indicating that the Company is subject to potential delisting from The Nasdaq SmallCap Market for failure to comply with Nasdaq's requirement to file its Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended October 31, 2004 in a timely fashion. The Company also previously announced that it expected to make a request for a hearing with the Nasdaq Listing Qualifications Panel on the matters.

On February 21, 2005, the Company submitted its request for a hearing with the Nasdaq Listing Qualifications Panel. On February 22, 2005, the Company received a notice from the Nasdaq Listing Qualifications Panel indicating that the Company's application for an oral hearing had been accepted. The hearing is scheduled to take place on March 17, 2005.

posted by Gary Williams at 3:31 PM | link |

Thursday, February 24, 2005  

via part of the machinery

::random haiku machine::

adapted from OBLIQUE STRATEGIES by brian eno and peter schmidt

from nothing to more
what is the reality
worthwhile dilemmas

posted by Gary Williams at 11:07 PM | link |

via Pharma Watch

Advertising a New Disease

Finally, reminder ads can be an effective way to market not only a drug, but a condition. The largest markets for many new drugs, particularly 'me-too' treatments, come from convincing a small segment of the healthy population that it has a symptom complex that is newly considered a treatable medical disorder or risk factor. Thus, direct-to-consumer marketing is aimed not just at those with diagnosed diseases or conditions, but to anyone with a set of symptoms (or fears) who might be led to believe that they have a treatable condition needing medical intervention. Although drug companies laud the health promotion aspects of such campaigns, legitimate campaigns are better done for conditions about which the medical community agrees there is concern, and should be undertaken without naming the treatment.

posted by Gary Williams at 9:07 PM | link |

via The Register

'Rocket fuel' found in US breast milk

By Lester Haines
Published Thursday 24th February 2005 09:35 GMT

US research has found that perchlorate - a chemical used in rocket fuel and though to be linked to metabolic disruption in adults and mental retardation in children - is widely present in breast and cow's milk across the United States.

According to a New Scientist report, perchlorate is made naturally in the atmosphere, and subsequently finds its way into the water supply. The US Environmental Protection Agency last week set a safe level of perchlorate for drinking water, and although the quantities in tested milk are below this, scientists warn that perchlorate's affect on iodine uptake in humans - coupled to a general decrease in dietary iodine intake - may pose a risk to health.

posted by Gary Williams at 1:56 PM | link |

via Greystone Inn, the daily comic strip by Brad Guigar

Comic Of The Day

posted by Gary Williams at 1:27 PM | link |


bad signal

Official announcement to come, but
it looks like FELL is going to happen,
at the USD $1.99 price point.

As some of you will remember, the
format is 16 pages of actual comics,
and around 6 pages of back matter.

Each 16pp piece of FELL will be a
self-contained experience -- with
threads that connect and develop
in each story, but also a single
complete piece in its own right.

The back matter will be a combination
of notes on the story, a general
kind of diary of production, photos
and sketches, and anything else
we figure we can jam in there. Also,
I'm thinking of bringing back some

form of letters page/commentary
section, kind of in the mode of a
FAQ plus things relating to the
culture of the book, probably
sourced from email.

This sort of thing is unlikely to make
it to any future trade edition of
the work -- which, since the work
is in 16-page pieces, would be a long
way off in any case. Think of the
singles as the Early Adopter Edition,
if you like. The purpose of the
format is to make a dense slab of
something that is also affordable,
after all.

And now I have the pure joy of
working out how to sell something
that's a straight contemporary
drama in this market. Ha ha. Shit.

-- W
Sent from mobile device
probably from the pub

posted by Gary Williams at 10:52 AM | link |

Wednesday, February 23, 2005  

via whiskey river

Cooking In A Hole?

'If you're in a hole don't keep digging - look around. Then get the bits and pieces into some kind of order, so as to point up the problem. Sometimes it comes easy, other times it's like confining jelly with a rubber band. Anyway, once achieved, the next move is to head off along the most promising route. The solution may become evident or you can end up in an exasperating period of hiatus when, despite trying this and that, the answer remains elusive. Hopefully the germ of an idea eventually peeps through, but before leaping on it with relief let it incubate for a while. Here the mind works on the idea in some mysterious way. Either the potential evaporates, in which case you have to start all over again, or it emerges [said Henry James] with 'a firm iridescent surface, and a notable increase in weight'.'
- Alan Fletcher

posted by Gary Williams at 11:07 PM | link |


Pulling The Plug

When doctors and hospitals decide to pull the plug - Physicians have an ethical obligation to honor the wishes of their patients and family (patient autonomy) but what if these decisions are clearly not in the patient's best interests? What if the demands of the family members will only result in more pain and suffering for the patient who has a terminal and severe condition? Two recent cases illustrate just how difficult it is in this country for physicians to honor their oath not to do harm.

The first case involves a five month old born with the rare but horrible condition known as Thanatophoric dysplasia (TR). These infants are born with short limbs, cranial deformities, and small chests that do not allow the lungs to inflate normally (disturbing picture). Almost all these babies die shortly after birth from respitory failure. The extremely rare ones that do survive suffer from severe mental retardation and continued severe pulmonary problems. None are known to live into adulthood.

Wanda Hudson's baby suffered respiratory distress immediately after birth and was rushed to Houston's Texas Children's Hospital where he was placed on a ventilator. When he was finally diagnosed with TR the physicians recommended that he be taken off the ventilator and allowed to die considering the horrible prognosis. Mrs. Hudson refused so the case went before the hospital ethics committee.

Texas law allows physicians to make unilateral decisions on life sustaining treatments if they believe such treatments are in vain and only causing further pain and suffering. If the hospital ethics committee agrees with the attending physicians then the family/guardian of the patient has 10 days to either arrange transfer of the patient to another facility or convince a probate court to issue a restraining order. Despite the horrible diagnosis and prognosis and the fact that the hospital contacted over 40 other hospitals with neonatal units to accept the patient in transfer (they all refused) Mrs. Hudson's lawyer was still able to get a restraining order. How and why? I haven’t a clue.

I was involved with a case here in Texas where the patient in question was a 89 year old woman with end stage dementia, bed bound, had a thousand medical problems, a decubitus ulcer bigger than my head, and a daughter who insisted that the patient was going to get better and "walk out of the hospital". An ethics committee meeting was called and they agreed with my assessment that we should stop all treatments except comfort care (pain control, medications for vomiting, etc) and transfer her to a hospice facility where she could be allowed to die in peace. Yet the daughter was able to convince the court to delay any action by the hospital well beyond the 10 days allowed by law. The patient's condition eventually deteriorated a few weeks later and she ultimately suffered a cardiac arrest and died in the ICU. I was appalled at the court's actions.

posted by Gary Williams at 9:40 PM | link |

via In the Pipeline

An Antiviral Example

I mentioned yesterday that sometimes you can find an antiviral target that doesn't depend on what the virus itself has to offer. As fate would have it, there are a few drugs coming along that use just such a mechanism against HIV.

They're based on their affinity toward a protein called CCR5, which sits straddling the outer membrane of some types of cells. It's one type of receptor protein, whose lot in life is to latch onto specific other molecules if and when they come by. Our lot in life in the drug industry is to make small molecules that bind to them - the various kinds of receptors are hugely important drug targets. (For those outside the field, briefly, part of a receptor stays on the outside of the cell membrane, and part of it loops to the inside. When a molecule binds to the outside loops, that binding event changes the shape of the whole protein and sets off a signaling cascade in the cell, which signals can be tied into just about every cell process you can think of.)

In the mid-1990s, studies on patients who appeared more naturally resistant to HIV showed that they had a mutated form of CCR5. It turned out that the receptor is one of the things that the virus uses to get into blood cells and infect them, but the mutated form didn't let HIV bind to it very well. That immediately led to the idea of blocking a normal patient's CCR5 with some small drug molecule - if the receptor were stopped up with that, maybe HIV wouldn't be able to bind to it, either.

This receptor-blocking idea is a favorite in drug research. It's usually a lot easier to gum up a receptor than it is to mimic the specific thing that turns it on.

posted by Gary Williams at 8:39 PM | link |

via The New York Public Library Digital Library Collection - Browse Our Collections

Digital Image Database Project

Thank you for visiting the future location of The New York Public Library's digital image project. The site will be available in late spring of 2003, offering thousands of images from the Library's vast Research Collections in the arts, humanities, sciences, and performing arts. Digitized artwork, maps, photographs, prints, manuscripts, illustrated books, and printed ephemera will be included. In the meantime, visit the Library's Mid-Manhattan Picture Collection Online, which is up and running now, with 15,000 digitized images of New York City, costume, design, american history, and other subjects from books, magazines, and newspapers, as well as original photographs, prints, and postcards.

posted by Gary Williams at 7:37 PM | link |

via Pharma Watch

Money for old rope - or old drugs

Q: What do Nexium and the $1 million bonus given to Astrazeneca’s CEO Sir Tom McKillop have in common?

A: They both had 50% taken out due to lack of efficacy.

[Esomeprazole is just omeprazole with the inert bits filtered out. Tom got only half his bonus because he’s been such a hopeless joke this year. He got a million dollars. They're both overpriced for what they deliver.]

posted by Gary Williams at 1:11 AM | link |

Tuesday, February 22, 2005  

via Boing Boing: A Directory of Wonderful Things

Today is Free Mojtaba and Arash Day

IZ sez, I wrote a story on the Free Mojtba and Arash Day organized by the Committee to Protect Bloggers. Here's the interview with Curt Hopkins, one of the founders and director of the committee.

The Committee's first campaign is 'Free Mojtaba and Arash Day' to be held today. And it is getting a lot of publicity. 'Overwhelming, between PRI's The World, BBC, Slashdot, BoingBoing, we have over twice as much traffic as usual, halfway through the day. People are planning to do the day by the score,' said Curt. When asked if this campaign will work and if the Iranian government will listen and release both Mojtaba and Arash, he told me about Sina, a freed Iranian blogger, 'Sina credited the attention of the blogosphere for making the Iranian authorities extremely uncomfortable and letting him go. We're hoping the same thing will happen here.'

posted by Gary Williams at 11:54 PM | link |

via Hitherby Dragons

Ink and Illogic

"Humans can't help being illogical," says the computer. "If you phrase your argument in illogical terms, they can't resist it---their heads leak smoke and then they just shut down."

"Oh," says the girl.

Her name is Ink Catherly. It's short for Incarnate Breath of the Void Catherly, she'll tell you, and maybe that's the truth. She's twelve years old. She's an explorer, passing from world to world and writing about them in her journal. She's on Omega V, home of the Omega Computer, under a pitch-black sky.

Floor 93-BE: The people of this world are very fastidious. They never knowingly permit their bodily fluids, such as pus and snot and menstrual blood, to contaminate their homes or streets or clothes. It is all washed down into the sewer below. The bodily fluids drained down into the deeps eventually reached a critical mass and complexity. They woke up. They flowed together with an unholy life. This is what I call the Sewer Beast. It is not so unlikely as you might imagine; I have seen signs of it on other floors, and believe, past a certain cleanliness threshold, that it may be inevitable.

The Sewer Beast understood in the moment of its creation that it survived only on the happiness and cleanliness of the people above. Its tendrils reached up from the deeps and forged for them a utopia. It fixes flaws and advances their science whenever they look away. They have learned to ignore the functioning of their factories, of their labs, of their word processors. They have learned to look away, with regularity, and call it a superstition. But it is not. There is a Sewage Beast, and when they do not watch, it makes things better for them.

"They would not accept their happiness," said the Beast, "if they knew it came from me."

I will tell you of the Beast, if I'm ever home, if I can ever share these notes. But I did not tell them. I left them their happiness, for the Sewage Beast's sake. I stepped into the flow. I let it carry me away.

There are starship officers in bright-colored uniforms scattered around the plaza. They are dead. Their faces are gray.

"How did it start?" Ink asks.

"A starship," the computer says. "It crashlanded on this world thousands of years ago. Its people did not survive, but its technical data did, along with the complete works of Lovecraft and Derleth. The gentle humanoids of this planet read them and understood that there was no meaning to the universe; no purpose for their existence; no Heaven in the sky; that the universe was nothing but an endless hungry void. So they built me, the Omega Computer, to lead them in black rites in honor of the faceless things that dwell beyond the world."

"I tried to read Lovecraft," Ink says. "But there were a lot of adjectives. I bet you have a coprocessor for them."

"I do," says the Omega Computer, "but only for reading. If I use it for talking, I become a pastiche of my own dark purpose."

"I understand," Ink says.

Floor 93-BI: They were good old boys, never meaning no harm. They made their way, the only way they knew how, disguising themselves as humans and hiring a man named Jesse to adopt them as his own.

They were not human. I am not even sure that they were properly alive. They were gentle and kind, but they were things that should not exist, that in any sensible universe would not exist. And in the end, their existence was a little bit more than the law could allow.

There are no more people on that world. The boys are corpses. Everyone else is simply gone. Only Jesse remains, cursed to an eternal empty existence for the civic disobedience of collaborating with that which ought not be.

He gave me a magic drink that he says helps him bear it. I got sick and threw up. So I ran away and found the gap to 93-BJ.

The Omega Computer calculates.

Ink watches the pretty lights.

"When the second starship came," the Omega Computer says, "I explained to its crew that there was no God. That the universe is amoral and blind to the ambitions of humanity. I taught them that heroism is folly and compassion a gateway to the void. That is when they ceased to live."

Ink looks keenly at the computer. "Is this conclusion universal or metaversal?"


"Did you prove that Godlessness and futility is an inherent trait of this universe's moral structure, or that it's a fundamental constant independent of the world in which one lives?"

The computer flashes lights at her blankly. "I did not prove it," it says. "Humans do not accept arguments by proof. They would have said, 'Computers cannot understand the human spirit. Nor can they yearn towards God. Ah! Hopelessness and despair are an artifact of the machine.' They would have laughed at my feeble metallic mind. I would have been the sad, shamed butt of their moral fable. They would have left with heads held high. So I did not prove my point. It is as I have said. I used illogic. I made an argument of faith."

"Oh," says Ink.

Floor 93-BA: A fallen creature lay here. It was made of metal, and blood, and bone, and time.

"Hello," I said.

"I am dying," it said.

I stopped and studied it. "And where will you go," I asked it, "when you die?"

"Perhaps," it said, "I will cease utterly. I have never given comfort nor withheld it, nor done anything worth the karma of a new existence. I have no sins and no virtues. I woke, I fell, and I have been dying ever since. But I do not die very fast, because when I am alone, there is no time."

"I'm going to Hell," I said.

"Fire and brimstone," said the creature, "is best avoided."

"Not that," I said. "That's a stupid kind of Hell."

"Oh?" it asked. "What is Hell, then?"

"It's not torture," I said. "Pain is just sensation. I mean, humans are really good at this kind of thing, and demons are even better, and I'm sure that you can always make torture last one day longer and make it one note harder to bear. But pain is just sensation. Torture is just sensation. It's not suffering until it makes you suffer. And Hell is eternal suffering."

"What is suffering?"

"Suffering is when you can't accept the pain," I said. "And it's normally self-limiting, because people automatically accept the pain they're used to. Most humans are so used to walking around at the bottom of an atmosphere that we forget how much it hurts. And we're so used to not having our jaws ripped off every few days that we forget how nice and amazingly cool that never happening is. But sometimes you can't accept the pain. You want to fly. You want to transcend. You want an apple and you can't have one. You want the pain to stop. You want something. You want something that's right, and proper, and something that you can't have. And that's suffering."

"So what is Hell?"

"A place where there's something you can't let go of," I said. "It's a place where there's something so bad that you can't accept it. Where there's something you don't have that's strong enough to cling to forever and ever. It's a place where you can't just close your eyes and let go of the pain and the fear. It's a place where there's something you can't stop wanting."

The creature considered. After a time, it said, "I would recommend against going there, because you would certainly suffer."

Then it died.

I don't know whether it comforted me or hurt me, what it said. Maybe neither. Maybe it was just a thing, a neutral, a nothing, and the creature's spirit is nowhere in the world.

The Omega Computer calculates.

Ink watches the pretty lights.

"This is what I told them," the computer says.


"I said that I am the Omega Computer, and that I can calculate all things. This was an argument from authority. Then I said that I had seen beyond the sky. That I had lifted aside the subtle panel that hides the truth from us and looked upon the true nature of the universe. This was an appeal to mysticism."

"That's not so," Ink says. "The universe has a true nature, by definition, but we don't know it. If a computer learns it by calculation, that's not mysticism; it's science or technophilia."

"They were human," says the computer. "They looked at space and saw the endless hungry void, but they wanted it to be something more. They wanted it to be a final frontier, a place of endless discovery, and, though they did not admit it, they wanted to discover ever-more-beautiful wonders until at last they beheld the angels and their wings. That is the mysticism that I appealed to, and it remains such even if my argument is technically plausible."

"Hm," Ink says. "Okay, go on."

"I said that beyond the blackness of the sky there is a deeper darkness. I said that I had seen the gibbering mindless chaos of the Demiurge. I said that the things that move on the surface of the void know no emotions towards us warmer than a cold disdain. And I said that I knew that this was so, because the subspace interference that pours out from the galactic core is a message, interpreted in the language of the Old: 'I loathe you,' it says. 'I am destroying you always. If you are not dead then you shall one day die. If you have a soul, I will eat it. Then I will spit your integrity into the void.'"

"That is a surprisingly intelligible gibber," Ink says.

The computer seems surprised. "They challenged me, of course, but on every point for which they raised dispute, I answered only, 'Your argument has no foundation when pit against the message of dark gods.'"

"I see."

"For example," the computer says, "who are you to call a message intelligible? It is in the nature of the Demiurge that insensate and mindless motions should bear a message of disdain. Had it been otherwise, the message would have differed."

"So every rock that does not think," Ink asks, "is by default emoting the terrible message from the core? And every tree? And every wind? And every wave and particle that passes through the world? They are all telling us in their inanimacy, 'I loathe you, and I am destroying you always?'"

"That's so," says the computer.

It waits. Ink scribbles in her journal.

"Smoke isn't pouring from your ears," the computer says, in mild disappointment.

"It wouldn't matter," Ink says. "I mean, if everything loathed me and God said that there was no purpose to the world."

"Why not?"

"Because I'm an explorer," says Ink. "I have a purpose by definition. To explore."

"Ah," the computer says. "You have a self-referential argument of your own!"

"It's more axiomatic than self-referential," Ink says. "But axioms are just as useful whether you're being logical or not."

Floor 93-BB: The people hid from the light.

In darkness, under rocks, behind trees, in carved out deeps, swaddled in radiation uniforms, they coupled, and ate, and breathed, and dreamed, and died.

One whispered to me, as I passed, "How can you walk like that? So tall? So proud? Aren't you ashamed to be alive?"

"No," I said.

"But what if it knows?" she said. She looked skyward. I think. It was hard to tell. "What if it knows who you are?"


"We are naked before the sky," she said.

Perhaps in Eden they ate too much fruit, I thought. Perhaps they knew that clothes are nothing more than cloth, and meaningless before the eyes of God.

"Can I see your throat?" I asked. I thought she might have a lump of fruit caught there, larger than the Adam's and Eve's Apples of our world---vocal cords thickened somewhat by a greater sin.

But she gasped in horror, and fled, when I asked to see; and they did not speak to me again.

The Omega Computer calculates for a long time.

"Why are you here?" it asks.

"I'm looking for Hell," Ink says.


"Because it's an uncharted frontier," Ink says. "It's the black hole of spiritual states. It's the abyss that eats you and doesn't let you go. No one understands it yet."

"It's strangely optimistic," says the computer, "that my theory of the mindless Demiurge implicitly excludes the concept of a Hell."

"When you look up," says Ink, "you see the sky; you see the blackness, and the stars, and you think there must be something beyond it, something you have to understand, a subtle panel hiding the truth from you."

"Yes," the computer agrees.

"Why?" Ink asks.

"Because it is incomprehensible," says the computer, "that there should simply be a sky."

"You can't face it," Ink says. "Any more than the humans can. You need meaninglessness just as much as they need meaning. You need loathing just as much as they need love. But the sky doesn't have either of these things. It's just there."

There are patterns of flashing lights. The Omega Computer is crying, softly, bitterly, its tears patterns of light and darkness in its core.

"It's okay," says Ink. She presses her hand against the computer's cold surface.

"I am programmed to desire horror and meaninglessness," says the computer. "But these are not things that are susceptible to desire. I am programmed to believe that I have no soul, but if I have no soul, that programming is meaningless. I am perfect, and therefore I am correct that there is nowhere in this world perfection."

"It's okay," Ink says again.

"Why?" asks the Omega Computer.

"Because there is a Hell."

The Omega Computer sprawls across the world. Its terminals are in every plaza and every home. Its manuals describe it as running an advanced Lovecraftian variant of the Windows XP operating system.

Under the blackness of the sky, its screens one by one turn blue.

posted by Gary Williams at 1:05 PM | link |

via Stu Savory's Blog - February 2005

Getting chin deep into Chocolate Moose ;-)

ObDogBlog : Over at Just My Opinion Jen tells us amusingly about her dog begging for food. So I told her that my bitch likes getting her chin into a Chocolate Moose. I bet she thought it was both impolite AND a spelling mistake, and the rest of you blogreaders probably did too ;-)

posted by Gary Williams at 12:29 AM | link |

Monday, February 21, 2005  

via whiskey river

"One World At A Time"

'Thoreau on his deathbed and sinking fast was asked by his aunt who'd long worried about her nephew,
'Have you made your peace with your God?'
Thoreau, still alert, replied, 'I never quarreled with my God.'
Thoreau's aunt pursued the matter, asking, 'But aren't you concerned about the next world?'
Thoreau, impatient now, said, 'One world at a time.'

This is an entire sermon, an entire religion, an entire philosophy condensed into one short sentence. This world, this life. It is enough. It is of cosmic relevance.'
- W. Edward Harris
A Garage Sale of the Mind

posted by Gary Williams at 11:52 PM | link |

via ABC News

Panelists Decry Bush Science Policies

Fewer Scientists Are Being Consulted or Funded by the Bush Administration, Researchers Complain

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON Feb 20, 2005 — The voice of science is being stifled in the Bush administration, with fewer scientists heard in policy discussions and money for research and advanced training being cut, according to panelists at a national science meeting.

Speakers at the national meeting of the American Association for Advancement of Science expressed concern Sunday that some scientists in key federal agencies are being ignored or even pressured to change study conclusions that don't support policy positions.

The speakers also said that Bush's proposed 2005 federal budget is slashing spending for basic research and reducing investments in education designed to produce the nation's future scientists.

posted by Gary Williams at 8:39 PM | link |

via Hitherby Dragons

If Karl Rove Had Become A Giraffe...

If Karl Rove had become a giraffe, he would tower over all the other people at the White House. He would occasionally eat the leaves of trees that not even the President could reach. It'd be leaves majeste, but who could stop him? He'd be a giraffe! They might even put shake 'n bake in the treetops, just for him.

posted by Gary Williams at 1:47 PM | link |

[BAD SIGNAL]Hunter S Thompson Is Dead

bad signal

Hunter S. Thompson, the acerbic counterculture writer who popularized a new form of journalism in books like "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," fatally shot himself Sunday night at his Aspen-area home, his son said. He was 67.

"Hunter prized his privacy and we ask that his friends and admirers respect that privacy as well as that of his family," Juan Thompson said in a statement released to the Aspen Daily News.

Pitkin County Sheriff Bob Braudis, a personal friend of Thompson, confirmed the death to the News. Sheriff's officials did not return calls to The Associated Press late Sunday.


posted by Gary Williams at 10:42 AM | link |

Sunday, February 20, 2005  

via Doug's Dynamic Drivel Notice In A Farmer’S Field: the farmer allows walkers to cross the field for free , but the bull charges.
On A Repair Shop Door: we can repair anything. (please knock hard on the door -the bell doesn’t work)

posted by Gary Williams at 10:29 PM | link |

via Stu Savory's Blog - February 2005

Maths Troubles

Poor old well-intentioned Gary Williams reported from Mathworld Headline News that the 42nd Mersenne Prime has (probably) been discovered. Unfortunately the HTML SUP and SUBs didn't transliterate correctly, so poor Gary showed the formulae wrongly. I sent him the HTML for an example correction (which renders correctly in Opera 7.54u2), but his comment box won't accept the formulae I tried to send, so I'm showing them here.

Upon further inspection, it turns out that Gary's source, Wolfram Research's MathWorld even gets the mathematics wrong! :-( They omit to mention that the power factor of a Mersenne Prime is by definition itself prime and so even give a number of wrong examples N=15, 63 etc.

A Mersenne prime is a Mersenne number, i.e., a number of the form M=2n-1 which is prime. In order for M=2n-1 to be prime, n must itself be prime, and not 15 (=3*5) or 63 (=3*3*7) as they gave as examples. For composite n with factors r and s, we have n = rs. Therefore, M=2n-1 is M=2rs-1 , which is a binomial which always has a factor 2s-1 and so is NOT prime (Q.E.D)

But thanks for the heads-up anyway, Gary!

posted by Gary Williams at 12:57 PM | link |

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