Flying Spaghetti Monster Theory

A New Unified Model of the Universe

For decades, the world’s leading physicists have toiled in the shadow of Albert Einstein in a seemingly vain attempt to unify the fundamental forces of nature. All have failed…until now. I, The Objective Observer, have solved this great mystery and will now share this knowledge freely with you, the reader. Screw Scientific American.

To be clear, the fundamental forces of nature that physicists have sought to unify are gravity, electromagnetism and the strong and weak nuclear forces. Gravity, we are all intimately familiar with, at least those of us that have imbibed one too many fermented beverages and ended up tripping over an apple that some idiot just left lying around after having it bounce off his head. Stupid fig lover. Anyway, simply stated, gravity is an exceedingly weak attractive force between bodies of mass.

Electromagnetism is a much stronger force that holds individual atoms together, forming bodies of mass. Electromagnetism was originally two independent forces, electricity and magnetism, that were eventually unified by one James Clerk Maxwell. Albert Einstein greatly respected Maxwell for this feat and dreamed of unifying the forces of electromagnetism and gravity into one grand “Theory Of Everything”.

Unfortunately for Einstein, his task was made two or three times more difficult with the discovery of the strong and weak nuclear forces. Now, I’m not going to get into much detail about strong and weak nuclear forces because it gets into things like bosons, mesons, baryons, gluons and a bunch of other things that you would just think I made up. Suffice to say that physicists understand and care deeply about them while the rest of the world mainly just worries about paying bills, physical relationships, food, outsourcing and illegal immigration.

Einstein began his quest for a single, grand unified “Theory of Everything”, or at least electromagnetism and gravity, shortly after he completed his work on general relativity in the 1920’s. This work culminated in his “Unified Field Theory” in 1950 and continued until his death in 1955 at the age of 76. Other physicists to take up the charge have included Schrödinger, Glashow, Weinberg and Salam who unified electromagnetism and the weak nuclear force, and most recently by Kaku, Greene, Penrose, Rindler, Connes, Madore, Smolin, Gambini and Pullin…not to mention Higgs. Oops, I just did. Damn.

So then, here’s the kicker. Despite all of these brains, despite all of this history and despite the fact that the general effects and properties of all of these forces are well known and understood, physicists STILL don’t actually know WHAT a force really is. No, really, I’m serious. Now, think about this for a minute. This is like coming home to your 12-year-old son standing in the front yard with a baseball bat, a broken window and a baseball inside your house and not being able to explain what happened. What passes for an explanation is that “fermions” exchange “virtual particles” which mediate the “interaction”. I seriously and truly do NOT make this stuff up folks. Somebody else does. “It’s not my fault dad, the fermions did it!”. Damn you fermions, you’ll pay for my window. I mean, at least they could have come up with a term that doesn’t sound like an alien race from Babylon 5.

So then, back to the unified Theory Of Everything. The grand hope is that the Theory of Everything will simultaneously explain WHAT a force truly is while also providing a single, elegant, mathematical equation that can function as a model of the entire universe. Enter…>drum roll< …string theory. String theory, or, if you prefer M-Theory, was invented to fill the void of good, solid unified models of the universe. In short, string theory states that tiny, undetectable “strings” actually make up all matter, energy and forces in the entire universe. The different ways in which these tiny, and…did I mention undetectable?…strings vibrate and wiggle ultimately determine what force or energy or bit of mass each string becomes. Even better, these tiny, and; of course, undetectable, strings can vibrate in no less than 13 dimensions…THIRTEEN! That’s right folks, forget X, Y and Z; string theory has a dimension for half the alphabet!

Alrighty then, so…there’s just one itsy witsy little problem with string theory. It’s just that it happens to be totally and completely wrong. Well, OK, not totally and completely wrong, just mostly wrong. OK, OK, not even mostly wrong…it’s just one little thing that’s wrong really; one tiny; almost undetectable, thing. They are not actually strings you see, they are REALLY tiny, undetectable flying spaghetti monsters and the different forms of energy and matter are formed by how many and in what manner they wave their noodley appendages. Plus, there are 15, not 13 dimensions and if the math doesn’t come out right, just keep adding dimensions until it does.

So, problem solved, I can now put “Theory of Everything” in the “problem solved” column. I think I’ll move on to more important things like putting cheetahs in prison and catching the episodes of Meerkat Manor that I missed. And now you are like 100 billion times smarter than even Albert Einstein and all without having to read a single dry ass issue of Scientific American.

Originally published September 2006

The Case for Colonizing Mars

Homo Sapiens Are as Good as Dead

Homo sapiens, human beings, have to be one of the least intelligent species on the planet. I realize that this statement flies in the face of most scientific evidence given the large brain capacity of homo sapiens, the use of tools by homo sapiens and the fact that homo sapiens can engage in abstract thought. However, all of these traits make it that much more unlikely and fantastic that homo sapiens as a species continue to largely ignore the colonization of Mars.

One simple fact screams out for human beings to colonize Mars with all due haste. That fact makes it crystal clear that the Earth has a deplorable track record when it comes to its ability to support life. Consider that 99.9% of all species that have ever existed on planet Earth are extinct.

Now, when you look at that fact, please also consider that this does not mean that .1% of species have survived since the dawn of time. The .1% figure simply represents species that have yet to go extinct. In other words, we happen to have some species alive and thriving on the Earth today. Those species by and large evolved relatively recently. Thus, the .1% figure is not really a survival rate but rather a percentage of all species that have ever existed on the Earth that currently happen to be alive.

Another way of viewing this is in terms of survival rate as a function of time instead of as a function of species. If we were to look at all species that have existed during the last 10 years, the survival rate would be close to or at 100%. In other words, of all the species that have existed on planet Earth for the last 10 years, no extinctions have occurred. If we were to look at species that have existed for the last 1,000 years that 100% figure would drop slightly due to extinctions such as the dodo and the passenger pigeon. Looking at the survival rate species that have existed for the last 10,000 years, that 100% figure would be even less and as we go further and further back in time, the survival rate would approach or become zero. Therefore, we can state as a certainty that the longer a species exists on the Earth, the more likely it becomes that that species will become extinct and this continues until that species’ extinction is a certainty.

What causes these extinctions? Irrelevant. I am not here to debate the cause of animal extinctions. There are many theories regarding why extinctions occur. The most popular today being that asteroids and/or comets randomly strike the Earth every millennia or so and serve as a first strike that initiates extinction. Asteroids and comets are currently blamed for many of Earth’s mass extinctions throughout its history. However, regardless of whether extinctions occur by asteroid, by comet or by some other as yet unknown device, the fact that 99.9% of species that have ever existed on the Earth are extinct remains the same.

Consider also that human beings are on the top of the food chain, quite similar to dinosaurs in their day. Why is this relevant? Well, for one simple fact. Land extinctions tend to kill off the large, dominate animals at the top of the food chain while some of the smaller animals near the bottom of the food chain survive. Oddly enough, mass extinctions seem to happen in reverse in the ocean, the smaller animals at the bottom of food chain become extinct and the ones at the top of food chain tend to survive. This may actually explain why intelligence evolved first on land instead of in the oceans, but that is the subject of a different essay.

Of course, one might argue that there has never been a species of animal on the Earth that was so intelligent, so diverse and so well adapted to its environment as are homo sapiens. Thus, the argument is that if there is going to be a species that survives a mass extinction, homo sapiens have the best chance. However, this argument is rather full of logical errors in reasoning. First, in terms of diversity and adaptation, homo sapiens rather pale in comparison to other successful organisms such as all of the species of dinosaurs. Second, there is absolutely no evidence that intelligence has anything to do with surviving a mass extinction.

Thus, we have a few simple scientific facts that human beings have been quite aware of for several decades that make it perfectly clear to any reasonable mind that human beings WILL become extinct if they remain solely on planet Earth. And yet, human beings by and large are doing very little to colonize Mars. And by very little, I do not mean to denigrate those individuals that have written on this subject or those at NASA and other agencies around the world that are working right now on all of the problems associated with colonizing Mars. However, what I am proposing is to make the colonization of Mars a priority of the United States and world governments second only to national defense.

This last argument is sure to spark protests and outrage from many different sectors I am sure. I can hear the arguments now. “We have enough problems to solve here on Earth first before we start trying to colonize other planets.” “Why not put resources into deflecting or destroying asteroids and comets instead of colonizing Mars?” “We do not have the technology to colonize Mars.” “Why not colonize the oceans?” Why not colonize the Moon?” “We have no evidence that colonizing Mars will avoid human extinction.” I will address each of the arguments in turn.

“We have enough problems to solve here on Earth first before we start trying to colonize other planets.” This statement is very true, human society is fraught with all kinds of problems. However, all other problems pale in comparison to the extinction of the species. The reason is simple. If homo sapiens as a species becomes extinct, all other problems are irrelevant.

“Why not put resources into deflecting or destroying asteroids and comets instead of colonizing Mars?” This one is quite simple. First, one should know that we probably only know of about 5% of the asteroids and/or comets that pose a severe threat to the Earth. If one of those asteroids within that 5% was going to hit the Earth, we would have some warning; maybe enough to come up with and successfully execute a plan to deflect it. However, for the other 95%, we would have little or no warning. Second, we do not know for a certainty that asteroids or comets cause mass extinctions. We have some pretty good evidence that points to this, but nothing certain. Mass extinctions might be caused by viruses or some as yet unknown device. The only certainty in preserving the human species is to expand beyond the bounds of planet Earth.

“We do not have the technology to colonize Mars”. Yes we do. We are 100 or perhaps a 1,000 times more prepared today to tackle the problem of Mars colonization than we were to tackle the problem of landing on the moon. Our society is perhaps the best prepared it has ever been throughout its entire history to tackle such an exploration and colonization. Quite simply, we have the technology today to begin terraforming and permanently colonizing Mars. In addition, it has already been proven that when nations make certain well-defined goals and objectives top priority, the problem is solved with surprising rapidity. This can be seen with the development of the atomic bomb as well as the Apollo program to land on the moon.

“Why not colonize the oceans?” This argument stems from the fact that ocean extinctions tend to occur in reverse of land extinctions. That is, the big, dominant animals at the top of the food chain tend to survive ocean mass extinctions. First, human beings are not native to the oceans and therefore, the normal “rules” would not apply. Second, big, dominant animals do go extinct in the oceans. Third, 99.9% of all species that have ever inhabited the earth, on land and on water have gone extinct. Expanding to an ocean environment does not change that fact.

“Why not colonize the Moon?” Indeed, this seems reasonable. It gets our species off of planet Earth and the Moon is a lot closer than Mars. However, the Moon lacks the ability to support a self-sustaining human colony. A Moon colony would be much too dependent on Earth for its very existence. This does not mean that we should not pursue a permanent Moon colony. Indeed, a permanent Moon colony may be a crucial step in colonizing Mars. However, a Moon colony cannot serve as a replacement for Mars colonization.

“We have no evidence that colonizing Mars will avoid human extinction.” This is absolutely true. However, we know for a fact that it is a certainty that if we remain solely on planet Earth we will go extinct. We also know that creating a self-sustaining colony on another planet is the best and perhaps only way to avoid extinction. And Mars is the most likely candidate within our solar system for colonization.

So on to what is sure to be the most insistent argument, why rank Mars colonization so high a priority? Simple, nothing else matters if the species goes extinct. Nothing. If the human species does not survive, it will never have an opportunity to address all of the other problems and ills facing human society. It will take hundreds or thousands of years to fully colonize Mars and make a Mars colony self-sustaining. Every year, every day and every minute that we delay in making Mars colonization a top priority increases the chances that the human race will go extinct.

Despite the fact that everything in this essay has been known for decades, our species continues to do little or nothing to colonize Mars. Despite the fact that homo sapiens have been gifted with such a magnificent organ as is the human brain that we are the first and only species within the entire history of the Earth that has been able to identify a pattern of mass extinctions, our species continues to do little or nothing to colonize Mars. Despite the fact that we know for a certainty that we will go extinct if we do not colonize Mars, our species continues to do little or nothing to colonize Mars. And that is why homo sapiens are one of the least intelligent species on Earth.

Originally published July 2003

Why Vegetarians are Still Stupid

Putting Cheetahs in Prison

Alright, enough is enough. Of all the articles I have written; of all the material that might potentially offend such vocal special interests as homosexuals, blacks, environmentalists and Bryant Gumball fan…oh yes, make no mistake about the absolute fanaticism of Bryant Gumball fans. Out of all that material and out of all those vociferous groups, guess which group has emerged as THE most vociferous, militant, anal and humorless. Go ahead, take a wild guess. Well, if you read the title of this article, you probably figured it out already. That’s right, I am now firmly convinced that by FAR the most vociferous, militant, anal and humorless individuals in the entire world are, in fact, vegetarians. I know, I know, I know what you’re thinking. “You mean the people who are too spineless and narrow urethra’d to stuff a burger down their neck or ravish a, >GASP!<, BLT?“ Yes, dear reader, the very same.

That’s right, in email, after email, after email I find that I can achieve natural male enhancement through the use of a pill. And in between those, email, after email after bile strewn email about my article “Why Vegetarians are Stupid“. >sigh< I mean, are you kidding me? What is wrong with you people? Can you actually take an article with such a title so seriously?!? So anyway, you deserve what is coming to you in this article. There, I feel justified.

The arguments seem to fall mainly along three lines of thought. First, there is the most reasonable claim; that today’s vegetarian fare is not the same as Australopithecus’ vegetarian fare and thus the effect of a modern vegetarian diet that includes tofu and vitamin supplements would not lead to the evolution of a large gut and a devolution of brain capacity. OK, fair enough, but tofu? Ugh! Talk about taking all the joy out of being omnivorous. Replacing a charred on the outside, juicy on the inside; tang in the back of your molars, steak with a white, slimy cube of tofu is like replacing procreation via sex with test tube babies. You may get the same result, but the joy is in the journey my friend. The joy is the journey. And, yes, to be absolutely clear, I have tasted the highly vaunted tofu burger. And no, it does not even compare to sex.

The second line of contrary thinking is that a vegetarian diet is healthier than a carnivorous diet. Honestly, I’m not really going to get into that one. Obviously, a diet of french-fries and lettuce, while vegetarian, is hardly healthy. You can’t just make blanket statements like that. Humans are quite obviously designed to be omnivorous so there is a pretty good argument to be made that we ought to consume a diet in harmony with our general construction.

You can make your own judgments about the merits of those two arguments. There is good science in support of a change in diet having a huge impact on the intellect of hominids. Also, there is nothing intrinsically healthier about a vegetarian diet. But those two arguments are really just the bearded lady and lobster boy in the circus that is vegetarian outrage. The star of the show, the trapeze act if you will, is this one. “Why do omnivores feel it necessary to call vegetarians names and defend eating meat? They must really feel insecure or guilty. Omnivores are mean and stupid. Waa!“

Here at last we get to the heart of the vegetarian versus omnivore controversy, which is where most of the vitriol emanates. And thus, like a pack of clowns racing to center stage in a mini fire truck, enter…the vegans. But not just any vegans. Oh no. We are talking about the militaristic, PETA brand of vegans. You see, this is where it all started to go south between vegetarians and omnivores. Before these yahoos got involved, it was nobody’s business but your own if your diet was vegetarian or omnivorous. But, these clowns decided to make it their business because eating meat meant that you were not treating animals “ethically” and thus you had to be condemned. The backlash was inevitable and non-PETA vegans and your average run-of-the-mill vegetarians got sucked into the fray and were eventually broadly classified with the fringe militaristic, PETA vegans. And if you can’t follow the parallels between this and politics, then you must be a vegetarian.

So, it is not that omnivores suddenly felt it necessary to bash vegetarians, it was that omnivores felt threatened by a group of individuals trying to take away their freedoms and dictate their diet. When a group of people tries to infringe upon the rights of another group of people, it tends to get ugly. Thus, true vegetarians are technically simply caught in the middle of a militaristic, PETA vegan jihad against omnivores, who would simply rather shoot first and determine your true vegetarian/vegan/militaristic vegan status later. Trust me, omnivores just want to be left alone to grill, fry and broil their animal flesh. But, it is religion for the PETA vegans.

The argument for the militaristic, PETA vegan is that they do not eat meat because eating animals or animal products is evil since animals are alive and can feel pain and thus it is not right to kill or exploit them. The term slippery slope was invented for just this kind of flawed, unreasonable thinking. Let’s take this argument to its logical conclusion, cheetahs in prison. I know, what? Let me explain. Wildebeests are alive, killing a wildebeest is murder according to the PETA vegan perspective, cheetahs kill wildebeests, cheetahs get charged with murder, cheetahs get convicted because the forensic evidence of the holes in the wildebeest matches said cheetah’s fangs, cheetahs go to jail. Cheetahs in prison. “But, but, but it’s not the same thing,“ you say? “Cheetahs are part of the natural world and people are not,“ you say? Oh really. Well I thought that Homo sapiens are simply bipedal apes belonging to family Hominidae (the great apes). If we evolved from apes and are as natural as the universe, the Earth and all other plants and animals, then there is zero difference between us killing and eating a wildebeest for dinner and a cheetah killing and eating a wildebeest for dinner. Zero, zilch, nada. Thus, if we make killing and exploiting animals a crime or otherwise look down upon it because it is “cruel” and “unjust”; then it is just as unjust for any other animal. If we apply some human principles and laws to certain aspects of the animal kingdom, then we have to apply ALL principles and laws to ALL aspects of the animal kingdom. Otherwise, you are a hypocrite.

But the best part, the absolute best part and BY FAR the most hysterical part is that those same militaristic, PETA vegans ALSO view vegetarians as completely and utterly stupid; even more stupid than omnivores and even more stupid than how omnivores view vegetarians. Here’s why. To the PETA vegan, vegetarians are hypocrites that are too stupid to understand their own hypocrisy. Vegetarians advocate not eating meat, but cheat and still consume animal products like eggs, milk, cheese and sometimes actual meat like fish and chicken. To the militaristic, PETA vegan, you would have to be an idiot not to understand your own hypocrisy. So, vegetarians, it is not just omnivores that find you stupid, it is your own brethren as well. And if you don’t believe me, just do a little web browsing or actual research and you will come across vegans bashing vegetarians as stupid and idiotic for this EXACT reason.

Look, I realize that it must suck being grouped in with a bunch of people that would save an animal from drowning over their own baby. Kid Rock knows who I am talking about; the crazy, nut job people that have forgotten that the animal kingdom includes Homo sapiens. But face facts here people; that is the group of individuals who started this whole nonsense of feuding between omnivores and vegetarians and perhaps you vegetarians ought to take a closer look at who you have on your side. It’s not like there is a carnivore-only fringe group on the omnivore side trying to take away your right to slice up vegetables and fruit.

The problem is that vegetarians have yet to take an actual stand. Vegetarians are automatically thrown in with the militaristic, PETA vegans because they fall on the primarily vegetable side of the vegetable/meat divide. Since vegetarians have not actively condemned the militaristic, PETA vegan point of view, it is their own fault that they are treated as the worst of their lot. And that is why vegetarians are really stupid, because they whine and complain instead of doing what is obvious to fix the issue.

Pressure Cooker Conundrum

Out of the Frying Pan and into the Pressure Cooker

We got him.  Suspect #2 in the Boston Marathon bombing has been apprehended and truly that is something to celebrate.  However, we must not let our exuberance distract us from what is truly important, passing knee-jerk legislation that will prevent these kinds of attacks in the future.  Everyone knows that the vast majority of the best, most truly effective, laws on the books were passed in a knee-jerk reaction to some random event.  Now, to be fair, I really have no examples or evidence of this but, deep down, I feel that to be a true statement.  So, as long as I write it down or keep uttering it, other people will believe it too.

In the case of the Boston Marathon bombing, the true villains are easy to identify.  Yes, the brothers are obvious culprits, but surely we must not rush to judgment regarding their motivations.  Yes, their heritage is from Chechnya, a region whose primary religion is Islam (Sunni) and has witnessed two decades of Islamic terrorism against Russia.  Yes, they used improvised explosive devices (IEDs), which has been the weapon of choice for Islamic terrorists.  But surely, that is absolutely no reason to jump to any kind of conclusion about their motivations or, heaven forbid, classify them as Islamic terrorists.  Besides, the two brothers were obviously just pawns and while they are locked up, the true villain of the Boston Marathon bombing walks free.

The true villain of the Boston Marathon bombing is really the NRA, the National Restaurant Association.  If it were not for this despicable organization, pressure cookers; the crucial housing component of the IEDs used by the Boston Marathon bombers, would have long since been banned or had severe restrictions placed upon their sale and use.

It is safe to say that, given the dangers of pressure cookers, that all reasonable people can agree that pressure cookers need to be banned or severely restricted.  And people that do not agree with that are simply fanatics and “fringe” groups, like the National Restaurant Association.  Let’s face it, pressure cookers really have no real purpose other than serving as housings for IEDs.  Some may argue that they are used for “sporting” or “hobby” purposes, such as cooking, but that is really just a ruse.  There are plenty of other ways to cook things without using pressure cookers.  Let’s do the list:

  1. Roasting
  2. Barbecuing
  3. Grilling
  4. Broiling
  5. Rotisserie
  6. Searing
  7. Baking
  8. Boiling
  9. Blanching
  10. Braising
  11. Coddling
  12. Double steaming
  13. Infusion
  14. Poaching
  15. Simmering
  16. Smothering
  17. Steaming
  18. Steeping
  19. Stewing
  20. Vacuum flask cooking
  21. Frying
  22. Deep frying
  23. Hot salt frying
  24. Hot sand frying
  25. Pan frying
  26. Sauteing
  27. Stir frying
  28. Smoking

So, almost 30 different methods of cooking something other than pressure cooking.  Can the National Restaurant Association and other pro-pressure cooking zealots really claim that their lives will be irreparably harmed by rational and reasonable restrictions put upon pressure cookers?  And do those infinitesimal impacts even remotely compare to the greater good that will be served by banning pressure cookers?

But, since we live in a democracy and with such powerful lobbying groups as the National Restaurant Association and Senators and Congressmen that will “cave to the pressure and start looking for an excuse, any excuse, to vote no” against an outright ban on pressure cookers, allow The Objective Observer to propose some more measured controls and restrictions.

First up is a ban on the sale of cheap aluminum pressure cookers, the so called “Saturday night special” pressure cookers.  These inexpensive pressure cookers make it far less expensive to obtain a pressure cooker suitable for use as an IED and no self-respecting chef would use one of these anyway due to the propensity of aluminum pressure cookers to leach aluminum into the food being cooked.  Obviously, these Saturday night special pressure cookers serve no other purpose than to make it easier for criminals to obtain a lethal weapon.

Next, we must certainly ban high pressure, pressure cookers or “assault” pressure cookers.  These pressure cookers have pressure ratings of 15 psi.  Low pressure, pressure cookers have a mere 10 psi rating.  Thus, high pressure, pressure cookers are 50% more lethal than low pressure, pressure cookers because the higher pressure allows IEDs to be more destructive and inflict more damage when they explode.  Obviously, these assault pressure cookers have no other purpose than to kill innocent people.

Third, we must ban high capacity pressure cookers, those pressure cookers with a capacity of more than 7 quarts.  Higher capacity pressure cookers are more lethal because more explosives can be packed into them.  This allows criminals to use a single IED where they would otherwise need 2 even 3 lower capacity pressure cookers.

Finally, we should obviously pass legislation that requires universal background checks on the sale of any pressure cooker.  Passing such legislation is eminently reasonable and rational.  “The fact is most people could not offer any good reason why we wouldn’t want to make it harder for criminals and those with severe mental illness to buy a pressure cooker.  There are no coherent arguments as to why we wouldn’t do this.”

In conclusion, it would be a “pretty shameful day for Washington” if the Senate and Congress would reject these kinds of proposals to restrict and regulate the control of devices that are ostensibly designed solely to maim and injure people.  Please join with The Objective Observer in pressuring Washington to stand up to the powerful and villainous NRA (National Restaurant Association) lobby and do what is right by the American public.

Originally Published April 2013

Freedom from Intelligence

The Real Meaning of “Free Software”

While most everyone is familiar with or has at least heard of the concept of “open source software”, many may not realize that open source software is really just a watering down and rebranding of a concept called “Free Software”. Created by individuals who will undoubtedly prove even less humorless than open source advocates, the free software movement actually considers non-free software a “social problem” with the solution being, well; you guessed it, free software. Unfortunately, while the concept of “free software” sounds all peachy keen in theory, in practice it has a number of problems; problems that start with its actual definition and end with its untenable stance on creative works.

Free software proponents have struggled for over two decades to convey the proper definition of the term “free software” with what appears to be relatively little success. Even with catchy phrases such as “free speech, not free beer” most people still tend to equate “free software” with zero cost, which apparently is not what is intended. The rest of this essay will explain why this is the case, but the short answer is that the average individual generally has vastly greater reasoning capacity than the typical mangy wildebeest.

Two distinct but somewhat related “proper” definitions exist for “free software” according to the individuals who purport to know such things. The first definition of “free software” is generally summed up in the phrase “freedom of choice”. The actual “choice” involved is always rather nebulous but typically refers to the freedom to choose to modify a program or the freedom to choose a program, such as one of the roughly 400 text editors available for Unix/Linux systems, called “*nix” systems if you are in the biz. Personally, I’d choose to have just one that doesn’t royally suck but apparently I am not entitled to the freedom of that particular choice. And yes, I have used vi, pico, emacs and a whole host of other junk text editors on “*nix” systems, thanks for asking.

As a side note and by way of explaining the “*nix” moniker, an asterisk is generally used in computers as a multi-symbol wildcard matching character, hence the substitution of “*” for the “U” in Unix or “Li” in Linux. Apparently, the creative geniuses who came up with the “abbreviation” do not actually care that it should technically be something like “*n?x” or “*x” or even more accurately just “*” considering systems like Solaris and BSD. So, at least you get some sense of the level of intellect and creative capacity we are dealing with here; back to the topic at hand.

Now, this concept of “freedom of choice” is really quite silly. Choice has ALWAYS existed in the computer industry with or without “free” software. To point, even prior to 1990, nearly 100 different operating systems existed, most of which were proprietary. Similarly, today nearly 40 different databases exist as well as almost 20 different office suites. Again, the majority of these database and office suite choices are proprietary. For almost every other class of software, it is the same story, lots of different products, mostly proprietary. Thus, it is nonsensical to claim that free software is about choice since there has always been choice. With or without free software, consumers have always had a choice of what software to use. The fact that the majority of them tend to choose a particular software vendor who will remain nameless, [cough] Microsoft, is beside the point. As for the freedom to choose to extend or change the software, that really applies to the relatively few individuals who can program and the even fewer individuals that can read someone else’s complex code, make appropriate modifications and successfully recompile the code. Furthermore, that freedom to modify comes at a cost, the cost of infringing upon the rights of others. While it may not seem like it at the moment, this then brings us to the more popular definition of “free software” which is generally summed up in the phrase “free speech, not free beer”.

The “free speech, not free beer” definition holds that software users have “rights” and that those rights include the ability to use, copy, distribute and change software as one sees fit. However, these freedoms are not absolute. Proponents of this definition also impose limitations to these freedoms in the form of “copyleft” restrictions, a term that is apparently used to distinguish the restrictions from the more traditional “copyright” restrictions. “Copyleft” restrictions essentially mean that in your freedom to use and modify the software as you see fit, you cannot impose additional restrictions on your modified or redistributed “pretty close to ‘free’ software except for the pesky copyleft stuff”. This focus on “freedom” not “free” is hollow however as you cannot really have the “freedom” without the “free”. The reason this is true is exactly because of the free software movements disdain for “copyright” with respect to software programs. If you do not believe me, keep reading.

Copyright regulation is intended to promote the progress of knowledge. It does this by rewarding a temporary monopoly on original, creative works of a fixed nature (read, seen or heard) to the creator of such works. This monopoly effectively allows the author to monetize their creation and thus copyright law, for all practical purposes, essentially protects the interest of the author or creator to charge for and profit from their work or derivatives of their work. Thus, the logical and objective individual must ask oneself…in a digital world, what is it about software that distinguishes itself as special from other copyright protected works such as books, symphonies, recipes, plays, movies, pantomimes, choreographies, maps, sculptures, paintings, songs and drawings, to name just a few. In a digital world, what is there to prevent the mass copying, modification and redistribution of other creative works? Certainly, if freedom is good enough for software then should not users of other normally copyrightable works also be entitled to similar freedoms?

If the free software and open source software positions are correct, then books should be digitally available and readers should be allowed to change the author’s words and meanings and freely redistribute the modified books. Obviously, this is only making the books “better”, right? Similarly, individuals should be allowed to take digital photos of artwork, modify it in photo editing software and freely redistribute the result. Same with movies, right? Sitting in a theatre, filming a movie and burning it to DVD for redistribution…that’s not piracy, that’s simply invoking your God given right to use, modify and redistribute digital media for cryin’ out loud. Plagiarism? Bah…”Honestly teach, I was just invoking my right to improve upon and redistribute the author’s work.“ Where o’ where are the “free recipe” chefs who follow real chefs around and create imitation recipes that taste and digest similarly but are free from all those pesky licensing and copyright restrictions? Proprietary recipes are a social problem and the solution is free recipes, right? And what about musical songs? Oh wait, that’s right, file sharing systems have shown what happens when users completely disregard copyright restrictions; the proprietary work, even if it was originally charged for becomes, what? Say it with me…FREE!

Herein then is the reason why it is effectively impossible to draw the distinction between free software as defined by the “Free Software” and open source software movements and free, as in beer, software. Once copyright is eliminated, the creative work effectively becomes zero cost. Thus, it is idiotic to attempt to draw distinctions between one or the other. Freedom of use and thus freedom from copyright really DOES mean free. This is the real world we live in folks, not some idealistic dreamland. One cannot simply ignore the practicalities involved and practically speaking, in today’s digital world freedom from copyright effectively means “free as in beer”.

Now, let’s back up and think about this with respect to the original reason for copyright law, a reason so important that the authority to create copyright and patent law (different sides of the same coin) was specifically called out in Article I, Section 8 of the U.S Constitution and thus was granted as one of the original, extremely limited powers of the Federal government. Yes, Virginia, we really did have a limited Federal government once. The reason copyright and patent laws exist and are so important is because they promote the progress of knowledge by protecting the rights of authors and inventors. By protecting these rights, authors and inventors can profit from their work and thereby are encouraged to author and invent in the first place. Now, these protections come at a certain cost to the public which is why there is the concept of “fair use”, which allows limited use of creative works without prior permission in certain circumstances.

Free and open source software advocates instead see copyrights as limiting creativity, versus promoting creativity, but this is a rather naive and short-sighted perspective. Certainly, in the short term, eliminating copyright will tend to increase creativity and production of knowledge but it is exactly opposite the case over the long term. By seeking to undermine copyright protections, free software and open source advocates severely damage the promotion and creation of knowledge and art over the long term and thus ultimately reduce and hamper true choice because authors and inventors are no longer incented to continue to create. While it is certainly idealistic to believe that individuals will create simply out of a sense of social duty, it is most certainly not realistic.

None of this is difficult to understand. If software copyrights are bad, then all copyrights are bad because there is nothing truly unique about software versus any other creative work. If all copyrights are bad, then all patents are bad. If all copyrights and patents are bad and eliminated then there is nothing to incent authors, inventors and other creators other than social duty which we all know does not work on a large scale. Certainly there will always be those individuals incented by social duty, but they will be so incented regardless of the existence of copyrights and patents since copyrights and patents specifically ALLOW authors and inventors to release their creations to the public domain. But not having copyrights and patents ultimately dissuades creative, money motivated individuals that desire food and a roof over their heads. Let’s face it, not everyone can simply squat on a college campus.

Thus, it is free software that is the social problem, not proprietary software because over the long term, free software damages the incentive for authors and inventors to create new knowledge and impairing the creation of new knowledge damages society. This may all certainly seem counter intuitive and wrong to the idealist or to the individual or corporation that is benefiting from using free, as in beer, software, but as any real engineer knows; to optimize the whole, it is generally necessary to sub-optimize the parts. The promotion of the creation of new knowledge is the goal and thus it should not be surprising to find suboptimal solutions, such as copyright, as a supporting component of that goal.

For society as a whole, not incenting knowledge creation is a social problem and copyrighted software is the solution.

Originally Published April 2008

Why Vegetarians Are Stupid

The Devolution of Intelligence

Vegetarians are less intelligent than non-vegetarians. That is not my opinion, that is prevailing scientific theory. In fact, current scientific thinking is that eating meat is what gave rise to intelligence and allowed Homo Sapiens (humans) to evolve. Let me explain.

To start with, we must assume for the sake of argument that evolution is scientific fact. Now, to be clear, evolution is still scientific theory. But, most objective individuals; if presented the scientific evidence for evolution versus the scientific evidence for creationism, would agree that evolution fits current scientific evidence and facts far more than creationism. So, for the sake of argument, in this piece we will assume that evolution is fact.

Now, if we trace human evolution back as far as current science allows, we arrive at a small primate that lived in Africa several million years ago called Australopithecus. There were actually two sub-species of Australopithecus, Australopithecus Africanus and Australopithecus Robustus. Africanus were small tree dwelling, vegetarian primates that primarily lived in trees but could also walk upright. Robustus was a more robust version of Australopithecus that was also vegetarian and apparently fed on roots and tubers instead of tree leaves and/or fruit like Africanus. Scientists have created molds of the brain cases of both Africanus and Robustus and have proven that the human brain could only have evolved from Australopithecus Africanus.

Australopithecus Africanus was a small, squat hominid that stood about 4 feet tall with a rather pronounced gut. This large gut was necessary in order to process the vegetarian fare that made up the bulk of Australopithecus Africanus’ diet. Vegetation is very tough to break down and thus requires a lot of processing, hence a large, complex digestive track is necessary. Now, these Australopithecus Africanus lived on the ancient African plain alongside the ancestors of today’s wildebeests, lions, cheetahs, hyenas, etc. As such, Australopithecus Africanus was probably a nice meal or snack for many of the fiercest land predators of the day.

Thus, the question must arise as to how these small, docile monkeys could have possibly survived, thrived and eventually dominated these fierce predators and competed with them for meat. The answer lies in the evolution of intelligence. These small Australopithecus Africanus found meat that was left behind by predators and other scavengers. Prevailing scientific theory holds that after an animal, such as a wildebeest or zebra was killed by a lion or cheetah and then scavenged by hyenas, the only meat left was the brain, buried deep in the skull and marrow, buried deep inside the bones. Australopithecus Africanus had enough intelligence to use tools to pry open the skulls of slain animals to get to their brains and break femurs and other bones in order to suck out the marrow. Brains and marrow are incredible, high-energy sources of protein. Therefore, these Australopithecus Africanus evolved into omnivores.

So what does this mean? Well, to understand that, one must first understand that meat is much, much easier to break down and digest than vegetation. As mentioned, a steady diet of vegetation requires a rather large and complex digestive track or gut. Now, guts are an extremely expensive organ, energy-wise. However, as these Australopithecus Africanus evolved to eating meat, they did not require these complex and energy-hungry guts, because meat could be digested much more easily. Freed from the requirements of their guts, Australopithecus Africanus was free to expend more energy in evolving other organs. And the organ that aided Australopithecus Africanus the most was its brain. Why? Because a better brain meant better tools with which to get at more meat. Australopithecus Africanus that were good tool builders survived and those that were poor tool builders did not survive. This led to an evolutionary adaptation that fed back on itself. More meat meant less guts which allowed the development of better brains. Better brains meant better tools, which meant more meat. Even more meat meant even less guts which allowed the development of even better brains…

OK, so who cares? Well, I care for one. But knowing how our human intelligence evolved, while interesting, is only really useful if we can use that knowledge and apply it to our society today. So what application does this knowledge have to our society today? Well, I would argue that it means that today’s vegetarians are in the early evolutionary stages of devolving their brain sizes and intelligence. A change in diet to meat is what allowed humans to evolve our human (Homo Sapiens) level of intelligence. Therefore, it follows that if a change in diet can have such a tremendous impact on the evolution of a species and since evolution is still occurring, then a change in diet back to vegetation should have just as significant an impact today as it did millions of years ago. Who knows, in a few million years we may have two species of Homo Sapiens, the tall, lean and intelligent carnivorous (or at least omnivorous) type and the short, squat and stupid vegetarian type with large guts.

With respect to my ancestors that struggled against lions, cheetahs and hyenas for survival back on the African plains, I think that I will take their cue and continue eating meat. It seems to have worked well for hominids for millions of years, why stop now?

Originally Published July 2003

Abortion and Murder

Abortion Is Killing, Not Murder

Pro-choice, pro-life, who cares? I personally do not. I am a white, heterosexual male and as such, I can be objective on the matter of abortion. And if you look at the abortion matter objectively, you can only reach one conclusion, that abortion is the act of killing an individual human being. Merriam Webster seems to agree, defining abortion as “the termination of a pregnancy after, accompanied by, resulting in, or closely followed by the death of the embryo or fetus:”. There’s that word, “death”. But does this mean that abortion is murder? Absolutely not. Murder, according to Merriam Webster is “the crime of unlawfully killing a person especially with malice aforethought”. So, since abortion is currently legal, it is not murder; regardless of what the pro-life crowd puts on their signs.

So should abortion be murder? Well, I don’t really care one way or the other. However, there is one thing that I do know and that is that the primary job of government is to protect human life and property. That is the whole point to having a government, to prevent people that are bigger and stronger from taking the life and property of those that are smaller and weaker. Hence, whether abortion is just killing or becomes murder, the central issue is whether the government should in any way support or encourage abortion. And that is an easy issue to resolve. The government should never, in any way promote, support or encourage abortion because doing so runs exactly opposite to the central reason for government in the first place.

And don’t give me any of this “It’s my body, blah blah blah”. First of all, it is not your body, it is society’s body. Check your laws regarding suicide and the like. You do not have the right to commit suicide in our society. The reason is that society owns your body, you do not. Hence, society can place whatever restrictions they wish upon what you do with your body, including committing suicide or getting an abortion. Second, regardless of how you wish to justify abortion to your conscious, it is not the same as getting a wart removed. Otherwise, we would call abortion “internal wart removal” or something else. That’s not what we call it. We call it abortion, which is a medical procedure involving the killing of a human fetus. That fetus may not yet have intelligence or its own personality, but you are still killing it. If left to its own devices, we all know the end result of being pregnant is that a human baby comes popping out nine months later. If you do not want that to occur, then you go get…what? An abortion, which by definition is the killing of a human fetus. This is the entire reason there is a medical procedure called “abortion” and the reason why there are medical doctors specialized in the medical procedure of abortion. If it was wart removal, they would send pregnant women to a plastic surgeon, not someone specialized in snuffing out the life of a human fetus.

This is not rocket science people, abortion involves killing something. Hopefully this is not a news flash for most folks. If it is, then our education system in this country is even worse off than many suspect. Personally, I think that the time and need for abortion is past. There are thousands of people in this world that are begging to adopt even SARS-riddled Asian babies. We have affordable, omni-present birth control in the form of condoms, “the pill” and even the morning after cocktail. What possible use to society is a medical procedure that endangers the mother’s life as well as involves the killing of a growing, living being? Our world’s problems will not be solved by killing things, they will be solved by propagating the human species. How many Einstein’s, Ghandi’s, Tesla’s and Hawking’s have been killed before they could provide society with their insights and knowledge?

Originally Published July, 2003