Archive for politics

The YouTube Debates Aren’t that Awesome

Posted in opinion with tags , , , , on 2007 December 26 by KLP

This post on the Official Google Blog makes me pretty upset with Google. All this talk about breaking down barriers and not one mention of including third party candidates in future YouTube debates. Let’s get something straight: Google isn’t improving the political process. They’re just reinforcing the status quo, and claiming otherwise. So much for “don’t be evil”You can make money without doing evil“. If Google really wants to improve the political process, then they need to turn the election into a real competition and actually make it interesting. Imagine a debate where the debaters are judged on what they say and not on how they answer (or not answer) questions or how they behave or other minutia. Such a debate would actually be useful to voters. A sure way to bring this about is to invite third party candidates to debate. Doing so will call into question the legitimacy and earnest of the candidates who currently aren’t working hard enough or making enough of a case to deserve the position they seek. I agree that YouTube is powerful, but Google needs to use it to affect the sort of change that the USA needs. Something is wrong when elections are won by very slim margins. Blaming the problem on the red-state/blue-state division of the country is incorrect. Rather, the presidential candidates we’ve seen in the last few elections have been too similar. Modifying the debate format to help voters discern the difference between candidates isn’t the way to go about solving that problem. Rather, YouTube should use it’s muscle to force candidates to adopt diverse positions and give voters a real choice.

One might argue that YouTube couldn’t hope to hold a debate with third party candidates because Democrat and Republican candidates would refuse to participate for fear of the sea change that I’ve described. I argue that YouTube is too powerful for any candidate to ignore simply because they want the exposure. Google has no excuse.

Google, don’t be evil. Make things right.

String Theory

Posted in opinion with tags , , , , , , , , on 2007 November 19 by KLP

In AP Physics, I had the Elegant Universe by Brian Greene as assigned reading. My verbal reaction to it was something like, “this is all very interesting, but isn’t String Theory kind of an idle pursuit?” I recall that my teacher got annoyed. Anyway, I filed String Theory away in my mind for a while, until I watched the Nova special of the same title as the book with Kat and Bidya. I still find it very interesting and I still have a hard time as seeing it as anything more than mental masturbation. If string theory is not true, or if there is no unifying relationship between gravity and the other forces, would we miss it?What irks Kat and I is that String Theory is a sensation and it receives more attention than fields of science that are not only practical, but uncontested as fields of science. There doesn’t appear to be any way to disprove String Theory, after all. What is worrisome is the possibility that String Theory receives grant money. A quick Google search yields no evidence of this, but it isn’t a stretch to charge that for every bit of attention that String Theory gets, the rest of science gets that much less attention. For example, the Nova special on String Theory could have been a special on Medicinal Chemistry instead. Conceivably then, if there is a relationship between attention and funding, there is less funding available for the rest of science. If that’s the case, then it’s a damn shame because labs, such as my girlfriend’s, have to work really hard for their grant money.

But I am not about to take part in any war on String Theory. It is fun to think about dimensions beyond the four that we can perceive and whether or not the void of space is really a void. The truth is that funding shouldn’t be so damn scarce in the first place. The War on Drugs and the War on Terror gobble up more funding than String Theory ever could. [Yes, this article just took a political tack.] Wondering where the AIDS vaccine is, where the Male Pill is, where a viable, safe, and renewable alternative to fossil fuels is? These goals are smoldering in Iraq and decaying amongst sprayed coca crops in Colombia. Consider that in 2005, AIDS claimed an estimated 2.8 million lives. In the same year, AIDS research received $19.7 billion in funding from the US while the Iraq War received that much in a little more than three months. In contrast, it is estimated that 290,000 were killed under Saddam Hussein’s rule of 24 years. Understandably, many have strong opinions regarding terrorism and narcotics. But, if you are thinking of voting for someone who supports the Wars on Terrorism and Drugs, please consider where your tax dollars won’t be going first. When science gets the funding and attention it deserves, then maybe String Theory can finally become the non-issue it ought to be.

QED

The above comic was taken from xkcd.com.

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Venture Communist. Miscommunications Technologist. Telekommunisten Polemicist. ThoughtWorks Analyst.