Linda Linda

I came upon the song Linda Linda thanks to Atrios. It is featured in the 2005 Japanese film Linda Linda Linda, where it is played by the fictional band the film is about. Here is The Blue Hearts doing the song originally:

This is rock music at its best. Any band that makes you think of Wild Thing or Louis Louis is doing it right. That seems kind of simple, doesn’t it? Somehow it isn’t.

All Concepts Are Simple

Believing BullshitI’ve been reading Believing Bullshit by Stephen Law. I’ll write about it more later. For now, I just want to mention something about his chapter on Pseudoprofundity. This especially has to do with postmodern academics where traditionally the field has been so weighted down with jargon that there is often nothing other than the jargon.

In my experience with science, I have found that pretty much all concepts are really simple. In order to be precise, scientists and philosophers weight down these concepts with a lot of baggage. But if students are trying to learn something and they find it difficult, they are probably missing the concept.

Here is an excellent example. Nothing is more mind blowing than Godel’s Incompleteness Theorem. This theorem says that any mathematical system (e.g. Euclidean Geometry) can never be fully formed. There will always be things that are true inside that system that cannot be proved to be true. Here is a simple proof of this from Infinity and the Mind by Rudy Rucker:

The proof of Godel’s Incompleteness Theorem is so simple, and so sneaky, that it is almost embarassing to relate. His basic procedure is as follows:

  1. Someone introduces Godel to a UTM, a machine that is supposed to be a Universal Truth Machine, capable of correctly answering any question at all.
  2. Godel asks for the program and the circuit design of the UTM. The program may be complicated, but it can only be finitely long. Call the program P(UTM) for Program of the Universal Truth Machine.
  3. Smiling a little, Godel writes out the following sentence: “The machine constructed on the basis of the program P(UTM) will never say that this sentence is true.” Call this sentence G for Godel. Note that G is equivalent to: “UTM will never say G is true.”
  4. Now Godel laughs his high laugh and asks UTM whether G is true or not.
  5. If UTM says G is true, then “UTM will never say G is true” is false. If “UTM will never say G is true” is false, then G is false (since G = “UTM will never say G is true”). So if UTM says G is true, then G is in fact false, and UTM has made a false statement. So UTM will never say that G is true, since UTM makes only true statements.
  6. We have established that UTM will never say G is true. So “UTM will never say G is true” is in fact a true statement. So G is true (since G = “UTM will never say G is true”). “I know a truth that UTM can never utter,” Godel says. “I know that G is true. UTM is not truly universal.”

If I could impart any wisdom to young learners, it would be this: all concepts are simple. This of course helps in a general sense: it allows people to drill down to the bottom of what they are learning. But there is another aspect of this. It frees the student to ask what he may think of as dumb questions. If you have a professor who is droning on about something that seems very complex, just call him on it. “Excuse me professor: this seems awfully complicated. What is the concept you are trying to relate?”

Afterword

When I taught physics, students would often tell me that they understood the concepts but that the math was hanging them up. This caused me, over time, to eliminate the math and just deal with the concepts. And what did I find? They didn’t understand the concepts either. I said these concepts are simple—not trivial. One thing was for sure: the math was blinding them to the concepts. By focusing on the concepts, they found that the math was fairly simple.

Who Cares About Comments?

Who cares about commentsI’m not feeling much up to writing right now because the right side of my face has swelled up owing to mostly likely about $700 of dental work. Luckily, ibuprofen works really well. Anyway, that’s why I am not posting today and probably won’t post much tomorrow. But I do have something on my mind: comments.

Mad Kane once mentioned to me that no one reads anything any more; they are in too much of a rush to write things. To that, I would add: mostly things that don’t need to be written. I get as caught up in this as anyone, except that I do little but read. I tend to think that is what I do for a living.

What bugs me about blogs is that most bloggers don’t interact with their users. Here I’m not talking about people writing for Daily KOS or other high traffic websites. Those sites already have a critical mass of readers so that the comment sections are self-sustaining. But most smaller sites make no effort to cultivate comments.

I was thinking about that this morning while reading Evil Slutopia, The ESC’s Guide to Social Media: You’re Probably Doing It Wrong. In the article, they suggest interacting with people who follow you on Twitter. This had never occurred to me, but then I’m very new to and ignorant of Twitter. But this is exactly my idea on blog comments.

In at least 90% of all cases, I respond to comments. There are a number of reasons for this, but the biggest is that I want my readers to know that I care that they are around. There aren’t many advantages to having a small blog, but one advantage is engagement. As a result, I’ve had a number of interesting comment conversations where they are more interesting than the original article.

I’ve made this analogy before: a blog is like a small business. There are roughly two ways you can treat the customer. You can think that what you have to offer is really great and people will come despite bad hours, inconvenient location, and nasty clerks. Or you can think that what you have to offer is okay and you really ought to work to make the customer’s experience as good as possible.

I know what my choice is. I think that no matter what it is you do, you win over readers one at a time. The idea that you will get a large following solely on the basis of your personal awesomeness is probably fanciful.