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Gender: Male
Hometown: California
Member since: 2003 before July 6th
Number of posts: 26,394

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Inveniet quod quisque velit; non omnibus unum est, quod placet; hic spinas colligit, ille rosas.

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Quizzes for scuba divers. Fun and educational!


Find out if you're a safe diver, to minimize your risk of

8 Minutes, 15 Seconds (by Levi Jacobs)


MARCH 20th, 2134, 1:33 P.M.

No disasters yet.

Don Maugham stood tense near the back of the control room—what he liked to call “the bridge”—and watched the holo feeds. He wasn’t a handsome man, but in good shape for his early fifties, with a gentle face and a firm handshake. Today he was all focus: as lead researcher in Toynbee Astrotecture Corporation’s third solar probe project, the next ten minutes could have decisive impact on the rest of his career. On the holos at the front, they could see the probe had successfully opened a wormhole. Whether the other side of that hole would be the center of the sun, as planned, or somewhere else in the Local Interstellar Cloud, remained to be seen. If it hit the sun’s core, they’d calculated the probe’s shielding should give them two thirds of a second to record and transmit what it found there—hopefully opening insights into the nature of solar fusion, and possibilities for direct solar energy projects. If it wasn’t, he’d wasted a few trillion dollars of Toynbee Corporation money, and probably wouldn’t be head researcher again any time soon.

“Probe approaching entrance.” That was Mick, exhibiting his love of the obvious. String technology meant that they had instant holos of the probe’s location, though its actual feeds still took eight minutes or so to travel at light speed back to Earth. They watched as the oblong probe approached the temporary time-space rupture. Don crossed his fingers. Wormhole technology was relatively new—found in the last five years—and their control of it less than perfect. If the equipment malfunctioned ...

“Five seconds.” An amused subsection of Don’s brain noted Mick’s tense, clinical tone, like at the old Cape Canaveral launches. He was a glory hog. Oh well.

“Entering wormhole.”

Don held his breath as the probe disappeared; all eyes turned to the holo projection of the core. Nothing there. “Status?” Don asked.

A dot appeared in the burning white core. “Entrance!” Mick shouted, and a collective whoop went up from the twenty-five or so scientists in the room. Don grinned, relieved. They’d done it!

Then a whole section of the core went dark, the white gone, a moment later replaced by red. What the hell?

--- Snip ---


A Tank Only Fears Four Things (by Seth Dickinson)

The surgery makes Tereshkova into a tank.

In the war, she never showed any fear, not at Fulda, not even in the snows of Vogelsberg when the Americans dropped the first bomb. When Clinton and Yeltsin shook hands at Yalta, when the word came down to the 8th Guards Army to yield Frankfurt and withdraw to Soviet soil, Tereshkova spat into the dirt and said: “Too bad. We were turning things around.” And Yorkina, who sat beside her in the cab, laughed and shook her head. Between them the Geiger counter made soft cricket noises.

When they were discharged, they each promised to write, having failed in their goodbyes to say what Tereshkova, at least, felt in her heart: I needed you. I wouldn’t be okay without you.

But she isn’t okay. On her first day home in Vereya, Tereshkova hears the diesel engine of a truck passing on the road, and she begins to sweat.

--- Snip ---


A theory of jerks (by Eric Schwitzgebel)


Are you surrounded by fools? Are you the only reasonable person around? Then maybe you’re the one with the jerkitude

Picture the world through the eyes of the jerk. The line of people in the post office is a mass of unimportant fools; it’s a felt injustice that you must wait while they bumble with their requests. The flight attendant is not a potentially interesting person with her own cares and struggles but instead the most available face of a corporation that stupidly insists you shut your phone. Custodians and secretaries are lazy complainers who rightly get the scut work. The person who disagrees with you at the staff meeting is an idiot to be shot down. Entering a subway is an exercise in nudging past the dumb schmoes.

We need a theory of jerks. We need such a theory because, first, it can help us achieve a calm, clinical understanding when confronting such a creature in the wild. Imagine the nature-documentary voice-over: ‘Here we see the jerk in his natural environment. Notice how he subtly adjusts his dominance display to the Italian restaurant situation…’ And second – well, I don’t want to say what the second reason is quite yet.

--- Snip ---

The moralising jerk is apt to go badly wrong in his moral opinions. Partly this is because his morality tends to be self-serving, and partly it’s because his disrespect for others’ perspectives puts him at a general epistemic disadvantage. But there’s more to it than that. In failing to appreciate others’ perspectives, the jerk almost inevitably fails to appreciate the full range of human goods – the value of dancing, say, or of sports, nature, pets, local cultural rituals, and indeed anything that he doesn’t care for himself. Think of the aggressively rumpled scholar who can’t bear the thought that someone would waste her time getting a manicure. Or think of the manicured socialite who can’t see the value of dedicating one’s life to dusty Latin manuscripts. Whatever he’s into, the moralising jerk exudes a continuous aura of disdain for everything else.

--- Snip ---

Interesting tangential comment in here as well; I never knew the source of the word jerkwater: "The jerk-as-fool usage seems to have begun as a derisive reference to the unsophisticated people of a ‘jerkwater town’: that is, a town not rating a full-scale train station, requiring the boiler man to pull on a chain to water his engine."

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