Thursday, April 3, 2008

The Meme Front, pt II

Sometimes memes are very subtle. Take global warming for example. When you here the words "global warming" what do you think? A) an increase in global average temperature B) the earth is turning into a massive desert as the ice caps melt and the polar bears are drowning and were all gonna die.... C) a totally concocted bunch of nonsense liberals are using to create more taxes and take property.

Choice A is merely the strict meaning of the two words. B&C are the memes associated with the phrase "global warming". When speaking scientifically, A is true - its proven that there has been an increase in global average temperature. Politically, a lot of people fall for choice B or C. Yet B is only valid for goofy movies and C is just this side of paranoid (then again, paranoids do have enemies).

I'll be posting on global warming in the future. Since I am a scientist, I will be including hard facts and references. Right now, I am gathering those references. For now, I'm just asking you to think about what you think about when you hear certain words.

The Meme Front

I once had a rather painful encounter with a shovel. As the shovel descended towards the earth to increase the size of the hole it was creating, it intersected my foot. Specifically, it struck at the joint connecting my big toe to my right foot. (Luckily I was wearing appropriate footwear and suffered no injury.) While no evil intent existed, neither did the shovel apologize for the (inadvertent) assault. Why?

Because the shovel is just a tool! In this particular instance a tool being swung by my own, momentarily clumsy, hand. Unfortunately in today's culture it has become common to anthropomorphize tools and thereby lay the blame for an offense on an inanimate object rather than the person wielding it.

My focus in this blog (not this individual post but the blog) will be combating inaccurate memes in current use. A meme is an idea or concept, usually one that is not the technical meaning of a word or phrase, but an undercurrent associated with what is spoken. Memes are often adopted by mere repetition rather than frank evaluation and acceptance as true. When a given movement desires to push it's vision forward, but cannot make traction in a straight-forward debate, they can use propaganda to blanket the populace with their memes. Once the debate is framed in the desired context, the weaker argument of the movement is shielded from frank assessment and is accepted. I intend to shoot darts at these hot air balloons and bring the debate back down to earth.

What has this got to do with the above story? Let me ask you a question: When a criminal shoots a person, who is to blame, the gun or the crook? ..... Then why do we always get calls for more gun bans after a shooting incident? Gun bans only keep guns out of the hands of law abiding citizens -- making the criminals safer! This applies not only to gun ownership, but gun use. Did you know that when citizens are allowed to carry weapons, crimes against persons drops? If the petty thief doesn't know who might have a gun, he won't risk snatching a purse or holding someone up at the ATM. Rapists are less likely to attack if there's a chance the lady might have a gun to defend herself. We don't need fewer guns, we need more guns in the hands of law abiding citizens.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Quantum Toddler

As a dad, I'm always happy to see my young son achieving milestones of physical or mental prowess. Being human, I am particularly delighted when his accomplishments bear on my vocation. (I have a Master's in Physics and am currently seeking employment as an instructor at local community colleges).

Yesterday was one such lovely event. I had put his favorite movie in the DVD player so that daddy could get some work done. He promptly cuddled into his mother's reclining chair (having already mastered this device) and began asking for his "tigit banket".

I was puzzled, since my toddler-to-adult translation matrix produced from this request 'Target blanket'. Unfortunately, he has no blanket purchased from Target. I was stuck, and he was insistent, so I finally grabbed one of two favored blankets -- an nice fuzzy blanket with an image of Thomas the Tank engine. This was okay for approximately 5 seconds. This should have been a clue, but I had misplaced my thinking cap.

I finally asked him to show me what he wanted, whereupon he rushed to his crib and pointed at the blanket I had left behind earlier. This blanket was essentially the same, just a different character on it. My wife and I have always identified this one as the Pooh blanket, since it has Winnie the Pooh on it. However, the images of Piglet and Tigger are also on this treasured, cuddly source of warmth. AHA! Apparently "tigit"is a new form of the toddlerese "tiga" or the adult word 'Tigger' (also known as 'tee eye double guh ER!).

With my beaming offspring nestled comfortably into a cozy chair, clutching his desired blanket and watching the world's favorite movie, I should at this point be free to return the incorrectly fetched blanket to the crib. But no! Lo, the wailing that began as a fiendish daddy carried away the unasked for blanket. Stupidly, I thought this meant he wanted both blankets and moved to return the Thomas blanket. Muted cries of no! again erupted.

I stood puzzled for a moment. Either he wants the blanket or he doesn't. Then I finally understood what had happened. My scientist/daddy heart melted as I realized my 2 &1/2 year old son had mastered the basic principle of quantum mechanics. He expected the blanket to exist in neither state A (away) nor state B (nearby). Rather, this scientifically sophisticated tot instinctively knew that to properly reflect the probabilistic nature of the universe, the blanket must somehow exist in both states (or neither) simultaneously.

Then again, my usually easy-going son may have just been having a toddler moment.