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Week of 15 October 2007

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Monday, 15 October 2007
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08:26 - As usual when I'm in the final stages of a book, I have so many balls in the air that it's difficult to find time to write much on these pages, so things will be pretty sparse around here until the book is finished. This time, things are even more pronounced than usual because completion of this book follows hard on the heels of completion of the Illustrated Guide to Astronomical Wonders. At least that book is finished and off to the printers, at last.

I still have a significant amount of writing and re-writing left to do. Once I finish that, I need to head back to the lab and re-do nearly all of the laboratory sessions, this time in order to photograph them. I originally intended to photograph the lab sessions as I did them and wrote them up, but that didn't work out well. This time, I'll do them with an eye toward having them set up for photography, which will make things a lot easier.

And, of course, I still need to devote some time and effort to getting the next book lined up so that I don't run out of things to do. I'm going to be a busy author for the next month or so, which means I won't have time to write much here.


Tuesday, 16 October 2007
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08:41 - Barbara is a member of the board of the Friends of Reynolda Manor Library, our local library branch. She came home the other day from helping to set up their book sale, and said the Friends wanted to buy a digital camera for the head librarian to use to shoot images of various library events. Barbara volunteered me to pick one for them, and said we'd order it and they could reimburse us.

So yesterday I visited newegg.com and started looking. I'd expected to spend $150 to $200 on a decent point-and-shoot model and a memory card. As it turned out, $99 was sufficient. That's how much a Kodak EasyShare C613 point-and-shoot camera with a bundled 1 GB Kingston memory card costs, including shipping, and that camera is more than sufficient for what they want to do.

I made sure to pick a model that uses standard AA alkaline cells. This camera may not be used from one week to the next or even one month to the next, so rechargeables would be likely to have lost their charge just when they were needed. With alkalines, they can just pick it up and start shooting without worrying about the state of the battery charge. And it's easy enough to keep a spare pair of AA cells with the camera.

I sent the proposal/outline for the new book to my editors and publisher yesterday, so we'll see what happens. Meanwhile, I'm back to work on the next-to-last of the substantive narrative chapters.


Wednesday, 17 October 2007
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00:00 - No post.


Thursday, 18 October 2007
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09:35 - Here's a headline guaranteed to cause a firestorm: DNA Discoverer: Blacks Less Intelligent Than Whites

I admire Dr. Watson's courage. He must have known that his statements, although undoubtedly true, would be met with outrage, and that he would be denounced as racist. That significant differences in intelligence and other characteristics exist among the races is one of those facts that anyone who cares to look at the data knows is true, but that no one is allowed to talk about.

As Murray and others before him have pointed out, there is zero doubt that, as groups, the Chinese and the Ashkenazi Jews are much brighter than average. The mean IQ of the Chinese is between a third and a half standard deviation higher than the general population, and the Ashkenazi mean is one full standard deviation higher. Equally, there is no doubt that the mean IQ of American blacks is one full standard deviation below the mean of the general population, and that of African blacks two full standard deviations lower. Anyone who understands normal distributions grasps the profound implications of those facts.

That the IQ of Chinese and Ashkenzi Jews skews so far to the right on the bell curve and that of blacks so far to the left allows us to make some predictions with high certainty. We'd expect, for example, that Chinese and Ashkenazi Jews would be overrepresented and blacks underrepresented in rigorous disciplines in our university faculties and research laboratories, and that turns out to be true. We'd also expect that our jails and prisons would be filled with people from the left side of the bell curve, and that therefore blacks are likely to be overrepresented and Chinese and Ashkenazi Jews underrepresented in our prisons. That also turns out to be true. No surprises there.

But it's Africa where the differences really come home to roost, and I share Dr. Watson's pessimism about the future of Africa. That difference of two standard deviations in intelligence is simply insurmountable. Consider what a difference of two standard deviations means in practical terms.

In the United States, someone who is two standard deviations above the mean has an IQ of 130, assuming we're using the SD15 IQ scale. That person is considered gifted, and is likely to become a physician or an engineer. Because about 95.45% of a normally distributed population falls within two sigmas of the mean, about 22,750 people per million have IQs of 130 or higher. That's more than enough to ensure an adequate supply of physicians and engineers.

Furthermore, someone who is four standard deviations above the mean has an IQ of 160, which is generally considered the threshold of genius. Because about 99.9936658% of a normally distributed population falls within four sigmas of the mean, about 63 people per million have IQs of 160 or higher. That's enough to ensure an adequate supply of theoretical physicists and Nobel Prize winners.

In Africa, the mean IQ, again on an SD15 scale, is only 70, which in the US would be considered mildly retarded. An African with an IQ of 100, normal for the US, is two sigmas above the mean in Africa. In other words, of every million Africans, only about 22,750 are bright enough to be considered normal in the US. Of every million Africans, only about 63 have IQs of 130 or higher, what we would consider normal for a physician or an engineer. That's grossly insufficient to maintain a modern society.

When it comes to African theoretical physicists or Nobel Prize winners, the outlook is much, much worse. In Africa, someone with an IQ of 160 is six sigmas above the mean. Because about 99.9999998% of a normally distributed population falls within six sigmas of the mean, well, you can run the numbers. African geniuses are scarcer than the proverbial hen's teeth.

I see no solution to Africa's problems. Africans on their own simply don't have the mental horsepower to maintain a modern society, let alone build one. British imperialism improved the lot of African blacks in Rhodesia and South Africa for a time, but two-tiered societies divided along racial lines are no longer politically acceptable.

As distasteful as it is to current sensibilities, white rule in Rhodesia and South Africa had the advantage of actually working. The white regimes in Rhodesia and South Africa were run for the benefit of whites, certainly, but they also benefited the blacks in those countries. While most of the world was condemning these regimes, African blacks were fighting to get into these countries. Rhodesia was the breadbasket of Africa, producing enough food to feed all of Africa, with sufficient excess to export outside of Africa.

African blacks were an underclass, certainly, but even they were smart enough to know when they had things good. Blacks in Rhodesia and South Africa had a much higher standard of living than blacks in any black-ruled country in Africa. Food was cheap and plentiful, and medical care was free and readily available. Blacks could not vote, nor could they hope to rise socially to the level of their white masters, but there were opportunities for advancement, and in fact a nascent black middle class was developing.

Then the do-gooders in the rest of the world decided that Africa should be ruled by blacks. Rhodesia became Zimbabwe, and within a few years devolved from being the best country in Africa for blacks to live in to being the worst hell-hole on Planet Earth. Zimbabwe confiscated white-owned farms, and was then shocked to find that food production plummeted to almost nothing. Zimbabwe expelled white professionals, and was then shocked to find that no professional services were available. Nowadays, Zimbabwe is completely controlled by blacks and nearly all of the whites have abandoned the country. And the blacks are left holding an empty bag.

I wish it weren't this way, but, as they say, if wishes were horses beggars would ride.


Friday, 19 October 2007
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08:57 - I had to pull the EFF blue ribbon banner from the top of the page. The EFF site isn't responding, and my HTML editor (Kompozer) refused to allow me to load and edit the page because the remote image couldn't load.

Watson is backpedaling furiously from his comments about racial IQ differences. I wonder what kind of pressure was brought to bear on him.

It's clear to anyone who has eyes that there are differences in ability between the races. In a pure meritocracy, those differences are obvious and profound. Sports is one example of a pure meritocracy. Is there a reason, do you think, why blacks overwhelmingly dominate sports, why football teams and basketball teams have mostly black players and the best marathon runners are nearly all black? Could it be because blacks are, on average, physically stronger, faster, and more coordinated than whites and yellows? Similarly, hard-science research laboratories are a meritocracy, one that is overwhelmingly dominated by whites and yellows. Could it be, do you think, because whites and yellows are, on average, smarter than blacks?

There are no value judgments here. No one is saying that blacks are better people than whites and yellows because blacks are better basketball players, just as no one is saying that whites and yellows are better people than blacks because whites and yellows are better scientists. No one is saying that men are better than women because men excel at some things, any more than anyone is saying that women are better than men because women excel at some things.

More to the point, we need to think in terms of individuals rather than groups. There are first-rate white and yellow basketball players, just as there are first-rate black scientists. If someone is a magician on a basketball court, the color of his skin doesn't, or shouldn't, matter. If someone is a magician in a laboratory, it doesn't or shouldn't matter what color his skin is. A white player shouldn't be denied a place on the basketball team simply because his skin is white, and a black scientist shouldn't be denied a place in the laboratory simply because his skin is black. Equally important, a good black basketball player shouldn't be denied a place on the team to make room for a less-qualified white player, just as a good white scientist shouldn't be denied a place to make room for a less-qualified black scientist. Colorblindness should be the rule.

The politically correct push the idea that unequal outcome proves unequal opportunity, which is a lie. The differences in ability between the races and sexes guarantee that equal opportunity will result in unequal outcomes. The equalest opportunity in the world won't produce many female weightlifting champions, nor many white marathon champions, nor many black astrophysicists. That's reality, and attempting to force things to be otherwise is simply evil.


Saturday, 20 October 2007
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08:55 - Linux sometimes introduces me to entirely new experiences. Last night, I got into a fight with my screensaver. It won.

I was working on my den system, which has had the Ubuntu 7.10 beta installed on it for a couple of weeks and was updated to the release version as soon as it became available. I have power management on that system set to power down the display after 10 minutes of inactivity. Ordinarily, I don't use a screensaver--it's pretty pointless on a system with an LCD display and power management enabled--but in this case I had the Molecules screensaver set to kick in after two minutes of inactivity, mostly because I enjoy watching the dancing molecules. When the screensaver kicks in, it doesn't do so abruptly. Instead, the screen dims over several seconds to black and then the molecules start dancing.

So there I was reading a web page, when the screen started to dim. I bumped the mouse to stop the dimming. It didn't stop. Thinking I hadn't moved the mouse enough to clear the screensaver, I started moving it more energetically. The dimming slowed but continued. I started moving the mouse rapidly and got the screen to brighten up a bit, but as soon as I slowed the mouse movements the dimming started again.

Damned if I was going to let the screensaver win, I started jerking the mouse around as fast as I could. For several seconds, it looked like I might win. I got the screen to brighten up a bit once or twice, but the trend was generally downward. Eventually, despite my frantic mouse movements, the screen faded to black, the molecules popped up momentarily, and then the screen returned to normal.

Linux. Even its screensavers are tough.


Sunday, 21 October 2007
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00:00 -


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