Jan 272022
 

I am restraining myself as I do not wish to contribute to the hate and division that is plaguing our societies. I keep many of my thoughts and suspicions on this topic to myself.

But I still can’t not comment on this “freedom” convoy that is coming to mess up our lives here in Ottawa this weekend.

Freedom to do what? Let me tell you:

  • The freedom to infect others with a severe illness.
  • The freedom to act in a way that can be a direct, tangible threat to the lives of some of the most vulnerable among us.
  • The freedom not to take part in preventing the spread of a severe communicable disease.
  • More broadly, the freedom from any responsibility towards others in our society.

Presenting this as “freedom” offends me deeply, as I personally experienced not being free, having grown up in a communist dictatorship. What is evident to me is that you don’t know what it is like to be deprived of freedom. This is why you cannot tell the difference between a true desire to be free as opposed to just blind, unconstrained selfishness and egotism, the freedom to do whatever the heck you want with no regard to any consequences that might impact the lives of others.

 Posted by at 8:15 pm
Jan 262022
 

World War III is long overdue.

Back when I started grade school, more than 50 years ago (yikes!) no sane adult expected the world to survive through the rest of the 20th century in one piece, without another major war. Recall that even Star Trek, for all its optimism, assumed that World War III (sometimes called the Eugenics Wars) would break out in 1992.

Yet here we are, the year is 2022, and the world is still largely peaceful. But for how much longer?

Ukraine is rapidly turning into a hot spot that might yet trigger a conflict the world has not seen in many decades. And it appears that we are on a collision course that resembles in some ways the events leading up to World War I. Nobody wants escalation; yet everyone believes escalation is inevitable and necessary.

Russia supposedly wants NATO to stop expanding, stop encircling their country. On the surface, this might seem like a valid concern. Russia, after all, has been one of the great losers of the past half century. The collapse of the USSR, the loss of its system of allied satellite states, internal strife, a struggling economy all add up. Of course having an increasingly authoritarian government serving a corrupt oligarchy doesn’t exactly help either.

On the other hand, Russia’s willingness to use force in the “near abroad”, including Georgia, the annexation of Crimea, and Eastern Ukraine rightly troubles other neighboring nations, especially the Baltic states that spent decades under Soviet occupation, incorporated into the USSR. Other Eastern European states also have not forgotten what it was like to be occupied by the Soviet Union. NATO is rightfully concerned that if it does not show resolve, its credibility as a defensive alliance will be destroyed.

And this sets up a tricky situation. Every step Russia takes to push back NATO actually strengthens NATO’s resolve. Every step NATO takes to deter Russia from aggression and to assist Ukraine actually strengthens Russian resolve. Moreover, NATO’s resolve helps Putin set the pretext for an almost certainly unpopular war, by presenting NATO actions as a threat to Russian security. Add to this that a war in Ukraine could do wonders to help Putin’s waning credibility, and that Russians, rightly or wrongly, see political discord in the United States as a sign of weakness and, for them, an opportunity, and we have a perfect storm.

Do I worry unduly? Is it not possible that even if Ukraine goes up in flames, it will remain a regional conflict on the geopolitical map, like Korea or Vietnam were many decades ago? Or perhaps a quick and decisive victory by Putin, like the one he enjoyed in Crimea, would settle this affair in his favor and the world will move on? Perhaps.

But it will also be the biggest military confrontation on European soil since 1945. And if that doesn’t scare the bejesus out of you…

And of course nobody wants a world war. Nobody wants escalating conflict that gets out of hand. That was true back in 1914 as well. But just as in 1914, political ineptitude, miscalculations, overestimation of capabilities, underestimation of opponents, a false sense of urgency to act, may all add up. And there may very well be parasitic opportunists, other nations who will join the circus sensing opportunities. I can easily imagine, unfortunately, Xi’s China entering the fray when they have reason to believe that the West’s attention is elsewhere. And that’s how a regional conflict becomes a global one.

 Posted by at 12:55 am
Jan 172022
 

Another week has passed in this amazing world of ours.

It is easy to lose perspective as we struggle with the pandemic and make our way through everyday problems. But we shouldn’t. These days, I must admit, I worry more often than ever that our world is heading towards conflict and upheaval, in some ways a repeat of the mistakes made back in 1914, ending a golden era.

A golden era I say? You bet. Yes, I recognize it’s not for everyone, far from it. Far too many people on this planet still struggle for the basic necessities of life; die in conflict; or live miserable lives under oppressive regimes. Yet it is also true that never before did such a large percentage of humanity live as well as today, with access (at least) to most basic necessities, some level of medical care, schooling, a degree of public safety, with at least some of their basic rights respected.

Meanwhile those of us living in luckier corners of the world enjoy everyday luxuries that not even the kings and queens of the past could dream about. Case in question: the other day, my beautiful wife visited a grocery store and came home with a package of assorted fruits, not perfectly fresh, which the store sold at a discount rather than throwing it away. One of the fruits was a kiwi fruit. As I was munching on it (yum!) it just hit me. Here I am, in Ottawa, in the middle of a very cold winter day (it was I think -26 C outside) eating a … kiwi fruit? Not a carrot. Not a potato. A kiwi fruit. Probably not all the way from New Zealand, “only” from California, but still!

Let that kiwi fruit be a reminder of what we might be throwing away if we allow the politics of the day to radicalize us. If we allow politicians to choose conflict that might escalate and get out of hand. “We have no choice” is not an acceptable excuse. It was what the leaders of Europe said back in 1914 when they plunged the world into a conflict of unprecedented scale. But choices do exist.

The world in which I grew up was the world of the Cold War. Yet it was a world led by politicians who experienced war first hand, and for whom avoiding conflict (or at least, avoiding escalation) was a top priority. This was even true for the septuagenarian Soviet elite. Whatever their intentions were concerning the USSR and the spread of communism, plunging the world into another global conflict was not considered an acceptable outcome.

Today? I am not so sure. There are flashpoints we know about (Ukraine, South China Sea) and flashpoints that we may not even have considered yet. More troubling, the world is now led by my generation: a generation that takes peace and prosperity for granted, a generation that believes they have an inalienable right to munch on a kiwi fruit even in the middle of a harsh Canadian winter, and who take it for granted that kiwi fruits appear magically on supermarket shelves whenever they desire to eat some.

That, of course, is not true. But if we have to find it out the hard way, it will be too late.

This is what happened in 1914. No kiwi fruits or supermarkets just yet, but still, that fateful year was preceded by an unprecedented golden era that, in many parts of the world (especially in Europe and North America but not only there) brought about amazing progress. Then, myopic politics ended it all. And now I worry that there will be a repeat performance, and as the world plunges into chaos, just as in 1914, we’ll be told that “we have no choice”.

We do.

 Posted by at 2:15 am
Jan 112022
 

My name is not the rarest, but also not terribly common. I never met another Viktor Toth in person, but over the years, I came across a few and I’ve at least been in close contact with one.

The first Viktor Toth I read about as a teenager was featured with his girlfriend in some silly magazine for young Pioneers in then-communist Hungary.

Around the same time, I also read about a Viktor Toth in a small town in Hungary, who butchered his unfortunate wife with an axe. Yikes!

When I came to Ottawa, Canada, I was surprised to learn that there was already a Victor Toth in the local phone book. I never met him, but I did end up working with a gentleman who knew him.

It was still relatively early in the Internet era when I first searched for my own name, in the context of the small Hungarian town of Visegrad where I once lived. Much to my surprise, I found a Viktor Toth but it wasn’t me. It was a Hungarian astronomer who organized a conference that happened to take place in that small town. (Much later, he and I got in touch and even collaborated a little, contributing an article to a Hungarian popular science magazine about the future of radio astronomy in the country.)

There is a Viktor Toth who is an internationally renowned jazz saxophonist; unfortunately the type of improvisation-based modern jazz he plays is not my favorite subgenre, but he seems very well regarded.

And finally, there’s the Viktor Toth who recently put his pet rat into a virtual reality harness and had him play Doom. For the record, the only rat I own is this one, and he definitely doesn’t play Doom:

 Posted by at 12:25 am
Dec 312021
 

Y’all heard the joke: twenty-twenty-two,
It will be just like twenty-twenty, too.
But I really hope it will not be so.
We really just can’t give it another go.

 Posted by at 9:06 pm
Dec 242021
 

Although we are not religious, we celebrate Christmas.

And I still cannot think of a better way to celebrate Christmas than with the words of the astronauts of Apollo 8, and the sense of awe they felt when they became the first human beings ever in the history of our species to be completely cut off from Mother Earth, when their spaceship disappeared behind the Moon.

Earthrise from Apollo 8

Re-emerging, they read passages from the Book of Genesis to their audience, with Frank Borman concluding with the words:

[G]ood night, good luck, a Merry Christmas – and God bless all of you, all of you on the good Earth.

To me, this is the most beautiful Christmas message ever.

 Posted by at 2:38 am
Dec 242021
 

For the record: The Viktor Toth who has recently become quite popular on YouTube by placing his pet rat into a virtual reality harness and letting him play Doom is not me.

Even if I were inclined to do such an experiment with a live animal (I am not) it would be one of my cats, and the retro game of choice would be Duke Nukem.

You see, I was never really a fan of Doom.

 Posted by at 1:44 am
Dec 212021
 

Someone reminded me that 20 years ago, I made an honest-to-goodness attempt to switch to Linux as my primary desktop.

I even managed to get some of the most important Windows programs to run, including Microsoft office.

I could even watch live TV using my ATI capture card and Linux software. I used this Linux machine to watch the first DVD of The Lord of the Rings.

In the end, though, it was just not worth the trouble. Too many quirks, too much hassle. I preserved the machine as a VM, so I can run it even today (albeit without sound, and of course without video capture.) But it never replaced my Windows workstation.

I just checked and the installed browsers can still see my Web sites… sort of. The old version of Mozilla chokes on my personal Web site but it sees my calculator museum just fine. Konqueror can see both. However, neither of them can cope with modern security protocols so https connections are out.

Funny thing is, it really hasn’t become any easier to set up a really good, functional Linux desktop in the intervening 20 years.

 Posted by at 9:57 pm
Dec 202021
 

Though he passed away in September, I only learned about it tonight: Thanu Padmanabhan, renowned Indian theoretical physicist, is no longer with us. He was only 64 when he passed away, a result of a heart attack according to Wikipedia.

I never met Padmanabhan but I have several of his books on my bookshelf, including Structure Formation in the Universe and his more recent textbook Gravitation. I am also familiar with many of his papers.

I learned about his death just moments ago as I came across a paper by him on arXiv, carrying this comment: “Prof. T. Padmanabhan has passed away on 17th September, 2021, while this paper was under review in a journal.”

What an incredible loss. The brilliant flame of his intellect, extinguished. I am deeply saddened.

A tribute article about his life was published on arXiv back in October, but unfortunately was not cross-listed to gr-qc, and thus it escaped my attention until now.

 Posted by at 2:15 am
Dec 072021
 

Finally, Ottawa’s LRT is back in service again, operating more or less reliably, at more or less full capacity for a few weeks already, after a nearly two months long shutdown following the system’s second derailment in its mere two years of operation.

Let me celebrate this triumph (er, am I being too sarcastic?) with an archive photo from the city of my birth, Budapest, from 1966 or 67.

You see, back then, more than half a century ago, they were able to maintain nearly uninterrupted streetcar service at a major Budapest intersection, even if it took laying down temporary tracks as a new underground pedestrian passageway was constructed and in the process, a lot of the old infrastructure (water mains, sewage) was also replaced.

Why is it that maintaining uninterrupted service in 2021 in a G7 capital city is suddenly harder than rocket science?

 Posted by at 12:20 pm
Nov 202021
 

I kept staring at my calendar.

November 20. November 20. Why is this date memorable?

Then it suddenly popped into my mind. My father was born exactly 115 years ago, on November 20, 1906, in what was then Austria-Hungary, in the fine city of Temesvár, today known by its Romanian name as Timișoara.

He passed away in the fall of 1985, not long before I left Hungary.

 Posted by at 4:55 pm
Nov 142021
 

I am sure everybody had people like my friend Ken in their lives: People who, often by pure chance, played a major role in shaping our lives at critical turning points. When I came to Canada in 1987, I met several people who opened doors for me, offered me opportunities when I needed them most, or simply rewarded me with their friendship.

Ken Bowman was one such person. A mid-level manager at Canada Post in 1989, he was running the little project that I joined. I needed the income badly as my previous contract work ended months prior and I was rapidly running out of money. But the project itself was also interesting, challenging even. Oh, and the machines were fabulous: IBM PS/2-70 workstations with very large (by the standards of the time) hard drives, high resolution color monitors, laser printers… Lovely work.

I worked there for about nine months, but the friendships proved lasting. Some time later, Ken joined the company that was set up by a couple of my teammates on this project. He led the business side of one of my favorite development projects, which involved not only a product catalog but also an engineering and load sizing component, with plenty of interesting physics.

Ken’s partner at this company had a long, difficult-to-spell last name. One day, they received personally addressed but otherwise identical pieces of junk mail. The partner’s name was spelled flawlessly. Ken’s? Not so much. The envelope just read “Kenowman”. Needless to say, this earned him the obvious instant nickname: from this point on, he was often called Obi wan Kenowman, or just Obi wan for short. He loved it.

Even after he retired, we stayed in touch. Whether it was the politics of the day, a reaction to one of my silly blog posts, or just a picture of his beautiful cat Cimarron, I received missives from him occasionally, mostly in the form of lengthy text messages. And before the pandemic changed the world, we also met from time to time. Seeing him in person, I was actually worried about his health: he lost a great deal of weight, more than what I’d consider healthy.

Ken with one of his grandsons, two elegant gentlemen in happier times.
Photo courtesy Hollis Bowman.

Sadly, it appears that my concerns were not unfounded. One morning a few days ago I received an e-mail from Ken’s daughter Hollis that her Dad was now in palliative care. And before I could even respond, a second e-mail arrived: her Dad passed away.

And just like that, another friend is gone. If I am counting it right, Ken is the fifth person who played an oversize role in shaping the first couple of years of my life here in Canada. Inevitably it makes me wonder, who’s next? (Let that be a plea to my remaining friends: please stay healthy and take good care of yourselves!)

For now, though, Ken, I’ll miss hearing your voice on the phone from time to time. I’ll miss getting text messages from you about the state of the world. I’ll miss pictures from you about your beautiful cat.

I’ll miss you. Thank you for having been a part of my life.

 Posted by at 11:52 pm
Nov 122021
 

In 1973, my Mom and I visited my aunt here in Ottawa. It was a remarkable journey for 10-year old me. The differences between Hungary, then firmly behind the former Iron Curtain, and Canada were… astonishing. (Let’s just say that this experience firmly inoculated me against any communist claims about building a better society.) The trip was equally impactful on my Mom, though of course she experienced it quite differently as an adult.

At the time, my Mom spoke very little English. So when my aunt and her husband decided to take her to a movie theatre to see the latest James Bond movie, the first one with Roger Moore in the title role, they assured her that they will provide a running translation.

Then the film began and they quickly found out that translation was not necessary after all. At least insofar as these opening shots were concerned.

To this day, we cannot stop laughing when we think back of this moment.

 Posted by at 8:46 pm
Nov 122021
 

Today, I saw a funny post on Quora about how to pet a rabbit. Apparently, rabbits should not be picked up (fragile skeletal structure, bones that break easily) and also hate it when their tail is touched. I was about to make a cheeky comment on pulling either a rabbit or a cat by the tail. But first I wanted to fact check something quickly on Google, and that’s when I came across this article about tail pull injuries that cats sometimes suffer.

Yikes!

I admit I pulled our cats by the tail every once in a while. It’s funny, but also effective when you need to pull a cat back when he’s about to run out of the house or do something he’s not supposed to do.

Except… Except that, as I now learn, cats’ tails get injured relatively easily, and the injury can be devastating, affecting the bundle of nerves that exit the spinal column, which control much of their lower body. The least devastating consequence is losing mobility of the tail, but the injury can also lead to paralysis of the hind legs and incontinence. In short, ruining a cat’s life.

I did not know this. I am glad I never inadvertently caused injury to one of our cats. But I will never pull a cat by the tail again.

 Posted by at 7:31 pm
Nov 062021
 

Machine translation is hard. To accurately translate text from one language to another, context is essential.

Today, I tried a simple example: an attempt to translate two English sentences into may native Hungarian. The English text reads:

An alligator almost clipped his heels. He used an alligator clip to secure his pants.

See what I did here? Alligators and clips in different contexts. So let’s see how Google manages the translation:

Egy aligátor majdnem levágta a sarkát. Aligátorcsipesz segítségével rögzítette a nadrágját.

Translated verbatim back into English, this version says, “An alligator almost cut off his heels. With the help of an ‘alligatorclip’, he secured his pants.

I put ‘alligatorclip‘ into quotes because the word (“aligátorcsipesz“) does not exist in Hungarian. Google translated the phrase literally, and it failed.

How about Microsoft’s famed Bing translator?

Egy aligátor majdnem levágta a sarkát. Aligátor klipet használt, hogy biztosítsa a nadrágját.

The first sentence is the same, but the second is much worse: Bing fails to translate “clip” and uses the wrong translation of “secure” (here the intended meaning is fasten or tighten, as opposed to guarding from danger or making safe, which is what Bing’s Hungarian version means).

But then, I also tried the DeepL translator, advertising itself as the world’s most accurate translator. Their version:

Egy aligátor majdnem elkapta a sarkát. A nadrágját egy krokodilcsipesszel rögzítette.

And that’s. Just. Perfect. For the first sentence, the translator understood the intended meaning instead of literally translating “clip” using the wrong choice of verb. As for the second sentence, the translator was aware that an alligator clip is actually a “crocodile clip” in Hungarian and translated it correctly.

And it does make me seriously wonder. If machines are reaching the level of contextual understanding that allows this level of translation quality, how much time do we, humans, have left before we either launch the Butlerian Jihad to get rid of thinking machines for good, or accept becoming a footnote in the evolutionary history of consciousness and intelligence?

Speaking of footnotes, here’s a footnote of sorts: Google does know that an alligator clip is a pince crocodile in French or Krokodilklemme in German. Bing knows about Krokodilklemme but translates the phrase as clip d’alligator into French.

 Posted by at 5:51 pm
Oct 242021
 

Thanks to streaming services, I occasionally stumble upon films and television series from foreign lands that otherwise I’d not even know about. And no, I don’t mean Squid Game, that explosively popular Korean series: I only watched the opening few minutes of the first episode so far, and I don’t yet know if it is my cup of tea. Rather, this time around it is a Russian movie that I came across on Amazon Prime: a 2017 film titled Salyut-7.

Salyut-7 was a Soviet space station. In 1985, the space station was dead, without power. The Russians launched a daring rescue mission, Soyuz-T13, which was not only able to dock with the derelict station but also able to revive and repair it.

Consistent with Soviet era secrecy, we knew very little about this mission and didn’t appreciate its significance back then.

The movie itself combined the actual story of the Soyuz-T13 mission with other events, such as the fire on board the Mir space station 12 years later or a nonsensical fictitious mission by the space shuttle Challenger to “steal” the station, for dramatic effect. In that, I think they did a disservice to the cosmonauts who pulled off this repair: perhaps less spectacular in terms of visual effects, what they accomplished was no less significant.

But otherwise, I found the movie fun to watch, very well done, with top notch special effects and (insofar as my inexpert eye can tell) excellent acting and directing. I enjoyed the movie. And its faults notwithstanding, I think it offers a worthy reminder that the USSR’s space program brought enormous value to all of humanity. It saddens me deeply when I think of how much of it went to waste in the turbulent years following the breakup of the USSR.

 Posted by at 12:11 pm
Oct 202021
 

Earlier today, I noticed something really strange. A lamp was radiating darkness. Or so it appeared.

Of course there was a mundane explanation. Now that the Sun is lower in the sky and the linden tree in front of our kitchen lost many of its leaves already, intense sunlight was reflecting off the hardwood floor in our dining area.

Still, it was an uncanny sight.

 Posted by at 11:27 pm
Oct 012021
 

One of the issues that plagues our present-day world is distrust in the media, distrust in particular in American media.

There are many reasons for this distrust. There is all the “fake news” spread by social media. The source, in a fair number of cases I guess, is agencies ran by hostile foreign governments, like Putin’s infamous Internet Research Agency or his cable news channel RT, whose purpose often seems to be precisely this, undermine trust by spreading disinformation. At other times, it is domestic politicians, including a certain former US president who spent his four years in office denouncing anything he didn’t like as fake news, thus blurring the line between bona fide fake news, political bias, and straightforward reporting of facts that he just plain didn’t like.

The flip side of the coin is that unfounded accusations and bona fide fake news from foreign sources do not automatically guarantee that the actual “mainstream media” is truthful. And every so often, I feel compelled to question the prevailing narrative. This is especially true when it comes to American news television, which over the years has become exceedingly partisan. (I pretty much stopped watching US news networks for this reason, except in case of major breaking news events.)

Just over a month ago, America’s war in Afghanistan came to an ignominious end. Much of the news media denounced the chaotic withdrawal, presenting it as both unexpected and avoidable. In reality, if you spent any time watching the efforts in Afghanistan, it was neither. The military presence in Afghanistan never had a well-defined, achievable military goal. And the withdrawal inevitably meant a collapse of institutions that had no legitimacy in the country other than the Western military support on which they relied for their very existence. So while the actual details can always be surprising, the collapse was both predictable and unavoidable.

But then comes the second part of the narrative, about the nature of the Taliban’s rule. No, I have no delusions about them. If you are a young woman in the Taliban’s Afghanistan, your future just became a lot darker. And if, heaven forbid, you are a member of the LGBTQ community, flee while you still can. But… Western media narratives notwithstanding, the Taliban seem genuinely interested in restoring law and order. Yes, it will be their version of law and order (but then, how exactly does it differ from the Islamist law and order in our friend and ally, Saudi Arabia?) but law and order nonetheless. Case in question? The Globe and Mail just published this view of Canada’s shuttered embassy in Kabul, guarded by Taliban security, who claim that they’ll guard the building until Canadian diplomats return. How do we know? Because the Globe and Mail’s international correspondent, a Western journalist, was able to visit the place. Harsh Islamist regime? I am sure. A terror regime that beheads stray Westerners? Doesn’t look like it.

And then there was something else today, completely unrelated to the above: the shutdown of a news media startup in the US, Ozy. Now I don’t know much about Ozy, except that a few months ago, they started spamming me. I say spamming because I never signed up for their daily news briefs, but I ended up receiving them anyway. Having said that, the briefs seemed sufficiently interesting and original so I decided not to block them. But now Ozy is shut down, in response to an investigative report by The New York Times that claimed serious (possibly even criminal) behavior by Ozy’s leadership. Earlier, there were also claims that Ozy had inflated audience numbers and little original content. I obviously cannot comment on the first two points, but the content? The only reason I allowed the Ozy newsletter to continue arriving in my Inbox was that it did have original content that I found mildly interesting.

So now I am torn. Can I take the allegations at face value? Or was it simply a successful attempt to fatally wound and destroy a competitor in the cutthroat world of news media? Perhaps something in between, a more nuanced picture?

Groan. Have I also been infected by this insidious distrust-all-media pathogen?

 Posted by at 10:19 pm
Sep 302021
 

I have had it up to my eyeballs with misinformation about vaccines, mRNA vaccines in particular. People who up until 2020 could not tell the difference between acronyms like “RNA” and “WTF” suddenly became experts on molecular biology, capable of evaluating the professional literature and arriving at profound judgments, telling us that the vaccines are “fake” and such, or worse yet, they amount to “gene therapy”.

With all due respect, I first encountered the acronym “mRNA” (or its Hungarian equivalent, mRNS) not in 2020, not in 2019, but in 1980 or 81, from a Hungarian translation of Watson’s book on molecular biology of the gene.

Now granted, even if I had read that book cover-to-cover (I didn’t) it would not make me an expert on molecular biology. But I knew enough for the expression “mRNA vaccine” to make sense to me right away when it first showed up in news reports. In short, I know enough to spot the bullshit. Such as all that anti-vaccine scaremongering that has become ever so popular on the Interwebs lately.

Something similar happened 20 years ago, in the wake of 9/11. Many folks, especially Americans, who previously couldn’t tell Mohammed the prophet from Mohammed Ali, and who have never been in the same room with a textbook on comparative religion previously, suddenly became experts on Islam, making grand pronouncements about it being the religion of terror and all that. I first read a textbook on comparative religion back when I was 10 or so, from a 1927 2-volume tome on religions of the world:

This is volume one, titled “Primitive and cultural religions, Islam and Buddhism”. As with the Watson textbook, the images in this blog entry are of my own making, done just moments ago using my phone camera, of the actual books I have in my personal library.

Again, reading this book did not make me an instant expert. But it did give me enough background to spot the flood of bullshit that permeated the discussion after the 9/11 terror attacks.

Coming from a family and personal tradition that values learning, values impartial knowledge, it almost feels like physical pain, being confronted with such gross ignorance and outright lies each and every day. Enough already. Don’t listen to me, but don’t listen to the bullshit artists either. Listen to the actual experts (and not a cherry-picked subset of so-called experts who say what you want to hear). That’s what experts are for in an advanced scientific-technological society in which no human can be a master of all trades, and in which we rely on each other’s knowledge and experience.

Someone on Quora recently compared the anti-vaxxer movement to a hypothetical scenario on an airliner in distress: instead of following the crews’ instructions and donning oxygen masks, passengers stage a revolt, led by an “expert” who already knows better than the pilots how to fly the damn plane because he played with Microsoft Flight Simulator!

Groan.

 Posted by at 1:10 am