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The Anthropic Principle

A final thought on dark energy: This stuff confounds physicists in part because it's so weak. Sure, it can blow apart a universe, potentially, which we can all agree would be unpleasant, but the equations of physics suggest to the scientists that dark energy ought to have much, much more energy than we perceive, like 10 to the power of 120 more. Gobs more. It ought to have obliterated the cosmos way back when. Why's it so weak? What gives?

The simplest answer is, unfortunately, extremely unsatisfying. It's to say that we have no choice but to invoke Anthropic Principle.

Which is like giving up.

The Anthropic Principle states that the universe has the physical properties that we perceive because if it had other properties we wouldn't exist. If dark energy were more powerful, for example, galaxies would never have formed, and there'd be no planets, no astronomers, no one to ask these questions.

A corollary is that there are an infinite number of universes, almost all of which evaporate or collapse upon themselves in the blink of an eye. Perhaps the ratio of the mass of the electron to the proton is a little off, and matter isn't stable. Perhaps gravity is too strong, and all you wind up with is a dense little wad of spacegunk. And so on.

The Anthropic Principle seems too much like a shrugging of shoulders. It's like yawning and saying: "Whatever."

Also it's not parsimonious as theories go -- it relies on too many extra universes.

If there was a down note to the announcement yesterday of a new angle on dark energy, it was that confirmation of the earlier finding isn't really as helpful as a non-confirmation, or a recalibration. Physicists crave "new physics." That means they want to see things other than what they might predict. The worst thing for physics would be to figure everything out.

David Spergel said yesterday, in response to a question during a conference call, that it's possible, in theory, that we've already achieved a full understanding of the universe, and that cosmology will suffer the fate of particle physics, a field that is finding it harder and harder to peel back any more layers of the onion (my metaphor, not Spergel's). But Spergel doubts that: "We have been surprised so much by things like dark energy, dark matter, the physics of inflation, that I think we will continue to be surprised in the future."

Here's the final, print version of my dark energy story.

See also Cosmic Variance and Phil Plait.


Great discussion at Andy Revkin's blog at the Times about new data on global temperatures.

Question: What's the right temperature, Revkin?

Revkin: There is no "right" temperature. I've written about that uncomfortable reality when exploring "geo-engineering," the idea that we counteract warming with aerosols or the like. Who gets to set the planet's thermostat? Russia? The Maldives? Folks in Chicago? But there can be a decent sense of risk management, related to the possibility (just a possibility) that a continuing buildup of greenhouse gases will disrupt climate sufficiently that attempts to adapt will end up like the guy chasing the bus as it accelerates away from the bus stop. A better question would be, "What's the right insurance policy, Revkin?"


So it's a predictable Time Person of the Year, and even the runners-up are predictable, until you come to Number 4. See the tribute to Zhang Yimou by Spielberg:

At the heart of Zhang's Olympic ceremonies was the idea that the conflict of man foretells the desire for inner peace. This theme is one he's explored and perfected in his films, whether they are about the lives of humble peasants or exalted royalty. This year he captured this prevalent theme of harmony and peace, which is the spirit of the Olympic Games. In one evening of visual and emotional splendor, he educated, enlightened and entertained us all. In doing so, Zhang secured himself a place in world history.


Update: Von Drehle wrote the cover story on Obama, I'm told by a very well-placed source [the Time web navigation is ridiculously bad so try this link], so it'll be worth a read. Great opening description of Obama's bare-bones office (it ain't oval and there's not a fancy rug or anything). Here's our next president running through a litany of worries:

"It is not clear that the economy's bottomed out," he begins, understatedly. (The morning newspaper trumpets the worst unemployment spike in more than 30 years.) "And so even if we take a whole host of the right steps in terms of the economy, two years from now it may not have fully recovered." That worries him. Also Afghanistan: "We're going to have to make a series of not just military but also diplomatic moves that fully enlist Pakistan as an ally in that region, that lessen tensions between India and Pakistan, and then get everybody focused on rooting out militancy in a terrain, a territory, that is very tough -- and in an enormous country that is one of the poorest and least developed in the world. So that, I think, is going to be a very tough situation.

"And then the third thing that keeps me up at night is the issue of nuclear proliferation," Obama continues, sailing on through the horribles. "And then the final thing, just to round out my Happy List, is climate change. All the indicators are that this is happening faster than even the most pessimistic scientists were anticipating a couple of years ago."


Who Knew: If you're a lucky early investor in a Ponzi scheme and you walk away with some profits, you have to give it all back.

More from Shafer on the newspaper deathwatch.

By Joel Achenbach  |  December 17, 2008; 9:32 AM ET
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Universe Won't Rip Apart
Next: Scouting for the Obamas


aye yi yi,

things I have to do to lose my job

Lunch, then two good stories

and one scary one

Posted by: omnigood | December 17, 2008 11:58 AM | Report abuse

Maybe it should be the Anthropomorphic Principle:

Things are the way they are because if they weren't, then we humans would not be able to ask the questions or understand the answers and if humans can't grasp it, then it doesn't matter anyway.

Posted by: Gomer144 | December 17, 2008 11:58 AM | Report abuse

This is a great Kit, I wish I understood it. I mean, I understood the words, just the pointiness of it is way way over my head.

Posted by: Yoki | December 17, 2008 11:59 AM | Report abuse

Let us speak of the dark energy of the heart, the secrets, the regrets, the longing for what we cannot have.

Posted by: FaultyFlapperValve | December 17, 2008 12:07 PM | Report abuse

摇呀摇摇到外婆桥 Most excellent.

Posted by: -tao- | December 17, 2008 12:09 PM | Report abuse

I concur, Yoki. I read this, and I feel as if I fully comprehend it and could add something intelligent to the conversation. Then I realize I'm just fooling myself.

I do like the Anthropic Principle as described here. As I understand it (see major caveat above) this states that the Universe is what it is because if it weren't, we wouldn't be what we are. Okay, I'm paraphrasing. I'm thinking what a useful response this could be in so many social situations. I particularly see value as a Parenting Maxim. If I can just flesh this out a little it should cover a multitude of events. I look forward to sharing it with the Boy.

Posted by: Ivansmom | December 17, 2008 12:13 PM | Report abuse

If we are very very lucky, Ivansmom, maybe RD or other physics-wise Boodlers will 'splain it to us.

I like your extrapolation to parenting! Pity my two are pretty much done, I could have used it several years ago.

Posted by: Yoki | December 17, 2008 12:18 PM | Report abuse

Yoki, let me translate:

Green eggs and ham are yummies;
Or they wouldn't go in our tummies
And if they didn't go in our tummies
There would be no green eggs and ham
And that's the word, Sam-I-am.

If you want it in Latin:

Cognito, ergo sum.
Ego spiro, ergo
universus survivabilis est.

Or in French:

Dans ce meilleur des mondes possibles... (Candide).

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | December 17, 2008 12:22 PM | Report abuse

Now I'm just befuddled.

Posted by: Yoki | December 17, 2008 12:26 PM | Report abuse

As you should be. The Anthropic principle is an example of circular logic if taken too far.

Basically, the only thing we DO know is that life (us) can exist in this universe because there are stable physical laws (we hope) that permit atoms, molecules, complex chemistry, planets with stable-ish climates, complex chemistry, and so far we haven't wiped ourselves out just for being alive.

So in a way, to argue that the universe ought to be a way that would be completely antithetical to existence of any life, is just to argue what ain't.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | December 17, 2008 12:30 PM | Report abuse

A challenge to the Anthropic Principle lies in the fact that the Universe continually teaches us that we have inadequate imagination, both for what's out there/in here, and for how it all results in things you can see. For example, complexity and emergent phenomena have only recently become fields for their own study (meaning that complex systems with many moving parts display behaviors that are not easily predictable from an understanding of the interaction between a very small number of those moving parts). The Anthropic Principle argues that the Universe COULD have physical laws different from the ones that we experience, but only physical laws very close to what we actually experience could result in the chemical elements, chemistry, and so forth, that has resulted in us being here to talk about it. That argument suggests the possibility of childlike naïveté in our ability to envision the environment within a universe of alternative physical laws.

Posted by: ScienceTim | December 17, 2008 12:31 PM | Report abuse

I think I'll just go with Eddington:

Not only is the universe stranger than we imagine, it is stranger than we can imagine.

Posted by: Yoki | December 17, 2008 12:34 PM | Report abuse

I always view the anthropic principle is sorta like evolution. Throw enough stuff against the wall and then wait to see what sticks. It's a tautology actually - survival of that which survives. In the signal processing world this is called "matched filter processing."

Anyway, this linkage to evolution is more than just the result of a similar conceptual underpinning. It's part of the process. That is, we exist in our present form because all the other attempts at self-sustaining self-aware chemical systems failed to meet the stringent requirements of our environment. Just as the universe is just the stuff that stuck, so too are we.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | December 17, 2008 12:36 PM | Report abuse

A universe that is simultaneously unique and absurd.

Posted by: -tao- | December 17, 2008 12:37 PM | Report abuse

Maybe if I was really really high I might be able to wrap my head around this.

But then I'd forget it all as I munched on four bags of Doritos and contemplated my navel.

Posted by: martooni | December 17, 2008 12:38 PM | Report abuse

What ScienceTim said. I always thought the anthropic principle was a little too "Because we're here to say so" type of an argument, myself.

For instance, the minute I read an assertion that life couldn't exist in a universe where Planck's limit was too great and the universe too chaotic-- I disagreed.

I could visualize an universe with greater Heisenberg's uncertainity principle supporting life-- if subatomic particles could synchronize their uncertainity.

So, to an outside observer, the interaction would seem chaotic, but in fact they would be absolutely lockstepped with each other. In fact, such masses or energy waves would be difficult to detect, and might well pass through (or be deflected by) more ordinary, chaotic matter.

Of course, I stink at physics... but the whole point of having a concept of a universe is that there's something unifying all frames of reality, or else every planet might well be in its own universe, unaffected by suns, cosmic radiation, or the gravitational motions of anything else.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | December 17, 2008 12:41 PM | Report abuse

RD... so dark matter is the stuff that *didn't* stick?

I think I need another Irish coffee.

Or a nap. A nap would be good. ;-)

Posted by: martooni | December 17, 2008 12:42 PM | Report abuse

Thanks ScienceTim, RD, Tao - and I like Eddington too.

I think that dark matter and dark energy count as part of the stuff that sticks. I mean, we can see them. Okay, we can't see them. But we know they're there. Okay, we know that if they weren't there some other things either would be there or would be different, so it is as if they were there. So maybe dark matter and dark energy are somewhere in the interface between us and the wall, helping with the sticking.

Gosh. Look at the time. Time for lunch!

Posted by: Ivansmom | December 17, 2008 12:53 PM | Report abuse

Ivansmom - Wouldn't the Parenting Maxim of the Anthropic Principle be:

"...because I'M the Mommy, that's why!"


Posted by: DLDx | December 17, 2008 12:56 PM | Report abuse

The other thing about the anthropic principle, again in common with evolution, is that it doesn't dictate a mechanism. In the same way that Darwin was able to advocate the principle of evolution without being able to articulate the underlying mechanism of discrete genes, people can reasonably advocate the anthropic principle *even if* the underlying mechanism is unknown.

That is, just because we have not yet figured out the underling mechanics of universe formation does not invalidate the significance of the observed sensitivity of cosmic stability to certain parameters.

I mean, if one finds a centerpiece of molded ice cream that just happens to look exactly like a beautiful swan, it is probably worth noting the fact - even if nobody has yet found the mold.

To me the anthropic principle is almost self evident. That blowing on the dial of creation would result in an instable result implies that our existence is the successful result of multiple attempts.

This, to me, seems clear. The mystery is, again, the mechanism. Is the universe the result of multiple parallel creations, or is it simply a lucky shot after many, many failed attempts going back deeply into time?

I dunno.

Of course, one solution is to postulate that we really are just part of a cunningly realistic computer simulation (Although this just punts the underlying conundrum.)

Or, put more elegantly, (Although the same "punting" problem applies) maybe we really are just a notion in the mind of God.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | December 17, 2008 1:03 PM | Report abuse

Let's see. "I ask you to do X because X must be done, and as your mother I have authority over you, and if I were not your mother you would not exist [OR: if you fail to do X, thus failing to recognize my authority, your existence may change significantly if temporarily]. . ."

Yep, DLD, that might about cover it.

Posted by: Ivansmom | December 17, 2008 1:04 PM | Report abuse

thanks for that Martooni mmmmmmmmmmmm doritos

well it is up to 37 and everything is melting...yay......just hope it doesn't refreeze for the commute

Posted by: greenwithenvy | December 17, 2008 1:08 PM | Report abuse

This discussion of the anthropic principle misses the bigger point. At first glance, when faced with the vast array of fine-tuned biological constraints we observe in our universe (including the new findings on dark energy), intuition suggests that the universe was purposefully created to support life. So the question becomes (a) was the universe in fact created ex nihilo or (b) does it just *look* that way? We either are the product of some sort of unseen and unknowable "god"...or the result of an equally unseen and unknowable "god substitute"--the infinite multiverse. I don't claim to know the answer, but I can't think of a more profound question.

Posted by: psaronius | December 17, 2008 1:18 PM | Report abuse

One could argue the quantum-cosmological version of the tree-in-a-forest problem: if a universe happens and results in no one to observe it, did it happen?

Of course, our universe did a lot of happening before life on Earth arrived to notice it. Astronomical observation shows that the universe existed before it expanded and cooled enough for even an element as simple as hydrogen to exist, so nobody else was around to observe it, either. Carbon did not show up until the first generation of stars had the chance to form, do their thing, and go supernova, expelling their nucleosynthetic seed into the void. Assuming that the "observer" is any form of biological entity, we thus have solid evidence that the universe existed prior to any observer's existence to ratify it. Unless, of course, one assumes a NON-biological entity observing the existence of the universe. Science, however, does not go there.

A corollary problem: if a universe exists, but results in no observers to notice its existence, does it take any time to go from creation to destruction or dissolution?

Posted by: ScienceTim | December 17, 2008 1:20 PM | Report abuse

I always thought "dark matter" was the stuff inside those last three pieces of candy still left in a box of Whitman's Sampler that nobody wants.

I could be wrong.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | December 17, 2008 1:28 PM | Report abuse

I don't know about the rest of you, but me...I'm a Solipsist

Take that

Posted by: omnigood | December 17, 2008 1:30 PM | Report abuse

Aren't we all, omni, aren't we all.

I am a Stoic, I think. Or an Epicurean, or something.

Posted by: Yoki | December 17, 2008 1:39 PM | Report abuse

No, I've got it now, I'm a Cynic.

Posted by: Yoki | December 17, 2008 1:40 PM | Report abuse

Have yourself a solipsistic Christmas.
Give yourself some gifts.
Philosophic'ly, it's only you
that quite -- exists.
So, grant yourself, a solipsistic Christmas day!

Posted by: ScienceTim | December 17, 2008 1:41 PM | Report abuse

A friend just emailed me this link,he knows of my love for BOC,i have seen it before, but just wanted to share it with my imaginary friends.

What this universe needs is More cow bell!!!

Have a great day everyone

Posted by: greenwithenvy | December 17, 2008 1:43 PM | Report abuse

Someone hold omni down while I get someone to lance his solipsist.

Is there any alcohol in the place?

Posted by: russianthistle | December 17, 2008 1:59 PM | Report abuse

The Anthropic Principle has always struck me as something formulated in a dorm room with a visibility of about 36 inches. There has to be a better answer than "Just because."

Posted by: yellojkt | December 17, 2008 2:02 PM | Report abuse

Ladies and Germs of the Boodle, we have us an inaugural poet:

Inaugural Committee Selects Poet for Ceremony

By Michael E. Ruane
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 17, 2008; 1:26 PM

After a hiatus of more than a decade, poetry is returning to the inauguration of the American president.

The Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies announced today that Elizabeth Alexander, a prize-winning poet at Yale University who grew up in Washington, will read at the swearing in next month of president-elect Barack Obama.

It is the first time that "poetry's old-fashioned praise," as Robert Frost called it, will be featured at the ceremony since 1997.

Alexander, 45, would be only the fourth poet to read at a swearing-in after Frost, who read at John F. Kennedy's in 1961, Maya Angelou, who read at Bill Clinton's in 1993, and Miller Williams, who read in Clinton's second inaugural in 1997, according to government officials.

"Poetry is what you find in the dirt in the corner, overhear on the bus, God in the details," Alexander wrote in a poem entitled, Ars Poetica #100: I Believe. "Poetry (here I hear myself loudest) is the human voice, and are we not of interest to each other?"

Alexander, a professor of African American studies ... was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2005, and winner of the Jackson Poetry Prize last year. She is the daughter of former Secretary of the Army Clifford Alexander, who was an advisor to Obama during the campaign.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | December 17, 2008 2:02 PM | Report abuse

Drinking or rubbing, RT?

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | December 17, 2008 2:04 PM | Report abuse

You are probably right, Mudge. My mini-Heath bars are over a year old now and full of it.

I like it that the Solipsists, Stoics, and Cynics are chiming in to throw doubt on the anthropic theory.

If cats ruled, there would be a different theory. Not based on the question, "Who is the Chief-Monkey?"

The cats would probably have a whole different philosophical system. Based on fundamental questions we can barely understand, or would think silly.

"Where is the Tuna?"

Posted by: Jumper1 | December 17, 2008 2:04 PM | Report abuse

Finished back boodling and I want to extend my condolences. Matriarchs are important to have and hard to find. Since my grandmother died just over a year ago, nobody has filled the breach. I'm sorry for your loss.

Posted by: yellojkt | December 17, 2008 2:05 PM | Report abuse

Whitman's sampler--yum.
I always want the last pieces
But I'm not allowed.


Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | December 17, 2008 2:07 PM | Report abuse

If a tree poops in the woods and nobody is around to notice it, how many angels would you find dancing on the head of a pin and why the heck would they choose to dance there?

Twisted minds want to know.

Posted by: martooni | December 17, 2008 2:10 PM | Report abuse

Jumper, the tuna is on the Italian Navy sailing past Gibraltar.

Mudge, we need something to rub on our tonsils.

Posted by: russianthistle | December 17, 2008 2:12 PM | Report abuse

Here's a sample of her poetry.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | December 17, 2008 2:14 PM | Report abuse

My condolences on the loss of your aunt, Jack. My great-aunt passed away recently; we won't be able to attend her funeral.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | December 17, 2008 2:16 PM | Report abuse

Neat little animations of multi-star systems

Posted by: Jumper1 | December 17, 2008 2:21 PM | Report abuse

As promised, this was the Week That Really Shoulda Stood in Bed:

It was a fairly auspicious start, with a smooth departure from Dulles. We only had to endure a mid-sized roller-coaster ride into NukeSpouse’s Louisiana stomping grounds, as the tornadoes had been kind enough to develop to the south of our destination. The cold temperatures and wind chills, however, hung around for a couple of days. The dreary conditions were sadly appropriate, as we spent most of our time helping my MIL prepare the house for the arrival of my FIL home from several months in intensive care and rehab following his travails this summer. We did manage to see the Space Shuttle leaving town, riding its 747 carrier back to Florida. Impressive, even at a distance.

It was when we headed north to New Hampshire that the fun really began. Oh, the flight back to Dulles was smooth as silk, with two, count ‘em TWO, Santas on the plane. The flight attendants were particularly solicitous to the one with the longer beard – we heard two of them talking about giving him an upgrade to First Class! Due to a bit of overplanning, we had several hours before our next flight, so after a bit of lunch I thought I’d check in with the folks…

*ring ring*

Me: “Hi, Mom, how’re you doing?”

Mom: “I haven’t had power for hours; apart from that I’m fine!”

Seems all the news from the Blajo-sphere, the Madoff scandal, the auto bailout and all that had overshadowed any mention of the massive New England ice storm. As the layover continued, NukeSpawn also lost power, so we couldn’t stay there. What to do? Why, get a hotel room, of course! The several-hour head start the rest of New Hampshire had didn’t faze me in the least. The semi-major chains in NukeSpawn’s town were sold out, so I turned to the national reservation numbers…

To Be Continued…

Posted by: Scottynuke | December 17, 2008 2:21 PM | Report abuse

For CqP:

Posted by: russianthistle | December 17, 2008 2:26 PM | Report abuse

Back in September I found a debit card, at the time I told everyone it was a credit card. Through an internet search I was able to find a FaceBook page and left a message. The woman not only said it was a debit card, she also described the card to a t. When a returned the card she offered a $20 reward which I refused. So she bought me a drink and paid my tab.

The next night I stop in a local watering hole close to home and the bartender convinces me to stick around till 7 for a free raffle. While waiting two lovely young ladies come in. I scooch over a seat to make room for them. The more outgoing of the two asks if she can have one of my tater tots, and I say help yourself as I'm finished (they served me an entre instead of the side, and was way to much). These women are new teachers in town who met in college. They are on a budget so ordered the cheapest beers they could get. When they finished the tots and their beers they were debating whether to get another beer. I said you have to at least stick around another ten minutes or so for the raffle cause one of you are going to win something. They did. Two tickets to a Nationals game. Sweet. Another high five but no hug. As I was paying my tab I said to put their bill on me. Their total was exactly what mine was the night before. Amazing or what.

I said I had one request of them. That some day in the future, say twenty years from now, when they're having a girls night out and they see two youngsters like themselves today buying the cheapest beers in the joint, pick up their tab. They promised me they would.

Posted by: omnigood | December 17, 2008 2:30 PM | Report abuse

Then two Saturdays ago I stopped into one of my alternate brunch places and guess who's there. Yup, Lost Credit Card Girl. Maybe I'm just easily pleased, but it sort of made my day.

Posted by: omnigood | December 17, 2008 2:37 PM | Report abuse

Omni, I would have my day made too.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | December 17, 2008 2:49 PM | Report abuse

Joel Achenbach claims that:
"A corollary is that there are an infinite number of universes"

eh, no the multiverse is a part of a VARIANT INTERPRETATION of the physics from which the Anthropic OBSERVATION falls.

The Anthropic Principle was originally formalized by Brandon Carter as an ideological statement against the dogmatic non-scientific prejudices that scientists commonly harbor, that cause them to consciously deny anthropic relevance in the physics, so they instead tend to be willfully ignorant of just enough pertinent facts to maintain an irrational cosmological bias that leads to absurd, "Copernican-like" projections of mediocrity that contradict what is actually observed.

The observation makes a very powerful statement about a bio-oriented dynamical cosmological structure principle that is willfully ignored by scientists who use "anthropic selection" in conjunction with a multiverse to rationalize away the fact that scientists are too full of themselves to even consider the most apparent implications of the evidence.

Nothing has changed in 35 years of failure by the cutting-edge to account for the structure of the universe from first principles, and scientists should be ashamed of themselves for leading people to believe the ignorant crap that you read them saying about the AP on this blog.

Posted by: Ryals | December 17, 2008 3:06 PM | Report abuse

omni, please tell me at least one of those three chance encounters resulted in a night of passionate hot monkey sex.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | December 17, 2008 3:14 PM | Report abuse

OK, don't answer that. Let me just bask in the possibilities.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | December 17, 2008 3:15 PM | Report abuse

Jumper, if cats ruled the world, would the model be felinthropic?

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | December 17, 2008 3:18 PM | Report abuse

And when you say "scientists" in the above sentence:
You are 1) establishing yourself as a non-scientist and 2) sterotyping scientists as identical and interchangeable as photons.

"the dogmatic non-scientific prejudices that scientists commonly harbor, that cause them to consciously deny anthropic relevance in the physics."

We all have our own biases (not prejudices). This is why we have to focus on the facts, what can be independently checked and verified by people of all nations.

If in all that gasbagging you're saying that scientists seem to be denying evidence of God-- no, they're not. It's just simply not part of the scientific process as God by definition is immeasurable, outside and apart from the universe.

We do have to account for life somehow in our physical models, but life is extremely complex. It is a poor test case for the veracity of physics because simply put, there's too many ways to mess up the math.

We did fine in Newton's and Galileo's time not even trying to tie physics to life, just focusing on falling bodies and planetary motions.

If it had happened that we were some kind of magnetic life-form that stuck to the earth by electromagnetic fields, while other objects lacked such magnetic properties, would that have made the laws of gravity invalid? No, but if we had been intent on proving that all physical laws MUST apply the same to ourselves as to other objects, the laws of gravity might not have been discovered.

In short, it's OK to calculate the laws of physics without reference to the anthropic principle. If it's true, it will apply to life too, keeping in mind that there are many complex forces at work inside all living organisms.

And as somebody trained in biology, I say "big whoopee" to the anthropic principle once again.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | December 17, 2008 3:21 PM | Report abuse

I need an anthropic brain massage.

Posted by: Braguine | December 17, 2008 3:26 PM | Report abuse

Hey, Wilbrod_Gnome... Duhhhhhh... I didn't say it, Brandon Carter said it, (so educate your ignorant self BEFORE you open you opined mouth), because it is GENERALLY true about scientists, and no, the facts have nothing to do with god, but I see that you can find god anywhere, so have a nice religious experience.

Posted by: Ryals | December 17, 2008 3:30 PM | Report abuse

Introducing Klaus
Anthropic brain massager
Knead chop knead-- ten bucks!


Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | December 17, 2008 3:31 PM | Report abuse

I find Monkey sex to be a bit incestuous.

Doggie sex is OK though.

So is Papal sex.

Even numbered sex is OK if it's odd.

(Anyone scratching their head about that last one?)

I'll try to remember to tell the heart stopping paralysis story tomorrow. I'm off to Margarita land

Posted by: omnigood | December 17, 2008 3:31 PM | Report abuse

Only one of us gets to be a Solipsist and I choose me. But I will allow you to imagine that you are the only Solipsist.

Posted by: yellojkt | December 17, 2008 3:31 PM | Report abuse

What about good old-fashioned Mother Theresa sex?

Posted by: yellojkt | December 17, 2008 3:33 PM | Report abuse

And just an FYI, but I challenge the dogma of "cutting-edge" on this subject on a regular basis, and right where they live too, so bite me biologist:

Posted by: Ryals | December 17, 2008 3:34 PM | Report abuse

And then there is Oakley Annie sex.

Posted by: yellojkt | December 17, 2008 3:36 PM | Report abuse

Nice, if you think everybody who disagrees with you is ignorant, then I wish you well in your solipistic love life.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | December 17, 2008 3:36 PM | Report abuse

Whoops, that was a google link:

Posted by: Ryals | December 17, 2008 3:36 PM | Report abuse

yello!!!What the heck is wrong with you?


Posted by: omnigood | December 17, 2008 3:37 PM | Report abuse

Horridly off-kit but this is for RussionThistleDolphinMan and others:

1936 Christmas Comes But Once A Year classic:

Thanks, RT, for the Emmy Lou video.

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | December 17, 2008 3:38 PM | Report abuse

"Nice, if you think everybody who disagrees with you is ignorant"

What a refutation... NOT!

Posted by: Ryals | December 17, 2008 3:39 PM | Report abuse

Okay... so if the Pope poops in the pines...

Oh, never mind...

I'd still like to know why angels would want to dance on the head of a pin when there are much nicer places to shake a booty.

Posted by: martooni | December 17, 2008 3:49 PM | Report abuse

CqP, thank you very much for that cartoon link. So refreshing.

I was just reading "the Man with the blue Guitar."

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | December 17, 2008 3:54 PM | Report abuse

Ad hominem bites
Get dogs put down for being mean;
same goes here with trolls.


Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | December 17, 2008 3:56 PM | Report abuse

Rick [Ryals' first name], this doesn't look like the start of a beautiful friendship.

Remember, Santa's making a list.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | December 17, 2008 4:20 PM | Report abuse

Uh, trolls? Where? I would enter this ontological fray if I understood it, but as a newly converted solipsist I'm convinced that the whole argument is being created by my subconscious as a test of my beliefs.

Posted by: yellojkt | December 17, 2008 4:21 PM | Report abuse

Tontological? What's the Lone Ranger got to do with any of this?

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | December 17, 2008 4:23 PM | Report abuse

The Tarzan, Tonto and Frankenstein Christmas Special:

Posted by: yellojkt | December 17, 2008 4:26 PM | Report abuse

Insane solipsists
Hear millions of babbling voices
Deaf ones don't, thank self.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | December 17, 2008 4:27 PM | Report abuse

Here, I think everyone needs to watch this video/tune cootie. It'll put you in a much better mood.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | December 17, 2008 4:30 PM | Report abuse

Olives in Cheese Pastry

1/4 c. softened unsalted butter
1 c. finely grated sharp cheddar
1/4 c. finely grated fresh parmesan
1 c. all purpose flour

You can stop there or get creative, I add (about)

1/8 t. cayenne
1.5 t. Dijon mustard
1 t. or more Worchestershire sauce

Pulse in a food processor or just work with a wooden spoon until the pastry forms a soft ball.

Drain a 10 ounce jar of pimento-stuffed olives and let them dry on paper towels until they are quite dry.

Take a pinch of the pastry the same size as an olive, roll it into a ball between your palms, and make a thumb print in it (a cradle for the olive). Place the olive in the pastry and work the pastry with your fingers until the olive is completely encased.

Place the pastries on a greased cookie sheet (better yet, line the sheet with parchment paper) and bake in a 350 oven until they are golden brown and the pastry is cooked through, about 15 - 25 minutes.

These are Very Good with any libation (delicious with red wine!). They will keep in a cookie tin for about a week, a little longer if they are refrigerated. I warm them up in the oven just before serving, to crisp the pastry and bring out the cheese flavour.

This recipe appeared in Good Housekeeping or some similar periodical c. 1963 (minus the Yoki-spicing) and is still amazing.

#1 says it isn't Christmas without olive balls.

Posted by: Yoki | December 17, 2008 4:30 PM | Report abuse

Operator: “Hello, Flotel Mix, can I help you?

Me: “I need a room close to [NukeSpawn], what do you have?”

O: “I have rooms available [50 miles to the south].”

Me: “OK, I’ll take two for two nights.” (thinking that Mom and NukeSpawn could stay with us to facilitate other plans for the weekend – which shows you how little I was really thinking)

Of course, I should have been satisfied with that, but nooooooo…

Operator: “Hello, Blest Cistern, can I help you?”

Me: [see previous question]

O: “I have a room available [10 miles south of NukeSpawn].”

Me: (forgetting that location was still in N.H.) “I’ll take it!”

After calling the first chain and cancelling…

Me: “Hi Mom, we got a room and we’ll come pick you up after we land!”

Mom: “No no, don’t go to any trouble.”

Me: “Mom, you have no power and no heat!! Come with us!”

Mom: “NO.” (pregnant pause, to be explained later)

One delayed departure and further in-flight delays later, we get to Boston an hour late, which was compounded by glacial service at Fudge-It Car Rentals. Mom didn’t even want us to come up and retrieve the “winter clothes” we’d mailed to her to avoid checked bag fees, so off we went to the Blest Cistern location.

Which had candles in the windows and a “security” truck in the parking lot when we arrived.

We could see lights on the other side of the interstate, so I called the 800 number and cancelled the Blest Cistern and off we went to find shelter. The lights did lead to another hotel, but the harried clerk had no computers so you had to pay cash and anyway she couldn’t rent the rooms that others had checked out of because they were dirty and so I slowly walked back to the car.

To Be Continued Again...

Tonkalogical? Toy trucks?? What???


Posted by: Scottynuke | December 17, 2008 4:33 PM | Report abuse

And since #1 will be home on Friday (dancing in the streets and rejoicing throughout the household!) I'm off to make some now.

Posted by: Yoki | December 17, 2008 4:33 PM | Report abuse

SCC: The Week That Shoulda Stood in Bed, Part II:

Posted by: Scottynuke | December 17, 2008 4:35 PM | Report abuse

I prefer delicious Schweddy balls.

I am becoming the DNA Girl of SNL videos.

Posted by: yellojkt | December 17, 2008 4:36 PM | Report abuse

While I was driving home I thought of another possible mechanism for the stability of the universe. (This is why people don't like to drive with me.)

Now, like most of my insights this one is probably painfully familiar to folks who, you know, actually do this kind of stuff for a living, but here goes.

Perhaps instead of being the sole survivor of multiple attempts, maybe the universe is, or was, actually self correcting.

There exists many physical systems in which small deviations from stability are automatically corrected. Such systems include a ball at the bottom of a bowl, a ship with a heavy keel, and a clump of clay spinning on a potter's wheel. If these systems start to get out of whack, resulting in vibration, tipping, or other instability, the system automatically corrects itself. The ball falls back, the ship rights itself, the clay redistributes its mass so as to eliminate wobbling.

So maybe the universe has similar kinds of "positive feedback loops," or at least it did when it was young.

Of course, I don't have the foggiest idea what those self-correcting mechanisms might be. But there is something about this that I find oddly elegant. And, perhaps, more "parsimonious" than the multiple universe hypothesis.

Course, that doesn't make it true.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | December 17, 2008 4:39 PM | Report abuse

Re. Anthropy, from previous Boodling...

"...Firstly, didn't Einstein believe that his Cosmological Constant was the biggest mistake in his career, but was the only way to resolve Relativity with the Observable universe (what we could see of it back then). That fudge factor he applied (for lack of a better phrase) has turned out to be so close to the values we assign to it now, that one as to wonder if human Observation and belief in it has affected the Universe to the point where it's aligned itself with Einstein and human thought, rather than the other way around. Kinda QuantumMechanical in an Uncertain sense - and could be some sort of Cosmic hint from the Beyond. After all, Al criticized QM by saying that God does not play dice with the Universe, but wouldn't it be funny if it turned out that the game wasn't dice at all, but that He cheated at poker?



Posted by: -bc- | December 16, 2008 10:34 PM"


Posted by: -bc- | December 17, 2008 4:41 PM | Report abuse

When can I start throwing popcorn at the screen and yelling "Don't do it! You'll be sorrry!"

Posted by: yellojkt | December 17, 2008 4:45 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps the mechanism is a mold in the shape of a beautiful swan.

Posted by: Yoki | December 17, 2008 4:47 PM | Report abuse

Negative feedback loops are common in biology= that's when action A leads to action B that curbs action A (which tends to then stop action B, too.)

Positive feedback loops are rarer, since they tend not to contribute to homeostasis of the organism.

They're more like having sex or giving birth... Action A feeds Action B which keeps feeding Action A. It all escalates until it's no longer physically possible to do it anymore.

Positive feedback would have us headed to infinite expansion or until the universe ripped, depending on the physical parameters.

It's an interesting idea, RD.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | December 17, 2008 4:48 PM | Report abuse

RD, I've been working on something from last night and in a few spare moments today (like, in the shower) that addresses some of what you're talking about, and some of what Joel addressess, too.

But I have some things to do before buckling down on it...


Posted by: -bc- | December 17, 2008 4:51 PM | Report abuse

Ryals, I'm having a hard time interpreting what you say in your lengthy essay that you link, and here as well, because I can't seem to grasp the strategic point you are trying to make. At its base, I just want to know: do you think the Anthropic Principle is a useful eye-opener that encourages scientists to break free from unconscious bias, or do you think it is an exercise in self-congratulation that puts an exalted name to a vapid and untestable bit of metaphysics? I think it is not really possible to hold any significant opinion about the AP without choosing one of these sides; indifference is the same as electing to consider it meaningless. In your essay, I find your argument bouncing around so I can't really develop a coherent picture of the point that you are trying to argue.

What does come through is that you are rather angry and bitter. Speaking as a working physicist, albeit not having worked on cosmology since taking a class in the subject back in about 1988, it is hard to read a raging philippic that tosses out terms like "dogmatic" and "unable to add one and one" and find it terribly persuasive. Insult is not an effective mode of persuasion to your point -- although it is pretty effective in convincing me that the point with which you disagree has all the best arguments. In my experience, physicists and other scientists are among the least dogmatic of persons. Violating dogmatic prescription is something of a fetish with us -- every one of us would like to be the next Einstein, the next Newton, the guy who discovers the total game-changer that will make his name a blessing and a complement among his peers and successors for centuries to come. The problem is that what you malign as "dogma" stays as the standard mode of discussion in physics because it is a very, very successful description of observable reality. That is, if I have correctly grasped which things you were calling dogmatic. Frankly, you could stand to save your writing for a week or two, then go back to edit it with fresh eyes. You need to make it more concise and less prone to jargon and buzzwords.

Posted by: ScienceTim | December 17, 2008 4:54 PM | Report abuse

Tee hee. Wilbrod said "homeostasis."

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | December 17, 2008 4:54 PM | Report abuse

Ah, c'mon, Wilbrod. What a depressing thought.

Posted by: Yoki | December 17, 2008 4:55 PM | Report abuse

Tee hee. Wilbrod said "organism."

What? That's not dirty?


See? I did it again.

Posted by: yellojkt | December 17, 2008 5:02 PM | Report abuse

You're right. I forgot about the cigarettes after, Yoki.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | December 17, 2008 5:02 PM | Report abuse

The Week That Shoulda Stood in Bed, Part II:

Operator: “Hello, Flotel Mix National Reservations, can I help you?

Me: “What’s your closest hotel to [the dark Blest Cistern]?”

O: “There the one in [a city about a half-hour away]. It’s right off the interstate.”

Me: “OK, I’ll take the room. Do they have power?”

O: “Oh, yes sir. If they didn’t it would show up on my system.”

NukeSpouse: Get the local number!!

So I got the local number…

Operator: “Flotel Mix [City], can I help you?”

Me: “This is a stupid question, but do you have power?”

O: “No sir, that’s not a stupid question. We have no power, but I’m still giving rooms out even though we have no power and no heat.”

Me: “You should let your national reservations people know that. Thanks.”

*ring ring*

Me: “Hi Mom. [condensed version of above] We’ll be there in about an hour.”

Plenty of blankets were all NukeSpouse and I needed to stay warm. (raising a “shush” finger to ‘Mudge and bc) The next day, I assumed we needed to focus on the basics and started calling various family members to cancel the day’s plans for a sorta birthday/Happy Holidays lunch with Dad and NukeBro the Younger.

Then Mom woke up. (cue return of Part I’s pregnant pause)

“No no no!!! There’s a surprise I didn’t tell you! [NukeBro the Youngest] is driving all the way up [from midstate New York]!!!

*SIGHHHHH* So I bit my tongue, called everyone back, convinced them things were still on and went to pick up NukeSpawn. By the time we got back to Mom’s, NukeBro the Eldest had reserved a hotel room for us near the lunch site. Of course, they didn’t bother letting me know before we left NukeSpawn’s house, so she had no change of clothes.

Following a delightful lunch and a quick trip to the Dollar Store, we checked in and got cleaned up. Then it was time for Mom to treat us to dinner...

To be Continued Yet Again...

Posted by: Scottynuke | December 17, 2008 5:02 PM | Report abuse

I imagine such a self-correcting system would have pretty wide tolerance for imbalances, but not infinitely tolerance. So, using the potter's wheel analogy, at some point it's possible that there would so many sources of variation that it can't self-correct and the universe ends up looking like the salad bowls (in my youth it was ashtrays, but I'm sure they don't make those any more) kids in kindergarten bring home for Mother's Day.

Posted by: Yoki | December 17, 2008 5:04 PM | Report abuse

Positive feedback is fine if you're freezing to death. And RD, if I've thrown more pots than you I'd say there is no self-correcting wheel. But I haven't done too many. Like, 3.

The new fellow seemed to keep pointing to vague rants that refuse to clearly state their theses. How can one make sense of that? I can't even tell what he's fur or agin.

Posted by: Jumper1 | December 17, 2008 5:06 PM | Report abuse

Some Stoic humor (overheard at the Greek dry cleaner):



Posted by: yellojkt | December 17, 2008 5:06 PM | Report abuse

That guy has been here before, Jumper, and it's always the same.

So incredibly boring.

Posted by: Yoki | December 17, 2008 5:09 PM | Report abuse

I have a ham to bake, and a jar of cloves. I have honey and maple concoctions all ready to go. Unfortunately the ham is covered with skin. I'm laying down all pretense of know-it-all-ism. I grovel in my ignorance. What the heck do I do now? About the skin?

Posted by: Jumper1 | December 17, 2008 5:10 PM | Report abuse

I cut it off with a very very sharp knife, Jumper, and most of the thick layer of fat under the skin. Some people make cracklings out of it, but that's just asking for weight-gain and atherasclerosis, so I don't recommend the practice.

I've always thought a tiny little chainsaw like ice sculptors use would be perfect to get the skin off, but I'm sure you could wield a larger one to some effect. Power tools and cuisine, twice the fun!

Posted by: Yoki | December 17, 2008 5:14 PM | Report abuse

Oh, and you could dry some non-fatty pieces of skin in a low oven for a long time, as a chewy for your dog.

Posted by: Yoki | December 17, 2008 5:16 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: Scottynuke | December 17, 2008 5:18 PM | Report abuse

I like just a little crackling, once a year... but yes, you don't want to have a ton of crackling unless you can safely dispose of it.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | December 17, 2008 5:19 PM | Report abuse

I love the saga, Scottynuke, but oh, my, it can't have been any fun while it was happening.

Posted by: Yoki | December 17, 2008 5:20 PM | Report abuse

The Week That Shoulda Stood in Bed, The Final Chapter:

We were rather close to where the two oldest NukeBros graduated from college, so Mom wanted to take us to a renowned local eatery. Yes, it was open, newly renovated even.

I’d made reservations, so we were seated without delay. Directly in a noticeable draft.

But NukeSpawn got hot chocolate, the ladies had drinks, and I didn’t mind the breeze. I ordered the soup of the day, which was fine, and we all ordered hot entrees. Emphasis on “hot.”

That emphasis was lost somewhere between the kitchen and our table.

Oh, everything was cooked. My steak was the correct doneness, as was Mom’s prime rib. But none of the meals were really noticeably above room temperature. I asked to have my meal reheated, and it involved a large pat of butter on top of the steak. Even after “reheating,” the butter failed to melt. At least the manager was honest enough to adjust the check.

The happy ending is that as we were leaving, we got confirmation that Mom’s power had returned, so we headed right back the next day and finished up the “vacation” without further issues.

I plan to ask da Boss for a do-over in the very near future.

*pulling the covers over my head and weeping quietly* :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | December 17, 2008 5:21 PM | Report abuse

Coupla things...

About the kit. Oh. Okay. If you say so. (This is the type of thing that I'd ask 'will this be on the test?' and if yes, write down a couple or three things that jumped out at me, hope I got them in the right order and maybe snag partial credit. Of course, I didn't have a TA like S'Tim to attempt to bribe.)

Ivansmom, I think "I brought you into this world I'll take you out" is a close cousin to your 1:04.

Omni, that you are so easily pleased is totalling endearing. It's why women everywhere talk to/smile at you.

YJ, you're just out there, ya know? Ya got Mother Theresa and Annie Oakley, but no Flying Wallendas?

Posted by: LostInThought | December 17, 2008 5:22 PM | Report abuse

I wonder what other power tools we could bring into the kitchen? Acetylene torches to brulee are common knowledge, but I'm sure this fellowship could come up with a bunch of highly dangerous and unsuitable suggestions.

Posted by: Yoki | December 17, 2008 5:24 PM | Report abuse

Just watch a episode of "Tool Time" on Home Improvement for ideas, Yoki.

I suppose if you kept a side of beef in the freezer, you could break out the chainsaws to chip out a steak or two.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | December 17, 2008 5:40 PM | Report abuse


Thanks Parkian! I needed that cute stuff!

Off to Wed coffee meeting. Pick up my special orders via metro ... sure I will get sniffed.

Posted by: russianthistle | December 17, 2008 5:41 PM | Report abuse

SciTim: "Violating dogmatic prescription is something of a fetish with us"

Hey, buddy, this is a family blog.

Posted by: engelmann | December 17, 2008 5:55 PM | Report abuse

Violate dogmas?
Hey, just who done my mama--
I'm telling papa!


Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | December 17, 2008 5:59 PM | Report abuse

I have embarked on a course of ham action, and read the internet, as I should. In the process I found an intrepid blogger who thinks like I do:

I have some nonstandard tools in the kitchen. The first is the simple scissors which many never yet figured out. 1,000 uses and counting. I also use a large plastic bucket which has never seen anything except rising bread dough. It keeps it under wraps. Of course I use my coffee mill for many, many things besides coffee. Cinnamon, allspice, cumin seed, dried peppers, rosemary, oat flour from oatmeal, rice flour from rice, powdered sugar from granulated sugar, even fine whole wheat flour from coarse whole wheat flour. Cleaning it properly sometimes takes creativity. Grinding a couple tablespoons of rice or oatmeal will usually clean most unwanted previous spice debris. I have never used a box-cutter in the kitchen though I probably should. I use a brass brush to scrub vegetables. It's aggressive and I like it. No chainsaws.

Posted by: Jumper1 | December 17, 2008 6:01 PM | Report abuse

Jeepers. I do apologize for my posts. Not for what I said, but for how I said it. Heck, at least when I speak I stop to take a breath once in a while.

Well, usually.

bc - as you are clearly wise in the ways of cosmology, I am very interested in what you have to say on this.

ScottyNuke - Think of it as funny family memories of the future. The distant future.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | December 17, 2008 6:01 PM | Report abuse

No apologies, RD. I think we have the outline of what you meant to say.

We'll put the lapse between thought to word down to low blood sugar and bunny withdrawal. Get thee hence to correct both.

S'nuke, leastaways you'll have stories to tell your grandkids about the great ice storm of the 21st century Depression, when you practically had to crank your car under a mile of ice, and grandma was all worried about your brother having to drive through snow and ice in one of those dangerous SUVs.

Don't forget to throw in a few bears and wolves, just to get the kiddies trembling at Gramps the New Hampshire Mountain Man.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | December 17, 2008 6:08 PM | Report abuse

Yoki - Cookin' with Pa'r Tools is one of my favorite local access programs. The episode where Hank deboned that turkey using the oscillating transom saw with the rotary micro flange is my favorite.

Although it was unfortunate that he forgot to move his thumb.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | December 17, 2008 6:09 PM | Report abuse

I can't imagine what you find to apologize for in your posts, RD.

Jumper, we should cook together at a home-based BPH one day. That's my kind of equipment list. Ditto shears, ditto bread-pail. Add needle-nosed pliers (another 1001 uses), a second coffee mill used just for coffee (don't like spiced coffee unless I'm in the Middle East); a couple of rasps of various grades and, oddly enough, a grommet-setter which is surprisingly versatile. When I find a use for Wallace, he'll be there too.

Posted by: Yoki | December 17, 2008 6:15 PM | Report abuse

When is Paw Tools on?
(I stole the gnome's credit card.)
Let's buy cyborg hands!


Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | December 17, 2008 6:15 PM | Report abuse


Is there really such a show, RD? You made that up!

If you did not, someone has *got* to tape a burn of episodes for me, for a laugh.

Posted by: Yoki | December 17, 2008 6:17 PM | Report abuse

SCC: tape or burn a couple

Posted by: Yoki | December 17, 2008 6:19 PM | Report abuse

OK, I will stop Boodle-hogging, once I ask TBG for a day-three job report.

TBG, may we please have a day-three job report?

Posted by: Yoki | December 17, 2008 6:34 PM | Report abuse

Well, if that show doesn't exist it otta.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | December 17, 2008 6:46 PM | Report abuse

Scottynuke...have enjoyed reading your saga and realized I'm not the only one camped out under the covers. You definitely need another, possibly warmer visit. Too bad I didn't get to meet you and your wife. Next time...which may be sooner than later. Aggghhhhhh.

Thanks, Yoki and Ivansmom for your lovely words. It'll all get better...everything does if one waits long enough. One good thing that has happened is that I visited with my younger brother whom I hadn't seen in many years. See? Something good.

Okay, back to doom and gloom.

Posted by: Windy3 | December 17, 2008 6:48 PM | Report abuse

Windy3, my #2 daughter shared this with me a couple of days ago. It may be a Desiderata-type meme, but it still struck me as worthwhile:

Everything will be all right in the end.
If it is not all right, it is not the end.

Posted by: Yoki | December 17, 2008 6:56 PM | Report abuse

Day Three Report... I love my job... I really do. The people are incredibly nice and the work is interesting and fun. Lunch was delicious, as usual.

Tomorrow you all must join me for virtual lunch. I recommend the delicious chicken and pasta I had today, with a small Caesar salad. How many places should I set a the table?

Posted by: -TBG- | December 17, 2008 7:11 PM | Report abuse

I like that, Yoki. Thanks!

Great news, TBG. It sure is nice to like what you are doing and get paid for it.

Posted by: Windy3 | December 17, 2008 7:29 PM | Report abuse

I see a screenplay in your future! A Christmas Classic for sure. (Think Trains, Planes, Automobiles). Sure, add some over-the-top embellishments, and children of all ages will be chortling for Christmas Futures forever.

(I just want a small finder's fee....)

Posted by: rickoshea0 | December 17, 2008 7:31 PM | Report abuse

Count me in, TBG! 11:45 or thereabouts?

The story of my day:

Third Dottir brought the boys to the house and we fed them in anticipation of seeing Santa. The cute plaid sneakers didn't make it, though; they kept kicking them off. Oh well. We had lunch with Elder Dottir. Both boys were well behaved, as they had lots of new people to look at and were being fed fruit stars and avocado. When we went to look for Santa, he was on break for lunch.

We shopped a bit, then went back and got in line. Santa was late coming back, which gave W to fall asleep in the stroller. P was his usual perky self and enjoyed all the other kids around.

Santa was cool, real white hair and long beard, and a VERY southern accent. Neither boy fussed, but W was still sleepy so he didn't smile. Their mama is happy with the pictures, which is all that matters. P cried for the first time when I put him in his carseat, but they both were so tired they were asleep by the time they dropped me off at home.

Posted by: slyness | December 17, 2008 7:51 PM | Report abuse

Love the Santa report, slyness. Those precious boys!

I don't think I ever took my kids to see Santa. Can't think why, except that we were so poor I was terrified to spend a penny for the pictures. Well, also #1 was extremely slow to warm to strangers, from day 1, so perhaps I was being considerate.

Or, just maybe, my slacker-mom tendencies are yet again blatantly on display.

Posted by: Yoki | December 17, 2008 8:20 PM | Report abuse

And now, a Cosmic Hippo baby!

Posted by: DNA_Girl | December 17, 2008 8:34 PM | Report abuse

You just made me realized I'm a failed parent too Yoki, the kids never sat on a shopping center's Santa's lap. The daycare they went to had a great Santa though. He took the time to calm down nervous kids. I may even have a picture or too.
My attempt at being Santa was a miserable failure; Witch no.1 did an "Invasion of the Body Snatchers"-style pointing at my shoes screaming "C'est Papa!"
Clever girl she was.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | December 17, 2008 8:40 PM | Report abuse

That's right, Shriek. We look at these fabulous young women and just *know* we could have done better with a little more effort. LOL You did fine.

She is a very clever girl, though.

Posted by: Yoki | December 17, 2008 8:46 PM | Report abuse

First Jack so sorry about your aunt.

Scotty, hope you get your do over, after seeing some pictures of the ice storm - glad all are safe if not well rested after a lovely vacation.

This weekend will be the annual visit to Santa, we have gone most years, a couple of years are missing due to the screaming that began as we approached Santa. The eldest will probably refuse to go in a year or two so need to enjoy the time we have to get a picture of them all with Santa.

Posted by: dmd2 | December 17, 2008 8:47 PM | Report abuse

I once dressed as Santa for my nieces and nephews,my brother thought it would be a good idea.Well when I came in the door,you would of thought I was dressed as the devil or something,each kid let out there own shriek of terror and my Nephew(now in AFA)hit me in the head with a baseball.Thank goodness he was only 5 at the time. We finally got them calmed down and Uncle gwe took off his beard so each kid could tell santa what they wanted.

we never attempted that again.....

Posted by: greenwithenvy | December 17, 2008 8:54 PM | Report abuse

You know, I'll have to ask if the dottirs remember being taken to see Santa. I don't recall any visits but we all know about my memory. I'm pretty sure we don't have any pictures of them with Santa. That just wasn't a tradition with us.

Posted by: slyness | December 17, 2008 9:06 PM | Report abuse

Jeez gwe, at least the kids (mine, my brother's and my sisters') didn't beat me up.
The shoes, the shoes. Guys always get caught because of the shoes. We are genetically shoe-impaired.

BTW, I am aghast at the Madoff thing. A 50 billion Ponzi scheme spread over 30 years. Come on people, someone was asleep at the switch. It makes Lord Black of Cross Harbour look like a model citizen.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | December 17, 2008 9:19 PM | Report abuse

More on the announced death of Newspapers: the Incredibly Shrinking Washington Bureau.

The WaPo will become THE source of info on Washington?

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | December 17, 2008 9:40 PM | Report abuse

LOL, greenwithenvy. Sorry, I should not laugh, that was probably painful and left a donut-shaped bruise, but it *is* a funny story.

Not to mention that you scarred your young relatives for life.

You were sort of the Tom Lehrer of Santas! "If any of my recordings has inspired one person to strike a loved one, my life's work is complete."

Posted by: Yoki | December 17, 2008 9:54 PM | Report abuse

Someone sent me off on a youtube search tonight and I found this, music that gives me chills, Yo-Yo Ma playing Gabriels Song from the movie The Mission, a soundtrack I adore.

Posted by: dmd2 | December 17, 2008 10:08 PM | Report abuse

SCC Gabriels Oboe, short term memory failure again.

Posted by: dmd2 | December 17, 2008 10:08 PM | Report abuse

dmd2 gave gifts and
did not kill the Boodle.
It's only restin', awake!

Posted by: FaultyFlapperValve | December 17, 2008 10:56 PM | Report abuse

What do you think: Darth Vader vs. Lord Voldemort?

I think Vader would win -- he don' need no steenkin' stick to do his magic, man, he just waves his hand and Voldemort is stickless. Wave his hand agaian, and Voldemort's stuck in some crummy little spaceship (Darth clearly has superior technology). One more wave and it's on a collision course for the nearest star (Darth is sophisticated -- he understands nuclear fusion). I don't care how many Horcruxes Voldy has back on Earth, stuck inside a star is stuck inside a star. Man, that's *gotta* hurt.

Oh, wait. What were we talking about?

Posted by: ScienceTim | December 17, 2008 11:21 PM | Report abuse

I'm going with Vader.

The thing we know about Voldemort is that he's really weak, it is the fear he induces in others that gives him his power. And once we let people hold that power over us, we're sunk.

So I'm going with Vadar, who is a genuinely scary guy.

Five bucks says Vadar wins.

Though, strangely (creepily!), neither of them have noses. Not, like, real cartilage. What does that tell us? Nose-envy motivates dark lords?

Posted by: Yoki | December 17, 2008 11:27 PM | Report abuse

Of course this is the best of all possible worlds, at least for humans; otherwise we wouldn't be around.

The anthropic principal produces some interesting speculation from this mundane start.

NYT has "Patient voices: restless leg syndrome". Lynne Kaiser is utterly articulate about the mental consequences.
Marge Fuhr does poesy. Like me, she's reluctant to go out at night. Doug Fuhr's observations on sleep deprivation are accurate.

Joseph Kenney's sleeplessnes must seem nearly unbelievable, but then again I've been remodelling the kitchen as late as 5 am. All-night ultramarathon?

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | December 17, 2008 11:28 PM | Report abuse

links, DotC?

Posted by: Yoki | December 17, 2008 11:32 PM | Report abuse


SCC: Vader

Posted by: Yoki | December 17, 2008 11:34 PM | Report abuse

RIP, Slingin' Sammy Baugh, legendary Redskins quarterback, age 94, and in the opinion of Dan jenkins (whom I recvere), "the greatest quarterback who ever lived." Played 16 years for the Skins, 1937-1952, and led them to the championship in his rookie year.

From the obit at

"When he jogged onto the practice field for his first meeting with Redskins Coach Ray Flaherty, their encounter would endure in the oral memorabilia of Baugh legend.

"They tell me you're quite a passer," the coach is said to have observed, handing Baugh a football.

"I reckon I can throw," Baugh reportedly answered.

"Let's see it. Hit that receiver in the eye," said Flaherty, pointing to a man running down the field.

"Which eye," said Baugh.

'Night, Boodle.

Posted by: Curmudgeon- | December 17, 2008 11:39 PM | Report abuse

Goodnight, Curmudgeon.

Posted by: Yoki | December 17, 2008 11:42 PM | Report abuse

Who in the world schedules flights to Atlanta at 6 am? Oh, the humanity.

Posted by: yellojkt | December 18, 2008 4:42 AM | Report abuse

'Morning, Boodle. Pretty quiet overnight. And not much doing on the front page, either. So without further ado, let the bugler sound "Reveille." I'll put the coffee on. See you in the Ready Room shortly.

Posted by: Curmudgeon- | December 18, 2008 5:34 AM | Report abuse

yello, the early flights are for people who want to get there early...

'morning all. This business of waking before the morning shows have started on the radio has to stop.

"On Wall Street, Bonuses, Not Profits, Were Real" I am shocked, totally flabbergasted.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | December 18, 2008 5:36 AM | Report abuse

God loves us so much more than we can imagine through Him that died for all, Jesus Christ.

Good morning, friends. Jack, so sorry to hear about your aunt. It has been a rough year for you and your family. My prayer is that the new year will bring joy and much happiness.

As for the kit, I draw a blank. I do have a question, and probably not a good question because one needs to understand the kit in order to ask a decent question, but, hey, here it goes, aren't any conclusions about dark energy or the physics in all this basically limited to man's knowledge of such? I mean we can only go as far as our little minds will take us? Yet there may be just oodles of stuff out there that we haven't even touched or have any idea about. And even if we throw stuff on the wall and go with what sticks, there are limitations there too, right? Stuff that is sort of beyond us? Would using humanity as the yardstick bring a good conclusion? Is it foolproof? If not, then there is more to the onion, right? Guess what, I'm not drinking again, even if it sounds like I am.

Okay, that's the laugh for the day. Have a great day, folks. The weather here is still icky.

Mudge, Slyness, Scotty, Martooni, Yoki, and everyone, good morning.*waving*

Time to swim.

Posted by: cmyth4u | December 18, 2008 5:48 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, you all.

Good to read of your adventure, Scotty, and good that you and NukeSpouse returned no worse for the experience. Families are so important for as long as we have them, clearly yours' are blessed.

Marc Fisher has a nice tribute to John Warner this morning:

Some will say it's sad to see Senator Warner leave, but I say it's good to see him leave with dignity, to leave when he is still standing and can enjoy himself doing whatever suits his fancy after so many years in the senate. John Kerry has dibs on his office space once Warner moves out, so it goes our halls of Washington.

Posted by: VintageLady | December 18, 2008 5:49 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, Boodlers!

Quite a bit going on on the six o'clock, sort of like increased pressure on tectonic plates. Dollar takes serious hit, no support for US proposal in UN over Somalia, Georgian army in a mess, Russia becoming more influencial. Little thinggies created by Bush's ineptness.

Italian Navy, runs gourmet anti piracy cruise (NYT).

Have a good days, everyone.


Posted by: Braguine | December 18, 2008 6:29 AM | Report abuse

Smiling and wondering of the collective age of the dawn patrolers?

Maybe we just savor the dawn a little more?

Posted by: VintageLady | December 18, 2008 6:49 AM | Report abuse

That wasn't a reference to my running Italian Navy joke from yesterday, was it?

Posted by: russianthistle | December 18, 2008 7:21 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, all. One more week till the Big Day! I still have to wrap, but I normally put that off till a couple of days before Christmas. (Yes, wrapping paper and lots of it!)

Cloudy and 49 in the mountains this morning.

Posted by: slyness | December 18, 2008 7:40 AM | Report abuse

Feels lucky to see one more VL?

The amount of money taken by those financiers, up to 6 months before the predictable debacle, make my eyes water.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | December 18, 2008 7:42 AM | Report abuse

Morning all!

VintageLady, it's nice to see you. I admire John Warner. I haven't always agreed with him, but for the most part I think he uses his head and his heart and does what he thinks is right. John Kerry may be getting his office, but it's nice that the name plates and vote-calling will remain the same ("Senator Warner?").

My mom absolutely loved Slingin' Sammy Baugh. He was considered a hero and beloved character in our house. Good ol' Number 33.

Off to find the Banana-nut cereal and coffee. Did anyone remember to replenish the half and half?

Posted by: -TBG- | December 18, 2008 8:02 AM | Report abuse

*setting-dynamite-under-massive-piles-of-paperwork-to-clear-space-for-a-busy-day-of-catching-up Grover waves*


Posted by: Scottynuke | December 18, 2008 8:07 AM | Report abuse

VL - your comment about the Dawn Patrol made me laugh. When I was in college I used to visit my maternal grandparents in the Palm Springs area. My grandfather used to always get up at 6:00 and berate me for my indolent desire to sleep in later.

Of course, he also spent much of the early afternoon snoring in his easy chair.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | December 18, 2008 8:08 AM | Report abuse

Jack, I’m sorry to hear about your aunt. Scotty, that was some great vacation you had. There are some people in MA and NH who still don’t have power and we have a big snowstorm coming tomorrow afternoon. I think we will have a white Christmas for sure. They are even talking about a storm on Christmas Eve. I hope it either comes earlier or later as it will make a mess of people’s plans, including mine.

I don’t understand the Kit and I’m too busy to try to think it through. I’d like to think that I’ll ponder it later, but I’m sure it will get lost in the shuffle of other things I wish I had more time to think about.

Posted by: badsneakers | December 18, 2008 8:09 AM | Report abuse

Cassandra - That's a very profound question, and related directly to why I believe atheism is an indication of hubris. There is no possible reason why the universe should be entirely within the limits of human understanding. Nor should we assume that what makes sense to us means it is true.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | December 18, 2008 8:18 AM | Report abuse

I really like that quote from Obama. "Happy List" indeed. This kind of ironic appreciation of adversity is a good sign. It indicates a healthy mind.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | December 18, 2008 8:21 AM | Report abuse

One of my favorite blogs, The Sneeze, finally has a new post. Yoki will like his admission that he rarely recognizes pure happiness while it's happening (while that's the opposite of Yoki's feelings, I think she'll appreciate that he recognizes this).

Anyway... the story is hilarious. You'll have to click on the links about Christmas morning with his young son...

Posted by: -TBG- | December 18, 2008 8:28 AM | Report abuse

RD, your thought about atheism being hubris: profound and fascinating! I've always assumed there is much in life that I'm incapable of understanding.

The wonderful thing about Achenblog (besides the friendships) is how much it has pushed back my ignorance. But I'm okay with knowing that I don't know it all and never will. That's a benefit of faith, I suppose.

Posted by: slyness | December 18, 2008 8:57 AM | Report abuse

Morning Boodle, Cassandra.

The extreme cold continues, which is a perfect excuse to spend a lot of time in the kitchen, producing delicious treats for people I love.

Today, mince and taffy tarts, lemon squares, and the early prep for #1's homecoming dinner tomorrow.

Isn't it Waugh who, in Brideshead Revisited, notes the profound indolence of youth?

And now, somewhat like Ophelia, I shall get me to a scullery.

*performs a graceful curtsy along with Grover waves*

Posted by: Yoki | December 18, 2008 9:03 AM | Report abuse

I appreciate RD's thoughtful stance toward the universe and the limits of our knowingness; and, of course, that there is truth in what he says that the hugeness of the night and the smallness of our selfs means that faith can be a rational response, even though the act of faith is faith and not reason.

Read Soren Kierkegaard for more on this; but I warn you: tis dark and plodding in many places.

Off to Student Rescue etc. Cannot log in from work save under my real, can lurk but not join in.

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | December 18, 2008 9:04 AM | Report abuse

For you LostInThought


Posted by: omnigood | December 18, 2008 9:14 AM | Report abuse

Realize, as I have expounded pedantically before, that I am not defending faith per se. I am just saying that it is rational to assume that we can't understand everything in the universe intellectually. So if someone wants to believe that which is incomprehensible there is no way to disprove their assertions.

Where I differ with many is in the assumption that this kind of belief makes one morally superior. I don't belief faith is necessary for living a virtuous life. Sometimes virtue really is its own reward.

But we have drifted far afield from the Anthropic Principle here, which, again I don't see as especially mysterious or metaphysical.

And thank you Yoki for that most ladylike curtsy. I bow in your direction.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | December 18, 2008 9:22 AM | Report abuse

RD, I did not mean to take what you said and POUNCE REJOICE with the A HAH of this proves faithiness.

I simply meant that your stance is wide enough to include room for the "reasonableness" of a faith response to the wide and wonderful and hugeness of it all.

(I expect you know that, but wanted to go on record.) To balance, I would say that despite my belief, I understand the reasonableness of unbelief or unsurity or other stances.

I think that suffering in the world -- part of the fabric -- makes faith very hard, etc.

Now, really off to students where I will speak of none of this...

"Place a comma here, to help your audience understand your train of thought...."

"Hmm. Do you really need a sentence that wraps over five lines?"

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | December 18, 2008 9:30 AM | Report abuse

You've taken the wind out of my sails, RD :) I will delete without posting my comment that begins,

"Hubris! That's strong language..."

And thus, the Boodle is spared another of Yoki's pagan rants. It really is Christmas!

Posted by: Yoki | December 18, 2008 9:30 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, Boodle. Various random things on my mind this morning.

I liked this article on Obama's speechwriter: It's cool to see the inner workings a little bit, and speaking of writing, Eli Saslow does ok himself.

I read the Slate article about the end of newspapers earlier, and I liked it fine, but I didn't agree with the entire list of items and industries that had fallen to the advancement of technology. Specifically, I believe that the postal service is doing just fine in the age of the internet. People don't mail letters all that much, but they sure do order things online that need to be transported to them.

Speaking of online ordering, I have found Christmas/Chanukah shopping somewhat frustrating in my new little town, but I've ended up with a few good local things and filled in the holes with the internet. Still one thing to do, though. It turns out that there is no place in town or within a reasonable drive to get a pretty cover put on a dissertation. Just cheapo course pack-type covers. I was about to say that I hoped Kinko's could do it quickly once we get to my parents', but I just realized that I can probably order that online, too -- I've got the pdf, after all -- and pick it up when I get there. I'll have to check that out. I kinda wish I didn't feel obligated to give my parents a copy, because my dad will read the whole thing and comment, and even though his comments will be thoughtful, I just know I'll get defensive. Gotta restrain myself. I know he'll like getting it as a gift, and that's what gift-giving is about, right?

Thanks to everyone who posted links last night -- I couldn't sleep for a while, and they made for good listening/reading. Thanks also to kb for your links earlier, especially the Michael Lewis one. Scary and depressing, but good reading.

I'd join the Dawn Patrol, except that it's well past dawn, and besides, it's all foggy here this morning, and I'm not flying in that. Can I still scrounge the leftovers in the ready room?

Posted by: -bia- | December 18, 2008 9:35 AM | Report abuse

I think this whole concept of anthropism, along with the findings about dark energy (it "shouldn't" have that weak a charge) points up that there is going to a lot that is unkownable, and perhaps even unimaginable. From Einstein on, physicists have been groping for the unified field theory. Albert proposed a cosmic constant to try and make his calculations work out, then discarded it. Now it appears that it really was there as the dark matter/dark energy concept. We take the best of what we do know and work with it. I doubt that we are ever going to come up with the answer to life, the universe, and everything. Yeah, I know, it's 42, but what was the method of calculation?

Posted by: ebtnut | December 18, 2008 9:51 AM | Report abuse

Just finished reading the von Drehle piece on Obama--I think everyone should read it.

I learned a lot yesterday: about the Huron carol (which I am listening to right now), and the Coventry carol, neither of which I'd ever heard of (but then, this is pretty far away from my general areas of interest and expertise). Neverhteless, I especially like the notion of a Native American re-telling and recasting of the nativity story. This particular link -- -- has it in a faster (in my view "better") tempo, and sung first in the Huron language (called Wendat), then French, then English. I even like the bit of art work that accompanies it. Most of the other YouTube versions are sung by traditional choirs, and I have difficulty making out the lyrics -- as well as staying awake. But the Huron version is up-tempo and much more comprehensible (to me). The singer is a Canucki from Toronto named Heather Dale, who specializes in Celtic and folk music.

For these a very large thank you, CqP. I never fail to learn new things from you. (And to dmd for a link to the Dale/Huron version, tho' I stumbled on it myself last night independently. Here is the link again, just in case: ) (And oh, what a heck, a link to Heather Dale, too: She has it on a CD of hers called "This Endris Night" at http[colon]//www[dot]heatherdale[dot]com/music/TEN[dot]php along with the Coventry carol and some other interesting stuff.)

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | December 18, 2008 9:55 AM | Report abuse

New Kit!

Posted by: Yoki | December 18, 2008 9:58 AM | Report abuse

TBG - what a great link to the sneeze, very sweet. I do love those moments when I realize that life doesn't get any better.

bia - here's to hoping that your dad just busts open with pride when he reads your dissertation. I bet he will. Congratulations on sending it off.

Here's Andrew's thoughts on the Obama's Rick Warren pick for the inauguration.

I'm a little conflicted by it myself, but I did love the part in Obama's speech that night in Chicago when he said "to those of you whose vote I didn't earn". I thought it was a classy way to try to bring the country together. So, I guess I'll just try to listen to Warren without getting cranky.

Posted by: Kim1 | December 18, 2008 10:03 AM | Report abuse

New kit.

Posted by: Jumper1 | December 18, 2008 10:58 AM | Report abuse

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