Tuesday, September 8, 2015

A marble index (a prism and silent face) is all very well, but if your mind is for ever voyaging through strange seas of thought, alone, it is a good idea to also take a GPS and a rescue beacon in case of getting lost

We are familiar with the concept of "existential threat" at the Riddled Research Laboratory, for we often hear it from angry picketers outside the gates of our High-Energy Jargon Accelerator facility, where they mingle with bill collectors.

The objective of the HEJA is to accelerate parts of speech and bang them together at high enough velocity to recreate the conditions of the Big Babel, and restore the broken symmetry between strong and weak verbs in a veritable neologasm of fresh verbal coinage... all harmless enough... but if you listen to those sky-is-falling alarmists, you'd think that our search for the God Participle runs the risk of destroying the meanings of words altogether. To which I reply "Calenture fritillary omicron flange."
Right: Jargon
Left: Not jargon
"Is it about a bicycle?"
This is Riddled, so yes oh best beloved, that was a good guess (or a lucky one) -- it is always about a bicycle.

More specifically, it is about Otto Rössler's desire to lower a frictionless rotating bicycle wheel into the gravity well of a neutron star. Partly to prove a point about the conservation of angular momentum under time dilation requiring changes in spatial scale, but mainly to impress the exotic-matter life-forms occupying the surface of the neutron star with our superior technology. It is apparently in the way of a Gedanken-experiment, showing once again that Gedanken-experiments are a terrible idea; the suffering they inflict on the Gedankens is inexcusable when the results do not generalise to humans.

Rössler has written repeatedly about the bicycle wheel -- on his blog, and in the European Scientific Journal, and in IJTRA -- where the last two are scammy hosting services which desperate or gullible academics pay to put their manuscripts on-line and call them "peer-reviewed papers". It appears to be related to his Telemach Theorem, and the less Homeric Olemach Theorem; between them they establish the hitherto-novel discoveries that the speed of light is a constant, and that all black holes are infinitely far away, and that Steven Hawking is WRONG about small black holes decaying rapidly through quantum evaporation. And therefore the Earth faces the EXISTENTIAL THREAT of immanent annihilation by engulfment by the mini-black holes which the Large Hadron Collider will create.

Rössler's career (see the Whackyweedia) gives an impression of having been the work of English comedy script-writers.
in August 2001 he was caught defacing the university auditorium with spray paint in an attempt to draw attention to his protests
He established the point that universities cannot compel tenured scholars to undergo psychological evaluation, which may only be binding under German law, but is still a helpful legal precedent for the rest of us.

Now his blog is hosted at the Lifeboat Foundation, which has not recently received the honour of attention from Riddled. It exists to foster research into ways of countering Existential Threats to Human Survival; to prepare us for Nanotech, and Hostile Artificial Intelligence, and Camus pointing his rifle at Arabs on the beach in a decidedly menacing fashion. Reassuringly, 'Climate Change' is not among the Foundation's concerns (nor is the HEJA) so we know that neither one is really a threat to civilisation after all. Given Rössler's particular enthusiasm, he serves as an advisor on the Particle Physics sub-committee, working to avoid Earth's demise through gravitational collapse.*

What concerns us here is Rössler's most recent, magisterial entry, with its matchless potential to turn the reader's gravity into levity:

Is it Ethical to heal a young white Elephant from his physiological Autism?

[Betteridge's Law may apply].
[Thanks Neuroskeptic]
Apparently the Elephant in the Corner of the Room is there because it's autistic. It is probably hiding from those blind men. If cured of autism, however, the elephant has the potential to lead the world into a new era of Aquarius-themed universal love and comity; and the way to cure it is through the use of infrasound to ensure that it bonds and socialises with humans rather than with other elephants, and goes through the process of 'personogenesis' and learns to speak.

I think that's the gist, anyway, as the article is 90% digressive, with little in the way of a central narrative for these digressions to return to, interspersed with personal anecdotes. Neuroskeptic's summary may help. If there is a point, it is the hope that the imaginary talking white elephant -- by channeling the moral authority of Leo Szilard and Nelson Mandela -- can persuade the nuclear physicists at CERN to rethink their dangerous meddling with THE FORCES OF NATURE, where human and dolphin interventions have proven inadequate. "Smile-blindness" comes into it as the cause of human autism, which might make sense to Mirror-Phase psychologists (Winnicott, Lacan) and existential philosophers like Merleau-Ponty, but this is not a great recommendation, and I cannot think of any Existential Threat jokes involving Merleau-Ponty.
In 1975, a causal therapy applicable at a young age was proposed (Rossler, 1975). Gregory Bateson (personal communication 1975) and Niklas Luhmann (Luhmann, 1977, 1984) supported it. Jürgen Habermas’ only criticism concerned the fact that an illegally printed edition of his book had been quoted. Noam Chomsky showed interest in a long phone conversation. Konrad Lorenz said he appreciated it but it was “too difficult” for him to fully understand. No professional ever tried the therapy out or quoted it. For a review, cf. Ref. (Rossler, 2004).
This is perhaps the first paper I have seen that includes a request to the fourth author ("Anonymous Student" -- "young last author sitting in the audience") to contact the first author and
please reveal your name.
Rössler's next Gedanken-experiment will involve lowering a super-intelligent Uplifted non-autistic elephant into the well of a neutron star, suitably armoured against the vacuum and radiation, and riding a bicycle.

* The full list of Lifeboat board members rewards closer scrutiny. They have enlisted Pamela "Atlas" Geller to serve on the Diplomacy subcommittee, brainstorming ways in which the threat posed by Diplomacy can be countered. Glenn Reynolds provides expertise in Space Settlement. The New Money-Systems board has attracted most enthusiasm; good luck with your Bitcoin Endowment Fund.


ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

The presence of Pammalammadingdong on board is enough to convince me of whatever they're selling.

Smut Clyde said...

There are a lot of perfectly sane people there as well.