March 10th, 2009

The role of failure

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You can't possibly get a good technology going without an enormous number of failures. It's a universal rule. If you look at bicycles, there were thousands of weird models built and tried before they found the one that really worked. You could never design a bicycle theoretically. Even now, after we've been building them for 100 years, it's very difficult to understand just why a bicycle works - it's even difficult to formulate it as a mathematical problem. But just by trial and error, we found out how to do it, and the error was essential.[6]


Science and religion are two windows that people look through, trying to understand the big universe outside, trying to understand why we are here. The two windows give different views, but they look out at the same universe. Both views are one-sided, neither is complete. Both leave out essential features of the real world. And both are worthy of respect.

Trouble arises when either science or religion claims universal jurisdiction, when either religious or scientific dogma claims to be infallible. Religious creationists and scientific materialists are equally dogmatic and insensitive. By their arrogance they bring both science and religion into disrepute. The media exaggerate their numbers and importance. The media rarely mention the fact that the great majority of religious people belong to moderate denominations that treat science with respect, or the fact that the great majority of scientists treat religion with respect so long as religion does not claim jurisdiction over scientific questions.[31]


Weinberg's statement is true as far as it goes, but it is not the whole truth.To make it the whole truth, we must add an additional clause: "And for bad people to do good things—that takes religion." The main point of Christianity is that it is a religion for sinners. Jesus made that very clear. When the Pharisees asked his disciples, "Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?" he said, "I come to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance." Only a small fraction of sinners repent and do good things, but only a small fraction of good people are led by their religion to do bad things.[32]

politicians do care

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10% ethanol would pollute the air as much as a 350-megawatt coal-fired power plant and likely result in more counties being identified in ozone health advisories, a new study by the state Department of Natural Resources says.

However, supporters, including Gov. Jim Doyle, say the feared environmental impact pales in comparison to the economic boost for Wisconsin and the decrease in dependency on foreign oil.

Such a mandate would lead to higher volatile organic compound emissions and oxides of nitrogen emissions primary precursors for ozone formation, according to the study.

Oxides of nitrogen emissions, known as NOx, would then increase 1% to 2%, or up to 13 tons per day.

The added pollutants only cause concern on extremely hot days, which have numbered about 15 this year, he said.

Ethanol production contributes to air, water and soil pollution and consumes as much energy as it makes, they say. In addition, it reduces gas mileage in most vehicles by 2% to 3%.