ASFO 2023–05–27

Hamlet ― yes, the Shakespeare play ― a mathematical concept called the “zero ring”, violence at Target stores, and a long filibuster in the Nebraska legislature… what do these things possibly have in common? Maybe nothing! But they all serve to illustrate one of my major concerns : the intersection of lack of knowledge with lack of understanding. We live today in an enormously complex society, and there is such a wealth of information available that no human mind can deal with it all. As a result, people who specialize in one subject are often totally divorced, both in knowledge and in working methods, from those who specialize in another. Meanwhile, our societies give evidence of being caught in vast eddies and backwashes of ignorance.

Supplementary Show

  • 2023–05–30 “Every patient represents an improbable event.” Conclusion of Vignette №20, Populations, Samples, and Items, and commencement of №21, Probability is not Gambling.
  • 2023–06–02 “Small sample statistics of ambiguously defined events in ambiguously defined populations are almoset certain to be the most colossal lies perpetrated. But large sample estaimates made from precisely defined events happening to closely regulated items can be more accurate measurements of what actually happened than is achievable in any other science.” Completion of Vignette №21, Probability is not Gambling, and all of №23, What is a Good Small Sample? (Unfortunately I don’t seem to have №22.) Then I talk about various things for a few minutes, including the Chernobyl tragedy of 1986.
  • 2023–06–06 Vignette №24, A Tracer Has No Pharmacology, concluding the first volume (really binder) of Vignettes in Nuclear Medicine by Marshall Brucer, MD. The material most interesting to the general public is mainly in this first volume, so I will probably stop here, absent requests to continue. Also a great deal of commentary and discussion from me.
  • 2023–06–09 A piece in the Wall Street Journal leads me to read from that monumental work of supercilious Victorian moralizing, Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds. I start at the beginning (of the 1841 edition, which is somewhat different in content and arrangement than the 1852 edition) with John Law.

ASFO 2023–05–20

Zeppelin the Musical, and the pathetically inadequate transit arrangements in the vicinity of Füssen (seriously, tourist towns in the USA often do better) caused me to be late in starting, and so that’s what I mostly talk about. I don’t attempt to review the show, but I do talk about the technical aspects, which made excellent use of the extensive facilities of the Festspielhaus. This playhouse, apparently constructed to stage a show about King Ludwig II of Bavaria, faces his world–famous creation, the architectual oddity known as Schloss Neuschwanstein, across a modest–sized lake.

Supplementary Show

2023–05–26 Because my previous reading of Vignette №19, The Maximum Ridiculous Dose, did not archive, I start over from the beginning. Then I get partway into №20, Populations, Samples, and Items ― an introduction to statistics, from the clinical standpoint.

ASFO 2023–05–13

How would you even start to regulate tens of millions of household–sized battery packs, if they pose a significant fire and explosion hazard? I make a rough estimate that it would occupy, full–time, about 10% of the electricians in the United States. Also updates on the apparently open–ended emergency in Germany, and some more of my wondering why people should be less interested in addressing the real problems than in making up imaginary ones to get excited over. Not the most coherent of episodes.

Supplementary Shows

  • 2023–05–16 An abbreviated show, because I stayed at a museum until closing time. I finish up Vignette №17, What Can Happen to an Electron? (The Interaction of Radiation with Matter, Part III). Then I use the remaining time to read part of a press release from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, reporting a study on the land area occupied by various energy sources, which uncharacteristically takes the form of an impassioned plea for nuclear energy as a way to preserve biodiversity while addressing climate change.
  • 2023–05–19 More from the always informative and usually entertaining Brucer. All of Vignette №18, How Radiation Affects Tissue (The Interaction of Radiation with Matter, Part IV), in which Bertrand Russel appears as an aside, and we learn of the “most commonly repeated statement in the whole history of medicine” ; then a goodly chunk of Vignette №19, The Maximum Ridiculous Dose, exploring the tortured history of radiation measurement and its interaction with the Law. (Unfortunately cut off short, before the end of №18, by some kind of technical problem.)

ASFO 2023–05–06

Did I wait in a line for two hours to spend ten minutes in a sewer? Does the world know all too well, and still regret, what happens when Germany enters an open–ended state of emergency? Is there a role for monarchies in a world of democratic ideals? All this, and an actual historical example of something I have repeatedly derided, known as “V2H”. As a bonus, I tell you about a simple one–page Web site I irritated someone into creating.

A clipping from “Popular Electricity” magazine, 1911 January, describing how a man in Saint Paul, Minnesota, for several years drove an electric automobile downtown every workday to have it charged, and then home where it operated his lighting circuits, making him the hero of “V2H”.
From “Popular Electricity” magazine, 1911 January, page 851

Supplementary Shows

  • 2023–05–09 Vignettes in Nuclear Medicine by Marshall Brucer, MD, continues to supply grist for the mill. From last time, the conclusion of Vignette №14, The Radium Bomb : How it Exploded Into (And Out Of) Nuclear Medicine, and the beginning of №15, What Can Happen to a Gamma Ray?, the first of four under the general head of The Interaction of Radiation with Matter.
  • 2023–05–12 Continuing onward through The Interaction of Radiation with Matter, №16, The Attenuation of Gamma Radiation, and a goodly chunk of №17, What Can Happen to a Beta Particle?