the consequences of the lone genius myth, summer flight wallpaper, my dog could create more jobs than romney

How Thomas Edison, Mark Zuckerberg and Iron Man are holding back American innovation

“Romantic myths about creative loners can’t be allowed to overshadow the fact that it’s a big collective enterprise…a multidisciplinary team, a system designed to maximize discovery,” explained Isaacs, who happens to oversee one such facility, Chicago’s Argonne National Lab, the federal government’s first science and engineering research lab.

The problem is, the myth of the lone genius toiling away still reigns supreme in the eyes of ordinary Americans and politicians alike. And so policymakers neglect the links in the innovation chain that come after that first Eureka moment. The possibilities often fall by the wayside, leaving scientific breakthroughs in the lab instead of in the hands of consumers or society at large.

That was the upshot of the New America Foundation’s event on the future of innovation, research and development, where Isaacs spoke before an audience packed into a narrow conference room on Monday afternoon. Too often, he argued, the conversation about R&D in Washington ends up stopping at that first phase: funding basic research aimed at letting scientists make their discoveries in peace.

Capitol Hill’s conception of research relies on a notion that’s practically deistic, argued Sarewitz, a professor at Arizona State University. “You put in money, and good things happen,” And that faith has kept R&D budgets relatively steady in recent decades, even during times of federal belt-tightening.

But what gets forgotten are the two “Ds” that come after R&D— “demonstration and deployment,” which are essential to applying basic research to real-life problems and creating commercial products, argued DotEarth’s Andy Revkin, who’s also a fellow at the Pace Academy for Applied Environmental Studies.

That’s where the scientists believe the real support is lacking—not only from the government, but also from the private sector, which has scaled back its most ambitious applied research in recent decades. During the 20th-century heyday of innovation, American corporations had their own massive R&D labs, with the resources, capacity, and business interest to commercialize their findings—Xerox Park, IBM and the famous AT&T Bell Labs. Bell researchers invented everything from the transistor and the laser to information theory, which made possible the development of the Internet.

I got a little carried away with that excerpt – there is some more at the link. If one person gets an idea, a unique idea – they deserve credit. And in free market societies they usually get it. Though, Edison is a good example of what happens with ideas. Edison did not invent the light bulb. It had been around for years in one form or another. He and his team of lab assistants created an affordable light-bulb with a filament  – which they happened on by accident – that burned for hundreds of hours until it needed replacement. If you read science news regularly – say a news aggregation site like Daily Science – when you look at the people involved in the findings there are usually several scientists ( frequently undergrad lab assistants can be unnamed contributors). Plus there will be an acknowledgement of organizations, examples might include the National Science Foundation or the U.S. Navy. The process of new discoveries is frequently both collaborative and cooperative. People who find things – make new discoveries do not appear out of nowhere. They are the products of the contributions to the sum of human knowledge made by others. As much as I admire the minds of Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz, if they had not discovered calculus someone else would have. And would they had discovered calculus if they had not had  good math educations from other mathematicians. God-like scientist inventors like Rand’s John Galt are fantasy. It is astonishing that people actually tale Galt as an example of how society, free markets or science works. Its like thinking Spider-man is a real person and if you wish hard enough you can have super powers too.  Related to this, 32 Innovations That Will Change Your Tomorrow from NYT Magazine.

summer flight wallpaper


The Road to Filibuster Reform Lies in the Voters. There will be no filibuster reform because it takes a super majority of votes to change Senate rules. Both sides have reasons – good or bad – to keep things just as they are. I’m sure they can come up with some crazy math to say otherwise, but the majority of the country is left of center – yet generally conservative states like Wyoming (pop. 570,000) has as many Senate votes as California (pop. 38, 000,000). Thus we have a small faction of zealots who are governing rather than the majority, which is much more moderate.

5 Facts About The Massachusetts Economy Under Mitt Romney. You could pick a community college at random. Let everyone majoring in physics, economics, English Lit. or political science draw lots from a hat and end up with someone better at creating jobs than Romney. It is an election cycle and it is also another cycle in blind idolatry by the usual suspects.

The New Pornographers: Adventures in Solitude.


happiness is not intrinsically moral, evening butterfly, shedding old stuff has social benefits

Western civilization has a happiness fetish. In the U.S. while it is not law, we even have the right to pursue it as one of our founding principles. Thomas Jefferson and the Founders each probably had their own idea of what happiness was. None of which included specifics like the right to eat a corn-dog while playing video games or burn rubber in your F350 dually or dumping toxic waste that seeps into groundwater people drink. Not everything that makes one person happy is going have happy consequence for everyone else. Yet if you asked the average person what they want for those they care about, most would probably say they want them to be happy.Why Be Happy When You Could Be Interesting?

“Let’s be serious: when you are in a creative endeavor, in that wonderful fever–‘My God, I’m onto something!’ and so on–happiness doesn’t enter it,” he says. “You are ready to suffer. Sometimes scientists, I read in a history of quantum physics… were even ready to take into account the possibility that they [would] die because of radiation. Happiness is, for me, an unethical category.” It’s also boring.

You can be happy without being moral. You can be happy without being interesting or engaged in the world around you. You can be happy without having a single creative idea or interest or passion. You can get everything you desire, and still not be happy. So why even focus on finding bliss?

H/T to here for this abstract from a study, The “Truman Show” delusion: Psychosis in the global village

Introduction. We report a novel delusion, primarily persecutory in form, in which the patient believes that he is being filmed, and that the films are being broadcast for the entertainment of others.

I cannot imagine this not interfering with having a functional life. Though if it were possible to make a living and otherwise take care of oneself, where is the harm. I tend to perfer reality, but it has obvious flaws. An old movie would explain my point better. In the movie Harvey (1950) ( starring the late Jimmy Stewart, which he called his favorite. Sorry it wasn’t It’s a Wonderful Life)  Elwood P. Dowd has a very dear and probably imaginary friend, a six foot tall pooka rabbit. Spoiler alert: towards the end of the movie Elwood agrees to have a new experimental treatment which will make him normal. During the course of the movie it becomes known that Elwood is a very warm hearted person, caring, naive, ready to be friends with just about anyone ( Elwood and Harvey tend to enjoy liquor at regular intervals). As it appears that Elwood will be cured, you, the audience is horrified at the idea. Let Elwood have his pooka and drink at their favorite bar, what’s the harm. Look around at all the cold, cynical, manic, greedy and otherwise flawed people in the world. People like Elwood deserve protection, not medicine to make them better, or happy like the rest of us.

Elwood also explains that Harvey has the power to stop time: “Did I tell you he could stop clocks? Well, you’ve heard the expression ‘His face would stop a clock’? Well, Harvey can look at your clock and stop it. And you can go anywhere you like — with anyone you like — and stay as long as you like. And when you get back, not one minute will have ticked by. … You see, science has overcome time and space. Well, Harvey has overcome not only time and space — but any objections.”

butterfly evening nectar feeding


Why You Should Give Away Free Stuff To Your Neighbors. because its much easier than moving it every few years? That’s my reason. It’s heavy. I don’t remember the last time I felt like rereading that book or using that bowl.

Today, the online network of Freecycle communities has nearly 9 million members around the world all collecting hand-me-downs from each other’s doorsteps. These people have gone even further than “collaborative consumption” or a “sharing economy.” They’ve created a massive gifting economy.

This old idea that gift-giving communities generate lots of solidarity, does it hold up outside of the lab? We found that it does.

Sociologists have long been intrigued by these kinds of benevolent “generalized exchange communities” (if you’ve ever given blood or participated in a Secret Santa, you’ve been a part of one). What motivates people to participate in them? And what happens to a community when its members willingly give to each other with no expectation of getting anything in return (at least not immediately)?

“This old idea that gift-giving communities generate lots of solidarity, is it true and does it hold up outside of the lab?” asks Robb Willer, a sociologist at the University of California. “We found that it does.”

Freecycle generates feelings of group unity and cohesion [PDF] among the people who participate in it.

It makes me happy to have less crap stuff that always seems to create one collective mass of clutter. In some cases I would sell stuff on eBay except I don’t like eBay or their sister company Paypal. Though better selling old stuff than adding to the local landfill.

Recommended reading, Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (and StickYou with the Bill) [Paperback] by David Cay Johnston