conversions... not just for chemistry anymore.

So, I think we're all pretty savvy on comprehending the word, but just in case, you should go to en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conversion.  It has a lot of different meanings.

One of the most inconvenient conversion types, in my opinion, is religious conversion.  Frankly, I'm not a big religious person anyway, but it still angers me when I see people trying to convert me or others.  I feel like it conveys several negative things: firstly, the converter can't respect the other person's beliefs, secondly, the converter is trying to bring someone into their sect through persuasion instead of divine calling, and, finally, if the person does convert, it shows a lack of faith in the first place which will probably be carried over to the new religion.

Is it possible that frequent conversion dilutes religion?  I think it's quite possible.  I'm not saying that all people who convert are weak-faithed, and I'm not saying that all converters have malicious intent, but I think that it's a poor practice in theory and in actuality.

I have a friend who recently got really upset about a man who tried to convert him.  I'm okay with that, but I was not okay with his generalization that Christians are either avid converters or are supporters of fanatics who practice converting others.  This was my response:

If you don't want to insult all christians, you probably shouldn't start your note off with:

"Dear Christians, This is going to piss you off as much as you anger me."

Not really a friendly note. And as for your comparison of other religions trying to convert you... it's hardly an argument. According to Wikipedia, the largest religious but non-Christian sect in the US is Judaism at... 1.7% of US residents. Compare this to 78.5% of people who are Christian... so there are a little more than 46 times as many Christians as Jews. The numbers for other religions are ridiculously small. So does it surprise you that of this isolate incident where you met a religious radical, he was Christian? This doesn't mean that Christianity is more radical or more conversion-hungry than other religions (although I don't want to imply that the others are), but it does mean that if you were to meet a radical conversionist, or any person for that matter, chances are that they're Christian.

Perhaps your anger stems from your own religious indecisiveness, eh?

So yeah.  That's about how I feel.  From a neutral standpoint, I think it is pretty easy to understand that for even the most fervent and convinced believer in any given faith, another faith will have a supporter so equally confident in his god(s) that believing any one person is a worthless exercise in naivety; faith should be an solo exploration of your own mind and soul. 

Anyway, comments and discussion are appreciated.


Science and Technology in Society

Science and Technology in Society, or STS 101, is a philosophical course in the effects of past, present, and future technologies in culture and humanity and how to deal with them.  These are my first three classes of notes, appearing in ascending chronological order.

STS Notes
August 22, 2008

Read the eReserves articles.


Pop culture in 1960s:
- Civil Rights Movement
- Anti-war Movement
- Environmental Movement
Three Influential Books
- Silent Spring: Opens with a spring day which is silent; birdless.  Explores the dangers of DDT effects on eggs.
- The Limits to Growth: Created concern about resource usage and the limits of our non-renewable resources.
- Unsafe at Any Speed: About safety hazards in American automobiles; primarily about the Chevy Corvair.  Had indep. rear suspension, and rollovers were huge.  Created a concern about automobile safety.

Another Book
- The Structure of Scientific Revolutions: Most influential intellectual book of the 20th Century.  Postulated that social influences affected the evidence that scientists find.  
Because scientists must work in social groups to achieve significant results, and because these groups are incompetition, science is strongly influenced by social dimensions.


STS explores the causal relationships between scientific advances, technoloical developments, and society.

There are advantages to being in groups (mutual security) and groups in society fight for these advantages.

The printing press took us from a pre-literal society to a literal one.

Martin Luther required people to read their own bibles to have a connection with god.  This forced people to become literate and influenced society at large.

The Royal Society created the first set of guidelines for what made an experimenter scientifically legitimate.  There had to be no money at stake, he had to have training, and had to be a gentleman, for example.  They also created a protocol for reporting experiments - such that it can be reproduced. (The Requirement of Replicability).


Sometimes, the purpose of technology is for one group to control another.  With McCormick's reaper, it sucked, but it forced workers to accept lower pay rather than be replaced for no pay.

   Mon Aug 25, 2008

--- Humanity ---
A viewpoint from the humanities is a viewpoint which assumes that "Man is the measure of all things."  This can be seen in Sacred Geometry; granted, the assumption that man is the measure of all things must be countered with the possibility that all things follow the same universal measurement of man.

What makes us human?  Other organisms use crude technology.  What is unique about human is the value judgements we make about our actions and works.  Our idea of ourselves is one of the features that couples with value judgements.  The deconstruction of the geocentric theory is an example of a major shift in self-realization.

--- Progress ---
The Enlightenment was not just a change in healthy habits and scholarship; it introduced a major shift in freedoms and perception of man's relationship with culture and society.  Along with the industrial revolution, it also brought about a change in the cultural requirements for ownership of (unnecessary) goods.

The creation of weapons through technology created a school of thought which refuses to accept further progress for the safety of humanity.  Today, this school of thought still exists alongside the philosophy that progress can continue with control and safety.


We don't have enough experience to have a long term view.

Before 1968: Japan's products were considered "cheap junk", much like Chinese products are today.  They started exporting these products as an economic recovery after WWII.

1968: The Honda Accord.  It changed the foreign view of Japanese exports because of its high quality compared to other automobiles.

Chatper 1 - The Nature of Technology

Technology is not simply "applied science".  There isn't a simply way to define technology, but all technologies share certain characteristics.  

The development of technology in the mid second millenium underwent a tranformation from random gadgets to a way to achieve salvation or englightenment.

Technology is a system of knowledge manifested in physical objects or organizational forms for the attainment of specific goals.

> "Knowledge" must be true in this definition... c'est a dire, "the earth is flat" was never "knowledge".
> "Knowledge" must be scientifically justified through a replicable observation.  This is the only way to justify a knowledge.  This includes word-of-mouth, personal experience, common sense, dreams, et cetera... they are not justification.

STS begins with common sense beliefs (widely accepted truisms based on personal experience but never subjected to careful scrutiny).  These are often universal generalizations (of the form All X are Y).

Notes from Astronomy 105

So Microsoft Word has this problem (among others) where it likes trying to help you, as if the application knows what the user wants to type more than the user himself.  I mean, I'm cool with the squiggly underline, throwing up a little flag when you spelled something wrong.  But fixing it for you without asking, capitalizing things that you clearly didn't capitalize... well, it makes for an inconvenience.  That's why I take my class notes in plaintext.  In lieu of draining my soul into a text field, I've decided to start dumping my notes instead.  This is the first in a series.

Note: Because of the nature of my classes, some of these characters may not be in your character encoding.  Please ensure that you're using Unicode.

Astr 105: Aug 28, 2008

== Unit conversions ==

Changing between multiple system of units.
A measurement is a dimension (magnitude) and units.
Most different unit systems for similar measurements have the same zero-value; that's to say, 0 m = 0 ft = 0 ltyr = 0 parsecs etc.  One exception to this rule is temperature.

** If we're moving between scales with zero offsets, multiply by your number system's multiplicative identity (probably exactly 1).  Because a/b = 1 iff a==b in real space, we can use any equivalent units in this way to get a muliplicative identity, e.g.: 2.54 cm / 1 inch = 1.


1.61 euros/liter in $/gal:

1 euro = $1.45
1 gal = 3.78 L

therefore, 1.61 euros/liter * ($1.45/1 euro) * (1 gal/3.78 L)^-1 = $8.82/gallon

** 1 Astronomical Unit = 1 AU = 1.496 x 10^13 cm = semi-major axis of the Earth's orbit about the Sun. **

The Parsec (from the phrase parallax second):

The parallax angle = the angle between the rays from points of view from earth when it is at different places in orbit.  This ray connects earth, the star, and some background object (like a distant galaxy) which isn't moving.

Suppose a right triangle such that the base is 1 AU, the other leg is _d_, and the angle between _d_ and the hypotenuse is p, the parallax angle.

Then tan(p) = 1 AU / (_d_)

We assume that for small angles,
tan(p) ≈ sin(p) ≈ p (in radians)

The parsec is defined, therefore, as:
1 parsec ≡ distance at which 1 AU subtends 1" of arc.

So, _d_ = 1 AU/( 1" in radians )

1" in radians = 1" * (1'/60") * (1 deg/60') * (2π/360 deg) ≈ 4.85 x 10^-6 (radians)

So, _d_ = 1.496 x 10^13 cm / 4.85 x 10^6

** Therefore: _d_ = 1 parsec = 1 pc = 3.086 x 10^8 cm **

1.99 * 10^33 g = Mass of the Sun... grams is an inconvenient unit!

So instead, we use:
** M_⊙ (Solar Mass Unit) = Mass of the Sun. **

Brigtness scale: uses the magnitude system, based on the human eye.
!!! The Human eye is logarithmic; that's to say, you see changes in brightness of a factor of two in even steps. !!!

Sirius has a magnitude of 0.  Fainter stars are magnitudes 1 - 6ish.  But they aren't equal steps in brightness, because it's based on the human eye and is therefore logarithmic.


Four theories of universal expansion:  the universe's size function is parabolic (it will collapse), it is cubic (it will expand, slow, and the expand rapidly into infinity), it is constant (it will grow continuously), or it is logarithmic (it will grow constantly but then begin to level off, approaching some value at t->inf).

Each of these theories depends on the amount of Dark Matter and Dark Energy in the universe... because these quantities are important in a universal-scale gravitational force.