Alias Nano=Vim

Some long time ago, probably around 2005, I got convinced that I should use vi for quick edits in the terminal, instead of nano which I had been using for this purpose, for historical reasons.

So I added this simple line to my .bash_aliases:

alias nano='vim'

And to this day I type nano when I just quickly want to edit a file, just out of muscle memory, and I would be very surprised if I would end up in actual nano, not vim.

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Home Sweet

home-sweet

A fresh drone picture of our little oasis in the forest.

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Burj

The latest video by Kurzgesagt is about the asteroid impact that killed the dinosaurs, and is brilliant as usual. This frame made me pause and ponder on a side-track:

burj

Doesn't the Burj Khalifa tower look surprisingly large compared to mount everest? It isn't even a fair picture, because the mountain does not rise 8.8km out of the ocean, but "only" about 3.5km above the surrounding valleys.

Thus, climbing Burj Khalifa (which is a thing people do) just five times is the same height as climbing Everest from base camp. Disregarding the lack of oxygen at high altitudes and that the tower is much steeper.

Human-made structures start to approach the size of mountains, pointing up, not only down.

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Who Gets To Decide?

Once more concerning the lab leak hypothesis for the origin of COVID19, I thought aloud the other day:

who-gets-to-decide

In a similar vein, but more pithy, I saw a tweet that I cannot seem to find any more, but was close to:

Letting scientists that work on gain-of-function research decide whether or not it is worth the risk is like letting the oil industry decide over climate change policy.

While I would not put it as strongly myself, I think the point is valid. The stakes are too high and eventualities too hard to judge for individual research groups or even funding agencies.

Which is why I am happy to note that this kind of discussion is being had within the field, an example being this conversation.

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Wat‽

Another quote from yesterday's podcast:

I do often get the sense that there is a wide sense of malaise about future human potential, whether humanity itself is even a good thing, within wider culture. And again, this is purely anecdotal. It’s not based on any kind of data, but responses to articles that I write online where there’s a comment section, it’s often people saying, “Oh, extinction would be good.”

I have encountered this too, and it drives me nuts! The naturalistic fallacy in action. Maybe there is something to this analogy, as an explanation for this attitude:

Humanity is kind of in this almost adolescent phase, where it has for the first time realized that it can wreak consequences on the world. And by necessity, therefore wreak good as well as bad. And I think you can analogize it to this juvenile state of mind I’m sure everyone’s gone through, when you first become aware of the responsibility of your own actions and you do something really awful. And then maybe you feel really dejected and really awful about yourself and you feel that maybe it would be better off if you weren’t around.

Let's all grow up together, shan't we? And become responsible stewards of our planet, and beyond.

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Old Ideas

This interview is extremely fun to listen to. They discuss historic views of how people thought the world worked, and how that got changed over the centures. Lots of fun and wacky ideas, like fossils being rock that tries to become animal!

And the meta-question:

When you’re studying the way that people very far in the past conceived of the world, what they thought about the natural sciences, you just constantly encounter ideas that seem very misguided, kind of batty from our modern point of view. And I think people go in different directions in their aesthetic about how to react to this. Like one strain of thought is that this just shows how hard it is for humans to reason at all. It shows the fallibility of our ability to make sense of the world. And so it should make us extremely humble, and we shouldn’t dismiss the way that they thought about things because we will probably be just as mistaken as they were by the lights of people in the future.

I think another take you might have — which is, I think, less fashionable, but it’s my instinct perhaps because of my personality — is to say, wow, they just thought really stupid stuff. I can’t believe how misguided they were. And I understand how they got there. And if you send me back in time, I would be just as misguided. Absolutely. But nonetheless, this just shows how much progress we’ve made, and how much better we are at figuring things out today.

I am with Rob here, in that we should not have false humility and assume that we are as wrong as our ancestors. We clearly have made progress and can explain the world better than ever before today.

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Before & After

before-after

Putting the axe into the right spot and then hitting it with a sledgehammer turns out to work nicely for splitting larger logs. Small ones are easier to just chop.

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Plastic Bags

Since I just claimed that plastic bags are good, in spite of their bad reputation, here is a video that goes through some numbers.

The only thing I can add is that the pollution aspect very much depends on where you are in the world. If that place has a working system of garbage collection and management, then it is very unlikely that a plastic bag ends up in the oceans. So maybe we should spend the money that plastic bans cost on helping poorer places improving their waste management to pollute less.

In any case, I'll happily continue to buy plastic bags, reuse them a few times before they become garbage bags. And pay the counterproductive tax that would rather have me buy something worse.

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Nothing

I got nuthin for ya today! Sleep tight!

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Origin Context

I still listen to the excellent podcast with German virologist Christian Drosten and in the latest episode (transcript), he puts the recent media attention for the lab leak hypothesis into context.

Lots of intersting bits of information there! I tried to run some paragraphs through automatic translations, but the result did not do it justice. So brush up your German, if you know some, and do listen or read!

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