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Swapping Stripes and Swapping Pews

Thought that I’d reblog this one. It has more relevance than ever right now.

Synaptic Vortex

This week I want to take a look at the recent Conservative/Progressive kerfuffle in Arizona.

Three notable events motivated the Grand Canyon state’s legislature to push religious liberty and first amendment rights to a new level.  In Portland, OR, and Denver, CO, certain bakers refused to make a wedding cake for homosexual clients – citing religious grounds and free-speech protections.  In New Mexico, a similar situation involved a wedding photographer.   In all of these cases, the business owner was found to be in the “wrong” by the courts.  (In those states, sexual orientation is given protected status.)

Arizona legislators were attempting to provide the state’s business owners with novel protections.  According to the new law – SB 1062, businesses could decline service to anyone if providing such service violated either their religious conscience or their first amendment rights.  No one is sure if the broadly-written legislation…

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A New Conservation Law

In physics, there is a principle called Noether’s Theorem. This little gem tells us some amazing things about the universe. For example, how did NASA scientists know that the laws of physics here on Earth would be the same ones at play on the Moon? Would the thrusters work as calculated? Would the space suits resist radiation sufficiently?

Well, those clever NASA folks didn’t worry at all. Noether’s Theorem tells us that for every conservation law that we observe, there is a corresponding symmetry to the universe. We observe a law of Conservation of Momentum, which can be witnessed all the time: car crashes, skating-rink collisions, baseball games – really everywhere. The symmetry corresponding to this observation is spatial invariance, meaning that physical law does not vary throughout space. In other words, yes: the laws of physics on the Moon are the same ones that we see on Earth, which is good if we ever want to colonize Earth 2.0.


Nature often displays amazing symmetry.

Physical law is also time invariant, which we know thanks to observing Conservation of Energy. Physical law today, is the same as it was during the age of the dinosaurs. (Sorry, Ken Ham.)

An important facet of Noether’s Theorem is that it’s an “if-and-only-if” implication: it goes both ways. If there’s a symmetry observed, then there must be a corresponding conservation law.

I have often wondered how it is that in the information age, we can have such a glut of craziness and misinformation when anything can be Googled. There’s no excuse for forwarding a misinformed meme on Facebook; take thirty seconds and Snope the dang thing. Death panels, “no go” zones, the Dutch euthanizing their elderly – all lies to create fear. Friggin’ look it up people!

My wife and I were mournfully discussing this fact recently. I noted, “It’s like there some kind of conservation law at work.”

I really think that’s it.

snake-oil-scam-103229-05232011Throughout history, there have always been quacks, charlatans and those most prolific of liars, politicians. These people only have power or influence because of the fear that they peddle. Furthermore, our intuition suggests that these dregs of intelligencia, these snake-oil salesmen will sow their pathetic seed well into the future.

There it is. Did you see it?

The universe is time invariant with respect to frauds.

Noether’s Theorem therefore insists that there must be a corresponding conservation law. I believe, it is this: Conservation of Intelligence.

This basically means that the level of intelligence in any group of people  is fixed. Take the old ol’ U.S.A. for example. A large segment of the population is increasing its intelligence: learning more about the universe, walking away from its religion, embracing all forms and levels of gender equity and identity, and understanding the interconnectness of all our lives. At the same time, another segment of the population is quickly running the other direction – so to speak: re-invigorating erroneous physical conceptions, glorifying dogmatism, demanding reversal of social progress, and doubling-down on the individual’s leeway to harm the greater community.

The current measles outbreak is a nice episode of the law of Conservation of Intelligence at work. Vaccines have protected us all for several decades; it’s an intelligent choice to vaccinate one’s child. Naturally, there must be a group that synapticly underperforms so that the average level of intelligence of the larger group is preserved.

Thank you anti-vaxers, the jesters of evolution’s royal court.

I’m not sure that I feel better, but at least now I understand why stupid people are getting more stupid.