Monthly Archives: August 2008

Edison was and is overrated

Edison was known to electrocute animals to demonstrate the dangers of Tesla‘s alternating current. He seemed to believe that this was a valid argument for direct current, which he preferred despite it being less practical for wide-spread use. While Edison’s insanity is certainly good for a laugh,

At the end of a busy day filled with hubris and animal execution, wouldn’t you like to relax to a good light show and musical performance? I know I would! Luckily for us, Tesla not only developed the better method of current, but also made some pretty ingenious devices which to this day people are still finding new uses for.

The tesla coil above is not dancing along to the music; it is making the music. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Edison! (Video via The Miskatonic Archive, where you can see some more of the same, including some musical tesla coils frolicking with a jedi.)

Ironically, while people eventually came to their senses and agreed that Tesla’s mode of current was the more practical of the two, and despite the fact that Tesla invented radio and at the time of his death was working on a death ray for national defense, Tesla died impoverished and alone and is unknown to all but the cognisanti today; while Edison’s name is forever driven into the heads of school children.

On another note, I think a musical tesla coil would make a really awesome, yet highly impractical, steampunk doorbell. Just the image of opening the door to find solicitors have soiled themselves in abject terror and run from the premises makes me giggle like a schoolgirl.

Batman’s beginnings, in silent movie form

Part 1:

Part 2:

From the creator:

A 12 minute short depicting the origin of “The Bat-Man” and introducing his amazing skills and abilities… Bob Kane and Bill Finger drew on a lot of silent films to create Batman, and I’ve always wanted to give the story a try using silent film techniques. What with that whole copyright/waste of time thing, you’ll have to settle for this collage. Here are the original influences re-arranged to tell Bruce Wayne’s story and his crusade against crime. A bit of fun not intended for sale or commercial exploitation… what with the huge commercial value of silent films and everything.

Sources used:
THE BAT (1926)
THE MAN WHO LAUGHS (1928)
THE CABINET OF DOCTOR CALIGARI (1920)
Edison’s FRANKENSTEIN (1910)
THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ (1910)

Via Neatorama

The apotheosis of opinion

I saw this today on VideoSift and learned something about myself.

I absolutely despise the phrase “That’s your opinion”.

The judge in the video is completely right. The phrase is nothing more than immature and petulant, only slightly better than putting your fingers in your ears and singing “La, la, la, I can’t hear you” at the top of your lungs. Instead of continuing the conversation as an exchange of ideas, it says “my mind is made up and there are no facts that you could possibly present that could sway me, so cease your incessant babble, you pompous blowhard”. Or in this case, it’s the equivalent of saying “It’s not fair!” and stomping your feet.

Even the Urban Dictionary agrees:

That’s Your Opinion
What dumb people say when you disagree with them. Who else’s opinion is it, anyway?? I AM entitled to my own opinion, no need to point out the fact that it’s MY opinion.

P: I’m voting for Bush because we’re both from Texas.
Me: I’m voting for Kerry because he’s intellectual, well-read, and he can eat pretzels without choking.
P: That’s Your Opinion.

Sure, the phrase would be just fine and dandy if people used it solely in reference to actual opinions (such as “I think ice cream is delicious”), but in my experience people use it just as often as a rebuttal to ideas backed by facts (such as “Eating ice cream too fast will give you a headache”), as a way to escape supporting their own opinion with a comparable number of facts. Sure, both sides may really just be opinions, but sometimes the only way to get others to respect your opinions is to be able to explain how you came to have them; to demonstrate that you are in fact a thinking being, and not just a feeling one.

Even worse is when the phrase is used against things that are not opinions at all, but facts (such as “Alice scored higher than Bob on the test”, or the example in the video above). It seems that these days there is an epidemic of people with entitlement issues, who feel that just because an official ruling does not side with them, it is invalid.

I found an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education about this very trend which chalks it up to people not using or valuing critical thinking skills. I find this particularly interesting because it seems to me that critical thinking is something that our society is uninterested in in general- the amount of people who fall victim to scammers, or who run off and join religious cults, attests to this.

That assertion and the attitude it embodies have become endemic, not only in society at large but in academe. Apparently, nowadays an opinion will trump a fact, a reasoned argument, an empirically verified observation — even a treatise by an eminent scholar. An opinion is the great equalizer, and everyone has one. It silences all arguments, squelches all dialogue: That’s your opinion. End of discussion.

We seem to be witnessing the apotheosis of opinion, a trend that has grave consequences for all of us in higher education. A generation of students and others are training themselves not to become critical thinkers, not to search for evidence or support of an assertion, and not to hold themselves or others accountable for the assertions they make.

It’s definitely worth reading, especially if you don’t agree with the assertions made. Because if you want people to respect your opinion on the matter, you’ll certainly have to be able to offer some evidence to support it, and there’s no better way to do that than to became familiar with all sides of the issue. If you are unable or refuse, then yes, you are entitled to your opinion. Just as everyone else is entitled to ignore it until you grow up a bit.