Saturday, December 25, 2010

Capitalism Opposes Progress

No, not all progress. And it can be a very powerful engine for innovation. But there is progress it opposes. In particular, scarcity, or rather, the end of it.

Capitalism requires scarcity to work. If you have unlimited amounts of something, its supply is infinite, and its value is 0. No one would pay for something they can just effortlessly pick off of a tree. And because you can't make a profit off of it, capitalism will never attempt to end scarcity, and will oppose anyone who does.

And it has. Even though we don't have the technology to end physical scarcity (Well, not completely anyway. If it weren't for stupid political situations, we could easily feed every human on the planet.), there's no reason we can't end digital scarcity. Any kind of digital information is just a string of 1s and 0s and can be copied infinitely, for free. But capitalist forces such as the RIAA oppose that kind of thing tooth and nail.

The only reason that someone who wants it shouldn't be able to get it for free is that the person who made it couldn't get paid. I'm not saying that that person shouldn't get compensated for their effort, but the capitalist model clearly isn't be the most efficient way. And sometimes, people aren't looking for compensation. Look at the open source movement. People make programs and then give them away for free. Hell, that's what I did with AlDraw.

Although the end of physical scarcity seems like science fiction now, I don't see why it would be impossible, and technology like RepRap is gradually taking us in that direction. But if Star Trek style replicators were invented tomorrow, they'd encounter exactly the same resistance that digital copying does today.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Earth's 23.4° Axial Tilt is the Reason for the Season

Both literally and metaphorically.

Earth's tilt physically causes the season, including of course, winter. When the northern (or southern) hemisphere is pointing at the sun, the longer days and more direct sunlight make it warmer. When it points away from the sun, the shorter days and less direct sunlight make it colder. Hence the seasons. The solstices are when the Earth is pointing most directly towards or away from the sun and they mark the transition between days getting shorter and days getting longer.

Earth's tilt is also the cause for the holiday season. Wikipedia lists no fewer than 36 celebrations related to the winter solstice, from cultures all around the world. And it's hardly surprising when you think about it. Even before the discovery/invention of the calendar, I'm sure it was clear to people that longer days were warmer days. Also, when the sun was up determined when you could go hunting and get things done. So the reversal of the shortening day must have been extremely important.

Among that list from Wikipedia are some holidays you might recognize. Saturnalia, Yule, Hanukkah, Christmas. Christmas isn't really any different from the others, and most of our celebrations of it don't have much of anything to do with Christianity. The Christmas tree for example, has roots in a pagan celebration.

Also, the date of Christmas has nothing to do with the story of Jesus's birth in the bible. The bible never gives a date, and it says that the shepherds are in the fields with their flocks, which they would only be during a warmer time of year. Most likely, the early church selected the date of Christmas to match a Roman holiday.

Jesus isn't the reason for the season, Earth's 23.4° axial tilt is.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Chance vs. Luck

Chance exists. Luck does not.

What's the difference?

Chance is merely unpredictability. Things happening for little or no reason. Bad things happening to good people. Winning the lottery, or getting cancer.

Luck is chance that takes sides. Chance that can be swayed by a charm, or a ritual or that's just attracted to some people over others.

It's more complicated in that people can get lucky, but they can't be lucky. Getting lucky just means that, by chance, something fortunate happened to you. You pulled the lever and got the jackpot. But being lucky would mean that you would actually be more likely to get the jackpot than other people who are not lucky.

AlDraw on SourceForge

Back in August, I said I was working on improving AlDraw. And I have been. Slowly, but surely.

And now, it's on SourceForge.

AlDraw-src.jar is, as your  might have guessed, all the source files. is contains an executable jar, among other things. All you need to try it out is java installed on your computer.

I'm still calling it a beta version. I've made significant progress, but there's still a ways to go. Particularly on the new features front. I've added hardly any of the features I've been wanting to. Most of my efforts have gone to the code design and usability goals. And fixing the things I broke while refactoring.

But it's in a workable, usable state now. Go try it out! And if you know Java, take a look at the code and tell me if it still looks like a total mess. It's released under GNU GPLv3 so you can copy, modify and redistribute it nearly however you like.