Tallied Solar System

All (known) Bodies in our Solar System Larger than 320 Kilometers in Diameter graphically cataloged (on a huge, scrollable image). 88 objects in total. The roll-call:


One star
Four gas giant planets
Four terrestrial planets
Three dwarf planets
21 moons
Four asteroids, and
51 Trans-Neptunian Objects (TNOs)

Religious Guidance

Francesco Sisci examines the subtleties of Chinese policy on religion in an article at Asia Times Online:

The CCP has made similar pronouncements on this subject in the past. In the latest case, Xi notes the party will have to “guide” religions. However, Xi has tellingly chosen to use a Chinese verb for “guide” for the first time that is fraught with new and subtle meanings. […] Using this verb means the CCP is de facto introducing an entirely new model that will govern its relationship with religious groups. The model tries to blend two elements — conservative and innovative. The party keeps the old role of guidance and management of religious organizations. But it is told to do so by recognizing each religion’s specific characteristics. […] The party will thus manage religious organizations by keeping “politics and religions separate.” This point has been conveyed by using the special verb in its rhetoric. The cryptic word play resembles a similar practice in Catholic scholastic tradition. It is easy for foreign media and other commentators outside China to miss this point — as has often happened in the past several days. …

Religion is — almost by definition — a topic that is highly-charged. Traumatic wars of religion, East and West, still shape the ways it is discussed, while structuring patterns of reciprocal blindness on each side. Sisci understands this with a clarity that is rarely matched, which lends his commentary its exceptional value.

Quotable (#155)

Scott Aaronson (interviewed):

… after all the forbidding-sounding verbiage you read in popular books, quantum mechanics is astonishingly simple — once you take the physics out of it! In fact, QM isn’t even “physics” in the usual sense: it’s more like an operating system that the rest of physics runs on as application software. It’s a certain generalization of the laws of probability. It says nothing directly about electrons, photons, or anything like that. It just talks about lists of complex numbers called amplitudes: how these amplitudes change as a physical system evolves, and how to convert them into the probability of seeing this or that result when you measure the system. And everything you’ve ever heard about the “weirdness of the quantum world,” is simply different logical consequences of this one change to the rules of probability. This makes QM, as a subject, possibly more computer-science friendly than any other part of physics. In fact, even if our universe hadn’t been described by QM, I suspect theoretical computer scientists would’ve eventually needed to invent quantum computing anyway, just for internal mathematical reasons.

‘Neoliberalism’ II

Paul Mason thinks he’s being helpful:

There’s a meme that keeps resurfacing in the genteel world of rightwing financial thought: that the term “neoliberalism” is in some way just a term of abuse, or a catch-all phrase invented by the left. […] Well, as the UK steel industry faces instant closure — and let’s be clear that’s what Tata would do if it had to — we about to get a textbook lesson in what neoliberalism actually means. It means, when market logic clashes with human logic, the market must prevail and you must not give a shit about the social consequences.

Ummm … you know that was just straight-up liberalism, before they wrecked the word. (Socialism is the other thing.)

ADDED: Some precious lucidity here.

Quotable (#154)

In the end, the magnitude-9.0 Tohoku earthquake and subsequent tsunami killed more than eighteen thousand people, devastated northeast Japan, triggered the meltdown at the Fukushima power plant, and cost an estimated two hundred and twenty billion dollars. The shaking earlier in the week turned out to be the foreshocks of the largest earthquake in the nation’s recorded history. But for Chris Goldfinger, a paleoseismologist at Oregon State University and one of the world’s leading experts on a little-known fault line, the main quake was itself a kind of foreshock: a preview of another earthquake still to come. …

From Kathryn Schulz’s Pulitzer Prize-winning story about extreme quake risk.