Developing Themes From e-mail

Themes and interesting material develop naturally from email messages exchanged about interesting subjects. I give a few here from 2019.

The Young Ford Plant
Here's an example, a great collection of Ford promotional postcards from 1917, about the time my father and mother were married.  One of the cards shows a huge floor of stock with a caption stating it was more than $1,000,000 worth.  The value of one dollar then in today's dollars is estimated as $1,900, which means the stock shown was worth almost $2 billion.  But this is just one of many, many interesting things to be learned from these postcards.

The Beginning of Computer Aided Intellect
In my snail mail recently was my SRI (formerly Stanford Research Institute) Alumni News magazine with an amazing story of the beginning of computers as an extension to and integral part of our lives.
It all began 50 years ago with the “mother of all demonstrations” in the San Francisco Civic Auditorium, by Doug Englebart and his team of 17 people.  The date was December 9, 1968.  Much of the ideas being demonstrated were developed while, at the same time, outside his SRI building the nation and Stanford students were swirling in anger and frustration from the Vietnam War.  The large picture windows at the front of the building were being smashed with  bricks, as were the windows of engineering buildings on the Stanford campus.  My SRI building next door was in the same political storm.  Engineering surged forward while politics wallowed in the background.
You can see key excerpts from the actual demo and much more at:
At this link I suggest you click first on “THE DEMO” tab at the top of the page to see what all the fuss was about and the origins of the way the world operates today.
You will be amazed at how Doug bootstrapped this world-shaking technology with primitive tools he and others developed.  SRI alumni feel this is the most important research project ever performed at SRI.  The explosive growth of Silicon Valley was just part of what resulted from these ideas.

Church, Then and Now
One of the new friends we met here at Eskaton, the pastor’s wife Kim, invited Mary and I to attend their Christmas Eve ceremony at Twin Cities Church.  It was quite an experience, particularly since we hadn’t been inside a church in action since we dropped out of the Los Altos Methodist Church in about 1970 (no one could stand the new fire-and-brimstone minister who replaced wonderful Reverend Darling).  Church services have change a lot since then – this one struck me as a high tech revival meeting. To experience a recent service, go to their welcome page at:

Then scroll down until you see a list of sermon titles like this:
   July 21 - "Influencing Hope" (Message Notes | Music)
and click on an active link.  I was blown away by this service format!

It’s a very nice service and was magnificent in person, as are all of their similar web postings.

Then contrast this with the photo below of our Crawford Congregational Church on Keeler Ave. near 26th Street, taken by my mother of her Sunday school class in 1917.  It was much the same when I went there in the 30’s to 50’s.  This would be considered a slum nowadays but it was normal for us back then.

P.S.  It’s definitely upgraded now, and to another denomination, but the church foundation, wall locations, steeple and floorplans remain the same, including the basement where we held Sunday School.

Here's a four-minute video posted on Facebook by the current church. The entire neighborhood is upgraded from when I lived there.

Einstein Moved Astronomical Observation
to the Next Rung

When Einstein and Grossmann devised mathematics to analyze gravitation according to Einstein’s general theory of relativity, they also realized that gravity propagates by waves just as light does. Since then teams of scientists who stood and now stand on their shoulders, have produced a new astronomical observation instrument which is only very recently proving that this new window on the universe promises to expand our knowledge just as did Galileo’s telescopes, radio telescopes, infrared detectors, and other instruments in various electromagnetic wavelength bands.  The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), whose development began in 1990s, has proved its potential and is now producing results.

One such result is definite proof that much, if not most, of the gold and platinum in the universe is being produced by the collision of spiraling-in neutron binary stars.  Because of an observation made in 2017 of the distinctive waveform in the LIGO gravitational signal, all the other astronomers at the other electromagnetic wavelengths knew they were observing the aftermath of a neutron star merger.  So they knew what to look for in their data, and when they did the analysis they found that this collision event produced something like 200 times the mass of the earth in pure gold and about 500 times the mass of the earth in pure platinum!  Another theory confirmed. In all likelihood, the gold and platinum in your jewelry was formed billions of years ago by neutron star collisions.

Read the story in detail, told in everyday language for people with advanced educations like you and me.
          Part 1           Part 2

Influence Big Tech has over your life

If you’re not interested in the strong influence Big Tech has over your life, you should be.  Senator Ted Cruz convened a hearing on the subject on Tuesday, July 16, 2019 at 3:15 p.m., in Room 226 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building.
Video of Hearing

Many issues were addressed, but the specific subject was Google censorship of conservative material.  To me this issue turned out to be secondary compared with how Google, and all of Big Tech, influence our lives and limit our free speech more generally. 

Another sleeper was presented by Panel II speaker Robert Epstein, who has demonstrated that Google’s search engine shifted between 2.6 million and 10.4 million votes from Trump to Clinton in the 2016 election without a trace and no accountability (and he is an avid  liberal and Clinton voter). Facebook has also shifted votes, by another method. Epstein’s summary with Cruz is only a few minutes long starting at 2:32 hours.  He predicts these numbers will be much higher in 2020.
I sent this addendum to my message yesterday to expand a bit on the censorship theme but mostly so you can watch this video from PragerU to get the background and highlights of the Ted Cruz senate hearing in a much shorter time.
As introduction to this topic I also suggest a recent talk by Yaron Brook of ARI on
Free Speech and the Internet.
in which he gives Big Tech’s slant on the problem (as Brook sees it) and how important it is to not rush into expecting government to take the major role in alleviating it. Like me, Brook feels that big tech could go a long way toward alleviating the problem by releasing the criteria by which outfits like Google and YouTube make their filtering decisions, and providing means to appeal their decisions.
Also recently, Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, was brought before Congress on much the same issues.  At about the same time, Brian Amerige quit Facebook because of severe internal bias against conservative views. The following very interesting interview with him was published Nov. 12 on YouTube, near the time of the Congressional investigation.  If you’re at all interested in the culture and political philosophy at Facebook, and Silicon Valley more generally, I strongly urge you to take time to view this half-hour discussion.
Here’s a discussion among a few people in the academic community behind the mysterious algorithms that Google uses to help us but as a byproduct also uses to manipulate our lives.

Even here the progressive bias leaks through when they get specific once in a while. For example, Yuval Noah Harari speaks as though people don’t believe there is global warming because they don’t understand the science, when It’s just the opposite: people like me think there is no support for the claimed extent of global warming because I do understand the science and decision makers have been duped.

Fei Fei Li can’t resist talking about the need for algorithms to address inequality, diversity and several more progressive themes.