Articles: Political allegiances and alien contact

Johnstown Never Believed Trump Would Help. They Still Love Him Anyway.

There will be think-pieces and books about the 2016 US election for many years to come. An article by Michael Kruse in Politico Magazine, in talking about voters who no longer expect Trump to fulfil core campaign promises but support him anyway, highlights one of the central questions – why people make the political choices that they do, and how and when those political choices change (or don’t). It comes back to a set of questions that I found quite striking in Democracy for realists, and that I haven’t seen a deep, or satisfactory answer for yet.

Have you read anything on political identity, and how or when it shifts? What would you recommend?

I’m particularly intrigued by the question of the shift – if we are really making political decisions based on identity rather than policy settings, what is it in our self-conception or our context that causes a shift in our political behaviour?

What Happens If China Makes First Contact?

I enjoyed Cixin Li’s Three Body Problem, so it’s fascinating to see him interviewed in relation to SETI efforts by China. One of James Fallow’s theses in China Airborne was that a large, complex project like building (and maintaining) an airliner is a crucial test of a modern economy, and that despite the technical know-how, there were areas where China might fail. Building the world’s largest dish for detecting alien signals would seem to be a similar, and in some ways more unusual, test.

Have you read much about the SETI in China? What did you think?


Articles: Political norms, credit scores and government monitoring, replicability in social psychology, and an artists’ faith

I’ve come across a few articles recently that I thought were worth noting down. In no particular order:

What to play while you’re waiting for Miegakure

Miegakure is a 4D puzzle solving game. You move around in three dimensional space; but by swapping in and out one of the dimensions in four dimensional space, you’re able to navigate (albeit in a crude way) 4D space, and solve 4D puzzles.

If, like me, you encountered the XKCD comic way back in 2012 (or earlier?), then you’ve been wondering when Miegakure will get released.

I can’t see anything to indicate when the release date is, five years on. Basically, we’ll get it at the same time as Winds of Winter. But fortunately, someone has come up with something that’s almost as good. No, the graphics aren’t as beautiful, and no, the gameplay may not be as good. But it exists, which is a lot more than you can really say for Miegakure.

It’s called Brane (or Tetraspace? I’m not sure), and you should check it out. Some of the initial levels were easy, some I solved after multiple attempts, and some I’m still working through. Worth a look.

The Great Wave off Kanagawa

Katsushika Hokusai was a Japanese artist who lived in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. He had a prolific output across his lifespan in a whole range of mediums, including printing and painting.

By far his most famous piece is The Great Wave of Kanagawa. It’s part of a broader set of prints, Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji. Hokusai apparently frequently did this – creating a series of images, like a A Tour of the Waterfalls of Japanese Provincesamong many others.

It’s important context, because in seeing the TSVMF, it becomes apparent that even though the series centres on Mt Fuji (from what I understand, Mt Fuji had religious significance for Hokusai), it features so much more. Hokusai is interested in everyday people and their daily lives; so that even though every print shows us a new side of Mt Fuji, what it’s really showing us is a new scene of life in Japan. He foregrounds fishermen, porters, travellers and merchants, so much that at times it feels like it’s a step away from Where’s Waldo, spotting the small, familiar peak on the horizon. It’s delightful, and doesn’t detract from the prints where he hones in on the majestic peak.

You can see why Mt Fuji is so mesmerising – it has a distinctively consistent slope, and looks stunning – for example, this photo:


That beauty’s captured in The Great Wave off Kanagawa, with the stunning overlay of the wave; using a perspective technique that differed slightly from traditional approaches.


It’s a beautifully crafted image, and stands monument to a lifetime of artistry. Even though it’s been emblazoned across every piece of memorabilia imaginable, the original image is still strikingly beautiful.