Tag Archives: genius vs stupid

(Comic) Highway To The Thunderdome: A Story About Pirating Music

PROLOGUE

Once upon a time in a galaxy far enough away where anything could happen and we’d never know about it, there was a barren desert planet called, “Rock and Roll.”

Life on Planet Rock and Roll was hard, and only the strong survived much less made a name for themselves, but there was one musician named Larz Fanning who was so rock and roll that he legally changed his name to “Rock and Roll” and the people let him get away with it. This is the story of how he became the greatest hero in Rock and Roll history.

(Comic) Highway To The Thunderdome: A Story About Pirating Music

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Illustrated Parables
This Was Your Life

Loki and a friend taunt the dead at the Pearly Gates to the Underworld

How America Works

Short, dark, surreal, articulate political comics

An Old Man From Jersey Explains Life

An old man sits on the steps to his apartment and explains life to an eight-year-old boy.

Occupy LOL Street

Thee LOL Cats join the Occupy LOL Street movement at Zucchini Park and find ways to address income inequality and corruption.

Two Conservative Ladies

A satirical take on conservative talking points

Two Feminist Ladies
  • Two feminist ladies #123
The Adventures of Monk and Punk: Journey to Entlantis

A homeless monk and an alcoholic punk team up to create a publishing house to raise money to build a floating monastery.

  • Book 1: Chapter #123456789
  • Book 2: Chapter #123456789

Life Path Flow Chart

 

Click the image to enlarge it.

Life path flow chart o the rich and poor. It's easier for the rich to succeed and harder to fail. For poor people, it's the opposite.

 

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Predatory Capitalism Creates Poverty
Socialism and Communism
The Life of the Rich
The Life of the Poor
Oppression in the Workplace
Success and Retirement
The Housing Market
Healthcare in America
The Stock Market
Banks
Taxes
Cryptocurrency
Fixing the Economy
My Tweets About Economics

The World Sucks Because People Are Stupid. The Solution Is Free Online Education.

This is very simple. The world sucks because people suck, and people suck because they’re stupid. If you want to save the world, the most obvious solution is free education. Once all human knowledge is completely free and accessible anywhere, anytime, then everything else will follow.

Who should pay for it? You. Everyone. If you live in the United States of America, then most of your federal income tax goes to bombing brown people. That money should be spent on giving you and everyone else free education. Any politician who doesn’t make that their number one priority is the barrier between us and utopia, but politicians choose to continue to use your money to fund an unnecessary and destructive weapons industry.

Since your elected leaders won’t spend your tax dollars to give you free education, then Hollywood should. Second only to religion, Hollywood has been the largest producer of stupidity in all of human history. The majority of all media content produced in Hollywood is stupid. It’s designed to appeal to the lowest common intellectual denominator. It’s brain candy, and most people in first world countries binge on brain candy most of the time they’re not at work or school, and it makes them stupid.

Hollywood owes the world free education to atone for the stupidity it has created. Who is your favorite celebrity? That person is a millionaire and has played a role in making you, your friends, your enemies and countless strangers dumber. Your favorite celebrity should pay to build a free online school that offers video classes on every subject broken down by topic.

If Hollywood won’t do it then the richest person in the world should pay for it. You know how you become the richest person in the world? You sell stuff, and you pay your workers as little as possible to produce something everyone needs and that is as cheap as possible to reproduce, and you sell it for as high a price as you can. Then you avoid paying as many taxes as possible by exploiting tax havens and loopholes.

The richest person in the world is the world’s biggest legal thief. The richest person in the world has ripped off more people than anyone else in the world. The richest person in the world owes the world a free school that offers instruction in every subject. The richest person in the world can afford to create that school and never have to sacrifice any luxury or necessity in their personal life ever.

If the richest person in the world won’t give the world free education then the smartest people should. MIT has already created a small, free online school. That’s great, but it doesn’t include elementary school lessons on the alphabet or downloadable video clips on how to build and launch a spaceship (yet). If MIT doesn’t have the money to give the world that scope of free education then MENSA should pay for it. If MENSA is so smart then the need to fund a free school should be obvious to them.

If high IQ societies won’t fund a free school then the KKK and other hate groups should. If you feel that another group of people are a burden on society then give them a free online school. Once everyone in the world has equal access to education then we can all be fully trained workers with self-actualized minds, and we’ll all be productive members of society. Plus smart people statistically have fewer children. What more could a hater want? Education is the final solution.

If haters won’t save the world, then religious groups should. Religions claim to want to help people and to not be greedy. Great. Sell all your temples and ridiculous outfits to pay for school. Or be a hypocrite and stand by and watch the world burn knowing that you have the power to save it but chose not to. Yes, the issue really is that black and white.

If religion won’t give the world free school then the people should give it to themselves. People on social networks should collaborate and fund it.

Until then stupid people will continue to destroy the world until there’s nothing left.

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Talk About Saving the World
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My Quest To Find The Meaning Of Life

The cover of my book, "Why: An Agnostic Perspective on the Meaning of Life"

Over the course of 10 years, I wrote a book on the meaning of life titled “Why: An Agnostic Perspective on the Meaning of Life.” I didn’t do it to get rich quick, or because God told me to or because I’m the smartest person alive. My motives came from somewhere much more down to Earth. To understand why I wrote this book, you need to know the whole story.

I’ve always been an introvert, predisposed to working alone on long projects, and I’ve always loved puzzles. At the age of seventeen, I made a conscious decision to make a hobby out of solving difficult logic puzzles for the fun and challenge of it. Originally, this consisted of completing puzzle books, which I did with varying levels of success. That got boring quickly though because I was just rearranging words, letters, and numbers, which felt tantamount to mental masturbation. I wanted to solve real problems that had useful implications for myself and hopefully the rest of society.

The first big challenge I picked was creating a perpetual motion machine. Although I failed to build a working perpetual motion machine, I don’t count the quest as a failure, because it provided me hundreds of hours of entertainment and valuable problem-solving practice. When that thought-experiment had run its course I started looking for a new one. It wasn’t long before the question of the meaning of life caught my attention.

The challenge started out as a game, but the more I thought about it, the more seriously I took the question. I considered myself a responsible person who followed all the rules and lived a successful life by modern society’s standards, but could I say for certain I knew the meaning of life? No. So could I honestly be sure I was fulfilling it? No. I was just expecting I’d nail it by chance; I was leaving it up to chance whether or not I validated my existence or wasted it in vain. For the first time, it struck me that the meaning of life might not be a novelty riddle after all. It might be a matter of life and death. In fact, it might even be a matter of eternal life and death… and that wasn’t even the worst part.

What shook me even more profoundly was the realization that if I didn’t know the meaning of life then I couldn’t teach my future children what it is or how to fulfill it. I was leaving their fate up to chance as well. How could I do that in good conscience?

To my surprise, I found I wasn’t playing a game any longer. I was waffling at a crossroad in life. Should I go down that rabbit hole or find a way to write these thoughts off and get back to my routine, comfortable life? I didn’t have to second guess myself for very long. Regardless of anything else, the bottom line was I was planning on becoming a parent, and I had a responsibility to my unborn children. A father’s job is to teach his children how to make the most out of life, and since I didn’t know the meaning of life I didn’t have an end goal to teach my children how to accomplish. I was going to have to find some kind of answer to the meaning of life so I could teach my descendants everything needed to know to have the best chance at validating their existence and making the most out of life.

Being a child myself at the time, I had no idea where to begin answering such an enigmatic question, but I knew history was full of people much smarter than me. I assumed/hoped one of them had already figured it out. So I started making trips to the library and bookstores hunting for the book the master wrote his/her revelation down in.

Some of the things I read had promise, but without exception, they were all flawed in one way or another. Most of the self-help books were oversimplified and based on emotion more than logic. You could sum up most of them in the phrases, “The meaning of life is a good cup of coffee.” Or “Love everybody.” Nice sentiments but vague to the point of being useless.

The books written by self-proclaimed spiritual gurus tended to ramble incoherently and not be based on any kind of evidence whatsoever. The authors just said, “This is the answer,” and expected the reader to accept their mystical conclusions without asking for any logical or empirical proof.

As for Western philosophy… I know I could get crucified for saying this, but I would describe most of what I read as nine parts academic masturbation and one part insight. For all the amazing and useless things I read, I never found a systematic, logical, empirically valid explanation of the meaning of life.

And then there are the world’s religious books. The first problem they pose is that most of them claimed to be the final truth on life and state it is foolish, arrogant, or outright immoral to question them let alone believe in any other belief system. So even if I quit searching for the meaning of life and bet my soul on any religion, I would still be committing blasphemy according to multiple other self-proclaimed holy books. This concerned me deeply because I don’t want to go to Hell. If blasphemy is immoral, then I don’t want to commit it, but we’re all in a no-win situation. In the end, I figured if you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t, you may as well do your best.

All things being blasphemy, the way I chose to commit it was to put all the religious books I could find to the test of empirical and logical truth. Without exception, they all contained historical and scientific errors, textual problems, absurdities, contradictions, and incoherent moral codes. Hundreds of thousands of books have been written about each religion, attempting to explain their mysteries. But Occam’s Razor can explain all of them in one sentence: All the religions humans have created are mythologies.

If that’s true, it creates as many questions as it answers. How was the universe created? What defines ethics? Is life meaningless, or is the purpose of life simply beyond the grasp of human intelligence?

The last question bothered me the most. If it really was true that we can never know the meaning of life then that would mean we have one, but can never sure if we’re succeeding at it. Does that mean we were never meant to fulfill it? Would that mean, for all practical purposes, life has no meaning? Are our lives nothing more than pieces in a cosmic game of Periwinkles? Are we not important?

My inability to answer any of these questions drove me to existential depression. I tried to act like nothing was wrong and continued going to work and socialize with friends but found it hard to be enthusiastic about anything since it seemed nothing we did mattered in the long run.

Walking through my tiny corner of the universe, I couldn’t shake my suspicions that it would be absurd for life to exist without a purpose. Surely there had to be a reason why such a complex universe full of complex living beings existed. So as I went through the motions of life I continued to think about and observe the world around me hoping to find the clues I’d missed.

On my way to work in the mornings I passed by a large oak tree, and I’d often stop to stare at it and ask myself, “What are you doing there Mr. Tree?” One day I was studying Mr. Tree when I found the clue I was looking for. The tree contained patterns. The branches weren’t geometrically organized, but there was a pattern to how trees in general look. Then I looked down at myself and found patterns in my body. We can recognize humans from other animals because our structure follows the same pattern. Skeletons follow patterns. Heredity follows patterns. Biology is all about patterns. For that matter, so is the rest of nature: gravitational pull, chemical reactions, and mathematical equations. These all behave according to patterns which reflect phenomenally elegant order in the universe.

It would be illogical to assume that everything in the universe behaves according to predictable patterns, but life (and all the patterns it contains) came into existence on accident. It’s no more an accident for life to exist than it is for water to freeze. The universe was meticulously designed to produce living beings. The immeasurable level of detail in the design of the universe isn’t an accident.

Atoms, molecules, solar systems, and DNA are so ingeniously designed that I can’t discount the possibility an intelligent God created them. If that’s true, then why does God let bad things happen? Does/should God answer prayers? How do you learn about an absentee God of science? Do you even need to know God, or were we put here to do something else?

I wanted to explore these questions, but a voice in the back of my head kept asking, what if I’m wrong about religion, and there really is an angry, jealous God?  If I ever claimed to figure out life for myself, would I be punished? Would I go to hell? Were humans not meant to think for themselves? Why would God create children who aren’t supposed to think for themselves?

With or without God, is it still impossible (or at least too difficult) for humans to figure out? If the question can be answered, who’s smart enough to do it? Could I do it or should I leave it to the professionals? But who are the professionals? What would make someone qualified/disqualified to find the meaning of life anyway? Do you need a doctorate degree, a Nobel Prize, membership in a high IQ club, or at least published book under your belt before you’re certified to… ask questions?

I lost sleep asking myself these questions. I knew if nobody else had life figured out, then I’d have to do it on my own, but I didn’t think I could or should for all the reasons stated above. But then again, not trying was as good as suicide…and in the case of my potential offspring I was responsible for, manslaughter. This infuriated me. I kept telling myself, “This is insanity. It doesn’t make any sense.” Then, after a long night of tossing and turning in bed, I finally let myself admit the simple and obvious truth of the matter. It was insanity. It didn’t make any sense because it was illogical.

There may or may not be a God. We’re all just stranded in this big, elegant universe. We’re so lost we don’t even know how lost we are. If God’s out there, we’re left on our own to sink or swim. We don’t know the difference between right and wrong or if there is one. There is no instruction book. All we can do is figure out life for ourselves.

Whether we know or will admit it, everyone does this. We look at everything around us and come to our own conclusions. So I said, “To Hell with taboos,” and made a decision to consciously do what I’d already been doing all along. I’d figure out my own systematic, logical explanation of the meaning of life. The point wasn’t to create a book to publish. It was to create my own personal guidebook to life.

Having decided that, I turned my attention to the enormous task of figuring out where the hell to begin. Ask yourself, “What is the first thing you need to do to answer the question, ‘What is the meaning of life?’” That’s a riddle within an impossible riddle. When I posed it to myself, I felt completely dumbfounded, but in that boggled, fuzzy state of mind I had a moment of horse-sense clarity. I realized if you want to answer any question, you need a step-by-step guide to answering questions.

So I went back to the library and the bookstores and read a stack of books on logic and problem-solving. I learned a lot of useful things from those books, but I didn’t find the streamlined guide to answering questions I was looking for. So I looked back over everything I had learned about thinking and boiled it down to a neat list.

  1. Ask a question.
  2. Gather data
  3. Identify the variables you have.
  4. Identify the variables you don’t have.
  5. Sort the data.
  6. Apply formulas.
  7. Ask sub-questions.
  8. Question your answer.
  9. Apply the solution.

I spent years applying these steps to the question of the meaning of life and piecing my conclusions together in this book. I included a detailed breakdown of my method of problem-solving in Chapter 14 since everything you’ll ever do in life will be the product of questions you’ve asked yourself. No matter what the meaning of life is, it involves problem-solving since everything does.

If you read “Why” you’ll see how I applied these steps to the question of the meaning of life. If you just want to know the final conclusion I came to, read the next paragraph for the spoiler:

Regardless of whether or not God or an afterlife exists, or even if there’s no meaning to life at all, the most logical thing a living being can do with their brief time here is fulfill their potential. If that sounds anticlimactic, it’s because the most interesting part of the question, “What is the meaning of life?” isn’t “what,” it’s “why.”

This book isn’t the final answer on life. God didn’t reveal it to me. It’s just the conclusions I’ve come to that I base my life around. If you read my book and find even a single sentence lacking I hope you don’t dismiss all my observations and conclusions. Takes what you find to be true, and leave what you don’t. If you have a better answer, the world needs it. I need it. The way I’ll measure the success of my book isn’t by how many people believe me but by how many I inspire to ask questions.

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My Quest To Build A Perpetual Motion Machine

“A perpetual motion machine is a hypothetical machine that can do work indefinitely without an energy source. This kind of machine is impossible, as it would violate the first or second law of thermodynamics.”

Despite the fact that it’s impossible to build a perpetual motion machine, many have tried, and all have failed, including me. This is the story of how and why I attempted the impossible.

Two events happened when I was seventeen years old that led to my decision, but in order to understand why those events mattered, you should know a little bit about me. The Myers Briggs Personality Type Indicator says I have an INTP personality, and while that test isn’t perfect, it gives a pretty accurate description of me:

“INTPs are marked by a quiet, stoic, modest, and aloof exterior that masks strong creativity and enthusiasm for novel possibilities. Their weaknesses include poor organization, insensitivity to social niceties, and a tendency to get lost in abstractions. “

I’ve been that way my entire life, and like many other INTPs, I’ve also always had an affinity for puzzles. Growing up I was fascinated by riddles, chess, crossword puzzles, magicians, and Celtic knots.  So when I walked into my high school Economics class one day and noticed some student had left a print out of a chain-mail E-mail on the chalkboard tray that contained a logic problem the E-mail claimed only 5% of the population was smart enough to answer, I greedily stole the paper and took it home with me. It took me five hours to solve the problem, and to be honest, I got a little conceited over my victory until I realized I was naive enough to believe statistics in a chain mail.

The puzzle was hard, but it wasn’t that hard. This made me want to know what my limits really were. So I bought a bunch of puzzle books and worked my way through them with varying levels of success, but after a while they all got boring. I was just rearranging words, shapes, and numbers.  My actions felt tantamount to mental masturbation. I wanted to solve a really hard puzzle just for the fun of it and to test myself, but I wanted to do something that mattered.

This is the state of mind I was in when the second event occurred. I was sitting on the living room floor drawing while my father flipped through the television stations. He stopped it on PBS, which was playing the first episode of Stephen Hawking’s Universe. I watched in awe as Professor Hawking’s sci-fi voice took me on a tour of the evolution of scientific innovation. He amazed me with tales of scientific geniuses who had the ambition and audacity to solve the fundamental riddles of the universe. I’d heard of Galileo and Isaac Newton before, but until then I hadn’t put them on my list of personal heroes.

I watched the rest of the series as PBS slowly aired them. Then I went to the mall and bought the series on VHS with money I’d earned working as a projectionist at a small town, three-screen movie theater.  Every time I watched the tapes I understood a little bit more, but that just made me realize how little I really knew. I wanted to solve unsolved mysteries, but I knew I was never going to solve the problems cosmologists are working on today. Even if I could, I hate math. I wished I could have been born in Copernicus’s time. Back then a clever fellow could make historic discoveries with a few lenses and mirrors without using much math. By the time I was born all the easiest scientific questions had already been answered.

Feeling discouraged, I did some Google searches for unsolved scientific problems and stumbled across an article on perpetual motion. It hooked me immediately. Here was a real-world logic problem that could have a profound potential impact on humanity as well as my self-worth.

I bookmarked every site on the internet that even mentioned perpetual motion, and almost every one of them stated, with varying degrees of belligerency, that anyone who attempts to build a perpetual motion machine is stupid. I understood the reasoning behind the warnings, but they’re a little short-sighted.

Would these same critics ridicule anyone who attempted to solve the world’s hardest crossword puzzle? Time enjoyed is never time wasted. There’s no reason to judge people who want to try to solve theoretical logic puzzles, even when that entails building a useless machine. There are far worse hobbies a person could have, like trolling aspiring inventors on the internet. I knew from the beginning there was at least a 99.99% chance I’d fail, but the worst possible outcome is all my efforts would only amount to me having fun and practicing my thinking skills. If anyone laughed at me for that, then that’s their problem.

After ignoring the Internet’s warnings, I set a goal to design a machine that isn’t a true perpetual motion machine; it would break down eventually, but it would generate enough electricity in its lifetime to make the cost/benefit analysis of building it add up.  The problem with this goal is that it means the machine would have to generate more energy than it uses, which is even more impossible than building a machine that can run without losing energy.

These facts didn’t intimidate me because I learned the secret to solving impossible problems from Captain James T. Kirk on Star Trek: Cheat.

If I couldn’t beat the rules, I would just work around them. Instead of building a machine that runs on its own power indefinitely, I would power it with a relatively inexhaustible energy source like gravity, buoyancy or magnetism. I hoped I could direct them in a novel way that tricks them into behaving counter-intuitively yet technically sound. These are my designs:

Design for a perpetual motion machine that pulls a metal ball up a ramp with a magnet and drops the ball in a hole that returns it to its starting point

My first idea used magnetism and gravity to pull a metal ball up a ramp. Just before reaching the magnet it would fall down a hole, and roll down a ramp back to its starting point and repeat the process. This idea probably wouldn’t work, because the magnet would just pull the ball over the hole.

Design for a modified ball/ramp/magnet perpetual motion machine in which the ball hits a lever, which pushes the magnet away, breaking the pull.

I thought you might be able to solve that problem by attaching a mechanism that uses the force of the ball to push a lever that either moves the head of the magnet away or pushes the ball away from the magnet, allowing the ball to fall down the hole.

Design for a perpetual motion machine with a piston that is pulled up by a magnet. The piston has a dongle that pushes the magnet away when the piston gets close, causing it to fall to its starting point.

If that concept worked, you could replace the ramp with a vertical shaft and replace the ball with a piston.

Design for a perpetual motion machine that has a train of rolling down a long, winding spiral, pulling its tail behind it.

Magnets wear out eventually though. So I came up with a design that only uses gravity as the power source: Attach wheels to ten identical rolling weights that basically look like trolley cars. Connect each trolley with identical length strings so they’re all connected in a circle. Put the trolley chain on a long, winding ramp that they roll down. At the bottom of the ramp is a steep vertical slope that leads back to the top of the ramp. The idea is that as long as more trolley cars are rolling downhill, pulling the car behind them, than there are trolley cars being lifted from the end back to the beginning, then the descending cars should lift the ascending cars.

Design for a perpetual motion machine using a train of underwater buoys pulling themselves up a long, triangular shaped ramp to be pulled back down a shorter path.

One problem with the trolley car idea is that it creates a lot of friction. I hypothesized I could improve the idea by turning it upside down and submerging it in water. Instead of using weighted trolleys, connect a ring of hollow buoys following a long, winding path up to a steep decline, where they would be pulled down to their point of origin by the higher number of rising buoys.

Design for a perpetual motion machine using a wheel of magnets pushing away from each other.

I wanted to come up with a design that involved a spinning wheel since that would make it easier to generate electricity. So I drew plans for a wheel with angled magnets that repel off other magnets anchored outside the wheel. I bought a hamster wheel and $100 worth of magnets and proved that this idea doesn’t work. The force from the external magnet that pushes one internal magnet away will prevent the next incoming internal magnet from passing the field of the external magnet.

The wheel could spin if you could turn the magnets off until they’re in position to repel. You could create this effect easily using electromagnets, but that would use more electricity than it produces. The wheel might spin if you could block the magnetic field until the magnets are in the position to repel, but I don’t know of any material that blocks magnetic fields.  The wheel might also spin if the magnetic fields could be redirected with ferromagnetic metal or you used a mechanism to push the external magnet away until the internal magnet is in place to be repelled.

Design for a perpetual motion machine involving a wheel with two ramps that guide balls in the spokes so that more are pushing down/counterclockwise than clockwise.

Even if those plans did work, they still used magnets. It would be better to have a wheel that’s powered just by gravity. In order for weights in a wheel to spin the wheel indefinitely, there would have to be more weights pushing counterclockwise than clockwise. I hoped that could be achieved through the use of two ramps.

At the age of nineteen, I tried building this wheel using paper and straws. It didn’t work. So I took the spokes out of a bicycle and replaced them with cardboard rectangles and golf balls. The balls kept getting stuck and bouncing away until the cardboard bent. So I bought two Erector Sets and made a more stable wheel. I never could get the weights to stay on track.

Having spent hundreds of dollars and hours, I finally decided I didn’t have the engineering skills to build anything. To this day, I still can’t put Ikea furniture together without it being wobbly and crooked. So I gave up trying to build a perpetual motion machine and got on with my life. I’ve thought about paying someone to construct my designs, and I would, but I’m not convinced any of these designs would actually work. Someday when I’m old and have more disposable income, I may pay someone to build all of them so I can decorate my foyer with them.

Even if they don’t work, they would make interesting steampunk decorations. They’d be good conversation starters. You’re welcome to use and profit from my perpetual motion machine designs in any way you want, free of charge.  They’re free domain.

P.S.

My quest for meaningful puzzles didn’t end when I quit working on my perpetual motion machine. In fact, part of why I lost interest is because I had moved on to the next puzzle: the meaning of life.

If you enjoyed this post, you’ll also like these:

My Goals
My Life Stories (in chronological order)
My Art

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