The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown

If you haven’t read The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown by TOF, you really, really should. It’s the history of the overthrow of the ptolemaic theory of the solar system to the present heliocentric theory of the solar system. Gallileo is involved, but is not the primary subject. It’s really quite fascinating and more than worth the time to read it. Two tidbits, to wet your appetite:

TOF once wrote an article entitled “The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown and Down ‘n Dirty Mud-Wrassle” which described the century-long progress from the first seriously-worked out heliocentric mathematical model to the final overthrow of geocentrism.  A century, more-or-less, is generally what it takes for quantum mechanics, general relativity, and sundry other theories to progress from “wild hypothesis overthrowing the wisdom of the ages” to “standard model,” so there was nothing unusual in the resistance to heliocentrism from the scientific establishment of the day.  As Max Planck once put it, a new scientific theory gradually gets accepted by scientists because “all the old scientists have died.”  

and slightly later:

Before you laugh at your ancestors, TOF invites you to prove that the earth is, contrary to your senses, in wild and careening double motion: spinning like a top and whipping around the sun without (somehow) leaving the Moon and Air behind, and without everyone stumbling around like dunkards.  You are not allowed to appeal to authority or to the success of NASA, or suchlike things.  You’ve got eyeballs and armillaries, and that’s pretty much it.  Go. TOF will wait here.

Astonishingly, Late Moderns, who hold heliocentrism as a sort of holy doctrine, are generally unaware of the empirical evidences that would justify it; while Early Moderns, who thought geocentrism dough-face obvious, were well aware of the evidences that falsified heliocentrism. These evidences, plucked variously from Aristotle, Oresme, and Riccoli follow; but be it noted that both Oresme and Riccoli also supplied rebuttals for most of them and Aristotle cautioned against taking his cosmology as more certain than he himself did…

It really is an excellent history of the time, and you really, really should read the whole thing. It explores why the scientific establishment of the time was set against heliocentrism—for example, they didn’t much care whether the earth was at the center or the sun was at the center, but the idea that the earth was moving contradicted all available evidence both on the earth and of astronomical observations. Go read it. You’ll be glad that you did.

Bad Self Defense & Captain Krav Maga

Ramsey Dewey (and friends) can be quite funny when they put their mind to it. This video compares and tries to replicate two self defense videos which teach one how to defend against multiple opponents with guns:

I will say, though, that while the humor is entirely correct, and moreover that fighting multiple opponents with guns is probably not going to end well, there was an interesting point that wasn’t highlighted here. In Ramsey’s reproduction, the gunmen kept a safe distance from Ramsey. There was a curious self-defense video I saw which made the interesting point that while trained people will indeed keep a safe distance when they have guns, trained people rarely rob people with guns. They can make money honestly.

The sort of people who rob others on the street with guns don’t have training, and moreover use the gun primarily to assert their dominance and only secondarily as a weapon. And indeed, security footage does show that criminals often do wave guns right in people’s faces rather than keeping a safe distance. This doesn’t change the right thing to do when threatened with a gun (since the smallest mistake can result in being killed) but it is an interesting point of human psychology.

The Last Psychiatrist on The Dove Beauty Sketches

If you haven’t read the blog (which, alas, hasn’t been updated in years) of The Last Psychiatrist, you’ve been missing out. I’m going to highlight one of my favorite posts of his: The Dove Beauty Sketches Scam. Just go read it.

But if you want to know something about it first, it starts by showing this clip from a movie about a con artist who was approached by a psychologist and is teaching her about con artistry at her request:

Then The Last Psychiatrist asks this question:

Quick test for a con: what questions does it not occur to you to ask?  While you were memorizing the language and the pacing of the scam, you didn’t ask yourself, why didn’t Mantegna take that guy’s money at the end?  Why did he let him off the hook?  “He was just doing it as an example.” Oh, like when a guy says he’ll put in just the tip, “I want to see if it fits”?   It’s not like the psychiatrist doesn’t know he’s a thief– that’s why they were there in the first place.   So he purposely didn’t steal the money to make the psychiatrist feel at ease, feel closer to him.  To earn her confidence by first giving her his.  She’s the mark.  The aborted short con is part of an unseen long con.

The Last Psychiatrist has a very blunt and provocative style, but he uses it to deliver a lot of insight.

Half-Swording

I first discovered Skallagrim through this video in which he demonstrated that half-swording is real:

One of the things I really liked about it is that it’s in the genre one might call proving that history is real. There’s a type of skeptic who likes to assume that everything outside of his experience is fake. Why such skeptics do this is a whole long topic for another day. But for the moment it suffices that it’s always fun to see the debunkers debunked.

As a small side-node, this is why I could never be very into myth-busters when they weren’t confirming a myth. They often did a half-assed or quarter-assed job. It just isn’t fun to watch people generalize from their own incompetence. There’s an awful lot of that, though, especially when it comes to online atheism.

Which is why it’s so fun to see a competent person demonstrate what skill can do.

The Totally Phantom Menace

Not recent, but so much fun:

For those interested in good fight choreographies, here’s Jet Li fighting an entire room of police officers who were just in martial arts training:

You’ll note that there is the use of space and blocking to generally force his opponents to attack him one-on-one. Moreover he moves so fast that the time between attacks is much shorter; in some cases the two opponents attacking in series is basically them attacking at the same time just not in perfect unison.

It’s still a choreography, of course, and not realistic. But it’s a choreography done with a lot of skill and in general an eye for detail. Even when you pause it and look carefully about the only major criticism you could level is that the opponents almost invariably go for big swinging strikes and never use jabs. That said, at least their big swinging strikes are fast. Oh, and Jet Li turns not because it’s pretty but because there are people behind him.

Final Fantasy Victory Theme With Lyrics

Warning: mild adult lyrics.

Once one is done laughing, I will note it’s strange how some moderns are all but allergic to the concept of self defense. Or possibly the concept of an in-game story which gives the characters motivations different from the player’s motivations.

In Final Fantasy it wasn’t the party which attacked the woodland creatures but the woodland creatures who attacked the party. The main characters are celebrating at the end of it because the attempt to murder them failed. That’s a thing worth celebrating.

I’ve really never understood this blind spot moderns have. Granted, they’re not great at telling the difference between justified killing in self defense in real life and murder, but I think in video games they simply can’t get past the fact that the player was looking for combat. This suggests that the problem might be a lack of imagination—that they’re incapable of playing pretend for the sake of a game.

A British Lieutenant Playing A Star Wars RPG

If you haven’t seen this video where Owen Stephens tells the story of the time he was running a Star Wars RPG playtest and an (probably World War II) British Lieutenant showed up to the table, it’s well worth the six minutes:

I really love that they blast through the material because the Lieutenant, being an officer, does what an officer does: he leads them. He lays out plans which make sense and in which the boys at the table can see their parts and so they do what people do in the presence of a competent leader: they follow. And together, they did what people cooperating do: a lot more than they can do on their own.

I think my favorite part is when he explains to the boys at the table what a commando raid is.

There’s a lot that could be said about how young men need older men and it is one of the great follies of our civilization that we separate the two groups so completely, but I think it’s sufficiently obvious in this video that it actually does go without saying.