Three bits off topic:
This is just for fun, I guess.  I don’t think any of these points deserves a full posting slot, but I thought I might roll them together.  Well one can be frivolous at times and not at others, I suppose.

The first point is something called the “Montauk Monster.”  The story begins with a WW II project to conceal navy ships from discovery by radar.  The legend is called the “Philadelphia Experiment.”  I am pretty sure that at least there was such an experiment, because a man whom I knew said he had been involved in it.  I changed the subject at once.  I have no desire so know anything nobody else knows.  What is in broad daylight is weird enough. 

Well the Philadelphia experiment did not go well, at least according to the legend.  I imagine in real life it worked well enough.  There was a follow up legend called the Montauk Project, set in that location on Long Island.  From what I have read of it, the story is less plausible than its forebear.  As I read I could not help thinking, “Not the best talent.”  The project was supposed to involve technology that could permit a person to travel unlimited distances in no time at all.  That would be novel enough for decent fiction, but instead of invoking quantum entanglement, which some claim is akin to teleportation, the story had the process powered by the mind.  In the version I read, things went amiss and a portal was opened to a different space/time and a large number of terrible beasties came pouring through.


Open such a portal to a place on the earth and stand back to watch the stampede.  You might get a lot of bugs coming through.  And occasionally you might get a biggish thing like an aardvark or platypus.  But they would be very uncommon, as indeed they are in their natural habitat.  Now we are up to three impossibilities already.

So about four years ago this thing

The montauk "monster"
Downloaded July 21, 2012

turned up dead on the beach in Montauk.  Go to the wiki site for a better look. 

There has been some speculation as to what it might have been, raccoon, sick dog, secret government project or whatever.  I can’t tell from the picture here, but on the wiki picture if you blow it up you can see it better.  It’s kind of like it has teeth on the lower jaw and a beak above.  Others have noticed this.  Some say it is the nose stripped of skin and the teeth are missing from the upper jaw, even the jaw itself missing, but that leaves me cold.  Mind you this is just for fun, and if you want it to be a nose, that by all means have it that way.  I could easily be wrong on this. 

But an apparent beak leaves me no middle ground.  It has to be factitious or a truly miraculous accomplishment in time and space travel.  There simply is no such animal alive today, nothing remotely resembling it, nor in the fossil record. 

Government secret project?  It could hardly be kept secret.  They invented the A bomb as a secret government project, and the Russians stole it.  So, with amazing rashness, they invented the H bomb.  And the Russians stole that, too.

The “monster” vanished.  A few pictures of the thing circulated taken from different angles, but there was no specimen kept for DNA studies, not even a rag wiped on it.  I have seen no picture that included an object against which scale could be estimated.  I think we are left with an artist of incredible skill and imagination, not excluding the possibility that the artist did start with a dead raccoon.  Don’t expect to hear about this genius.  I have seen the work and often personally met artists whose skills are beyond what I see displayed commercially.  The chance of it being an artist must be considered that there was a popular if highly unlikely story of strange creatures turning up right there a few years earlier. 

So what’s the point?  The point is what would you do?  You just found this thing on the beach.  You have no camera.  You are afraid to touch it.  You are not in hailing distance of anybody.  So you hurry off and call the newspapers, animal rescue folks, a university … so the thing is properly investigated and the truth revealed.

I don’t think you would be so lucky.  Just making the discovery is not enough.  Getting it out so people know about it is the challenge.  At least it has been for me.  All I can do is to assure you that what I am presenting is no hoax.  But you know that.  I give references.  Some days I wish the whole thing would wash back out to sea and leave me justified in forgetting it.

The second issue also relates to getting the seemingly impossible seriously considered.  (Ah, Chicken Little, where are you now that we need you?)  Many years ago the eminent physicist James Clerk Maxwell was speaking about his great accomplishment, four partial differential equations that made it possible for the first time to describe electricity and magnetism and their changes.  In his formulation light was a wave with electrical and magnetic components.  Hitherto light had been thought of as a particle, because that is what the eminent Isaac Newton had suggested.  In his address, Maxwell acknowledged that is own idea was now standard.  Then he said, “That’s mostly because everybody who believed that light was a particle has died.”

Don’t expect people to change their minds much.

That observation has now been addressed formally.  (MM A Failure to Forget SCIENCE vol. 337 no. 6093 July 13, 2012 page 134 reviewing Shtulman and Vacarel Cogniton 124, 209 (2012))  Sure enough, if you have learned something and are subsequently taught something different the first idea does not go away.  It hangs around and interferes with applying the new one. 

The article calls the first idea a “misconception” and the new one “scientific.” That requires a bit of indulgence.  The average scientific theory is replaced after about thirty years; there is no permanent gap between misconception and science.  Science will be different tomorrow. 

But that aside, it is clear that once something is learned, particularly if learned at an early age, it will hang around for a very long time.  I take small comfort in this, of course.  My task of getting evidence understood has had only modest success.  Were it only my own poor approach, that might be remedied by changing to a better approach.  But alas I seem to have taken up a task that is difficult indeed.

The third issue goes back to an old campaign of mine.  When I was a lot younger, I found numbers that suggested returned Vietnam veterans were dying at home as fast as they had been dying during the war, by than already years in the past.  I was horrified and looked around for a way to do volunteer work to help out.  These, after all, were my friends.  Not only did I not find work, I found that nobody believed there was a problem at all.  It’s a longish story, but eventually I set about trying to get the word out.  It took about two years, but the word finally got out, and now just about everybody knows that returning combat veterans bear a terrible emotional burden. 

I got no credit.  Perhaps I deserved none, and I didn’t really want any.  But I thought if another problem ever came up, it would be nice to have the credibility of having at least been an early voice.  Problem now at hand: credibility not so good.

So I recently ran across some numbers.  407,828 Americans died in WWII.  56,261 died in Vietnam.  383 died in Gulf Wars I and II.  The burden of the veterans?  It’s hard to compare, but it sure hasn’t gone away.  The implication is that the emotional burden is not fear.  The emotional burden is knowing you have tried to kill somebody, maybe have killed them.

That message has not sunk in.  Killing somebody is a terrible thing to have to do.  Just keeping soldiers alive is not enough.  You are going to have to keep the world at peace.  I wish you the best of luck.

Upon seeing the numbers I fell to thinking foul thoughts about the leaders who send boys into combat.  Them I came up with an idea.  What is needed is a bunch of serial killer psychopaths.  I have known people for whom lying had no horrors.  I have never known anyone who could kill in cold blood.  And such people tend to be disorganized.  There are the psychotic impulse driven serial killers and then there are the well organized ones that plan it all out.  (I won’t give you the profile, but it looks a lot like me.)  I think I know where to find them.  Somebody ordered those wars.  Some well organized person said, “Kill those people” or “that person.”  Somebody could have made it different.

All it would take would be a constitutional amendment.  If the state decides to execute a person and the last decision is by the governor as to whether to pardon, then the governor will have to perform the execution.  I think the amendment could have language such that the governor and the condemned must be able to see each other directly.  It might reduce the enthusiasm that the United States has for the death penalty and it might reduce the enthusiasm that Americans have for doing things that get the death penalty.  On both counts we are essentially unique among developed countries. 

And if the president wants to sit around with his buddies flipping through profiles of terrorist candidates like they were baseball cards deciding who gets it in the neck without due process of law, maybe there is no way to stop it.  But they’ll need to abduct the condemned and let the president do his own dirty work.  After all, he is well organized – you have to be to get to be president – and he evidently has no qualms with being responsible for deaths.  So far as I can tell no president ever has been except Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy. 

I am not suggesting this.  I just say it crossed my mind.  Sending boys off to war is a terrible thing to do.  I wish that were better understood.  But that is not the understanding that I am currently promoting and I should not let myself get diverted.

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