“Well, emotions are important”
*Blank Stare*
“That’s as far as I’ve gotten”

Having once been mistaken as autistic, I am not the authority on emotions.  But I am still going to write about them.  I grew up as a long distance runner and I read a saying by George Malley that went like this, “Yes you will get tired.  But what you need to understand is that it is just a feeling and it will pass”.  With that as my guiding light to feelings growing up, it’s no small surprise that I was mistaken as autistic later in life.  There is an important caveat.  I also learned to listen to my feelings.  If I was tired that didn’t necessarily mean I should or must stop, but it was feedback from my body.  That is my perspective on emotions is as follows:

All emotions are feedback.

That is emotions and feelings carry important information. Emotions and feeling are how your body communicates with itself.  If you are hungry: it is you body letting your conscious know “Hey you need to eat”.  If you are tired your body is telling you, “How about some rest, do you really need to be exercising so strenuously?”.  When my muscles are sore, they are telling me something isn’t perfect with them (sometimes it’s because they are rebuilding sometimes they are tied in knots and need to be stretched). If you dread seeing your boss, your mind is communicating with you.  If you are anger, it is because you believe something is wrong in the world.

Just because your emotions are telling you something doesn’t mean it is true. You could be angry with your friend because he/she isn’t treating you like the god-king of the world.  Even though you think you ought to be treated like the god-king of the world, they shouldn’t be treating you like the god-king, they should be treating you like their friend.  You start feeling tired long before you actually run out of energy.  You get hungry after three hours, but your body is capable of going weeks without food.  But in all cases your body is telling you what it thinks to be true.  It is sharing it’s conclusions with you.

Emotions are an information super highway.

They compact a ton of information into that wee little feeling. That cliff is scary don’t go too close. Emotions are the conclusions of your data and life experiences about your current situation. I am angry at you because you cheated on me and you promised me you wouldn’t.  Because emotions are conclusions from data, they tend to be weighted heavily.  That is are snippets that contain lots of information.  Emotions are then powerful communication tools either internally (between the body and the mind) or externally (between two or more people).  Because they are so powerful, they are the most effective communication and sales tools (why everyone tells you to sell with emotion).

So pay attention to emotions they are important data, but realize they will on occasion lead you wrong.

The most important thing though is not to conflate emotions with irrationality.  As that is the biggest mistake most people (and especially men) make.  Emotions are important.  That’s as far as I have gotten.


Russell Conjugation and Bayesian Thought

Russell Conjugation or emotive conjugations is the idea that a words connotation is more important than its denotation.  That is the emotional content of the word is more important than the factual content of the word.  Eric R. Weinstein in his essay on Russell conjugation puts it as follows

Where words can be considered “synonyms” if they carry the same factual content (I) regardless of the emotional content (II). This however leads to the peculiar effect that the synonyms for a positive word like “whistle-blower” cannot be used in its place as they are almost universally negative (with “snitch,” “fink,” “tattletale” being representative examples). This is our first clue that something is wrong, or at least incomplete with our concept of synonym requiring an upgrade to distinguish words that may be content synonyms but emotional antonyms.

The basic principle of Russell Conjugation is that the human mind is constantly looking ahead well beyond what is true or false to ask “What is the social consequence of accepting the facts as they are?”  While this line of thinking is obviously self-serving, we are descended from social creatures who could not safely form opinions around pure facts so much as around how those facts are presented to us by those we ape, trust or fear. Thus, as listeners and readers our minds generally mirror the emotional state of the source, while in our roles as authoritative narrators presenting the facts, we maintain an arsenal of language to subliminally instruct our listeners and readers on how we expect them to color their perceptions. Russell discussed this by putting three such presentations of a common underlying fact in the form in which a verb is typically conjugated:

I am firm. [Positive empathy]
You are obstinate. [Neutral to mildly negative empathy]
He/She/It is pigheaded.  [Very negative empathy]

In all three cases, Russell was describing people who did not readily change their minds. Yet by putting these descriptions so close together and without further factual information to separate the individual cases, we were forced to confront the fact that most of us feel positively towards the steadfast narrator and negatively towards the pigheaded fool, all without any basis in fact.

The key phrase is “without any basis in fact”.  The three statements have the same denotation, however, the differences in emotional connotation of the word conveys more information. That is, there are two pieces of evidence or data in each of these sentences. The first is the speakers belief that the subject does not change its views easily.  The second tells piece of information tells us about its effects.  The use of firm lets us know that speaker believes the quality is a good thing.  Whereas pig-headed lets us know that it’s a problem. Our language cleverly allows us to pass multiple pieces of information across such a short sentence. Imagine if we had to say the sentences as follows

I do not change my mind easily and this has good consequences for myself and the people around me.
You do not change your mind easily and it is mildly annoying.
He/She/It does not change his/her/its/ mind easily and it is a problem.

It becomes very obvious why we place most of the importance on the second piece of information–because the first piece of information is the same for each of the three sentences and only the differentiation is the second piece of information.

But back to “without any basis in fact” why would the listener pay heed to the first part of sentence (that the speakers believes the subject does not change opinions frequently) without believing the second part: whether the expression of this trait is good, bad, or mildly annoying.  It is very easy to confuse emotion with irrationality unless you realize that emotion is a summary of the facts weighted by importance. An intelligent listener will pay attention to both pieces of information. Unsurprisingly, humans do.

Pollster Frank Luntz stumbled onto the same concept by holding focus-groups with real time technology.  Luntz tested the concept (unaware of Russell’s philosophy) by comparing emotional response with changes in the connotation of words. From Weinstein’s essay:

What he found is that most people form their opinions solely on the Russell conjugation without thinking through the effects for themselves. That is, the very same person will oppose a “death tax” while having supported an “estate tax” seconds earlier even though these taxes are two descriptions of the exact same underlying object.

On the surface this seems very, surprising.  However this falls in line with what we discussed earlier.  Given two pieces of information about a subject in which case the first is the same.  We will use the second piece of information.

Since my mind was spinning at first, lets go back to a simple example to make sure we all understand.  Lets say you have to hire an employee.  You have two choices. Both went to the same college and got the same (appropriate) degree.  However one was a good student and one was a bad student.  Which do you hire?  Most of you would want to know what I mean by good and bad, but supposing you that information was unavailable to you (because I am mean and like to hide information), which would you choose?  I think we would all choose the “good” student. This is exactly what is happing with our estate and death tax.  The negative underlying connotation of death tax gives us information that it is the bad student (or unfair) while the lack of extra information about the estate tax tells us nothing about whether it is good or bad.

If we think of people as “logical”, then Russell conjugation doesn’t make any sense.  If however, we think of them as rational but working with incomplete information, not only does Russell conjugation make sense, but it also is what we should expect.

Russell Conjugation and Bayesian Thought

We Have Always Been In a “Post Fact” World

The Atlantic recently published a piece decrying that ‘There’s No Such Thing Anymore, Unfortunately, as Facts’.  This is of course utter nonsense. What we have instead is people are confuse what the data is and what we infer to be true because of the data.  Furthermore people lacking the language and training to see through these things (primarily because are taught to think oppositely in school).  Let me give you an example.

In the morning on December 1, 2016, Peter Woerner fed his dogs.  This is a “fact”.  That is, this is a statement that is either true or false. Moreover whether it is true or false does not depend on who is saying it (As opposed to I like apples more than oranges). Now let us say you wants to determine whether or not this statement is true or false.

Now what is the data?  For me, since I am Peter Woerner, the data is that I remember going downstairs putting the food in bowls and giving it to the dogs.  For you, however, the data is completely different.  You went to a website, peterwoerner.wordpress.com and read someone who claims to be Peter Woerner say that he fed his dogs this morning.

Because we have different data, we will have a different degree of certainty about whether or not I fed the dogs. I am very certain I fed the dogs, because it was not very long ago and I trust my memory relatively well. I can also see the bowls that they ate from.  You, dear reader, should have a very different degree of certainty.  For instance, you could very reasonably doubt that I am Peter Woerner or privy to information about his life, at which point you would no longer have any clue as to the validity of the statement.  If I am not Peter Woerner, then it is significantly less likely that the statement is true than if I am.  Second, you could doubt whether I am truthful.  For instance you might believe that I am something of a practical joker, so you might think there is a chance that my wife fed the dogs instead of me this morning or that I don’t have any dogs.

Here’s the point: your degree of certainty about a factual statement is dependent of both your data (what you see and hear) and the assumptions you use (is X trustworthy) to make conclusions about your data. This has never changed.  The Trump presidency and campaign doesn’t change it.  What has changed is that we can access more data.

So, lets pretend there is another website which is devoted to stalking me.  This website reported (a few months ago) that I don’t have any dogs. Now your data has changed significantly.  Moreover if you believe my web stalker is a trustworthy source of information, then you might conclude that the statement is false and  that I am a liar and not trustworthy.  If however, you believe me, that I did feed my dogs, then you are naturally going to conclude that my web stalker is less trustworthy.  At this point you and your buddy are very likely to rationally disagree on the “fact” (that I fed my dogs this morning) despite getting your news from the same sources.  The disagreement is even further if you get your news from different sources e.g. you read my site and not the stalker site and your friend reads only the stalker site

Of course, since you are smart, you are thinking to yourself I really don’t care whether Peter fed his dogs this morning or not.  I am just going to trust him on this one because it doesn’t matter to me.  However there are issues you might care about, like Russia is manipulating the U.S. elections.  If you let Muslims into your country, they will try to kill you or your friends. Or diversity + proximity = war.  And we will rationally disagree because we have different biases and different data.

Ultimately we should be talking about a more important question, how do people decide what is true in light of incomplete information. Because this will actually shed light on issues as opposed to the false debate of “fake news” which further obfuscates everything.

We Have Always Been In a “Post Fact” World

Potential Free FEM Workflow

CAD (probably not free)

NetGen convert .stl into file type readable by GMSH


FEniCS scripted through python or Matlab

Python is really easy to install on Unix systems.  Please note that in the example instead of x, and y for the dirchelet boundary condition, x[0] and x[1] were used instead inorder to get program to work.

Post Processing: GMSH (again)

The real question is whether I will be able to script the whole process via python.  I think so (and whether it can do time dependent contact mechanics problems).

Updates incoming 🙂

Update 8/02/2016

I have found getfem++ to be rather buggy. That is the sample problems have errors on my machine. It is a shame, because getfem++ looked so dang nice. If I come back to it I will update again here.

Potential Free FEM Workflow

Slip Systems

When talking about slip systems, the it is important to speak the language. There is a common way for defining crystallographic lines and planes within the unit cell.


Lines or directions are defined by two points.  The first point is the origin on the unit cell. Then the other end of the vector is projected onto the three axes measured by the unit cell dimensions.  The three indices are then reduced to the smallest possible integer values.  Finally the values are given in brackets [uwv]  Overbars are used to represent negative numbers so instead of [-100] we would write [100].  Unfortunately in wordpress in overline is a little bit annoying to use so I will sometimes use the less compact form with the negative in front.

Hexagonal crystals (like sapphire) use a four-axis (Miller-Bravis) coordinate system. The first three axes  are all on the x-y plane with 120 degree separation between them.  The fourth axis is the z-axis.


Although planes are typically defined by the direction normal. Crystallographers define them by their Miller indices (hkl).  Let a plane intersect not pass through the origin.  Then let the plane pass through the x, y and z axes at the points a, b, c.  If the plane passes doesn’t pass through an axis, assign the value of ∞.  Then the reciprocal of these numbers (when moved to a lowest common integer) are the Miller indices.  For example (001) is the xy plane



Slip is the usual method of plastic deformation in metals by blocks fof the crystal sliding past one another along definite crystallographic planes.  There exists a slip plane, and a slip direction.  The plane is the plane which gets moved and the slip line is the direction.  Generally slip occurs in the plane of greatest atomic density and the direction is the closest packed direction with the plane. This is because slip keeps a single crystal as a single crystal.



A dislocation is a type of defect in the crystal structure.  Specifically it is a line defect. It is what is responsible for slip.  Typically, it is an extra half plane of atoms in the crystal lattice.  This half plane can then move easily move perpendicularly through the crystal.


(In Future Include and describe some figures).






Callister, William D. Materials Science and Engineering.

Slip Systems

Diplomacy Notes

I have started playing diplomacy online.  Here I am printing some of my commonly used opening messages so that I can reuse them in future games.


From a recent game as Austria:

Dear Turkey,

Conventional wisdom states that Austria and Turkey should each recruit allies and attack the other. However, I think that is a terrible idea. Why? Because, we both have bigger fish to fry in the beginning. Italy threatens your ability to dominate the Mediterranean and Russia will always be eyeing your territory in order to establish a good defensive position in the south with the inability to be flanked (the stalemate line runs right through Turkey. For Austria, it is nearly impossible to actually attack Turkey. No, it is impossible for Austria to attack Turkey’s homeland. Not only that but Germany, Russia and Italy are all eyeing Austria’s lands. I would therefore like to propose an alliance. An Austrian Turkish alliance. We will split up the Balkans 2-2 your choice on whether you want Rumania or Greece I will take the other and we can both agree to attack the enemy of your choosing (Russia or Italy) depending on whether you are interested in pursuing a naval strategy or northern strategy. This will allow Turkey early expansion opportunity and Austria some time to make her homeland safe.

Please consider my proposal,
Your friend, Austria

Dear Russia,

Perhaps nobody shares the security concern of the dual monarchy and the tsar. Not only do we both have 4 hostile neighbours, but we are both part of the dreaded central triangle (Germany, Russia, Austria). My experience says that a Russo-Austrian alliance is more beneficial, long term than a German-Austrian. We can collaborate more (on the Germans and the Turks), and more importantly an Austrian alliance seals off one of the more important defences in Russia.

Your Friend,
The Hapsburgs

Austria-Italian Relations

As you are aware, the center must hold. Austria and Italy are more or less forced to ally on the first turn. Italy needs help expanding (either into France) or into Turkey. Expanding into Turkey with Austria is the most popular option with good reasons. Your homeland is safe due to the alliance with Austria, and you get to attack Turkey through their most vulnerable location, Smyrna and Syria. I would suggest a Lepantao:
Naples to ION,
VEN to PIE (note that the typical DMZ of PIE does far more for France than it does for Italy (and depending on your relationship with Germany and England, it gives you opportunity for growth.

Let me know your thoughts,


Dear Germany,

Austria and Germany both have the most complicated security relations on the board. For good reason they rarely attack each other in the beginning. The last game I played saw a Germany attack Austria and they were both eliminated by 1904. I would like to propose a mutual security pact. Right now you are probably more interested in the west, and I am more interested in the south, however I believe that it is in both of our interests to gang up on Russia if they come after either of us. If Russia is attacking the German or the Austrian, then we should work together to rid the world of such behaviour.

Dear England,

Your are perhaps Austria’s only natural ally in this game, by that I mean, you are close enough that we can help one another, but far enough away that neither of us covets the other’s territory. I have two issues I want to discuss. The first is Scandinavia. I believe that you should make it a priority to go after Scandinavia. The four supply centers can be held by only three units. I believe that it would be in your and my best interest if you were able to hold the nordic countries. More importantly, it would deny Russia and Germany those supply centers which they would only use to attack us.

The second discussion I want to have is on Italy. I believe next to a Turkish attack, the French opening is one of Italy’s bolder moves. Spain, Marseilles and Tunis make a good base of operations for Italy, so you might find a willing ally. On your end, that would leave you as the dominate naval power in the north and sitting in very good position. If I were you I would feel him out on this issue.

Your Friend, Austria

Diplomacy Notes

Vox vs. Miller Free Trade Debate

On Vox’s and Miller’s Free Trade Debate.

Listen to the debate here.

I thought it was rather interesting debate, however there are a few points I want to mention that I thought were not fully spelled out.

Protectionism isn’t a Lack of Trade

First, it is important to note that free trade is not necessarily the same thing as no trade. Which means many of the benefits, or at least some of them can be realized with a somewhat protectionist stance. I certainly believe that we should start with free trade and then move protectionist as needed.

Free Trade and the Movement of People

It is important to note that Dr. Miller is wrong about the movement of people. The example in this case is robotics. Vox made the point that if you want to specialize in robotics you need to move to South Korea or Japan. Dr. Miller rebuttal was that if a bunch of people wanted to not move to Korea or Japan, then they would have a competitive advantage in terms of wages. However this is irrelevant because there will be a technological advantage–mainly a knowledge advantage which will be different to catch up. My rule of thumb is that it takes 4 times less time to learn something when someone else is teaching you. So even if the engineers and manufacturers in, let’s say, Boston want to participate in robotics, they are still many years behind technologically. The difference in wages in high skill jobs cannot make up for technical knowledge. In order to make up the difference, either people from Japan and Korea neeed to immigrate to Boston to bring that knowledge. Or someone in Boston has to be willing to spend a lot of money reinventing the knowledge that exists in Korea and Japan. Note that however, if the investor were to spend the capital in Korea and Japan, it could be used inventing new technology. That is essentially the cost of getting Boston up to speed in robotics technology is economically wasted in terms of free trade. So truly free trade requires people who specialize to move to places where everyone else specializes.

It is worth noting, however, that there is a benefit as having many people in the same area encourages innovation and progress.  Examples include Vienna and Berlin as hotspots of physics and mathematics in the early 1920s and 1930s and Silicon Valley and Hollywood today.

Protectionism is a form of national defense

Perhaps the biggest argument, in my mind, is national defence. Without getting into a discussion on the theory of war, I contend that the ability to make guns, bombs, ammunition, ships, communication devices, and other instruments need for war are necessary for winning a war. It could be that you can purchase them, however the best way to assure that you can acquire them is to produce them yourselves. As such, having a huge manufacturing bases at home allows these tools to be redistributed for war more quickly and readily than building new facilities. That is the production of cell phones can be readily converted to military grade communications systems, however the production of social services or tourism cannot be readily converted into production. So every country has a desire to specialize in manufacturing for national defence reasons. This means countries are incentivized to subsidize these industries either through tariffs or direct capital injection. Free trade should therefore, quickly, develop into unfair trade.

Free Trade isn’t Necessarily Fair

One of the assumptions for free trade is  that everybody plays by the same rules. However this is, in general not the case.  There is a difference in IP laws, labor laws,  environmental and regulatory laws from location to location.  These differences will have an effect on each area to be competitive in different industries, and can have additional negative externalities.   Below I see two practical issues that occur today.

IP issues with free trade discourages innovation. There have been many reports of China stealing intellectual property. This discourages innovation because reverse engineering takes significantly less time than engineering.  Without proper intellectual property protection and enforcement, free trade could stand in the way innovation.

All the arguments for free trade assume fair trade, however this isn’t necessarily the case. For instance in the lumber industry, we cut trees down in America then ship them across the Ocean to Russia to be processed instead of converting them to lumber and paper here. The reason is primarily a difference in environmental and labor laws (primarily environmental). Specifically Russia and Japan allow their factories to use chemicals which the EPA has deemed harmful to the environment. As such we cut trees in the U.S. ship them half way across the world and then ship the paper back to the U.S. (As an aside this may no longer be the case.  I heard it from a friend who used to work in the pulp and paper industry 30 years ago).

A better example is that the U.S has bought one quarter of the world’s supply of mercury to drive the cost of mercury up.  This is because their is a reaction which will cheaply filter out gold from water, but it involves dumping lots of mercury into the water.  This process is legal in many parts of the world, so the U.S. has made it economically infeasible by buying up the supply of mercury.  While this is a clear case of economics working, it is also a very clear case of possible negative side effects of differing environmental laws.

Vox vs. Miller Free Trade Debate