Friday, February 23, 2007

Lurker's First Law of Bullshit

Right now, we have a bunch of different sets of 'natural laws' and constants for physics and so on. A few examples:

Newton's Laws of Motion, which have absolute fuckall to do with Newton being an alchemist, a Freemason, head of the Priory of Sion, and a sexually pent-up old coot who was never quite right in the head to begin with, and who spent most of his career in a sinecure at the Royal Mint. You want an example? All right, how about 'A Tom that is at rest tends to remain at rest until acted upon by an outside force, e.g. an alarm clock or the need to piss, and a Tom that is in motion tends to remain in motion until it falls flat on its' face from being pooped.'

The ever-so-depressing Second Law of Thermodynamics; i.e. it takes less energy to be a lazy slob than to build something and energy doesn't grow on trees these days, so the universe is in an irreversible downward cycle of increasing entropy and general craptitude, brought on by its own damn laziness, so it should all be fine, just FINE, because the universe is only bringing it on itself by making poor life choices.

Planck's Constant (6.626068 × 10-34 m2 kg / s-- it's what told the little Dutch boy where to put his finger, but did so very precisely)

Laws of Conservation of Mass and Energy (neither matter nor energy can be created or destroyed, but they can be changed from one state to another; i.e. there's a finite amount of stuff in the universe, and X=Y for all processes in a closed system where X = the total mass of garbage in and Y = the total mass of garbage out).

The Sullivan Theory of Maximum Pwnage: Pwnage = all situations where X >Y, in which XN -> YP, when values of N are (nuke)(FTW) and values of P are proportional to (OMFG) (FTL)= (spladdoxed).

All of these do, however, have one thing in common. They're all bloody damn boring even when I satirize them.

So I created a new universal law just because I can, and because President Bush has demonstrated that you might as well just preach to the people who already agree with you and ignore the people who don't, because people who don't agree with you aren't going to pay you any attention anyways, so you might as well go ahead and start a third damn war even before you finish losing the first two.

I call it Lurker's First Law of Bullshit, the reasons for which are, well, #1 I'm the Lurker, and it's my damn law, (get your own, dirty hippies, and get off my lawn before the patchouli stains the….well it's too late for THAT…), and #2 it's a law regarding the quantum properties of bullshit.

Back in the 1800s there used to be a conceptual substance, sort of a theoretical holdover from Aristotle and the ancients (q.v. Plato's 'Timaeus'), known as the 'luminiferous aether,' or light-bringing substance; it was sort of a fifth element, no respect meant to the lovely Mila Jovovich, and its' existence was generally taken much for granted until the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The basics of it was that it was whatever element there was that filled the space in the universe that wasn't filled by earth, air, water, etc., and it's what transmitted light between origin and destination. Most of HP Lovecraft's Elder Gods (Cthulhu and all) had wings, incidentally, because in Lovecraft's mind they got to Earth by flying through the aether. Essentially, it took a while for most scientists to really get their heads around the idea that what's outside the atmosphere is vacuum (or at least, chunky vacuum)—it seemed impossible that vacuums of that type could exist in nature.

I propose that there is indeed a 'fifth element' in the universe, a substance which fills all the voids between everything else like the luminiferous aether supposedly did. That substance is…. Cue the drumroll…


Of course, most of the bullshit in the universe isn't pure bullshit—that can only exist in laboratory circumstances and under very tightly-controlled conditions, such as the White House press room or wherever a Republican is speaking. Granted, under such circumstances you can produce almost infinite quantities of pure bullshit, certainly more bullshit than would ever be useful or justifiable. Most of the bullshit in the use is poor stuff by comparison, containing variable amounts of other elements such as truth, justice, the American Way, apple pies, and for some reason, alarm clocks.

The thing about bullshit that requires a major rethinking of physics, though, is that it defies the laws of conservation of mass and energy—if you have a vacuum and introduce a quantity of bullshit into it (any grade of bullshit will do), the bullshit will expand to fill the vacuum, but do so without decreasing in density, opacity, or other obfuscatorial qualities. You wind up with a total amount of bullshit which is absolutely greater than that with which you started. It's worth noting that if you use impure isotopes of bullshit, for example ones containing a grain of truth, the amount of truth doesn't increase in proportion to the amount the bullshit increases, so you actually wind up with more purified bullshit, since it still contains the same amount of truth you had in the beginning. What's more, the speed of the increase in bullshit is proportional to the size of the vacuum—bullshit expands faster in a big vacuum than in a smaller one, because there is more space to fill, and the same amount of time in which to do it.

When you come right down to it, this multiplication-of-bullshit phenomena is actually readily observable in many everyday circumstances, such as dorm rooms where students are hastily writing term papers based solely on what they think is the one fact they can recall from the lecture, having never done the reading, without taking into account the possibility that the professor may have been joking, sarcastic, or quoting from a completely unrelated book, or that the one crucial fact might, in fact, have come from a completely different class, Jeopardy, or Sportcenter. Still, it is an absolute wonder of creation that one sentence composed mostly of truth, with a few crumbs of bullshit attached in odd corners like semicolons and words like "whereof," can spontaneously expand to fill a vacuum the size of an entire term paper in just a few desperate hours. If the size of the paper increases but the time remains the same, even if you account for showing up at class late and handing in a paper still warm from the printer, the bullshit expands faster. By the end, naturally, the composition of the mixture has been altered so that it now consists almost entirely of bullshit, with only minute traces of the truth.

Various branches of the US government make use of this process in handling particularly dangerous isotopes of the truth, such as government waste, sex scandals, exposures of lies, and so on; if buried in enough bullshit, they can become less dangerous because the aggregate amount of stuff you have to hunt through to find the truth is now so large. Even using mass spectroscopy, the signal-to-noise ratios created by the bullshit defy easy examination. The long-term consequences of this wholesale and deliberate bullshit production have not, however, become clear at this time, but they are probably extremely unpleasant.

Consider, then, the modern world. I know, it's painful, but do it anyways. Pain builds character, pleasure just builds hairy palms and bad eyesight (though the last is, I admit, mostly due to a related proximate cause, namely staring at pr0n-laden computer screens in dark rooms).

More to the point, consider this article, which was brought to my attention by a certain Mr. Halberd, and the following excerpt from it:

In a scene that was once a part of every American child's history lessons, a group gathered in the chamber of the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., in May of 1844 and listened as a message was tapped out to Baltimore. The message was "What hath God wrought!" and note, please, that it doesn't end with a question mark but with an exclamation point.

It must have seemed miraculous, this nearly instantaneous sending of messages over great distances through little strands of metal. It was certainly the talk of the nation and of the world. It is said that one presidential candidate in the 1852 election claimed credit for having invented it, though this is disputed. Inevitably, there were skeptics. In 1854 one professional gadfly by the name of Henry David Thoreau expressed his doubts thus:

We are in great haste to construct a magnetic telegraph from Maine to
Texas; but Maine and Texas, it may be, have nothing important to

The key word being, of course, "important." As the taciturn Thoreau could not have imagined, there was much to talk about anyway. The historical record is silent on the matter of when the first truly stupid message was sent by wire, though no one will doubt that it was early on, or that innumerable similar ones soon followed.

In terms of the First Law of Bullshit, what Morse and his coworkers did was create a vacuum—a real or metaphysical (or even outright metaphorical) space in the universe, which nobody happened to be using or keeping a close eye on at the time. Bullshit, in the form of innumerable completely pointless telegraphs from one place to another, immediately began to expand into the vacuum, and by the year 2000 Texas became the world's leading exporter of bullshit. Maine, however, continued to focus on her traditional industries of potato-growing, logging, fishing, and supplying settings for cinderblock-sized Stephen King novels.

By way of proving that bullshit expands faster to fill bigger spaces in the same time, consider the internet and the modern news media. Prior to the late 1990s, there was relatively little spam or advertising on the internet, because the internet was still a very limited space—computers were slower, most services were dialup modems, there was less stuff available on the internet, and fewer people used the net. Once the internet exploded in the late 1990s, however, the 'space' started increasing to stay ahead of demand, and this in turn gave the bullshit time to expand, creating stuff like spam, popup windows, spyware, adware,, iTunes, and the like. The sheer number of neologisms shows you how much of this stuff has become commonplace. Spamming became a multimillion-dollar industry structured around exploiting a resource that hadn't even existed ten years earlier.

For the news media, the launch of a series of cable news networks such as CNN, MSNBC, Fox Noise, and so on greatly expanded the amount of time devoted to discussing…well, news. The thing was, the world still had the same amount of actual news in it, so the bullshit expanded quite rapidly, producing Bill O'Reilly, the O.J. Simpson trial, runaway brides, Anna Nicole Smith,, etc, who spend much of their time rehashing things that have been beaten to death (Bill Clinton's BJ), harping about completely unimportant crap (Anna Nicole Smith) and just making stuff up (Barak Obama's supposed training in a fundamentalist madrassa in Indonesia, which turned out to be made out of whole cloth after it was reported as fact by Fox Noise).

In the same way, when there were four channels on TV, you could generally find something to watch. Nowadays, the state of affairs can be summed up by a morose Bruce Springsteen lyric—'57 channels and nothing's on.' Did you ever feel the need to call one of your friends right in the middle of lunch or a smoke break to talk about nothing important before you got a cell phone? Would you have ever even considered talking on the phone or sending text messages about what a cute butt the guy in front of you at the McBurgerWendy's had while you driving around on the highway, and whether this was a worthwhile use of time? How about interrupting a conversation with an actual living, breathing human being because your cell phone rings?

What it comes down to is this. You might have a busier life, but you still have the same amount of time. Sort the worthwhile from the dross—put the cell phone down. Throw your television out the window. Get off the friggin' internet if you're just farting around looking at nothing in particular. Yes, the irony is quite plainly visible to me;). Talk to people in person. Eliminate as much bullshit from your life as you can, and it will allow you to focus on the other stuff, like life and being human. That's the stuff that's actually important.

Now listening to: Old Blind Dogs, Johnny O'Braidislee

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