Capital in board games

In economic strategy board games, it’s very common to have an arc of growth over the course of the game. You start out with few resources, and then you invest those resources to bolster your income, which then gets reinvested to grow even more, following an exponential trajectory. Central to this growth trajectory is the concept of capital.

In economics, capital is understood as durable goods that are used to increase or enable production. The classic example of capital is factory machines, but capital could also be something abstract, such as an education. People commonly understand capital as simply money, which is true insofar as money is commonly invested into capital. And so it is in economic board games, where you invest fictional money into fictional capital in order to increase fictional production.

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On the scientificity of string theory

I must emphasize that although I have a background in physics, by no means do I have expertise in particle physics or string theory. I was a condensed matter physicist, and an experimentalist not a theorist. I do not have any deep understanding of string theory beyond a general background knowledge. What I bring to the table is a bit of awareness of how physics research operates in practice, plus the cynicism that comes with the territory of being an ex-physicist.

String theory was essentially a scientific fad. I’m not going to go into the history, because I have no expertise on that, and the Wikipedia article is frankly opaque. Dr. Collier recently made a more accessible retrospective–although I find the video game irritating, and Dr. Collier is liable to get some things wrong.

The relevant part is that string theory was a fad in scientific research and a fad in popular science. The physicists were overly excited about it, and so was the public. Then there was backlash, which again occurred both among physicists, and in the public. String theory was criticized for failing to make any testable predictions. Peter Woit described the theory as “not even wrong” (and published a book with that title), because a theory could only earn the status of being wrong by making a prediction that was found to be false.

Today, long after all that went down, what I encourage among non-physicist readers is moderation. String theory isn’t exactly a success story, but in the end it’s still legitimate scientific research. Frankly, you probably shouldn’t have any opinion on string theory at all, and it was a mistake for science communicators to have ever encouraged you to have one.

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Accuracy standards on the internet

A basic observation about the internet is that there are differing accuracy standards in different contexts. For example, the accuracy standards of a newspaper are supposed to be higher than that of a “hot take”. This here blog has standards somewhere in the middle. I’m not speaking extemporaneously, so I’m expected to do some fact checking. But I’m also not paid to do that for you, so reader beware.

Conflict can occur when content of certain accuracy standards get judged by different accuracy standards than was understood by the author. The classic example is when someone tweets out a casual thought they had while in the shower, and then it goes viral because it contains some error. A small indiscretion–a stupid thought like what we all have–gets turned into a large one.

Audience size has a lot to do with it. The price of an error is spreading misinformation, which is proportional to the size of the audience. The price of fact-checking is spending time to do your homework, which is unrelated to the size of the audience. So for a larger audience, the cost-benefit analysis leans more and more towards fact-checking. For a small audience, at some point it’s like, why bother? You can issue a correction later if you have to.

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Link Roundup: September 2023

This blog hasn’t been very active in the past month, but I’ve been active elsewhere.  On Pillowfort, I’ve been going through ace romance, ace mystery, and gay mystery novels, and writing reviews.  On The Asexual Agenda, we had a journal club discussing a study about ace romance novels.  Then I wrote about the trope of single-target sexuality.

Roma People – Europe’s Forgotten Social Disaster | Adam Something (video, 24 min) – A discussion of anti-Roma racism in Europe.  In my experience with European readers, many express a sort of culture shock to the American-dominated internet, because we talk about endlessly about race, which is not such a big deal in their countries.  But I’ve always thought, are you sure that you don’t have racism, or is it just that your culture doesn’t talk about it as much as Americans do?  Learning about this subject confirms my suspicions.

A History of Men Not Being OK in America | We’re In Hell (video, 1 hour) – This is a sampler of historical crises in white masculinity.  I find it funny how modern hegemonic masculinity pretends to hearken back to an imagined golden age of masculinity, but if you actually look at the past they have some really alien ideas.

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Origami: Wolf


Wolf by Jo Nakashima

When I travel around, sometimes I bring some origami paper, and I take requests.  It’s a party trick, I just look something simple up and I fold it.  You can find an instructional video for this one here.

This one was for one of my younger relatives.  She was very into wolves.  Why wolves?  Because she liked SssniperWolf, of course!  Sorry, I don’t know who that is, some sort of YouTube celebrity?  She’s obviously named after a character from Metal Gear Solid, so I suppose that means you have Hideo Kojima to thank for this particular photo.  You know, back when I was her age, celebrities confused me, because adults would act like I was ignorant for not recognizing them. I’d say, “Who??” because I literally wasn’t alive for whatever made that person famous.  But it seems kids’ youtube is much more personality-focused than the media I got.

How to hear FM Synthesis

A big reason why I enjoy dabbling in electronic music production is that it’s a way of directly transforming math into physical sensation. It’s math you can literally hear. One of the most incredible examples is FM synthesis.

FM stands for frequency modulation. That means that you change the frequency of a note over time, generally in a cyclical pattern. Our ears interpret frequency as pitch, so this may sound like a pitch that fluctuates over time. However, if the fluctuation occurs fast enough, our ears can no longer track it, and it begins to sound completely different.

Try listening to these demos:

Demo 1

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It bugs me about Nimona

cn: Lots of spoilers.  Also a suicide mention.

Nimona is a recent animated film taking place in a futuristic medieval setting. Lord Ballister was a commoner who was plucked by the queen to become a knight. Knights are sworn to defend the city from monsters beyond its walls, but they basically function as cops. However, during the knighting ceremony, Ballister is framed for killing the queen, and becomes a fugitive.

He gets adopted by Nimona, who at first appears as a young girl, but is a powerful shapeshifter. She calls him a villain, and insists on being his sidekick.  Although Ballister is initially reluctant, they work together to prove his innocence. But Ballister learns that he needs to go much further, striking at the heart of the city’s corrupt institutions and entire mythos.

Nimona is celebrated as a queer and trans movie, and for good reason. It has a trans creator, overt representation (Ballister having a male love interest and Nimona being fluid in both species and gender), and subversive themes about overthrowing the social and institutional structures that oppress people.

And so, I am very sorry to play the role of media curmudgeon, yet again. I found the themes of the movie to be in conflict with what was being literally portrayed. This gave the impression of a movie that had a point to make, but was ineffective at actually arguing the point.

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