Online Gender Workshop, as ever, is brought to you by your friendly, neighborhood Crip Dyke.
A new and interesting series of posts directly related to gender should commence later today. And, yes, I’m aware that life came along inconveniently and too-long delayed my promised gender-sudoku post. That, too, will come, but not immediately.
Here I just want to point out of bit of innumeracy that bugs me. Why innumeracy in the online gender workshop? Ultimately for the same reason as the sudoku-gender connection: the biggest problems caused by our gender systems are with
- The compulsory nature of the system, and
- The poor thinking we humans do both implementing and reflecting on the system.
Any general improvement in critical thinking among the various peoples of the world should be of use in correcting #2, at least over time. And so I can be a bit of a martinet on the issue of carefully and critically thinking for oneself.
So this example of poor critical thinking comes from Gizmag, a website devoted to Gee Whiz! and Whizbang! in equal measure. A bit like the popular mechanics/popular science magazines and website, Gizmag has a compelling dedication to covering smaller manufacturers of electric vehicles and novel, efficient ICE-powered vehicles. Thee-wheelers (including enthusiastic coverage of tilting three-wheelers), “tiny house” living, and off-grid solutions make me an occasional reader. (Their shared weakness with popsci for writing puff pieces about the latest mass produced models from major auto manufacturers and latest mass-produced video game tech rolls my eyes too quickly for them to stay on the site for long.) Like most large websites, the writing is inconsistent, but often on Gizmag it’s quite good. The inconsistency comes from the many disparate contributing authors: sometimes the best writer you can get to review the latest Ford pick-up isn’t exactly Jeanette Winterson.
Materials science is another source of endless amazement to me. Deformable surfaces, even sticky ones, cause ice to pop off because ice is rigid, right? I mean, it’s not that hard to de-ice a gore-tex parka, is it? Well, since I don’t study that stuff, I was surprised to find out that all the de-icing work that’s been done has skewed very, very heavily towards either slipperiness on a macro scale or hydrophobicity on a molecular scale. But hey! What if you got a thin, sticky solution that dries rubbery and applied that to things that needed de-icing? Say goodbye to the ice.
That’s the article that I had just finished reading before I looked at this one covering a new spray-on variant of very recent albedo-reduction tech. You wouldn’t necessarily think it, but coating something with as pure a black as possible is incredibly important for any number of applications. The article mentions coating the tube that shades the mirror for a telescope, and how eliminating any possible reflection is even more important for space telescopes. They don’t actually say why, but the reason is simple: some light reaching earth’s surface is inevitably redirected, refracting off moisture in the atmosphere, etc. This refracted light will cause noise in your telescope’s light-catcher (whether your eye or whether an electronic data gatherer or whether you’ve hooked the scope up to a film camera). We have previously been able to get things black enough so that the amount of light reflected off the inside of the telescope is swamped by this atmosphere-redirected light. But when we go outside the atmosphere, the entire point is to avoid the light noise caused by redirected photons. So you don’t want a detector that introduces its own noise, and you design your circuits to minimize noise, and I mean minimize it. At that point, common black coatings do reflect enough light to greatly lower the quality of data, since the effects of these photons aren’t swamped by either refracted light or by the noise of conventionally built circuitry.
So, sure, you want a black coating that will reduce the noise reaching the detector, but do you want to pay for a coating that reflects 17 times less light than coatings already used with good results? Gizmag thinks you do:
Surrey NanoSystems released its Vantablack coating two years ago. Now … the material is available in a convenient spray-on form.
The new version, known as Vantablack S-VIS, is almost as good – it traps 99.8 percent of ultraviolet, visible and infrared light. According to Surrey Nanosystems, that’s 17 times less reflective than the super-black paint used in the Hubble telescope.
I went to the Surrey Nanosystems website, and they do indeed give Gizmag a plausible reason to say the coating is 17 times less reflective than the coating used on the Hubble:
Vantablack S-VIS is so effective that its performance far outstrips that of any other conventionally-applied coating, typically achieving a reflectance of less than 0.2%. Unlike other black absorbers, it offers this exceptional performance across a wide-range of viewing angles and wavelengths, which is critical for optical instruments, as well as in many aesthetic applications. It is, for example, some 17 times less reflective than the super-black paint used for minimizing stray light in the Hubble space telescope.
But, of course, Surrey Nanosystems got this one wrong, and Gizmag failed their readership today. Did I go and research the coating used on the Hubble to find this crucial error? No, this isn’t a research failure. This isn’t a fact-checking failure. This is a critical thinking failure. It might be true, as some of you suspect, that the low-reflectance coating used in the Hubble has a reflectance somewhere around 3.4%. But we don’t need to know that.
Say you’re buying some Vantablack. The quantity you want is 100 dollars or pounds or any currency really. They advertise a special price: for one week it will be sold at one-third less. They helpfully round down to the nearest full currency unit. You’d expect to pay 66 (whatevers), right? Then another special offers to charge you 0.5 times less. What would be your price? 0.5 times less is the same as 50% less. It costs 50. Next week, it gets a steeper discount, it’s 0.9 times less than the standard price. How much does it cost? 10. If during the next week it is sold for 1.0 times less than the standard price, well, [(Standard Price) – (1 times the standard price)] = Free.
If Surrey Nanosystems is stupid enough to give you a contract charging you a mere 1.7 times less than their standard price, you should buy as much as they can produce. If they wanted to offer a price 17 times less than standard, so much the better. But don’t ever buy it because it reflects 17 times less than the Hubble’s anti-reflective coating reflects. Then you are the sucker.