Archive for June, 2013

On Government, Government Workers, and Trust

June 24, 2013

In the light of what Snowden’s leaked to the media, how do you feel about your own government? Are you approving of what they’ve done to head off attacks, or do you feel suspicious of their motives? One respondent to a recent comment of mine accused me of wanting it both ways. So I wrote the following response, and I hope you’ll find it helpful in perhaps clarifying your own thinking.
My thinking is mine; yours may well differ. But please accept that I put a lot of thought into the question.
And I stand by what I wrote, Kevin.
As for wanting it both ways…I don’t see it that way.
I trust ‘government’, but not the people who make up government. Government is a huge amorphous mass and tends to level out excesses, but people have their own agenda. I don’t know if there’s ever been a single person who was totally devoted to the ideal of governing fairly and honestly to the point of subordinating his or her own interest. That kind of dispassionate approach is certainly not present now.
Most government workers do as they’re told and keep their head down. That’s the middle group who have a vested interest in keeping their job and maybe retiring someday. They have a mortgage, kids in school, car payments. As for doing what they’re told, that might not mean receiving new instructions every day. There are usually printed guidelines, standard operating procedures, office memos, and only rarely verbal instructions. Nonetheless, they don’t exercise independent judgment. For the great majority of these, I trust them to follow those instructions.
Above them are the ones who decide. At that level, my distrust comes into play. They have separate agendas, personal sometimes, institutional in others.
The president is at the top of this chain. Congress is there, and the Supreme Court. And as for the latter two, I think it’s not necessary to point out that they consider their personal agenda first, party second, and if the national interest even comes into play at all it’s in a distant third place. The institution is corrupt, and so therefore the people who inhabit that institution are corrupt. As for SCOTUS, ideology rules; they can manage to interpret the Constitution pretty much as they will. That document, written to limit a government such as that of England when England ruled the colonies, is now sadly out of date. It’s been over-interpreted and laterally-interpreted so much that now past judicial findings in the form of precedence exercise as much influence as the Constitution itself. It’s not a question of ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, but interpretation. It was written by legal scholars, administered, and now interpreted by lawyers.
The president is far too chummy with big money for my liking. If I were in his position I might be the same, but I hope not. He is interested in building a presidential library after he leaves office, and he expects the funds to come from financialists. He also is interested in the legacy he leaves, and must keep that in mind as he negotiates with Congress. And then there are all the subsidiary interests that he balances. My biggest disagreement with him is that his emphasis is not were I think it should go, national interest first, personal interest and the competing interests of the people around him second.
I expect him to be a responsible steward of the nation. I hold him responsible, as I do Congress and the SCOTUS, for the oaths they’ve taken. If they attempt to fulfill those oaths without personal interests becoming dominant, then yes, I trust them and will support their decisions. If they’re looking at who-calls-whom in order to protect citizens, then I’m prepared to approve that. If they’re looking to sell me something, as Amazon does when they gather data, then I’m wary. I understand that my desires in such a transaction have no bearing, only their own profit counts. If politicians attempt to understand my thinking so as to change that thinking, perhaps change how I vote or who I send money to, I’m wary of that. Even though virtually all of them now do that sort of tracking.
I think I have a balanced system of trust and wary distrust. Government in abstract, yes. People in government, not so much.


Rapes in the Military, Added Observations

June 17, 2013

I think that perhaps the central thing of what I wrote yesterday is the different expectations from military and civilian populations.
As to assaults and brutality: it wasn’t common in the kind of unit I served it. There may well be more of that in other branches. But having been in that position, responsible for making the initial decisions, I can only say that there’s no checklist. At best, you don’t know what to do but you expect that if you do your best, your superiors up the chain of command will support you. I had that. But at worst, there may be pressure to suppress. Career-ending pressure, for officers. The pressure that will negate the investment in time and money and past decisions such that suddenly, through no fault of your own, you incur a black mark that will blight years of your remaining life. You go in one second from respected member of a profession to pariah.
The usual presumption you make, at least initially, is that your troops are innocent. You live with them, work with them in a closer environment than civilians know, and if it’s a close-combat unit such as infantry the bonds become as great or greater than family.
And you have no choice, none at all, in who the members of that family are. The great father in Washington puts the machinery in motion and it spits out a soldier. The rest of the people in the unit must then try to integrate that soldier into a profession where even in peacetime you must depend on the person next to you.
And if that soldier is a junior officer, say a lieutenant, they get tossed in to sink or swim. The people they now have ultimate responsibility for are likely not people they would have ever associated with before entering the military.
Rapes do happen in families; it’s not surprising that they can happen in military units. And it’s not surprising that a soldier might not know how to handle the closeness of a member of the opposite sex or even someone who might be homosexual. Or if a homosexual, being surrounded by a population that’s still mostly male. Or if lesbian, female.
Society tends to foster separation, even alienation. Military society insists on tight integration. Men have an association of like-minded men. You golf together. Play poker. Chase women (or men). Derive support from others who are basically like you are. Women do the same. OK, they may not be fans of playing poker.
The bully and the prospective victim now can’t escape each other. The pressures mount.
And so all the tensions of society get played out under physical and emotional pressures. By people who are young and untested and uneducated and inexperienced.
And untested officers, learning the job themselves, become the authority figure, the ‘parent’ in a sense. But not the parent of an infant. The parent of someone who might well be as old or even older than they are.
You may not, as an officer, closely associate with your troops. You are expected to associate only with your own kind, other officers. That breaks down in isolated units, but that’s still the ideal. And yet, you’re expected to know everything and to solve all the problems for a platoon of 30 people or perhaps a company or battery of perhaps 150. You have a staff of assistants, of course, but even so, it’s an impossible task. It’s a remnant of the days when nobles raised their own armies and commanded them in battle, and when soldiers were literally cannon-fodder.
But none of this can be taken into account, even though it should. Officers must always make the correct choice. Must decide if that ‘brother in arms’ is a rapist. Or a bully who’s bullying his own comrades to the point that they commit suicide. Or who will form a gang or similar loose association to do the same thing. Must decide if that complainant was innocent or somewhat complicit, and what that degree of innocence might be. As men work out society’s tensions, so do women. They work our their place in their tiny society, the pecking order if you will. Dominance, submission, the degrees of those things that will define their relationship. Soldiers, at bottom, are just people. Soldiers don’t have a checklist to follow either.
So the commander has to decide, how bad was the incident. A one man or woman jury, they decide who to believe and what to believe. There may be evidence, or not.
And a single misjudgment means that the judge and jury and prosecutor and evidence-gatherer can suddenly be the accused.
For officers up the chain, the lieutenant colonels and higher, they have much less of an excuse. They have the experience and education to make better decisions. But even generals can make misjudgments…or for that matter, even presidents.
The standard is perfection. For better or worse.
It might be better for society if our own civilian officials were held to the same standard.

Rapes in the Military

June 17, 2013

I’ve been following this story, and it’s time for me to comment.
I don’t know the facts of any individual case, but I’ve been a soldier. Twenty one years, as a matter of fact, now retired.
And now senior officials, politicians and some uniformed politicians, all are wailing and gnashing their teeth and probably beating their breasts to a chorus of mea culpa.
It’s not at all what the media would have you believe.
Not just the military that has a problem with this; I was duty officer when a rape occurred in the barracks, in Germany, and I reported the victim’s statement, took other statements, all the things I was expected to do. But because the victim was a German national, the two rapists (soldiers) were tried in German courts. And found not guilty, because the traumatized victim had not wanted to wait for police, she had just wanted to go home. So after initial reports were taken, I drafted a driver from the unit, gave him my keys, and he drove her home in my car. I had no grounds to keep her there and simple humanity made me understand that I would only make matters worse if I insisted on her remaining. FWIW, my CO concurred in my decision; I informed him, made a recommendation, and he concurred.
And because she hadn’t waited for the police to arrive (they didn’t get there for six hours or more), that was enough. A German court released the two rapists despite the physical evidence that I, and the unit commander, had collected after he arrived.
There was no question that we’d attempted to subvert justice in any way. Indeed, the Polizei were quite complimentary about the actions we’d taken. They were understanding and even friendly to those of us who had done the investigations we’d done.
It’s not as straightforward as reports would have you believe, and military officials who have to follow due process aren’t really sweeping things under the rug in nearly as many cases as media reports say.
The fact that the victim says she reported an incident and nothing happened doesn’t make it so. Sometimes, the story she tells later isn’t the one she told initially. Sometimes the evidence doesn’t support her story. Or there is no evidence. Sometimes when due process is followed and evidence is gathered according to rules, those rules don’t support a charge or conviction. And of course, sometimes justice isn’t done and coverups probably do happen.
But it’s not always black-and-white as to which course of action should be followed. Reports to the media don’t have to follow the rules of evidence that a court demands.
Do you really think every complaint to civilian authorities or police results in a charge or conviction of rape or sexual assault? What percentage of rapes that get reported to your local police go to court? How many of them result in conviction?
Based on what I’ve read, I’d guess that military officials are just as efficient as civilian authority in most cases. Even when, as in my case, we’ve never been trained to act as cops. We act as best we can while applying our best judgment. And no one, not the Supreme Court even, can do more than that.
But somehow, military officers or officials are held to a standard of perfection. If a civilian woman doesn’t get the justice she demands in a statement to the local TV station, do people demand the mayor and chief of police resign or be convicted of dereliction of duty?
Nonsense. That only happens if the officials are military. Civilian women cannot blame the mayor if he fails to protect them, but military women CAN and DO blame a commander for just that failure. Different standards apply due to differences between civil and military organizations and authority. Few if any recognize that fact. Certainly no media organization or reporter will ever include that in their report.
I think this needs to be explained. I am not condoning any misbehavior that might occur nor any effort to conceal anything. Certainly not. But before you issue a blanket condemnation, you should know what the facts are, as much as any nonparticipant ever can know.
Journalists will do that, the blanket condemnation. They have a vested interest in sensationalism.
But the rest of us should think first.
We owe that to our military, the same ones who interpose themselves between our enemies and our citizens. We have a duty to them just as they have a duty to us.

Utopia Now

June 14, 2013

From Paul Krugman in the NY TImes of Jun 14, 2013:
“So what is the answer? If the picture I’ve drawn is at all right, the only way we could have anything resembling a middle-class society — a society in which ordinary citizens have a reasonable assurance of maintaining a decent life as long as they work hard and play by the rules — would be by having a strong social safety net, one that guarantees not just health care but a minimum income, too. And with an ever-rising share of income going to capital rather than labor, that safety net would have to be paid for to an important extent via taxes on profits and/or investment income. ”

I’ve gone deeper than this article does, and so I don’t think Mr Krugman’s analysis goes nearly far enough.

Modern society simply has too many workers and not enough jobs. Automation has displaced, and will continue to displace ever more human workers. Machines are cheaper than people. A farmer with perhaps 2 or 3 helpers on a 500-acre farm can feed hundreds of people. A factory with a comparative few construction workers can turn out houses for a hundred…or two hundred. Military forces now are developing a camp-in-a-box. This includes not only housing for as much as a battalion but also necessary security to emplace it in a war zone. But the housing is the important part; a small efficient kitchen, climate control, shower, bedrooms and dining rooms. Cramped…but no homeless person would consider it so. And it could be adapted to house perhaps a hundred people. And wouldn’t have nearly the problems that stuffing a thousand or more people into a high rise causes in terms of crime and drugs and hopelessness.

Consider, for a moment, the Mediterranean nations. They’re not starving even though half their young people and one in five adults is jobless. The stores aren’t empty. Building supplies aren’t becoming unavailable. Food is being grown. Clothing is sewn. Cars are for sale. Roadways are maintained.

The fact is, developed economies can produce all that’s needed with perhaps 3/4 of their work force employed. It’s been that way for a long time. It’s only going to get worse.

Advertising convinces us to buy something new even when we don’t need it. That employs a few workers. Exports and tourism/travel employ a few more, which essentially keeps people of one nation employed while the money to pay them comes from another nation. It’s essentially exploitative and circular, hence a temporary solution to a developed economy’s ills.

Government employment that goes to develop internal infrastructure is probably the ultimate answer in the 21st Century. Build better road systems; certainly we know how. But usually we don’t build the best, we build the cheapest that’s practical for immediate needs. Build better power distribution systems, and distributed power rather than concentrated. Better communication systems. Better housing. Water distribution systems that collect excess fresh water (floods) and pipe it to the Great Lakes or reservoirs across the country. Better airports in places that aren’t served. More green parks and havens for wildlife, such that we accept a policy of living with nature. Such things as the ‘green skyscrapers’ that grow plant foodstuffs in cities and that won’t require transport to market and won’t be subject to disruption. Get the idea?

Paying for it is the problem. That’s going to take imagination, the kind of imagination that invented money in the first place. It’s quite likely that we’re going to need a system of exchange that either replaces money or changes how it’s generated and used.

But as a principle, if we conclude that no human being should go hungry or homeless or be unclothed in the 21st century, and accept that as a goal, we as a species can do it. Humans should have clean water and unpolluted air to breathe, and a place to walk with family unmolested by criminals. A place that provides security from crime. We can do that too.

Utopia is really, finally, within our grasp, but the idea of most of the wealth we create going to a select few and others starving while living under a cardboard box or being driven away by armed gangs and marauders from ancestral homelands…That’s not something we can sustain. The idea that some have nothing, no security, no medical care, no one to assist them in their old age, no education or hobby or socialization or arts or what have you, because they can’t afford it, while a single family disposes of 30% of the wealth of the richest nation on Earth…that’s unsustainable. The idea that a child born into poverty can never escape that poverty, will turn to drugs or criminal enterprise because there’s nothing else…that’s unsustainable.

And the idea that our political leadership continues to drift and generate ever more weapons and then to find a place to put them into the hands of soldiers, chessmen for the powerful to kill while playing at power games…that too is unsustainable.

Weather, and Climate: Can We Do Something About Them

June 12, 2013

European floods…
Nothing to ‘like’ about this natural disaster…so I won’t.
I suspect there’s some place in Europe that could really use that water, right? Maybe one of the Mediterranean countries?
I mention that because all of us stand by helplessly and watch the water rise. And try to save lives, and then rebuild after the water level drops.
Not too smart of us as a species, is it?
But let’s consider Holland. The Netherlands.
What happens there when too much water falls? Or in New Orleans?
Large pumps happen, that’s what. The pumps collect the water and pump it into the sea.
But could we not connect those pumps to a distribution system that could store excess water until needed (in reservoirs or lakes), then send it to where it’s needed when it’s needed? Would this not be cheaper in the long run than constant cycles of drought and flood and crop failures and rebuilding? And cheaper than desalination?
It’s a failure of imagination, I think. We already collect mountain water and send it to desert communities and farms that need it. Currently, we Americans are running low on that water. And at the same time, in our northern or eastern or sometimes southeastern states, floodwater is being wasted.
Surplus here, shortage there. How much imagination is really needed to understand the concept?
Famously, we all talk about the weather but no one does anything about it. But we CAN, and should, do something about the weather effects.
I think it’s also within our capabilities now to begin doing something positive about climate as well. If we can lay down surfaces that absorb heat, we should be able to do the same thing in reverse, design surfaces that reflect heat back into space without being absorbed. Of sunlight, some is absorbed, some is reflected. We’ve been increasing absorption. Now we need to increase reflection.
We’ve been affecting climate for years. We build cities, which have been identified as ‘heat islands’ because they absorb unusual amounts of solar energy. We lay thousands, even millions of km of asphalt around the world, recognize that this increases heat absorption from sunlight, and blithely assume that all the increased weather variation we’re experiencing is possibly due to an increase in CO2 concentration.
I think that greenhouse gases are only a small part of climate modification due to human activity. We’ve also cut rainforests (and temperate forests, too), reducing shading on ground level. And many more things, too; farm more land, reduce plant cover from weeds. Glider pilots and birds know about this; they ride thermals, rising air currents, to gain height when flying or migrating, thermals rising from plowed fields. More heat for the greenhouse effect, and eventually for global warming. A few notice; no one integrates all the different effects into one big change.
OK; I do. Not that anyone is listening. Except you.
We are transforming the planet in multiple ways. And not usually for the better.
And because we lack understanding of this process, we’re not ‘Terraforming’ our planet (as the science fiction term is used, to change a new world into a copy of our old one that could support humans), we’re kind of ‘anti-Terraforming’ it. We are transforming it, but not for the better.
The significance of that multiple-cause effect is not considered when global warming is discussed, I think.
And no effort is being put forward to counter any of the effects.
Imagination, some of us have that. Understanding, we can all understand at least some of what’s happening.
But political will to actually DO something? Leaders who will begin the process?
Sadly, those are missing.


June 8, 2013

My closet vice, not so closeted: I feed wild birds.
So does my wife, although she limits her involvement to preparing sugar water for hummingbirds.
A 50-pound bag of sunflower seeds is $25 and lasts for a couple of months.
So why spend money and time (the LBB’s, Little Brown Birds, will empty two bird feeders in just slightly over one day, and the doves and pheasants won’t keep coming unless I spread the seeds out in my field) to feed wild birds that will doubtless do very well for themselves without my attention?
By feeding them, I buy their habit and change it to suit myself. Because food is always there, and because they aren’t molested or endangered, they can choose to live part of their life just outside my window and I can pleasurably spend a part of my life observing them. No need to tramp through the weeds and brambles; camera and binoculars are close by, and there’s always something to learn.
They aren’t like people. And yet, in some ways they are. Territorial. Prone to squabbles even when resources are plentiful. Playful. And interested in humans, just as humans are interested in them.
The littlest ones, the hummingbirds, are true masters of flight. The LBB’s are second, but still able to come to a near-hover and then maneuver in order to claim a perch on the feeder from a resident they’ve just displaced. And the bigger doves, ground-feeders, are able to make long flights but not maneuver as the smaller ones do. Crows come around in the winter, often accompanying the cranes, and they’re intelligent and observant. If one of their number is killed, they appear to grieve, or at least pay noisy attention to the passing. The cranes dance; there’s no other word for it. And they’re very curious, too, observing what people and cats and such do.
The hawks will tend to prey on the doves rather than other types. Frightened doves fly straight in their panic, sometimes head-on into windows or walls. A Cooper’s hawk finds it easy to grab a dove rather than one of the LBB’s. More of a meal, too.
The sunflower seeds are a good investment, methinks.
Robins and Baltimore Orioles are not attracted to the seeds, but the robins like the irrigation in fields and lawns. Worms come to the surface, and the early-bird robin preys on earthworms and bugs. The roadrunner is a carnivore, too. A roamer, he has no fixed path but he’s always around. I spotted him in a tree yesterday with a lot of the robins and LBB’s, Was he trying an arboreal stalk? I don’t know. It looked like that to me, but I would think that a futile enterprise. Maybe the roadrunner is an experimenter, too.
A few mockingbirds are around, and from time to time, a northern flicker.
Recent unusual observations have included parents continuing to feed young after they’ve mastered flight and left the nest. And defensive moves by a hen pheasant to convince a Cooper’s hawk not to attack; successful, too. Two cock pheasants who couldn’t decide if they wanted to fight or be buddies; a bit of bluffing, and then they went their separate ways.
A good investment indeed.

Growing Old…Or Maybe Not

June 7, 2013

I played and sang a couple of songs last night; it’s fun to do that for an audience. Bosque Farms has a building that works well for this.
Bunch of people dancing, old people like me providing music, one autoharp, one pedal steel guitar, three bass players, a mandolin picker, the rest played guitar and fiddle.
There’s a single drawback: there were 24 musicians, most pretty good, playing instruments. And six people who just wanted to sing, and most of them were pretty good; think live karaoke.
The woods here, and probably a lot of other places, are full of musicians. Some of them are former traveling professionals who have retired but still like to play. And some are like me, not even wannabe’s but people who just enjoy music and playing for an audience that appreciates your efforts.
Old people, back when I was young, had few social venues to interact with others. Widows in particular simply had little other than church as a venue for socializing. There was a lot of rocking-chair-sitting, and a visit from friends or family was a big deal. Reading, if your eyes were still up to that, was entertainment. Quilting and sewing and such too.
Not now. Now, they’re out there, playing, sometimes singing, sometimes dancing, and sometimes just sitting and listening for some of them.
And maybe this has something to do with why there seem to be more people who live longer and who enjoy life right up to the end.
One of the guys in the band, a fiddler, was wearing a cap that said “World War II Veteran”. Another couple who were out dancing and socializing have celebrated their 70th Anniversary this year.
Live life and enjoy it; does it really get better than that?
A $3.00 entry fee that goes to hall rental and buying the amps and mic’s that we used. Cheap entertainment. And with that many musicians, no one cares if you get up and walk around and talk to people. Have a coffee and maybe a piece of cake or a doughnut. Be sociable.
They did. Some of the musicians took a break and danced too, but my dancing days are over. Bum legs. Sigh.
But by golly, I can still play and sing! I did, and it was more fun than a non-musician would believe. I’ll do it again in a couple of weeks, next time the Old-Time Fiddlers and Musicians of New Mexico get together.
And five of the musicians from last night, counting me, will be playing for a senior citizens center in Belen next Monday afternoon. Some of the same audience will be there listening to us too, and perhaps even dancing.


June 1, 2013

We seem obsessed by popularity. Celebrities, their actions and comments and dress and lifestyle fascinate many. Not all, and not me, but so many that it’s impossible to ignore them.

Click on your browser, whether it be MSN or Yahoo or whatever, and you’ll see lots of stories about celebrities and sensationalism. There’s a small amount of actual news, but it takes some winnowing to find it.

Film; books; music; television; sports. A few practitioners are popular, many can be classed as ‘celebrities’, and even scientists sometimes make the list of such. And yet, how few of these hugely important people or ideas are still important just a few years on? That brief tenure for ideas is the inspiration for this essay.

Celebrity ideas in physics, for example, deal with dark matter and God particles and such. If you’re more into physics-in-depth, it might be quantum mechanics or relativity. The one explains the behavior of the very small, the other explains the behavior of the very large. But neither explains both, and yet each is too important to be abandoned. Nothing else works nearly so well where each applies.

What this means, to me, is that we don’t have full understanding of either of them. Others see no problem with simply using the two where each works best and ignoring the differences.

Some other popular ideas in physics: light is both a particle and a wave. Undeniably, experiments appear to prove this, even though it seems absurd to me. A particle is matter, a wave is energy; and if Einstein (a celebrity by any definition) is to be believed, the conversion factor between the two is huge, something like 900, 000 to one if memory serves. And the two are interchangeable, at least mathematically.

The same holds true for electrons, matter and also at the same time energy. Electrons have mass. But they can also be used, just as light waves are, as a medium for imaging. Electron microscopes use electron ‘waves’ for this purpose, and we’re beginning to see images of things like atoms and even part of atoms and atomic structure.

Once again, I suspect we lack some crucial bit of knowledge to explain the apparent contradictions.

String theory was once celebrated, but is less so nowadays. And dark energy, as well as dark matter, has its investigators and proponents. It’s popular. Even though neither is actually understood beyond the bare theory stage, and even though the likes of me doubts their existence, and if they actually do exist then I suspect they’ll be much less common than current models claim.

Popularity is a funny thing. Galileo was popular among the general public, which brought him to the attention of religious authorities, and that eventually got him tried for heresy. But that very popularity made it politically impossible for those religious authorities to simply burn him in the public square, as they did others. But centuries later Galileo is still popular and those who accused him and tried him and convicted him are forgotten.

I wonder whether Taylor Swift or Justin Bieber will be popular 20 years from now? But Bach and Beethoven and Brahms and so many others, will still be popular as they are now, centuries after their deaths. Mozart, too; no celebrity when he died in poverty, but celebrated now.

Will even entire music venues remain popular? Will rap and hip-hop be around, or will they go the way of doo-wop? Few practitioners of that unlamented style are still around, and calling them ‘celebrities’ would certainly be a stretch. This is true of most popular music, too. Twenty or thirty years on, they are forgotten…and justly so.

And so I wonder how many of the ‘popular’ ideas in science will endure and still be considered relevant a century or ten centuries from now. The mathematics of the ancient Greeks and Arabs is still relevant as much as three thousand years later. The religions of those times, not so much. And the priests, ‘celebrities’ in their lifetimes? Forgotten, even their names lost to obscurity. Kings; popes, princes, once highly important, now forgotten.

Sic transit popularity.

Jobs, too, change. Pity the mathematician who studied to be a calculator before that job was replaced by a machine, or a computer before such machines became readily and cheaply available. How many now even remember what a card-punch operator actually did? And Heinlein’s novel Starman Jones turns on the mathematical ability of two people, one who also had eidetic memory. The common Apple or IBM computer of the late 20th Century rendered Heinlein’s story idea quaint. In Red Planet and a couple of others, the slide rule was the ultimate in calculating devices. Few even know what those are now, and even fewer could make use of them if someone were to hand you one.

Popularity is essentially fleeting. But a few popular things become classics and endure. And some ideas endure even when their originator never became popular. Indeed, some died without understanding that their ideas would live on.

Genetics; everyone’s heard of that. It’s a celebrity idea. But Mendel died in obscurity, even if he’s considered today to be the father of that discipline. And plate tectonics grew from the work of Wegener, who was ridiculed during his lifetime.

And as for celebrities in science, and popular people or ideas, only time will tell whether they are classics or whether they will be abandoned to obscurity.