My Morning in Exile

So I go to the science museum with the kids yesterday. They have this feature where, via a gigantic lever, a person can lift up a full-sized car. My five year-old daughter and four year-old boy think it’s awesome. When they ask me how they could lift a car, I tell them that the thing attached to the car and the rope is a lever, and that while the reasons are kind of complicated, it’s basically a machine that helps people move heavy things. They accept that, later talking about “the machine that helped them lift a car.” A few minutes after the kids used it, some full-grown adults of the redneck persuasion lift the car. Overheard: “there’s gotta be some trick to this thing.” Also overheard was a sentence that had “one of them optical illusions” in it.

Question of the day: are we sliding back into a dark age in which science is viewed as magic — and in some cases sorcery — or did we never truly leave the dark ages in the first place? Now, on to more enlightened fare:

  • The post in which I challenge the assumption that Yankees fans are “the best in the world.” This thing hasn’t been live that long, and I’ve already been called an idiot by multiple commenters.
  • Best of three Division Series? No thanks.
  • Unwritten rulebook? What unwritten rulebook?
  • Plaschke thinks the Dodgers really screwed up by not following through with that Cliff Lee trade back in July. Never mind that there was never a Cliff Lee-to-L.A. deal on the table back in July.
  • Clouds so swift, Rain won’t lift. Gate won’t close, Railings froze. Rockies won’t drop, old Brad Hawpe, he ain’t goin’ nowhere.
  • Bobby Valentine a finalist for the Indians’ job. Which kind of makes no sense to me, but it’s tough out there, so who am I to say that someone shouldn’t take whatever job he can get?
  • Bread. Apples. Very small rocks. Cider. Gravy. Cherries. Mud. Churches. Lead! Lead!

    A Duck!

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    1. Simon DelMonte said...

      I think we never quite left the Dark Ages.  Science remains as impenetrable today as it ever was, which is entirely the result of an education system that, even in the years after Sputnik, never quite figured out how to demystify science for the masses.

      Be thankful, if nothing else, that the people you were seeing were there at all.

    2. Craig Calcaterra said...

      Good point, Simon.  I mean, they coulda been home watching football or burning witches or something instead of paying good money to go to a science museum.

    3. Troy Patterson said...

      18% of americans think the Sun revolves around the earth.  23% can’t name any scientist when asked.

      I don’t think it is “never quite figured out how to demystify science for the masses”. I think it is an assumption by the masses that they don’t need to understand this stuff to get through life. 

      How many times have you heard someone say they don’t need calculus to get a job some where?  It’s the same for many scientific fields that people fail to see the need for general scientific understanding.

    4. Jason said...

      Being a native rural Vermonter for my entire life; much of which has been spent near “full-grown adults of the redneck persuasion”, I can safely tell you that we have not, in fact, left the dark ages behind us.

    5. MJ said...

      For instance, there is no such thing as tie goes to the runner

      While it’s not specifically a rule written as such, doesn’t the logic go:

      For an out, the ball has to beat the runner to the bag.  Since they arrive at the same time, the ball didn’t beat the runner, ergo the runner is safe?

    6. YankeesfanLen said...

      On to more enlightened fare, indeed.
      Did you leave a card at the science museum that suggested they comment on the Blue Network?  I am never ashamed to voice my opinion, and listen to others that oppose it, in a reasonable way. There’s a big difference between discussing a topic from opposite views and just being argumentative.
      Without giving away a plotline, I read Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol during Saturday night’s game (it fit in just right, timewise) and was wondering why, in a fluffy but intriguing book, one of the points was that Masonic activities would disrupt National sercurity.  Given his readers as a cross-secvtion of American mentality, I can now see how it works.
      Greetings, Balloon Boy! 
      Still Yankees in 6. I always like to leave a little leeway.

    7. Ahmet Hamdi Cavusoglu said...

      Appreciate the Holy Grail reference at the end … and something like that event at the science museum makes you think.

      The way it appears, scientific thought has become the new church of society, with a limited amount of people able to truly digest the scientific information, and those same people disseminating it out to the masses that understand the science a bit less (vs. clergymen reading the bible in latin and translating the ‘word’ for the masses).

      At least we beat out >90% of people believe the sun orbits the earth and scientists are considered evil witches and wizards during the Dark Ages. So how about the Dim Ages instead?

      BTW, this comes from a self-proclaimed engineer/scientist, or at least one holding a degree.

    8. Ahmet Hamdi Cavusoglu said...

      Finally, I am in no way, shape or form implying that no one can learn to understand math and science. Just that there IS a knowledge barrier that must be learned, and sadly we (as a society) are failing in some parts to help everyone get over that ‘hump’.

    9. John Willumsen said...

      While I do think that the statement, “I think it is an assumption by the masses that they don’t need to understand this stuff to get through life” is accurate, I think that this assumption arises from a flawed education system, and part of that is a failure to demystify science (and math and statistics, and logic, and art). I don’t think the human brain is particularly well-suited to logical thought and clear, reasonable contemplation of the things that we come across in life. I do think that people can learn to embrace a logical, rational way of thinking, but they (we) need to be educated into such a mode of thought. I think of it this way: the human brain is like a computer whose hardware isn’t really made to perform a certain function (in this case, logical thought), but if you load the proper software (a good, well-rounded, dynamic education) then it is perfectly capable of performing the task.

      On another note, having been born and raised in NYC and having been a Yankees fan since early childhood, I think I can safely say that Yankees fans as a whole are not Teh Greatestt fans Everrr!!!! (Just listen to sports radio in NYC, or easier still, check out the responses on NBC.) With the caveat that it’s fairly useless to try to speak about a universe of people as large as “Yankees fans,” let alone the entire population of NY, I would say this: Yankees fans are much like New Yorkers in general, vocal, irascible, impassioned, and self-centered. This means that they are loud and happy in victory, impatient and rude in defeat. More importantly, I don’t know where this meme of “Yankees fans are so knowledgeable” came from. Accepting the flaws of anecdotal evidence, allow me to present what just happened in my office: two Yankees fans just walked by discussing today’s game; fan 1 says “well the problem is Jared (sic [well, aural sic, if that makes sense])Weaver is better than that other Weaver.” Fan 2 says, “Oh, is this guy the guy who was on the Yankees way back?” Fan 1: “No, that guy’s his brother.” So our more informed fan’s analysis is “he’s better than Jeff Weaver” and our less informed fan’s analysis is “who are we talking about?”

    10. Jason B said...

      PBS is running a series with “the best of” each of the Pythons.  Graham Chapman’s was on the other night, with some nice commentary from the others.

      IFC is also in the midst of some behind-the-scenes Python stuff, running over several consecutive nights I think?

      Good times, good times. All this scientific jibber-jabber be damned.  =)

      “When do you plan on getting married?”
      “Oh right away squire, I haven’t had it in weeks!”

    11. KR said...

      * Was that COSI? I used to love that place when I was little, though I think they’ve moved or something since then.

      * If I spend too long thinking about general science knowledge, I get depressed.

      * I am a Red Sox fan, so my opinions of Yankee fans are probably not entirely helpful.

      * “Churches?” gets my vote for funniest line in the movie. This is partly because most of the movie is quoted to excess, so many of the other lines have lost some of their humor to overexposure.

    12. Mode:Theif and Lair said...

      Rewind The Grail a couple minutes from your quote and get my favorite:

      “And how do we know if she’s made of wood?”

      “Build a bridge out of her!”

      (great, but the answer is even better)

      “Ah, but can you not also make bridges out of stone?”

      So many great lines… had to rewatch it

    13. DonCoburleone said...

      Hate bringing politics into a sports discussion, but the adults you described Craig I can guarantee you believe that everything in the bible is true and George Bush was a great President.

    14. Craig Calcaterra said...

      It was COSI. It moved about 10 years ago. The location you probably remember—on East Broad across from the original Wendy’s—has been restored to its orginal condition (i.e. the black glass facade removed) and is now a county office building.  Looks great, actually.

      COSI moved to the old Central High School location on the west bank of the Scioto river (trivia: it was the high school where the Ralph Maccio-Nick Nolte classic “Teachers” was filmed).  The river-facing side of the old school was retained and restored, and onto it was grafted this gigantic and (at least in my opinion) construction that is designed to look like a canoe resting on the bank of the river upside down.

      Some people say that the place has lost its charm since the move—to much grand space not enough geeky junk piled everywhere—but it probably needed to expand.

    15. Aarcraft said...

      DonCoburleone; If you really hated to bring politics into a sports discussion, you wouldn’t have, because it was blatently unneccesary. The lack of understanding of basic principles of science, I guarantee, goes beyond republican/democrat differences.

    16. Mode:Theif and Lair said...

      Aarcraft; well said.

      Donny.. This would have been much acceptable in this forum:

      “… but the adults you described Craig I can guarantee you..” are Yankees fans

      Although, it would also be a strongly ignorant generalization and actually reflects more poorly on you as an idividual.

    17. The Rabbit said...

      “So how about the Dim Ages instead?”
      I live in the Ozarks. Dim Ages is a great description but I think it may be optimistic.
      The easiest way to teach science may be the way religion is taught: Just have faith.
      And Craig, you obviously have a very warped sense of humor that compels you to comment on any article regarding the Yankees or Red Sox that can get a rise from the lowest common denominator. Are you trying to remind us that they are out there and reproduce and vote? Scary.

    18. Aaron Moreno said...

      I admit, I was waiting for the “Democrats are the greatest voters on Earth” to start with the science thing.

      Most folks don’t know jack about science because it doesn’t matter in their day-to-day lives. I have vague idea of how my TV works, and the discovery of a unified field theory won’t affect what I have for dinner.

    19. Daniel said...

      It also goes well beyond religious differences.  I am a firm believer in the truth of the Bible but I would consider myself scientifically “enlightened.”

    20. Aarcraft said...

      I wish I had a vague idea of how my TV works. I got that DLP thing, and apparently there are small mirrors involved. I can only assume magic and sorcery are somehow at play as well.

    21. Craig Calcaterra said...

      Rabbit:  I don’t know what compels me to pull thier chain twice a week, but I’ll probably keep pulling it until I fail to get fun responses.

      Deep thought of the day: One of the greatest accomplishments of science is that it forms the foundation for a society in which it is totally possible to lead mostly happy, healthy lives without knowing or caring a lick about science.  I have no idea how a refrigerator or antibiotics really and truly work, but I gain their benefits due to the advances made of those who do.

      OK, maybe that’s a really shallow thought. I can’t tell right now.

    22. smsetnor said...

      My favorite redneck comment ever was when some brilliant young lady from Kentucky once used 4 negatives in a single sentence.  I was amazed.  The ole quadruple negative gets em every time.

    23. Jeff V. said...

      So how come terms like “Redneck” and “Hillbilly” are still acceptable? 

      My theory is that while a lot of minorities are democratic and liberal leaning folks, folks derided as “Rednecks” tend to be on the conservative side.

    24. ecp said...

      Craig, you may not know what compels you, but as a (borderline) amateur psychologist, I think it’s a game, a la Eric Berne.  You know what the result is going to be when you start, but you just can’t resist observing the process.

    25. Craig Calcaterra said...

      You’re probably right. Not sure if that makes me a Child, Parent or Adult (to use the TA lingo) but it’s probably some form of negative interaction for which I should feel guilty for deriving pleasure.

    26. The Rabbit said...

      @Jeff So how come terms like “Redneck” and “Hillbilly” are still acceptable? 
      I can tell you that here in the Ozark Mountains, these terms not pejoratives which is why they are completely acceptable. They are self-descriptions and “badges of honor”. 
      Rednecks and hillbillies are not the same either.
      The word “hillbilly” (as used in the Ozarks) means that the family has been here for at least four generations and are “country folk.” Could be liberal or conservative. May be rich or poor.  May have advanced degrees or be dropouts….and they joke at least one of the prior generations has married a cousin.
      “Rednecks” (as used in the Ozarks) can easily be identified as those who drive around with the Confederate flags in the back window of their pickups.  They may actually be descendents of those who fought in the Civil War. Note: This section of the country was split and families were divided between North and South. Yep, they are conservatives and they are proud to describe themselves as “rednecks”.

    27. John Willumsen said...

      Redneck and hillbilly, while not nice words to call someone, are a dismissive and potentially offensive way to describe someone who exhibits certain behavior traits, not someone of a certain “race,” “gender,” or “sexuality”—which are generally considered things that one cannot choose. Using a racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-semitic, etc. epithet is not the same as calling someone a redneck or hillbilly because calling them a redneck or hillbilly is a reference to a way the person carries themselves or behaves (albeit often an unfair/ignorant reference), rather than the way they look or where they come from or who they like to sleep with. It’s an insult at least vaguely associated with behavior not identity.  Also, if you’re suggesting redneck/hillbilly is reserved for a certain class of white person, then I would question whether they qualify as a “minority” in the common usage of the word, seeing as they have generally enjoyed a privileged status in America. I would also question the statement that “minorities” tend to be Democrats or liberals. 

      That said, I, personally, wouldn’t call someone a redneck or hillbilly, and I do agree that there is often less outrage expressed when offensive/derogatory terms are flung at groups that have not historically been minoritized, though this is not the place to debate the degree to which this is right or wrong.

    28. Jeff V. said...

      I am sure you are right Rabbit. 

      I also know black folks that use the N-word amongst themselves.  Most use of terms like “redneck” and “hillbilly” are used by folks outside that social group and it is not considered complimentary.

      I am also aware of the differences between the two, “hillbilly” generally speaks of folks from Appalachia and “redneck” is more of a general term for southerners.

      100 years ago many racial and ethnic groups had slang terms of a negetive nature associated with them in this country.  With the exception of “redneck” and “hillbilly” these terms have fallen out of favor with polite society.  I was just raising the question of why those two are still allowed.

    29. Chris Simonds said...


      Granted the work of theoretical physicists might not affect your life much, but we are talking about knowing what a freaking lever is, not the ins and outs of the Riemann space. My personal hope is that these people were performance artists, seeing how many “liberal” parents they could get a rise out of. Possibility, Craig?

    30. The Rabbit said...

      “So, conservatives = confederate sympathizers in the Ozarks?”
      Ahhh, no. Most conservatives here are not “rednecks”.

    31. YankeesfanLen said...

      @ The Rabbit-
        I have only had the pleasure of visiting the Ozarks once and believe it to be one of the most beautiful areas of our country. The hottest weather I’ve ever seen was a July day in Fort Smith AR on my way to Bentonville.

        For whatever reason, don’t think any derogatory moniker should be put on anyone residing there. 

          The only redeeming merit of metro NY, including the armpit of the nation I live in, is a certain great baseball team.

    32. Craig Calcaterra said...

      I grew up in and return often to West Virginia, and I can tell you, no one there ever, ever uses the term “hillbilly” for anything. I didn’t really hear that ever until I moved to Ohio.

      In West Virginia, “Redneck” is primarily used in two ways: (1) a self-identifyer by folks who are very proud of their southern heritage and lifestyle; and (2) a mild (very mild) derogatory term for someone who seemingly has no interest in getting educated, getting a better job, or generally progressing the way society expects them progress. These often go together, by the way:

      WV Person #1:  That Fred Lilly could have taken on some extra shifts at the mine this month, but it’s hunting season so he told them no. Damn redneck, his kids need new shoes and he’s out in a tree stand somewhere.

      Fred Lilly: Guess I’m just a redneck! Redneck with a 12 point buck!  Wooo!

      FWIW, I’ve never heard one mountain person call another mountain person a redneck when they meant “racist” or “bigot” or anything with a social or political slant to it.  Mountain people call racist mountain people racists. It’s a pretty simple word.

    33. The Rabbit said...

      You are right about the beauty of the area but I miss living in the “armpit”. The rest of my family is still in Jersey, Philly, or NYC.
      I pay homage to the great wizard who can magically create pictures on the holy screens and project New York (and other) baseball imagery.

    34. Craig Calcaterra said...

      ECP:  Huh.  That means that the Dodgers presumably lied their a$$ off to the LA Times this summer.  Interesting.

    35. YankeesfanLen said...

      That silly box in the corner of the room just showed Jeter hitting a HR on an 0-2.  John Sterling on the smaller talking box confirmed it.  Isn’t science wonderful?

    36. The Rabbit said...

      It’s not science…It’s wizardry.  If it were science, John Sterling would not be confirming anything.

    37. ecp said...

      “the Dodgers presumably lied their a$$ off to the LA Times this summer”

      Perhaps lying now instead?  To make themselves look better, rather than admit they didn’t even try to go after him?  More likely they lied this summer, though.  I think that lots of teams don’t care to discuss their current negotiations, so denials may be the order of the day.

    38. DonCoburleone said...

      First of all, the Bible has very little “truth” in it.  There are many tales or stories or whatever you want to call them that carry a good message, but they are hardly “true”. 

      Second, the far left wing environmental nut-jobs are just as bad as the far right wing religious wackos.  All I am saying is that when a person’s beliefs perpetually and inherently slow scientific progress that can improve the quality of life for tens of thousands of Americans (e.g. Stem Cell research) I have a REAL problem with it.

    39. Jack Marshall said...

      Schools have nothing to do with it. Nada. People with intellectual curiosity will learn, even if they are raised in a cave. The college students interviewed by Jay Leno on his “Jaywalking” segment are just as ignorant as Craig’s rednecks despite their “education,” and they laugh about the fact that they can’t identify Teddy Roosevelt or the dates of WWII withing 50 years. Something like only 20% of the US qualifies as fully literate. The Dark Ages never left, and they won’t leave anytime soon.

    40. Aarcraft said...

      DonCoburleone. I’m so glad that you know, without out a doubt, things that normal people must take on faith either way. You must be omnipotent. Are YOU the wizard behind my DLP TV?

    41. Jonathan Fellows said...

      The reason a tie goes to the runner is simple physics—at least on plays at first base.  The umpire is supposed to watch for the runner’s foot to touch the base and listen for the ball to hit the fielder’s glove.  If they are exactly simultaneous the umpire will see the runner touch the base before he hears the ball hit the glove—due to light travelling much faster than sound.

    42. brad said...

      I guarantee that most “rednecks” know more about leverage than the majority of “non-rednecks.”(if only from a practical and not theoretical standpoint).

      Also, what kind of argument is it that the world is slipping into the Dark Ages, when you give someone a label like “redneck” (i.e. ignorant, uneducated, ill-informed) and use them for the basis of your argument? If the example was Dayton Moore, I could understand, but really, why is it surprising that a “redneck” as you say, doesn’t understand the theoretical concept of leverage?

      Furthermore, the “rednecks” have probably learned from TV, movies, etc. to have somewhat of a healthy skepticism that everything they see isn’t necessarily as it appears. Obviously, your kids haven’t quite developed this yet. It is a sufficient explanation for their curiosity that their Dad told them it was so. They were no better able to comprehend the idea of leverage than the “rednecks,” they just trust their Daddy.

    43. Jake said...

      the tie goes to the runner.  and to the fielder.  and to the umpire, the beer vendor, the president too.

      that said, in order to declare a tie, you’d have to very carefully establish certain criteria about the frames of reference of the ball, the fielder’s glove, the runner, the base, and the umpire. 

      it is perfectly plausible that, from the batter’s perspective, he beat the ball, while from the fielder’s perspective, the ball beat the runner.

      and who says special relativity and other advanced rocket science doesn’t have an impact on our day to day lives?

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