This tends to lead to voter disillusionment, as many voters (rightly) believe that their vote has no chance of influencing an election. The ‘Per Vote Subsidy‘ was one attempt to rectify this, by counting votes to fund political parties, so voters could feel that no matter where they were voting, their vote was doing something.
So, we want to change this system. What do we want out of a voting system?
At its most fundamental, the goal of a voting system is to provide a system for a peaceful transition of power. The way voting systems do this is by making people feel like they have a say in that transition of power.
At the same time, you want the system to be quick, fair, and resistant to cheating (as there are millions of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars at stake).
(I’m also assuming that we will continue to have a representative democracy, and the number of representatives will remain approximately the same. I’m also assuming that there will be political parties in whatever new system we come up with.)
So: having a say, quick, fair, representative, and resistant to cheating.
Having a say:
– Each vote should have the highest probability possible of changing the representation of the House of Commons
– The public should know the results within hours of the polls closing.
– Political parties should not be significantly inconvenienced by the electoral system for not having money.
– Any barriers to entry should be reasonable (number of candidates to be a registered party, number of votes to get deposits back, percentage of popular vote to qualify to get seats, etc…)
– The system should not unduly give power to very small groups (49/49/2 split, the 49 and 2 have equal power).
– The system should be ‘simple enough’ for people to understand. Currently, people vote for one person, one party with the same vote. A similar system being successfully used elsewhere in the world is a reasonable way to determine ‘simple enough’.
– There are a number of ways to be representative:
– Representation of party by population
– Minority groups
– Diversity of opinions
Resistant to cheating:
– Secret ballot to reduce intimidation and coercion as factors
– Reasonable voter ID laws to increase voter turnout while keeping the risk of personation low.
– Distributed counting makes the current system quite resistant to cheating. One would have to mess with the voting tally computers in real-time to change this. The fact that there is an anonymous paper record of every vote cast in the ballot boxes is also an important check on this system.
Interestingly, the current system seems to do most of the above well, except for representative part (and the current voter ID laws).
Next time, we’ll look at a list of options to increase the representativeness, and see how they affect the rest of the criteria.
So, a good friend of mine recently posted the following meme:
“According to astronomy, when you wish upon a star….
You’re actually a few million years late.
That star is dead.
Just like your dreams.”
It’s a really depressing thought, perhaps even more depressing than the Nietzsche/Kubrick mashup: “God is dead, and you are alone in an uncaring universe.”
At least with an uncaring universe, something with persist after you are gone. If all the stars are dead before you can even see them, would there even be anything left after we are gone?
But extraordinarily depressing statements require extraordinary evidence. So let’s take this sentence apart and define some things.
First: “According to astronomy” means that we get to (and have to) use astronomy in our proof or disproof. It also likely refers to modern astronomy, as it did not specify a time/technology period. (It may be interesting to see if any answers would be different under astronomy from a different time period, but that will be a secondary investigation.)
So, this restricts us to the realm of non-moving (or slowly-moving) celestial objects. From the film, the star also seems significantly brighter than the surrounding stars, but the exact extent to which this is true could be dramatic license.
The rhyme mentions ‘first star I see tonight’, which also suggests that the celestial object seen is unusually bright.
So, non-moving (or slowly moving) celestial objects which are bright. This leaves us with comets, planets, and bright stars.
Comets are objects orbiting through the solar system, and unless they fall into the sun, impact another body, or otherwise breakup, they tend to go on ‘living’ after we see them. (Halley’s comet has been known since at least 240BC.)
Planets could easily look like stars, often like unusually bright stars. Venus was called the ‘evening star‘ since antiquity, and it would be bright enough (up to apparent magnitude -4.9) to be significantly brighter than anything else in the sky. Venus could be considered ‘dead’ because it may have once supported life before a runaway greenhouse effect millions of years ago, but this seems an unlikely metaphorical interpretation. Mercury (up to apparent magnitude -2.45) would also be significantly brighter than anything but Venus (and the moon and sun), but has never been ‘alive’, being too close to the Sun. Mars (up to apparent magnitude -2.91) could have been alive at some point, in the same vein as Venus. One or more of the moons of Jupiter (up to apparent magnitude -1.61) or Saturn (up to apparent magnitude 1.47) could have been home to life, under this same metaphorical definition. (The other planets and other bodies in the solar system are too dim to ever be a ‘bright star’.)
So, a planet could be a metaphorical source for this quote, but this seems unlikely, as the quote seems to be referring to the fact that the celestial object is no longer emitting the light itself.
This leaves us with bright stars. Looking at the brightest star in the night sky, Sirius (up to apparent magnitude -1.46), it is only about 8.6 light years away, so we would know in less than a decade if something were to happen there.
You will note that even the furthest among these, Deneb is still only 2600 light years away, much closer than the ‘few million years’ mentioned above.
Based on all this evidence, it would seem that the original meme:
“According to astronomy, when you wish upon a star….
You’re actually a few million years late.
That star is dead.
Just like your dreams.”
is false, which is good, because it would be super-depressing otherwise.
If you enjoyed this sojurn through astronomy, you may like the rest of my blog. Comment below with things you want me to talk about or investigate!
If you have a better source for this, please let me know.
If you want to be pedantic (and I know you do), you could say that meteors are the dead husks of possible (or tidally destroyed) planets, and their burning up in the atmosphere is hundreds of millions of years after they ‘died’.
Much less than a second, even if you assume they impact the Earth’s atmosphere thousands of kilometers away.
A close supernova might also qualify, as it could easily be brighter than anything else in the night sky, would last just long enough to be a ‘wishing star’, and would have been ‘dead’ for some time before it was seen by a human observer. This might indeed be source of this rhyme, where a ‘guest star‘ could inspire wishing and omens. However, looking at this list of supernovae, any supernova which would have been visible as a ‘bright star’ with the naked eye would be at most tens or hundreds of thousands of light years away, not qualifying for the ‘few million years’ mentioned above. I also personally see supernovae more as a seeding of the galaxy with heavier elements, and thus wishing upon one of these would be wishing that the spreading of heavier elements would inspire life to form elsewhere in the universe.
I see no way that any reasonable person could confuse the Sun or Moon with a ‘wishing star’.
I was talking with my best friend earlier today, and we were comparing notes on some different management roles. Traditional hierarchical management theory tends to have all of the management roles embodied in one person. This can be problematic, as very few people are good at all of the management roles.
This has led to a number of different techniques for dividing these roles among people. To start, we’ll talk about five of these roles, using Agile software development language, as that’s what I’m most familiar with:
Performance Manager (Worker Evaluation):
The ‘Performance Manager’ is probably the most traditional of the roles. When someone talks about their ‘boss’, it is generally the person who evaluates their performance, gives them performance reviews, and decides if they should get a bonus, a raise, or be fired.
The ‘Estimatrix’ is in charge of estimating the amount of effort required to perform a task or set of tasks. This role is often spread out over multiple people, even in traditional hierarchies.
Product Owner (Prioritization):
The ‘Product Owner’ is the other half of ‘traditional’ management. They are in charge of prioritization of the work being done, once it has been assigned to a team and estimated.
Scrum Master (Removing Obstacles):
The ‘Scrum Master’ (my favourite) is charged with removing obstacles. Once the team knows what it is working on, things will get in the way. Some of the obstacles are acute issues, associated with work being done, some of the obstacles are chronic issues, which are generally solved by trying to change habits, and many ‘restrospectives’.
(People) Development Manager (Development Conversations):
As a retention technique (and because it’s the right thing to do), many organizations spend time on development of their employees, helping them figure out what they want to do with their careers, and helping to find them ways to develop while doing their job.
Tomorrow, we’ll look at some ways these roles are remixed.
It’s really more of a default.
Like user stories, anytime your description includes the word ‘and’ or ‘or’, it means you can subdivide it further. That is left as an exercise to the reader, if they are so inclined.
So, you’re designing a computer game. You want some sort of challenge for your player(s) to face. How do you design that challenge? We’ll assume some sort of single player game for now, but most of the things we’ll talk about should easily translate to multiplayer.
Almost all games have a goal. Most of the time, this goal is imposed by the game creators, some of the time this goal is invented or imposed by the player themselves.
As you attempt to reach these objectives, the game designers have provided you with various positive and negative obstacles.
Terrain is an excellent example of an obstacle that can be positive or negative. In Skyrim, you can hide around corners, or you can fall down a mountain. In Candy Crush, the shape of the board can make certain portions easier or much more difficult to match.
Special Candies can be classified as offensive items, compare them to a sword which allows you to do more damage with a single blow.
In Candy Crush, the candies can be encased in ‘jelly’, which acts as a shield that must be overcome. In Skyrim, you have various types of armour which you and your adversaries can wear. (Sometimes, only they can wear it.) There are also magical defenses.
Miscellaneous Items and Magic:
In Candy Crush, you can obtain a ‘Lollipop Hammer‘, which helps you by removing or triggering single candies.
In Skyrim, there is a wide variety of special purpose items and magic. The line between these is often blurry.
I don’t think there are many AI adversaries in Candy Crush, unless they decide to tinker with the random candy generation algorithm, or if you count level design. Skyrim is populated with hundreds, if not thousands of NPCs who will interact with you in various ways.
An uninteresting way to make a game more challenging is to make it more repetitive[2.5]. You could make your player battle the same enemy 35 times, or solve minor variations on the same puzzle 50 times, or make them walk through an endless samey forest.
Ideally, you want to give a feeling of exploration and small but noticeable differences along the way.
Next time, we’ll compare two more games which are even more distinct. Suggestions in the comments below!
I say almost, even though I can’t think of any games which don’t have a goal, and/or can’t have one created by the player. Inventing one sounds like a fun challenge. I don’t mean a game with an impossible challenge which always seems almost possible, I’m talking about a game which aggressively has no goal, and cannot, to the greatest extent possible.
Or goals plural. Multiple interlocking or interrelated goals are out of scope.
[2.5]Than usual…Most of these games are quite repetitive.
Sometimes I think I write just because I enjoy using words such as ‘interlocking’.
Continuing our adversaries series, we’re looking at DS9 season four. We’ve seen a number of different patterns season to season, with season one being ‘Q and Prime Directive’, season two being ‘Cardassians and Introspection’, and season three being ‘Dominion, Time/Planar travel, and Introspection’.
The standout this season was internal conflict, whether it’s Bashir vs. O’Brien, or Worf vs. his brother, season four was a study in character stories and internal dilemmas. The writers continued to use the Dominion for the plurality of the high-powered adversary plots, while eschewing almost entirely low-powered external adversaries.
Almost like the calm before the storm, the self introspection before the galaxy erupts into war.
2 (frozen in time)
-1 (Bashir vs. O’Brien)
-1 (Kira vs. Dukat vs. Dukat)
-1 (Dax vs. Dax)
2 (Time Travel)
2 (Two Jem’Hadar ships and a gas giant)
-1 (Worf vs. Kor vs. Worf vs. Kor)
-1 (Earth and fear)
-1 (Earth and fear, part II)
-1 (Odo & Kira)
2 (freighter vs. Klingon ship)
-1 (Worf & Kurn)
-1 (Quark and the union)
0 (Bajoran politics)
1 (Klingon courtroom drama)
-1 (O’Brien suffers)
1 (Defiant vs. Mirror)
0 (alien & Lwaxana’s lover)
1 (crew + Jem’Hadar vs. Jem’Hadar)
2 (Dominion disease)
0 (one Ferengi)
2 (The Great Link)
Continuing our adversaries series, we’re continuing with DS9. Today we’ll see if season three follows in the footsteps of season one, season two, or something else entirely.
As usual, moderate to severe spoilers below.
High: 8 (3 Dominion)
Note that all of the times that the Dominion appeared during season three, they were presented in an overpowering way, with even one changeling being equal in power to the Defiant’s crew.
Season three is a different mix again from seasons one and two. Season one focused on high- and low-powered (‘Q and Prime Directive’) adversaries. Season two focused on self and equal (mostly Cardassian) adversaries.
Season two is a marked departure from ‘Q and Prime Directive’ mix from season one. A plurality of episodes are dealing with the Cardassians, usually in an equal adversary role. We also see an overall plurality of ‘Self’ episodes, as the writers now have enough space to start exploring the characters in some more depth.
Perhaps most interestingly, there are only three stories with extremely powerful adversaries, and two of those are because a small number of crewmembers are up against an entire colony or civilization (The other is the Dominion, but that’ll be a story for a later season).
On a slightly different note, S suggested the following scenario, as an exercise for the reader:
“Riker and Dukat are on Earth, during the early 21st century. They are trying to order a Blizzard at Dairy Queen, but the teenager behind the counter tells them no. Who is the adversary, and what is their power level?”
(0 is less powerful, 1 is about the same, 2 is more powerful, -1 is self)
1 (Cardassians, and the Bajoran ‘Circle’ has “more firearms than a Galaxy-class starship.”
1 (same as previous two, three-parter)
1 (same number of people as the crew, even though the plot was contrived)
1 (Cardassian politics)
-1 (Bashir, Melora, and low-gravity Ability)
1 (Ferengi negotiating story)
-1 (Odo flashes back and meets Kira, Dukat, and Quark)
-1 (Sisko meets someone…or does he?)
-1 (Resettling gamma quadrant refugees away from Bajor)
0 (con-artist, and ‘luck’)
-1 (Odo and his ‘father’)
2 (less powerful civilization, but trapped and left for dead)
-1 (character stories, hologram generator)
0 (prime directive story)
1 (Cardassian ship)
0 (40 guards, they have a ship)
0 (Maquis, part II)
2 (mirror universe)
-1 (Bajoran politics)
2 (3 Jem Hadar ships outmatch one Galaxy-class)
There is considerable analysis suggesting that the Federation/Cardassian war was vary one-sided, at least in space. In the context of this analysis though, starting a new war with Cardassia would create far more problems than it would solve, and therefore the Cardassians get an ‘equal’ ranking.
Continuing our adversaries series, we’re starting today looking at DS9. I’m curious to know how it will diverge from TNG, and when. Or maybe it won’t. Which will mean there’s something about the Star Trek formula, or perhaps the general television formula.
So, this presents a significant departure from TNG. Even though DS9 is supposed to be grittier and have opportunities amongst the main cast, this is never the main adversary or obstacle in an episode. Also interestingly, the episodes almost exclusively separate into ‘very powerful outside force’ and ‘morality play where we try to solve problems without anyone getting hurt’.
You can also see this very clearly in the ‘Federation Maps‘ (direct link here). Just look at the size of the Federation compared to all of the other powers. Even if they’re not especially warlike, as any good Civilization player knows, if you have an economy four times the size of your opponent, they’re not really much of a threat. Add in the Federation-Klingon alliance, and they should be unstoppable. Gives you an idea of how powerful the Dominion and the Jem’Hadar must have been.
Perhaps it’s because the adversaries which are ‘just the right amount of challenge’ for the Federation haven’t really discovered the station yet, perhaps because the seasons-spanning plots haven’t started yet.
But I think a lot of it is the nature of the beast. A ship exploring will encounter all kinds of different adversaries and challenges. They can travel to see the Klingons or Romulans whenever they want. A space station will be visited by small numbers of beings at any time. Some will be spatial anomalies which threaten to destroy the station. Many will be travelers on their own missions, but not significantly powerful in their own right. Rarely, representatives from other governments will visit, even more rarely will they have warlike intentions.
(I’ve copied my rationale below, as the results were o surprising. Please check out Jammer’s Reviews and/or Memory Alpha and tell me how I’m wrong in the comments below!)
2 (celestial temple, convincing by Sisko)
0 (Bajoran person)
0 (3 aliens)
“Were we interfering with these people, their philosophy, their society? At the same time, what has happening there wasn’t fair. It was a classic Star Trek story” – Colm Meaney
1 (contamination from destroying ship)
2 (alien game)
Now that we’ve looked at all seven seasons of TNG, we can look at the series as a whole.
Somewhere between season 3 & 4, the balance shifted from low-powered adversaries to the crew (or Starfleet) themselves as the adversaries. Perhaps this is because you have to have a certain number of ‘plot‘ episodes before you can have a ‘character study‘.
All the way through, the plurality in almost every season was adversaries of much greater power than the crew. This makes sense if you want to show your cast using guile, as in these situations, they simply have to.
Commander William T. Riker: You’re outmanned, you’re outgunned, you’re outequipped. What else have you got?
Lieutenant Worf: Guile.
Almost all of the episodes with ‘equal’ adversaries (generally Romulans, Klingons, or Cardassians) also involved guile of some sort. It wasn’t until the Dominion War on DS9 that phasers were commonly used to solve problems.
Below I have my categorization by episode, for those who enjoy arguments of this type.
Continuing from where we left off talking about TNG: Seasons 1-3, here are the stats for the power levels of the crew’s adversaries in Seasons four and five.
As before, I defined ‘high-powered’ challenges as those where firing phasers would only make the problem worse, so the crew must needs turn to guile. ‘Equal-powered’ challenges are those situations where firing phasers would lead to a toss-up. ‘Low-powered’ challenges are those where phasers or transporters would solve the problem handily. ‘Self-powered’ challenges are those where the conflict is inside the crew, or between crew members, or between all or part of the crew and Starfleet.
Seasons four and five seem to be exploring alternately how the crew deals with very strong external adversaries and wrestling with themselves.
Season Four (26 episodes): 2-120202-1221112022-122-10-11-12
Or you could look at “Night Terrors” (‘One moon circles.’, still the best metaphor for Hydrogen I’ve seen) and “The Drumhead” as (for me) two other good examples.
Another example which marries the two is “Remember Me“.
Season Five (26 episodes): 21122-1110-1-10002-102-1-1-12-12-12
Season five’s “The Game” is a good example of an episode which is difficult to categorize between ‘high-powered adversary’ and ‘self-adversary’. To me, the episode is really about the crew struggling with themselves and an addiction. Else, you could see it as them struggling against magic mind-controlling aliens.
However, changing this wouldn’t really change the overall stats for the season.
Any conversation about season five would be incomplete without mentioning “The Inner Light“, perhaps discussing some similar issues to “Remember Me” above. For me, “The Inner Light” was the most poignant, for the way it portrayed memory and loss, nostalgia and time passing. May we all have an epitaph as powerful.
But for now, I will continue with analyzing TV from my childhood.