Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Human Experiment (movie review)

This documentary looks at the issue of toxins in our tissues owing to higher concentrations of various substances in our ecosystem (economy):  Bisphenol-A, PVC, asbestos... lead.

Flame retardants are a good thing in general, but the devil is in the details.  Efforts to change the mix in California have only incensed the flame retardant industry.

Other cases of this kind show the uphill battle being waged to get some kind of handle on poisons and/or poisonous practices.  Reducing the power of tobacco advertising, a form of drug pushing, was just the beginning of a long slog.

The fact that the USG, presumably a "superpower" is rather unfairly helpless against Big Tobacco, Big Asbestos, Big Killing You Softly in general (Obnoxico) comes through loud and clear.  Uncle Sam tends to go toothless where Cowardly Capitalism is concerned.

Lets face it, democracy is a fairly new invention, and as an average human one is a disposable item, to be milked for money in the interim, and maybe thereafter, in the form of ongoing payments from the estate.

Using the courts against Obnoxico is next to impossible as the legislation (rule making) may be so obstructive as to make court battles irrelevant.  Corporate personhood means giants among us set the rules, with ordinary humans relegated to steerage as 2nd or 3rd class.  Our monsters have us on the defensive already, yet most scientists still project our battle with AI robots in futuristic terms.

Our own conditioned reflexes have proved robotic enough, to threaten our continued survival as humane / sapient human beings.  The post-sapiens will still be good at shopping however.

Consumers still have the power to vote with whatever remaining purchasing power, though institutional buyers may be beholden to specific arrangements, through board members perhaps.

Sometimes "specific arrangements" are a good deal for all concerned, so I'm not casting aspersions on optimization as a concept.  Indeed, free market capitalism has this last resort optimizing capability:  the freedom of consumers, even without top-down organizations, to set up what amounts to a boycott.

Some ingredients get on the black list, as do some companies.  Legislation may bring up the rear in that case -- or not.  Public taste and opinion may lead legislation by a decade or more, as we've seen with Prohibition.

Lets remember the power of women, whom the USG is these days thinking to draft and send into combat, without first passing any ERA (Equal Rights Amendment).  Women look forward to having children with every advantage, and become health nuts during pregnancy, a lot of the time.

Their concerns about radio-toxins in the ecosystem thanks to reckless testing by Iron Mountain's minions, motivated Uncle Sam to clamp down on atmospheric testing, by negotiating with others to do the same.  Mothers everywhere were up in arms, more conscious than most of front lines biology.

When breast milk starts ticking, there's the thought to be more careful with our one shared planet.  Dr. Evil types need to be countered.  Have we no heroes anymore?

I think environmental engineering or engineering with ethics, informed about agriculture, conscious of human and non-human needs, is going to recruit a lot of top talent.  Movies such as this one, rather weak on science specifics, set a bench mark to move beyond.

Contrary to one mother's lament, that one shouldn't need a PhD in biochemistry to have a child, that's something we're all going to need, at least informally.  Taking care of life requires a lot more understanding of biochemistry than simply wreaking havoc, which requires few skills.

The growing crop of weapons inspectors will be a subcategory of environmental engineer.  There's nothing healthy about those stockpiles of WMDs, neither physically nor psychologically.  Humans are reduced to idiocrat post-sapiens when over-exposed to radio-toxins.  Protective measures, beyond just the haz-mat suits, are a job requirement.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Deep Cleaning

I've been in overdrive deep cleaning the kitchen, still have a ways to go.  I have original 1950s style pastel yellow, pink and light blue vinyl wall paneling + a stainless steel counter + painted metal cabinetry + an avocado green Magic Chef stove.

All this 1950s stuff is quite vintage at this point, and it shows.  The cabinets are tinged with rust and corrosion, indicating "well used".  Properly scrubbed, they're still shiny though, even if not "like new".

Our family moved in twenty years ago, taking over from the Kinglers, whom we suppose installed the wood stove in the middle of the living room (we gave that to Dawn's brother).

I popped in a VHS tape showing us enjoying life in 1997, about two years after we moved in.  Sorting through VHS tapes was another holiday project.

Blast from the past:  cleaning in a consumerist culture often means discovering interesting appliances that have fallen by the wayside, such as a WelBilt Bread Oven Model ABM600.  I don't find anything wrong with it (so far).  I got some yeast and dry nonfat milk, bread flour, to test it with.

Tara cleaned her room when she got here, to make it more suitable.  She's been resting between social engagements by taking in old episodes of Star Trek Voyager.

Lindsey has likewise been deep cleaning in preparation for the big move to Corvallis.  She officially moved out some months ago, but went to Nepal.  The next move entails actually evacuating the basement, where the bulk of her music equipment has been stowed.

I use a stiff brush with 409 on the vinyl and metal, after clearing off all items held with magnets.  Two 24" florescent tubes had gone out, which I replaced.

I'm wondering if the personal frozen dessert maker, a hand-cranked one-portion cooling device, could be re-purposed into a Martini cooler.  I forgot to buy olives for the test.  Next time.

I'm not a big Martini guy, have probably had fewer than twenty of those in my fifty seven years of life.  However, I'm open learning new things.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Listserv Posting

From: kirby urner
Date: Thu, Dec 17, 2015 at 1:16 PM
Subject: Re: Presenting misconceptions detrimental to learning ...
To: The Physics Learning Research List

On Thu, Dec 17, 2015 at 12:43 PM, [ JD ] wrote:
In particular, many of the most important concepts (in physics  and elsewhere) are so fundamental that they simply cannot be defined in terms of anything more fundamental.  One place where you see this with particular clarity is in Euclidean geometry, where the fundamental objects -- points, lines, and planes -- are emphatically and explicitly *not* defined.  The words acquire meaning from how they are used, and not otherwise. 
I'd like to riff off this paragraph a little in order to draw a distinction between "misconceptions" and "alternative conceptions".

My approach to the latter w/r to non-Euclidean alternatives is to start with Karl Menger's 'Modern Geometry and the Theory of Relativity' [1] wherein he suggests a "geometry of lumps" in which points, lines and planes are distinguished not by "dimension" (Karl was a dimension theorist) but by shape (topological characteristics).

I combine this with an alternative model of multiplying two numbers, where the two lengths A, B are posited at 60 degrees in alignment with unit-area triangles, such that A x B is the area closed off by the origin O, and segment AB. [2]

This model leads to an analogous treatment of 3rd powering (or multiplying any 3 numbers) that goes to a tetrahedron, not a cube.  "Three to the third power" is not a cube but a tetrahedron.  This is well known from the 1970s writings of geodesic dome architect Buckminster Fuller. [3]

Given the pronounced 4ness of the tetrahedron (4 windows, 4 points), and no distinction in dimension twixt points, lines and planes ("infinitely thin or small" e.g. "depth without height or width" are handled by a concept of "subfrequency" instead), we get a "pre-frequency" Platonic world that is considered "4D" (tetrahedron = concept of "container" i.e. that with inside/outside concave/convex aspects), with Time / Energy added as additional dimensions. [4]

That's all an opening into a philosophical investigation of what's permissible, in terms of having different namespaces.  Are these moves "allowed"?  It's a different way of talking.  I cast it as "Martian Math" to acknowledge it's alien, but not necessarily "wrong".

Challenging the efficacy and utility of Euclidean geometry is not the point.  Pointing to another way of connecting the dots that likewise holds water is the point.  One needs a limber mind to tackle slippery concepts (like "dimension") and getting too stuck in a rut is not a good way to stay limber.


[1] in Albert Einstein: Philosopher-Scientist , The Library of Living Philosophers VII, edited by P. A. Schilpp, Evanston, Illinois, pp. 459-474
[4] (a "4D" coordinate system)

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Rich Data Structures

:: Python dicts mapping 64 DNA / RNA base pair triplets to 20 amino acids ::

The videos I'm watching on Safari On-line, about Hadoop, feature WordCount, a jarred job, working against a cluster containing all Shakespeare's writings in HDFS.

To unpack that a little, making a cluster of computers act in concert as a very large hard-drive, with RAID-like redundancy, is what cloud computing is all about.

You can build a cloud in your basement if you want to invest in the hardware.  You'll want two robust carrier grade master servers: one for NameNode and JobTracker, the other for Secondary NameNode (the change-log compactor, not meant to be considered a failover).

The six to one hundred slaves (for starters) may use commodity hardware.  One DataNode per slave machine keeps things easy, with paired TaskTracker too, each of these five types of daemon a long-running process on its own JVM.

This entire ensemble acts to emulate a giant disk, and actually the texts attributed to Shakespeare don't even begin to take up that kind of room.  The redundancy factor provides a high degree of security, provided the cluster is actively monitored and maintained, failed hardware replaced.

And by "a jarred job" I meant "stored in a jar file" (like a zip file or tarball), as we talk to this cluster in terms of these Java language jobs.   An ecosystem of software products, including open source, defines the Hadoop namespace more or less.  Sqoop, Hive, Pig... a bunch of funny names.

A map routine, farmed out to work against data blocks simultaneously, harvests the data for the reducers, which apply whatever amalgamating logic, summing columns, counting rows, number crunching against whatever the mappers have found.

That's all technology for dealing with Big Data.

At the other end of the spectrum, we have tiny data sets that are nevertheless more substantive than random semi-spurious examples.  In the age of print, squandering pages on "real data" (such as a complete Periodic Table of the Elements) would not be undertaken lightly.  The Periodic Table is concise for a reason.

How many "parts in inventory" does one need to get the idea? Of parts, not that many, but "many" is a concept to get one's head around also.  An appreciation for the sheer volume of the data being managed may be illuminating as well (in the sense of instructive). 

Once in a real knowledge domain, the data often starts getting bigger, even if the business logic remains more or less constant over time.  The same rules come to apply to more and more special cases -- not that rules never change.

Fortunately, and just in time when we needed it most, we often now get to learn new skills by downloading substantive example files, as it's not a matter of "wasting paper" like in the old days.  The move towards Open Data is a way to balance higher rates of collection.  Enriching the commons with more shared data provides more reality checks which presumably better guides public policy.

Having substantive files, such as William Shakespeare's works, or even just tiny maps of the genetic code, also helps us keep the bandwidth high.  You're not just learning some computer language, you're being reminded of what you learned about genetics.

Sharing bread and butter data from different disciplines, not phony nonsense examples, helps keep a subject matter grounded, and gives people more windows into one another's spheres of concern.

Yes, I understand the utility of "meaningless story problems" designed to call attention to what's most generalizable, the core concepts and techniques. By the same token, peppering one's teaching with real-world-flavored examples has valid uses as well.  It's not either / or.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Guns or Butter

This rather hawkish Frontline documentary seems inconsistent, in building support for more US troops on the ground, while never addressing the issue of US weapons falling into the hands of armed gangs.  How did "troops on the ground" really solve things in round one?

That the only response to a dark ages Catholic-vs-Protestant (Sunni-vs-Shia or the reverse) style war -- with modern weapons -- is "should we bomb or send troops?" is critiqued more directly in the Russia Today interview of a retired Marine, Jason Stapleton, below.  These two (Frontline and RT) come up back to back in my Youtube viewing queue.

The private sector floods the area with arms, in exchange for black market oil, without consulting either NATO or DC (or the Kremlin or...).  The Arms Bazaar is open to all comers, as a player in its own right.  It's not like guns are hard to find.

Pouring high-powered weapons into a war zone is not a clear recipe for restoring peace.  Just about anyone suggesting a "solution" seems to think it's a matter of which trigger-happy faction to support with more weaponry.  Certainly the weapons makers have it made.

Evacuating civilians is also a political maneuver.  Propaganda and ideology is not all about who has the most guns (or oil).  Win the allegiance of civilians by helping them escape a war zone why not?  Do more to shore up living standards in the refugee camps at least.  Take a high profile lead in lighting a way forward that's not just more darkness.  Be a beacon for hope, not a source of "shock and awe" for a change?

The suddenly low world price for oil makes sense, in light of the fact of the collective hunger for weapons.  The Arms Bazaar is feeding off this hunger, driving the price of oil down, given "black market" circuits (scare quotes because we're talking about a lawless state of war) are pumping like crazy, trading butter (crude, aka Peak Oil) for guns.

The private sector does not actually need US tax dollars to make its fortune, except on the very biggest ticket items (atomic weapons procurement funds many a fancy restaurant visit, good for the wine barons at least, until the grapes start ticking).

The US does not need to pump any more small or even medium sized arms into the region, for there to be plenty of such weapons (it's not like they're used up after two or three rounds -- expect at least a decade of trusty service on some makes and models).

Already, a large percentage of what's circulating is "US Army surplus" (captured from Mosul or wherever), valued in the hundreds of millions of petro-dollars.

Keeping the campaign aerial (the NATO-Russia solution) is a way to avoid direct weapons transfers, but ultimately dropping bombs is about continuing to destroy infrastructure that leaves nothing left by way of employment other than picking up a gun and joining the mayhem.

If the only job open is suicide bomber, but with several months of free room and board (called "training"), that might mean a longer life for some jihadists?  With nothing more to lose, why not go out in a blaze of glory right?  Goodbye cruel world with a vengeance, right?

Living standards plummet the minute those craters start happening in your city, thanks to bombs, whether delivered by car or by jet (or by cruise missile or by....).  Destruction is quick.  The consequences take longer to manifest, the healing even longer.

Invading Iraq in the first place is what helped end Iraq.  These nations were tenuous to begin with and couldn't take that much stress without shattering.

The purpose of the nation-state system was to find a way to live in peace.  That didn't work out did it?  We'll continue with the theater of it all, not having any better ideas apparently, but with less faith and belief in some of those recent ideologies, best left behind in the 1900s or whatever.  Good riddance.  On to something more sustainable, we pray.

Economics and GST both agree:  it's about guns versus butter (killingry versus weaponry) and also about non-linear spiraling, positively or negatively trending.  Without hope and longing for a brighter tomorrow (utopia), there's still room for fear and the hunger for outward weapons (oblivion).

Rather than cratering freeways, the basis of civilian trucking could be improved and extended from Kabul to Istanbul, a paying gig, perhaps for academic credit.  I know that sounds far fetched, but not for any lack of trucks or fuel oil, and the freeways were being used.

Taking that same oil money to rebuild hospitals and factories would be an option.  Other sectors besides the Arms Bazaar have goods and services of value.

What do people shop for, especially if their self-proclaimed business is to "glorify God"?  Some shop for and deploy tanks.  Others procure Boeing 737s.  Either way, it's a business (a bazaar).  The least responsible buyers are expecting the end of the world, but who can blame them?

Speaking of oil, I need to turn down the heat.  I was testing the furnace this morning.  It works.  No need to waste.  I'm mostly just using space heaters these days.  A rain forest ecology gets lots of rain, but isn't usually down to freezing except in the mountains, where skiing remains a popular sport.

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

The Power of Community (movie review)


This documentary is uplifting, as it tells a story we all want to hear, of humans surviving an energy crunch by cooperating, rather than turning on one another, every man for himself. The backdrop is local politics, less than peak oil.

Peak Oil is real, and should be welcomed as our saving grace vs. global warming, as the fossil fuels are simply running out, at least half empty already mas o meno. I always thought the Peak Oil talkers were more into taking the bull by the horns than the Oceans and Temperature Rising talkers, not that these are mutually exclusive talks.

Cuba was caught in the middle of Cold War politics and could not afford the lifestyle to which it had become accustomed, not in the wake of perestroika (перестро́йка).

Cubans were actually using more pesticide and fertilizer per hectare than many, and were exporting cash crops in exchange for basic foodstuffs, just like every other tropical paradise.  But for the US embargo, they had a mirror image thing going in the Second World, which was a lot like the First.

But then the Soviet Union morphed into something else and left Cuba to face everything short of invasion, in terms of economic sanctions.  Any ship putting in to a Cuban port was blacklisted in the US for at least six months, a heavy penalty.  Cuba went from being Second World to Third World overnight almost.

With the sudden shut off of former sources of income, Cubans had to completely reorganize their agricultural and transportation systems.  In so doing, they made some important discoveries, such that the way soil is compacted by heavy equipment requires heavy equipment to undo, and the pesticides and fertilizers were killing the natural topsoil, necessitating more artificial ingredients.  The spiral was unsustainable.

They went back to organic farming, and to oxen, with diverse crops, less mono-culture. This was done not out of idealism but out of necessity.  Cuba suddenly needed to be more food independent.  This takes big changes at the grass roots, but then in the face of severe shortages, the status quo was not acceptable either.  The changes were highly motivated.

Tractors were still important of course, but someone taking a plow to his or her field, behind two oxen, was once against lionized as an agrarian superstar.  The "peasant" (aka organic farmer) had status again.  Agricultural engineering is about as basic as it gets, just ask the Australians (they help out with their permaculture knowledge).  Once the concept of "working with Nature" is ingrained, a lot of the work just happens.

The upshot of all this morphing is Cuba is now enjoying higher living standards, in terms of people having amicable relationships (i.e. social skills).  They're not mowing each other down as much as in some countries, nor living the life of sputtering gas-aholics or shop-aholics.

Better food, more savvy, a closer connection with the Earth.  Our back to the Earthers here in the US already believe in this lifestyle, and some even practice it.  Portland, Oregon is much infused with the same values.  We admire our agricultural sector quite a bit (a source for hops, grapes and wine, cannabis products, pears and apples, berries and Christmas trees, also cheeses), not just our nanotechnology (not that these are entirely separate).

What's interesting is to mix the older more established methods of agriculture with new discoveries and inventions.  Going back to oxen and horses does not mean giving up Google Earth or smartphone apps, which draw little wattage on the demand side.  No one says you can't use Linux to help manage the farm, whether locally or in some cloud is up to the local proprietor.

This version of "the agrarian lifestyle" is not about self deprivation so much as learning how to master a definite puzzle, and learning to live lightly upon the Earth.

Living longer and prospering does not have to mean replicating a suburban American lifestyle, high on synthetic foods, low on developing the skills our pioneer progenitors took for granted.

Coming to grips with Peak Oil is what Cubans have done in miniature.  They're proud of what they've done and know the world needs hopeful examples.

Bucky Fuller always called it "starter fluid" those oil reserves.  We have this convenient store of carbon energy to boost us into a next age, with different lifestyle solutions.  We took off like a rocket and cratered our own nest.

In this next chapter, one of weaning, if we just squander the asset away without planning, instead choosing to fight for the right to stay stuck in the mud, then we'll get to look back and wonder: just what was so important about all those "jobs" we were doing? 

I mean, how can we even call it "work" if its primary goal is to distract us from what really needs doing?  What if, unlike Cuba, the rest of us just decide to goof off?  We sure burn a lot of oil just dinking around with our war toys.  You'd think as a species we might get more serious.

Monday, December 07, 2015

Timelines Welcome


At Thirsters, a room on East Broadway where cognoscenti gather, we're blessed with some interesting room decor, including a framed timeline of world history, based on a Biblical version of events.  I'm guessing it was published in the early 1900s, maybe late 1800s?

I've been talking to Glenn about his Global Matrix system and the timelines it purveys, unfortunately not in such a concrete form as a website, yet.  Maybe 11K BC is when we find some evidence of humanity emerging from the prior ice age.

The Missoula floods (about thirty of them) have to do with great glaciers melting.  Lakes would pool in the ice way back when, then one warm day, break through some rim and drench the land to the sea.

The Black Sea got filled in around the same time right?  Noah wasn't lying about what was to come.

That wasn't the only flood though.  Plus there've been other ice ages.

The coasts keep changing.  Looking at the globe today does not tell us the scene even a few thousand years ago.  Dilmun is mostly under water.

Deep time timelines must be out there, I'm just in the mood to find them.  That's my attitude.  They must be out there.

Yes, it's true, scholars do not all agree about deep history or what happened when.  Timelines are based on specific schools of thought.  Lets just get them on the table at least.

The precession of the planet on its axis is important to relate to climate phenomena.  Our north axis points at Polaris these days, but that was not always the case.

Before we got into this age of Ursa, the north axis was pointed more at a star in Draco.  Old myths talk about the bear triumphing over the dragon.

It takes about 26K years to do a precessional cycle.  "In approximately 3200 years, the star Gamma Cephei in the Cepheus constellation will succeed Polaris for this position." [Wikipedia]

"Precession N" by Tauʻolunga - self, 4 bit GIF.
Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Commons.

The Social Network (movie review)

Let me say right off the bat that I'm highly skeptical of docu-drama as a genre, but then what else is there?  Every war movie ever made is a docu-drama, almost, unless you count the few documentaries, spliced together from footage from the actual battlefield.  Usually those get caught up in somebody's "history" and from there acquire spin.  Fictional bits creep in.

However, having attended Princeton, I can attest to some realism in the importance of rowing as a lifestyle, to those lucky enough to grow up around rivers or otherwise break in.  However I think Zuckerberg's character is less interested in banking on Harvard's name than on achieving redemption through smarts.  The movie is about meritocracy versus patriarchy in many dimensions, with software engineering giving rise to that nouveau riche we call Silicon Valley, self-booting.

Deeper than that though, the opening scene sets off a battle of the sexes, with the Zuckerberg character honestly insecure about what he brings to the table and trying to negotiate from perceived weakness.  He's not one of those "crew cut" Harvard guys but he figures he still has the appeal of knowing some inner circle and so addresses his love interest in terms of a rags to riches story, as in "I can help make you known to the people who matter".  Isn't that a core game at Harvard?

His girlfriend breaks up with him over that as she's interested in a relationship more based in equality and neither having the leverage of social advantage.  Had Zuckerberg not felt he was coming from weakness, he might have avoided a lot of soul searching but then we might not have Facebook or this movie, so lets give him the space do the math in his own time.

His exoneration comes late in the film when a lawyer of that same ineffable species, who has heard the whole story, tells him to his face he's not what the other girl said he was.  That's worth a lot, coming from her, as she's in a position to have insight.  From that standpoint alone I could see why this movie would not prove too damaging to any of those involved.  Each walks away with something, just like in real life.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Mathy Memes

[ a first draft published to MathFuture, a Google Group ]

My talks at PyCons (Python conventions) and OSCONs (Open Source conventions) going back show me mounting the stage to decry "calculus mountain", by which I meant the obstacle course and sometimes source of disappointment occasioned by the "forced march" through "delta calculus" if wanting to get into a four year college, and by extension into a STEM field (or "work for NASA" as some put it).

My contention, in those years, was those like me who'd made it over calculus mountain -- I got into honors calc at Princeton, skipping the regular, had Thurston the topologist for a prof; we used Spivak's, Calculus on Manifolds -- found on the other side some "cool pools" i.e. an oasis of other mathy topics that could have been just as well taught in high school, providing alternatives to those not turned on by calculus.

An example of such a "cool pool", no delta calc required, is Group Theory.  Permutations at play.  More generally, what we today call "discrete mathematics" was screamingly relevant, in terms of the doors it opens, compared with "integration by parts", or so I believed.  I found other voices sang with mine.  I was part of a choir.  I also joined forces with those wanting to teach "how to code" (computer program) for core credit.

Fast forward and I'm in Oregon, joining a small lobby group to say to the legislature:  "You know those three years of math you require for a high school diploma?  We want to bring in discrete math topics and open up more space in STEM than just pre-calculus / calculus, whaddya say?"  As far as I can tell, pretty much all the states said "OK" in unison i.e. they had no concrete objections to math-credit computer science.  So ruled without objection, right?

When it comes to marketing the possibility in practice however, that's another matter and big publishing gets involved.  I like to float mnemonics, easy to use -- but we hope not misleading -- memes.  Calling the conventional pre-calc / calc track "delta calculus", as I do above, is not how most people write.  The letter "delta", though used in differential / integral calculus, has not been made to "brand" it in that way.  High school calculus, as typically taught, does not go by any Greek letter.

My innovation, then, was to cast "delta calc" versus "lambda calc" as two flavors of "calc" (computation), like chocolate and vanilla.  No one said a given student can't do "swirl" (both flavors mixed together).

Lets be clear:  lambda calc already exists, one might point to the Princeton Institute for Advanced Study, a couple generations back:  Alonso Church and company.  So where do we want to take it next?

Lets remember that so-called "delta calculus" was at one time esoteric and not introduced pre-college.  In formalizing the work of Newton and Leibniz, as filtered through generations of refinement, thank the French, we got it into the form of pre-college deliverables, a spiral, a ladder, featuring Riemann sums and Leibniz notation for derivatives, first, second, third and so on.  Different school systems have different histories.  Many narratives criss-cross (inter-weave).

In canning calculus ("canning" as in "canning tuna" not as in "firing from a job") for the pre-college crowd, we sliced out most of the history.  We take for granted that mathematics, being a "universal language" is somehow too eternal to be subjected to a merely tempo-real -- as in historical -- treatment.  That's considered aftermarket trade book reading.  Textbooks must peek at history only in sidebar, or in footnotes maybe. 

Whatever the rationale for so sanitizing the subject, we neglect a most important bridge to the humanities i.e. here is where C.P. Snow's chasm, betwixt the humanities and sciences begins to yawn.  History provides at least a rope bridge across, whereas many find themselves trapped, on one side or the other (reading maths or reading history, but never the twain together thanks to illiteracy barriers).

Were we to restore more of the history, we would discover more of the all too human drama of contention.  But is debate a bad thing?  Isn't moving forward a matter of dialog, or "dialectic" as the educated say? 

Mathematics has not evolved quietly, without argument.  Newton and Leibniz argued with each other (a priority dispute) while Bishop Berkeley attacked the whole idea of infinitesimal quantities and proofs based on them (a conceptual integrity dispute).  Cantor and Kronecker took different sides in some arguments.  There's ferment, disagreement, or at least alternative ways to go.

But that's precisely what gets white washed in going over this material:  schools find it expedient to agree there's at least one subject on which everyone agrees.  Or, if they don't, at least none of the boiling-over arguments should touch the kids.  That math is contentious gets "dirty secret" or "in the closet" treatment.  But Thomas Kuhn in his talk of "paradigms" at least made it OK / safe to question the caricature of a "steady advance" did he not?  So why be so timid?  Why all the shielding?

Anyway, in rolling up "lambda calculus" into a more popular form, like was done already with the Newton - Leibniz stuff, I've focused on "composition of functions" as the primitive notion, with the multiplication operator very soon introduced as a "composer operator", so that we further develop that sense of polymorphism around operators, the ground of Abstract Algebra.

A permutation, a mapping of objects to themselves in another or same order, is a primitive function, a set of ordered pairs.  It's one-to-one, bijective.  And permutations may be "chained" (composed).  As a topic, they thicken the soup of whatever computer language, giving a gym to work out in.

"Why use the multiplication operator at all?"  That's where the "cool pool" of Group Theory comes in.  This is material we currently try to get into around Algebra 1 and 2, just a little, but we're in a hurry to dive into delta calc.

We have no time for passing functions as arguments to other functions, as we do in Python and other languages (that's a good introduction to delta calc too, through the gate of functions with function-arguments).

But now we do have that time, because we have a fork in the road and the freedom to follow the lambda calc road instead, or in addition, to the delta calc road.  The lambda calc road is certified legal and open to traffic, we just need more teachers to help out as guides.

I'm under no illusions that with the snap of some fingers, even more than just mine, these "reforms" might be injected in short order.  Rather I'm providing a road map for like-minded to reference, when explaining to the general public or intelligent layman what the strategy is.  "All the computer stuff we don't currently manage to squeeze in? -- we've got a way now, and I can explain it in terms of two Greek letters, lambda and delta".

I've "rehabilitated" obscure disciplines before, too early to assess with what success.  General Systems Theory (GST) is all over the place (somewhat like Tensegrity), as a management philosophy, as a kind of ecology, who knows?  It has a high caliber pedigree but where does it go from here? 

I noticed how Economists and Economics tend to have monopoly status when it comes to advising the financial markets regarding guns vs. butter, and suggested GST muscle in under the banner that "monopoly breeds inefficiency" owing to lack of serious competition.  GST was about giving Economics a run for its money.  Still is.  That's easy to understand, no?

Courses in GST could just as well provide rungs of that "climbing some business world ladder" as more science-oriented than Econ in some dimensions, including around issues of climate change we might hope.

Finally, another axis or spectrum I've contemplated, as have many, is what oft goes by "left brain" versus "right brain" as a dichotomy.  My track record is riddled with slides talking about "lexical versus graphical" by which I somewhat mean the same thing as the brain hemisphere people do.  We're talking about bridges again.

In STEM a goal is to have noodling-with-symbols (call it "algebra" or "being lexical") match up with visualizations and other experiential presentations or summaries.  We want to understand what we're looking at when interpreting all that data.

Control panels, dashboards, instruments, sensors...  we have a kind of model, view, controller architecture to consider, where what we reason about and codify using semi-numerical algorithms is the model, the business logic, and what we view and measure is feedback regarding our direction, as a company or enterprise or whatever.

We hope for some kind of decision-making or steering capacity, where choosing a more promising direction, over a less promising one, remains a possibility.  We're hoping to be more like pilots, not just witnesses to the inevitable, spectator-fatalists with no active role.  "Activism" is not a negative, but informed and effective activism is better yet.  "Passivism" is not an English word, but needs to be, as many are militantly passivist in their anti-activism.  I think "reactionary" is getting tired and needs a rest.

One of the best left-right i.e. lexical-graphical connectors I've found is using string substitution in lexical computer code to build a script that, when rendered, provides a ray tracing and / or perhaps a 3D printable object.  VRML and POV-Ray scene description language were often my two top choices, with similar choices in Elastic Interval Geometry land (a branch I was following). 

The 2D fractal, the Mandelbrot Set in particular, coupled with some historical timeline information, is a perfect topic, a sweet spot.  A strong lambda calculus course could set its sights in that direction:   doing the vector math lexically, with overloaded operators (like + and *), yet driving graphics on the screen.  Gerald de Jong's "creatures" provide a great example, of "math puppets" turning logic into animations.

Another approach to bridging model-lexical with viewable-graphical is to simply build up the skills to create a dynamic web page, where things happening graphically are driven by things happening lexically in the code.  In my Digital Mathematics outline, I cover that in "Supermarket Math" which would cover "e-commerce" (but regular commerce as well, as brick and mortar stores use SQL just as much).  Mine is but one more sandcastle on this pretty big beach -- just take a few ideas, flatter me by copying.

The goal is to forge these left-right connections, even as we bridge the C.P. Snow chasm by remembering to share more history.