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It's also useful to not take your beliefs too seriously. If you take the attitude that everything is tentative and can be proved wrong, with the correct standard of evidence, then this tends not to happen too often.

Of course, everyone's still human and susceptible to this, but at least you can maintain some intellectual integrity.

Actually, a sense of humor was the other most effective safeguard against self-justification, so you're right -- not taking one's beliefs too seriously does help.

My spouse pointed out that reading a book about mistakes on one's honeymoon is a bit, um, ironic. But those mistakes weren't made by me! :)

Some years ago I advocated licensing for politicians, since doctors, lawyers, engineers, electricians etc are licensed. The basic premise was that they should know what they are talking about. At the time I thought that it could be called the "Jesse Helms Law" but now it could be the "George Bush Law." There would be 3 levels. Level 3 would be a basic literacy test (GB might have trouble) and would be for constituencies of up 100,000. Level 2 would have a lot more appropriate general knowledge and would be for constituencies of up to 1,000,000. Level 1 would require fairly extensive knowledge of science, economics, history, philosophy, law, government, etc and would be required for constituencies over 1,000,000. I know such a law will never get enacted and just passing a test by itself will not ensure great leadership. The proposal is to get people to think about what knowledge should be required of their leaders.

I really liked this post. But I often find the Party a great place to come and learn something. I use this as a "palette" cleanser from all the political and news blogs that I read. I have always appreciated that my basic science education (BS in Chemical Engineering) has really helped to be a more critical thinker on many topics. I truly believe that science education has to be improved so that we can produce leadership that end up with better policy (and not just on technology related issues.) I am very hopeful for a science based debate. We need to raise the level of discourse in this race. I do wonder how Huckabee, Tancredo and Hunter will be able to participate however.

(I've just wandered in from "Star Stryder".) I'm also a bit depressed that politicians seem to be removed from science. (Look at their stands on things like stem cell research, high-energy physics, larger telescopes...).

Unfortunately, we can't have a PhD in physics as President. That's simply because he has to have a grasp on too many other things. Which is why they should bring back the OTA. And not cave in to the Gores and the Green neo-Agrarians.

"... we are all, in one way or another, prejudiced." While that may be true (I hate Brussels sprouts), the predjudices of most of us do not run to exterminating the object of our hatred. Knowing almost nothing about the Museum of Tolerance, I'd classify that as "performance art" gone awry.

I think it's a hopeless cause to expect the candidates (from either side) to get into a discussion (I can't call what's going on now as "debates") about science. Just look at the inane questions (and answers) so far. But thanks for the "coalition" link. That sounds like a good idea

Jennifer's bias is showing. GWB and a basic literacy test? He got better grades in college than Gore (who dropped out of divinity school). On the other hand, it's an intriguing idea. I've been an advocate of literacy tests for voters. I figure that you should know what (and who) you're voting for, and what those ballot measures mean (I'm in a state that has ballot initiatives.)

There's a bit of similarity between those licensing ideas and Plato's idea of the philosopher-king. The trouble is, in Plato's world, everything is ideal, unlike this one. One of the Greek philosophers - I think from the Pythagorean school - actually did get to be a governor of one of the Greek states. He did so badly that the people threw him out.

But the "knowledge ... required of their leaders" shouldn't be confined to them alone. The People need the same level of literacy - cultural and scientific - as any leader, simply because they'd be less inclined to be led down garden paths (like the global warming fiasco).

PS: Tancredo just dropped out. It was probably a case of being a one-issue candidate.

Speaking more of science in public policy, that revered statesman, Harry Reid, just declared that "a provision in the new energy law that will effectively ban the use of the incandescent light bulb in the United States by 2020 was an appropriate exercise of federal power". Maybe we should get a second opinion from Senator Ted Stevens.

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    Physics Cocktails

    • Heavy G
      The perfect pick-me-up when gravity gets you down.
      2 oz Tequila
      2 oz Triple sec
      2 oz Rose's sweetened lime juice
      7-Up or Sprite
      Mix tequila, triple sec and lime juice in a shaker and pour into a margarita glass. (Salted rim and ice are optional.) Top off with 7-Up/Sprite and let the weight of the world lift off your shoulders.
    • Listening to the Drums of Feynman
      The perfect nightcap after a long day struggling with QED equations.
      1 oz dark rum
      1/2 oz light rum
      1 oz Tia Maria
      2 oz light cream
      Crushed ice
      1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
      In a shaker half-filled with ice, combine the dark and light rum, Tia Maria, and cream. Shake well. Strain into an old fashioned glass almost filled with crushed ice. Dust with the nutmeg, and serve. Bongos optional.
    • Combustible Edison
      Electrify your friends with amazing pyrotechnics!
      2 oz brandy
      1 oz Campari
      1 oz fresh lemon juice
      Combine Campari and lemon juice in shaker filled with cracked ice. Shake and strain into chilled cocktail glass. Heat brandy in chafing dish, then ignite and pour into glass. Cocktail Go BOOM! Plus, Fire = Pretty!
    • Hiroshima Bomber
      Dr. Strangelove's drink of choice.
      3/4 Triple sec
      1/4 oz Bailey's Irish Cream
      2-3 drops Grenadine
      Fill shot glass 3/4 with Triple Sec. Layer Bailey's on top. Drop Grenadine in center of shot; it should billow up like a mushroom cloud. Remember to "duck and cover."
    • Mad Scientist
      Any mad scientist will tell you that flames make drinking more fun. What good is science if no one gets hurt?
      1 oz Midori melon liqueur
      1-1/2 oz sour mix
      1 splash soda water
      151 proof rum
      Mix melon liqueur, sour mix and soda water with ice in shaker. Shake and strain into martini glass. Top with rum and ignite. Try to take over the world.
    • Laser Beam
      Warning: may result in amplified stimulated emission.
      1 oz Southern Comfort
      1/2 oz Amaretto
      1/2 oz sloe gin
      1/2 oz vodka
      1/2 oz Triple sec
      7 oz orange juice
      Combine all liquor in a full glass of ice. Shake well. Garnish with orange and cherry. Serve to attractive target of choice.
    • Quantum Theory
      Guaranteed to collapse your wave function:
      3/4 oz Rum
      1/2 oz Strega
      1/4 oz Grand Marnier
      2 oz Pineapple juice
      Fill with Sweet and sour
      Pour rum, strega and Grand Marnier into a collins glass. Add pineapple and fill with sweet and sour. Sip until all the day's super-positioned states disappear.
    • The Black Hole
      So called because after one of these, you have already passed the event horizon of inebriation.
      1 oz. Kahlua
      1 oz. vodka
      .5 oz. Cointreau or Triple Sec
      .5 oz. dark rum
      .5 oz. Amaretto
      Pour into an old-fashioned glass over (scant) ice. Stir gently. Watch time slow.