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I grew up under Communism in old Yugoslavia, and am still an atheist. Neither I, nor any of my friends had any contact with religion. I remember learning about God in grammar school, and my response was "you've got to be kidding me". My point is that lack of religious belief is not an indicator of scientific prowess. We've also had very little discipline, no respect for authority, and thought we were very smart. I remember spraypainting "@ProfessorName is quasi-intellectual!" on our highschool wall. It did not end well.

I have been to China many times in the last 17 years I've been married to my Chinese wife, so I speak the language and know the customs, and am very familiar with their metaphysics. While they are not religious, they are extremely superstitious, almost to the point of being annoying. But I love my wife so this is no hardship to overcome in her or her culture.

You are right about the quality of education and the arrogance of American belief systems. Americans have no clue just how inferior our grads have become compared to the rest of the world. I have often remarked to others how common logical sense is becoming extinct in America. Look at our dropout rates; look at our SAT and ACT scores; look at how we coddle substandard performance for the sake of preventing our children from having an inferiority complex. It is disheartening but it is evolution...we have it too easy and have became a nation of spoiled brats. The main thing is that America is still the land of opportunity for those few willing to take advantage of it. With the bad comes the good and that is the attitude that I want to pass on to my children, so it doesn't matter if everybody else is failing around you, all that matters is how you preserver through it all.

People don't understand what a wonderful tool science is, not just in physical world, but in every aspect of their life. It is a way of thinking and philosophizing with reality the way it actually is, instead of what we wish it were. It is how we can know reality and knowing reality as it is, is much more comforting and soothing and calming to all that happens in our lives than beliefs can ever address. That is because whenever there is conflict or contradiction between reality and belief, reality always wins, and it nice to know the outcome is not personal but natural and expected. Americans need to learn that science is the friend of beliefs, not it's enemy.

Great post, Lee. I grew up in the Dallas area, where the two religions (that special fairy friend one and the Cowboys) dominate the culture (waste)landscape. Critical thinking, science, and logic are definitely not what I remember from my ten years in what was then considered to be one of the best school districts in the country. From an economic and patriotic perspective, it is disheartening to see what's likely coming down the line. But I can take comfort in the fact that at least some of mankind continues to strive for progress and evolution.

Oops. I said the e-word.

I hope you get the chance to go back there; it sounds like it filled up your well.

Interesting what one can deduce from reading just one blog post.

more money for education, better pay for teachers, more access to quality education for everyone

Let's work backwards.

You are teaching the top 2.5% of the population and you think more access for everyone is how to make the US education system better? That follows how? Perhaps an education tailored to the abilities of the person would be a better idea - so the top 2.5% of the US population had the best possible education whilst relegating the bottom 2.5% to ignorance, which is (probably, just guessing) what China does, but with more than 2.5% as the cutoff.

In purchasing-power-parity, how are China's teachers paid? I would be will to bet "worse" would be the answer. One reason the US system is screwed up because all the incentives in the system are designed for the good of the teachers, not the students.

More money for education. At what level? We spend trillions on education and it doesn't seem to be helping. In most K-12 districts, the quality of education is almost inversely related to the school system's budget (see New York City).

Anyway, interesting blog.

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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.