Thursday, March 17, 2016

the UNSECRET Manhattan Project

For years, I have been referencing the sub-title to dying Dr Henry Dawson's successful wartime Manhattan-based effort to provide natural penicillin to all as "The other Manhattan Project."

But that leaves it sounding exactly like another Atomic Bomb effort, only worse - perhaps involving chemicals or germs - and only a minority of readers would pursue such a title any further.

I kept that sub-title because I couldn't think of a better (accurate and expressible in one word) adjective, until now.

Bush's exclusive A-Bomb vs Dawson's inclusive penicillin

If the atomic Manhattan Project was notoriously all about secrecy and exclusivity, Dawson's effort was all about inclusivity and publicity : Dawson's team ceaselessly urging others to try DIY natural penicillin production, to quickly produce cheap abundant wartime Penicillin-for-All.

So something like "The inclusive Manhattan Project" was obviously the better sub-title.

But it was one I had always rejected , despite its succinct accuracy, because it sounded too academic and too PC for about half of my potential audience.

But today I suddenly thought, just in passing, about Dawson's effort being the "unsecret" alternative to the very secret atomic Manhattan Project.

Then it struck me - it might make the perfect subtitle : accurate, succinct, and playing off the universal recognition that the atomic Manhattan project was perhaps the best known secret effort in history.

(I am aware that the Ultra project was kept totally secret for far longer but the Atomic Bomb is much better known in the world for its excessive secrecy.

It revealed a trans-continental ability to enforce secrecy upon an workforce of hundreds of thousands number of participants, a successful scaling up of traditional high tech firms' internal efforts to deny most employees overall knowledge of the firm's entire industrial process by a system of the compartmentalization of knowledge.

With 'compartmentalization', individuals would only be given enough knowledge to manage their tiny cog in the massive overall wheel.)

Dawson by contrast strived constantly to reveal all his homemade/DIY penicillin successes and failures to other agape-motivated 'amateurs' throughout the entire medical and scientific world.

This despite a constant Allied effort to unofficially censor all penicillin efforts, despite pious claims to the contrary.

Most of the success of wartime penicillin and postwar beta lactam (penicillin-based) antibiotics can be laid at the feet of amateur scientists who the official penicillin commercial-scientific establishment coldly rejected.

Amateur penicillin scientists, such as Demerec and Hollander, who suggested mutating natural penicillin strains to find strains capable of producing far more raw penicillin from the same expenditure of labour and expense.

Today, following up on their inspired ( and rejected !) suggestion, we routinely produce 100,000 times as much natural penicillin from the same amount of effort and expense as we did in 1940 !

Dawson and people like Demerec and Hollander were inclusive in both senses : seeking help from all and hoping to give the results to all.

And unsecrecy was key to their efforts...

Monday, March 14, 2016

Help from All : crowd-solving wartime penicillin

Vannevar Bush's wartime atomic Manhattan Project was among the most secret projects of all time yet Henry Dawson's wartime penicillin Manhattan Project was among the most public : crowd-solving at its very best.

Because with human-created global warming we face a crisis even bigger than WWII, we need to ask which wartime Manhattan Project offers the 21st century the best possible solution : embracing secrecy and the advice of a small elite of experts or global openness and the welcoming the wisdom of crowds ?

camel & needle easier than powerful accepting charity from the powerless

The conscience-lite version of the difficult concept of Agape is for us well-off people to give (tax-deductible) charity to distant 'poor' people we don't really like.

So most of find the difficult claims of Agape something we can reduce to manageable size.

Far harder to accept (and far more important than any version of Agape) is Humility --- accepting others as equals to our own modest talents.

Let us discuss humility as a version of 'charity'.

That means an incredibly difficult willingness, among us who are well-off and power-filled, to accept the 'charity' of help and assistance from people who are relatively poor and relatively powerless --- powerless people who might be filled with new and unexpected takes on dealing with life-threatening problems too difficult for us to solve on our own.

Accepting the poor and powerless as equals in problem solving makes it much more difficult to dismiss their right to share in society's wealth and power as well.

This is why even when nations are in life and death struggles of a total war, their existing elites show an incredible reluctance to allow powerless members of their societies to share in the nation-saving activity of  frontline combat roles.

After the war, they know that these minority group combat veterans will remind the 'stay at home/well off' (the two terms are often connected) that they saved their bacon in their nation's greatest hour of need and so deserve a share of their nation's power and wealth.

Modernity's professional/expert/priestly caste elites (medical scientists for example) are among those who feel most threatened by offers of help from amateurs when those experts face an important problem they can't quickly solve.

Here the twin problems solved by the 'amateur' Dr Dawson come to mind : curing incurable SBE and finding the way around wartime science's inability to synthesis life-saving penicillin.

This is because Modernity sold the rest of us two related bills of goods : all problems are simple enough to solve but all problems are also too complex for amateurs to solve.

Modernity meant by this that all reality was made up of 'problems' that were far too complex for amateurs to solve but that were also simple to solve, given enough time, when considered by well-funded, well-paid experts who are shown their due deference.

Solutions dreamed up by untutored geniuses and amateurs threaten their income and status.

Dawson's clarion call of seeking 'Help from All' totally threatened their 'Help only from Experts' .....

Sunday, March 13, 2016

for powerful, offering charity to powerless far easier than ACCEPTING help from them

The powerful are a tight-fisted lot but they would far rather give charity to all than accept help from anyone

I wish to argue that two seemingly opposed notions (the powerful offering charity to the powerless and the powerful murdering the powerless) are actually very closely related.

Charity should always be, but rarely is, offered horizontally to equals : equal fellow human beings. Too often though, charity is only offered downwards to unequals (and always with the half conscious intent to remind everyone who is on top and who is on the bottom).

And it is always relatively easy to let unequals (life unworthy of a full life) die by neglect ---- or even to go out and directly murder them.

But when the 'powerful' (note well the scare quotes) accept help from the 'powerless', they are tacitly admitting that they both equally relatively powerless before the problem at hand, which is why they are sharing possible solutions in the first place.

And equals find it harder to murder each other.

This is just another way to restate the bald facts that Churchill's imperial milieu would literally rather lose to their fellow white Europeans, the Nazis, than treat the dark Indian sub continent as equals, equals united in defeating the Nazis by sheer weight of superior manpower numbers.

And that Churchill's scientific milieu would literally rather see Allied frontline soldiers die of infection than see the primitive little microbes (the darkies of biology) make life-saving penicillin naturally instead of seeing highly educated white Europeans making it by chemical synthesis.

In the Churchill tradition, only the American powerful were permitted to make and control the nuclear Manhattan Project : no darkies on this set, please.

By contrast, Henry Dawson's other Manhattan Project was all about inviting anyone and everyone in the world to find ways to make abundant wartime penicillin as quickly as possible.

With Dawson's Manhattan Project having everyone helping out, instead of  just a small elite, this forced the very reluctant Allies to give the resulting penicillin to all.

For when Help comes from All, it becomes much harder to refuse to allow the Hope of the results to be distributed to All : which is why the 'powerful' are so very reluctant to ask any help from the 'powerless'....

WWII : Suburban Lives Matter. More.

There is no evidence that WWII's 'Total War' efforts seriously held up ongoing research to find a cure for Polio.

Far from it.

No efforts then to temporarily sacrifice suburban WASP kids dying of "not a military priority" Polio, all to see more medical aid went to our unfaithful frontline troops afflicted with rear echelon VD.

As happened with inner city minority and immigrant kids also busy dying during WWII - from "not a military priority" SBE...

Friday, March 11, 2016

Shaw, Pushkin & Melville : freely mixing fact and fiction

While novelists Melville (Moby Dick) and Pushkin (Eugene Onegin) are well known for mixing fact and non fiction in very close quarters, we don't usually accept that almost all playwrights do much the same.

George Bernard Shaw is very much the best known playwright in this regard.

That is because Shaw's (nominally non fictional) prefaces and stage directions describing the fictional characters' lives and the play's fictional locales were all very much longer than the scripts of his fictional plays.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Mo going Po : Bing - Otis : Trying Tenderness

Can you actually hear the sound of modernity and postmodernity ?

I think you can, probably Rob Bowman thinks you can too.

To demonstrate, let me first direct you to YouTube where you can find about three dozen different versions of "Try a Little Tenderness".