Monday, December 20, 2010

Neutron Bombs and Net Neutrality

Tonight, a toast to the inventor of the neutron bomb, recently deceased Sam Cohen!  Where, you ask?  Well, now that I'm not hosting Debates at Lolita Bar, you might consider attending the (unrelated) Manhattans Project bar gatherings I host -- more drinking, less listening -- now at Langan's bar-restaurant (on 47th just east of 7th, 7-10pm in the back).  Don't get me wrong, the Manhattans Project is more about alcohol than nukes, but if someone from the group that inspired our name passes away, we can at least show our respects.  We can't be any more sarcastic about it than Jello Biafra, who sang "Efficiency and progress is ours once more/ Now that we have the neutron bomb."

Speaking of rock and nukes, I have only recently learned that another influential mid-century physicist, Max Born, has a famous granddaughter as well: Olivia Newton-John.  So, all those "Olivia Neutron-Bomb" puns I recall from childhood weren't so far off the mark (and even if they were, the extra radiation would kill people without destroying the buildings).  Let's get physics-al!  Never mind.  By the way, sixty-two is barely old these days, but I must nonetheless say that Newton-John is holding up well, having started off with the unfair advantage of being the cutest person on the planet thirty years ago.

I learned of the Born/Newton-John connection from one of my Book Selections of the Month, incidentally: my signed copy (signed just before health problems forced him to end his book tour) of Christopher Hitchens' memoir Hitch-22.  More about that and several other texts in three days. 

And speaking of people who style themselves "contrarians," as Hitchens does, tonight is the final just-hanging-out Manhattans Project gathering before a bold new era begins, with January 17 seeing the start of a "Contrarian Guest of Honor" slot each month.  If my plan works, we'll hear uninterrupted for about five minutes from one person with shocking views each month, and then let people talk to the speaker or amongst themselves about those shocking views or whatever they like.  It's a conversation starter, anyway.  The January topic is likely to be the argument that we are still in terrible danger from global warming. 

All people interested in politics and/or media are welcome, so this may also be the start of increased ideological diversity for our little group, for good or ill.  If the mix shifts leftward far enough, though, the contrarian speeches can be conservative, so it's all good.  E-mail me at the address on my About/CONTACT page if you want monthly alerts about Manhattans Project in 2011. 

If you want to be against something, though, I recommend pushing hard against the stupid idea of "Net neutrality," of which the lame-duck Dems are now enamored.  Look, the reason big communications groups are starting to like the idea of outlawing differential pricing based on usage of the Net -- while ordinary joes like the Tea Party activists want pricing to be allowed -- is that despite all the claims of the pro-neutrality forces to be keeping the Net "free," what's going to happen is that you, the ordinary joe, are going to end up paying exactly the same amount to send your one e-mail per hour as the bandwidth-hogging business down the blog block or your geeky neighbor who downloads 5,000 bootlegged TV shows per day.  That's "neutral," all right -- like saying that you should pay the same annual "diamond tiara purchasing fee" as members of the Monaco royal family.  Let people pay what they actually owe.  Dragging us all down together is cyber-communism, and let no technically-savvy but economically-ignorant geek leftist tell you otherwise.

1 comment:

Eric Hanneken said...

Aren't most net neutrality proponents okay with ISPs charging more for a larger quantity of bits, and less for a smaller quantity? I thought the net neutrality cause was about forbidding ISPs from discriminating for or against bits based on their content. For example, charging more for transporting a Siouxsie and the Banshees album from iTunes to your PC than for transporting a Katy Perry album; or providing slower access to Bing than to Google. Some (most?) net neutrality advocates don't even want to allow ISPs to discriminate among application protocols (e.g., FTP and BitTorrent).