Friday, March 28, 2008

A Voice Recorded in Smoke

In my recent post Reality Strikes, I discussed how the fantastic progression of technology is attributable to usage of the scientific method and how the appalling intellectual bankruptcy of the social sciences is attributable to the overt rejection of the scientific method. I couldn't help think of this as I scrolled through some recent headlines.


This link discusses the Holland government's condemnation of an anti-koran film, "Fitna", which links verses of the Koran to violent background images from terrorist attacks.


The Dutch government had warned Wilders that a film offensive to Muslims could spark protests in Islamic countries as violent as those two years ago after European newspapers published cartoons of Mohammed.Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said Thursday night that the Department of Justice will investigate whether Wilders has broken Dutch law with his attack on the Quran. Balkenende condemned the film as "out to hurt" the Dutch people.

Here is a major Western government not only unwilling to protect the right of this filmmaker to show his movie but actively trying to suppress the film in order to appease the Muslims. The Dutch government should proudly proclaim that its citizens have the right to free speech and warn that any violence surrounding the release of the film will be met by overwhelming force. Furthermore, other Western media outlets should release the film as a show of support for the principle of free speech and the United States government should stand prepared to defend them. Imagine if this were a Michael Moore film or Gore's film and there were threats of violence against the producers and media. What would be the reaction of the Left? As usual, the so-called defenders of free speech are deafeningly silent. This is an outrageous and frightening development.

As Western governments refuse to protect free speech under Muslim threats, as our enemies in Iran continue their drive to develop nuclear weapons unimpeded, and as the United States government continues to sacrifice soldiers in Iraq while Iranian allied Shiites move to gain more power in the Iraq's new "democracy" - our government is busy at work protecting us in the one way it really knows how - confiscating water, shampoo, and now nipple rings at the nations' airports.

Meanwhile, French president Nicolas Sarkozy is considering a boycott of the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics over recent Chinese suppression of Tibet and the possibility that the Chinese government will censor live protest footage during the ceremony. How about deciding to boycott the entire Olympics? Well, consideration of a possible boycott of the opening ceremony is a start...(Also, is it kind of scary that the French may now be the most principled Western government?)

I'm glad Gore is committing his rantings to video so that we can all have a laugh in a few years. As our economy implodes from government intervention in the economy, Gore gallivants around the world (at the taxpayer's expense) comparing those who deny that global warming is man-made to those who believed the earth was flat or to those who deny we landed on the moon. By the way, at one time, people had good reason to believe the earth was flat. Without the help of a spaceship, it takes quite a bit of observational evidence and deductive reasoning to show that the earth is spherical. I would suggest that those who believed the earth was flat had more evidence to substantiate their theory than Gore has to substantiate his.

While the unprincipled and contradictory policies of our government bear the effects of 200 years of unreason in the social sciences here is a more positive and inspiring note from the world still dominated by reason and logic. An 1860 french recording was found in a patent office and is the oldest recording of a human voice.

The 10-second clip of a woman singing "Au Clair de la Lune," taken from a so-called phonautogram, was recently discovered by audio historian David Giovannoni. The recording predates Thomas Edison's "Mary had a little lamb" — previously credited as the oldest recorded voice — by 17 years.The tune was captured using a phonautograph, a device created by Parisian inventor Edouard-Leon Scott de Martinville that created visual recordings of sound waves.Using a needle that moved in response to sound, the phonautograph etched sound waves into paper coated with soot from an oil lamp.

Berkelely scientists were able to recreate the voice recording:

"When I first heard the recording as you hear it ... it was magical, so ethereal," said Giovannoni. "The fact is it's recorded in smoke. The voice is coming out from behind this screen of aural smoke."


This reminds me of a story about the recent discovery of a lost Archimedes work found on the back of a palimpsest dating to the Middle Ages where it was apparently used by Monks as a prayer book. Here is a voice "recorded in smoke" left on a shelf for 150 years. Fortunately, today we still have the scientific knowledge necessary to recreate and appreciate the brilliant ingenuity of this 19th century inventor. However, if things continue the way they are going in the social "sciences", the voices and ideas that have brought us so much brilliance and prosperity may go the way of this recording and Archimedes before - lost in a new Dark Age.

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