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Where Democracy Fails

A guest blog, by Michael Richter

There is a bizarre notion that infects society from time to time, and that bizarre notion is that democracy works universally. It doesn’t. I’m not even talking here about how some cultures are not ready for democracy and how trying to force democracy on them proves invariably to be a disaster. (I’m looking at Afghanistan and Iraq here.) I’m talking whole fields of human endeavour where democracy simply doesn’t make sense in the slightest.

One of the places where democracy fails in a spectacular fashion is the world of “reader comments” on the web, the idea seeming to be that because everybody is equal in a political sense that everything they say or do must be of equal value. Thinking back, however, I don’t think I’ve encountered even one example of where reader comments on news stories, blogs, scientific articles, etc. were useful and/or worthwhile. Instead they seem to provide a forum for the most ignorant of the ignorant to disseminate foolish thoughts to the point they actively detract from the sites that host them.

Yet, for some reason I cannot fathom, more and more news sites, blogs and even scientific journals have reader comment sections beneath each and every one of their articles, an addition that detracts from whatever information is being presented. Well, enough is enough. I’ve decided to start fighting back. Today I wrote a letter to Scientific American about their reader comments section, asking them to please consider either eliminating that section altogether or to at least provide a mechanism for readers to turn off that section so they can read intelligently-written articles without the pollution of ignoramuses and asses.

I reproduce this letter below for your entertainment at my pomposity and bigotry:

Dear Sirs,

I am an avid reader of Scientific American when I can actually manage to latch on to copies here in China. I believe that your magazine is one of the best sources of high quality, current information from the world of science that is not speaking so far over the interested layperson’s head that it is, effectively, unreachable. Indeed I cannot think of a single issue of Scientific American that I’ve read that hasn’t enlightened, educated or otherwise interested me in some fashion or another.

It is this high quality publication, indeed, that makes your web pages so baffling to me. On the face of it your web pages contain much of the same content as your magazine (for subscribers, at least — you understandably don’t make all your content available for free). They should be of the same quality. Unfortunately, while the content itself is obviously of that same high quality, there is a feature on your web site that detracts from that impression of quality. A lot.

That feature is the reader response area polluting the backside of each and every one of your articles. I cannot fathom why you have an unedited slice of the general public’s ignorance often vastly outweighing the information you provide in an article associated with said article. Consider, for example, these gems taken from the public comments section underneath the article located at http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/going-with-the-flow/

As far as I know there is already a system producing energy by tapping into garvitational field and it is already patented by philips.

There is the possibility that “gravity” is, in fact, the fourth dimension that is the intermediate form of time and space between electromagnetic energy forms and matter!

Thus, the nucleus (protons and neutrons) within an atom have electrons tangentially to the same(electron magnetic forms of energy) that, in fact, represent a gradual wave form from electromagnetic forms of energy to mass (proton and neutron).

Why all the difficult solutions?

It is not a real transformer but a Capacitance Changer.

Gravity Control is aquired by the Flying Saucer.

I discovered the system in 1967 and after it was patented offered it to Nasa to be used on the Shuttles.

These big spheres under a Flying Saucer are the propulsion Units. They work on the (supposedly impossible problem ) problem tat Faraday proposed:

The two concentric metal spheres that do not touch and form a capacitor C. That capacitor is charged to a potential V. Then the outside sphere is removed.

The remaining sphere is now a One Terminal Capacitor with a capacity of c. The potential on that sphere is momentarily C/c x V.

Inside the spheres of a Flying Saucer there are some parts that can mimic the process.

It is also part of the tapping of energy out of the aether like a Flying Saucer does.

No, Nasa will not be using the system after some people botched an experiment and got the setting of an E-Bomb instead of that one for Gravity Control and Propulsion.

Tesla used that energy system for his Pierce Arrrow car in 1931.

Too advanced for the USA. Maybe Russia, India or China will take over as Space Leader.

Really, I look at these (especially that last one!) and scratch my head wondering — sometimes aloud — “What is going on in the minds of people who think this adds to their web page?” I read Scientific American to be enlightened and educated by some of the top minds of the world, not to have my intelligence actively reduced through damage caused by the unfiltered, unedited opinions of the general public at large. If I want brain damage through ignorance I’ll watch Fox News or some Hollywood blockbuster film. Finding this kind of material on Scientific American is both depressing and, ultimately, off-putting. It makes me avoid the web site unless I see a very interesting headline in my RSS feed.

So please, can I convince you in some way to consider one of two possible solutions?:

  1. Eliminate the instant, unedited user comments and do what print magazines have been doing since they were first conceived: a letters page that professional editors look over and from which they select representative intelligent discourse on your articles.
  2. Offer some kind of setting on your content manager that allows people uninterested in widely-disseminated ignorance to turn off the comments section so the experience of reading Scientific American on the web is as enjoyable and emphatically non-frustrating as is reading physical copies.

Yours,

Michael T. Richter

 

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