statistical models

List of Free Science Books

Here’s an alphabetical list of all available free books. Note that many of the links will bring you to an external page, usually with more info about the book and the download links. Also, the links are updated as frequently as possible, however some of them might be broken. Broken links are constantly being fixed. In case you want to report a broken link, or a link that violates copyrights, use the contact form

A

  • A Beginner’s Guide to Mathematica
  • A Brief Introduction to Particle Physics
  • A First Course in General Relativity
  • A New Astronomy
  • A No-Nonsense Introduction to General Relativity
  • A Popular History of Astronomy During the Nineteenth Century, Fourth Edition
  • A Review of General Chemistry
  • A Simple Guide to Backyard Astronomy
  • A Text Book for High School Students Studying Physics
  • A Tour of Triangle Geometry
  • About Life: Concepts in Modern Biology
  • Acoustic Emission
  • Adaptive Control
  • Advanced Calculus
  • Advanced Learning
  • Advanced Mathematics for Engineers
  • Advanced Microwave Circuits and Systems
  • Advanced Technologies
  • Advances in Computer Science and IT
  • Advances in Evolutionary Algorithms
  • Advances in Geoscience and Remote Sensing
  • Advances in Haptics
  • Advances in Human Computer Interaction
  • Age of Einstein
  • Aging by Design
  • AMPL:  A Modeling Language for Mathematical Programming
  • An Introduction to Elementary Particles
  • An Introduction to Higher Mathematics
  • An Introduction to Many Worlds in Quantum Computation
  • An Introduction to Mathematical Reasoning
  • An Introduction to Mathematics
  • An Introduction to Proofs and the Mathematical Vernacular
  • An Introduction to Relativistic Quantum Mechanics
  • Analysis 1 (Tao T)
  • Analysis 2 (Tao T)
  • Analytic Functions
  • Astronomical Discovery
  • Astronomy for Amateurs
  • Astronomy Today
  • Astronomy with an Opera-Glass
  • Automation and Robotics

B

  • Basic Algebra, Topology and Differential Calculus
  • Basic Concepts of Mathematics
  • Basic Concepts of Thermodynamics
  • Basic Concepts of Thermodynamics Chapter 1
  • Basic Ideas in Chemistry
  • Basic Math: Quick Reference eBook
  • Basic Mathematics for Astronomy
  • Basic Physics
  • Basic Positional Astronomy
  • Basic Principles of Classical and Statistical Thermodynamics
  • Basic Principles of Physics
  • Basics of Physics
  • Beginner’s Botany
  • Biochemistry
  • Biochemistry (practice book)
  • Biology
  • Board Notes for Particle Physics
  • Book of Proof

C

  • Calculus
  • Calculus Based Physics
  • Celestial Navigation, Elementary Astronomy, Piloting
  • Circuit QED — Lecture Notes
  • Classical Dynamics
  • Classical Geometry
  • Classical Mechanics
  • Climate Models
  • Collaborative Statistics
  • College Algebra
  • Complex Analysis
  • Computational Geometry
  • Computational Introduction to Number Theory and Algebra
  • Computational Physics with Python
  • Conceptual Physics
  • Consistent Quantum Theory
  • Cook-Book Of Mathematics
  • College Physics
  • Crude Oil Emulsions- Composition Stability and Characterization
  • Curiosities of the Sky

D

  • Decoherence: Basic Concepts and Their Interpretation
  • Do We Really Understand Quantum Mechanics?
  • Differential Equations
  • Diophantine Analysis
  • Discover Physics
  • Dr. Donald Luttermoser’s Physics Notes
  • Dynamics and Relativity

E

  • Earthquake Research and Analysis
  • Earthquake-Resistant Structures – Design, Assessment and Rehabilitation
  • Einstein for Everyone
  • Electromagnetic Field Theory
  • Elementary Mathematical Astronomy
  • Elementary Linear Algebra
  • Elementary Particle Physics in a Nutshell
  • Elementary Particles in Physics
  • Elements of Astrophysics
  • Embedded Systems – Theory and Design Methodology
  • Encyclopaedia of Mathematics
  • Encyclopedia of Astrophysics
  • Engineering Mathematics 1
  • Engineering Mathematics with Tables
  • Essential Engineering Mathematics
  • Essential Physics
  • Exoplanet Observing for Amateurs
  • Experimental Particle Physics

F

  • Fields
  • Foundations of Nonstandard Analysis
  • Frequently Asked Questions about Calendars
  • Fundamental Concepts of Mathematics
  • Fundamentals of Analysis (Chen W.W.L)
  • Further Mathematical Methods
  • Fusion Physics

G

  • General Chemistry
  • General Relativity
  • General Relativity
  • Geometric Asymptotics
  • Geometry and Group Theory
  • Geometry and Topology
  • Geometry Formulas and Facts
  • Geometry Study Guide
  • Geometry, Topology and Physics
  • Geometry, Topology, Localization and Galois Symmetry
  • Great Astronomers

H

  • Handbook of Formulae and Physical Constants
  • High School Mathematics Extensions
  • Higher Mathematics for Engineers and Physicists
  • History of Astronomy
  • Homeomorphisms in Analysis
  • How to Use Experimental Data to Compute the Probability of Your Theory

I

  • Intelligent Systems
  • Intrinsic Geometry of Surfaces
  • Introduction to Astronomy and Cosmology
  • Introduction to Cancer Biology
  • Introduction to Chemistry
  • Introduction to Cosmology
  • Introduction to Elementary Particles
  • Introduction to General Relativity
  • Introduction To Finite Mathematics
  • Introduction to Particle Physics Notes
  • Introduction to PID Controllers
  • Introduction to Quantum Mechanics with Applications to Chemistry
  • Introduction to Quantum Noise, Measurement and Amplification
  • Introduction to Social Network Methods
  • Introduction to String Field Theory
  • Introduction to the Time Evolution of Open Quantum Systems
  • Introduction to Quantum Mechanics
  • Introductory Computational Physics
  • Introductory Physics 1
  • Introductory Physics 2

K

  • Kinetic Theory

L

  • Laboratory Manual for Introductory Physics
  • Laws of Physics
  • Learn Physics Today
  • Lecture Notes in Discrete Mathematics
  • Lecture Notes in Quantum Mechanics
  • Lecture Notes in Nuclear and Particle Physics
  • Lecture Notes in Particle Physics
  • Lecture Notes on General Relativity
  • Lectures on Astronomy, Astrophysics, and Cosmology
  • Lectures on Particle Physics
  • Lectures on Riemann Zeta-Function
  • Light and Matter

M

  • Mag 7 Star Atlas Project
  • Many Particle Physics
  • Math Alive
  • Mathematical Analysis I(Zakon E)
  • Mathematical Biology
  • Mathematical Methods
  • Mathematical Methods 1
  • Mathematical Methods for Physical Sciences
  • Mathematical Methods of Engineering Analysis
  • Mathematics, Basic Math and Algebra
  • Mathematics for Computer Science
  • Mathematics for Computer Science
  • Mathematics for Computer Scientists
  • Mathematics For Engineering Students
  • Mathematics Formulary
  • Motion Mountain
  • Music: A Mathematical Offering
  • Mysteries of the Sun

N

  • Natural Disasters
  • New Frontiers in Graph Theory
  • Noise Control, Reduction and Cancellation Solutions in Engineering
  • Nondestructive Testing Methods and New Applications
  • Nonlinear Optics
  • Notes on Coarse Geometry
  • Notes on Elementary Particle Physics
  • Notes on Quantum Mechanics

O

  • Observing the Sky from 30S
  • On Particle Physics
  • Operating Systems: Three Easy Pieces

P

  • Particle Physics Course Univ. Cape Town
  • Particle Physics Lecture Notes
  • People’s Physics Book
  • Perspectives in Quantum Physics: Epistemological, Ontological and Pedagogical
  • Photons, Schmotons
  • Physics Lectures
  • Physics Tutorials
  • Physics Study Guides
  • Pioneers of Science
  • Practical Astronomy
  • Practical Astronomy for Engineers
  • Preparing for College Physics
  • Primer Of Celestial Navigation
  • Principal Component Analysis – Multidisciplinary Applications
  • Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific Volume 1

Q

  • Quantum Dissipative Systems
  • Quantum Field Theory
  • Quantum Fluctuations
  • Quantum Information Theory
  • Quantum Magnetism
  • Quantum Mechanics
  • Quantum Mechanics
  • Quantum Mechanics: A Graduate Course
  • Quantum Mechanics: An Intermediate Level Course
  • Quantum Notes
  • Quantum Physics Notes
  • Quantum Theory of Many-Particle Systems
  • Quantum Transients

R

  • Recreations in Astronomy
  • Relativistic Quantum Dynamics
  • Relativity: The Special and General Theory
  • Review of Basic Mathematics
  • Riemann Surfaces, Dynamics and Geometry Course Notes

S

  • Short History of Astronomy
  • Sintering of Ceramics – New Emerging Techniques
  • Solitons
  • Some Basic Principles from Astronomy
  • Special Relativity
  • Spherical Astronomy
  • Star-Gazer’s Hand-Book
  • Statistical Physics
  • Street-Fighting Mathematics
  • String Theory
  • Structures of Life
  • Supernova Remnants: The X-ray Perspective
  • Superspace: One Thousand and One Lessons in Supersymmetry
  • System of Systems

T

  • The Astrobiology Primer: An Outline of General Knowledge
  • The Astronomy and the Bible
  • The Astronomy of the Bible: An Elementary Commentary on the Astronomical References of Holy Scripture
  • The Basic Paradoxes of Statistical Classical Physics and Quantum Mechanics
  • The Beginning and the End
  • The Beginning and the End of the Universe
  • The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Sun
  • The Convenient Setting of Global Analysis
  • The Eightfold Way: The Beauty of Klein’s Quartic Curve
  • The General Theory of Relativity
  • The Geology of Terrestrial Planets
  • The Geometry of the Sphere
  • The Handbook of Essential Mathematics
  • The Moon: A Full Description and Map of its Principal Physical Features
  • The Open Agenda
  • The Origin of Mass in Particle Physics
  • The Particle Detector Brief Book
  • The Physics Hypertextbook
  • The Physics of Quantum Mechanics
  • The Planet Mars
  • The Small n Problem in High Energy Physics
  • The Story of Eclipses
  • The Story of the Heavens
  • The Structure of Life
  • The Wonder Book of Knowledge
  • The World According to the Hubble Space Telescope
  • The Zij as-Sanjari of Gregory Chioniades (June 27, 2009)
  • Three Dimensional Geometry

U

  • Understanding Physics
  • Unfolding the Labyrinth
  • Utility of Quaternions in Physics
  • Uses of Astronomy
“Every model is wrong, but some are useful”

The title of this post comes from the statistician George Box, and discusses how the mathematical models we use to analyse and predict the world cannot, by their nature as an understandable simplification, provide an exact model of the world. That is to say, they are “wrong”. However, the errors can be small enough that we can use the models to make predictions that hold up in real life, such as how much weight a bridge can carry. That’s where the “useful” part comes in. A good example of this is the ideal gas law. No actual gas follows this law, but under certain conditions, their behaviour is close enough that it doesn’t matter.


An important thing to understand is you can have multiple models to describe the same thing. There are a vast array of different climate models, for instance, and while they broadly agree with each other there are important differences in the details. Some of these are due to limitations on computing power and time available, some are focused on certain aspects such as aerosol production, and some are simply using a new method of modelling the world. When we are dealing with subjects as complex as human sexuality or the climate, we need to simplify them somewhat to allow us to grasp, if not the whole concept, as much of it as we can. All of these models will lose some important details, hence why they are all wrong, but some retain enough of the information that we can use them to understand the world.


Quite a few other statisticians have issues with this aphorism, but that’s not what I want to talk about here. I want to talk about gender and sexuality, and how we think about them. A common comment, when we look back at history and retroactively apply certain traits and sexualities to them, is that they wouldn’t have chosen those terms because their internal models are entirely different. Parts of Greece and Rome, for instance, are said to have defined the roles in male-male sexual encounters in terms of who is being penetrated and who is doing the penetration. Nowadays we would define both partners as homosexual, but they used a different model to understand their interactions than we do now. Different people at different times, different places and in different circumstances will use different models Someone using a different model of sexuality and gender to you is not inherently bad, or a judgement on you. I say not inherently because there are absolutely models that fail that include various points. I’m going to use asexuality here as an example because that’s my own experiences, but I think the general points could be modified slightly and applied to most sexualities.

Incomplete models, that is, ones that cannot handle the idea of someone not being attracted to anyone, fall into two catagories. The first is the “innocently” incomplete model; it is not that the person disbelieves in asexuality, but rather the idea that there is a gap in their empirical model of reality just hasn’t occurred to them. Contrast this to what we might call the “active” incompleteness model, where the model actively denies the existence of asexuality. I’ve encountered both of these kinds of incomplete model, as I suspect a lot of people have, and while the models are superficially similar how they react to the addition of an asexual person, or at least a person who claims they are asexual like myself. I put the “claims to be” part in there not as a way of throwing suspicion onto myself, but rather to acknowledge that people will claim I am lying or mistaken, that it is not possible to not be attracted to someone (you can insert “attracted to your own gender”, “attracted to more than one gender” or any other phrase you like there). Both models are wrong in the same way but the second model has a built in mechanism to avoid expanding the model to take into account an aspect of reality it had been lacking.

The other thing about models is that, once you get beyond a certain point, adding more detail doesn’t help unless you are using a model for a particular purpose that takes that detail into account. The various terms and models of sexuality that we classify as being on the asexual and/or aromantic spectrums are important if you are in a situation that requires the distinction to be made. Usually this means you are, or are interacting with, someone under that umbrella or wish to compare the model to your own experiences to see if you might be under that umbrella yourself. For most people most of the time, adding this detail just adds more mental computing power, and it is enough to acknowledge that, yes, you might need to increase the resolution on your model when dealing with that particular area, just like a meteorologist looking at one particular region will increase that resolution, but for now your model is wrong, but useful in that it acknowledges the existence of the asexual spectrum.

A really good example of this is the romantic/sexual attraction divide. This is a really important distinction in the ace community, between romantic asexuals and aromantic asexuals, and it is also useful for people outside of it (for example, there are bisexuals who are only romantically attracted to one gender), but is useless if your romantic and your sexual attractions line up. It can even muddy the waters by introducing an alleyway that might not lead you to a helpful option. That being said, the mere fact that such a model is not useful to everyone does not make it useless, merely that we need to shift our discussions about such models from “this is how the world works” to “here are mental tools to help understand the world and your place in it, and here are some possible limitations to them”.

I think gender is even more complicated to model than sexuality just because frankly I think the boundaries we have set on our concept of gender are incredibly fuzzy. The less well defined something is, the more difficult it is to model accurately, and we are really bad at defining gender. I think the three main models are as follows: biological gender, which states that someone’s gender is predetermined by their biology, usually chromosomes or genitals, social gender, in which gender is defined by the range of social expectations allowed with in it, and individual gender, in which gender is a property of each individual, that must be defined by each individual and social gender dynamics grow out of these definitions and their statistical distribution. Notably I have listed this in increasing order of immediate complexity. Biological gender claims to be less an explanatory model and more an empirical observation; these are the two types of people. I’m not fond of it for a couple of reasons. Firstly it doesn’t actually position the information in a new or useful way; it is merely a description of biological factors, and the distribution curves for what it tries to predict are large enough and include enough other factors that breaking it down this way doesn’t add anything. Secondly, it fails to account for intersex and non-binary people. The two ways it handles these are either to ignore them as edge cases, which works up until you need to include them as part of the model, or to outright deny their existence, which again, reduces the model’s effectiveness at describing reality. To make matters worse for this mode, it isn’t actually a particularly useful model day to day; when choosing what pronouns to apply to someone (a process that in itself is a conceptual model; there are languages with only one, non-gendered third person pronoun), you don’t ask for a karyotype test result or compared genitalia, but rather make the assumption from visible signifiers which don’t inherently match the biological sex.

The second one, social gender can be useful in examining social mechanisms and constructs, but in doing so creates a lot more edge cases. Now it isn’t just intersex and non-binary people that must be accounted for, but gender non-confirming people who, by definition, are edge cases in the model. The social model of gender becomes particularly dangerous, rather than simply incomplete to an alarming degree, when it becomes prescriptive instead of descriptive. To paraphrase a certain first century carpenter “The model was made for the people, the people were not made for the model”.

The final model, the individual model, essentially simply increases the resolution as high as it can go, and relies on people’s internal definition of gender. Full disclosure; I am agendered, so I don’t actually understand what it means to have a particular gender, but some people I know have very clear internal definitions. Some of these are based on physical sex or social norms; I think there’s quite a few cisgendered people who lack an internal definition like myself, but don’t have a reason to use a definition other than the biological one. We could call this being cis by default. Other definitions of gender are highly idiosyncratic, and to be honest I think this is inevitable just because, like I said above, the initial parameters that we are trying to model are really badly defined. What do we mean by gender? What weighting do we put onto different aspects of it? And that’s before we get into the question of working out the mechanisms that give rise to it; untangling biological and social influences is difficult enough given we can’t isolate and raise babies in a controlled lab because ethics is a thing and is important. As such, I think the best way to proceed is to find your own model, but acknowledge that it is not universal and accept other people’s own models of their gender. It’s unsatisfying, but at this point, what else can we do?

It always bothered me that Mr. House makes the Courier pass the credit/passport check at the gate to New Vegas, even though they’re necessary for recovering the Platinum Chip. He obviously knows they’re there, since Victor greets them as soon as they walk onto the Strip. The only way it make sense is if House is testing the Courier.

As things are, the Platinum Chip might be in the wrong hands, but it’s safe. House knows where it is, and he knows Benny won’t do anything rash until until he’s pushed to. House is waiting to see if the Courier is up to the task before playing his hand. And anyone who can’t find a way past the gate, either through caps, the right contacts, or outright hacking his Securitrons, isn’t resourceful enough to be trusted with a task as important as the Chip’s recovery.

Likewise, the missions House gives the Courier are a sort of extended job interview. As well as being vital to House’s plans for New Vegas, each of assignment tests a different set skills, giving House the data he needs to evaluate the Courier as an employee. (And for someone as obsessed with statistical models as House, data is worth more than gold.)

The Boomers? Testing the Courier’s diplomacy skills, or lack thereof.

The Omertas? Testing their investigative skills.

The Brotherhood of Steel? Testing whether or not the Courier is capable of following orders, even if it means killing a large number of innocent people. It’s important to note that this is one of the few quests in House’s storyline that the Courier can’t skip. Before House can fully accept the Courier as his protege, he needs to know that they will do whatever is necessary to secure the future of New Vegas. Any moral crisis the Courier might experience during this mission is an intended consequence, not an accident.

House is always, always playing the long game.

How to verify sources and be persuasive

This is, seemingly, something that people either never learned how to do or forgot how to do the moment they left school.  It’s come up recently, so I figured I’d post another how-to, this one tailored to demonstrate how you can actually get to “the bottom” of all the sources you see flung around this hellsite and others like it.

This comes in the form of asking yourself and the source material a number of questions.


What is the source?

  • Is the source a newspaper article, a meta-analysis, or a piece of hard data?  Is it an opinion piece, yellow journalism, or hard reporting?  Accurately determining what the source actually is, at its core, is critical to determining its value and the weight it has.
  • If you’ve got this you’ve done your first job, having a reason for what you believe.

Who wrote the source?

  • How credible are the authors of the source?
    • This boils down to a matter credentials and ethics.  If an author has no credentials to their name you’ll be hard-pressed to trust their analysis of the data they’re given.  If they’re acting in unethical manners (not reporting conflicts of interest, investigating/reporting on only one side of the story, etc.) then you similarly have little reason to trust the veracity of their claims.
  • What organizations are attached to the source?
    • Almost as important are the institutions who aided in the research.  The better respected, more cautious, and more objective the organization is the more trust you can instill in the piece.  A solid and reputable organization would be the first safeguard against trash research,
  • Your job is to analyze the validity of the source


Where was the source published?

  • Was it online or in a magazine?  A scientific journal or a book?  The Times or Tumblr?
    • Similar to the organizations attached to the piece, this is another level that factors into the analysis.  A piece that made it through my clipboard from Word to Tumblr gains nothing from the process.  A piece that made it through the double-blind peer-review process holds a LOT more weight to it because it’s already been through probably 3 or 4 different revisions from experts in the field combing through things like statistical modeling, experimental design, and analytical validity.
      • Publicly-available research from a scientific journal is never the first draft.  You can expect at least 2 revisions for a variety of things, with 5 or more being uncommon but not unheard of.
  • Keep paywalls in mind when using sources, as you’re trying to give people a reason to believe you.  If your source absolutely depends on people having a full dataset but they need to pay $80 to see what you’re talknig about they’re not going to believe you past the abstract.  
    • Sourcing a book is fine, but make sure you present the wholly sufficient context from the book.  If someone questions the logic of your source the reply of “read the whole book” is a failing.  
  • Your job is to give people a logical reason to believe you, not give them a summer reading list.


Does it use the most recent data?

  • What qualifies as “the most recent data” will vary from field to field, as we’re not exactly discovering new things about Victorian England but we are discovering new things about Astrophysics and Neurology.  But it is important that you use data as timely and recent as possible for the subject matter.
    • Using the newest data keeps your points relevant, your facts grounded, and your argument compelling.  Using data on homicide rates from the 1970s is useless unless it’s part of a trend.  Hell, using crime rates from 2010 is already significantly different from today’s dynamic.  
  • Your job is to curate your data into its best possible form.


Who was the target audience?

  • Was the research pointed at people with PhDs in the field?  Or is it for middle schoolers?
    • You need to reconcile the differences between your target audience and the source’s target audience.  If the original source is a jargon-dense and 56-page piece of research you can bet your ass that you’re going to need to digest it and break it down for people.  
  • Your job is to make your sources palatable.


How are you using the source?

  • Are you planning to use this as a primary, secondary, or tertiary source? 
    • How you plan to use this determines how you present the material and should be decided by what the actual source is.  If you’re trying to use this as newspaper as a secondary source you’re doing it wrong.  If you’re trying to pass off a meta-analysis as a primary source you’re going to both get and use the wrong information and commit academic dishonesty.
  • Are you using it to refute a claim being made, support your own claim, or as an objective reference?
    • This will detail the level of “unpacking” you’ll need to do.  If it’s a blank observation the source and a summary of it should be enough.  If you’re using it as evidence you need to explain why it supports your claim.  If you’re using it to debunk a point you need to explain why it shows the other person wrong and why it’s a better source than what they used.
  • Your job is to use the source adequately and appropriately.


Who is your intended audience?

  • Keep in mind, some sources just will not garner any weight with different populations no matter what they say.  AnCaps will not put any stock in the Communist Manifesto.  Right-Wingers will never trust what MSNBC has to say.  Feminists won’t put any weight in what the Bible has to say.
  • It is your job to tailor your argument to be as persuasive and credible as it can be.


“But what if I find a source that doesn’t hold up through these questions?”

Too bad.  If you can’t find proper evidence for your viewpoint you need to change your viewpoint.  Presuming you’re dealing with a rational person (hard to find, I know), if you can’t convince them then that is your failing and you need to re-examine how solid your own beliefs are.  If they’re unreasonable then that’s got nothing to do with you, but not everyone who disagrees with you will be crazy.

Also, a final piece of advice: don’t get so locked into your perspective that you put on ideological blinders.

4

NEW EVIDENCE THAT ALL STARS ARE BORN IN PAIRS

Did our Sun have a twin when it was born 4.5 billion years ago?

Almost certainly yes – though not an identical twin. And so did every other Sun-like star in the universe, according to a new analysis by a theoretical physicist from the University of California, Berkeley, and a radio astronomer from the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory at Harvard University.

Many stars have companions, including our nearest neighbor, Alpha Centauri, a triplet system. Astronomers have long sought an explanation. Are binary and triplet star systems born that way? Did one star capture another? Do binary stars sometimes split up and become single stars?

Astronomers have even searched for a companion to our Sun, a star dubbed Nemesis because it was supposed to have kicked an asteroid into Earth’s orbit that collided with our planet and exterminated the dinosaurs. It has never been found.

The new assertion is based on a radio survey of a giant molecular cloud filled with recently formed stars in the constellation Perseus, and a mathematical model that can explain the Perseus observations only if all Sun-like stars are born with a companion.

“We are saying, yes, there probably was a Nemesis, a long time ago,” said co-author Steven Stahler, a UC Berkeley research astronomer.

“We ran a series of statistical models to see if we could account for the relative populations of young single stars and binaries of all separations in the Perseus molecular cloud, and the only model that could reproduce the data was one in which all stars form initially as wide binaries. These systems then either shrink or break apart within a million years.”

In this study, “wide” means that the two stars are separated by more than 500 astronomical units, or AU, where one astronomical unit is the average distance between the Sun and Earth (93 million miles). A wide binary companion to our Sun would have been 17 times farther from the Sun than its most distant planet today, Neptune.

Based on this model, the Sun’s sibling most likely escaped and mixed with all the other stars in our region of the Milky Way galaxy, never to be seen again.

“The idea that many stars form with a companion has been suggested before, but the question is: how many?” said first author Sarah Sadavoy, a NASA Hubble fellow at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. “Based on our simple model, we say that nearly all stars form with a companion. The Perseus cloud is generally considered a typical low-mass star-forming region, but our model needs to be checked in other clouds.”

The idea that all stars are born in a litter has implications beyond star formation, including the very origins of galaxies, Stahler said.

Stahler and Sadavoy posted their findings in April on the arXiv server. Their paper has been accepted for publication in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Stars Birthed in ‘Dense Cores’

Astronomers have speculated about the origins of binary and multiple star systems for hundreds of years, and in recent years have created computer simulations of collapsing masses of gas to understand how they condense under gravity into stars. They have also simulated the interaction of many young stars recently freed from their gas clouds. Several years ago, one such computer simulation by Pavel Kroupa of the University of Bonn led him to conclude that all stars are born as binaries.

Yet direct evidence from observations has been scarce. As astronomers look at younger and younger stars, they find a greater proportion of binaries, but why is still a mystery.

“The key here is that no one looked before in a systematic way at the relation of real young stars to the clouds that spawn them,” Stahler said. “Our work is a step forward in understanding both how binaries form and also the role that binaries play in early stellar evolution. We now believe that most stars, which are quite similar to our own Sun, form as binaries. I think we have the strongest evidence to date for such an assertion.”

According to Stahler, astronomers have known for several decades that stars are born inside egg-shaped cocoons called dense cores, which are sprinkled throughout immense clouds of cold, molecular hydrogen that are the nurseries for young stars. Through an optical telescope, these clouds look like holes in the starry sky, because the dust accompanying the gas blocks light from both the stars forming inside and the stars behind. The clouds can, however, be probed by radio telescopes, since the cold dust grains in them emit at these radio wavelengths, and radio waves are not blocked by the dust.

The Perseus molecular cloud is one such stellar nursery, about 600 light-years from Earth and about 50 light-years long. Last year, a team of astronomers completed a survey that used the Very Large Array, a collection of radio dishes in New Mexico, to look at star formation inside the cloud. Called VANDAM, it was the first complete survey of all young stars in a molecular cloud, that is, stars less than about 4 million years old, including both single and multiple stars down to separations of about 15 astronomical units. This captured all multiple stars with a separation of more than about the radius of Uranus’ orbit – 19 AU – in our solar system.

Stahler heard about the survey after approaching Sadavoy, a member of the VANDAM team, and asking for her help in observing young stars inside dense cores. The VANDAM survey produced a census of all Class 0 stars – those less than about 500,000 years old – and Class I stars – those between about 500,000 and 1 million years old. Both types of stars are so young that they are not yet burning hydrogen to produce energy.

Sadavoy took the results from VANDAM and combined them with additional observations that reveal the egg-shaped cocoons around the young stars. These additional observations come from the Gould Belt Survey with SCUBA-2 on the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope in Hawaii. By combining these two data sets, Sadavoy was able to produce a robust census of the binary and single-star populations in Perseus, turning up 55 young stars in 24 multiple-star systems, all but five of them binary, and 45 single-star systems.

Using these data, Sadavoy and Stahler discovered that all of the widely separated binary systems – those with stars separated by more than 500 AU – were very young systems, containing two Class 0 stars. These systems also tended to be aligned with the long axis of the egg-shaped dense core. The slightly older Class I binary stars were closer together, many separated by about 200 AU, and showed no tendency to align along the egg’s axis.

“This has not been seen before or tested, and is super interesting,” Sadavoy said. “We don’t yet know quite what it means, but it isn’t random and must say something about the way wide binaries form.”

Egg-Shaped Cores Collapse into Two Centers

Stahler and Sadavoy mathematically modeled various scenarios to explain this distribution of stars, assuming typical formation, breakup and orbital shrinking times. They concluded that the only way to explain the observations is to assume that all stars of masses around that of the Sun start off as wide Class 0 binaries in egg-shaped dense cores, after which some 60 percent split up over time. The rest shrink to form tight binaries.

“As the egg contracts, the densest part of the egg will be toward the middle, and that forms two concentrations of density along the middle axis,” he said. “These centers of higher density at some point collapse in on themselves because of their self-gravity to form Class 0 stars.”

“Within our picture, single low-mass, Sun-like stars are not primordial,” Stahler added. “They are the result of the breakup of binaries. “

Their theory implies that each dense core, which typically comprises a few solar masses, converts twice as much material into stars as was previously thought.

Stahler said that he has been asking radio astronomers to compare dense cores with their embedded young stars for more than 20 years, in order to test theories of binary star formation. The new data and model are a start, he says, but more work needs to be done to understand the physics behind the rule.

Such studies may come along soon, because the capabilities of a now-upgraded VLA and the ALMA telescope in Chile, plus the SCUBA-2 survey in Hawaii, “are finally giving us the data and statistics we need. This is going to change our understanding of dense cores and the embedded stars within them,” Sadavoy said.


TOP IMAGE….Radio image of a very young binary star system, less than about 1 million years old, that formed within a dense core (oval outline) in the Perseus molecular cloud. All stars likely form as binaries within dense cores. (SCUBA-2 survey image by Sarah Sadavoy, CfA)

CENTRE IMAGE….A radio image of a triple star system forming within a dusty disk in the Perseus molecular cloud obtained by the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile. (Image: Bill Saxton, ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO), NRAO/AUI/NSF)

LOWER IMAGE….This infrared image from the Hubble Space Telescope contains a bright, fan-shaped object (lower right quadrant) thought to be a binary star that emits light pulses as the two stars interact. The primitive binary system is located in the IC 348 region of the Perseus molecular cloud and was included in the study by the Berkeley/Harvard team. (Image: NASA, ESA and J. Muzerolle, STScI)

BOTTOM IMAGE….A dark molecular cloud, Barnard 68, is filled with gas and dust that block the light from stars forming inside as well as stars and galaxies located behind it. These and other stellar nurseries, like the Perseus molecular cloud, can only be probed by radio waves. Credit: FORS Team, 8.2-meter VLT Antu, ESO

asdfghjkl it’s midnight, and I finally finished this. I rushed hella on the background and this will probably go unrecognized, but oh well lol yeah this is my Lovehacks MC i you could not tell

3

Adversarial Machines

There’s been some interesting developments recently in adversarial training, but I thought it would probably be a good idea to first talk about what adversarial images are in the first place. This Medium article by @samim is an accessible explanation of what’s going on. It references this talk by Ian Goodfellow, asking if statistical models understand the world.

Machine learning can do amazing magical things, but the computer isn’t looking at things the same way that we do. One way to exploit that is by adding patterns that we can’t detect but that create enough of a difference in the data to completely fool the computer. Is it a dog or an ostrich?

There’s been quite a lot of research into finding ways round this problem as well as exploiting it to avoid facial recognition or other surveillance. And, like I said, there’s been some interesting recent developments that I hope to talk about here.

https://medium.com/@samim/adversarial-machines-998d8362e996#.n7j43766v

A New Beginning

Title: A New Beginning 

For: @scarletheartvision

Rating: T

AO3 Linkhttp://archiveofourown.org/works/12115029

Word Count: 8.1k

Warnings: None

Summary: After a horrific experience, Wanda and Vision slowly re-enter into a tentative friendship. As they get to know each other once again, they discover that perhaps, despite all the odds, it might just be possible to start a new beginning together.

Message for scarletheartvision: As someone who is not well-versed in current comics, this prompt was a doozy, fun, but difficult (especially having to write it in a week as a pinch hitter!). I hope this fulfills everything you were hoping for with the prompt!

Prompt: A fanfic where Vision and Wanda decided to try again. With Viv, Wiccan and Speed in the story. (Comics)

Other Notes: A big thank you to @androidavenger for letting me ask questions about Viv! And to my beta, @atendrilofscarlet, I appreciate your feedback so much!

Made for the @scarletvisionexchange2017


Returning to the Avengers was not particularly easy this time around (not that it ever is, really). The animus from his descent into fealty, the disbelief at the way he prioritized his own family over the makeshift one that is the Avengers, was already a stifling, unspoken disappointment in the air that often led to uncomfortable prickles dancing along his spine. Though, to be fair, not nearly as uncomfortable as the crushing realization (re-realization is more appropriate here despite the fact the term does not exist) that no one seemed to take into consideration his thoughts, opinions, or emotions before they acted. This, however, assumes his teammates recognize his opinions and emotions as real.

Vision releases a sigh as he leans back against the wall, eyes closing, a physical manifestation of the way he cuts off the train of thought, not wanting to dip further into the unfathomable depths of his emotions (yes, he has to convince himself of this, his emotions are real). No, the reason this time is so uncomfortable is because no one knows how to handle acknowledging being corrupted by a virus, what to say to someone whose body has been used against its will for decidedly un-heroic and horrific deeds. They all tiptoe, flash semi-friendly smiles before whispering behind backs, voices stopping when Vision takes one step closer, dispersing completely if he dares to take another step.

All except one. A flash of red passes the door to the locker room for the fifteenth time since he took up his post-mission vigil of self-reflection. It will be exactly four minutes, thirty-seven seconds, and ten milliseconds before she completes the circuit, head turning fifteen degrees to the right for a quick glance before her feet continue with the built up momentum of her body. Vision cannot determine if he should say something, acknowledge her presence, or if he should remain, head flush against the cold metal of a locker and his fingers playing with the end of his cape. The third, more tempting option, is to simply phase away, fly home before Viv begins to worry, yet he cannot seem to commit to such an evasive action, body anticipating her return to the doorway with a diluted, anxious curiosity.

It takes three more passes before her steps slow, body framed by the door, one hand braced against the wooden frame and the other bunched into a fist at her hip. There is a flicker of scarlet that moves through her eyes as her mouth tilts just enough to the left to portray what one might call an easy smile, though he can tell it is strained, uncertain, uncharacteristic of the confidence she usually exudes. “Hey.”

“Hello, Wanda.”

Her mouth tightens into a thin line as she takes a hesitant step inside, his response a signal they set up long ago, back when they first joined the Avengers. It simply means he is receptive to talk. Slowly she approaches him, sitting approximately three feet away, her hands falling into her lap, fingers intertwining. “I-how are you doing?”

Small talk has always confounded Vision as it seems unnecessary to build rapport every conversation when you could simply say exactly what you wish without pretense. But it seems a human trait and so he has learned to incorporate responses into his programming, have a set list that he can scan if need be. “I am fine. Yourself?”

“I’m okay.”  Typically the script of small talk requires the initiator to continue, yet Wanda pauses, a silence thickening between them, growing denser at an exponential rate that convinces him he could reach out and meet resistance in the air. But he has no desire to probe the impetus of having this conversation, their first since the unfortunate incident (as the team seems to label it in conversation). “I, um,” she glances to the side, fingers tangling tighter as a cloud of scarlet engulfs her hands, “I don’t know how to cope with everything.” The everything is clearly implied, his mind retreating at the undertone of dismay, of self-hatred in the tremble of her voice. This is not what he wants to think about right now, caged in his mind while his body acts, yet he also doesn’t wish to deny the truth, particularly when it is finally clear that he is not alone in his hurt.

“Neither do I.”

This seems to break the tension between them, a soft, sad smile lifting the corners of her mouth. “I thought you’d understand.” Her body shifts, legs swinging closer to him as she repositions and angles herself to be more open to him, a position far more conducive to a conversation. “I just thought I-we were stronger, that it couldn’t happen again, like how many times can someone be possessed in a lifetime?” The self-deprecating tone almost forces a smirk on his face.

“I am certain we could come up with a predictive statistical model to determine the answer.”

Wanda releases an amused huff, the sound alien, yet still familiar enough to ignite a tiny spark of pride at eliciting the response. “I’m sure you could, with charts and everything. Call it the-”

A synthesized Domo Arigoto, Mr. Roboto bursts from his pocket, echoing off the walls, Wanda’s lips pucker in amusement as he fumbles with the device. If I have curfew, so do you. Come home and bring pizza…please.  “My apologies, it is Viv.”

“Oh, how is she doing?”

Vision types his response out while weighing the question. “Well. I believe the Champions have been quite beneficial for her social and emotional development after,” he pauses before taking a cue from Wanda, “everything.”

The smile on her face is genuine as she says, “Good. She’s a great kid.”

“I- yes she is.” Another Domo Arigoto fills the air as Viv sends back a Curfew, father! “I must go.”  

Wanda rises in synchronization with him, hands clasping as her eyes follow his movements, a tenseness in her muscles that implies she wishes to reach out, perhaps brush his shoulder goodbye, an action that used to be normative, quite some time ago. But she resists and he determines the subtle warmth pulsing in his chest at her control is from appreciation, though it also feels vaguely of affection. “Vizh?” They make eye contact and he gives her a slight nod to continue. “Would you be interested in talking sometime, I-” her hands unclasp, falling resolutely to her side as she tries to reconfigure her usual confidence, “I think it would be good for us, after everything.”

Confusion bunches his forehead, certain they did just that minutes ago and not entirely eager to repeat the experience again. “May I consider the request before answering?”

“Of course. Don’t feel obligated.”


There is a scratching under the table, an enthusiastic tap dance of four paws that grows more frenzied every time Viv phases her arm through the table. “Viv, it is well founded that feeding dogs table food only increases the frequency of begging.”

“He’s just going to fly up onto the table if I don’t feed him.” The tone is matter-of-fact, correctly so, several weeks ago they had to deal with Sparky realizing that he could fly and phase into the cabinet containing the dog treats. Now Vision and Viv take turns moving the treats every few days to keep the dog confused and entertained. “Why’d you stay so late today?”

The question is said with an air of innocence but is laced with concern and a protectiveness that has existed in his daughter since the loss of her brother and mother, but that intensified after she dispelled the virus from his body weeks ago. “I was speaking with Wanda.”

Viv phases her hand back up through the table, placing the half-eaten slice of pizza on the plate while her eyes narrow, consternation pursing her lips as she studies him. “What did you talk about?”

“I believe she was attempting to ascertain if I would be an empathetic ear concerning recent events.” Vision can look intimidating, is often told he is terrifying in an inhuman way, but the soul-stripping stare currently on Viv’s face is from her mother, all the way down to the slight crinkle near her eyes and the intense disbelief hovering unspoken on her lips. “She, um,” the stare should be listed as part of her super powers, though, he sometimes reasons, perhaps all teenagers have this skill, but it does not stop him from withering beneath it. “She wishes to meet up, speak again.”

Without removing her eyes from him, Viv picks up a piece of pizza, peeling a pepperoni off and eating it as the gears of her irises twist and twirl in thought. “Do you think that is a good idea?”

Which happens to be the exact thought that led to him delaying his decision when Wanda inquired as to his willingness. The difference, however, is the emphasize Viv places on the good and the slow, painstaking way she peels another pepperoni off the pizza, suggests there is a clear answer. “I believe there could be some merit in having a reasonable discussion with someone else who understands all that happened.”

“Perhaps.” The terseness of the reply makes her displeasure and suspicion of the suggestion quite clear.

“Do you believe it is an illogical action?”

Viv breathes in, collecting the air in her lungs for several seconds before releasing it with a drawn out, contemplative sigh. “I worry you will get hurt if you re-establish this connection.”

It is not a wholly illogical concern, but Vision understands it based on his own past, which means it seems odd coming from his daughter. “But you have spoken highly of Wanda and the help she supplied in the aftermath of Vin and Virginia’s deaths.” Their names are still painful to utter, but he and Viv made a pact to not shy from using their names because it is important to never allow their memory to fade, to dissipate into the earth without a word or a tear or wisp of sadness.

“She has been helpful to me, but to you,” Viv bites her bottom lip, eyes squinting as she wobbles her head side to side, choosing her next words carefully, “she has hurt you far too many times.”

This is not a lie or exaggeration. “I have hurt her as well.” And neither is his comment.

“But she is not my father, I am allowed to play favorites.” Another inhale and exhale leads to her shoulders dropping into a reluctant slouch. “If you want to talk to her, you should, but be careful.” The concern fades quickly from her face, replaced with teenaged indifference as she pushes her chair back, throwing a shrug at him before turning to leave the room. “Do what you want. I have a team meeting in the morning, good night.”


Chess has always been one of Vision’s favorite mental exercises. The strategies are similar and yet deviate just enough to make mapping the paths of the pieces exhilarating. He has spent many afternoons plotting both sides of a match (after beating everyone repeatedly, eventually no one wished to play with him anymore), recalculating the odds over and over until he found a perfect strategy. The difference between chess and real life, however, is that chess has a finite number of variables which means it is difficult, but not impossible, to understand every possible action. Currently he feels as if he is playing chess but with pieces he has never seen and on a board that lacks the typical layout and dimensions he has become accustomed to using. “So…”

Wanda sits in front of him, hands cupped around a steaming mug of tea, eyes bouncing between his face, the mug, the couple laughing at the table next to theirs, and the ceiling. Viv insisted he meet with Wanda in public, a suggestion that he could not find any fault with, that is until he realized how difficult it would be to discuss matters of possession and mind control, of feeling betrayed by your own team when normal people were milling about, throwing interested stares and not-so-subtly eavesdropping. “Do you remember much, about it?” Their surroundings mean they have to be cryptic and cognizant of not offering information to prying ears that could be leaked to the papers or cause panic.

The question immediately sends his sympathetic nervous system into action, muscles readying themselves to phase, escape the situation, but he centers his mind, controls his body to remain in his seat. “All of it, unfortunately. I was,” several words flash through his mind until one seems to fit the sensation of being controlled by the virus, “merely a spectator with no control.”

“I only have flashes,” he watches as her fingernails tap the ceramic mug, the paint chipping at the tips of her index fingers. “Bits and pieces, but it’s like my body knows everything, aches and flinches at random things, I just don’t have the memory.” Scarlet flashes around her hands, causing the steam to billow more freely from the mug. “I hate it, I wish I knew what happened.”

“No.” Vision shakes his head along with the word, “you do not want to know.”

Somehow he had never made the connection that Viv’s stare, that Virginia’s stare, matches almost point for point the angle and narrowness of Wanda’s. “I think I deserve to have some idea.”

The options are limited, the strategies similar yet slightly different. He could refuse, keep the information to himself and repress it as is his wont in life. He could inform her of general actions and the most pertinent information, save the most unsavory for repression. Or he could be honest with her, allow her to determine what to do with the information, perhaps it would allow him to find someone who can understand the quiet terror in his mind when he sees certain items, the paralysis of his body when he remembers the lives they took. “You do.” Here the strategies branch, he can tell her everything now, he could insist on spreading out the information, sharing it piece by piece over weekly coffee meetings, there is always a letter or email, though that is traceable.

But then he glances up at her, takes in her stare and the half-cocked tilt of her head, watches as her hair cascades over her shoulders and he can remember her staring at him like this over the newspaper, wrapped in her pink fuzzy robe, hair ruffled, asking him to help her with the crossword, but he, for some reason or another, refused, instead offered her a separate, far easier option. “Would you,” the suggestion forces its way out of his memory before he has time to really think about it, only briefly considering the major drawback of the tactic. He doesn’t even register his own feelings on it until he feels his body trembling at the invasion of his autonomy that he is about to welcome, one that he is terrified to allow after all that has happened. But he is unable to stop the words and later reasons that this would have been the best option anyway as it does not require him to have to put to words their experience, “like to take it from my mind?”

“Vision…” the stare moves from annoyance and defiance to concern, “are you sure?”

“Yes.”

Wanda glances around at the other tables, gauging the best way to go about a mental exchange of information. “Okay.” It used to be she had to make grand movements, a sweep of her arms to the side, stretched as far as they could reach before they swiped forward, palms meeting to spark scarlet. Now, after many years of exploring her powers, honing in on the best incantations and finger movements, she is able to send a tendril of scarlet into his mind with barely a movement, just a flick of her pinky.

His body flinches, mind resisting the intrusion, but he is able to talk down his processing units, inform his body that the scarlet is welcome, though still uncomfortable. The tendril snakes through his mind, poking through each memory unit he makes available to her, and even though he is a bit rusty at providing her information from his mind, she does not rush him, is patient as he sorts through what to share. The spark of appreciation forms in his chest at just how careful she’s being, a feeling that is reminiscent of better times, a far cry from the numerous occasions when she turned these powers against him.

When her powers recede, his body flinches again, though this time with a sense of loss, a quiet longing whispering in the back of his mind.

A sharp, guttural, wet intake of breath breaks his reverie and he finds Wanda with a hand over her mouth and trails of tears flowing from her eyes, the fat drops plopping onto the wooden table. “Wanda?” He reaches out a hand but stops himself inches from her own, fully aware how he has had no desire to be touched by anyone since regaining his sense of self. The last thing he wants is to cross the line, to go against her wishes of physical or emotional touch, to violate any trust between them because there has to be something separating them from the monsters they were turned into. “May I comfort you?” All Wanda manages is a nod and a turn of her hand, palm facing up in invitation, and Vision extends his arm three more inches, hovering his palm above hers before committing to the action and grasping her hand. “Wanda?”

“I-”

The people next to them are watching intently, the woman pulling out her phone and not even attempting to hide the fact she is recording their interaction. “May I walk you home?”

“Yes.”

No other words are exchanged when they stand, hands still interlocked as they weave between the tables. Silence wraps tightly around them as Wanda leads the way to her apartment, a location Vision has never visited and never asked about, certain he would never need to go there. The continuation of her tears is concerning, but Vision attempts to quell the overwhelming confusion of his own emotions with steady squeezes of her hand, mixing short grips with longer ones, conveying a Morse code message of “O.K.” just as they used to do when words failed.

It’s not until they reach the door of her apartment that she returns the pressure, fingers constricting around his palm in one steady motion. “Thank you.” Wanda extracts her hand from his and the air is cold against his palm causing his fingers to ache for companionship. Instead of reaching out to her, he simply slides his hands into the pockets of his trousers. “I think,” a shaky hand brushes a strand of hair from her face, “I need some time to process everything.”

“That is understandable.”

Wanda offers him a tight-lipped smile before waving her wrist to unlock the door. “Do you mind if I?” The way her arms extend out finishes the sentence, the request clear and he finds himself acquiescing, stepping into her embrace while curling his arms around her waist. “Thank you, Vizh.”

“You are welcome, Wanda.” She steps away, disappearing into the darkness of her apartment, and leaves him alone and confused, the feel of her body pressed against his lingering, sending jolts of electricity up his spine in a way that is not completely unpleasant or unwelcome. But he shakes his head, certain something must be malfunctioning.


It turns out that learning of the information is just the first step, the second step is to process it, and so Vision and Wanda find themselves gravitating towards each other, speaking after meetings, before missions, during the lulls in mission, after training, on the weekends, occasionally on the phone late at night when she cannot sleep, though this often leads to Viv phasing into his room and telling him curfew applies to the home as well.

Sometimes, though, they go a week or more without a deep conversation, saying no more than hellos and how are yous. So their healing is spread out but when they are able to section off time it is filled with difficult, carefully worded conversations as they strive to work through the trauma together. It is a strange course of events, one that drums up feelings and thoughts he believed he had shoved to the furthest depths of his mind, wrapping a vibranium chain around it, and locking it with a 20 digit passcode. But each conversation he finds easier, notes how they sit slightly closer, how his body flows with more ease, muscles no longer perennially tensed with the thought of fleeing. They don’t even just leave it at the demonic possession and virus that led to them joining Hydra, but take their conversations back in time, talk through misuses of power, mental breakdowns, Vin, Virginia, and Victor, about disassembled and reassembled bodies and consciousnesses and the impacts the emotionlessness had on both of them. Tentatively, seven months after their first conversation, Wanda even brings up the twins and they spend a week speaking in broken sentences and heightened emotion about all that came of their children.

It also leads to a realization for Vision that, perhaps, he has not put forth enough effort to rekindle a connection with his long lost children, though he knows it is primarily because of the deep, unforgiving pain that knots into an unnavigable bundle in his stomach at the thought that they might have been happier with their second families. But Wanda touches his arm while he considers this, their months getting to know each other again leading to a relaxation in the rules of asking before delivering a friendly touch. “They ask about you a lot.”

“Do you see them often?”

Wanda nods, pauses while biting the right portion of her lower lip, and then raises a hand, shaking it to communicate the answer is more of a sort-of than a definite. “We get lunch every month or two, sometimes with both of them, sometimes separately.”

This is far more than him, he has only visited Billy once, spent an hour at his house, meeting his boyfriend Teddy and learning about his time on the Young Avengers. He left feeling reinvigorated, wanting to connect again, but nothing came of it, a failure on both sides to pursue the relationship, he thinks. “Are they doing well?”

“Yeah, they seem happy.” Her hand descends onto his arm again, remaining for 1.15 seconds before leaving, just long enough to encourage him to make eye contact. “You can join us next month, they’ll both be there and Billy’s bringing Teddy as well.”

Vision feels his mind freezing, chest constricting out of fear or perhaps nervousness, he is unsure at the moment. “Oh, I do not wish to impose.”

“You’re not imposing.”

The sudden interruption of Domo Arigoto signals that his curfew is up, Viv enforcing it with far too much glee and rigor than he does to her. “I must go.”

Wanda stands with him, following him to the door, the rings on her fingers thudding against the wooden slab as she holds the door open for him. “Night, dark eyes.”  The nickname slips out unintended, that much is clear from the way Wanda’s eyes and mouth widen and she shuts the door quickly so she does not have to correct or explain the misstep.

Her words burrow deep within his skin, mind clouded and heart racing as he replays the glimmer in her eyes and the lopsided smirk as she wished him goodnight. The physical response is telling, and it has been occurring with greater frequency and intensity each time they meet, yet he is unwilling to allow his emotions to follow suit, demanding they listen to logic and reason and not go down this path once more. But the problem with emotion with (he clenches his fists even at the thought of this word) love is that it does not have to follow the demands of rational thinking, in fact, from his experience, it is when love enters an equation that you are no longer able to predict what will happen next.

“Father?”

Vision looks up, meeting the narrowed gaze and cocked head of Viv, her green hair falling lazily over her shoulder. He had not realized he had arrived home. “Did I make curfew?”

She glances at the clock and then turns her questioning stare back towards him. “Just barely, so I guess I won’t have to ground you this time.” As the words leave her mouth they pull her neutral expression up just slightly into a smile, one that he reciprocates. “You seem confused.”

The majority of individuals he interacts with on a daily basis believe in rapport building in conversations, of tip-toeing around what they mean. But Viv takes after him, her bluntness executed with aplomb and it is refreshing, a bit unnerving, but at least he is never confused as to her intentions. This also means that he speaks more openly with her than anyone else at the moment, though Wanda is beginning to reach similar levels, but nothing will compare to his daughter. “Wanda called me dark eyes tonight.”  The comment is not as self-explanatory as he thought, Viv’s expression returning to bewilderment. “It is what she used to call me, when we were together.”

“How did it make you feel?”

His body says one thing, heart still four beats faster than its resting rate, his palms tingly which he always considers analogous to sweaty, if his body could produce sweat, and there is a stubborn warmth that pulses in his chest as he replays the good night one more time. “Not unpleasant.”

Viv nods, mouth drooping into a contemplative scowl. “Are you intending to rekindle your romantic affections for her?”

Despite her typical bluntness, this has been a topic they have danced around, neither seeming to want to bring it up, allowing it to fester in the corner where they can throw a blanket over it and pretend as if it does not exist. But now she has pulled the blanket away and laid it bare in front of them. “It would,” part of the reason he has so willingly kept it hidden is that he himself is unsure of the answer, “be disrespectful to your mother and if history is any indication, would likely not end terribly well.”

Vision expects Viv to agree, has not missed the hesitation in her voice whenever they speak of Wanda or the way she shrivels up (just slightly, he is uncertain if anyone else would notice) when he mentions he cannot do something because he is meeting with Wanda. “You have been happy lately,” Viv takes a step closer to him, breathing in deeply before continuing, “it has been refreshing and you have been laxer with the rules.” This is said as an aside, a facetious smile dancing along her lips before they resettle into a serious line. “Mother did not die so that we remain miserable.” Another step and she is standing in front of him, close enough that she can lift her hands and frame his face with her palms. “She died so we can live and part of living is being happy.”

“I am happy to have you in my life.”

The revolution of her eyes in teenage embarrassment and disbelief causes him to smile, reminding him so much of Wanda whenever he told the toaster joke. “There are different types of happiness and I cannot give you the same type as Wanda.” She removes her hands, crossing her arms and tucking her fingers into her sides. “You deserve contentment,” her eyes narrow once more, voice dropping an octave into a range more suitable for threats, “as long as you don’t abandon me.”

This time Vision steps forward, enveloping his daughter in a hug, tightening his grip as she tries to squirm out of the embrace with a disgusted father! But he holds fast, placing a rare kiss to her head with a promised, “I will not abandon you for anyone.”


Vision does not act on his newly rediscovered feelings, however, because if life has taught him anything, it is that no matter how strongly you love someone, it cannot protect you from the harshness of reality. In fact, love can blind you so much that you ignore every neon flashing sign pointing towards doom. He continues to speak with Wanda, not wishing to lose that friendship (terrified to lose her again, if he is being honest), but he can never bring himself to mention the dark eyes comment, to assess how she interpreted it, and he thinks the fact that she doesn’t mention it either indicates it was a slip-up and nothing more.

“Father.” Viv phases through the wall of their home office, hands hanging at her side with a placid expression on her face.

“Viv.”

“I invited Wanda over for dinner, she will be here in ten minutes.” Her eyes take in his outfit, lips smacking in thought. “You should change into a,” wrinkles form on her face as she scrunches her nose in disgust, “quieter sweater.”

The comment leads him to look down at the bright yellow chevrons adorning his chest, fingers picking at the fabric in confusion since it’s one of his favorites. When he returns his attention to his daughter she is gone, the room empty and unable to answer any of the questions whirling around his mind about what exactly is going on. But, he reasons, if Viv believes his sweater should change, he can do that for her, his body lifting from the chair as he phases upstairs to select a more muted, navy sweater. As he pulls the sweater over his head he realizes that they have not had anyone over for dinner…ever. Yet tonight they will despite there being no indication of food being prepared or beverages bought.

The doorbell chimes exactly ten minutes later, Wanda clearly getting better about being on time, and Vision phases down just beating Viv to the door. Slowly (after a pointed, questioning gaze is leveled at his daughter) he turns the knob, opening the door to find a grinning Wanda holding a steaming box of pizza. “Hi.”

“Hello, Wanda.” Though they have met often in the past months at Wanda’s apartment, this is the first time she is coming to his house, and his body and mind are in an uneasy disagreement about how to act. It feels sacrilegious, for some reason, to invite her in, this house containing only the memories of his family and he worries he is dishonoring their lives by inviting in a new, extremely, unquestionably human body. But at the same time there is a sense of rightness in her being here, a brief flash of carrying her bridal style into their new home in the suburbs, a glorious spike of joy at the thought. Hands grips his arm and shove him out of the way, determining the next course of action since he seems unable to act, and Viv replaces him at the door, offering to take the pizza from Wanda.

“Please come in.”

“How are you doing, Viv?”

The girl shrugs, leading them all into the kitchen, the uncaring sway in her walk dispelling his uneasiness, but only very slightly. “About the same as the last time we talked.” This sets off alarms in Vision’s head, the tiny amount of uneasiness he’d recently lost rushing back, realizing that something happened between the two that he is unaware of, but Viv keeps them moving, setting the pizza down and pointing at the chairs, not allowing him time to fully think through all of this. “I um,” Viv does not sit, instead she remains standing, fingers interlocking in nervousness, “actually got a call from the Champions for a…training exercise so I need to go.”

Vision’s muscles tense, mind racing as he watches her float towards the back door. “Viv?”

“Bye father, bye Wanda.”

A chuckled, “Bye, Viv,” is the final push to get her out of the house and suddenly Vision finds himself alone with Wanda in his own house, separated only by a pizza box. “She’s tricky.” It is said with admiration and Vision finds his chest filling with pride at the admission, agreeing that his daughter is to be lauded, though he is still uncertain exactly the reason for such praise at the moment.

“Did she inform you of her intentions?”

Wanda flicks her wrist, opening the box and grabbing a slice of pizza, grinning at him with a shake of her head, his eyes focusing on the way the tips of her hair stir along her shoulders. “You’re not very good at reading teenagers, are you?” It’s technically a question, though the tone is rhetorical and amused, her lips parting to reveal a sliver of her teeth, a disarmingly nonchalant grin. “Do you think she’s actually going to a training?”

Clearly the answer is no, based solely on the wicked gleam in her eyes but he would like to believe the basis of his relationship with his daughter is sewn with honesty. “I believe she is going to be with the other Champions and it is likely they may,” he gesticulates in an effort to pull out the proper phrase, distracted by the quirk of Wanda’s eyebrow and gleeful stare, “utilize their powers in which case it would be possible to label it as a training.”

“For all your brooding and intimidating intellect, you’re still adorably naïve about some things, Vizh.”

An easy and embarrassed smile lifts his lips as his gaze slides away from hers, though it does not stay away from her for long, idling back so he can meet hers eyes again, finding an old comfort in the contours of her face. “Why would she invite you to dinner only to leave?”

“Oh yeah, she’s got the wool pulled over your eyes.” Wanda smirks at him as she takes the last bite of her pizza, hands brushing together to remove the crumbs from her palms. “Did you know she and I got breakfast this morning?”

This game, funneling down from broad information down to the desired specifics, is quite ancient, an infuriating and yet invigorating form of communication that occurred only with Wanda. Tony tried it with him, but Vision never found it as enjoyable, would never play along. But Wanda’s stare, the tap of her finger on the table, and the coquettishly taunting smile draws him easily into the game. “I did not.”

“Didn’t think so.” She pauses, eyes roaming over the cabinets lining the walls. “Where do you keep your glasses?”  

For all his attempts to blend in with human behavior, he has never quite gotten hosting down, though he did use to cook large meals for the team, but Wanda always handled the social responsibility of hosting while he focused on the food. “Water?”

“Please.”  

Vision rises from the table, hovering to the third cabinet from the corner, the right door, second shelf, and removes a glass, his body following the predetermined path to grab the pitcher of filtered water from the fridge.  “Was there a reason-” Where the water should be is a blue, intricately labeled bottle of wine. There’s also a corkscrew and two long-stemmed wine glasses set on the shelf next to the bottle.

“Something wrong?”

“I believe Viv might need to be grounded for breaking the law.”  Which he knows is not as easy to assess as it is with traditional humans. Viv is technically programmed as a teenager but lacks the necessary passage of time to actually have an age, so it might not be illegal for her to have purchased alcohol.

A feather light touch ghosts along his shoulder, Wanda’s body coming to stop next to him, close enough that he can feel her gravitational pull, contemplates allowing his feet to move an inch to the right so that their shoulders brush, but he plants his feet firmly into the ground. “Oh, I bought that, don’t worry.” A tendril of scarlet extends from her fingers, reaching in front of him to grab the wine bottle. “I hope you still like this kind.”

His eyes scan the label, a relatively young Riesling that should be crisp with subtle sweet tones. “I am certain I will not dislike it.” It’s not quite a snort, but her laugh manifests as a rush of air up her nose and a broad smile. Vision does his best to control the smile tugging at his lips, still blanketed in a general discomfort at being surprised. “Wanda?”

“Hmm?”

Her name rolled off his lips before he had the chance to determine exactly what he’d like to say, mind shorting out for roughly a second before he is able to choose a course of action, eyes searching the house to determine if his next suggestion is the correct option given the circumstances and his duty as a host. “Would you like to sit on the couch, it is far more cushioned and offers better lumbar support than the kitchen chairs.”

“Only if you bring the wine with you.”

“Of course, please” the stems of the glasses are crossed over each other in his hand, which means his gesture towards the living room is a bit rougher than intended, but Wanda understands his unspoken comment, flashes him a smirk before disappearing from the kitchen. It feels, not wrong, necessarily, but maybe indecorous (yet enticingly indecorous) to allow his eyes to follow the sway of her hips, to not stop his heart from increasing a beat or keep his fingers from tightening around the glasses. This, he has to keep reminding himself over and over, a mantra, maybe even a prayer, this cannot end well. Vision breathes in, trapping the air in his lungs long enough for it to burn, and then walks towards the couch, placing the glasses down before working the cork from the bottle. “You were saying, earlier, that you and Viv partook of breakfast?”

One of the glasses disappears from his hand as soon as it’s filled, floating through the air on a disk of scarlet being puppeteered by Wanda’s thumb and ring finger. “Yeah,” Vision settles onto the couch, placing himself one and a quarter cushions from Wanda, a distance that is close enough to allow friendly conversation, but far enough to remove temptation. “She just wanted to clarify some matters, talk through some concerns she had about how much time we’ve been spending together. It was a good talk.”  

“I-,” there is a subtext to the words but Wanda has always been an expert at concealing the subtext when she wishes for him to have to maneuver the conversation towards the information. “What,” he finds himself yet again thinking about strategy, contemplating the most appropriate move to come out of the puzzle of conversation victorious. For now he decides an upfront approach may be best. “What concerns did she have?”

Wanda sips her wine, eyes trained on the glass and the reflection of the distant fluorescent kitchen light hovering in the liquid. She clicks her tongue three times before her lips part, then close again, a nervous arc forming on her mouth, no doubt weighing the level of directness she desires to use. “She is worried I am going to hurt you again.”

This causes his heart to drop, nestling into his stomach where it increases its density to match that of a two-ton boulder. “I apologize,” he wonders if he needs to keep a closer eye on Viv, or if they need to discuss boundaries and information that is and is not okay to ask of others. “I have not been particularly skilled or forthright enough to explain the intricacies of…everything to her.”

Wanda shrugs, taking another sip of wine. “It’s not like she’s wrong. We’ve been pretty awful to each other at various points in time.” Which is putting it quite mildly. “But that was only half of her questions.”

“Oh?”

The calm surety drops momentarily from Wanda’s lips, the wine glass hovering just at her mouth, her lower lip pressed gently to the glass as a soft, almost imperceptible blush breaks on her cheeks. It is a stunning image, one he has already encoded, rehearsed, and stored without a second thought. “She asked-” the wine glass moves slightly, tapping against the disbelieving smirk on her face, “Here, I’ll ask you.” Wanda lowers the glass, turning her body towards him, her legs following the momentum and closing the carefully measured gap between them. In fact, all Vision has to do is turn 30 degrees and her foot would brush against his leg. “What’s the most embarrassing memory you have from our relationship?”

Embarrassment is not a particularly strong emotion for Vision, something he has always quietly believed sets him apart from humans, his mind, in general, fairly impenetrable to the rush of heat at doing something odd. Perhaps it is because he is himself an oddity that it is such an uncommon feeling. “Embarrassing?”

“Yeah,” she laughs, two short, slightly different ascending notes, “pretty sure my face looked just like yours when she asked me.” He has to stop trying to think of an answer in order to process the feel of his facial muscles, surprised to find his mouth forming a slight frown and the weight of a crinkled forehead pushing his eyes into a squint. Though he was not there for the moment, the image of Wanda’s face mimicking his expression is quite clear in his mind. “Come on, Vizh,” her accent thickens on the zh, a vocal trick she utilizes when he is being too, what she always called, stuffy.

“The most embarrassing?” The wine glass rotates in his fingers as he thinks, extrapolating from his memories an instance that someone else would find embarrassing, even if he himself does not recall such a feeling. “I believe it was when I rushed to your side, foregoing the mission despite knowing you were not actually harmed.”

“Which time?” This comment for some reason brings the feel of embers to his cheek, stoked by the impish smile on her face. “Mine was that time you phased me through the bed and I got stuck, but don’t worry, I left it vague, don’t want to scar Viv.”

The heat moves from his cheeks, racing down his throat where it bursts in his chest, bubbling back up as a hearty laugh. “I am certain she appreciated that.” He thinks back to that day and realizes it was, comparatively, quite embarrassing. “Jarvis was rather concerned.”

Her laughter joins his, the blush crawling down her cheeks where it engulfs her neck before branching under the neckline of her dress. “Tony probably still has the pictures. Not sure why you couldn’t just get me back out but you insisted on letting people help.”

“I-” Vision attempts to determine a defense, failing to procure one at the time and still utterly failing to have one now, “it seemed inconsiderate to deny their help.”

The you’re-so-full-of-shit stare on her face is enough to bring another laugh from his chest. “Says the ever so considerate man who never turned down leaving a battle for a quick make-out.”

“That is an entirely different matter.”

A sensation forms on his shin, a light, rhythmic tap. When he looks down he realizes it’s her foot, nudging him. “You just like to logic your way into making your behavior acceptable. Go ask Steve how much he liked holding Lady Liberty’s crown.”

“You were almost hurt, I had to check on you.”

Another nudge of her foot and he finds his body relaxing into the couch. “And when we ducked behind a tree while Count Nefaria was attacking?”

Vision finds himself shrugging, not filtering his words before saying them, “I felt it imperative in the moment to inform you of my love.” The air between them stiffens, Wanda’s wine glass hovering down to the table as she turns to face him directly, a terrifyingly neutral set to her mouth and eyes. “Wanda, I-”

“Do you,” the words are soft, as if her lungs are weakened and unable to produce fully rounded syllables, “do you ever.” The thing Vision has always admired about Wanda, even when it annoyed him beyond words, was her inability to mask her emotions for long, wearing them much like a sweater, warm and welcoming and easy to parse out. Currently her mouth is quivering, eyes blinking at a rapid rate while she stares at her hands. Vision is not certain why he feels this is best, but he reaches out to calm her antsy fingers, envelopes her hands in his own.

“Wanda?” Eventually she stops avoiding his gaze, making eye contact along with her best attempt at a reassuring smile. “Please tell me what is on your mind, I lack your abilities to simply take the information.”

This seems to shatter her nervousness, the grin tipping up into a genuine, albeit sardonic, arc. “You’re ridiculous.” Her hands rotate just enough to bring her palms flat against his, fingers weaving between his, forming a mesmerizing alternating pattern of crimson and peach. “Do you ever think we’ll have that again?”

It is a question he has avoided, pushed aside even with admitting to Viv his own burgeoning feelings. “I-” their relationship had always been built on honesty and trust, yet cut and tarnished by insecurities and the inability to regroup and cope as a unit when the worst happened (though sometimes it was out of their control). Perhaps, and it is a big perhaps, they could learn from their mistake. “I have never lost that love for you, Wanda Maximoff. It,” honesty is probably not a mistake and so he reasons he should continue that trait, “has diminished, but it has never completely vanished.”

The minuscule tilt of her mouth is promising. “Same.” At some point his body moved, now only half a cushion from her but it allows him a better vantage of her features, the hope in her eyes that is surrounded by the bite of uncertainty and the wraith of their past. “Would it be a mistake to,” she breathes out, a partial laugh conveying perfectly the tightness gripping his chest, the anticipation and terror at what they seem to be inching towards, “try again?”

“That is a statistically supported possibility.” Her face falls, eyes developing a sheen of water as she turns from him, but Vision phases a hand from her grip, placing it along her jaw to redirect her attention. “There is also error in statistics, other interpretations, which means it is also possible,” the diminishing distance between their faces distracts him momentarily, overcome by the wisp of air leaving her mouth to dance along his skin, “it is also possible that we could learn from our past and succeed.”

“Is that what you want?”

Viv has pestered him about it, demanded an answer, and clearly grew impatient enough to have set up this intervention. “Only if we take it slow, establish ground rules - such as Viv is important to me- that will take precedence.”

“Of course.” Her hand runs along the edge of his v-neck and his eyes close at the sensation. “Vizh?”

“Wanda?”

There is now only a quarter of a cushion between them, her legs shoving his slightly to allow her to get closer. “Could I kiss you first and then we set the rules?”

A shaky “Of course,” leaves his mouth just before the press of her lips to his renders all other thoughts or concerns unintelligible, his body responding, leaning forward to reciprocate the kiss and he is enthralled at the ridges on her lips, having forgotten exactly how they felt, and the way they seemed to capture the sweetness of the wine, reserving it for him to savor. And then she pulls back, palm laid on his chest as a smile overtakes her face, working its way up into her eyes and sending shockwaves of wrinkles out when he matches her grin.

“So,” Wanda scoots back, removing her legs from between his, but her hand continues to touch him, trailing down his chest and making a short jump to rest on his knee. “Viv told me she’d make sure I disappeared from the Earth if this went wrong, so we probably should set those rules, huh?”

Vision nods, identifying the heat in his chest as affection, a hesitant affection but one he hopes continues to grow, that is never shattered by a wave of red or a whispered curse, one that is never stifled by his own anger and misgivings about if he is human. Because this is likely going to fail, history repeats, but for the first time in a long time he has some amount of hope that perhaps, for once, life will favor a new beginning.

Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page | Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens

from Perspectives on Politics, 2014

Who governs? Who really rules? To what extent is the broad body of U.S. citizens sovereign, semisovereign, or largely powerless? These questions have animated much important work in the study of American politics. While this body of research is rich and variegated, it can loosely be divided into four families of theories: Majoritarian Electoral Democracy, Economic-Elite Domination, and two types of interest-group pluralism—Majoritarian Pluralism, in which the interests of all citizens are more or less equally represented, and Biased Pluralism, in which corporations, business associations, and professional groups predominate. Each of these perspectives makes different predictions about the independent influence upon U.S. policy making of four sets of actors: the Average Citizen or“median voter,” Economic Elites, and Mass-based or Business-oriented Interest Groups or industries.

[…]

Each of four theoretical traditions in the study of American politics—which can be characterized as theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy, Economic-Elite Domination, and two types of interest-group pluralism, Majoritarian Pluralism and Biased Pluralism—offers different predictions about which sets of actors have how much influence over public policy: average citizens; economic elites; and organized interest groups, mass-based or business-oriented. A great deal of empirical research speaks to the policy influence of one or another set of actors, but until recently it has not been possible to test these contrasting theoretical predictions against each other within a single statistical model. We report on an effort to do so, using a unique data set that includes measures of the key variables for 1,779 policy issues. Multivariate analysis indicates that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence. The results provide substantial support for theories of Economic-Elite Domination and for theories of Biased Pluralism, but not for theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy or Majoritarian Pluralism.

So, in case you wondered, the average citizen has functionally zero impact on policy, even when their ‘power’ is pulled together in interest groups. We are not living in a democracy, but an oligarchy.

some selections:

The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence.

Our results provide substantial support for theories of Economic-Elite Domination and for theories of Biased Pluralism, but not for theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy or Majoritarian Pluralism.

[…]

A final point: Even in a bivariate, descriptive sense,

our evidence indicates that the responsiveness of the U.S. political system when the general public wants government action is severely limited

. Because of the impediments to majority rule that were deliberately built into the U.S. political system—federalism, separation of powers, bicameralism—together with further impediments due to anti-majoritarian congressional rules and procedures, the system has a substantial status quo bias. Thus

when popular majorities favor the status quo, opposing a given policy change, they are likely to get their way; but when a majority—even a very large majority—of the public favors change, it is not likely to get what it wants.

In our 1,779 policy cases, narrow pro-change majorities of the public got the policy changes they wanted only about 30 percent of the time. More strikingly,

even overwhelmingly large pro-change majorities, with 80 percent of the public favoring a policy change, got that change only about 43 percent of the time

.

In any case, normative advocates of populistic democracy may not be enthusiastic about democracy by coincidence, in which ordinary citizens get what they want from government only when they happen to agree with elites or interest groups that are really calling the shots. When push comes to shove, actual influence matters.

[…]

By directly pitting the predictions of ideal-type theories against each other within a single statistical model (using a unique data set that includes imperfect but useful measures of the key independent variables for nearly two thousand policy issues), we have been able to produce some striking findings. One is the nearly total failure of “median voter” and other Majoritarian Electoral Democracy theories. When the preferences of economic elites and the stands of organized interest groups are controlled for, the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.

[…]

Overall, net interest-group alignments are not significantly related to the preferences of average citizens. The net alignments of the most influential, business-oriented groups are negatively related to the average citizen’s wishes. So existing interest groups do not serve effectively as transmission belts for the wishes of the populace as a whole. “Potential groups” do not take up the slack, either, since average citizens’ preferences have little or no independent impact on policy after existing groups’ stands are controlled for.

[…]

Furthermore, the preferences of economic elites (as measured by our proxy, the preferences of “affluent” citizens) have far more independent impact upon policy change than the preferences of average citizens do. To be sure, this does not mean that ordinary citizens always lose out; they fairly often get the policies they favor, but only because those policies happen also to be preferred by the economically-elite citizens who wield the actual influence.

[…]

Of course our findings speak most directly to the “first face” of power: the ability of actors to shape policy outcomes on contested issues. But they also reflect—to some degree, at least—the “second face” of power: the ability to shape the agenda of issues that policy makers consider. The set of policy alternatives that we analyze is considerably broader than the set discussed seriously by policy makers or brought to a vote in Congress, and our alternatives are (on average) more popular among the general public than among interest groups. Thus the fate of these policies can reflect policy makers’ refusing to consider them rather than considering but rejecting them. (From our data we cannot distinguish between the two.) Our results speak less clearly to the “third face” of power: the ability of elites to shape the public’s preferences.49 We know that interest groups and policy makers themselves often devote considerable effort to shaping opinion. If they are successful, this might help explain the high correlation we find between elite and mass preferences. But it cannot have greatly inflated our estimate of average citizens’ influence on policy making, which is near zero.

[…]

All in all, we believe that the public is likely to be a more certain guardian of its own interests than any feasible alternative.

[…]

Despite the seemingly strong empirical support in previous studies for theories of majoritarian democracy, our analyses suggest that majorities of the American public actually have little influence over the policies our government adopts. Americans do enjoy many features central to democratic governance, such as regular elections, freedom of speech and association, and a wide- spread (if still contested) franchise. But we believe that if policymaking is dominated by powerful business organizations and a small number of affluent Americans, then America’s claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened.

Please someone tell me why I’m wrong.

It’s possible to match a data set optimally with one parameter.

Model: y=sin(bx), where y is scaled such that all values fall between 0 and 1 exclusive. The difficulty of hitting every point rises with the number of data points, but that just means you need bigger values of b. The “model” will look like an almost fully filled space with a sin curve oscillating so fast it looks like a series of vertical lines. Yet it hits every single point (because in a large enough option space, I can do that) when possible or the exact midpoint when not. Plausibly 100% perfection is impossible in many cases, but a sufficiently close approximation probably is.

If this understanding of overfitting sin waves is correct, doesn’t that suggest a flaw in how we penalize complexity in model-fitting?

unhealthy zelda botw ramble

Playing Breath of the Wild feeling a little depressed, rambling

The game is beautiful. I want to lock myself up and get lost in every corner of the world. Avoid all responsibility, forget about being human.

But when I’m Link and I visit one of the many villages and see the NPC’s going through their repetitive lives, sheltered and unable to explore, I relate to them more than the hero. I sit at home reluctant to go explore the world due to fear and comfort. I only pretend to be a hero and revel in the virtual world where I can’t lose.

Even online multiplayer games with their competitive leagues and economies offer a more real experience than the farce of Zelda.

As an artist I can never create anything like this game or even hope be a part of production. AAA gaming is a terrible hiring environment with a large talent pool, worker exploitation due to the lack of unions and increasing contracting. 

The new money in gaming is the result of statistical models that draw from big data to exploit player addiction in a manner no different from casinos. This is evidence by loot crates, gacha, cool down timers, and the importance of always-online surveillance.

While playing Zelda I like to think it’s lovingly developed the way a master jeweler makes some engagement ring or whatever. And the developers are all amazing, happy, decently paid people. So amazing a product like this can exist in this age if really true.

and then i know that Nintendo is a giant corporation like any other, children are building Switch’s in China, conflict minerals used in technology fuels ethnic conflict in the Congo and whatever I’m just sitting here wasting time and growing older

the privilege of playing Zelda 

The signs as footnotes from David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest

Aries: Footnote 123 (Depiction of the mathematical functions used by Pemulis during Eschaton)

Taurus: Footnote 304 (“La Culte du Prochain Train,” often translated as “The Cult of the Next Train”, the origins and meanings of which are described without brevity by one James Albrecht Lockley Struck Jr.)

Gemini: Footnote 90 (Informal conversation between Don Gately and another resident of Ennet House)

Cancer: Footnote 216 (No clue)

Leo: Footnote 24 (The Filmography of James O Incandenza)

Virgo: Footnote 145 (A one-sided conversation-cum-interview between Hugh Steeply [in the guise of Helen Steeply] and Orin Incandenza)

Libra: Footnote 332 (Pemulis is expelled from E.T.A., with no little mirth on the part of DeLint)

Scorpio: Footnote 21 (See Footnote 211)

Sagittarius: Footnote 110 (Examples of correspondence between the Incandenza family, inc. mail and phone conversations)

Capricorn: Footnote 234 (Continuation of aforementioned conversation-cum-interview w.r.t. Hugh [Helen] Steeply and Orin Incandenza)

Aquarius: Footnote 321 (Pemulis discusses statistical models and esoteric drugs interchangeably)

Pisces: Footnote 32 (They Can Kill You, But The Legalities Of Eating You Are Quite A Bit Dicier)

The 12th House

“There are no bad houses.” - Dane Rudhyar, from “The Astrological Houses”

(taken partly from Dana Gerhardt)
Yes, the 12th house has been referred to as “the valley of miseries,” “the dark den of sorrow and horror,” the “portal of toil,” and the house of “Bad Spirit.”
The fact is, there is karma in this house. Things will happen to people who carry past-life debt. This happens to good and bad people alike. You wronged someone before, they wrong you now. It’s worth noting that this is the house of secret enemies, the evil doers that you don’t even notice or recognize until they’ve already finished their handiwork on you. The 12th house is the house of self undoing, frustration, anger, anxiety, confinement, slavery, sickness, and imprisonment.

There’s good here too. It is a veritable forest filled with the energy of divine unity. This is where the collective unconscious resides. Spiritual transcendence, intuition and compassion come together here to SERVE. It is the only way out of the negative matrix that this house is also capable of presenting. Undo the negative, karmic debt by being of loving service to all. The black and white of this house shows us that both saviors and martyrs live here. You have the ability to go one way or the other: a Ted Bundy or a Mother Teresa? Functions and gifts of the planets that reside in your 12th house and the sign that occupies your 12th house can make you feel shy, insignificant, anonymous - or you could suffer from delusions of grandeur. You could be an easy mark for predators or become a slick predator yourself. All of this can drive you to deception and addiction.

This is the house of things you cannot see. You can find difficulty in dissecting your own 12th house because you cannot accurately see its territory. All of its dangers are invisible to you either because of karma and hidden enemies or the perverted logic of your own subconscious. The 12th house, according to Ptolemy, corresponded to a part of the sky, just above the horizon, where stars were obscured by the “thick, misty exhalations from the moisture of earth.” The 12th house represents a colossal blind spot. When you approach the veiled gates of this house, come armed with a healthy suspicion of your own blind spots. Pay attention to what irritates or frightens you “out there,” because it’s quite likely this lurks in the shadows of your own nature, described by your own 12th house planets or signs.

Consider the case of a 12th house Mars. Mars is the archetypal warrior, representing the ability to set boundaries, be self-assertive, get angry when necessary. People with a 12th house Mars often have difficulty going after what they want. They’re outwardly gentle and agreeable, for the most part lacking Mars’ sharp attacks. You can cross them several times and get no reaction, but one day, someone, possibly you, will receive a full-blown Mars explosion. The 35-year-old computer programmer will disappear and a 2-year-old in tantrum will take his place. But the person acting out won’t know what hit you. He may have sent you vicious emails, vilified your name in the public square, but when it’s time for an apology, he’ll brush it off. To truly regret his actions, his 12th house Mars would have to reach consciousness first. 

Our 12th house planets and signs are like children with special needs. They’ve suffered a critical deprivation. In some way our early environment didn’t encourage or support their expression. They may be usurped, denied or shamed by our caretakers. Somehow we got the message they’re unsafe to express. With Mars or Aries in the 12th, I may fear the expression of my competitive drive or deny my selfishness. With Pluto or Scorpio, I may be too embarrassed to reveal my passion, my sexuality, my power. With Mercury or Gemini in the 12th, I may decide to keep my mouth shut. With Uranus or Aquarius in the 12th, I’ll cover up what makes me different, and keep my creative genius under wraps. With Venus there, or Taurus or Libra, I won’t know how beautiful, how sensuous, how artistic or loving I can be.

Whatever the rejected planet or sign, the subconscious awareness of its loss leads to a kind of victim consciousness, a conviction, in fact, that it’s morally right to feel sorry for ourselves. Weren’t we robbed after all? A businessman I know with a 12th house Mars was keenly aware of his inability to be self-assertive: “My mom co-opted all the anger in our house. I didn’t dare cross her. But then I never got to be me.” When he learned he had a reputation among his co-workers for being ruthless and cruel—his shadow Mars—he was actually thrilled. “Doesn’t it bother you that you might really be hurting people?” I asked. There was a momentary confusion in his eyes before they glazed over. Lost in the memories of his past, and unable to fit them with a different picture of his present, he spaced out and forgot my question. 

I like the modern view of the 12th simply because I’ve found it more useful and true. From the modern perspective, to redeem 12th house planets, you must first become aware that you have them. The next step is to choose—metaphorically—among the more traditional options: Are you going to put yourself in prison, a mental institution, the hospital, or a monastery? You can pace a prison cell of past mistakes. You can go crazy with frustration or anger. You can lie on a sick bed of wounds. Or you can get on your knees and appeal to a higher power. In this vast inner world, time and space have no meaning. In restructuring your 12th house psyche, you have infinite choices. In imagination, you can, like a young Dalai Lama, roam an inner residence a quarter mile long with a thousand rooms, enjoying this precious incarnation, and taking advantage of centuries of history and learning from vast inner libraries. Whatever your past, shining a light in your 12th can open a field of new possibilities.

When I look at an individual’s chart and see planets in the 12th, “doom” and “misery” aren’t the first words that come to my mind. I rather think that here lies a great gift, in fact, the true wealth of the chart. But it’s like a trust fund. The 12th house individual must come of age first, spiritual age. Ego might greedily appropriate the rest of the chart for its desires, but this house refuses to give up its goods so easily. There will be sacrifice; there will be immaturity, weakness, and whining; there will be a long journey requiring self-awareness, humility, and spiritual responsibility. However long it takes, the 12th house treasure will not disappear. Won perhaps over many lifetimes, it is deep and instinctive. The potential for a wide appreciation of its gifts is also huge.

I’m not alone in thinking this way. Michel Gauquelin, a psychologist who used statistical models to investigate astrology’s accuracy, discovered that while many astrology factors have no relevance, planets in the 12th house did have a strong correlation with an individual’s career success. Mars in the 12th house was often found in the charts of sports figures. Actors, politicians, and journalists showed Jupiter in the 12th; scientists and doctors, Saturn or Mars; painters and musicians, Venus; and writers, the Moon. This finding surprised even astrologers, who typically locate career indicators in the 10th. Contemporary astrologer Maurice Fernandez makes even stronger claims for 12th house planets. According to Fernandez, people who have positions of influence or fame will more often have an emphasized 12th house than a strong 10th. Since the 12th house rules both the collective unconscious and the masses, planets here indicate the potential to tune in to what’s popular and have an effect on a wide audience. They may also bear the burden of mass projection, sacrificing the personal life to become a product or symbol. Think of the different measures of fame the following 12th house Suns have achieved: Ghandi, Madonna, George Bush, and Rodney King.

As with any astrology factor, what really counts is what the individual does with it. I know behind every worried email I get about the 12th, lies someone with great potential for success. Since I’ve come to appreciate the special quality of 12th house planets, the rest of the chart seems to pale. Without question, this house of self-undoing, confinement, and loss is my favorite house in the chart.