Friday, August 4, 2017

                                 CONGRESSIONAL  MATH

Wired's  Clive Thompson  is on the warpath  to get more scientists to enter politics.  So what else is new-  I ran this in the WSj in 2005:

At last count, Congress Assembled contains two physicists, two chemists, two biologists, one geologist, 234 lawyers and an astronaut. This puts the lawyers within striking distance of an absolute majority in the 538-member Congress. No other profession approaches this 43.5% plurality, and, under quorum rules only lawyers can construe, for they wrote them themselves, it usually constitutes a de facto majority. 
But look around: The sciences have a lot to brag about, too, and can be pretty fierce in their anthropological identities. Like the law, science has a pecking order of its own. Lawyers did not invent Physics Envy. Ask around academe, though, and you will find that any geologist worth his salt considers himself the equal of any 10 of his colleagues, who in turn assert that any oilfield hand is twice as good as a physics whiz, for without geophysics, physicists wouldn't have a planet to stand on.
Physicists in turn sniff that they are universally acknowledged to be worth 11 chemists each, for such was the ratio in the Manhattan project. This does not cut any mustard with biologists, however; they are quick to point out that the Manhattan project failed miserably in its goal of exterminating life on earth because chemists and physicists do not know bupkes about life, which is the province of the Intelligent Design movement. Since the ID movement is a legal construct, its being wrong persuades the biologists that -- even in their present, only mildly evolved form -- they are each worth 20 lawyers, maybe more. 
Nonsense, say the chemists, we've done the math. Noting that other professionals are constituted entirely out of chemicals, chemists contentedly conclude themselves to be, conservatively, two to six orders of magnitude better than any of the rest, at standard temperature and pressure.

In sum, the eight scientists in Congress have the 234 lawyers so completely outnumbered that only an engineer could exactly quantify the size of science's occult congressional majority. Fortunately for the lawyers, there are no engineers whatsoever in the Congress, so the legislative life of the nation is not threatened by that contingency.
However, it is one of America's glories that while immigrants cannot aspire to the White House, they are still at liberty to run for Congress, and scores have been elected and will continue to be. Since our nation remains the world's greatest magnet for engineering talent, the strange dearth of engineers in the corridors of power may soon be remedied. China alone sends thousands of engineers to our shores each year, for despite China's astonishing economy, something makes the best and the brightest flee in droves -- and it certainly isn't the growing imperial power of the Chinese Bar Association. All nine members of the neo-Politburo running the People's Republic are engineers, just like Herbert Hoover. The Great Engineer's road to the White House ran through mine management in China. Were he still in power, he would note the profound difference between Chairman Mao's retromingent Great Leap Forward and what Beijing's new entrepreneurial technocrats have in mind. Being engineers, they actually have an energy policy. 
Be very afraid, lawyers -- these are not Jimmy Carter retreads. They combine thermodynamic literacy and a grasp of energy economics with the Best Practices sensibility of the MBAs, which some of them have as well. Take light bulbs -- they have the bright idea that chucking incandescent bulbs into the dustbin of technology can save a bundle of money, and free even more for capital investment. So efficient are light-emitting diodes that replacing one-third of all the conventional bulbs in China would slash hydropower demand and render another $24,000,000,000 Yangtze River Gigadam superfluous, saving a cool billion a year in power bills and a vast acreage of farmland from inundation. So farewell Adam Smith: The engineering mandarins have the Mandate of Heaven to invest the peoples' pension funds in, say, "The East Is Red Candlepower Corporation" and dictate to the proletariat that they screw in what they are told. 
All of which leads to a clear political imperative -- the survival of the Republic hangs on the election to Congress of another geologist, two prospectors and a mule.