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Thread: Remaining Impartial

  1. #1
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    Remaining Impartial

    Is there that not a rule or understanding among the mod team that when a mod enters a debate or discussion that he/she should not arbitrate using coloured text in that debate lest he/she falls into the trap of using mod powers or influence to colour that debate his way to his own prejudices, opinions, beliefs or conclusions?
    "It's the rabbit hole that matters, not the blackhole, the wormhole or any other hole," the wolf said.
    "But, what's in the hole, Mr. Wolf?", came the question after a long pause.
    "Infinite approximations deciding everything exactly with just enough uncertainty." The wolf howled with some difficulty.
    "What about the rabbit?", was the next question.
    "Oh, he's long gone!", the wolf declared instantly.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Canis Lupus View Post
    Is there that not a rule or understanding among the mod team that when a mod enters a debate or discussion that he/she should not arbitrate using coloured text in that debate lest he/she falls into the trap of using mod powers or influence to colour that debate his way to his own prejudices, opinions, beliefs or conclusions?
    This is a debate that crops up on virtually every forum.

    I've never seen it implemented on any of them.

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    Given the example of Newton in the Newton-Leibniz debate perhaps it is thought unnecessary among the scientifically minded to have such a rule or understanding, despite the obvious commonsense of someone not arbitrating their own disputations.

    In any event, a bias favoring Newton tainted the whole affair from the outset. The Royal Society set up a committee to pronounce on the priority dispute, in response to a letter it had received from Leibniz. That committee never asked Leibniz to give his version of the events. The report of the committee, finding in favor of Newton, was written and published as "Commercium Epistolicum" (mentioned above) by Newton early in 1713. But Leibniz did not see it until the autumn of 1714.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leibni...us_controversy
    "It's the rabbit hole that matters, not the blackhole, the wormhole or any other hole," the wolf said.
    "But, what's in the hole, Mr. Wolf?", came the question after a long pause.
    "Infinite approximations deciding everything exactly with just enough uncertainty." The wolf howled with some difficulty.
    "What about the rabbit?", was the next question.
    "Oh, he's long gone!", the wolf declared instantly.

  4. #4
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    Yes, most of the time a mod will contact the other mods asking if someone else can make a decision on a complaint, when she/he is involved in the discussion.
    Unless of course it is such a blatant breaking of the rules ...
    Naturally, there can be cases where this unwritten rule between the mods is broken, we're only human, bound to make mistakes.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Canis Lupus View Post
    Is there that not a rule or understanding among the mod team that when a mod enters a debate or discussion that he/she should not arbitrate using coloured text in that debate lest he/she falls into the trap of using mod powers or influence to colour that debate his way to his own prejudices, opinions, beliefs or conclusions?
    If you have an issue with a moderator's impartiality then report them. The other mods can then deal with it.

    The mods are volunteers, making up more and more rules limiting their ability to join in with discussions on the board just makes it less likely that anyone would want to volunteer for the role.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DaveC426913 View Post
    This is a debate that crops up on virtually every forum.

    I've never seen it implemented on any of them.
    There appears no shortage of mod/admin here making it impractical. On other forums, where that is not the case, I can see practical difficulties.

    Personally, I value the contributions of the individual mods when they do post, but then where does that leave them in the heat of discussion in making line ball calls? A long way from impartial is my conclusion. Having such an understanding or rule would allow their valued contributions without compromising other things here, I believe.

    I know of one forum which had separate accounts for individuals acting as mods. This enabled them to contribute to the board's discussions without undue influence. No-one but the admin and mods knew who the mods were as individual contributors. A moderator was simply known as Moderator 1 or Moderator 2.
    "It's the rabbit hole that matters, not the blackhole, the wormhole or any other hole," the wolf said.
    "But, what's in the hole, Mr. Wolf?", came the question after a long pause.
    "Infinite approximations deciding everything exactly with just enough uncertainty." The wolf howled with some difficulty.
    "What about the rabbit?", was the next question.
    "Oh, he's long gone!", the wolf declared instantly.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by tusenfem View Post
    Yes, most of the time a mod will contact the other mods asking if someone else can make a decision on a complaint, when she/he is involved in the discussion.
    Unless of course it is such a blatant breaking of the rules ...
    Naturally, there can be cases where this unwritten rule between the mods is broken, we're only human, bound to make mistakes.

    Ok, thanks. I appreciate the reply and I think that answers my question fully. I don't wish to make the question specific.

    The rule or understanding is a credit to this forum and I understand fully the exceptions you mentioned.
    "It's the rabbit hole that matters, not the blackhole, the wormhole or any other hole," the wolf said.
    "But, what's in the hole, Mr. Wolf?", came the question after a long pause.
    "Infinite approximations deciding everything exactly with just enough uncertainty." The wolf howled with some difficulty.
    "What about the rabbit?", was the next question.
    "Oh, he's long gone!", the wolf declared instantly.

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    Maybe I should put this in the "things that bug you" thread in OTB, but it seems that for a while now, a small group of users - some long time, some not - seems bent on finding any sort of "gotcha" for the Mods or Admins to "prove" how unfair or inconsistent they are? I've been critical of some of the rules here, but this makes me uncomfortable and seems very unfounded. Knock it off, guys. The mods do a fantastic job, within the rules they set, and I don't why these questions keep coming up.

    CJSF
    "I found my mind on the ground below. I was looking down, it was looking back.
    I was in the sky, all dressed in black.
    See the constellation ride across the sky. No cigar, no lady on his arm.
    Just a guy made of dots and lines."
    -They Might Be Giants, "See The Constellation"

    lonelybirder.org

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    Quote Originally Posted by CJSF View Post
    Knock it off, guys. The mods do a fantastic job, within the rules they set, and I don't why these questions keep coming up.
    And keeping an open dialogue, including feedback, expressed civilly, is a good way we can all contribute to a high quality site. Censoring feedback, not so much.

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    To piggyback on what tusenfem posted, a mod who is participating in a thread and finds it necessary to 'switch hats' may also bow out of the thread thereafter in order to avoid (or minimize) the perception that authority is being misused. I've done it myself more than a few times and it can be a personally disappointing decision if it's a particularly enjoyable thread. Oh, well. One should remember that not only are we volunteers, we are limited in number, we have lives IRL, and we live across several time zones and continents. We don't always have a ready back up or the time/need for conference and consensus.
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    Quote Originally Posted by DaveC426913 View Post
    And keeping an open dialogue, including feedback, expressed civilly, is a good way we can all contribute to a high quality site. Censoring feedback, not so much.
    Agreed. Fully. But I also don't see anything wrong with asking people to at least consider censoring themselves a bit (that's how we stay civil) and that's how I read the comment. I can sympathize. We have had a member or two who seemed to take most any feedback opportunity to dig up and flog their favorite dead horse...that poor, poor horse.
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    Man is a tool-using animal. Nowhere do you find him without tools; without tools he is nothing, with tools he is all. Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881)

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    Quote Originally Posted by DaveC426913 View Post
    And keeping an open dialogue, including feedback, expressed civilly, is a good way we can all contribute to a high quality site. Censoring feedback, not so much.
    Yes. This is true, but I feel like some of the recurring complaints are near or on the other side of the "line" - wherever it is.

    CJSF
    "I found my mind on the ground below. I was looking down, it was looking back.
    I was in the sky, all dressed in black.
    See the constellation ride across the sky. No cigar, no lady on his arm.
    Just a guy made of dots and lines."
    -They Might Be Giants, "See The Constellation"

    lonelybirder.org

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    How did this topic become limited to a certain type of moderation action, ignoring others? Was it some recent egregious event?

    Why is there interest in only the contributory status of the acting moderator? What about moderators who have been reading the topic because it interests them? Should they also recuse themselves from moderating, due to bias? What if they hold strong feelings about it? What if they were just about to contribute?

    And what is the related moral perspective on members who are not moderators who yet may choose to request moderator consideration by reporting a post? Should they avoid reporting if they have contributed to the topic? If the topic interests them?

    I want to perfect my behavior -- as I am sure moderators do. How should we behave in these critical situations?

    Anyone have a modest proposal?
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    Quote Originally Posted by 01101001 View Post
    How did this topic become limited to a certain type of moderation action, ignoring others? Was it some recent egregious event?

    Why is there interest in only the contributory status of the acting moderator? What about moderators who have been reading the topic because it interests them? Should they also recuse themselves from moderating, due to bias? What if they hold strong feelings about it? What if they were just about to contribute?

    And what is the related moral perspective on members who are not moderators who yet may choose to request moderator consideration by reporting a post? Should they avoid reporting if they have contributed to the topic? If the topic interests them?

    I want to perfect my behavior -- as I am sure moderators do. How should we behave in these critical situations?

    Anyone have a modest proposal?
    So many questions - 10 to be exact.

    It would be helpful if you numbered them.

    If it makes you feel more comfortable by all means use

    0000.
    0001.
    0010.
    0011.
    0100.
    0101.
    0110.
    0111.
    1000.
    1001.
    1010.

    In relation to 1010 I cannot think of any modest proposal to achieve perfection.
    "It's the rabbit hole that matters, not the blackhole, the wormhole or any other hole," the wolf said.
    "But, what's in the hole, Mr. Wolf?", came the question after a long pause.
    "Infinite approximations deciding everything exactly with just enough uncertainty." The wolf howled with some difficulty.
    "What about the rabbit?", was the next question.
    "Oh, he's long gone!", the wolf declared instantly.

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    Got you. But to be clear, the questions aren't exclusively yours to answer. I ask them of anyone interested in the topic.
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    No ATM forum is better than our ATM forum.

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    Quote Originally Posted by CJSF View Post
    Yes. This is true, but I feel like some of the recurring complaints are near or on the other side of the "line" - wherever it is.
    Well, that's a good point. What does that line represent?

    By the sounds of it, for you, the line might be between
    - tolerating feedback, treating it perfunctorily, not to be taken seriously - and
    - actually hearing members' valid concerns and acknowledge that a forum is comprised of its members, and it may have to adapt.

    Quote Originally Posted by CJSF View Post
    Knock it off, guys.
    It does kind of sound like you don't think members have any business actually complaining.

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    I think the crux of the tension is the blurring of two issues: the impartial efficacy of the site, and the hard work the mods do as volunteers.

    Surely, there is a "forum" in which the tens of thousands of members can express ways that the site can adapt to changing needs, and keeping that separate from perceived criticism of the mods themselves.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DaveC426913 View Post
    It does kind of sound like you don't think members have any business actually complaining.
    And now I feel like I should post this in the "trivial stuff that amuses you" thread. Or maybe still the "annoyed" thread.

    My irritation is that this thread, and posts in others that have come up only in the past year or so, seem to keep insinuating that the moderators are biased and inconsistent. I don't think they censor feedback, as evidenced by these threads' existence. The main problem I have with the site is the uncompromising "ban" on members "moderating" in-thread. I've stated such more than once, and I even took a long break from the forums because of that. But the moderators have their reason for policing the threads that way, and have been fairly consistent and unbiased about it.

    The line I am talking about is the line between some members being critical (maybe constructively so) of the moderation and members insinuating (or outright accusing) the moderators are unfair and inconsistent.

    CJSF
    "I found my mind on the ground below. I was looking down, it was looking back.
    I was in the sky, all dressed in black.
    See the constellation ride across the sky. No cigar, no lady on his arm.
    Just a guy made of dots and lines."
    -They Might Be Giants, "See The Constellation"

    lonelybirder.org

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    Quote Originally Posted by tusenfem View Post
    ... Naturally, there can be cases where this unwritten rule between the mods is broken, we're only human, bound to make mistakes.
    That's true, but we are human, and we learn. Let me make the case (just waving my hands here, not presenting hard facts) that over the last fifteen years we (the mod team) have gotten better about identifying early in a situation when there is a risk of moderator impartiality or overreaction, and we are now much better at avoiding egregious situations, and better at learning from them when they do occur. There have been a few times during that stretch where we have tweaked the rules because of new recognition of types of trouble that sprang from people trying to follow the old expression of the rule. These lessons and rule-changes have both contributed to this being a fairly good place to discuss a topic about astronomy or spaceflight.
    Last edited by antoniseb; 2017-Mar-12 at 01:54 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by CJSF View Post
    <snip>
    My irritation is that this thread, and posts in others that have come up only in the past year or so, seem to keep insinuating that the moderators are biased and inconsistent.
    My only point of disagreement is that this is recent. At least as long as I've been a moderator (before that, I didn't pay attention to it), such threads come up from time to time. They do seem to come in bunches, but otherwise I haven't noted any particular increase.

    (moderators as participants in a thread discussion from 2006)
    Last edited by Swift; 2017-Mar-12 at 02:10 PM. Reason: added historical link
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    Quote Originally Posted by CJSF View Post
    The line I am talking about is the line between some members being critical (maybe constructively so) of the moderation and members insinuating (or outright accusing) the moderators are unfair and inconsistent.
    Agree.
    Looking at the OP though, on which side of the line would you say this post was when it started?

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    It's just a question. It's been answered, as it has been answered here often before. The question might imply that there may have been improper behavior, but why assume it?
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    ^ Precisely
    "It's the rabbit hole that matters, not the blackhole, the wormhole or any other hole," the wolf said.
    "But, what's in the hole, Mr. Wolf?", came the question after a long pause.
    "Infinite approximations deciding everything exactly with just enough uncertainty." The wolf howled with some difficulty.
    "What about the rabbit?", was the next question.
    "Oh, he's long gone!", the wolf declared instantly.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Canis Lupus View Post
    Is there that not a rule or understanding among the mod team that when a mod enters a debate or discussion that he/she should not arbitrate using coloured text in that debate lest he/she falls into the trap of using mod powers or influence to colour that debate his way to his own prejudices, opinions, beliefs or conclusions?
    It is an understanding, and that is pretty much the way it works. Even then, there is usually a discussion, but some offenses are obvious.

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    Quote Originally Posted by grapes View Post
    It is an understanding, and that is pretty much the way it works. Even then, there is usually a discussion, but some offenses are obvious.
    Yep, understood.

    There's been a suggestion here and there about being unfairly hypercritical of "management", but these discussions behind the scenes, I'm sure, can be time consuming and tiresome. Some of the issues which arise, where some consensus behind the scenes is attempted, I imagine might be quite stimulating.

    Given the natural ties of affection which people build up over time, I'm genuinely impressed by the effort the team makes to overcome the same natural ties of affection which can potentially compromise impartiality. In other words, it's a difficult playing field for the team to navigate.

    The more the board becomes concentrated with long standing members who know each other very well, having formed natural ties of affection, the more difficult the playing field becomes. It is the way of many boards/forums to evolve this way as they age I have noticed.

    A quantitative indication of this might be indicated by the most popular sub-forum according to views, the "babbling" sub-forum. Someone asked, perhaps mockingly, for a modest proposal to achieve perfection. Modifying that question a little, might lead to the cold suggestion that if the board wants to concentrate on science/astronomy and its related subject matter, then such a sub-forum might be better abolished because it tends to promote a buddy-buddy clique which others who come here for the ideas/science/astronomy might find off-putting.

    What could be the harm in a bit of off-topic babbling - surely nothing? Yes, nothing, except friendships crowd in upon impartiality. Probably a small price to pay for a bit of much needed comradery in this world, virtual or otherwise, but just like humans, situations which they create are quite imperfect and compromised where ever you go no matter how well intended. As stated in a previous post above, all are human here (apart from the bots) and forums, for all their virtualness, reflect in their own way, the wider behavior of humans.

    I'd be surprised if anyone expects perfection around here. There's a lot I see I don't complain about which I would if I did expect perfection. I rarely hit the complain button despite the personal insinuations of quite a few posts which are derogatory personally. For example, just in this thread there has been an insinuation that I am so stupid and egotistical that by replying to a general comment of a member that I thought it was meant purely for me, and as such, being the stupid fella I am, it needed to be pointed out to me. Ok, no big deal, let it pass, despite its faulty insinuation. I may be stupid, but not for that reason.

    I understand there is a certain mindset here. I don't agree with aspects of it, but that is not to think that in the refinement of ideas, which I seek and hope others do also, the differences aren't useful. It's the "usefulness" in this context which makes the place appealing, despite the shortcomings.

    And, yes, I will continue to give feedback - regularly, I hope. That's why this sub-forum is here. I'm a little surprised by those making posts which might be interpreted as undermining its purpose. I hope to do so in such a way which is civil and non-abusive, concentrating where ever possible on principle rather than individuals. No doubt the usual crowd of supporters will come in and interpret things this way or that, but that is the nature of a forum - no grist, no grind, no bread.
    Last edited by Canis Lupus; 2017-Mar-13 at 08:21 AM.
    "It's the rabbit hole that matters, not the blackhole, the wormhole or any other hole," the wolf said.
    "But, what's in the hole, Mr. Wolf?", came the question after a long pause.
    "Infinite approximations deciding everything exactly with just enough uncertainty." The wolf howled with some difficulty.
    "What about the rabbit?", was the next question.
    "Oh, he's long gone!", the wolf declared instantly.

  26. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by Canis Lupus View Post
    What could be the harm in a bit of off-topic babbling - surely nothing? Yes, nothing, except friendships crowd in upon impartiality. Probably a small price to pay for a bit of much needed comradery in this world, virtual or otherwise, but just like humans, situations which they create are quiet imperfect and compromised where ever you go no matter how well intended. As stated in a previous post above, all are human here (apart from the bots) and forums, for all their virtualness, reflect in their own way, the wider behavior of humans.
    I would not dispute your first claim, that people build up relationships (or comradery or vice-versa of animosity) and that these things may get in the way of impartiality. In certain contexts (for example, courts of law or even peer-reviewed publications) this is something that people usually try to combat by setting up safeguards. But my honest feeling is that the purpose of a place like this is partly educational but party for our own enjoyment, and really wouldn't want to limit babbling to try to keep impartiality. In disputed areas (like the ultimate truth of reality thread or whatever it's called) we seem to just go on and on without any particular outcome. There are occasionally small things that I wish for, for example sometimes I wish the moderators would be a little bit tougher on people asking what I see as ornery questions to people posting in ATM, but in general I wouldn't want to make any big change in areas such as OTB.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Canis Lupus View Post
    For example, just in this thread there has been an insinuation that I am so stupid and egotistical that by replying to a general comment of a member that I thought it was meant purely for me, and as such, being the stupid fella I am, it needed to be pointed out to me. Ok, no big deal, let it pass, despite its faulty insinuation. I may be stupid, but not for that reason.
    I was a bit surprised by this, and went back and reread the whole thread. I think I know the post that you are referring to, and I really don't see the insinuation. Wasn't the person just clarifying that it would be fine for others to chime in as well on the idea?
    As above, so below

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    Quote Originally Posted by slang View Post
    It's just a question. It's been answered, as it has been answered here often before. The question might imply that there may have been improper behavior, but why assume it?
    It's also a question that won't and can't stay answered forever: there will be changes in the membership, changes in the moderation team, changes in what is and is not mainstream, and, potentially, changes in rules.

    Personally, I've never seen anything that could be considered as abuse by a moderator.

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  29. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    Wasn't the person just clarifying that it would be fine for others to chime in as well on the idea?
    Explicitly: yes.

    Still is.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    I was a bit surprised by this, and went back and reread the whole thread. I think I know the post that you are referring to, and I really don't see the insinuation. Wasn't the person just clarifying that it would be fine for others to chime in as well on the idea?
    Why would anyone imagine there was such a need - it's so obvious?

    Perhaps it was just a type of friendly mothering.
    "It's the rabbit hole that matters, not the blackhole, the wormhole or any other hole," the wolf said.
    "But, what's in the hole, Mr. Wolf?", came the question after a long pause.
    "Infinite approximations deciding everything exactly with just enough uncertainty." The wolf howled with some difficulty.
    "What about the rabbit?", was the next question.
    "Oh, he's long gone!", the wolf declared instantly.

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