acroyear: (don't let the)
Romney Wants More Cold Fusion Research | Mike the Mad Biologist
Romney actually said this. Out loud. To another person:
I do believe in basic science. I believe in participating in space. I believe in analysis of new sources of energy. I believe in laboratories, looking at ways to conduct electricity with — with cold fusion, if we can come up with it. It was the University of Utah that solved that. We somehow can’t figure out how to duplicate it.
acroyear: (space 2 ring)
Paul Wallace: Intelligent Design Is Dead: A Christian Perspective:
For a person of faith, ID is not just an unnecessary choice; it is a harmful one. It reduces God to a kind of holy tinkerer. It locates the divine in places of ignorance and obscurity. And this gives it a defensive and fearful spirit that is out of place in Christian faith and theology.

Looking upon the new star in September 1604, could Kepler have envisioned stellar evolution, mass-transfer binary stars, and explosive carbon fusion? No, and so he remained silent. His humility, his belief in the richness of creation, and his expansive faith allowed him to admit ignorance while leaving the door of causal science wide open.

ID denies its proponents that freedom. Having opted to close the door on science, they steal from themselves the opportunity to see nature more deeply. In so doing they dig in their heels, refusing to be drawn, Kepler-style, closer to the creator God they all believe in. This is the great irony of ID.
acroyear: (yeah whatever)
Here he is, this supposedly "principled" person, playing the "just a theory" card for the sake of the idiots that will decide the Republican primaries.  Apparently, trust that scientists who work with this stuff on a daily basis to actually solve problems and really know what their doing, is simply illegal in the Republican Party these days.
acroyear: (don't let the)
The bride of the son of the revenge of cell phones and cancer rises from the grave...again : Respectful Insolence:
Basically, the only suggestive studies all come from the same group in Sweden, which is always a red flag to me (that the studies all come from one group, not that they come from Sweden, I hasten to add). As I said before, whenever one group of researchers keeps finding a result that no other group seems able to replicate or that otherwise disagrees with what everyone else is finding, that's a huge problem. I'd also have a lot more confidence in this seeming association in "high quality" studies if the association didn't depend upon a single researcher and if this researcher was not also known for being an expert witness in lawsuits against mobile phone companies.
This is a key mirror to the Andrew Wakefield - a single person comes up with a study that nobody else can verify or reproduce, and just *happens* to also be in the employ ("expert" witnesses get paid for their time on the stand) of lawyers who stand to gain a lot of money if the law ever decides that their side is right.  Wakefield did exactly the same thing in the autism-vaccination cases.

The other wonder is how public perception is being manipulated because what has been put out so far has NOT been the actual study, but rather just the proposed conclusions as a press release.  This means people are commenting on the conclusions (and the ignorant public and media accepting them as Fact) without the benefit of the actual scientific process which is to have such results reviewed within the scientific community before going "public" with the laymen media (and even that, that is usually done through laymen-oriented magazines like Nature and Science, not as a press release to be picked up by USA Today, which is where I saw the headline).

There are thus enough clues that this headline-grabbing approach (for some reason backed by the World Health Organization (WHO), is being timed for now for a very particular reason rather than just waiting for the study results to come out in July.  Chances are the study results won't back the conclusions, but Orac concludes:

The bride of the son of the revenge of cell phones and cancer rises from the grave...again : Respectful Insolence:
Even so, in the spirit of keeping an open mind, I'll keep an eye out for the full report and perhaps blog further about it after it's released
acroyear: (I'm being serious)
but it is hilarious...

grokked from jwz
acroyear: (coyote1)
WTF, CNN? : Dispatches from the Culture Wars:
There was a massive fish kill in Arkansas recently. Then there was a bizarre event where more than a thousand blackbirds fell from the sky in that same state. So who does CNN bring on to discuss this, wildlife biologists? Scientists with an expertise in migration patterns or life cycles of fish and birds? Nope. They bring on Kirk Cameron.

To his credit, even Cameron himself says, almost immediately, that they ought to be talking to a veterinarian rather than to him.
acroyear: (makes sense)
Science is not dead : Pharyngula:
But that's where the psychological dimension comes into play. Look at the loaded language in the article: scientists are "disturbed," "depressed," and "troubled." The issues are presented as a crisis for all of science; the titles (which I hope were picked by an editor, not Lehrer) emphasize that science isn't working, when nothing in the article backs that up. The conclusion goes from a reasonable suggestion to complete bullshit.
Such anomalies demonstrate the slipperiness of empiricism. Although many scientific ideas generate conflicting results and suffer from falling effect sizes, they continue to get cited in the textbooks and drive standard medical practice. Why? Because these ideas seem true. Because they make sense. Because we can't bear to let them go. And this is why the decline effect is so troubling. Not because it reveals the human fallibility of science, in which data are tweaked and beliefs shape perceptions. (Such shortcomings aren't surprising, at least for scientists.) And not because it reveals that many of our most exciting theories are fleeting fads and will soon be rejected. (That idea has been around since Thomas Kuhn.) The decline effect is troubling because it reminds us how difficult it is to prove anything. We like to pretend that our experiments define the truth for us. But that's often not the case. Just because an idea is true doesn't mean it can be proved. And just because an idea can be proved doesn't mean it's true. When the experiments are done, we still have to choose what to believe.
I've highlighted the part that is true. Yes, science is hard. Especially when you are dealing with extremely complex phenomena with multiple variables, it can be extremely difficult to demonstrate the validity of a hypothesis (I detest the word "prove" in science, which we don't do, and we know it; Lehrer should, too). What the decline effect demonstrates, when it occurs, is that just maybe the original hypothesis was wrong. This shouldn't be disturbing, depressing, or troubling at all, except, as we see in his article, when we have scientists who have an emotional or profit-making attachment to an idea.

That's all this fuss is really saying. Sometimes hypotheses are shown to be wrong, and sometimes if the support for the hypothesis is built on weak evidence or a highly derived interpretation of a complex data set, it may take a long time for the correct answer to emerge. So? This is not a failure of science, unless you're somehow expecting instant gratification on everything, or confirmation of every cherished idea.

But those last few sentences, where Lehrer dribbles off into a delusion of subjectivity and essentially throws up his hands and surrenders himself to ignorance, is unjustifiable. Early in any scientific career, one should learn a couple of general rules: science is never about absolute certainty, and the absence of black & white binary results is not evidence against it; you don't get to choose what you want to believe, but instead only accept provisionally a result; and when you've got a positive result, the proper response is not to claim that you've proved something, but instead to focus more tightly, scrutinize more strictly, and test, test, test ever more deeply. It's unfortunate that Lehrer has tainted his story with all that unwarranted breast-beating, because as a summary of why science can be hard to do, and of the institutional flaws in doing science, it's quite good.

But science works. That's all that counts.
Again, this is the great gift of science over any other "ways of knowing" - science is inherently self-correcting. Only the scientific process has built-into it the mechanism for correcting an error. Any other form, say "divine revelation" has no external or objective means of supporting a conclusion, or of showing a conclusion to be incorrect.

I don't have "faith" in science: I trust science to eventually figure something out, even through the natural human biases of economics that currently drive most scientific research decisions.
acroyear: (oh that's clever)
Corpse Of Astronomer Tycho Brahe Exhumed | The Onion - America's Finest News Source | American Voices:
"The guy had a supposedly clairvoyant court-jester dwarf who sat under the table during dinner and a tame elk that would drink beer with you. Who gives a shit how he died? Let's celebrate his life!"
acroyear: (claws for alarm)
I had a hard drive (Seagate FreeAgent Desk 500) that was shorting out - I plug it into my netbook and the whole thing (netbook itself) power-crashes to nothing.  I plug it into my work mac and it pops up a dialog that it was drawing too much power.  I was worried the whole enclosure was dead (and the youtube video for opening the damn thing to pull the drive out wasn't encouraging...).  that it needed power was scary because, well, it is actually powered by an external AC adapter - it should never have been pulling from the USB system in the first place.

Well, it turns out it wasn't the drive or the box.  It was the cable.  Somehow the leads on the mini-usb end had gotten damaged or bent, and were thus drawing power and sending it to straight to ground.  Most USB cards don't like doing that.

So if you have something saying it's drawing power or shorting out, try swapping cables (and trying the thing on other equipment) before you go swapping devices. :)
acroyear: (makes sense)
New Species Discovered on Environmentally Damaged Easter Island | Insect, Indigenous Ecosystem & Extinction | LiveScience:
Almost all of the organisms currently living on Easter Island are invasive species that have been introduced, Wynne said.
Mr. Wynne:

All "native" species to any local ecosystem were once invasive.  Whether something is invasive or native all depends on what date you pick.  To 1600s America, the British were "invasive"; to 1900s America, British-derived peoples are "native".  To 1600AD, humans were "native"; to 20,000 BC, ALL humans were "invasive".

So if you want to make a statement like that, please date your context, like, say, the arrival of the first that eventually we can uncover evidence that even THOSE humans weren't the first. ;-)

I love science.
acroyear: (coyote1)
Coyotes, Species Definitions, and Speciation : Mike the Mad Biologist:
One of the reasons I've learned to stay away from debates about "what is a species" is that practical species definitions (i.e., something we can use to classify critters) do a lousy job of describing the process of speciation, while conceptually sound species definitions (ones that describe the speciation process) are usually miserable when you actually try to classify organisms. Why? Because delineating species implies (and requires) sharp biological breaks that might not exist.
acroyear: (makes sense)
Monday Math: A Rant About Fractions : EvolutionBlog:
Let me tell you what happens when you are morbidly obsessed with reducing fractions. A while back I had to install a new doorknob on a closet door in my house. This meant buying one of those small, hand-held power drills, since new holes were needed for the screws that would hold the small metal dingus to the door. When I prepared to begin drilling I discovered that the five thirty-seconds bit was too fat, but the three thirty-seconds bit was too thin. So I went hunting around for the four thirty-seconds bit. Do you think I found it? Of course not, because whoever stamped the widths onto the bits came from the zombie-like, “must reduce my fractions” school of fraction manipulation, and therefore I had to find the one eighth bit. That's right! My bits were stamped in halves, fourths, eighths, sixteenths and thirty-seconds, all because of an educational system that thinks reducing fractions is an inherent good, like charity and kindness to others. Of course, as a highly trained math professional I can do these conversions in my head. But I shudder to think of all the missized holes that have been drilled in the nations door jambs over this.
acroyear: (fof oooh perty...)
funny how one of them looks like the Dr. Who "crack".
acroyear: (they (sam))
how could you tell, 'cause they've decided it's none of your dam business anymore...

Scholars and Rogues » The nation’s 120,000 dams: Much more inspection, repair needed:
The National Inventory of Dams, maintained by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, contains more than 85,000 dams. The inventory is limited to dams of high or significant hazard that would result in loss of life or significant property damage in the event of failure.

But not all the information about these NID dams can be viewed by the public. That’s because, presumably, of concerns that would-be terrorists might attack high-hazard dams.
The upshot of that is that you can't legally find out if the house you want to buy, the town you want to lease a shop in, the factory you want to build on the water, will actually be safe.

This is yet another of what SHOULD be a no-brainer for the Federal Government to step in and pay for better inspections and better infrastructure while the states are in budgetary crisis, either by doing the work through the department of the interior, or subsidizing the state budgets to cover it.

But they won't.

And like the bridge that collapsed that might have been saved or replaced had Uncle Newt not put a stop to Clinton's infrastructure program of 1993, they won't until somebody dies.

Speaking of dams, I just realized that one of my fav classic Bugs Bunny cartoons never made it to the Golden Collections (which they say they won't make any more of... :( ).
acroyear: (makes sense)
Chickens, eggs, this is no way to report on science : Pharyngula:
You simply can't make the conclusion the reporter was making here. The species ancestral to Gallus gallus laid eggs, the last common ancestor of all birds laid eggs, the reptiles that preceded the birds laid eggs…the appearance of egg laying was not coincident with the evolution of ovocleidin. The first chicken that acquired the protein we call ovocleidin now by mutation of a prior protein also hatched from an egg.

What were the people involved in this story thinking?
acroyear: (lion rest)
My comment to WND Calls in a Ringer : Dispatches from the Culture Wars:
Dear Mr. Ringer. As noted by others, you have Natural Law and Natural Rights mixed up.

Natural Rights says that the government can't make you pay taxes that end up supporting the upkeep of the many zoos and wild animal parks across the country.

Natural Law says that if the lion that has to be released because there's no money to pay for its feeding and security actually catches and eats you, that's your own damn lookout.

no love,
acroyear: (weirdos...)
Based on Opinions About Astronomy, White People Are Stupid... : Mike the Mad Biologist:
People were asked:

Most astronomers believe the universe formed about 13.7 billion years ago in a massive event called the Big Bang. Do you think that's about right or do think the universe was created much more recently?

As you might guess, Republicans outdid themselves in their stupidity (and in other news, dog bites man...).
The numbers, grouped by race, showed 58% of white people answering "Right", vs 75% and 73% for blacks and hispanics respectively.
But it's odd how, whenever there's a behavioral observation that reflects poorly on minorities or women, 'genetic conservatives' assume a genetic basis, whereas when white people behave like fucking morons, genetics isn't even broached.
acroyear: (lion rest)
A fascinating article on the history and current state of natural wildlife photography and filming, particularly in the fact that much of the wildlife isn't actually "wild", but come from game farms specifically kept for this purpose often with illegal or unethical maintenance and conditions.

Audubon Magazine:
“With photos you can include notes, but it’s hard to interrupt a movie,” observes respected wildlife-film maker Chris Palmer. For the National Wildlife Federation’s 1997 IMAX film Wolves, he rented models from Animals of Montana. “Sections of this film were made possible by employing captive wolves,” reads one of the credit lines. That was more than most filmmakers were doing 13 years ago, but like photo credits, movie credits often go unread. Palmer now uses that “mistake” as a teachable moment in his lectures and in his book Shooting in the Wild, to be published in May by Sierra Club Books. “Since then I’ve learned about game farms,” he told me. “Animals are kept in small cages and lead miserable lives. And they’re placed in even smaller cages and taken on the road for days to some wild place.”

uh, oops?

Mar. 26th, 2010 10:46 am
acroyear: (surprising)
weather : news headlines - Disputed island disappears into sea:
NEW DELHI (AP) - For nearly 30 years, India and Bangladesh have argued over control of a tiny rock island in the Bay of Bengal. Now rising sea levels have resolved the dispute for them: the island's gone.

New Moore Island, in the Sunderbans, has been completely submerged, said oceanographer Sugata Hazra, a professor at Jadavpur University in Calcutta. Its disappearance has been confirmed by satellite imagery and sea patrols, he said.

"What these two countries could not achieve from years of talking, has been resolved by global warming," said Hazra.
acroyear: (makes sense)
Olympian Physics : Page 3.14:
Equations can hurt, although not as much as wiping out on the downhill or faceplanting in the halfpipe. On Dot Physics, Rhett Alain explains the amazing angles at which Apolo Ohno leans around the short track, writing "a skater wouldn't have to lean at all if the skater was stopped. As the angle gets smaller (approaching zero), the skater would have to be going faster and faster." On Built On Facts, Matt Springer investigates the somewhat more subdued sport of curling, where men with brooms lead forty pound stones to their targets. Crunching numbers, Matt concludes that "granite on vigorously swept ice" produces less friction than "teflon on teflon." And back on Dot Physics, Rhett draws up some colorful diagrams of ski jumps, explaining that although you wouldn't want to jump off an eleven-meter building, "you can make it survivable if you increase the time over which the change in velocity takes place." In other words, those athletes can be thankful they're landing on a sloped surface.


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