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Creationism Conference at Michigan State University Stirs Unease

Artifakt Re:Why at a place of learning? (976 comments)

There are more Christians (by denomination) who don't believe in Biblical Inerrancy, and more English speaking Christians who don't beleive the KJV is the best or only correct translation, than vice versa. One of the big points people like Luther and Wesley claimed for the Protestant Reformation, was that the Bible was sufficient for grace - not infalliable, and particularly not an infallible guide to matters of ethics, science, or politics. It's a minority of spin-offs of spin-off churches that have adopted Inerrancy as a position, and in claiming all true Christians believe that, they are not just supporting Creationism (and Young Earth Creationism in particular), they are saying that a whole lot of the people who disagree with them are Heretics, That's just the sort of thing that needs exposed to the general public. This is precisely the problem with closing off Universities to such debates as creationism. Limit the debates to a particular someone's church, and how can there be any neutral ground to address the underlieing assumptions of the Creationists, and how does anyone expect anyone to change their mind if you can't address any of the underlieing assumptions?
        Anne Coulter wrote a book about how many Christian denominations were not really Christian, because they tended to vote 'Liberal'. Should that claim and all related politics be off limits at universities and only debated in those churches that actually believe only Republicans are going to Heaven? Do we stop having televised debates between candidates until a sufficiently small percentage of churches are equating Republicanism with Jesus, and how small is sufficiently?

3 days ago
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Dwarf Galaxies Dim Hopes of Dark Matter

Artifakt Re:We don't know anything is weird here (137 comments)

I suspect we should have avoided terms like "Dark X', in favor of something that sounds more neutral and less dramatic. (I know, 'dramatic' sells research programs, especially to congress...).

            Linguistic problems have happened frequently in Physics and particularly Cosmology. After all, "Big Bang" was a term made up to poke fun at the idea it described, coined by Fred Hoyle, who wanted to defend the alternative ""Steady State" theory and thought "Big Bang" would sound rediculous. The phrase "Collapse of the state vector" in Quantum Mechanics has a similar problem, in that 'collapse' itself has a negative connotation, and makes it sound to some people like the Quantum state is superior to the Classical state, like some sort of 'fall from heaven' occurs when the vector reifies. "Reification" was a more neutral term that many people such as Dirac and Minkowski liked, but which died out in use by the 1970's. A lot of the Depak Chopra sort of writing on QM seems to stem from seeing the process of quantum probabilities becoming classical events as a fundamentally negative thing, and the Quantum "Realm" as somehow closer to God than the regular realm we experience, and calling it a collapse certainly encourages that view.

              Dark Matter and Dark Energy may be causing something of the same effect, where a more neutral term, such as "Undetected Matter", or "Unknown Force" might not.

4 days ago
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High Speed Evolution

Artifakt Re:Falsifiability (282 comments)

In Biology, there's the concept of Stochastic Mutation. It's most commonly attributed to viruses, for example HIV is a known stochastic mutator. In these cases, some (not all, just some), types of cell mutations occur, where there's no selection pressure - the virus changes its protein coat in one of several ways (4 for HIV), and type B is just as likely to mutate back to type A or into Type C or D, as to stick where its at. In equilibrium, none of the protein coats is preferred by natural selection, and there's no pressure for one type to come to dominate. HIV also undergoes non-stochastic mutations, just like (we think) everything else with a genetic code does, and stochastic mutation has been studied for many other viruses and probably happens in more complex species.

          That's the point - evolution is essentially a two part theory, a synthesis of Mendel's genetics including mutation, and Darwin's natural selection. Cases where all the organisms subject to selection pressure are identical, are not evolution*, and cases where the organisms are not identical but there's no selection pressure applied are not evolution either, and so there really are at least two categories of biological change which are not evolutionary. It's just that 'cases where there's no selection pressure' pretty much discribes some sort of paradise where nothing dies or is limited in how often it reproduces, so there are not a whole lot of known examples of that, especially over a long term, and it would be pretty expensive to create such an environment over a short term.

* If you had some organisms, and they have 0% chance of mutating in the particular way that responds to that particular selection pressure, then you could say that they are identical in that respect. Imagine for example a bunch of Leopards suddenly introduced to an environment where there are abundant fish in deep subsurface pools which can only be reached through narrow fissures. There's really no selection pressure sufficient for those Leopards to start adapting into creatures that can squeeze through six inch wide cracks and use their gills to dive deep enough to catch those tasty fish. All the Leopards are effectively identical, in that they are identically unsuited to take advantage of the new factor in their environment, tasty deep dwelling cave fish. However, I get a feeling you would reject generalizing that sort of example into one of the cases such as you are asking for, so let's just stick to Stochastic Mutation

5 days ago
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High Speed Evolution

Artifakt Re:Falsifiability (282 comments)

Darwin himself was careful to specify what he was arguing for - His first book was, after all "On the Origin of Species", not "On the Origin of Life". His theory is about how existing life divides into distinct groups, and (in a modern version of his phrasings), why species are 'distinguishabe sets with fuzzy boundries', and doesn't really touch on where the first life forms came from, one way or another. We could start from some assumed single primative life form, or imagine a world where there was somehow only one very complex life form, say existing as millions of identical clones, and speciation would still occur, and the mix of species, once formed, would still change over time, according to the theory.

Darwin made predictions which were testable, and could have been falsified - for just one, there's a prediction that the genetic code (unknown at the time), wouldn't allow unlimited blending of traits (Mendel published the first proof of this as a general fact, and Crick and Watson's work in actually discovering the code confirmed it was the sort of coding that didn't allow blendable traits). One problem I see with the "anti-evolutionists", is they keep talking like 'testability' means we have to have two copies of Earth and run the great experiment twice, or there's no testability at all, when a little real familiarity with Darwin's work reveals lots of testable predictions of the same sorts we see in many other works of science. It's sort of like how early critics of Special Relativity dismissed the 1919 solar eclipse test as not sufficient by itself, and people who wanted to reject Relativity on any and all grounds turned that into its not being a test at all in popular discussions. I suspect there's real debate needed about just what the limits of the Theory of Evolution's predictions are, but those debates need to be among people who know what the theory does or doesn't predict, what testability itself means, and other fundamental ideas.

5 days ago
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High Speed Evolution

Artifakt Re:Falsifiability (282 comments)

It's not quite that simple, but you could probably simplify it to a few basic steps, like:
Is there a coding mechanism for heredity? - Yes, the genetic code.
Is there a way to generate new code? - Yes, mutation.
Does that code allow unlimited blending? - No, if it did the two sexes would completely blur together, among many other lesser examples.
Is there selection for fitness? - Yes, not everything gets to reproduce as much as it attempts to, and at least some of that is attributable to being "unfit".

Basically, people can point to examples where limited blurring may occur, or being taken out of the gene pool may have nothing to do with fitness (all dinosaurs are equally unfit to survive a 5 mile wide asteroid strike), or many other such factors, but they aren't really offering any effective criticism of evolution unless they want to claim things like selection or mutation never happen.

This is also why what Darwin did was science. His publication made several testable predictions - that there would be a genetic code, that the code could be altered on occasion, and that it would not allow unlimited blending of traits.

5 days ago
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NY Doctor Recently Back From West Africa Tests Positive For Ebola

Artifakt Re:my thoughts (372 comments)

Some types of mutation are fantastically unlikely - by one account, Ebola would have to mutate into a form that only weighs about 20% or even 10% of what it now does, change from a long, twisted rod to something more like a sphere, and switch the conditions it actually grows under from inside the bloodstream to in the alveolar structures of the lungs to become the sort of threat some people are worried about. There are big differences between viruses frequently mutating and that mutation leading to fast evolutionary selection, but I've tried to explain that on Slashdot too many times to keep hammering at that particular type of ignorance - some people just need to sit down and read a whole good college textbook on Evolution. It may be somewhat reasonable to worry that some mutation in the direction of drug resistance is likely, especially if we don't get this strain under control quickly, but some people are basically describing having a smallish frilled lizard sneak into the country on a piece of driftwood, and six months later, it's stomping buildings flat and breathing radioactive plasma on Mothra, and those same people are too busy spreading rumors to learn anything at all. As they panic at the drop of a hat, people who are actual experts (and not just armchair biology hackers like me) are getting very afraid to say anything at all, because when they give an honest answer that sholdn't cause panic, and might even be a bit reassuring, they expect to be misquoted as saying Ebola will make the Nemesis black hole wander into the inner solar system early and reverse all our magnetic poles, and Raptor riding Jesus will come back and eat our heads, so panic now and avoid the rush!!!

about a week ago
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Soda Pop Damages Your Cells' Telomeres

Artifakt Re:Overly broad? (422 comments)

The 40 to 55% of HFCS that isn't Fructose is Glucose, which triggers insulin production immediately when it reaches the small intestine and is transported into the bloodstream before the insulin reaches it - Insulin is then needed to transport the glucose out of the bolldstream and into muscles and other tissues. Sucrose has to be cleaved first into glucose and only starts triggering insulin production after cleavage by other enzymes. This means, qat the very least, that Sucrose gets farther into the intestine before triggering insulin production, and that the rate of production is limited by the rate at which the sucrose is split and not the much faster rate at which glucose enters the bloodstream. I really don't see how you can call those two processes identical. Note I'm not saying that its been proved the differences in how high and low insulin levels and blood sugar levels get necessarily means there's a difference in health consequences, but its certainly not impossible just because of the fact both forms of sugar get to the same organ before digestion. And what about the part that is Fructose? That's certainly dealt with separately.

about two weeks ago
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The Physics of Why Cold Fusion Isn't Real

Artifakt Re:Why Cold Fusion (or something like it) Is Real (350 comments)

It's possible there are as yet unknown natural laws. It's even possible that there are natural laws our species is just too dumb to discover, ever. But the chance of undiscoverable laws is lower than the more general chance of as yet undiscovered laws.
            In the same way, the chance that there's an as yet undiscovered law which applies to this particular technology, and which has certain properties making it at all likely it gets inadvertently followed sometimes is possible, but is an accumulation of low probablility circumstances, and so has very low overall likelyhood. It's generally more likely that any undicovered laws will be ones where they consistently block getting the technological configuration right. For a simplified example, if there's some undiscovered property of, say, Tungsten, then it's likely to become apparent when people note that all the claims for success come from experiments where tungsten was used for a particular stage of the process in a particular way. There's much less chance that simply having a certain mass of Tungsten within a certain number of feet of the device, whether it's made into a part of the apparatus or light bulb filaments, will make the experiment very likely to succeed in either case.
        Try to describe a hypothetical law that works in such a way it is very hard to spot a pattern or regularity that will lead the researchers to really formally formulating that law, but makes a big enough difference that it determines general success or failure much more than many other variables. Try to craft such a genuinely new law for explaining anything, from apiary colony collapse disorder to zebra camoflage evolution*. I'll bet this results in a very long, convoluted law to explain all the conditions. That's what usually happens with novel approaches - sure every once in a while one pays off big time, but not every discovery is Special Relativity. If you end up with a long formulation, full of various clauses which make it fit all the observations, then what you have is a chain of things, and if any link of that chain is wrong, the whole formulation collapses. If a chain is really only as strong as its weakest link, then a very lengthy chain of logical inferences is a chain with a very low probability of being right.

* why do Zebras have stripes when one of their predators in roughly the same size range has polka-dots (Leopards)?, and another one even closer to Zebras in size is solidly colored (Lions)? Try to develop a new law relating to natural selection that rules out any possibilitys that this is simply happenstance, and yet that doesn't predict what sorts of camoflage any other species should display in case some of the facts don't fit that case.

about two weeks ago
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How Curved Spacetime Can Be Created In a Quantum Optics Lab

Artifakt Re:What equations? (89 comments)

Are they talking about general relativity equations?
That's included, but I think the article and summary are actually getting it right for once. The equations in question are ones that reconcile GR with Quantum Mechanics, and that, in general, means variations on various String or Brane Theories, and quite possibly specifically Supersymmetry, if that's not being completly discarded by the researchers just because CERN is finding preliminary evidence that the simplest and lowest energy Supersymmetry model doesn't work. It's possible some alternatives to those models can also be tested and refined or dismissed, but either way, we really are looking at math where complexity increases result time very, very rapidly. Here's a link for an example of some math used for both Supersymmetry and more general String Theory calculations - If you look at the section specifically about "Stringy theories" calculations, there's a good example of a formula that's obviously, by simple inspection, prone to grow very quickly with added terms for more complex situations, and there's some other quite good examples in the lead up to that section.

Lie superalgebras of string theories
http://arxiv.org/abs/hep-th/97...

(Note: Paper is 22 pages in PDF, and is NOT behind a paywall).

about two weeks ago
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Trans-Pacific Partnership May Endanger World Health, Newly Leaked Chapter Shows

Artifakt Re:freedoms f----d (132 comments)

I'm sure that the parent poster can define their own use of the term "rent seeking", but in case you're genuinely unaware of the more common uses of the term, in general, it involves taking a situation where an item or good is normally fully owned by the person who bought it, and making it a situation where the item or good is somewhat changed, so that it must be paid for by perpetual fees, without the payer gaining all the rights they had in the older situation. "Rent seeking" is not the same thing as merely choosing a rental model for seeking profit, rather it's placing blocks before those potential customers who want to instead own the good or item and all the rights that are normally associated with owning that particular item..

                For example, if I own a physical copy of a book, one of the things I may value is that I can use that copy to detect when someone edits the text of a new edition to change what the author actually wrote, particularly if that change is to the author's views on philosophical, political or religious ideas. If my copy of a book is in rented storage 'in the cloud', ownership doesn't come with that ability anymore. Even if storage is made dependent on a one time fee, as for a physical purchase, the persons controlling access gain the ability to charge rent to those persons who want all the rights everybody once had (in this case, casual users may not see a difference, but universities and such can be manipulated into paying regular fees for access to verified, un-tampered-with editions or databases).

              Rent-seeking frequently involves lieing, for example by arguing that ownership never meant you could do absolutely anything you wanted with property, so a publicly ratified speed limit is equivalent to a private lease contract where you agree to let the carmaker give your personal payment data to all insurance companies and receive fees from them. It also involves special privilege (in the most literal meaning of that word, private law) in legislation - for example, the laws in most US states which state there is a contract attached to purchase of a movie theater ticket, even though the patrons don''t see or sign that contract. Such associated methodologies are often an indication that the goal is not merlely to offer something for rent voluntarily, but to coerce.

about two weeks ago
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How Nigeria Stopped Ebola

Artifakt Re: It only takes one ... (381 comments)

The experts only screwed up if it turns out that a low grade fever of less than 100.4 F actually indicates the Ebola patient has entered the contagious stage. (Her fever reached 99.5 F, less than a degree above normal.). What reasonable people here are debating is whether the current standard rules are enough or if we should adjust them further to 'err on the side of caution'. Personally, I would go with more caution by the CDC, AND more caution by the airline, but carry that far enough, and we take a flamethrower to a perfectly good airplane. Constant calls for more caution have associated costs, and need to come from people who generally think about consequences.
            Unfortunately, some people in the discussion are neither reasonable nor unbiased. Bill O'Riley for example, is calling for mass firings and resignations at the CDC, going all the way to the top, but has been unwilling to even criticise the fact that his own party has blocked selecting a new surgeon general for seven months. If America does end up with Tens of Thousands dead, it will be because of people who are so political that they want immediate reprisals against people of the other party they think may have made mistakes that may contribute to deaths in the future, but no action taken when we already have at least one actual death and clear indications of actual negligence, unless there's political capital to be made and it doesn't step on anyone in their own party's toes.

about two weeks ago
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Technology Heats Up the Adultery Arms Race

Artifakt Re:Already gone (304 comments)

When I and the ex got divorced, we got one really good lawyer for both of us, and split the cost. He helped keep things amicable, and didn't charge a lot because we didn't create a lot of work, but it was still only borderline worth it. The kids were already grown, and we ended up getting back together in a few months although we still haven't bothered to remarry, so a lot of what the lawyer's fees bought us was intangibles, such as having the hearing privately in the judge's chambers instead of in open court. Those things matter more to some people than others.
        There were some legal issues we might not have thought of on our own, like reworking some power of attorney forms for things like taking our nieces or nephews to hospitals for emergency admission when either of us was baby-sitting, or making sure the state knew what to do about her last name. (A good lawyer in such a case should be able to tell you if your state usually screws something up - mine at the time, usually automatically decreed that the female partner now was known by her maiden name again, and filed appropriate forms with about half the state agencys and no federal agencies to get it 'corrected', on roughly half the female partner's personal records, if you just used internet standard forms and filed it yourselves - OTOH in an acrimonious case, lawyers have been known to file forms to get the other person added to the no-fly lists under false pretenses and similar dirty tricks, so doing it yourself may be better for everyone than picking a lawyer that fights dirtier than you want him to. I recommend a lawyer who's good in both senses - competent and ethical.).
          I hate to say it, but if the two parties are in a situation such as one of them having a security clearance, or a foreign bank account, or a special needs child, or many, many other circumstances, the couple should talk to a lawyer even if they don't get separate representation - that's because most states have at least a few really badly implemented or archaic laws on the books, which will turn out to bite one or both of you on the ass about a year after you thought the divorce was final. I am not a lawyer, but I am a tax professional, and I have seen IRS audits where the agents involved seemed to regard the couple filing for divorce without a lawyer as Ipso-Facto proof of intent to evade on some failure to pay taxes on foreign account cases. I have even heard of a case where the couple resisted both attending the audit together, only to be compelled to go through the audit with armed agents present. The IRS claimed to simply have interpreted the pair's reluctance as possible fear of the other partner and so provided security on their behalf. That may have been the case, but it does sound rather intimidating, and the claim that they were doing it because of concerns expressed by the clients would probably mean there was no effective way to object.

about two weeks ago
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Oxytocin Regulates Sociosexual Behavior In Female Mice

Artifakt Re: This is why I only fuck other men. (216 comments)

He can't help it, Oxytocin is regulating his socio-sexual behavior. Or mice are. Either way, welcome to Slashdot, newguy, hang around for a bit and you'll see posts a lot more ignorant than that one.

about three weeks ago
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Experts Decry Randomized Ebola Treatment Trials As Unethical, Impractical

Artifakt Re:Beecher was a fraud! (193 comments)

The Placebo Effect is known to have at least one huge flaw in its theory. There have been several experiments involving Placebo Opiates and Placebo Opiate Antagonists in double blind studies with real drugs of both kinds, and the researchers doing them have pretty much disproved that the Placebo Effect works in any of the ways theories say it might.
            In fact, one prominent researcher said of these studies, he was now of the opiniion that it was not possible to phrase whatever was really happening in a natural language, and he could not offer a theory that fit all the facts without it sounding like "Four-sided, colorless, green triangles meditate furiously. Other researchers have simply pointed out that, in their tests, the explanations of what should be expected in using placebo opiates simply don't have any pedictive ability when the tests also mix in treating those addicted patients with possible placebo antagonists, and left it at that.

about three weeks ago
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Experts Decry Randomized Ebola Treatment Trials As Unethical, Impractical

Artifakt Re:Our PC society will be our demise! (193 comments)

The point is, you can define "liberal" to the stage where Reagan, Nixon, and even Goldwater were 'liberals", just as Fox news insists that ALL the other media outlets are liberal.
Remember the tax rebates of 2008 and 2009? It's estimated that individual consumer spending drives about 68-70% of all economic investment in the USA - in fact, the 2014 estimate for that is exactly 70.0%. Just about everyone in economic circles accepts this number, maybe with a few minor quibbles. That means a neutral (not conservative, not liberal, not supply side, not demand driven tax rebate would have been about 70% to individual consumers). Both the Bush and Obama year tax rebates were about 32-33% individual consumer and 68-67% business breaks, ergo, the "liberal" Obama tax rebate was weighted about 2 to 1 towards the ultra conservative end of supply side economics. Here's one of very few areas where there is a clear, unbiased, objective definition of where the line between left and right is, and by that test, the Obama administration is extremely conservative, as is damned near everybody elected these days.
        As much as I like treating the whole left v. right model as terribly over-simplified and using at least a dual axis model, and as much as I can respect your arguement about autoritarianism, the position that Eisenhower looks like a (modern) Democrat is simply factual. The Republicans may have shifted more towards an interventionist model in foreign affairs, or supported big government spending more than they once did, but that's not the biggest change - the Republicans haven't failed by drifting towards the Democrats on a few key issues, and only need to reform themselves merely by getting back to their "small government" roots. The real difference is between a party that is now 99% for whatever the MIC stakeholders want and a party that is only about 55% for the same thing. Until there are Republicans who want to cut MIC related spending and not just "social" spending to reign in big government, there is no meaningful distinction between a fiscal conservative and a neocon or a tea-partyist. Hell, until the Republicans get a single candidate that even admits the objective fact that cutting ALL of what they themselves define as social spending includes cutting the VA budget too, the idea of a populist Republican remains an oxymoron on the level of Nice, Sweet, Wholesome, Axe-wielding, Coked-up, Nazi, Mansonite Xenomorph. Not that I'm saying Republicans are monsters, just that their policies nowdays have contradictions that are ultimately at the very far ends of ANY normal or same spectrum, and leave them saying things that are literally impossibly self contradictory with every position they take.

about three weeks ago
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FBI Says It Will Hire No One Who Lies About Illegal Downloading

Artifakt Re:Polygraph (580 comments)

What's an ideal IQ? 200? 500? The scale is open ended at the top, and even a perfect score on different tests equates to a different maximum.

  Plus, I'm pretty sure that your "less than ideal" would apply to some of the most brilliant people in history (James Clerk Maxwell, estimated IQ 115 (note that people who achieved something that applied to practical discipline, such as engineering or medicine, seldom did it nearly as early as precocious musicians and novelists, and so are always estimated lower unless the estimater includes a fudge factor. Mozart gets estimated much higher than Beethoven without that, because he started at 6, not 22. The way the fudge factor is calculated is to simply set both those great musicians to an (apparently arbitrary) 165, and adjust for age of first composition based on that ratio in calculating other historic musicians scores - this makes Wagner among the very elite, and Bach only 'fair to middlin').
          Or try Charles Darwin, and Copernicus, both estimated IQ 160, (The same score, as Dolph Lungren's actual test results). President Bush (41) scored a 98 - his son Bush (43) scored 125. Steven Hawking scored "only" 160, same as the estimated score for Einstein - both are eclipsed by actor James Woods and John Sunnunu (180 actual score each)
          President Carter scored at least 10 points above any other president or presidential candidate of the 20th or early 21st centuries, and of the current crop, Hillary Clinton is 5 points lower than Carter, but still beats everybody else that has shown any interest in running this time by at least anoher 10 points.

So I'm going to take this oportunity to deride the test - look maw, I'm a hipster!

about three weeks ago
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Carl Sagan, as "Mr. X," Extolled Benefits of Marijuana

Artifakt Re:Sagan was talented individual and hard working (263 comments)

Einstein used to claim that average people were much closer to being geniuses than they had been trained to believe.

"I am neither especially clever nor especially gifted. I am only very, very curious." - Albert Einstein

Your "Hard work, imagination, creativity..." (and curiosity, as in the quote above), were all things Einstein thought could be cultivated by anyone who wanted to be wiser or smarter, and would let anyone create the sort of ideas he was famous for creating.

On imagination, he said "Imagination is more important than knowledge." - Albert Einstein

Yet, he also praised even the lsss disciplined forms of imagination:

"The gift of fantasy has meant more to me than my talent or absorbing positive knowledge." - Albert Einstein

Given that he thought many people were capable of genius far beyond what they actually did, he may well have believed that taking some risks, such as drugs, could have positive outcomes in freeing up that genius. It's not like Einstein was still around when most of the psychoactives became famous/infamous, so I wouldn't care to bet money he would have been either ardently anit-drug or pro-drug in that respect, but I suspect he would have thought the people considering drugs as paths to understanding the universe at least deserved credit for wanting to understand the universe, instead of taking the drugs common in his day, which seemed to promise mostly mindless obliteration (alcohol and the opiates and barbiturates).

about three weeks ago
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Carl Sagan, as "Mr. X," Extolled Benefits of Marijuana

Artifakt Re:1996 called (263 comments)

Cheech and Chong had more than 'a little too much' cannabis. They got all the 3 Digit ID users shares, and most of Carl's.

about three weeks ago
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Proposed Hab Module For Asteroid Redirect Mission Could Support a Lunar Return

Artifakt Re:Why send humans now (55 comments)

I like human exploration, but I tend to the opposite motivation from a lot of space fans. I don't want us to go out there because we have really screwed Earth up and simply have to find some other place and try again. That seems like a lousy motivation. The idea that we could screw Earth up enough that it would be easier to terraform Mars or something should be very disturbing and frightening to us, a strong motivator to fix what we are doing wrong right here instead of cut and run.
            As we discover new things we can do in physics, learn to hack our own biology and how Earth's ecology works, as we get more data on whether there are Earth-like planets in other systems, maybe find evidence of life on other worlds, we are going to actually know something about how hard it is to change ourselves for space, how hard to change other worlds to suit us, and what environments can support life of what kinds. I suspect there will be moments when we learn some things and say "Aha!, Now we know how to succeed at doing X, and why we shouldn't waste lives and resources on Y.", but we need a lot more such moments first. I'm willing to bet that learning more, fixing things right here, and maturing as a species will lead to a time when there will be obvious reasons for a stable, long term human presence in space. I even suspect we can make this world the sort of place that other space faring species, organic or machine, might want to have for a neighbor.
            Cleaning up our own act here may one day make human expansion in space possible - deciding 'here is too hard, but out there will be easier' is the perspective of madmen. Learning more about how to keep people sane and interacting for mutual benefit is something we need to accomplish for right here and now, even if it may someday help a long term mission crew stay on task. Recrafting our educational system so our best and brightest don't spend the first third of their lives just getting through school is something that we need for here and now, even if it may also give us explorers who are skilled enough to survive while still young enough to live through even lengthier missions. Stabilizing this world's climate is something we need here and now, even if we may one day use that knoweldge to warm Mars. Yes, there are things we won't learn until we try space, but those things are built on a foundation of things we need to know for right here and now, and we need that foundation built first or we can learn nothing by going into space.
              Even that stirring "space nutter" speech at the end of H G Wells' "Things to Come" follows after mankind has ended war, recovered the Earth's surface in rolling meadows and mighty forests, and built great cities and power, food and communications networks for everyone, and ensured universal education and healthcare. Wells saw those as the baby steps we had to master before trying for the stars.

about three weeks ago
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Texas Ebola Patient Dies

Artifakt Re:21 day incubation period... (487 comments)

The 1918 flu had infection rates of around 50%, with a 20% mortality among those infected. The young and apparently healthy group of fatalities was actually larger than the old, sick or 'messed up before they got it' group, but most casualties fit one or the other of the two categories - reasonably healthy middle aged people seldom died of it. Yes, the mortality among the infected was lower than ebola is now, but we literally don't know how big a difference that may make from what will probably be much less than 20% infected but with 50% or possibly higher mortality. Right now, I wouldn't say much lower chance. Overall, even if ebola somehow completely overloads modern medicine in first world countries, the results in a worst case scenario would in fact be pretty similar to the 1918 flu, just fewer actually getting it but with a higher chance of dieing if they do, and similar overall numbers. By the way, the 1918 was determined to be an H1N1 variant, so people might want to get flu shots any year that's one of the three types they combine for that year's shot, even if they don't get them otherwise.

about three weeks ago

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