Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!



US House Science Committee Member: Evolution Is a Lie From Hell

Sparky McGruff Re:Fire him (1113 comments)

The question isn't "Can you prove creationism". It's "What evidence would you accept that would DISprove creationism." There are lots of things that could be found that would cause us to throw huge chunks of evolutionary theory in the trash heap. I can't imagine that a "young earth creationist" would ever tell you that any evidence would make them change their mind. If it's impossible to disprove, then any argument is a waste of time.

about 2 years ago

Researchers Identify Genetic Systems Disrupted In Autistic Brain

Sparky McGruff Re:Extreme News Flash! (167 comments)

There are multiple genetic factors that are strongly linked to Autism. That's not really a huge debate in the field. None of the factors are absolute: they don't guarantee the occurrence of autism, instead, they are associated with increased risk.

This isn't a novelty in the psychiatric genetics world. The same holds true for schizophrenia, depression and other mood disorders, and most other brain disorders for that matter. It is likely that this has to do with an interaction between disease genes and environmental factors, other genetic factors, or with stochastic (random) processes.

It's not that different than most other complex diseases. For example, you may carry a risk allele for heart disease. If you follow the right diet, and have a blissful, stress-free life, you might be in luck. But, if you're carrying a second risk allele (whoops!), or down a few too many Big Macs... that risk allele will bite you in the ass. For that matter, even if you do take care of yourself, that risk allele may still bite you in the ass. It's an odds game, and each risk factor makes the odds that much worse.

As for your "experiment that everyone conveniently chooses to forget"-- there's an extensive literature of twins with Autism. It also shows that there is a strong genetic component, but it's not absolute. The concordance of Autism in twins is extremely high -- but not absolute. However, even identical twins have significant differences -- yes, even genetically. And, even though they may share the same womb, they may have siginficant differences in fetal nutrition (depending on how the placenta is located), and they may be subject to different gestational stresses or birth trauma.

In other words -- nobody's conveniently forgetting anything.

more than 2 years ago

New Cable Designed To Deter Copper Thieves

Sparky McGruff Re:$60 million a year business (668 comments)

That means... Copper thieves are the real Job Creators!

more than 2 years ago

Why Published Research Findings Are Often False

Sparky McGruff Re:Science? (453 comments)

Or, to put it more charitably, medicine and psychology are far describing far more complex phenomenon than we like to admit.

For example, in psychiatric genetics, there are dozens of articles every year that find a new gene associated with a common and important condition (e.g. autism, schizophrenia, depression). After each new finding comes out, there are dozens of labs that try to replicate that finding, usually one or two replicate (or partially replicate) the finding, and five or six don't replicate it. Why is it so hard to replicate these findings? Probably because there are really dozens of independent genes that contribute to these complex disorders (probably in combination with each other), and some populations tend to have mutations in one set, while other populations tend to have mutations in another set.

We're moving towards understanding, but the disorders are far more complex than the assumption that there will be a single cause.

more than 3 years ago

How Much Math Do We Really Need?

Sparky McGruff Re:I kinda agree with him (1153 comments)

Why stop with Calculus? The path of modern medicine is being decided by people who can't tell a stem cell from a potato, or tell the difference between genes and jeans. We have epidemics of diseases that were largely eradicated because people aren't getting vaccinations. And we have lawmakers and voters deciding on nuclear energy and chemical waste disposal who haven't the slightest idea about what they're deciding. Calculus won't help that.

more than 3 years ago

How Much Math Do We Really Need?

Sparky McGruff Re:Not much literature either (1153 comments)

I don't know about the deep meta-analysis, but I agree that scientific papers use many of the same skills as literature. Having written more than my fair share of published scientific papers, and having been on the other side as a reviewer quite a few times, I can't stress how important it is that a manuscript needs to tell a damn story. It needs to have a point, and each paragraph needs to sell the reader on that idea. Perhaps it's not Dickens, but a paper that doesn't tell a story that the reader can follow ends up on the scrap heap in a hurry.

more than 3 years ago

Deleting Certain Gene Makes Mice Smarter

Sparky McGruff Re:The Rain Mouse? (259 comments)

There are plenty of brain issues that aren't well modeled in mice, such as anything involving the prefrontal cortex (the front of the brain, where most of the higher-order thoughts reside). Mice just don't really have a true prefrontal cortex, which is where we do much of our higher-order thinking. The cousin of this gene, RGS4, showed up as a candidate gene for schizophrenia; mice lacking the gene are largely unaffected. The same case is true for most mouse models of psychiatric disorders, for that matter.

Also, there's not that much literature on RGS14 at this point (it doesn't seem to have come up in any of the GWAS -- wide scale genome association studies) for psychiatric disorders, but it has been identified in molecular studies as a target of P53 (a central cancer regulatory mechanism). It would not be out of the question for this knockout to have a significant increase in cancer risk (brain or elsewhere), but not have this detected in a small-scale study.

more than 3 years ago

Blippy Exposes Credit Card Numbers Through Simple Google Search

Sparky McGruff Re:Philip Kaplan? (95 comments)

No, it's "Pud" from F-d company. Pull the wiki page on Blippy, and it points to Pud's page, complete with a photo with him wearing a "I'd rather be masturbating" t-shirt. Sure, I'll trust my credit card numbers to Pud. No problem.

more than 4 years ago

The Lancet Recants Study Linking Autism To Vaccine

Sparky McGruff Appropos of slashdot.. (590 comments)

I haven't seen anyone mention that the growth in Autism spectrum disorders may be partially due to geek lovin'.

more than 4 years ago

Electric Bicycles Surging In Popularity

Sparky McGruff Re:Energy (533 comments)

There are no showers at the office so I just take it easy on the way to work to avoid getting sweaty.

And there, in a nutshell, is why many commuters like the idea of an electric assisted bike.

more than 4 years ago

Scientists and Lawyers Argue For Open US DNA Database

Sparky McGruff Re:chimps have 97% of human DNA (120 comments)

The jury is not there as an expert in forensic science

The jury is also not an expert in eyewitness testimony.

Expertise in any subject area that is likely to come up in a trial will almost certainly get you excluded from the Jury pool.

more than 4 years ago

Midwest Seeing Red Over 'Green' Traffic Lights

Sparky McGruff Re:Too bad we don't have rules to deal with this (839 comments)

I don't brake at every green light, but I do sometimes wait a half a second or two when the light turns green to make sure that the dumbasses have finished running the red light, rather than just jump on the gas and get t-boned. Are you the type that is in the car behind me laying on the horn 0.01 milliseconds after the light turns green, or indignant that I don't make a left turn in the path of an oncoming cement truck?

more than 4 years ago

Why Do So Many Terrorists Have Engineering Degrees

Sparky McGruff Re:Eh (736 comments)

Actually, it's more like a "cytokine storm" than anaphylactic shock. The response is toxic, and builds on itself in positive feedback loop.

more than 4 years ago

Man Tries To Use Explosive Device On US Flight

Sparky McGruff Re:Wonderful (809 comments)

Add in sitting in Houston for 16 hours for "mechanical problems" on the connecting flight, and lose my luggage, and you've got a deal.

more than 4 years ago

Russians Claim More Climate Data Was Manipulated

Sparky McGruff Re:Why Are We Deferring to an Economic Organizatio (715 comments)

And for some reason, we're not demanding they open the sequencing data on the cancer gene we just accepted that story and we trusted those scientists.

Are you sure we're not? I haven't seen a published genomics paper in years that doesn't have the raw data accessible in some form. It's a requirement for most major journals, as well as from most funding sources. If you want to publish, you release the data.

I agree with you that every moron thinks they can analyze the climate data better than the entire field of climatologists. Relatively few people think they understand particle physics better than the people at CERN; but somehow everyone thinks they're an expert on climate change after reading a few headlines that they instinctively disagree with (although they don't actually understand). Science is rarely a good spectator sport.

more than 4 years ago

$26 of Software Defeats American Military

Sparky McGruff Re:Sh..... (534 comments)

Some of them, yes, were certainly the "best and brightest". The problem isn't with the personnel in the military that are operating this technology, it's with the corrupt procurement system. These systems were designed and built by the big defense contractors, and they were paid handsomely to do so. There's no incentive for them to be cost-effective, or to go above the minimum requirements. Heck, if they don't meet the minimum requirements they'll get a new contract to fix their mistakes in a few years. These systems take so long to get in place that they're outdated by the time they hit the ground. And the way they are designed, spec'd, and implemented means that simple updates take years and billions of dollars.

more than 4 years ago

Scientific Journal Nature Finds Nothing Notable In CRU Leak

Sparky McGruff Re:Nice try (736 comments)

And lastly...I'm sorry but if the friggin tree ring data is not valid for assessing temperature after 1960, then it is not valid assessing temperature before 1960.

There's about a million possible reasons why tree-ring observations don't seem to work for relatively recent data. It's possible that newly formed tree rings change somewhat in the 30 or 40 years after they are initially formed until they reach a "stable" form. It's possible that the substantial increases in CO2 in the atmosphere in recent years has altered the way that tree rings form.

All measurement methods have their anomalies. MRI scans are a great way to look at the structure of the brain, but they have substantial distortions, that change from machine to machine. Some of these have to do with the type of machine, and some distortions are due to things like the earth's magnetic field or the building that houses the machine. Those have to be corrected for, and it's standard practice. And, scans of young children don't give the same results, because the brain structures haven't matured, so it's difficult if not impossible to distinguish many brain structures. That doesn't mean it's not a useful method, but one does need to keep the limitations and difficulties of each measuring methodology in mind.

There are very accurate temperature measurements recorded for many places dating back to the late 1700s, recorded using a thermometer. If the tree rings for those areas match very well for the 150 years prior to 1960, but begin to diverge after that, it wouldn't be that outrageous to suggest that the inability to use them as a measurement proxy for recent times is just a limitation of the system.

It would be nice to have perfect measurements for everything. However, for those of us in the real world, all measurements have errors and limitations, and we have to adapt for these. Simply dumping uncorrected, uncalibrated, or inaccurate measurements into the pool of data does not make things clearer.

more than 4 years ago


Sparky McGruff hasn't submitted any stories.


Sparky McGruff has no journal entries.

Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>