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Scientists Sequence Coffee Genome, Ponder Genetic Modification

m.shenhav Precautionary Principle (167 comments)

I agree whole heartedly. Here is a recent, rigorous and relevant paper advocating a non-naive precautionary principle (much like you are): http://www.fooledbyrandomness....

about two weeks ago

Study: Dinosaurs "Shrank" Regularly To Become Birds

m.shenhav Re:Bad phrasing (138 comments)

First of all, the phrasing can very well refer to cladel trends (this is how I would interpret it in a technical text), in which case it kinda makes sense (while being admittadly somewhat ambiguous) to speak of Dinosaurs shrinking. Second of all, I resent the implicit conflation of evolution with natural selection espoused by your last sentence. Yes, this is evolution. No, this does not automatically mean every phenomenon is explained by selection (despite what adaptationists try to sell you).

about a month and a half ago

Researchers Find "Achilles Heel" of Drug Resistant Bacteria

m.shenhav Re:Easier (106 comments)

I completely agree; we need sane preventitive health measures to become a priority. It is well known that this is also where the most is to be gained. However - antibiotics are still nice to have for those very extreme and nasty cases. I just hope we start learning to use them only when they are really needed.

about 3 months ago

Does Crime Leave a Genetic Trace?

m.shenhav Re:Lamarck Vindicated? (160 comments)

It depends what you mean by Lamarckian evolution.

Lamarck's theory of evolution was teleological and argued that evolution tended towards complexity in a deterministic way. His inclusion of Soft Inheritance - inheritance of characteristics acquired during the lifetime of the organism - was peripheral and placed in order to explain adaptation of organisms to the environment. What was later called (perhaps misleadingly) (Neo)-Lamarckianism argued that most of the evolutionary phenomenology is best explained by a process where soft inheritance is predominant in frequency or even exclusive.

Now - the discovery of epigenetic mechanisms of soft inheritance has demonstrated a mechanism by which soft inheritance occurs but does not vindicate the theory that soft inheritance is significant in the evolutionary process. But I would not dismiss this type of inheritance as insignificant just because it is not altering the genetic sequence inside the chromosome; cultural inheritance of language is not genetic but is significant in humans.

Note the mistake Impy the Impiuos Imp made in assigning a specific genetic mechanism to Lamarckianism; the mechanisms of inheritance were not known when Lamarckianism was formulated, and when in the first half of the 20th century Mendel's work was rediscovered and genetic theory began to develop support for Lamarckian theories dropped. Few if any would support a contention that Lamarckian forces dominate evolution, but now we have mechanistic support for the idea that soft inheritance does play some role in evolution along with other forces.

about 7 months ago

How To Better Verify Scientific Research

m.shenhav Re:So now we're all skeptics... (197 comments)

Oh so Popper's Falsificationism is the be-all and end-all of what constitutes science? I guess I was mistaken when I thought there is far more subtlety and detail in the philosophy of science.....

about a year ago

How To Better Verify Scientific Research

m.shenhav One dogma in a list of many...... (197 comments)

...... and I am happy its finally being acknowledged and tackled more openly.

about a year ago

Bacteria Behaviour Can Shed Light On How Financial Markets Work

m.shenhav the abstract doesn't mention finance at all (91 comments)

the Abstract:

"Understanding how populations and communities respond to competition is a central concern of ecology. A seminal theoretical solution first formalised by Levins (and re-derived in multiple fields) showed that, in theory, the form of a trade-off should determine the outcome of competition. While this has become a central postulate in ecology it has evaded experimental verification, not least because of substantial technical obstacles. We here solve the experimental problems by employing synthetic ecology. We engineer strains of Escherichia coli with fixed resource allocations enabling accurate measurement of trade-off shapes between bacterial survival and multiplication in multiple environments. A mathematical chemostat model predicts different, and experimentally verified, trajectories of gene frequency changes as a function of condition-specific trade-offs. The results support Levins' postulate and demonstrates that otherwise paradoxical alternative outcomes witnessed in subtly different conditions are predictable."

YES both biological and financial systems involve trade-off and evolutionary dynamics. NO those are still not necessarily good analogues for one another......

about a year ago

How Climate Scientists Parallel Early Atomic Scientists

m.shenhav Re:Science? (440 comments)

THAT'S RIGHT! Because the Popperian criterion for demarcation is the only criterion - its completely infallible - and nobody has done any work on the philosophy of science in the last century except for Popper.

about a year ago

The Men Trying To Save Us From the Machines

m.shenhav The Biological Perspective..... (161 comments)

..... might be beneficial here - we can see technological evolution as something related to sociocultural evolution (the evolution of socially transmittable behaviors). The industrial revolution creating machines which produce copies of another artifact or even tool. Ours is a Technological and SocioCultural as well as Genetic Ecosystem with interdependency, and slowly we approach the point where some machines reproduce themselves - indeed if you see software as a virtual machine and GMOs as biotechnology than this is already happening.

Now all Ecosystems tend to have fragility; organic networks can also have fractal degree distributions with massive hub points which introduce the possibility of catastrophic tail events. Man made networks have had a tendency to be even more skewed distributions than other organic systems. So for me the intelligence of the technology is less relevant to its Virulence and its Evolutionary and Ecological impact on the Biosphere, Technosphere and Nusphere.

about a year ago

The public sector in direst need of reform is ...

m.shenhav Ordering Bias? (405 comments)

Is there such a thing as bias towards earlier options in a poll question?

about a year ago

Device Can Extract DNA With Full Genetic Data In Minutes

m.shenhav other tech can't replicate yet (95 comments)

The main problem with your argument is - the only technology that can replicate itself these days is biotech. This and the incredibly low (and exponentially dropping) prices of this technology are the real reasons we must be far more cautious with biotechnology than other technologies. Sooner will a nutjob create a superbug in a garage lab than he would create skynet.

about a year ago

British Woman's Twitter Comments Spark Expensive Libel Claims

m.shenhav Am I the only one...... (303 comments)

....who thinks slander is a strange thing to ban legally? As a skeptic it seems both epistemically and pragmatically difficult to work with such laws, and I feel we should try and create unlegislated social pressure to help the truth float to the surface instead.

about a year and a half ago

Ask Slashdot: Advice For Summer Before Ph.D. Program?

m.shenhav Re:Start working on your dissertation (228 comments)

Sorry but that is some grade A B#!!$#!%. Some of the best ideas come in down time - procrastination is in fact a virtue. Giving yourself the space and time to read something outside your field, to do some sports, to dance and read poetry, have fun in whatever way you want - these are things that make you a better scholar. Being stressed 24/7 does not. I will avoid the rant about how a post like yours represents some of the things that are so screwed up about the current academic system.

about a year and a half ago

Ask Slashdot: Software To Help Stay On Task?

m.shenhav Re:80% vs 20% (301 comments)

Actually the 20-80 rule is much more widely applicable than sales alone. It reflects a certain fractal geometry in the distribution of many kinds of events. The name is a bit of a simplification - obviously often the distribution may be less or more extreme (like when 99.9% of all movement in a particular stock price occurs in 0.1% of the time it is traded).

Now - I can't cite a paper but a buddy of mine is an evolutionary psychologist who told me they estimate that in the ancestral environment, humans worked 3-4 hours a day. Max. The rest of the time was spent hanging around, eating or having sex. Such power law behavior seem to me to be present in several forms of human behavior - although to be fair this is pure speculation on my part.

about a year and a half ago

Ask Dr. Robert Bakker About Dinosaurs and Merging Science and Religion

m.shenhav Re:Science is the antithesis of religion... (528 comments)

I have read the God Delusion. He does indeed say he is not attacking Spinoza's Pantheistic view, and that he can't refute the Deist god. But again he has a chiefly western and modern bias with regards to this stuff - so he exclude two or three western conception of god which really aren't much different than the Cartesian Mechanistic worldview, and than assumes all other gods are conceived as omniscient omnipotent and real (as opposed to metaphoric) beings. But this is not what I am talking about. On the outside many religions have a seemingly supernatural god, which upon further study is revealed to be a subjective experience of the ineffable. This is more like philosophy than religion (to those who have not studied religion much).

Religion is also able to discard old ideas - it is true that most don't do so nearly as quickly as science does, but again this probably serves and evolutionary function (in the Sociocultural Dual Inheritance sense). If you don't believe that statement you should have a look at the history of religion (not that I contend it always evolved in the right direction). I don't support the (organized, centralized) Church, not do I support the Academic system as it stands now. Both are full of Agency Problems and Dogmas; in science the dogma is methodological largely. Religion and Science are both like any other body of knowledge and skill, they can be used or abused.

about a year and a half ago

Ask Dr. Robert Bakker About Dinosaurs and Merging Science and Religion

m.shenhav Re:Science is the antithesis of religion... (528 comments)

People have already covered the Pragmatic sides to this, and the issues of not taking religion too seriously and using it as a metaphor.

I would add that while it may seem from the Exoteric doctrines (i.e. what most people consider religion) that religion is about believing particular statements, it has been my experience that the Esoteric doctrine (i.e. what you learn when you study the subject a bit more deeply) are actually advocating extreme skepticism of human capacity to describe and understand reality in the rational sense. Indeed many of the Philosophical Skeptics have been religious.

In any case if you are Skeptic you would not take beliefs - Scientific, Religious or otherwise - too seriously. Its amusing because you see Atheists like Dawkins argue against a position of believing such a narrow conception of what god is that he misses the point. What if the Divine is simply a term used to describe the Ineffable - the Immeasurable - the Indescribable in the universe?

After all - the idea that reality has Immutable Laws that we can discover which govern its function is completely speculative and unfalsifiable. Not to say we should not try and find them, but this search has a subjective and objective part. Take a guess which discipline deals with which part.....

about a year and a half ago

Ask Dr. Robert Bakker About Dinosaurs and Merging Science and Religion

m.shenhav Skepticism, Science and Religion (528 comments)

Having been an Atheist and a Naive Rationalist in the past, it appears to me differences in the use of language obscures religion to modern Rationalists and Realists. I have come to see the essence of religion as a pure skepticism of human ability to describe and understand reality beyond experiencing it directly.

It seems that many in both Science and Religion tend to take their beliefs too seriously - resulting in fundamentalism. Do you think Skepticism, Humor and a Common Language based on it could help bridge the gap between positions? If so, how?

about a year and a half ago

Cities' Heat Can Affect Temperatures 1000+ Miles Away

m.shenhav Re:Cities being more Green? (263 comments)

Yes, I got that we are talking about per capita. And yes I can imagine that per capita greenhouse emissions are lower in cities, my problem is with the assertion that this is so for ALL kinds of pollution. The arguments in the replies seem to make sense, just as the arguments in the article seem to make sense. I completely agree that if I live in the country side and get the same goods delivered as a city person I would pollute more - in greenhouse emissions. But I am talking about a situation where most of the things I consume on a regular basis are available locally. I am not talking about people living in a house and commuting one or two hours to do the shopping or work, I mean more those living off the land (admittedly a naive assumption but valid for some people). That said I have little to no idea about the relative impact of particular types of good on this, so I can't measure the impact well.

I just have my doubts because I have the feeling high concentrations of human population might have some unforeseen consequences. In any with regards to tmosley's post I must reply that I don't try to explain the growth in population by Malthusian terms - I am saying that the more strain we put on ecosystems to feed us, the most likely we are to suffer from random fluctuations (kind of like the Irish potato famine).

I just have a hard time believing such simplified black-and-white explanations which don't seem to account for the nuances in complex systems.

about a year and a half ago

Cities' Heat Can Affect Temperatures 1000+ Miles Away

m.shenhav Cities being more Green? (263 comments)

Did anybody else smell something funky when reading the assertion that Cities are more environmentally friendly than the countryside? The first article linked seemed to talk only about lower emissions resulting from more efficient per capita household energy consumption and transportation costs. I wonder what would happen if we account for all the other goods the urbanite consumes, the emissions for their transportation, etc. After all Industry plays the bigger role in pollution. And that is not even to mention that pollution is not a one-dimensional variable, but a highly complex concept involved intense non-linearities. As we have seen above - again we see shit is more complicated than we gave it credit.

What really made me sick about the article (which you see everywhere these days) is the assertion that since the population will grow to the size of 9 billion people "we must accommodate this growth". Yay! Lets grow the human population until we reach the very boundary of the planet's capacity so that random fluctuations can result in major catastrophes and risk life on the planet for the whole human race!

Its not like I think country side dwellers are saints - I am sure they consume and pollute more than they did a few hundred years ago - its just I recon that the null hypothesis should be "low concentrations of human population are less polluting the high concentrations". Don't mistake this for an argument for everyone going to the countryside - I argue for limiting population growth. The ecosystems we live in are highly non-linear and this means we can be facing extreme fluctuations as the result of relatively small events. This is an argument for environmental conservatism - and the argument made well by Nassim Taleb in his new book is that when dealing with complex systems fraught with non-linearities which evolved over long time we should assume anything we do effects the system adversely, and the opposite assertion is the one that needs proving.

about a year and a half ago

My cumulative GPA, thus far:

m.shenhav Re:Pure Math GPA 3.0 :( (441 comments)

I don't have a similar experience, but I do study mathematics (soon to graduate if I can stay off slashdot for long enought to study).

After overcoming naive grand delusions about the applicability of analytical models in the real world, I have two recommendations:
1. Learn to Program. The intuition and skills gained in mathematics are often applied using programming, so this would immediately put some of your knowledge to use.
2. Read the work of Nassim Taleb. I am not sure what kind of mathematics you studied - but in my case his work showed me some incredible new methodology for mathematical analysis under uncertainty. The advantage here is this method is quick, simple, powerful and doesn't require a highly advanced mathematical insight.

Admittedly the second point is somewhat speculative - the arguments by Taleb are new and controversial. Then again he was one of the few who saw the financial crises coming (and made some f**k-you money in the process).

about a year and a half ago



Viruses communicate to coordinate infection

m.shenhav m.shenhav writes  |  more than 4 years ago

m.shenhav (948505) writes "A tactic familiar from insect behaviour seems to give viruses the edge in the eternal battle between them and their host – and the remarkable proof can be seen in a video. The video catches viruses only a few hundred nanometres in size in the act of hopping over cells that are already infected. This allows them to concentrate their energies on previously uninfected cells, accelerating the spread of infection fivefold."
Link to Original Source

Is the world prepared for the bio/nanotech revolut

m.shenhav m.shenhav writes  |  about 5 years ago

m.shenhav writes "I'm sure this has been asked before, but I'm wondering whether ethics, philosophy and legislation can keep up with technology. Biotech, Nanotech and computer technology is developing exponentially but the human brain (as history and science have shown) is quite linear. With the emergence of self-replicating and possibly evolving technology, what kind of rules can prevent the technology from going rampant and causing disasters? With the advent of genetic engineering and other biotech, as well as increased computing power and cognitive models, it seems inevitable that "modified" humans and AI's will emerge in this century. What rules will govern self-modification and AI's? How do we amend our concept of human rights to include a wider variety of intelligences?"


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