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Canada Tops List of Most Science-Literate Countries

radtea Re:Could have fooled me (82 comments)

Does Canada have lots of relatively successful* politicians with whackadoodle opinions on climate change, Earth's age, and female reproductive biology?

We are having a bit of a moment with some wack-jobs in the "Conservative" Party of Canada at the moment, which is actually a radical populist party that is opposed to everything conservatism in this country has ever stood for (fiscal probity, institutional stability, Westminsterian democracy...)

A few of the loonier tunes, like Justice Minister Peter McKay, seem to believe that women have no agency (or at least that's what one infers from his attempts to push a "Swedish model" prostitution law through the system) and I believe former party leader [*] Stockwell Day is on record for a Young Earth.

This has more to do with the wonderful (and I do mean that seriously) randomness of our electoral system, which is capable of electing a majority government with 35% of the vote, as well as the institutional disarray of the Liberal Party in the past decade. We're reasonably likely to throw the bastards out next year, although the Liberals have more than a few loonies of their own.

[*] The history of the CPC is complex, but Day was the leader of one of it's fore-runners about ten years ago.

1 hour ago
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Canada Tops List of Most Science-Literate Countries

radtea Re:Biased (82 comments)

The clincher for me - which indisputably shows the authors' bias - is that Canada ranks #1 in people protesting GMOs and nuclear power, and the authors consider this a good sign that their population is scientifically literate!

The report says nothing of the kind. Did you read it? GMOs and nuclear power are mentioned as divisive issues, but there is no data on the ranking of people against them.

The Globe and Mail article says, "Canadians also expressed the lowest level of reservation about science and its impacts. Compared with the U.S., Europe and Japan, far fewer Canadians said that they thought science is making our way of life change too fast."

Sounds about right.

Canadians are generally very aware that our lives would be miserable if it weren't for science and technology keeping us safe and warm and fed. We have our tree-hugging reactionaries, of course, but they have far less influence than you might think despite the vast amounts of noise (and I do mean "noise" in the information theoretic sense) they generate.

1 hour ago
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Drought Inspires a Boom In Pseudoscience, From Rain Machines To 'Water Witches'

radtea Re: A fool and their money (128 comments)

I know this runs against everything /. but I have seen it work a couple of times.

Why do you think that an unconfirmed anecdote being presented fallaciously as an argument is against everything /.?

It would actually be astonishing if no one had "seen it work a couple of times", for several reasons. One, if there were a 100% failure rate dousing would have been abandoned years ago. Even pre-scientific peoples mostly abandoned things that were never, ever correlated with their nominal goals.

Second, given humans are known to be prone to confirmation bias, we can predict that almost everyone who has ever seen a dowser identify one of the many, many places where water can be found will come away believing "dowsing works".

So a large number of scientifically illiterate people saying, "Hey I saw it work a few times that proves it's true so I believe it!" is exactly what science would predict if dowsing doesn't work.

If dowsing did work science would predict a bunch of peer-reviewed studies systematically detailing how accurate it is and investigating the factors that influence it's accuracy.

We see the former, not the latter.

Posts like yours actually constitute evidence that dowsing does not work.

3 hours ago
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"MythBusters" Drops Kari Byron, Grant Imahara, Tory Belleci

radtea Re:The show is filled with mostly nonsense (359 comments)

One of the most interesting episodes I saw was when they were testing something Jamie said in an earlier episode: That if two trucks collide at 55 MPH, it's like one truck hitting a brick wall at 110 MPH. At first I thought "duh, everyone knows that's true" and I continued to think that as they set up experiments, right until they were about to let two clay blocks swing into each other at which point a light bulb lit up above my head, and so I quickly hit the pause button and thought about what was going to happen, and realized that since each block of clay was simply going to stop the movement of the other, each was going to end up in the same condition it would have been in had it simply slammed into the "immovable object" instead, and thus two vehicles each going 55 MPH in a head-on collision is exactly like just one vehicle hitting a brick wall in a 55 MPH collision. ...and I suppose it's solvable with math too, given e = m * v, and so if two objects slowing down one unit of speed yields two units of energy, or one unit per object, then one object slowing down two units of speed yields four units of energy, which is four times as much, even though the difference in speeds is identical in each case. ...but I was certainly misinformed about how it worked, and I don't think I was the only one, so it was totally worth doing an episode on, indeed it was one of my favorites since I actually learned something.

First, E = 1/2 m*v^2, not m*v, although your later statement seems to acknowledge that.

Second: you are correct that the two situations are not the same, because the energy in the center-of-motion (zero momentum) frame of the two vehicles is what matters (you can think about this as the kinetic energy that is available to deform the vehicles in the crash, leaving them with a lot of bent metal and no momentum after the crash.)

With two trucks moving toward each other at equal and opposite velocities, the zero momentum frame is the just the ground, where the total energy is m*v^2 (twice the energy of each individual vehicle).

In the case of hitting a wall, the wall has effectively infinite mass, so the zero momentum frame is moving with an infinitesimal velocity toward the truck, and the total energy is 2*m*v^2 (where "v" is still 55 MPH and the multiplier come from squaring the factor of two in front of it to get the full 110 MPH of the single truck).

So in the case of hitting a brick wall, there is twice the energy available. This is quite different, conceptually, from the explanation you've given, which is wrong. In the case of a vehicle hitting a brick wall at v = 55 MPH the energy is just 1/2 m*v^2, not m*v^2 as in the case of two colliding vehicles, or 2*m*v^2 as in the case of a vehicle at 2v hitting the wall.

The history of science teaches us that what is intuitive to any particular person is unrelated to the best way of understanding the world, and your reasoning is a nice example of this: it got you part way toward a correct conclusion, but fell short of the full understanding that the general principles of Newtonian physics give us.

3 hours ago
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Indiana University Researchers Get $1 Million Grant To Study Memes

radtea Re:Real Reason for funding this (123 comments)

Or both. Any new understanding of the world will be used in as many ways as people can think of using it. I wrote a novel that speculates on precisely the topic of what might happen with exactly this kind of technology, and part of the fun was thinking about how different groups might use it for good or ill: http://www.amazon.com/Darwins-...

6 hours ago
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Anita Sarkeesian, Creator of "Tropes vs. Women," Driven From Home By Trolls

radtea Re:What lessons are the video games teaching? (961 comments)

Oh gosh, look the screenshots of her evidence tweets came twelve seconds after the tweets themselves, from someone who was not logged in and hadn't done a search.

Almost as if...

...she got a notification of the tweets aimed at her, viewed them without logging in and screen-capped it.

The level of paranoid thinking required to believe that it is more likely that a public figure like Sarkeesian would violate the law by faking threats of this nature than that an obviously hate-filled, fragile and easily offended group of nutjobs has a few members who are so over-the-top that they would actually threaten her speaks to a deeply deranged sense of the world.

Look at the discussion here on /. There are people who are absolutely incensed at her relatively mild and well-documented criticisms of some common features of video games. I personally find her theoretical approach a tad doctrinaire, but for depth and quality it easily exceeds the bar required to get a PhD from a decent school (I have a PhD--in physics--from a decent school, and have friends in a number of fields, so I've seen the standards of humanities departments up-close-and-personal.)

So what is more likely: that a large, irate, irrational, angry mob contains a few nutjobs who would go so far as uttering actual death threats, or that a well-known, widely respected, widely reviled public figure would go to such lengths to fake threats, putting her in a position of risk of discovery and criminal charges when it is inevitably found out?

Anyone who picks the second option as more likely is living in a paranoid fantasy of the kind that might lead them to, well, make death threats against a public figure they disagree with.

7 hours ago
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Anita Sarkeesian, Creator of "Tropes vs. Women," Driven From Home By Trolls

radtea Re:Her work (961 comments)

What I am saying is that the world is controlled right now by politically correct, professionally offended people. Everything everywhere is a stereotype.

You do realize that "politically correct, professionally offended people" is a stereotype, right?

I don't agree with all of Sarkeesian's criticisms, and find much of her analysis doctrinaire and tendentious, but for all of that her work or something like it is clearly needed, as evidenced by the backlash against it.

She isn't being "professionally offended": she's engaging in legitimate, deep analysis of an important artistic medium. Even granted that I disagree with some of her theoretical positions, he work has tremendous value even at the level of raw empiricism. Her episode on "the damsel in distress" trope is a compelling argument that sexism makes for very bad art, and that the way women are used in a large number of video games is lazy and stupid.

In a well-ordered world she would be getting a PhD for work of this depth and quality. And again, in case you missed it: I don't particularly agree with a goodly chunk of her theoretical frame, and she often says things that I think are simply wrong. I would love to see a cogent, relevant critique of her positions, but people who are driven by simplistic stereotypes of "professionally offended people" are making that impossible. There is so much noise that any rational discussion is simply impossible to maintain.

7 hours ago
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Underground Experiment Confirms Fusion Powers the Sun

radtea Re:That's not how science works (137 comments)

Nothing has been proven.

Correct.

Science is the discipline of publicly testing ideas by systematic observation, controlled experiment and Bayesian inference. As such, proof is simply not relevant to what it does, which is produce knowledge. Knowledge--unlike faith--is inherently uncertain.

It'll take a few hundred years for the popular science press to catch up to this. What is being presented here is evidence that the idea p-p fusion powers the sun is correct, so the posterior pluasibility of that idea goes up, although not to 1 (which would be a certainty, and therefore an error: an idea that was immune to additional evidence.)

If neutrinos had not been detected, the plausibility would have gone down, although not to 0 because that would be the same error. Science never disproves anything any more than it proves anything. Proof and certainty are like the philosopher's stone sought by alchemists: a fundamentally mistaken goal.

Philosophers are the alchemists of epistemology, discovering all kinds of cool things while on a hiding to no-where.

yesterday
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Limiting the Teaching of the Scientific Process In Ohio

radtea Re:And this is how we get to the more concrete har (506 comments)

I think you'll find that the utility of falsification is established philosophically, not by observational fiat.

But falsification is at best marginally relevant to science, which is the discipline (not method) of publicly testing ideas by systematic observation, controlled experiment and Bayesian inference.

Falsification simply never comes into it, outside of outlandishly models of science promoted by ignorant philosophers. Promoters of "scientific method" and falsification are almost never scientists, and most scientists will quietly ridicule the ideas if you give them a couple of beer.

Bayesian logic is established by mathematical deduction using an argument from invariance of a kind that originated within mathematical physics (Einstein's arguments for relatively are the most famous of the kind).

Philosophers don't even have the right goal--they are always running after "certainty", which we now know to be a epistemic error. Knowledge is not certain and cannot be certain, because only Bayesian reasoning can produce knowledge, and Bayesian reasoning is not capable of producing a posterior plausibility of 1 or 0 (ie certainty).

yesterday
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Statistics Losing Ground To CS, Losing Image Among Students

radtea Re:Statistics as standalone field (109 comments)

If your view that "everyone is complete shit at statistics", that should include statisticians.

This has been my experience as well. I would go so far as to say that statisticians understand probability less well than most working experimental scientists. They are overly-enamoured of abstract models and rarely dig down to the raw probability distributions underneath, which is what working scientists actually care about.

yesterday
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How to Maintain Lab Safety While Making Viruses Deadlier

radtea Re:So ... (218 comments)

The hubris of thinking "it's OK, I'm a trained professional, nothing bad can happen" is mind boggling.

What is mind-boggling is that anyone takes a virulently anti-science organization like the dishonestly-named "Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists" seriously as a source of news about anything.

All you have to do is look at the source, and dismiss the claims as hysteria and lies.

This is not to say there might not be a story here, or something worth discussing, but until it is sourced from something other than an outlet for anti-science, anti-technology political shills it is all noise and no signal.

about two weeks ago
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Why Hasn't This Asteroid Disintegrated?

radtea Re:Why can't it just be one mass? (74 comments)

The article doesn't explain why the idea of this particular body being one mass instead of a rubble pile has been dismissed. Is there a good one?

Asteroids are believed to be aggregations of relatively loosely bound matter. They have likely experienced some local melting due to collisions, but it is very unlikely that they ever were entirely melted into a single mass. As such, they are quite peculiar bodies, much less akin to a mountain than a pile of rubble, and they likely aren't even all that close to a pile of rubble because the individual components they are made from were never part of a larger, more coherent body.

If you think about asteroid formation, you have to start with dust that accretes into small pellets, which then collide to form semi-melted rock-like-things, which then clump into asteroids (all the while suffering more collisions which produce local melting but not whole-body melting of the kind planets experienced.) This is all a consequence of the collisional statistics and dynamics in the early solar system.

So the proposition "Asteroids are loosely bound" is pretty plausible, and ones with high spin are therefore interesting because require us to revisit that plausibility, and who wouldn't want to do that?

about two weeks ago
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Why Hasn't This Asteroid Disintegrated?

radtea Re:That's not what van der Waals is! (74 comments)

Every time I hear someone explain lift with "air on the top of the wing has to move faster, so... lift!" I want to...

There's nothing at all wrong with that explanation. It is neither better nor worse than any other explanation that is less than a full solution to the Navier-Stokes equation, and it provides a naive and surprisingly practical guide to interacting with airfoils, which the vorticity explanation, for example, does not.

about two weeks ago
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Why the "NASA Tested Space Drive" Is Bad Science

radtea Re:Space Drive or Global Warming? (315 comments)

Except none of your points applies to climate change.

The effect is robust: there was a whole independent project to determine if the thermodynamically meaningless "global average temperature" is increasing. It is: http://www.bbc.com/news/scienc...

The threshold of measurement is around 0.5 C for a single station, and we have an effect that is about 1 C over the past 100 years. Not as big a margin as one would like, but difficult to ignore. And growing.

No one has produced any results that show the instrumental temperature record in the past century is not real. There are debates about causes, but the reality of the phenomenon is not in doubt.

Everyone who has looked at the question agrees that there is about a 1.6 W/m**2 addition to the Earth's heat budget from anthropogenic CO2, so clearly when taking the "positive cases" there is still good agreement.

There are large and legitimate areas of disagreement with regard to climate change (far more than the moron, anti-science, "the science is settled crowd" would have you believe) but the basic phenomenon, unlike the EMDrive, is not just consistent with but actually required by the laws of physics.

Finally: the summary is terrible, even by /. standards. The article does not point out any errors in the experiments. Rather it points out that reporters have been lying about the experiments, pure and simple. That is not the fault of the scientists, who honestly reported their null results.

about three weeks ago
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The Man Who Invented the 26th Dimension

radtea Re:String theory is not science! (259 comments)

but since when has any self-respecting scientist been led away from a beautiful hypothesis by pragmatism? Much less a physicist?

More frequently than you might think.

I highly recommend Lisa Randall's "Warped Passages" as a fairly recent meditation from a working physicist on the strengths and weaknesses of multi-dimensional theories, as well as some of the background on what motivates them.

The short story is that higher dimensions make it easier to generate universes like ours, which are almost flat gravitationally and have this ridiculous difference in scale between gravity and everything else. Regular 3+1 dimension Standard Model physics requires a ridiculous level of fine-tuning for this to happen, so it is interesting to look for deeper theories where these features arise naturally.

The problem with String Theories in particular--and as other posters have pointed out it really is a family of theories--is that they are almost useless for "model building", which is the activity of generating simplifications we can actually calculate with to describe the world as it is today vs the world as it was a few Planck times after the Big Bang.

So while string theory is neither "untestable in principle" nor "designed to resist testing" it is "naturally test-resistant." Some simpler variants--including a rather elegant heuristic model that Randall herself co-created--have been killed off by the LHC, but the diversity of possible low-energy models enabled by String Theory is so large and heterogeneous that in practical terms they cannot all be falsified.

In the meantime, String Theories continue to take up an inordinate amount of theoretical physicist's time and effort, and there have been fairly senior voices raised in concern about this, particularly because it has been going on for so long that we may end up with a generation of theorists who have never done anything but string theory and have come to the conclusion that it won't work.

Rather than waiting for this Big Reset, it would be nice if we started spending more time looking at non-stringy alternatives.

about three weeks ago
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Was America's Top Rocketeer a Communist Spy? The FBI Thought So

radtea Re:Van Braun built weapons for Nazis (165 comments)

Then he came to the USA, and played the same con on Congress to fund his continued work here.

So in your view von Braun was an amoral, self-agrandizing liar who was willing to actively engage in the selection of slave labour working in death camps to build rockets that killed thousands of strangers just so he could play with cool toys? Because that's what you're describing.

I say "self-agrandizing" because everything that von Braun wanted to do would have been done without him, without the 12000 dead slave labourers, without the 9000 dead British civilians.

I've had some pretty extreme scientific and technical ambitions in my time, but have somehow been able to realize many of them without killing people, and have given up the rest because: killing people. So I'm willing to pass judgment on von Braun in this respect: if he faced a choice between following his dreams and not killing people I'd have to say the latter is the far better choice.

about a month ago
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Ask Slashdot: When Is It Better To Modify the ERP vs. Interfacing It?

radtea Re:Vendor vs In House (209 comments)

One of the key problems I've run into, not only in regards to ERP, but in general, is that when you outsource all of your development your future is in the hands of someone who doesn't have your companies best interests as their primary concern.

Even in those cases where you get a good service provider (which will depend on the specific people you've got working on your project much more than the company they work for, so anyone who says "Oracle = good" is missing the point) you still run into one of the most fundamental human problems: we suck at communication.

When you outsource something the degree of clear, concise, validated communication required is many times what is required for in-house development (where communication can still be a major problem). Capturing user needs and implementing them in a useful and user-efficient manner is hard enough with a high-bandwidth internal-communications channel. With outsourcing it is almost impossible for the people designing and building the system to get the information they need from the end-users.

So one question I would ask the OP is: how often do your provider's developers talk to your end users? (not your end user's managers, who don't have a clue what the system requirements actually are). If the answer is "never or hardly ever" then in-house is definitely the way to go, because your in-house team will have at least some chance of building a system that will serve end-user needs.

about a month ago
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Siberian Discovery Suggests Almost All Dinosaurs Were Feathered

radtea Re:Whelp. (139 comments)

For me, the resistance comes when I look at the large reptiles of today which are descended from dinosaurs.They don't have feathers.

Which large reptiles are those? And which dinosaurs are they descended from? And how did dinosaurs, which were all killed at the KT boundary, manage to have descendents?

Dinosaurs are reptiles with their legs under their bodies. This makes them distinct from other reptiles (the kinds we have today, which are not descended from dinosaurs) which have their legs off to the side.

Mammals also managed the legs-under-the-body trick, and birds (which are descended from dinosaurs, unlike all modern reptiles, none of which are descended from dinosaurs, what with dinosaurs all being extinct without issue at the KT boundary.)

about a month ago
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'Just Let Me Code!'

radtea Re: Just let me do brain surgery! (372 comments)

Of course brain surgeons don't "just do" brain surgery .... in any surgery, there's a ton of pre-operative work, investigation, preparation, paperwork, practice, etc

Most of which is not done by the surgeon. I've worked a lot with surgeons, and can assure you they are used to having other people do almost everything but surgery for them.

Surgeons are the equivalent of the "master programmer" team, which is a now mostly-obsolete team structure where there is one (or a very small number) of expert coders surrounded by a larger group of admin/build/whatever types who make sure the master programmer has nothing to do but code. It works on certain problems, but unlike surgery, the scope of what we expect software developers to do has grown far beyond what one person can handle in almost all interesting cases (I say this as a team of one who does everything from firmware to UI, but it is on a very narrowly defined embedded application that I've worked extremely hard to keep more-or-less within scope for a single very senior person.)

about a month ago

Submissions

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The Future of Publishing?

radtea radtea writes  |  more than 3 years ago

radtea (464814) writes "The "Machine of Death" anathology got its start from a Dinosaur Comics episode that speculated on what the world would be like if there was a machine that could tell people how they were going to die. This led to a call for authors to submit stories, a lengthy winnowing process, and an even more lengthy struggled to get the book published that illuminates many of the issues for writers today. The book is an anthology of unknowns inspired by a Web comic. The pitch to publishers was: the Internet can be an effective marketing tool for complete unknows. It worked for Jonathon Coulton. The question is: is this model reproducible? Will unknown authors in the future be able to bypass most of the traditional publishing industry and effectively market directly to readers, the way musicians are increasingly trying to reach listeners? We know it's a viable hobby, but is it a viable business? (Full disclosure: I am the author of the last story in the book, "Cassandra", but have no direct financial interest in the book's success. That said, you can buy it here: http://www.amazon.com/Machine-Death-collection-stories-people/dp/0982167121)"
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