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Comment: Re:Why at a place of learning? (Score 4, Insightful) 983

by Artifakt (#48244721) Attached to: Creationism Conference at Michigan State University Stirs Unease

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?

Comment: Re:We don't know anything is weird here (Score 5, Interesting) 137

by Artifakt (#48237281) Attached to: Dwarf Galaxies Dim Hopes of Dark Matter

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.

Comment: Re:Falsifiability (Score 2) 282

by Artifakt (#48230233) Attached to: High Speed Evolution

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

Comment: Re:Falsifiability (Score 1) 282

by Artifakt (#48230061) Attached to: High Speed Evolution

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.

Comment: Re:Falsifiability (Score 4, Insightful) 282

by Artifakt (#48229885) Attached to: High Speed Evolution

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.

Comment: Re:my thoughts (Score 4, Informative) 372

by Artifakt (#48219091) Attached to: NY Doctor Recently Back From West Africa Tests Positive For Ebola

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!!!

Comment: Re:Overly broad? (Score 4, Interesting) 422

by Artifakt (#48183875) Attached to: Soda Pop Damages Your Cells' Telomeres

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.

Comment: Re:Why Cold Fusion (or something like it) Is Real (Score 2) 350

by Artifakt (#48174785) Attached to: The Physics of Why Cold Fusion Isn't Real

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.

Comment: Re:What equations? (Score 2) 89

by Artifakt (#48171085) Attached to: How Curved Spacetime Can Be Created In a Quantum Optics Lab

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

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

Comment: Re:freedoms f----d (Score 2) 132

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.

Comment: Re: It only takes one ... (Score 5, Insightful) 381

by Artifakt (#48158579) Attached to: How Nigeria Stopped Ebola

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.

Comment: Re:Already gone (Score 1) 304

by Artifakt (#48153941) Attached to: Technology Heats Up the Adultery Arms Race

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.

Comment: Re:Beecher was a fraud! (Score 1) 193

by Artifakt (#48122095) Attached to: Experts Decry Randomized Ebola Treatment Trials As Unethical, Impractical

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.

Comment: Re:Our PC society will be our demise! (Score 1) 193

by Artifakt (#48122039) Attached to: Experts Decry Randomized Ebola Treatment Trials As Unethical, Impractical

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.

The unfacts, did we have them, are too imprecisely few to warrant our certitude.