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Comment: Re:bar-room statisticians (Score 2) 77

by AthanasiusKircher (#48451329) Attached to: Study: Space Rock Impacts Not Random

So, the same as with meteor showers. Not entire unexpected, i'd think.

Not entirely unexpected, but -- to be clear -- this study is NOT talking about normal meteors in meteor showers (which are presumed to be clustered since they are typically remnants of a comet).

Instead, this study is focusing on LARGER bodies (multi-kiloton impacts), most of which do not have a common origin like bits of a comet. Many scientists assume that they are random hunks of rock from the asteroid belt or some other collection that get perturbed from their normal orbit by interacting with Jupiter or something. Point being -- there's no actual reason why they should cluster together unless they originated from a body that fractured. From TFA:

The paths followed by these objects are strongly perturbed, and exhibit fast and chaotic nodal precession over time-scales of ~10 Myr (see e.g. Ito & Malhotra 2006). It is therefore not surprising that most studies assume that the angular elements, in particular the longitude of the ascending node, of the orbits of near-Earth objects (NEOs) are randomly and uniformly distributed in the range 0-2 pi. For many, this intrinsic chaoticity necessarily means that they are completely random, and that all the impacts must be interpreted as uncorrelated events distributed according to Poisson statistics.

In other words, many people -- who probably know much more about this than the average Slashdot poster -- have recognized there are many differences exhibited in the behavior of these big hunks of rock compared to meteor showers, and thus assume their origin is probably different. Which means there's no reason to assume the same sort of clustering.

This study seems to show clustering. If this study seems valid, the next thing is to explain WHY this sort of clustering happens with large bodies. The authors suggest it may have something to do with planetary perturbations. In any case, it's probably not the same mechanism as meteor showers.

Comment: Re:bar-room statisticians (Score 3, Informative) 77

by AthanasiusKircher (#48448623) Attached to: Study: Space Rock Impacts Not Random

It's even worse than that. Going by this quote, they're using it to mean even or homogeneous:

contrary to what they thought, such events are not random, and these explosions may occur more frequently on certain days.

You know, like if a coin comes up heads four times in a row that's "not random".

Actually, that's not a very good analogy. The main pattern that they noticed is clustering of events over long periods of time . It would be more like if you had a coin that was weighted in such a way that it only came up heads about 1 time out of a 100 or something. You flipped it once per day.

According to normal probability, if the only thing that's influencing the coin is just its weight that produces a 1 in 100 chance of heads, the pattern of heads should look relatively homogeneous over a long time span.

Instead, what they tended to find was a lot of clustering of events -- so it would be like going for hundreds of days and then suddenly getting heads on 2 or 3 days in a row, then going again for hundreds of days without any heads again.

In that case, it would be fair to say that there is something else influencing the distribution -- it's not just a "random" distribution you'd expect for a 1 in 100 chance of getting heads. Some other factor is leading to clustering.

Just from looking briefly at the article, it doesn't seem to me that they have a long-enough timespan or enough events to claim strong evidence for a pattern. They basically come up with a 2% stat that this pattern could occur by chance -- sure, that's better than the standard 95% confidence interval for exploratory studies, but there are various statistical features of their study that could be giving them a false-positive here. But it's enough that further study may be warranted.

Comment: Re:Control the carbs and you control blood lipids (Score 1) 249

by AthanasiusKircher (#48443455) Attached to: Doubling Saturated Fat In Diet Does Not Increase It In Blood

You know where a lot of processed foods came into vogue? -- all the "low-fat" food crazy beginning in the 1980s

There are still plenty of high fat processed foods that are very popular. Candy bars, pizza, cookies, and ice cream to name a few.

You may want to look up the definition of "a lot of." Hint: it does not mean ALL. The trend to mass produce snack foods which conformed to a low-fat diet most certainly led to more innovative and complex food processing. That in no way implies that ALL processed foods are low-fat -- only that engineering low-fat foods actually required significantly more processing in ways that could trick your body into thinking it was eating things it wasn't. Also, things like pizza, cookies, and ice cream can be made at home with relatively few ingredients which are significantly less "processed" than many of the new low-fat or no-fat snack foods designed to fit the new dietary trends of the 1980s and 1990s.

Uh, once again -- look at most snack foods. Derived from grains

Plain old grains are too boring. People are unlikely to overeat on them. In snack foods, the grains are usually combined with extra sugar, (usually) some fat, salt, and aromas.

Uh, yeah. So? When people see "grains" in the food pyramid, what do you think they're going to eat? Plain rice, plain wheat berries, plain buckwheat? No -- at a minimum, even if they got those "plain old grains," they would generally cook them and -- you guessed it -- add "some fat, salt, and aromas [spices, herbs, etc.]". Probably not as much sugar as snack foods, but most people won't eat "plain old grains" even if they are served looking like grains -- they put in salt, spices, and a few pats of butter on top.

So, I'm not sure I understand what the great distinction you're drawing here is. Snack foods "doctor up" grains to make them palatable; people do the same thing if they were to prepare grains for themselves.

In itself, grains aren't bad, as long as you eat them in moderation.

See the first point I responded to in my previous post. I never said grains were bad -- but they do provide lesser feelings of satiety, hence often requiring more calories consumed before people feel full. A diet that excludes other sources of calories and emphasizes carb sources (like grains) can have a tendency to promote more overeating. It isn't necessarily true, but the triggers are there.

Anyhow, I think you may have missed the overall point of my post, which was to respond to another posts claim that the food pyramid had no influence on obesity levels. I didn't say grains were evil. I said that the desire to emphasize grains and carb-based foods, while demonizing fats, contributed to some of the trends mentioned by GP. My whole point was that the causes are complex and may be interrelated.

Comment: Re:Control the carbs and you control blood lipids (Score 1) 249

by AthanasiusKircher (#48443419) Attached to: Doubling Saturated Fat In Diet Does Not Increase It In Blood

No, grain does not equal carbs. Grain has quite a bit of carbs, but also other things.

And even that is a simplification.

You probably want to re-read the beginning of my post. My whole point started with the oversimplification of the post I was responding to by claiming that the food pyramid wasn't involved in the obesity epidemic. I then proceeded to show how it might be connected, i.e., pointing out a FEW of the complex issues involved which actually show connections between various threads.

You bring up some other issues. Congratulations.

Comment: Re:Control the carbs and you control blood lipids (Score 1) 249

by AthanasiusKircher (#48443413) Attached to: Doubling Saturated Fat In Diet Does Not Increase It In Blood

Uh, you know, while on the surface you are saying you disagree with him, the actual content of your writing is agreeing with him.

How so? The primary claim of the post I was replying to was that the "USA's obesity epidemy ... is not from any given food pyramid." I then go on to show how the alternative explanations may actually be RELATED TO the food pyramid.

How is that agreeing with the original post?

Comment: Re:Interesting though not to be overinterpreted (Score 3, Interesting) 249

by AthanasiusKircher (#48442297) Attached to: Doubling Saturated Fat In Diet Does Not Increase It In Blood

Before everyone jumps on the low-carb bandwagon there are a few caveats to note:

Thanks for this list -- yes, it's important to note the limitations of this study.

However, one broader issue that this study should point out is the continued stupidity of the medical profession in assuming that because the quantity of X in diet is increased, it will necessarily increase the quantity of X in one's blood or other chemical markers.

We've seen this for many years with cholesterol studies -- the body manufactures most cholesterol, so dietary consumption has little relation to blood cholesterol levels. But that hasn't stopped decades of doctors demonizing any food with cholesterol (e.g., eggs) with no actual basis. I know doctors who still give out this crap advice to focus on a "low cholesterol diet" to lower cholesterol. It just doesn't work that way for many (most?) people, and there's no reason it should.

Now we have a study showing clearly that dietary saturated fat intake does not necessarily relate to the levels that ultimately end up in the bloodstream. Once again, this is common sense -- given that the body PRODUCES fat to store energy. If you're throwing fat into a system that is capable of producing fat, you have to actually consider what causes the system to produce fat... rather than just assuming it's only about how much fat is taken into the system.

Anyhow, more studies like this will hopefully cause clueless doctors to realize this. Once again, when a system produces the vast majority of X, dietary intake of X is probably not the most important variable -- you need to figure out what regulates the production of X.

Again, this seems like an intuitively obvious element for isolating what's going on in a system with such characteristics. But it seems beyond the comprehension of medical science -- hence all of the crappy dietary advice with no proven basis.

Comment: Re:Control the carbs and you control blood lipids (Score 1) 249

by AthanasiusKircher (#48442237) Attached to: Doubling Saturated Fat In Diet Does Not Increase It In Blood

As a foreigner I can easily see where USA's obesity epidemy comes from and it is not from any given food pyramid:

Wow. What a complete logic failure. First off, obviously there can be more than one cause to anything. There could be a number of trends that relate to obesity problems, and dietary advice with the old "food pyramid" could in fact be one of them. In fact, it might even relate to other apparent issues.

To wit:

have you paid attention lately to the ridiculously big rations you ingest?

The food pyramid recommended lots of carbs, while downplaying things like fat. Many, many studies have shown that carbs tend to lead to less of a feeling of satiety than fats or proteins (because carbs are generally more easily digested), so emphasizing carbs tends to make people hungry more... hence, larger portions are required to feel "full."

The ridiculously high levels of processed food?

You know where a lot of processed foods came into vogue? -- all the "low-fat" food crazy beginning in the 1980s or so, which forced food manufacturers to stop using so many less-processed ingredients (which generally had things like fat in them) and instead replace them with -- you guessed it -- carbs. The grains in the big part of the pyramid grew to excess, while processing removed the fats that were claimed to be evil. While sure it is possible to consume processed foods that are not carbs, the vast majority of heavily processed foods seem to be about throwing in extra carbs to replace flavor removed by less emphasized elements in the old food pyramid.

The ridiculously high comsumption of snacks and soda drinks?

Uh, once again -- look at most snack foods. Derived from grains. I.e., carbs. Soda is generally made from sugar... derived from grain... more carbs.

Whether or not all of these are connected directly to the food pyramid, the emphasis on grains and other carbs (and avoidance of fat and excess protein, particularly high-fat protein) led to increased reliance on and production of carb-centric foods... which are definitely related to all of the trends in your rhetorical questions.

Comment: Re:The United States is turning into Untied States (Score 1) 110

by AthanasiusKircher (#48438465) Attached to: Top NSA Official Raised Alarm About Metadata Program In 2009

Maybe more because the educated class didn't get to run the place anymore and those that did get to run the place appointed their young catamites to run departments instead of people with the experience to operate effectively.

I probably shouldn't respond to a post that uses a word like "catamite" so loosely... but do you really think nepotism (which might be a better term for what you're talking about) was new to the 20th century? It was not. That sort of corruption has been around a LONG time. Incompetent friends and relatives have always been a staple of the political process.

Comment: Re:The United States is turning into Untied States (Score 1) 110

by AthanasiusKircher (#48438439) Attached to: Top NSA Official Raised Alarm About Metadata Program In 2009

Without this helping the poor capitalism would have fallen, let's be honest here.

[Citation needed] -- I mean, seriously, let's be TRULY honest: for most of history, there have been people living under much, much, much more poorer circumstances than today. And the lower classes have been much more oppressed than today. How exactly would capitalism "have fallen" just because the poor were only slightly better off than they were for -- well, all of history -- rather than MUCH better off (as they are in modern industrial societies for the most part)?

I fail to see what democracy has to do with capitalism, other than if you only see the world through skewed Marxist "lenses." And most of my post was about ancient societies, which had dynamics very different from modern capitalism. While capitalism certainly became tethered to American democracy at some point, that was an outgrowth of an older strand of (old-school) "liberalism," which would be the more accurate companion of a democratic republic as the Founding Fathers understood it.

In any case, my argument was NOT that we shouldn't help the poor, but rather that promising the poor things coupled with increased suffrage and power to the poor will likely lead to voting for politicians who might have other motives and will expand power as necessary to create their own personal vision.

For an example from the beginning of the era I'm talking about, see Huey Long, a man who seemed to want to go to extreme measures to help the poor and downtrodden -- but when he was threatened, he responded by becoming increasingly dictatorial in his governance. Long's story has many parallels with the Gracchi brothers of ancient Rome, which arguably began the big downslide in the republic.

As for all the stuff about the fundamental irrationality of people -- sure, yeah, that's true. But it's not capitalism's fault. (Not that I'm defending unbridled capitalism either.) Marxist socialism won't fix it either. It just is.

Comment: Re:innovation thwarted (Score 1) 137

by AthanasiusKircher (#48438015) Attached to: Aereo Files For Bankruptcy

A pool of antennas, slightly larger than the number of peak subscribers; it was never 1:1 antenna:subscriber -- a minor point some people don't understand.


I see so many uninformed posters here stating that people were "renting" an antenna of their very own, which was solely allocated to them permanently. While Aereo tried to claim something like that, it was never true. This was not like any "lease" or "renting" in any normal sense -- the antennas were allocated dynamically and returned to the "pool" after they had streamed for a particular customer.

Basically, customers were paying for a service -- a dynamic allocation of whatever antenna happened to be available at that time, which would then return to a pool after use. That's not "renting" an antenna. That's paying for an on-demand service. It's not significantly different from paying for any kind of streaming service that allocates part of system resources for the stream -- the only difference here is that those resources included individual antennas rather than merely individual datastreams.

Comment: Re:innovation thwarted (Score 2) 137

by AthanasiusKircher (#48437979) Attached to: Aereo Files For Bankruptcy

The cable companies did exactly this for years (with a single antenna) and paid nobody. So what was your point again?

Yes, but then the law was changed, and cable companies can no longer do this. Aereo therefore can't either. Or should we allow some companies to play by different rules because they weren't around in the "good ole days"?

So what was your point again?

(Note that I'm NOT in favor of our current system. But whatever crappy rules exist should apply equally to everyone.)

Comment: Re:The United States is turning into Untied States (Score 5, Insightful) 110

by AthanasiusKircher (#48437895) Attached to: Top NSA Official Raised Alarm About Metadata Program In 2009

We call ourselves a "democratic country" but are we truly democratic?

Our government, the government of the United States of America, is behaving exactly like a tyrannical regime - in which it not only conveniently ignores the wish of the citizentry, it continues to carry out programs which are designed to undermine the validity of the democratic principles within the country

Many have argued that this is the natural tendency of democracy. Plato ranked democracy as the second-worst type of government, inevitably degrading into tyranny, since the "mob" will always eventually be swayed to vote away their power by promises from some prospective tyrant who promises them something that appeals to their immediate concerns (safety, security, food, wealth, homes, land, etc.). So, the "mob" votes away their rights in exchange for something else that seems more important at the moment.

The ancient Romans solved this problem with a special office of dictator, which was only appointed for limited times to deal with a crisis. There was a strong tradition in the Roman Republic (which held for at least a few centuries) where ambition to be a sole leader was strongly discouraged among the ruling class -- to be accused of desiring power was one of the worst sins. The topmost offices were only to be held for one short term in one's lifetime, or at least with a period of several years between, to prevent anything like a "king" or "tyrant" gaining permanent power.

But in the late 2nd century BCE, various elements were set in motion that ultimately led to the downfall of the Republic, mostly due to populist reformers who wanted to give suffrage to more people beyond the traditional "Roman citizens," and those reformers who promised the poor and landless all sorts of things. In exchange, the poor and landless broke with Roman tradition and started electing people to offices for many consecutive terms, and when crises arose, the dictators stayed in their offices for longer and longer.

Eventually, Julius Caesar came along and got himself declared dictator to deal with various things, but then arranged to become effectively dictator for life. (There's a lot more to the story, involving the gradual accumulation of power in central locations and people, standing armies who supported generals in lawless actions, etc.)

Anyhow -- the founders of the U.S. tried their darnedest to keep such a degradation from happening in the republic they designed. They were terrified of the mob (as Plato had been), and they saw the mistakes of the Roman Republic. So, they only gave the vote to those who seemed to have responsibility (male landowners, effectively similar to the heads of the ancient Greek demos, the root of democratic ideas). They isolated the upper chamber from popular election in the federal government. They deplored standing armies, preferring to rely on militias when a crisis occurred. They included even more checks and balances than the Roman Republic. In case any group of people did gain control, they built in strict Constitutional limits to federal power, so even if someone had a lot of power within the federal government, most of the powers and rights would be handled by state and local governments.

Gradually, particularly over the past 75 years or so, most of these aspects of the original governmental structure have gradually been overruled -- often in the name of "democracy" or "protecting the people" or providing aid and help to the poor through a central system.

Is it a coincidence that this also happened around the same time that the educated class stopped reading the classics? You couldn't graduate high school in the 1800s without having a level of knowledge of Latin and Greek that would probably beat out an undergraduate classics major today. And with that knowledge of ancient languages generally came a lot of readings of original sources about Roman, understanding of the Roman government structure -- and all the problems the ancient systems and philosophers were well-aware of. Anyhow, our current democracy seems to function PRECISELY as the ancient models claimed it should -- gradually devolving into a tyranny as uneducated mobs vote for whoever promises them safety, security, help for the poorest, etc....

Note that I'm NOT saying there aren't very good things about allowing people to have a greater voice in their government, and particularly finding ways to help the poorest. But lots and lots of empirical data over the course of history show that democracy (like all forms of government) has a fatal flaw... and as our government has become more "democratic," it will inevitably become easier for it to devolve into tyranny.

I'm not saying I have a better form of government. But this is to be expected.

Comment: Re:I think (Score 5, Informative) 327

So we're cutting down the criteria to not just people carrying guns, but people carrying guns actively shooting at you?

Actually, the definition of civilian is well-defined in the Laws of War, commonly codified today in international laws by Protocol I of the Geneva Conventions.

In sum, a "civilian" is anyone who is not a "privileged combatant," i.e., basically someone (1) carrying arms, (2) taking orders in an organized military structure, and (3) following the laws and customs of warfare. (Also, usually privileged combatants are required to wear insignia.)

Someone who carries arms but does not satisfy those criteria is still a "civilian," though if those arms are actively used in support of an organized military force, he/she may be a civilian who is also an "unprivileged combatant," i.e., he/she not eligible for protection under the normal rules for prisoners of war.

So, actually the criteria are much more specific than you describe. "Civilians" can fight in wars, in which case they become "combatants," but they do not cease to be "civilians," as the term is commonly understood in contrast to organized military personnel.

As for the farmer in GGP's example, he's clearly a civilian unless he's a member of a military force. If he carries a gun but only for his own protection and does not engage in direct action against an enemy, he is probably assumed to be a "non-combatant" as well, under international legal definitions.

Comment: Re:Link to PNAS article (Score 2) 114

Hey, at least it wasn't Bennet Haselton telling us about it.

You just wait. Tomorrow, there will be a Slashdot headline about how Bennet Haselton believes that this "rediscovered" visual processing link in the brain explains why some people find breastfeeding photos of black women offensive. (Note that this pathway apparently has to do with how we process "visual categories.")

Oh, and this link will clearly be proven when Haselton hires a few dozen people through Amazon's Mechanical Turk to stare at the phrase "Wernicke's vertical occipital fasciculus" before seeing breastfeeding photos. His statistics will clearly prove that this knowledge of brain structure is inherently racist (or maybe it serves to debunk racism... or... heck, I don't know, but Bennet Haselton will... he always does).

Comment: Re:Wait, what? (Score 4, Informative) 114

Still you'd expect people working on surrounding structures to notice something was missing in the neighbourhood. I'm really curious to know what other researchers thought when they looked at the structure.

Nothing was "missing." I'm not an expert in neuroanatomy, but just like most press releases from university research labs, this "rediscovery" appears to be quite exaggerated.

The thing they claim to have "rediscovered" is Wernicke's "vertical occipital fasciculus" (or VOF). Just out of curiosity, I just did a quick search in Google Scholar for this term, and it popped up dozens of articles, starting in the 1940s, quite a few in the late 1970s, some in the 1980s, some in the 1990s, and some in the 2000s.

For something that was supposedly "unknown" for a century, it has shown up quite a few times in the literature, particularly since the 1970s. So, it looks like some people "know" about it, and have known about it... and have discussed it in papers. A number of these studies clearly also mention processing of visual information, so it's not like these were just mentioning some old anatomical term for a structure nobody knew the purpose of either.

Granted, I haven't done a full literature search, and I don't know how influential these dozens of papers were/are, but claiming like the last time any scientist noted this part of the brain or its function was a century ago appears to be absolute nonsense. Maybe it deserves to be better known. Maybe it deserves a more prominent place in textbooks.

But clearly SOME scientists have known about it before this "rediscovery."

Every nonzero finite dimensional inner product space has an orthonormal basis. It makes sense, when you don't think about it.