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Comment: Re:Good grief... (Score 3, Insightful) 669

by Capsaicin (#49109517) Attached to: Bill Nye Disses "Regular" Software Writers' Science Knowledge

[A]s a college educated person, they should know the approximate age of the universe, that the universe is expanding, and that we know that because of the red shift. They should know, roughly, the scale of the earth, the solar system, the galaxy, etc

Why should a farmer, or a software writer, be able to put even an approximate number (OK, understanding red shift is pretty basic) to any of those factoids. Surely it is far more important to know that the effects of capsaicin are mediated by the TRPV1 receptor ... or am I naval gazing? ;) (Believe it or not, but that question was actually put to me over lunch this weekend.)

OK, any science graduate must have a working knowledge of the basics of physics, chemistry and maths (as these are the building blocks of the other sciences). Knowing that the universe's age is measured in billions rather than thousands of years doesn't hurt either, (but really, if you thought the universe was 5 billion years old that is not going to affect most of the work you do in biochemistry).

However increasingly when "facts" are only a few keystrokes away memorising them becomes less important, while recognising fact vs non-fact becomes more so.

Bill Nye is ... saying that too many people lack basic scientific literacy.

I can read what Bill Nye is saying. What I'm saying is that, in the context in which he answered that question, his diagnosis is wrong. It's not so much a database that is required, as a bullshit detector.

I'm not sure, perhaps your knowledge of immunology is so good as to be comparable to amount to a knowledge of "age of the universe ... the scale of the earth, the solar system, the galaxy, etc." But even if your work in science has never brought you into contact with CST, you ought to be able to assess the credibility of evidence led by anti-vaxxers for example.

Comment: Re:Good grief... (Score 5, Insightful) 669

by Capsaicin (#49109125) Attached to: Bill Nye Disses "Regular" Software Writers' Science Knowledge

CS people are better educated than the average person, but many of them are still surprisingly ignorant about scientific topics.

And neither should we expect them to be experts outside their own field. I should have no reasonable expectation that a farmer (Nye wrote "regular software writers and farmers") would have expertise in astrophysics for example. And as science requires ever more specialisation, I should have no reasonable expectation either that an astrophysicist be an expert in pharmacology (just don't try telling any physicist that! ;)

The problem is not so much the lack of knowledge about "scientific topics," it the lack of humility in regard to those who have knowledge. You are free, of course, to contradict the orthodoxy in absolutely any field of science, but it is impertient to do so unless you have done the hard yards and made yourself an expert. The knowledge, the skill rather, that everyone ought to possess (and this IMO is more important than direct knowledge of "science topics") is the skill to assess the credibility and authoritativeness of sources of scientific "information." It is this skill, in light of the increasing supply of disinformation, that a science education ought to impart.

You may think that measles isn't that serious (you'd be wrong), but it could just as easily have been polio. The inability to sort out scientific information from scientific disinformation kills!

Comment: Re:Really? (Score 1) 145

by Capsaicin (#49083669) Attached to: The Burden of Intellectual Property Rights On Clean Energy Technologies

So, all some poor country has to do is just go ignore IP rights - there' s not a fucking thing the owners can do about it.

Sadly that's not so. Because of TRIPS, the poor country will be excluded from the WTO framework should it fail to honour intellectual "property" laws.

A case in point India. They've been forced to back down on their position on pharmaceutical patents outlined in the (now out of date) article you cite.

Comment: Re:I concur (Score 1) 425

by Capsaicin (#49005109) Attached to: One Man's Quest To Rid Wikipedia of Exactly One Grammatical Mistake

a Fiesta is clearly not an F150. One is a fucking hatchback, the other is a fucking muscle car.

Exactly! is as much the OED ...

... as a Fiesta is an F-150. That's the point

They are produced by the same company, one is a feather-weight dictionary and one is the mother-of-all dictionaries.

... paper version.

The OED comes in 4 formats that I can think of off the top of my head: 20 (+3 addendum) volume paper, CD-ROM, online, and single volume microprint.

If you think it's not, tell the people that fucking publish it.

It's not. And I hardly need to tell the people who publish it that, they already know. Obviously! Nor am I going to tell Ford that a Fiesta is not an F-150.

Now calm down, have a look at the same entry in those two vastly different dictionaries, and learn something!

Comment: Re:I concur (Score 1) 425

by Capsaicin (#49003275) Attached to: One Man's Quest To Rid Wikipedia of Exactly One Grammatical Mistake


As I wrote "I suppose another Oxford UP product" ... it very clearly is not the OED though. No more than my New Shorter OED is the OED ... yeah?

I mean look at the definition in the link and compare it to the tiny snippet of the OED entry which I reproduced here (or to the full OED entry if you can access it). Oxford produce enough different dictionaries to fill most peoples bookshelves.

Quick car analogy: To refer to as "the OED," is like referring to a Fiesta as an "F-150." It does indeed seem to be the legitimate Ford Motor Company that makes both.

Comment: Re:I concur (Score 1) 425

by Capsaicin (#48985193) Attached to: One Man's Quest To Rid Wikipedia of Exactly One Grammatical Mistake

Fair enough, my bad.

It's still not "the Oxford" though :) That being said it does accord with the OED's definition 8.c) which specifies that this sense is used in the passive.

8. Of things:
c. pass. To be composed of, to consist of.

1874 Art of Paper-Making ii. 10 Thirds, or Mixed, are comprised of either or both of the above.
1928 Daily Tel. 17 July 10/7 The voluntary boards of management, comprised..of very zealous and able laymen.
1964 E. Palmer tr. A. Martinet Elements Gen. Linguistics i. 28 Many of these words are comprised of monemes.
1970 Nature 27 June 1206/2 Internally, the chloroplast is comprised of a system of flattened membrane sacs.

Comment: Re:I concur (Score 1) 425

by Capsaicin (#48977235) Attached to: One Man's Quest To Rid Wikipedia of Exactly One Grammatical Mistake

The Oxford English Dictionary entry on comprise ...

Sorry to be a pedant but that is not the OED! There are many Oxford Dictionaries, but only one Oxford English Dictionary

...unless you count the different editions.

As it is, the OED does include the "incorrect" form under definition 8.c) and includes four entries (the earliest from 1874) all of which use the "comprised of" construction. However it's a mistake to think that it's appearance in an historical descriptive dictionary amounts to any endorsement as regards usage. The OED does not concern itself with correct use.

More to the point however, the dictionary ( you incorrectly cite as the "Oxford English Dictionary" (I suppose another Oxford UP product) does. And it says "the construction comprise of" ... "is regarded as incorrect." lgw's heart can rest peacefully.

Comment: Re:It'll never happen (Score 1) 333

Other than cheap tricks via conditioned response / reward system ...

Why discard our training of "lower life-forms" from consideration? Or how about our (selective) breeding of species with which we can't "communicate."

... what has the entire scientific community managed to communicate with the lower life-forms?

Communicated or had sex with, which do you mean?!

Because we were talking about neither. We were talking about whether humans were sufficiently interested in other life forms to go out looking for and investigating them. What reason do you think that any sufficiently advanced alien life forms would not view us with at least equal curiosity?

Any alien life sufficiently advanced will probably view us the same.


Ever tried teaching a two year old differential calculus or kinematics? No point, right? They don't have the tools available to comprehend it.

And yet ... I wonder if you've noticed ... humans go right on taking an interest in their two year olds, who are generally clothed, fed and looked after even despite their inability to grasp differential calculus.

Comment: Re:It'll never happen (Score 4, Insightful) 333

Sufficiently intelligent beings who have learned to travel faster than the speed of light would be totally uninterested in visiting low life forms such as humans.

For which reason humanity never developed any interest in biology generally but restricted its research exclusively to human biology, yeah?


US Senate Set To Vote On Whether Climate Change Is a Hoax 667

Posted by samzenpus
from the who's-to-blame dept.
sciencehabit writes The U.S. Senate's simmering debate over climate science has come to a full boil today, as lawmakers prepare to vote on measures offered by Democrats that affirm that climate change is real—with one also noting that global warming is not "a hoax." In an effort to highlight their differences with some Republicans on climate policy, several Democrats have filed largely symbolic amendments to a bill that would approve the Keystone XL pipeline. They are designed to put senators on the record on whether climate change is real and human-caused.

Comment: Re:Always (Score 1) 137

So why can't they properly take into account time?

Because the original set up may be buried in time. You find a wind-turbine turning, the wind is blowing. Merely by measuring the speed of each how can you tell which came first? (Yes, I know ... you compare the noise profile of the respective data sets.)

But now back to dwelling exclusively on the potential problems without acknowledging any even limited usefulness of this methodology might have ...

Comment: Re:No problem. (Score 1) 137

[I]t deserves a more accurate headline: new statistical test can form confidence bounds for how unlikely a it would be for a new parameter to be of this magnitude if there were causation: when combined with existing test it may discredit more potential claims of causation than previously practical.

Did you really need to give it such an obviously click-baity title?

Comment: Re: And where are all the hurricanes? (Score 1) 187

by Capsaicin (#48630305) Attached to: Last Three Years the Quietest For Tornadoes Ever

Although "suggest" is far from a confident prediction, I agree Mann is overstating the case made in the paper he cites for the claim "models suggest more frequent and intense storms in a warmed world."

However that paper cited is itself very interesting --and thanks for bringing my attention to it! It's by Kerry Emmanuel, who was one of the joint authors in that Knutson et al. (2010) I cited above --which given the range of expert opinion (ie. from Emmanuel all the way to the sceptic Chris Landsea) carries some gravitas.

What Emmanuel is doing here is "downscaling" (which is to insert more localised modelling into the global model), a technique which has been shown with regard to temperatures, to have given results which more closely match recent short-term trends (for which reason alone they are not to be preferred over long-term global models). I've not had time to study this paper in detail (I suggest you might, along with the earlier Knutson paper), but applying this technique apparently gives a different result from that of the raw global models with increases in both frequency as well as intensity. However, we must not fall victim to latest paper syndrome, I doubt this is the last word on longer-term prediction regarding tropical storm formation and intensity. I'd like to see what Landsea's team makes of this for a start. But an interesting paper nonetheless, thanks.

The reason I suggest you ought to shy away from blogs, opinion pieces and interviews in favour of the actual science as published in reputable scholarly journals, should be clear when you measure the loose language that is thrown around on those fora as compared to the mathematical accuracy required of real science. This is obvious from the previous Mann article you cite, e.g. what "if I were a betting man," (is that a serious scientific prediction or just a "vibe"), means rather vague.

If you want a serious understanding of the current science, -- if you want to know if Cook, Mann, or Watts and Mcintyre for that matter, are straying from the bona fide science; if you want something better than some filtered mythological view of the science --you have little choice but to do the hard yards and read actual papers.

Merry Christmas!

You can not win the game, and you are not allowed to stop playing. -- The Third Law Of Thermodynamics