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Comment Cargo Cult Science (Score 1) 254

Insufficient (experimental) control.

That is pretty much the charitable explanation that Feynman offered in his notorious public talk on this subject.

That and confirmation bias. The classic example is Millikan's initial but not-quite-accurate measurement of the charge of an electron followed by subsequent results that "drifted" slowly but surely to the more modern measurement value.

Gee, Millikan is way off, but I can't publish this, I need to go over my apparatus and procedures to find what is wrong. In that way, only small changes from the "accepted" value get published until converging on a more accurate value.

Feynman was as much as saying that research in behavioral psychology was a Cargo Cult -- going through the motions that brought the planes and ships to our island without understanding that the arrival of the planes and ships had something to do with a war fought far from the horizon of the island and that actions taken by people on the island have no influence on when that war started, how long it continued, and when it ended.

He pretty much gives the benefit of the doubt on fraud, but he calls them out on experimental control, giving the example of one investigator going to the trouble to isolate the cues rats were relying upon in a maze experiment, finding it to be the sounds their feet made on the wooden boards of the maze floor, suppressing that sound by placing the maze box in sound-dampening sand, and finding the behavior of the rats to be entirely different when deprived of that cue. The amazing thing, to Feynman, was that setting the maze in sand was never adopted by subsequent studies -- the scientists in that "community" just plain didn't care.

Comment Asking the FAA check pilot for his weight (Score 1) 373

I was preparing for my first flight as a student pilot with the senior instructor at flight school in his role as FAA examiner. Even though this early in my training, and the purpose of this flight check was to see if my regular instructor was doing his job, I wanted to make a good impression by following all of the rules -- kinda like not wanting to make rolling "stops" past traffic signs on your driving road test.

Even though in lessons with my regular instructor we never went through weight-and-balance calculations, this was on the basis that a trainer was in proper trim with 2 people and a full tank of gas and we never took any luggage, I knew the Piper PA-38 Tomahawk 2-seat trainer had a stringent gross weight limit. Even though each person, pilot or passenger, was deemed to weight 160 lbs "by the book" for weight-and-balance, the PA-38 only allowed for full gas tanks if the "payload" was at or below 320 lbs -- at least my regular instructor had cautioned me that if go over, you need to offload fuel.

I knew that I weighed 160 lbs "back in college", and whereas the FAA guy wasn't unusually tall, he had the look of the few pounds that comes as we age.

Faced with a diplomatic dilemma, I got up the courage to ask, "If I am to calculate weight-and-balance the right way, I am going to have to know how much you weigh . . " The Examiner barks back at me, "You are to count each person in the aircraft as weighing 160 lbs!"

OK, OK, alright already!

Comment A reasonable expectation of . . .Kentucky (Score 1) 1197

You would think that law enforcement people in the Commonwealth summoned for some guy buzzing another guy's yard with a drone, and guy-with-yard reaching for his varmint gun . . .

Doesn't the law make any allowance for "community standards" anymore?

I mean, what would Sheriff Andy Taylor do? (OK, OK, a different state, but you get the idea.) Sure, Barney would reach for the cuffs, but Andy would try to mediate this dispute, no?

Comment The NSF National Robotics Initiative (Score 1) 342

The NSF has a solicitation for research proposals on human-robot cooperation. The Tau Beta Pi engineering honor society magazine The Bent has an article on this topic, showcasing a product offering by a Norwegian company called Universal Robotics offering a "depowered" robot said to be safe to operate close to humans.

Some of these solicitations come from "on high", and a contract monitor at NSF was doing some eye rolling about the notion that you could truly make an industrial robot safe to work with humans in its working element, or at least was giving speech inflections over the telephone suggestive of rolling one's eyes. A research group in Canada offered a critical take on the claims for the safety of the Universal Robotics offering from the standpoint of other university people taking these claims on face value and putting graduate students into the robot "cage."

A safer robot may need strategies such as "depowering" the robot or offering (as UR does) a depowered "teaching mode" along with control systems to obtain the required accuracy with less power. Beyond that, there is interest in vision and sensors to avoid hitting people with the robot.

But the question is, a chimp (Pan Troglodyte) can tear a person apart, but a chimp has sensors, and a chimp can be trained to be around people. Would you trust that training, would you rely on that training. A robot that has enough power to do the required factory tasks has the power to crush a person, but you can depower the robot depending on the operating mode and you can add sensors. Would you trust the algorithm design and software programming and mechanical safety systems behind such an arrangement to enter the robot cage?

Would you trust a self-driving car as a car has the power to crush someone? I guess with enough sensors and algorithms and testing, but even there, you are not guiding a self-driving car by standing right in front of it as suggested by NSF's co-robots . . . are you?

Comment It's "not just the about the money!" (Score 1) 297

C'mon people, unless you are recording movies, backing up your data (onto multiple thumb drives) is trivial.

The real hassle is backing up your operating systems along with all the software installations and installs.

Sure, we all have the activation keys for every piece of software we installed in a safe place somewhere?

That is also the royal hassle that Microsoft created when they started "authenticating Windows" against hardware configurations. You used to be able to just clone hard disks and take them to another computer when one failed. I know there are people who also build computers from parts, but Microsoft going to that model made building a machine from parts more trouble than its worth. And having a hard disk fail is probably the software industry's model for getting people to buy all the software -- OS, office suite, everything -- from scratch.

Comment They came for (Score 2) 510

the Republican House Leadership, but I was not a Republican serving in the House of Representatives.

They came for lobbyists making a gadzillion dollars representing Turkish interests, but I was not a lobbyist representing Turkish interests.

They came for persons making "structured" bank withdrawals totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars, but I was not making bank widthdrawals in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Comment Where has the absence of C13 gone? (Score 1) 372

Take a look at the comparison of C13/C12 ratio with total atmospheric CO2.

The carbon in plants and in fossil fuels is depleted in the C13 isotope by about 1.8 percent (18 mils). The annual wiggles in the C13 ratio are accounted for by the complementary wiggles in the total CO2 being the update and reemission of CO2 depleted in C13 at that level.

The multi-decade slope of the C13 curve is much more shallow in comparison to the annual wiggles in relation to the same comparison for total CO2. Any number of debunk-the-skeptics Web sites points out that as we emit CO2 depleted in C13, the C13 ratio declines. But not one of these sites offers even a rough quantitative analysis, which would show that CO2 depleted at the fossil level can account for no more than a third of the increase in atmospheric CO2 that is the source of much anxiety.

Is anyone else noticing this?

He: Let's end it all, bequeathin' our brains to science. She: What?!? Science got enough trouble with their OWN brains. -- Walt Kelly