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Comment: Re:Reconciling faith with science (Score 1) 305 305

by dgatwood (#49978193) Attached to: Lawrence Krauss On the Pope's Encyclical: Not Even Close?

Yes and no. Separation of sea and sky would be the final step if you interpret land forming to mean hardening. However, after the seas formed, there was a second period of dry land forming, in which it emerged from underneath the oceans. So depending on which dry land formation you're talking about, the order of those two could be correct.

The timing of the creation of day and night is, indeed, dubious, but... when did the moon actually collide with Earth and form what we know as the moon today, in terms of geological time?

Comment: Re:Reconciling faith with science (Score 1) 305 305

by dgatwood (#49959375) Attached to: Lawrence Krauss On the Pope's Encyclical: Not Even Close?

The reality is that most science is determined by revelation as well. Although it is possible to prove various scientific constants, equations, etc., most people never do that. Most people learn what they were taught and then grow from there. Thus, scientific understanding is very much built upon the shoulders of giants just as religious beliefs are.

And when a scientist discovers something by experimentation and observation, is it any less truth if that scientist believes that God chose that moment to reveal that truth through his or her experiment?

IMO, the only conflict between those two philosophies lies in the minds and hearts of those who reject religion. The fact that scientists are only slightly less religious (statistically) than the general population is, IMO, strong empirical evidence that treatises on such conflicts are grounded more in atheists' need for self-jusitification than in actual facts.

Comment: Re:Reconciling faith with science (Score 1) 305 305

by dgatwood (#49959305) Attached to: Lawrence Krauss On the Pope's Encyclical: Not Even Close?

All religions come with a package of beliefs concerning things such as how the world and humanity were created (things that are very much in the realm of science) ...

And curiously, the first of the two Genesis stories is a remarkably close approximation of the way an advanced, spacefaring race would explain the creation of the world to a primitive culture.

  • Day 1: The big bang: God created light. The universe expanded and cooled into planets that orbited the sun: God separated the light from the darkness, creating night and day.
  • Day 2: The earth cooled, and the seas receded as water froze near the ice caps in the first ice age, about 2.4 billion years ago, revealing significant amounts of dry land, and a viable atmosphere formed that protected earth from solar radiation: God made the firmament and separated the waters under the firmament (the oceans) from the waters (the early atmosphere contained a lot of water vapor, IIRC) above.
  • Day 3: Plants formed—first single-celled organisms, then multicellular ones. (In reality, this began before the ice age part of day 2, but we're quibbling a little.)
  • Day 4: The atmosphere evolved to be more conducive to live, with fewer clouds reflecting solar radiation, allowing more complex life to form. (God made the moon, sun, and stars.)
  • Day 5: Fish formed, then the ancestors of modern birds (dinosaurs).
  • Day 6: Land mammals and modern reptiles were formed, followed eventually by humans.

It isn't quite a detailed treatise on evolution, but I think that creation story is remarkably accurate for a science paper written 3,400 years ago, thousands of years before anyone knew what a dinosaur even was.

Comment: Re:NOT naysayers. (Score 1) 294 294

by dgatwood (#49959169) Attached to: Study: Sixth Extinction Event Is Underway

Parasitic worms in the gut don't usually change into microbes. :-)

But seriously, yeah, that bothered me when the original poster wrote it, as I'm assuming the original poster meant flora, but I decided to go with the term used in the post I was replying to, under the assumption that the poster really did mean tapeworms and similar....

Comment: Re:NOT naysayers. (Score 1) 294 294

by dgatwood (#49959139) Attached to: Study: Sixth Extinction Event Is Underway

Unless I'm missing something, assuming you have enough tissue samples from distinct individuals to avoid a monoculture that quickly goes extinct again because of inbreeding, the only real difference between creating two living clones and creating a thousand living clones is that you have to spend about 500 times as much time and money to do the latter, and even then, only if economies of scale don't start to kick in along the way.

Now whether the species will actually stay not extinct in the wild is another question—after all, it presumably became extinct for a reason—but even a species that exists only in captivity isn't truly extinct, just extinct in the wild.

And whether or not anybody cares enough to spend 500 times as much money to bring that species back is also another question, but I already covered that.

Comment: Re:Sounds like reasonable changes to me (Score 1) 116 116

by dgatwood (#49959091) Attached to: Amazon Overhauling Customer Reviews

That's some pretty convoluted logic there, at least by my reckoning. If the user hasn't purchased the item in question, how exactly are you assuming he/she knows the product sufficiently that they're in a suitable position to review it, judging it's strengths and weaknesses?

I don't, but with the exception of books and movies, you also can't assume that people who bought the product know the product well enough to review it. The majority of reviews are posted within a couple of weeks after buying a product, for better or worse. For anything more complicated than a toaster, by the time people really know the product well enough to give it a thorough review, they've owned it for at least six months.

Worse, if you assume a typical one-year product cycle, that means half the purchasers won't understand the product well enough to give it a good review until after the next product is on the market and nobody cares about the one they bought.

The way I approach buying products consists of different approaches for different types of information:

  • Product failures: Analyze first in aggregate based on the number of people reporting failures in the product, then historically based on the number of people reporting failures in previous similar products by that manufacturer, under the assumption that most failures will occur after the next model comes out.
  • Product support by the manufacturer (e.g. firmware upgrades): Analyze historically based on similar products in previous years.
  • Comparison of features and usability: Seek out people who mention other products in their reviews, either because they chose to buy those other products instead or because they chose to buy this product over the others. Ignore all other reviews, because they rarely contain enough objective data to be of value.

Now that last one isn't precisely true; sometimes other posts do contain objective data, though they are a lot less likely to do so. I usually skim a few 5/5 and 1/5 reviews to see if I spot patterns, and if so, I then decide whether those patterns are indicative of device malfunction or user malfunction... but that's the last step of analysis for products that I didn't rule out in the previous, easy steps. :-)

Also, if the product sucks, assuming the product isn't so bad that folks return it, people who own the product are more likely to feel the need to give it better reviews to justify the money they spent.

Wow... again. I'd bet that people who have purchased a product and are unhappy with it are actually *more* likely to review it harshly in an effort to punish the company for their poor product, and at least warn others against a crappy purchase. There are some old marketing saws that say similar things, I believe.

It's not my theory. We even have a term for people who do that frequently: fanboys. Worse, those rare people who understand a product well enough to give it a thorough review in the first few weeks of ownership are much more likely to be fanboys, because that usually only happens if they've already owned a similar product from that same manufacturer. So the least accurate reviews are likely to be the positive reviews that look the most accurate....

At the very least, that holds true for me. I've purchased a couple of stinkers, and I made damn sure to leave a one or two star review, and explain in detail *why* it was such a terrible product.

Me, too. I've also often posted reviews on products with obvious design flaws that I chose not to buy, in which I explained in detail why it was a terrible product. And invariably when I do, I get a bunch of whining idiots asking me how I can possibly know how well something will work without buying it. And my answer is something like "because I know what a fulcrum is". It is as though people magically think that a design flaw only exists if someone was foolish enough to pay for the product before discovering it, or that an obvious design flaw will magically go away if you wish hard enough, either of which just boggles my mind.

Comment: Re:Sounds like reasonable changes to me (Score 1) 116 116

by dgatwood (#49958981) Attached to: Amazon Overhauling Customer Reviews

I'm not sure I'm getting your logic, now if this person bought and reviewed both then you might have a point, but just because they bought a different similar product doesn't mean they know anything about the product they didn't buy.

The logic is simple. People don't bother writing reviews about products unless they have a reason to do so. That reason is either because they bought it and liked it/didn't like it or because they chose not to buy it because they chose something else, but took the time to consider it. In the latter case, there's a 100% chance that they are at least somewhat familiar with multiple products. In the former case, there's a much less than 100% chance.

Therefore, you have better odds of learning actual facts that you don't know about the product (as opposed to pure opinions) by reading a review from someone who chose a competing product over the one you're considering than by reading a review from someone who bought the product.

Comment: Re: that's funny... (Score 2) 368 368

Nonsense. Unique means that something is one of a kind. Suppose that you have a figurine, and there is exactly one other figurine in the world that is like it. If something happens to the other one, your figurine will become unique. Therefore, yours is almost unique, because you haven't found your hammer yet. After you do, it will be unique. :-D

Comment: Re:Sounds like reasonable changes to me (Score 1, Redundant) 116 116

by dgatwood (#49955113) Attached to: Amazon Overhauling Customer Reviews

Someone who actually is known to have purchased the item, yea, their review should be worth more than random Internet person #4827341

Not really. A review by someone who chose a different product is likely to be more valuable in choosing a product, assuming that person can articulate why he/she chose the other product, because that means the person knows not only this product, but also other products on the market. By contrast, someone who chose the product he/she is reviewing has a very high probability of being familiar with only that product and not any others on the market. Given a choice, I'd take reviews from non-owners over reviews by owners any day.

Also, if the product sucks, assuming the product isn't so bad that folks return it, people who own the product are more likely to feel the need to give it better reviews to justify the money they spent. And because they're less likely to know other products on the market than someone who chose s different product, they're also less likely to recognize the products' flaws. Between those two factors, owners of the product are more likely to give bad products higher ratings than they deserve.

A review from last month is probably worth more than one from two years ago. The product may have changed.

If the product has changed in a meaningful way (other than possibly fixing manufacturing defects), it should have a different ISBN/UPS and model number. The alternative causes serious customer confusion and can lead to legal problems all around. And in cases where there is a manufacturing flaw, Amazon lets companies make an official response to reviews. The manufacturers can use that mechanism to note that the flaw was fixed in all products made after [insert date here] if they choose to do so. If they don't, it's nobody's fault but their own.

Comment: Re:NOT naysayers. (Score 1) 294 294

by dgatwood (#49954459) Attached to: Study: Sixth Extinction Event Is Underway

Besides, this isn't sci-fi anymore. Cross-species cloning using genetic material from one species in the ova of another was done sucessfully more than a decade ago (and I'm not sure if that linked study was even the first one). There really isn't much question about whether it is possible anymore. The only real question is whether we care about a species enough to bother to bring it back from extinction....

Comment: Re:Devils advocate here (Score 1) 141 141

Asking (young) kids to remember a lanyard, not lose it, leave the house with it every day, and keep it on all day (even during gym) is too much.

Why? You hang it around your neck, and you never take it off, including during gym. That's the whole point of using a lanyard instead of, for example, something that you carry around in your hand or pocket. It is mindless and automatic.

This is how they did it when I was in elementary school. The staff had a pile of cards of people who got free lunch for every class. Those cards were kept in the cafeteria. When a class came to lunch we all were seated at our assigned table (1-2 tables per class, depending on the size of the class). Then the staff called each student alphabetically and gave them their lunch cards one by one, then that student got in line. The cards were punched and given back to the cashier. It was a pretty simple system that worked.

The problem with those schemes is that everyone in your school knew who was on the free lunch program. One of the benefits of everyone having an ID card is that everyone pays with the card, and everyone's lunch is either billed to the parents or to the free lunch program, thus at least reducing the number of opportunities for stigmatization because of poverty.

Comment: Re:NOT naysayers. (Score 1) 294 294

by dgatwood (#49954379) Attached to: Study: Sixth Extinction Event Is Underway

They're still not the same species. There's things like the mitochondrial DNA that is lost as well as other things like the intestinal fauna and even the cultural parts that get passed on by example from parent to child may be important.

The intestinal fauna is going to change over time anyway, and there's a nonzero chance that it contributed to the species' extinction by being incompatible with changing food sources, so replacing it would probably make the species more viable. With regards to cultural issues, IMO, there isn't much difference between that and non-extinct species where the only remaining animals were born in captivity.

As for mitochondrial DNA, you're assuming that the species has been extinct long enough to not have full tissue samples. If you have a frozen tissue sample, I would assume you could use the mitochondria from that sample in addition to the chromosomes. If you don't have a frozen tissue sample, the odds of being able to reconstruct the organism go down pretty rapidly because of the genetic equivalent of code rot.

Comment: Re:TNSTAAFL (Score 1) 272 272

by dgatwood (#49954357) Attached to: Sprint Begins Punishing Customers For FCC's Net Neutrality Rules

Not quite - the cost of building out infrastructure is a huge barrier to entry, but it is not insurmountable for an individual, organisation or corporation with deep enough pockets - see Google's Fiber initiative as an example.

The problem is that whole "deep pockets" part. The cost of building out the infrastructure isn't insurmountable, but the payoff is over such a long period of time that no bank would give you a loan to do it. That means it is only possible for a company with enough money that they can do it without taking out a loan. And the vast majority of those companies are run by MBA types who would have the same reaction as the bank. "What do you mean, it will take you 30 years to pay off the cost in the best-case scenario? You want a 60-year loan? We don't make loans with periods that long...."

The government is just about the only organization that has both enough funding to do it and enough reckless disregard for turning a profit on their investment. :-)

The rate at which a disease spreads through a corn field is a precise measurement of the speed of blight.