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Comment: Re:Actually PRO-Science (Score 1) 726

by gafisher (#35122472) Attached to: New Mexico Bill To Protect Anti-Science Education

The law goes far beyond 5th hour biology at Ridgemont High, as any state-funded college is a public school. But even accepting your premise, should a High School science teacher be punished for contradicting an outdated textbook or for exposing her class to controversial new discoveries? That's currently possible.

The real issue is not science but censorship.

Comment: Actually PRO-Science (Score 1) 726

by gafisher (#35122276) Attached to: New Mexico Bill To Protect Anti-Science Education

There is a very fine line between what is settled fact and what is merely dogma. Galileo is commonly presented as the "science vs. religion" poster boy, but what he was opposed for was teaching things which contradicted the accepted science of his day. Copernicus is an even better example, overturning a complete and accepted cosmology which had defined much of science for centuries. Boyle and Priestly were teaching "anti-science" when they disproved the well-accepted Phlogiston theory. In fact, virtually every advance in science has come at the expense of what had previously been accepted as true and, in most senses, settled.

To be sure, many challenges to the accepted views of the world around us are likely to be spurious, and some may even be ludicrous, but to outlaw such challenges is precisely to outlaw true science by prohibiting the questions and hypotheses which define the scientific method. If the New Mexico law protects even one Einstein or, to be sure, a single Darwin, it will have advanced science more than a hundred laws which would mire us in a sea of "settled" but incorrect understanding.

Comment: Promising (Score 2) 208

by gafisher (#35078654) Attached to: Magnetic Brain Stimulation Makes Learning Easier
TMS / TCMS has also shown promise in the treatment of migraine [ http://www.thelancet.com/journals/laneur/article/PIIS1474-4422(10)70054-5/abstract ] and a simple handheld device has been tested [ http://www.science20.com/news_releases/transcranial_magnetic_stimulator_claims_to_zap_away_migraines ] with positive results. The magnetic fields involved are much more intense than environmental magnetism, but the sensitivity of the brain to these effects raises questions about prolonged exposure to electromagnetic noise.

Comment: Re:I have a much more ambitious vision (Score 1) 1073

by gafisher (#34778526) Attached to: The Continued Censorship of Huckleberry Finn
Without a past we can have no future. If I begin with the premise that "I am a good person" then not only will I have little incentive to say "I can do better" but in fact I won't have any idea what "better" really means. Conversely, if I can look back on my own or our collective past I may shudder in horror and say "I want to be as far from that as I can get."

Comment: Voc-Ed or Navel Gazing? (Score 1) 709

by gafisher (#34694560) Attached to: Why Teach Programming With BASIC?
The perennial question ought to be "Why should we teach kids to program?" Was it the essence of the industrial revolution to teach every child to operate a spinning jenny or a steam engine? Society's goal ought not to be to make each student a master of the newest tool, but to teach them how to live in a society which that new tool has changed. Some will naturally gravitate toward the technological side, and may become invaluable for the abilities they develop, but the world does not need a population of composers, designers, writers, builders, leaders and more who are first of all amateur programmers.

Certainly those of us who write code needed this vocational education, but it is shortsighted or arrogant to think everyone else does.

Comment: Re:And so (Score 1) 346

by gafisher (#34665584) Attached to: Pickens Wind-Power Plan Comes To a Whimpering End
"Alternative Energy" of any sort is heavily subsidized. Pickens' problem was distribution -- he expected to generate power in the North Texas region and get it to the big demand centers by selling it into the existing grid at near retail rates; inconveniently the "existing grid" didn't amount to much in the desolate area where the wind towers were to go.

Comment: Re:Who'll profit? (Score 1) 142

by gafisher (#34260820) Attached to: Graphene Can Be Made With Table Sugar
Pure science is generally defined as a process of studying what already is, such as energy, matter and scientific principles. The development of processes is an example of applied science, which manipulates or combines the discoveries of pure science into something new, something which did not previously exist.

Comment: Re:Who'll profit? (Score 1) 142

by gafisher (#34260594) Attached to: Graphene Can Be Made With Table Sugar
I'm not so sure, Hesiod, but I should be clear that I'm distinguishing "pure" science from "applied" science. Applications of pure science should be patentable, of course, just as applications of unpatentable things like steel, wood or aluminum are patentable, but in my opinion pure science is more like a raw material than a product.

Comment: Re:Who'll profit? (Score 1) 142

by gafisher (#34252682) Attached to: Graphene Can Be Made With Table Sugar
The best "prize" system for encouraging innovation already exists, and you named it: "... inventing applications for it will make you rich." The patent system as it exists today functions almost exactly opposite to what it was intended to do, which was to share knowledge and ... encourage innovation. One severe failing in that system is the tolerance of preclusive patents, those filed specifically and only to keep a discovery off the market or to keep others from applying concepts which might compete with the patent-holder's core business. To end this practice patents should expire if they aren't developed into marketable form -- and actual products -- within, say, five years.

The clash of ideas is the sound of freedom.

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