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Comment: Re:Precautionary principle at work. (Score 1) 432

by ggrocca (#48264395) Attached to: Black Swan Author: Genetically Modified Organisms Risk Global Ruin

I would say that the benefits of leaving the house, once considering an arbitrary sequence of days, would far outweight any possible harm; simply because you would day of starvation in your nice little home, with 100% certainty (no risk involved here!). Unless there's people bringing you food - themselves risking devastating harm by doing so. And who says that you don't risk devastating harm in your home? Floods, fires, tornadoes, whatever. You might be saved by going OUT!

You argument and my response are very interesting, but keep in mind that they bear no link of any kind to the argument given in the paper. In the paper they're talking about risks at global level. For example they consider nuclear meltdowns (not nice stuff) as local risks. Bottom line: nobody cares about you or your house, or me or my house for that matter. Your comparison doesn't hold.

I do not consider the work proposed without flaws, but let's try to criticize it at the right level.

Comment: Re:And the biologist on the author list is....? (Score 1) 432

by ggrocca (#48264265) Attached to: Black Swan Author: Genetically Modified Organisms Risk Global Ruin

You know, it would help to read the actual paper (I know, I know..), especially if you're a biologist. They devote a whole section to the argument "you're not biologists!!!1!" and make a lot of very reasonable considerations there, especially about the bad use of statistics that is seen in most biology and medical papers.

Their argument by the way is NOT the one you attacked in your post. I myself am mildly pro GMO and against science witch huntings. The paper repeats none of the the usual FrankenFood arguments and instead tries to apply perspective and critical thinking to a rather complex problem. I won't give a summary here because there are already very good posts moderated 5 around the thread doing it already.

I think the bigger takeaway from the paper is not "oh let's stop playing god and never modify organisms again" but that we should apply different techniques and ideas in testing them and deploying them, first of all avoiding global scale diffusion of new engineered crops in short periods of time, which is arguably not very smart.

Comment: Re:A mathematician commenting on biology (Score 1) 432

by ggrocca (#48264133) Attached to: Black Swan Author: Genetically Modified Organisms Risk Global Ruin

This is NOT the argument in the paper. The argument in the paper is that GMO have a risk of sistemic danger because they ride the most potent distribution mechanism in existence -- hordes of big brained monkeys doing the same thing at the same moment all over the world, e.g. humans planting the same seeds everywhere. The problem in that is that the GMO plant is a technical novelty, which has not been previously tested through trial and error before going global, and this could introduce proteins that are not toxic per se, but they are once introduced in food because of sistemic interactions, and we would all eat them at the same time.

So, two problems with a lot of GMOs:
- not thoroughly tested technological novelties
- deployed on a global scale

The problem is not Vegetable Frankestein Escaping in the Wild and Coming Back to Eat Us.

I myself am against monocultures and against intellectual property over genetic knowledge, and pro research on genetically modified organisms. That said Taleb's argument is intelligent and worth considering I think, in stark constrast against most FrankenFood arguments we heard way too many times.

Comment: Re:Start rant here (Score 1) 156

by ggrocca (#48194645) Attached to: GNU Emacs 24.4 Released Today

It seems strange to me that the above is modded up. I do not remember the behaviour described and only someone that has been in a cave for thirty years would consider the indentation syle a roadblock for adopting emacs usage anyway: the indentation system is - you betcha - extremely flexible and easily configured. That said there could be good reasons for disliking emacs and choosing to avoid it but indentation is certainly not among them.

Anyway, as long time emacs user, I think that changing the default indentation style is often a good idea. Personal preference and interoperabilty with people using other editors should guide your choice, and I don't particularly like the default GNU style myself. Configuration of indentation styles only requires adding a lines or two to your .emacs file. A five minute search on google/stackoverflow etc will fetch the proper magic formulas for your language and use case; just to get you started (C/C++):

you can choose among several default indentation styles:

(setq c-default-style "linux")
(setq c++-default-style "stroustrup")

or you can configure indentation parameters to obtain the desired results (in this case, no tabs, 4 spaces indentation, braces have no indentation - simple and effective):

(setq c-basic-offset 4)
(setq indent-tabs-mode nil)
(c-set-offset 'substatement-open 0)

Comment: Vote secrecy!? (Score 1) 18

by ggrocca (#47451573) Attached to: Interviews: Juan Gilbert Answers Your Questions

I've watched the video. It seems to me that there could be easy ways to circumvent secrecy, since the printed ballot comes out of the printer unfolded, goes in full view of the room to be shown through the webcam, and is put in the ballot box again unfolded. A simple conspiracy between two different ballot workers/volunteers using a mini camera could be enough. Am I missing something?

Comment: Re:What is life? What is a virus? (Score 1) 158

by ggrocca (#47433449) Attached to: Hints of Life's Start Found In a Giant Virus

Macro: adjective
1. large-scale; overall.

Not a creationist here. I was using the word macro at a conversational level. When two groups of animals originally belonging to the same species becomes different enough to make interbreeding impossible it sounds as a big modification to me, hence the word macro. The fact that those two different groups of animals could be connected by a chain of animal groups they can interbreed with, even if they can't, and that this sometimes actually happens in nature right now seems pretty amazing to me. That said creationist probably could not recognize a proof of evolution even if it punched them in the face...

Comment: Re:What is life? What is a virus? (Score 1) 158

by ggrocca (#47431003) Attached to: Hints of Life's Start Found In a Giant Virus

Didn't know about ring species. My mind was definitely blown. It is practically genetic drift and evolution happening on a spatial scale instead of a temporal one, complete with final proof of the fact where the "ring" closes. If this does not prove evolution at the macro scale I don't know what could.

Wish I had mod points. Anonymous comments sometimes rocks.

Comment: Re:Not surprising. (Score 1) 725

by ggrocca (#47399535) Attached to: When Beliefs and Facts Collide

I was a long time skeptic, because I initially found that the statistical grounds on which such statements were made to be shaky. But models, technique and science in general has gone a long way (despite the fact that some scientists have damaged it by abandoning their role and becoming political activistists - a serious error IMHO).

A milestone in my opinion has been the fact that Richard A. Muller changed idea:

He was, AFAIK, the last serious scientists to be a skeptic in this regard. His research was partially funded by partisan groups such as the Koch brothers and he changed idea nonetheless. Kudos to the man for respecting the work he did and taking the results he got at face value regardless of where his money came from and his previous beliefs about it.

I've talked a lot of times with friends of mine, many of which are physicists and some of them with PhDs in fluids and atmospheric physics, about these issues and all of them (everyone of them more qualified than me on such matters, and none of them with vested interests) have gone from cautious skepticism to acceptance of the basic fact that global warming is happening and we are the most probable cause. What that might entails for us and the planet in the future nobody knows, but everybody again agrees that IT COULD BE BAD.

You maybe should think again and consider changing position another time. My take is that being able to change opinions and beliefs is always a badge of merit; too many people just want to believe what suits them regardless of facts, and facts are sometimes really difficult to get/assess/analyze. We should respect reality and honest attempts at understanding it. We have to be skeptic, but without falling in love with the outcomes of our own skepticism, which is one of the most difficult things to do for us humans.

Nothing is more admirable than the fortitude with which millionaires tolerate the disadvantages of their wealth. -- Nero Wolfe