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Comment: Re:nonsense (Score 1) 462

by jfengel (#49630551) Attached to: The Medical Bill Mystery

Americans really do seem to see themselves as "temporarily embarrassed millionaires". Everybody wants to defend their right to access things for money, even if practically nobody actually has that money, because they will some day soon. They're willing to do anything to preserve their rights once they get rich, including things that will actually cost them a lot of money right now.

I honestly don't know if a single payer plan would be best for America. But the majority of the arguments I hear against it are laughable. The country got to be rich and powerful by innovation and thought, but it seems simultaneously dominated by superstitious thinking.

Comment: Re:Try again... 4? (Score 1) 225

by jfengel (#49595835) Attached to: Grooveshark Shuts Down

Pandora makes it pretty clear that music at least costs attention. It has a *lot* of ads, both audio and on the screen. They tell you that you can make the ads go away, for a price.

People still don't quite connect that attention is being used as money, and they do still think of things as "free" even when they're paying in attention. But of all the ad-supported mechanisms I've seen, Pandora most specifically seems to make clear that you're paying one way or another.

Comment: Re:39/100 is the new passing grade. (Score 1) 174

That's a really good summary of the situation.

I do think that there's one more important factor. The flip side of reproducibility is utility. The whole reason that we care about reproducibility is that it means that we can put things to use. We demand falsifiability because if it can't be put to the test, then it's not so much "wrong" as "worthless", i.e. Not Even Wrong. If it can be reproduced but never is, what did it matter in the first place?

That's not the same kind of epistemological issue that falsifiability is, but it's a bit more immediate. If this research isn't being put to use, why are we bothering doing it at all? Wouldn't our time and money be better spent on other things?

It seems as if a lot of these studies weren't worth having done. Not just because they couldn't be reproduced, but because nobody wanted to. It's the sociology of science, the dynamics of funding and defining a new field. It's a field full of questions that we want answers to, but the questions themselves are ill-posed because we don't have a solid theory in which to ask them. We're going to have to grope towards an answer, and that's going to mean a lot of missteps.

I wish we had better answers, but it does seem to me as if this hints at a need for the field to clean itself up. Rather than performing so many disconnected studies, maybe we need to stop pushing for papers that nobody apparently has an use for even if they were valid. I know that's easier said than done; it hints at completely revamping the way funding is done. But the money is being spent, and it appears that much of it is not being spent well.

Comment: Re:to drive (Score 1) 280

by jfengel (#49586937) Attached to: New Study Suggests Flying Is Greener Than Driving

Averages are clearer when the correct number of significant figures is used. It's not meaningful to give four significant figures for an average that's supposed to stand in for a wide range of values. At best it's really just an order of magnitude.

And while I don't doubt the number, it does imply that they're not careful with their methodology, which makes it harder to put a lot of weight on it. It would have been better with just one or two digits of precision, or (if they wanted to spend the extra space on it) with a description of the range.

Comment: Re: Idiotic (Score 1) 591

I find it kind of remarkable that it's so low in the US. I wonder why that is. I can't imagine that conditions are any better. Or are UK prisons that much worse?

Could we be taking stronger steps to prevent it? (Surely not.) Could it be something about our pro-imprisonment culture that makes for a different mind-set among prisoners? Perhaps the record keeping is different?

I'm not any kind of expert, so this is the rankest speculation. The factor-of-five difference is very striking.

Comment: Re: Idiotic (Score 1) 591

It's certainly not cost; executing someone costs far more than life does.

Only because the standard of proof is so high. We have a lot of protections in place for those who stand accused of a capital crime, precisely because it's so final.

And that's good, but that says less about capital punishment than it says about the difficulty of proof. How many people are put in prison for decades, sometimes to die there, because their cases don't attract as much attention and aren't subject to the same level of scrutiny? Prison is still punishment, made worse in many places (including the US) by subjecting the prisoners to each other. Last year 82 prisoners in UK prisons killed themselves, more than twice the 35 people who were executed in the US (with a vastly larger prison population). (I'm sorry; I couldn't find data on US prison suicides but I suspect it's at least comparably high.)

I wish we could provide all of the accused with the level of scrutiny that they deserve. It would save a great many lives from being ruined, a fate I find at least as horrifying as execution.

Comment: Re:Why the bad rap? (Score 1) 111

True, though it could well impact the estimates of methane emissions worldwide. If there's some unexpected source of methane, there may be more. Or it may indicate that if some sources are producing more then others are producing less, or that that methane atmospheric lifetime is different than we thought.

So it's scientific curiosity, but it may well end up having an impact on our understanding of climate change due to greenhouse gases, beyond the immediate production at this site.

Comment: Re:Web sites (Score 1) 277

That's partly Amazon's fault. They nag you to provide reviews. And not just star ratings, but reviews; IIRC you can't submit the star rating without at least a few words. So at least some people end up writing crappy reviews just to turn the nag off, and hoping that they're helpful, even though ones like this obviously aren't.

Aren't you glad you're not getting all the government you pay for now?

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