Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?

Comment: Re:Did they mention the yummy GMOs (Score 5, Informative) 320

by nbauman (#49498285) Attached to: Columbia University Doctors Ask For Dr. Mehmet Oz's Dismissal

can you legitimize that accusation please?

Well, going down the list of signers http://www.vox.com/2015/4/16/8... I notice

GIlbert Ross, M.D.
President (Acting) and Executive Director
American Council on Science and Health

I am not completely for or against ACSH. Elizabeth Whelan, their founder, was an advocate for some issues I agreed with and some issues I disagreed with. I met Whelan a couple of times. I liked her. She was adding information about some controversial debates, and she was particularly useful in taking on some politically correct positions that had a weak science base. As I recall she was defending GM food, and also taking money from Monsanto.

Most admirably, she was taking on the cigarette industry when it was still a "controversy," especially in magazines that were getting a lot of cigarette advertising, notably almost all the major women's magazines.

But Whelan was also trying to round up "unrestricted" grants from industry to write supposedly unbiased or objective reports on major controversies. To her credit, they tried to give all the scientific evidence, although they seem to have run into problems with that.

The one I remember was their report on that fat substitute, Olestra https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... This was not a life-or-death issue, but olestra had a few side effects, the most noticeable of which was diarrhea. Procter & Gamble managed to get the FDA to allow them to refer to "diarrhea" by the euphemistic term, "loose stools," which I thought was misleading. At any rate, when I read that report I realized why you can't get an objective report sponsored by a corporation with a financial interest. Whelan couldn't even use straightforward language and arguments to defend olestra, because P&G's lawyers made them follow the FDA-approved wording.

Whelan's big disappointment was that the industry wouldn't support her (the way they do for the more partisan think tanks like the Manhattan Institute), so she gave up that economic model. I don't know where they get their money from now, but I assume they disclose it. In a way it's a shame, because Whelan failed because she was too honest (but not completely candid). Or to put it less flatteringly, you can't be a little bit of a prostitute.

But let's go to the signers at the top.

Henry I. Miller, M.D.
Robert Wesson Fellow in Scientific Philosophy
& Public Policy
Hoover Institution
Stanford University
Stanford, CA

Scott W. Atlas, M.D.
David and Joan Traitel Senior Fellow
Hoover Institution
Stanford University
Stanford, CA

Hoover did not deign to include its funding sources in the "About Us" section of its web site, and I'm not going to track it down. But as I recall, when Hoover was first created, the Stanford faculty complained that they were an independent institution using Stanford's name but without academic accountability to Standford, and they were funded by corporations that had a financial stake in some of the areas of their research.

Miller was one of the founding members of The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition which was founded by Philip Morris to challenge the evidence of harm from tobacco http://www.sourcewatch.org/ind...

I remember reading Miller's defenses of GM food. I happen to think that GM food is (probably, mostly) pretty safe. But if Miller believes in the free market, he ought to let consumers know which foods are GM and which aren't, so they can make their own free-market decisions. I don't know if Miller takes any money directly from those corporations. But the organizations he works for, like the Hoover Institution, ACSH, and ASSC, do. So that's where his paycheck ultimately comes from. So in that sense the parent's accusation is true.

Oz has gone completely off the wall, and if I had to choose between Miller and Oz, I'd have to give my verdict to Miller on this one. Miller correctly calls Oz out for his financial conflicts of interest. So it's appropriate to apply the same test to Miller himself. But let them fight it out. This will inform the public debate.

Comment: Re:Just say "No". (Score 1) 141

by nbauman (#49496453) Attached to: Google Helps Homeless Street Vendors Get Paid By Cashless Consumers

One of the problems is that under the Faircloth Amendment, federal money can't be used to build new public housing, but it can be used to destroy public housing. http://alexisandjesse.tumblr.c...

So as a result we wind up spending $300 a night to put the poor in welfare hotels, when that same money could build ten times as much public housing.

Comment: Re:Just say "No". (Score 2) 141

by nbauman (#49492265) Attached to: Google Helps Homeless Street Vendors Get Paid By Cashless Consumers

You must live in a nice part of Seattle. I work in the Pioneer Square area, and several of the Real Change sellers in that area and the ID are quite obviously either drunk, high or mentally ill, and pushy to the point of verbal abuse if you try to ignore them.

I do not support Real Change because while it gets the sellers money for a meal and some basic needs, it does not encourage them to go beyond that and get off the street altogether. I want to support organizations that support homeless folks in moving *out* of being homeless, rather than merely making it easier to *be* homeless.

In New York, and several other cities, we found out that the best way to move folks out of being homeless is to give them a home. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... Then worry about the other things. It's difficult or impossible for someone to get a job, health care, treatment for drug abuse or mental diseases like schizophrenia, if he doesn't have a stable place to live. The best way to give them homes was to go to court and order the City and State to give them housing. There were provisions in the City and State constitutions that said it was the job of the government to provide for the poor.

In my understanding, the reason homeless people are selling newspapers is that it's a legal way to panhandle. When poor people were selling items on the street, the cops hassled them. There was a lawsuit that ruled that they could sell books on the street, because books and magazines are protected by the First Amendment.

Comment: Re:Hasn't this been proven to be junk science? (Score 1) 313

And even if they are, there's the question of why anyone would bother creating mind-clones of a bunch of dead people with overlarge egos. Maybe if you had the head of Einstein, Ghandi, or some other figure who might have something to offer there would be a chance

I think they set up a fund that grows interest at something like 3% a year, and invest a dollar. By the time they're ready to be reanimated, each of them will have accumulated enough interest to be richer than Google.

I for one welcome our new reanimated overlords.

Comment: Re:Hasn't this been proven to be junk science? (Score 1) 313

There's, "Maybe we'll someday be able to do this, and that would be really cool," there's, "This is currently in development and should soon be widely available," and then there's, "This is fundamentally impossible and there is no conceivable way it would ever work."

Cryogenics falls into the last category. This will become especially clear if you read up on what they actually did to the girl's dead body.

I can't imagine how anyone could ever be reanimated after that treatment.

But I do understand their argument, which is, "Given enough time and progress, we'll be able to reverse any damage. Eventually, we'll be able to recreate a new human body and implant the restored brain in it."

They're arguing from infinity. It's hard to argue against infinity.

You can say, "You can't do this any time during the next N years." They say, "Well, you haven't proved that we can't do it in N+1 years."

You say, "Scientists today can't imagine repairing the damage you do to brain cells by freezing." They say, "New technology is always doing things that everyone previously thought was impossible."

I suspect they may run out of time first, when the universe is finally reduced to its final entropy.

Lucky for them, nobody will be around at that time to say, "I told you so."

Comment: Re:Hasn't this been proven to be junk science? (Score 1) 313

Works on rats. Sorta.

J Physiol. 1955 Jun 28; 128(3): 541–546.
PMCID: PMC1365902
Reanimation of rats from body temperatures between 0 and 1 C by microwave diathermy
R. K. Andjus and J. E. Lovelock

Of course, nobody has frozen a rat solid, put him away in a freezer, and then reanimated him.

Comment: Re:laugh all you want. (Score 1) 74

by nbauman (#49466009) Attached to: 1980's Soviet Bloc Computing: Printers, Mice, and Cassette Decks

My point wasn't that it was a meat grinder war.

My point was that educators on both sides were exploiting the cold war to promote education.

One of the trump cards that U.S. colleges used to promote science education was, "We have to keep up with the Soviets." It was shameless but it worked. As I recall, I got something called a "National Defense Scholarship" to study science and math.

I'm sure the Soviet educators were doing the same thing.

The cold war would have been pretty good if all they did was compete with each other over who could create the best education system in science and math.

Unfortunately they actually went to war. The military-industrial complex can always outmaneuver the education complex.

Comment: Re:laugh all you want. (Score 1) 74

by nbauman (#49465409) Attached to: 1980's Soviet Bloc Computing: Printers, Mice, and Cassette Decks

It sounds like the Vietnam war because as nimbius describes it, students in the Soviet Union could get a good science and mathematics education, but the purpose of the education system was to provide soldiers for the war.

Some of our political leaders believed during the cold war that we needed an educated workforce to fight Communism, and our educators encouraged that belief in order to get a lot of money.

There was some truth to that. After all, we won WWII through industrial production and technology. You could make a better argument that a better educated workforce could increase economic production.

But I think it was mostly educators coming up with a good excuse to get money. They used the dishonest means of cold war lies towards the good end of technology education.

If the Soviets were supporting education because they believed they needed it for military advantage, so were we.

Comment: Re: Everyone loves taxes (Score 2) 173

Your second link is even more interesting. There you present a teacher who is crying that because he wants to run outside the box and accepted lesson plans, he has to purchase supplies to do so on his own. Sure it would be nice if everything was free, but it's sort of his own doing there.

What you call "outside the box" is known in affluent districts, and in other countries, as "teaching science."

I later met Soviet emigres who had better-equipped high schools than I did. No wonder they beat us into space. No wonder Sergei Brinn created Google.

Comment: Re:Everyone loves taxes (Score 1) 173

Please step away from the 50's and 60's, the "military-industrial" complex is way to small to effect the economy. DoD spend about $600 billion a year (of which about $300 Billion is spent on salaries, benefits, etc.) and that pales in comparison to the rest of the nearly $4 Trillion federal budget and won't budget the $17 Trillion U.S. economy. In fact, even large companies are doing all they can to get away from reliance on DoD because of uncertain funding and small ball funding.

According to Joe Stiglitz, who must know something about economics because he won a Nobel prize for it, the cost of the Iraq war was at least $3 trillion. That's $10,000 per capita. One of the big costs of the war turns out to be paying pensions and lifetime health care for military. http://www.washingtonpost.com/...

$3 trillion is about 2 years of all health care payments for everybody in the country. Medicare alone is about $500 billion a year, so the Iraq war cost 6 years of Medicare.

At one time I used to hear people say, "If we didn't spend so much money on the military we would have more money for things like health care," and I used to correct them because military spending was small in comparison to health care. Now I can't correct them any more. Since the war on terrorism, military spending is a blank check.

Comment: Re: Everyone loves taxes (Score 3, Informative) 173

You must have grown up a long time ago, in a school district far away. Today teachers have to buy their own supplies, out of their own personal funds.


Teachers spending $500 out of own pockets for kids' school supplies: union poll
Pens, paper — the basics — are what hard-pressed teachers are laying out their own cash for, says the union. City educrats, with a $24 billion education budget, say, 'hard-working teachers should not have to pay for supplies.'
BY Ben Chapman
Sunday, March 2, 2014, 6:54 PM

City schools are so strapped that teachers are buying the basics with their own money, a teachers union poll released Monday shows.

On average, public school teachers will spend almost $500 of their own cash this year on pens, paper and other instructional materials.

Even with its $24 billion education budget, the city doesn't always deliver the basics, teachers union president Michael Mulgrew said.

"It was the teachers who were holding the schools together -- with the tape that they bought, it seems," Mulgrew said.

Roughly half of 800 randomly selected teachers who responded to the 2013 survey said that their schools do not have a curriculum for the state's tougher new Common Core standards.

Teachers also said the Internet connections in half of their schools were either too slow or too unreliable to support instruction.

City educrats said they were working to get teachers a cash infusion.

"Hard-working teachers should not have to pay for supplies out of their own pockets," said Department spokesman Marcus Liem.

Teachers Spend Own Money for Supplies
Aug. 31
By Maria F. Durand

Bruce Hogue is always looking for ways to make teaching science more interesting.

But the money he uses for the boxes of Cheerios, Bran Flakes and Total needed for one his experiments usually comes out of his pocket.

“As a science teacher, I have an official budget, but that is usually gone by the beginning of the year,” says Hogue, who works in suburban Denver. “When I want to do a science lab, I usually pay for it all on my own.”

Hogue is one of the millions of teachers across the country who are shelling out their own hard-earned cash to pay for books, pens, pencils and other basic supplies that schools have provided in the past.

Comment: Re:Everyone loves taxes (Score 4, Informative) 173

It's way older than that. In the early 1800s people were complaining that government was wasting money on canal infrastructure projects, digging canals so shipping could travel across the US.

You mean the canals that today sit unused?

He means canals like the Erie Canal that turned New York City into the largest port in the U.S., by opening the western U.S. to international commerce. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/...

Comment: Re:I'm gonna go out on a limb. (Score 1) 291

by nbauman (#49455003) Attached to: Cannabis Smoking Makes Students Less Likely To Pass University Courses

Well, had you read the article .../quote>

Had you read the article? The article to read was not in a newspaper, but the original publication http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/pa... , in the Social Science Research Network.

1. Association is not causation.

2. It hasn't been published in a peer-reviewed journal. It was presented at a conference, and uploaded to an archive. There were no reviewers to point out any obvious flaws that would be obvious to a specialist in the field that a newspaper reporter might not notice (assuming he had indeed read the entire study).

3. They are economists, not scientists. Scientists in psychology, psychiatry, and other related fields have been doing studies like this for generations. Economists sometimes make big mistakes in science. They make mistakes in conceptualizing problems and figuring out how to apply their data to the real world. They don't know how to correct for confounding factors, like, were the students who had access to cannabis similar to the students who didn't? Maybe foreign students were better students than native students.

Most significantly, scientific (particularly medical) studies have a higher standard of evidence than economic studies. They make their authors prove more details, link by link, in the chain of argument. For example, this study assumes that the native students actually did smoke more cannabis than the foreign students. How do they know that? Did they do blood tests? (No.) They surveyed students on their cannabis consumption, discussed starting on p. 22, but they didn't use the survey to answer the obvious question, which is, did the native students actually smoke more cannabis than the foreign students? What were the percentages? Were they statistically significant? From my first read of the paper, I don't see that they got that data. Maybe the law had no effect. If somebody can find it in there, let me know.

In a medical drug study, researchers might assign one group of patients a drug for treating, say, AIDS. Sometimes the drug has uncomfortable side effects and the patients don't take it (without telling the doctor). They'll count pills to see whether patients are taking the drug. If it's important enough, they'll take blood tests.

4. As a science journalist, I can say that, in my professional opinion, the author of this news story is incompetent. It doesn't follow the generally-accepted best practices for medical journalism http://www.healthnewsreview.or... or any professional journalism, unless you want to use the definition that anybody who calls himself a journalist is one.

The howling mistake that the author, Jamie Doward, made is that he didn't get comment from a knowledgeable source with a different view http://www.healthnewsreview.or... If I was his editor, I would tell him to go back and get a comment. If he didn't routinely get a second comment for a controversial story like this, I would fire him. If I were teaching him in a journalism course, I would give him an F, until he gets the lesson (if ever).

There have been many studies comparing marijuana smokers and non-smokers, and they've found small effects on cognitive performance (sometimes in both directions), but never anything as dramatic as this. This requires an explanation from some of the researchers who have been studying this question for a long time.

There's a reason for this. Science journalists don't have to be smart. They just have to know their limitations. If I write a story about something as controversial as whether cannabis lowers your college grades, and interview one guy, I may not know enough to understand it. So I call up somebody else, who knows more than me, and may disagree with the first source. That way at least I get both sides. There have been an awful lot of times when the first guy turned out to be bullshitting me, and the second guy gave me a better perspective.

Any time you see a news story that only quotes one side of a controversy, you know that you can't depend on it to be accurate.

5. Association is not causation. Did I say that before? Worth repeating.

Unix is the worst operating system; except for all others. -- Berry Kercheval