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Comment: good news for Florida (Score 1) 113

Florida has long been known as a right wing stronghold. They reversed the election that lead to Bush2 being elected. They routinely fight to eliminate the poor and potentially Democrat voters from elections.

That their Supreme Court chose this path is refreshing. Let's hope that there is a trend among the Florida political elite toward respect for those who are not wealthy, those who deserve justice.

Comment: best idea: ask for good ideas (Score 1) 349

by swell (#48165609) Attached to: White House Wants Ideas For "Bootstrapping a Solar System Civilization"

Politicians often discover that when the issue they wish to move forward is resisted by their peers, they can appeal directly to the public. Explain their plan and encourage input from everyone. If they build enough support among the voters, then their peers may be forced to support the plan as well.

Kalil may or may not have support from the White House or anyone, but if he gets a big response to this challenge Obama and others will have to reconsider their reluctance.

Yes, ask the Public, ask schoolchildren in particular. Five million responses from fifth graders is a force to sway elected officials. Furthermore it inspires a new generation to reach for the stars (and distracts them from daily news of terrorists and disease).

[I offer this as a tactic for those who support this sort of thing. I am not convinced that colonizing planets is in our best interest at this time.]

Comment: ancient news (Score 3, Insightful) 87

by swell (#48156705) Attached to: Early Childhood Neglect Associated With Altered Brain Structure, ADHD

Decades ago there was an experiment with monkeys deprived of maternal support to varying degrees. Some not allowed to touch or see the mother. Autopsies showed that the deprived monkeys had massive (and obvious to any observer) brain deficiencies. These monkeys were never able to adjust to social settings with others of their kind. Their behavior was obviously abnormal. My impression was that every moment of their life was stressful for them. Sorry I can't recall the source of the video I saw.

This result would be the same for dogs, cats and humans. I can't comprehend why it would be news in the year 2014.

Comment: how many tears should we shed? (Score 1) 283

by swell (#48088673) Attached to: Glut of Postdoc Researchers Stirs Quiet Crisis In Science

It's sad that science don't get more respect. Fanatics of various stripes in Congress, in the Middle East, and around the world are more interested in superstitious beliefs than science. And really, when it comes down to it, aren't almost ALL scientists tedious with their caveats and their statistics?

One would think that before embarking upon a ten year educational voyage, they might have investigated the prospects for a reward. Any kind of reward- money, prestige, a mention on Big Bang Theory, girls... But no, they forged ahead blind to the future and their own survival.

PostDocs should be happy that they don't live in times/places of revolution when the educated are the first to be cremated alive. Modern educational standards don't require knowledge of Pol Pot or Mao Zedong or Joseph Stalin. For centuries, intellectuals have been the bane of those who want to conserve traditional values and beliefs. Really? Global warming, descended from monkeys, quarks? These people need to get real.

And so let's give them a position somewhere where they can do no harm and quietly fade away. It's really only a tiny minority of them that actually makes waves and disrupts our dearly held beliefs.

Comment: a temporary period of distraction (Score 1) 208

by swell (#48084921) Attached to: Studies Conclude Hands-Free-calling and Apple Siri Distract Drivers

Put someone in a driving simulator and have them do something that might distract them. Does that make sense?

Put ME in a driving simulator and I'm already distracted. This isn't my car. The instruments aren't in the right places. It's confusing! And now you hand me a complicated device to use while 'driving'?

I had a bit of distraction the first few times I used the bluetooth system in my car. It could have been dangerous. The microphone was in the ceiling and the incoming via the radio, controls on the steering wheel and the phone was in my pocket. Dialing out was via voice commands. After a while it all seemed quite natural. Were these test subjects given time to adapt to the strange surroundings (like a week or two)?

Often when a study like this is done; to test the safety of distracting devices, or cigarettes or marijuana or alcohol ... there is a moral component. The people paying for the study want it to give certain results. Someone at AAA decided to do this- I wonder how old they are. It often seems to me that it is older people who fuss about such things (hey, I'm old but not fussy). In any case this particular study seems useless and biased.

Comment: size matters (Score 4, Insightful) 68

by swell (#48080563) Attached to: Nearly 700 Genetic Factors Found To Influence Human Adult Height

The significant thing to note here is that height is important. It wouldn't be studied otherwise. If you want to succeed in politics or upper management or any endeavor in which you are judged by others, you should be tall. Man or woman (but especially men), it makes no difference- you must be tall.

You may be a great scientist or programmer or advertising copywriter, but unless you are tall you won't get credit for your work. It will go to your boss who is tall and doesn't even understand what you do.

Exceptions include Hitler, Napoleon many comedians and malcontents and criminals... You have some in your family, you've seen them on TV. And why do short people act out? Because they feel the pressure that short people feel. They are never accepted, never quite good enough due to their stature. They overcompensate.

When we learn to judge others by their merit, rather than their sometimes obvious 'short'comings, we will prevent many overreactions that lead to crime and worse. Randy Newman was wrong- short people can be just as beneficial to society, just as worthy as tall people.

Comment: pork, politics ? (Score 1) 55

by swell (#48043879) Attached to: Laying the Groundwork For Data-Driven Science

from TFA:
"In fiscal year (FY) 2014, its budget is $7.2 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives about 50,000 competitive requests for funding, and makes about 11,500 new funding awards. NSF also awards about $593 million in professional and service contracts yearly."

and: "awards support research in 22 states"

This particular investment is a tiny fraction of the budget. A low priority.

Note that each congressperson attempts to get government funding for his/her state as part of the obligatory re-election process. Often this funding is for nonsense activity that may provide jobs or incentive for corporate supporters.

Not saying that any of this is pork, but I'd like to know.

Comment: misdirection (Score 1) 651

by swell (#48038633) Attached to: The $1,200 DIY Gunsmithing Machine

The magician tricks the audience by directing their attention over there, while over here he is pulling something from his sleeve.

Guns are simply a distraction. A place to focus attention when the real problems are elsewhere. On one hand, you have the question of why do people want to kill people. OTOH there is the vast array of killing methods.

When every person is blessed by these principles:
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
  - and when everyone has a fair chance at a good life including medical care, economic opportunity and freedom from oppression, there will be less incentive to kill. Millions of Americans, not to mention those in other countries, have no hope of a good life. They look around at others who have it all, but there is not a pittance for them nor anyone to care for their physical or mental health.

For those who want to kill, guns are not the only resource. Knives might be the obvious alternative, or clubs. But my friend who lived in a rough part of the city used to carry a squeeze bottle of acid as a defense. These are still small potatoes when any interested party can make powerful explosives and chemical/biological poisons that can be widely distributed in air or water, or simply added to Halloween candy.

Are guns such a threat, or are we being manipulated to distract us from the real threats?

Comment: Re:Fine. Legislate for externalities. (Score 5, Insightful) 488

by swell (#48025227) Attached to: Energy Utilities Trying To Stifle Growth of Solar Power

you said "These companies are public utilities, that is government granted monopolies that the taxpayer has control over."

Here is the problem in my (USA) area-
The government and the profit-seeking utility are in collusion. The utility wants a rate increase ... they get it! The public is ignored. We once had a strong consumer advocate to counter the powerful utility lobby, but they have been emasculated. The utility is owned by a for-profit company with great resources. They can manipulate the media as well as elected and unelected officials. The taxpayer has no control over them.

Roads are built by government (taxpayers); utilities should be run by government (taxpayers) including water, power, communications and internet. These alliances with profit making companies who have the means to manipulate government cost everyone dearly.

Comment: Re:Should we? (Score 1) 267

by swell (#48012133) Attached to: Could We Abort a Manned Mission To Mars?

It will be done, but should it be the USA?

When we went to the moon, we were deep into a PR battle with the USSR. There was a general perception that they were beating us in space. We rallied our enthusiasm and resources and took the Great Leap- sending humans to the moon. We got lucky.

Now we are the leaders in space. We have nothing to prove. Others; India, China, Europe, Russia--are eager to demonstrate their prowess.

Let them. Lives are expendable in many parts of the world. The rewards justify the risks in some places. Anyone who might perish will be remembered as a hero around the world.

But the failure of a US mission would be costly to our worldwide image and to taxpayers. Others will take up the challenge. Let the US support them, encourage them, and stand aside.

Comment: Re:Science vs scientist (Score 1) 795

by swell (#47971559) Attached to: How Our Botched Understanding of "Science" Ruins Everything

Science doesn't always work to the high standards I mentioned. I have a personal interest in some medical research. Unfortunately much of that is supported by drug manufacturers. Their interest is to prove as rapidly as possible that their new drug works and has few undesirable side effects. The research that they pay for is not to DISPROVE anything. And there is nobody with the major investment available to seek a truthful assessment of the drug.

To the extent that someone wants to PROVE something, science will be undermined.

Comment: differentiating science (Score 1) 795

by swell (#47969735) Attached to: How Our Botched Understanding of "Science" Ruins Everything

This explanation may be helpful to some in explaining a common approach to science:

A scientist has an idea about reality, which she carefully states as a theory. She performs experiments in an effort to DISPROVE her theory. After many experiments, if the theory isn't disproven, she publishes her theory and others will attempt to DISPROVE the theory. If it survives all these tests, it begins to gain respect and may someday be accepted as fact by educated people.

A non-scientist has an idea about reality, and without ever making a defining statement of the idea, proceeds to look for proof that it is true. Contrary evidence will probably be ignored.

"Your mother was a hamster, and your father smelt of elderberrys!" -- Monty Python and the Holy Grail