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Comment: Re:Agree and disagree here (Score 1) 272

This is in fact how the soviet union was able to compete for so long, but eventually it could not keep increasing the amount of resources that it mobilized.

I almost mentioned Russia in my comment - there was a time in the 1930s, when the US and Europe were stuck in the Depression, many Westerners thought that communism might end up totally eclipsing their (at the time) failed economies. And the USSR did grow from a nation of mostly peasants into an industrial superpower incredibly quickly. China has done much better so far, in large part because it mostly integrated with the global economy which was quick to take advantage of the cheap labor. But it is also making some of the same mistakes, as demonstrated by the "ghost cities", or the high-speed rail crash.

It is capitalism that more effectively makes better and better uses of the resources that are available, and its driven by greed.

I wouldn't say "greed", although that term certainly does apply in many cases; I would call it self interest, which isn't the same thing. The fact that our behavior (and economic activity) is greatly affected by incentives doesn't mean that we're greedy or foolish, it means we're human. It's amazing how many people on both the left and the right ignore this when it doesn't align nicely with their preferred policy goals.

Comment: Re:Agree and disagree here (Score 1) 272

These things, combined with a population advantage, guarantee China's success long-term absent any other forces.

Only up to a point. Part of the reason why China has been enjoying enormous rates of economic growth is that it had so far to go. Once their economy and standard of living starts to get much closer to that of the existing advanced industrial economies, and they lose their advantage of cheap labor, all they're left with is the population advantage. And they'll be busy strip-mining the third world in the meantime, which means they'll probably overreach sooner or later and piss everyone off as badly as the US has. (And the US at least has NATO allies, and reasonably friendly relations with neighboring countries.)

Comment: Re:Waste of Time & Money (Score 1) 272

I don't think the GP was limiting the scope to science missions - instead, we should also be developing robotic missions to prepare for eventual humans. And more than just robots; even stuff as relatively trivial as 3D printers will make the difference between sustainable human presence versus short-term missions that won't last. There are many other components: better radiation shielding, genetically optimized plants, improved solar cells, and so on.

Remember, ISS is only a few hundred feet up and it's still insanely expensive to service. If we want affordable permanent settlement on the moon or Mars, we need to limit the number of supply trips.

Comment: Re:instead of space race (Score 1) 272

A big part of the reason why this won't happen is that space-related technology tends to be inherently dual-use, i.e. much of it has military purposes. In fact, that's probably the single biggest reason why there was a space race at all in the 1950s/1960s. Since China is already known to be developing military capabilities specifically to counter the US navy/naval air, and has ongoing territorial disputes with at least five neighboring countries that I can think of offhand (several of which are close US allies), it would be ill-advised of the US to make it easier for them.

Comment: Re:It's kinda cute (Score 3, Insightful) 443

by the gnat (#49779343) Attached to: Creationists Manipulating Search Results

nobody outside the US even remotely takes that "controversy" serious

Hell, most scientists inside the US don't take the "controversy" seriously, or even notice it most of the time. The only reason most of us care is because those fuckwits keep trying to legislate their mythology into the public schools, otherwise they'd be worth no more thought than, say, flat-earthers or faith healers. And in large parts of the country, e.g. liberal urban areas like the one I live in, it's not even an issue in schools either. (God knows our public schools have enough other problems...)

Comment: Re:Why is this dribble on the front page? (Score 4, Insightful) 443

by the gnat (#49779319) Attached to: Creationists Manipulating Search Results

identified Christians as potential extremists

Identified specific Christians as potential extremists. And they do exist - why is this in any way a surprise? Every faith-based ideology (Marxism obviously falls into this category) eventually attracts violent nutjobs. Even Buddhism has violent extremists, some of whom are currently hard at work ethnically cleansing a Muslim minority in Myanmar. There are also left-wing environmentalist extremists, along with Maoists and anarchists, all of whom the DHS and FBI also track.

Among other things, I find it curious that DHS was searching so hard for "non-Islamist" extremists - almost like Islamist extremists had DHS tacit approval.

The fact that most worldwide religious extremists are currently Muslim does not mean we should give a free pass to domestic extremists just because they happen to follow your preferred religion. (And what makes you so certain that the DHS wasn't investigating domestic Islamists too?) Since Christians are an overwhelming majority in the US, it is certainly logical to look for extremists in that population, especially since they may have an easier time blending in, and there are existing organized extremist groups, some of which have a long history of violence. (I should note that Timothy McVeigh was an "honorably discharged military veteran".)

Comment: Re:Real Science Is No Longer In the Academic Lab (Score 1) 417

by the gnat (#49776179) Attached to: Can Bad Scientific Practice Be Fixed?

It will never again occur in academic labs, because academics has been undermined by the multiple generations of decreasingly literate students.

The students you describe don't end up in academic labs, at least not for any job more important than cleaning glassware. Everyone doing real work already has a BS degree at a minimum, and most of them either hold PhDs or are in graduate programs. (Also, a huge fraction of them are immigrants, at least in the US.) Some of them are pretty sloppy nonetheless, but there's absolutely not a surplus of semi-literate scientists in academic research (as opposed to small technical colleges).

Comment: Re:sophistry (Score 1) 417

by the gnat (#49776097) Attached to: Can Bad Scientific Practice Be Fixed?

I'm just saying that the science rot we're seeing is not coming out of the corporate labs.

Corporate labs have a very different incentive system, and at least in most areas of the biomedical sciences, they publish far less in peer-reviewed journals. What they do publish will usually be better vetted, but this comes at the expense of taking much longer - because, of course, their scientists aren't dependent on (rapid) publication for career advancement. (The issue of applied vs. directed research is a separate problem - very few companies can afford to do truly undirected basic research.) There are certainly things that could be changed about academia to mitigate the problem; the current system of grad students and postdocs doing most of the work in academia is a disaster. (I say this as someone who has spent more than a decade in this system.)

Where you err is assuming that you can simply weed out the bad actors through some kind of personality test. Contrary to your supposition, very few people go into academic research for any impure motivation, and it isn't simply a problem with the people in power. Much of the fraud and incompetence is produced by junior researchers who aren't rich or famous or powerful, and are motivated solely by the need to advance to the next stage in their careers. And there are plenty of examples of people who are motivated in part by "money or power or attention", but also manage to do excellent science at the same time. (Craig Venter is one obvious example, but there are plenty of pure academics who are equally ego-driven.) But in general, everyone following this career path is fundamentally interested in and excited by science, otherwise they would have become doctors or bankers.

Comment: Re:Maybe science went off the rails... (Score 4, Informative) 417

by the gnat (#49775933) Attached to: Can Bad Scientific Practice Be Fixed?

Mann will sue your ass off, an innovation he has personally added to the scientific method.

Mann didn't sue anyone for hurting his feelings, or claiming he was wrong - he sued them for claiming, very explicitly, that he had committed fraud, and for calling him "the Jerry Sandusky of climate science".

Comment: Re: Capitalize on JS (Score 1) 270

by the gnat (#49754057) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Career Advice For an Aging Perl Developer?

Doing AJAX through jQuery these days is only acceptable in small stand-alone pieces of your application.

Care to clarify? I'm not familiar with any of the modern MVC frameworks so I don't understand what the alternatives are as far as AJAX is concerned. I certainly hope we're not expected to deal with XMLHTTPRequests directly...

Comment: Re:and yet, the GOP blocks private space. (Score 3, Informative) 96

by the gnat (#49706419) Attached to: Russian Rocket Crashes In Siberia

It goes against every instinct in my body to defend the GOP, but it's a bit unfair to attack the party for "block[ing] private space" when just below this article was another article about Congress making policy to suit the private space industry, mainly on the Republican side:

The commercial space industry had a great day on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, with the Republican-controlled House Science Committee giving it most of what it wanted while swatting away proposed changes from the minority Democrats.

Among the goodies approved by the committee: a decade-long extension of the moratorium on regulating commercial human spaceflight; a nine-year extension of industry-government cost sharing for damages caused by launch accidents; and an act that would give companies property rights to materials they mine from asteroids.

Comment: Re:Lies! Lies! All lies! (Score 1) 284

by the gnat (#49683841) Attached to: Third Bangladeshi Blogger Murdered In As Many Months

You can't say the same about Muslims when they commit acts like this, because they are expressly commanded by Muhammed either in the Quran or the Hadith (honor killings, killing apostates, drawing images of the "prophet", etc.).

Honor killings are definitely not prescribed by Islamic law. They tend to be most common in Islamic societies because these societies are - let's face it - relatively primitive and more family-oriented (not in a good way). But I've read about Hindus doing the same thing, and I suspect that was even more common when the caste system held sway. (It's the same deal with female genital mutilation - not at all Islamic, but mostly-but-not-entirely practiced by certain Islamic societies.)

Comment: Re:Nice but... (Score 2) 55

by the gnat (#49647277) Attached to: Electron Microscopes Close To Imaging Individual Atoms

Other than the obvious loss of information, I'd be interested in knowing what pitfalls come up that are specific to this case. To make things a little more concrete, take the case of a GPCR dopamine receptor. Supposedly dopamine (or one of a variety of drugs) interacts with this receptor in such a way that a different region changes conformation which in turn alters the conformation of a G-protein so that it binds GTP. This all seems to require very specific protein conformations and I can see how observing the average of many could be misleading.

Well, the main pitfall is what I already mentioned - if the conformations being averaged really are very different, this will decrease the effective resolution of the reconstruction, which will be very obvious even to an untrained eye. EM used to be notorious for producing vague blobs, in part because of the limitations of the technology (before they had direct electron detectors and had to use film), but also because the software tools (and users) weren't as good about picking out different conformations. And when the individual protein domains (often of known structure) resemble spheres in the reconstruction, it's difficult to tell that something isn't working. So it was indeed possible to generate a map that was a misleading average, and there are probably structures like that out there. But that's why everyone relied on crystallography for detailed structural information.

The good news is that at the resolution range people are using now, it should be possible to build individual structural components, but only if the particles are nearly homogeneous. So the ability to build (or dock) atomic models that clearly fit the map on the level of individual amino acids becomes a test for whether the averaging is justified.

The case you mentioned isn't really applicable, because the GPCR only assumes that conformation when bound to dopamine, and tends to work like a molecular switch. And of course if we did have a range of conformations being looked at, the reconstruction would resemble a soup can, without any atomic detail, which isn't really a publishable result. GPCRs are so small that it's currently better to use crystallography, but there are indeed structures of GPCRs in various static states at high resolution.

The remaining problems are that a) proteins aren't really static and b) the experimental methods for structural studies may induce non-physiological artifacts. I don't think (a) is that much of a problem because we have plenty of ways of studying protein dynamics and everyone is implicitly aware of this limitation anyway. The second problem is potentially worse: purification can sometimes have weird effects, crystallization packs molecules into a lattice that may not represent the native conformation, both crystallography and EM typically work at cryogenic temperatures which is known to change the structure in various ways (mostly but not always subtle), radiation damage can have side effects too. Much worse are the older "negative stain" EM structures where the proteins were covered with uranium or something similarly massive and sandwiched between thin sheets of carbon. Fortunately this is much less common now that cryo-EM has gotten so much better.

Ultimately the value of any model is determined by its ability to explain biochemical data and suggest new testable hypotheses. That's ultimately the most important way to validate their accuracy, and researchers ignore it at their peril.

"Love may fail, but courtesy will previal." -- A Kurt Vonnegut fan

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