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Comment darwin didn't know the details? shocking! (Score 4, Insightful) 313

Have Woese and Goldenfeld a brilliant new idea? All they're saying, I think, is that "parent" and "child" are the appropriate units of selection only when genes are passed vertically: from parent to child. They're suggesting that horizontal gene transfer is underrated as a historical evolutionary force.

Agree or not, it hardly undermines Darwin. Genes weren't known in the 19th century. Darwin didn't have a clue about genes, so we're gonna knock him for being "wrong" about it? I mean, was Jesus wrong about genes, too? It's anachronistic silliness.

Science is fundamentally dynamic. Any science that hasn't progressed in 150 years ain't doing too well. (Dear creationists: stop calling us "Darwinists." We've moved on.) I mean, The Origin came out in 1859, for crying out loud! Darwin was more brilliant, more insightful, and rightly more famous than I'll ever be. But if we both had to take a biology test right now, I'd kill him.

Comment Re:Mechanics car... (Score 1) 414

There is an old saying re a Mechanics car or carpenters house... they are usually the worst examples of how well they are maintained.

That's because a mechanic isn't worried if her car breaks down - she knows how to fix it.

I don't think the saying means "people are hypocritical" but rather "people who know how to fix things don't worry as much if they break." If you're a security admin and you don't follow your own advice... do you know how to fix it if it breaks?

Comment Re:1:1 (Score 1) 582

You know, you're making me think it is a silly definitional thing.

The usual way to add a point at infinity to the real numbers is the way I described - it's a way of forming the real projective line. The benefit is that you can define some operations with infinity, but the drawback is that you lose meaningful ordering in the number line. (That might be why the Riemann Sphere is a more useful object; the complex plane isn't ordered to begin with.)

If you want to retain ordering in the number line, then yes, you have to add two points at infinity. So maybe you're right, and the real projective line is a silly thing.

Comment Re:humane testing (Score 1) 235

Plants react to death and damage, but so does a water balloon. Neither has a nervous system, so I don't worry too much about it. Yes, there is an element of "if it's not like me, then it can't suffer like me," but what else can you do? Assume, despite no evidence to the contrary, that grass can suffer? Then soccer is a monstrous sport!

Why draw the line at tomatoes? First, I don't really. I eat fish on occasion. There is no magical line. Second, it's easy for me to avoid eating cows, and I'm very confident that cattle can suffer. It's damn hard to avoid eating plants, and I'm not at all confident that plants can suffer. So not eating cattle is a better ethical bang for my buck.

Comment Re:humane testing (Score 1) 235

And as a Botanist I don't see how you gain any moral high ground by killing plants.

Because plants can't suffer. It's not the killing that bothers me, it's the suffering.

I'd say capacity for suffering goes something like:
humans > cows > fish > bivalves > tomato plants > sand

Comment Re:1:1 (Score 1) 582

A better reason can be seen using limits. As X approaches 0 in 1/x, the output approaches BOTH positive and negative infinity. As such, it is impossible to define the output - it would need to have two values at once, which is illogical.

But +infinity and -infinity are the same point, in a way.

You can kinda wrap the number line into a circle. This pic should be somewhat self-explanatory on how to map the number line onto a circle. And you can probably see that the very top of the circle - the so-called "point at infinity" - is both +infinity and -infinity.

(See Riemann Sphere for a complex plane version of this.)

Comment Re:humane testing (Score 1) 235

especially when it's for something shallow like cosmetic testing.

...or like cheaper hamburgers?

Sorry. As a vegetarian biologist, this is just an inconsistency that I see constantly. "How can you be vegetarian and use antibodies that came from lab rabbits in your research?!" Easy: the cost/benefit ratio is wildly different. I don't understand how McDonald's-eating folks complain about animal testing.

Comment i mess up ~2-3 times before i get it right (Score 2, Informative) 206

I wonder the poll just measures how often folks write out the date, and most folks mess up about the same number of times before "oh yeah, it's 2010!" kicks in.

A receptionist, who's scheduling things all the time, might only need one morning at work to make the mental shift. But for me it's ~2 weeks, since I rarely find myself writing out the date.

Comment i mess up ~ 2-3 times before i get it right (Score 1) 35

I wonder if all folks mess up about the same number of times before "oh yeah, it's 2010!" kicks in, and the poll's really measuring how often you write out the date.

I imagine one morning at work is all it would take a receptionist, who's scheduling all the time. But for me it's ~2 weeks, since I rarely find myself writing out the date.

Comment Re:giving to worthy causes is NOT generous (Score 1) 596

From Judaism 101: "... the nature of tzedakah is very different from the idea of charity. The word 'charity' suggests benevolence and generosity... The word 'tzedakah' is derived from the Hebrew root tzadei-dalet-kof, meaning justice or fairness. In Judaism, giving to the poor is not viewed as a generous, magnanimous act..."

If tzedakah just meant charity, then American Jews would likely use the English word 'charity.' As a general rule, if a word finagles its way into a new language, it's either:
- a word children learn (mom, dad, grandma, etc)
- a concept that doesn't quite exist in the new language (tzedakah, schlemeil, machatunim)
- a restaurant trying to charge you more for food (aubergine, frites, a la carte) :)

And BTW, Maimonides' ladder traditionally lists the highest form of tzedakah as helping someone become self-sufficient. Double-blind giving is second.

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