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Comment Answer the damn questions (Score 3, Insightful) 706

I think at this point I would vote for any candidate who would just answer the questions that are being asked...or at least address them tengentially.

There also needs to be a buzzer or something to shut them up whenever they want to discuss their opponent's plans, i.e., put words in their opponent's mouth.

Comment Vaccinations (Score 4, Insightful) 608

I love how both candidates completely ignored the heart of the vaccination issue, pretending that the reason vaccination rates have fallen is due to people being unable to afford them or supplies running out, rather than the complete failing of our educational system, which has produced a generation of idiots who think that some celebutard's cry about vaccination-caused autism is somehow more worth listening to than a century of sound medical practice. I forget who originated the quote, but it goes something like "Democracy does not mean that your ignorance has an equal voice with my knowledge."

Anyway, just more of the same political dodging. We can't call people reckless morons for endangering themselves AND OTHERS by refusing to get themselves and their children vaccinated, because they might vote for me! I'd really like to have political interviews where we can tie the candidates down and keep asking the same question until they actually answer it,

Comment Re:Climate change (Score 4, Insightful) 608

I'm terrified to find myself supporting Romney here, but did you even read your own quote there? He said there was a lack of consensus on "the extent of the warming, the extent of the human contribution, and the severity of the risk."

Now let me quote from your linked article: "The study found that 97 percent of scientific experts agree that climate change is "very likely" caused mainly by human activity."

Nowhere does it say that 97 percent of scientists agree that the average global temperature rise will be X degrees, that the risk is extremely/moderately/not at all severe, or that "mainly" = 100%/90%/80%, etc.

As anti-republican as I am, I have to admit Romney hit this one exactly right. There is overwhelming evidence (which, btw, is way the hell more important than "consensus") that there is warming, and that we are the cause of some significant part of it. But predicting the specific effects, even the exact amount of temperature increase, necessitates a blind faith in models with a pretty poor track record so far.

Of course, the problem is that he's trying to use lack of certainty as an excuse to to avoid taking any action, despite the fact that the science doesn't say anything at all about the best way to fix the issue (or indeed whether it needs fixing...)


Submission + - Bill Nye "The Science Guy": Creationism Is Not Appropriate For Children (youtube.com)

timeOday writes: BigThink has released a video missive by Bill Nye "The Science Guy" in which he challenges the low level of acceptance of evolution, particularly in the United States. He does not mince words: 'I say to the grownups, if you want to deny evolution and live in your world, in your world that's completely inconsistent with everything we observe in the universe, that's fine, but don't make your kids do it because we need them. We need scientifically literate voters and taxpayers for the future. We need people that can — we need engineers that can build stuff, solve problems.'

Comment Re:Scientific review (Score 1) 244

When I read your second paragraph, I was really ecstatic for a minute there. You hit the nail on the head that so many climate change prophets are attacking with screwdrivers. There is a huge difference between the very well-demonstrated rising temperature and the significantly hazier predictions of future states based on extremely complicated and chaotic models. But based on very simple arguments, our actions are _likely_ to have an effect, and so doing what we can to minimize that possible effect is rational. (Unfortunately, the haze predictors are being used as justification for the degree of the response, which is not really justified.)

And then you negate all your rationality with the statement "We are directly responsible for this planet entering a new geological age with as much speed and force as the Cretaceousâ"Paleogene extinction event". It was a good job trying to sound rational, but you really need to keep your discourse consistent.

Comment Re:Wait, what? (Score 5, Insightful) 408

While I agree that models are frequently refined, leading to new results, there is a disturbing trend I see, not having to do with positive bias necessarily, but with uncertainty estimation.

One thing that I've found incredibly hard to beat into undergrads taking my physics lab courses is that getting your uncertainties (or error bars) right is far more important than getting the right central value. This is because uncertainties are the only way that two experiments can be compared against each other, or the only way to compare experiment to theory. If I have two models of climate change, one of which predicts a temperature rise of 3 C ± 5% and another that predicts 4 C ± 7%, those results are in large disagreement, whereas two studies that predict 20 C ± 15% and 40 C plusmn 35% are in much closer agreement.

But I see it seems much more frequently, especially in fields like astronomy, too little thought goes into the systematic uncertainties, and you'll get 4 experiments measuring the same thing with results that cannot be reconciled if you take their statistics at face value. This was a huge problem with many of the early global warming predictions as well; every year a new estimation would come out that was completely incompatible with the previous one. Yes, these models are insanely complicated, and it's damn hard to understand all the systematics. And of course you can't put in error bars for plain old mistakes. But do it too many times, and people begin to lose any faith that your estimates can be relied on for anything.

This is the problem I see; not necessarily bias toward a positive result, but a bias toward underestimating the uncertainty of your measurement, which I suppose could be different sides of the same coin. (E.g., a result of 2 ± 0.1 is a positive result; a result of 2 ± 5 is not!).

Comment Re:Devil's Advocate (Score 3, Informative) 181

As most of you probably know, the "new scanner" operates at the THz range

If only that were universally true. The THz or millimeter wave scanners are in use in some airports, and I have no problem going through them, although sometimes I opt out out of patriotic duty to make life difficult for TSA.

The problem is that most US airports in fact have the x-ray backscatter scanners. Now, I know that if the device is operating within it's design parameters, the dose you get from it is significantly less than the one you get from actually flying. But even before you start to include factors like a) the dose is concentrated all in the outer skin layers b) it's being operated by a high school dropout, the design dose is NOT ZERO. When you have two technologies, one of which uses ionizing radiation and one which doesn't, yet they accomplish the same goal, why in all the hells would you choose to subject everyone to ioniziing radiation?

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