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Comment Re:Discouraging underage use? (Score 3, Interesting) 526

I don't know all that much about photosystems, so I'll have to trust your first two statements at face value—but what you're describing has nothing to do with statistics at all; that's just a misunderstanding of the physics at hand. Statistical calculations are only valid if the hypothesis is valid—in this case, that high absorption is proportional to chlorophyll activation.

You don't have a problem with statistics, you have a problem with ignorance of the facts—that's perfectly normal and healthy, and is necessary in all sciences. There is no causal link between people who are poorly informed and people who back up their statements with statistics; it's just the case that overly simple hypotheses, for which it is easy to derive the relevant statistics, are also easy to arrive at.

In bioinformatics we use statistics at just about every waking moment, and they do matter quite a lot when considering the false positive rate for tests. A microarray containing a million wells that has an error rate of 10^-5 will generally have about a thousand bogus values in it—cases where genes either activated completely or not at all simply because of hardware or procedural defects. Similarly, the likelihood of a random valid open reading frame (start and stop codon spaced 3 * k nucleotides apart, for some value k) below about 100 nt has a higher chance of being spontaneous than being an actual gene. These are things that can easily be demonstrated to be true physically, and yet are perfectly predictable through statistical procedures.

So go easy on the math. Yes there are serious problems in the social and medical sciences with flawed and shill studies, and yes there are plenty of figures thrown around in politics that are derived through questionable methods, but what matters is really that the people generating the figures are fools and scoundrels, not the fact that they framed the results as statistical measures or used some mathematical framework to produce them. The most shameful uses of data collection and extrapolation generally aren't even statistically or empirically sound, as antivirus companies constantly remind us. Rely on your gut instinct that they're slimeballs, not that they tried to dress up their garbage to sound scientific.

Comment Re:Neil DeGrasse Tyson may be right - now, but... (Score 3, Insightful) 580

Yeah, he said " Space is dangerous. It's expensive. There are unquantified risks."

And he thinks that will stop private enterprise? If the potential for profit is there, then those have never posed an obstacle. The hard part is preventing business from sacrificing life and limb in pursuit of profit.

Comment Re:slow news day (Score 2) 168

Life provably occured on Earth so soon after it was physically possible that it makes either the claim of unlikely abiogenesis or denial of panspermia implausible. It is an either/or but not and thing. Because of the time scales, biological processes and physics involved, either possible answer leads to panspermia. If Abiogenesis is this easy it must have occured and spread in the Milky Way so much in the 8 billion years before the sun was born that the whole place is thoroughly contaminated with life. If it is so hard, then this nearby more hospitable planet is more likely the source. For myself I prefer the former answer. Regardless of the answer Earth's life has had plenty of time to contaminate the entire galaxy, and perhaps nearby galaxies as well. Our ancestors have already been to the stars.

Comment Re:slow news day (Score 3, Informative) 168

Waterbears can be dehydrated, frozen to only a few degrees Kelvin, and in that dehydrated frozen state withstand 100 g acceleration, hard vacuum and radiation without ill effect, on contact with liquid water reanimating. They can do so for at least a decade and thousands of years is not beyond reason. And that is not RNA, nor a bacterium. It is a complex animal. There are life forms that actually prefer extreme environments like this.

Comment Re:Right... (Score 1) 530

As I said before, I look forward to a valid case for this theory. A few decades should be enough time to provide the evidence it'll need. It'll also be enough time for your emotions to cool and you to get some perspective on this debate.

But this isn't a discussion about climate science. This is a discussion about whether it is appropriate to deploy psychology to explain the surprising level of inaction in the face of very clear science pointing to the danger of such inaction, or whether this is merely an attempt at medicalising dissent. And as the example of Jobs illustrates, this tendency to reject reality for wishful thinking is hardly confined to climate change.

So when are these psychologists going to study your preference for a good story over science? When such research gimmicks are blatantly biased against one side of a crucial debate such as this, something is going on other than scientific research.

Comment Re:Also (Score 1) 530

The problem is an issue from British Columbia through Washington into Oregon but I suppose you would consider all of that area local too.

Of course, I would. If you look at the link you provided, you would see that they even attribute the increased CO2 to deep water currents running ashore and note these haven't been exposed to atmospheric CO2 for many decades.

Basically, it's yet another ancient phenomenon being blamed on anthropogenic activity.

Since I'm no expert on the subject I'll continue to listen to what scientists studying the problem have to say but there appears to be no doubt that acidification is going to affect ocean ecosystems as it progresses.

I quite agree. This story does demonstrate that it can cause trouble at high enough CO2 concentrations. But let's look at what has happened in this thread. You claimed you had evidence that oysters were being disrupted in your state by ocean acidification from human activities. And you were right. There was an article that claimed just that.

But when we look at it in a little more depth, we see that it had nothing to do with ocean acidification by human activity and that the reporter (and perhaps others) had grossly misrepresented what had taken place. I'll note here that they weren't alone in such a practice. This particular story had legs.

Now, I don't think this particular article was part of a conspiracy though I do think some rather ugly and deceptive political machinery had sprung up over the years and tainted a lot of research associated with climatology.

The problem as I see it, is that anthropogenic global warming makes for a great epic story. And a lot of people believe in it because they want it to be true. It's the hubris of people you don't like, the wealthy, the overly smart, the overworking industrious, the ostentatious, the rude SUV drivers, the heartless CEOs, etc getting their comeuppance. It's gotten to the point that reporters seed much of their scientific stories with allusions to climate change even when there isn't a credible link - I think to increase reader interest and feed this morality play.

Even though I think there are valid issues somewhere beneath all of this, the fundamental problem is that a lot of society is acting on these issues on an irrational basis without reflection of what actually is going on and that this behavior is being fed by a lot of people who have a variety of interests in keeping it going. That's really dangerous when the resulting meddling is with the economic fabric of our society, particularly, energy and transportation.

My view on this is that no one has demonstrated that anything needs to be done to address AGW prior to 2050. There's no tipping points, no hidden heat sinks, no sharp increase in sea level, no considerable increase in extreme weather, etc to drive a mitigation or adaptation effort. Most of these appear to me to be used as mere rhetorical tricks to exaggerate the risks of AGW.

Thus, I think the best approach is to wait a few decades and see what happens. I think this will be enough time to see the difference between irrational behavior and genuine, scientifically-based environmental threats.

Comment Re:Discouraging underage use? (Score 1) 526

The bit about young mathematicians being ground-breakers isn't really proof; that age has gone up steadily as the size of the field (and the amount of learning required to truly reach the top) has increased. A medal devoted to recognizing the work of young mathematicians, the Fields Medal, occasionally gets boycotted because of this ageism.

Age seems to be linked to decreased intelligence because of societal roles more than anything innate: most people stop learning and move into positions in life where they're expected to either pass on knowledge or maintain and manage others. In academia, the tendency for this has been diminishing (no doubt because of ever-lengthening career ladders) and as a result it's been possible to defy that norm. A wonderful example: Bertrand Russell was still active in political activism well into his late nineties.

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