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Comment Re:Yet Another Einstein Article (Score 1) 195

the core of how cells work is directly analogous to the hardware/software distinction in a computer (in fact, they're Turing-complete)

I was just trying to make a joke, but it's an interesting question: are cells Turing machines? (To the degree anything in the real world can be called a Turing machine; if you know where to get a computer with infinite memory, please send me the manufacturer's URL.) They have the potential to be, else we couldn't build biological computers--which AFAICT are just lab curiosities for now, but may someday do real work--but it seems to me they don't really act like them in their day-to-day functions. Then again, neither do our computers, a lot of the time ...

The more time I spend modeling gene regulation, the more skeptical I am of any attempt to draw any equivalence between computers and living organisms, or even parts of organisms, except in the very broad sense that we and our machines both process information. The collection of branching stochastic feedback loops necessary to carry out the processes of life, at every level from transcription to tissue function, is like nothing any sane engineer would ever try to build.

Comment Re:Yet Another Einstein Article (Score 1) 195

No, sorry, but this is a fractally wrong statement to make.

What do you mean by "fractally wrong"?

With sufficient curiousity, you will be dedicated to learning as much as you can. The drive to learn will push you where you need to go. Intelligence merely sets the speed by which you'll arrive.

True, but I'd argue that "mere" speed is pretty important. There are only so many hours in the day. A particular problem with modern science--bad enough in Einstein's day, worse now--is that there's a whole lot you have to learn before you can hope to make meaningful new contributions to any field. To refer back to an earlier famous scientist, standing on the shoulders of giants is great, but a lot of times you reach the shoulder of the giant only to realize that you're staring at the feet of the next giant. The climb will take you a long time even if you're very smart; if you're not, it may well take more than a lifetime to complete. Having just finished a PhD that took [mumble mumble] more years to complete than I expected at the outset, I'm acutely aware of this problem ...

Your over-emphasis on intelligence is elitism; It's suggesting that if you can't be "smart enough", you shouldn't be in science.

Hardly. No one really knows at the outset if they've got what it takes, and everyone who wants to do so should certainly give it a try. Even if they don't reach the top, they'll learn a lot along the way. But not everyone will reach the top, just as (mixing metaphors a bit) a whole lot of people who set out to climb the world's highest mountains don't succeed, and often die trying.

Anyone can be a scientist. It is a method, a way of learning about the world.

In that sense, sure--anyone can, and everyone should. But that's not the same thing as "doing science" the way Einstein did, making major discoveries that change the way we look at the world. Hell, it's not even the same thing as publishing a few highly cited articles, which is a fair accomplishment for any working scientist to aim for.

Comment Re:Damn Lies (Score 1) 195

The problem is that "average" in common usage usually refers to the mean, except when it doesn't. Which is why statisticians avoid the word as much as possible. ;) It was the use of "Statistically speaking ..." that caught my eye; practically every time someone starts out that way, they're going to say something that needs calling out. (Other examples include "I'm opposed to censorship, but ..." and "I'll probably get modded down for this ...")

Comment Re:Yet Another Einstein Article (Score 1) 195

If Einstein were alive, he would have told you, as he told them when he was still alive -- he wasn't particularly intelligent, only passionately curious.

Curiosity is necessary for a great scientist (or even a not-so-great one) but it's not sufficient. Along with his brilliant statements about the nature of the universe, Einstein said a lot of goofy things, and this is one of them. His passionate curiosity combined with his intelligence is why he's still pretty much the canonical image of the scientist today. I guarantee you there are many, many people who are just as curious about the world as he was, and very few of them will be remembered.

Submission + - The End of the Power User

Daniel Dvorkin writes: Sadly, Charlie Warzel's analysis hits the nail on the head. It's becoming harder and harder to make your computer (particularly, but not exclusively, when online) behave the way you want it to rather than the way some anonymous MBA thinks it should behave, and this trend is only going to continue. We the geek-people, who made the whole thing possible, are out of the loop. After decades of decentralization, we're slowly moving back toward the classic sci-fi vision of The Computer being a giant centralized machine which users can only access when and how the powers that be want.

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