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Comment Re:Flip flop the question: (Score 1) 511

Unfortunately, they are a loud and obnoxious vote, and there's no way for actual science to be communicated against that background.

No doubt, I have a big problem with these people, but it's important to fix the real problem, and make sure that strategy doesn't prove the deniers right. If you suppress them, they become the persecuted "true skeptics" even though they are no such thing... They use pure, evidence-free rhetoric and manipulation of peoples' fears to cast doubt on science.

I think it's kind of useful for scientists to "take back the doubt" in today's current political climate. In a healthy field that's doing real science, there's more than enough skepticism and competition to keep conspiracies from happening.

Unfortunately, as frustrating as it is, I think part of scientists' jobs IS to convince the public that science works. The results are important too, but suppressing the deniers would just give them more power. Making people see that scientific findings have real weight because scientists are constantly trying to prove themselves and each other WRONG is somewhat important.

I think that a lot of the deniers are smart, thinking people without a good understanding of how science works. They get a steady diet of conflicting reports on scientific topics from the media, and they're paying attention, so they see the conflicts. But they don't appreciate how important the conflicts are to the process.

  I notice this on the ham radio websites I hang out on. There are a lot of ham radio operators who think solar physics is a ridiculous pursuit because one group is predicting that the next solar cycle will be incredibly strong and another is predicting, on the basis of a different model, that it will be very weak. These people seem to think that we shouldn't try to predict because our predictions disagree.

They're not dumb. But they are totally missing the point.

The findings are important. But they mean nothing if there's a serious doubt in the process. I think a lot of people couldn't imagine setting themselves up to be publicly wrong like the solar physicists do. Then they try to rationalize the public failures on the basis of more familiar motivations: they're doing it to get attention and funding, to advance their careers. They're bad at their jobs and are wasting taxpayer money. They should just hang it up.

I think a lot of the deniers come out of that kind of thought process.

Comment Re:Where are the studies? (Score 1) 511

Besides how can you explain things to people without using large words. Those words were created for a purpose, mainly to convey specific meanings of what scientist say. Without large words science would be meaningless.

I dunno. If I run across something I can't re-phrase or re-express on the fly, I feel like I don't really understand it. And I don't feel like I've got a lot of big words that are NEEDED to express what I'm doing. I suppose it depends on the field a bit, but you want to give me an example? What is your latest finding, big words included?

When I describe my experiment and what I've found to a random person, I start in a lightly technical tone .. that way I can scale it back if people don't seem to understand, and I ratchet up the technical language if someone is clearly familiar with it.

Comment Re:As perhaps a member of the skeptical public.. (Score 2, Insightful) 511

. But I think it's a mistake to take the current theories of the day as "The Truth" (they're so often over turned by later research)

A good scientist is a professional skeptic and will absolutely agree with that. "The Truth" is not the goal of science. It's not even a possible outcome. Science cannot guarantee that we're moving our knowledge closer to "The Truth." It is pretty good at moving our knowledge in a medium-term useful direction. And when we discover something wildly new, like relativity or quantum mechanics, we branch off in a new direction while simultaneously continuing in the old. The most flexible and brilliant scientists send a feeler off toward totally new territory, ***maybe*** making it somewhat more likely that we're approaching "The Truth" in a long term sense... but probably if we're moving toward "Truth," it is purely by accident.

It's still always possible that human science started with some sort of bias (sensory, cognitive) that makes us very, very wrong in a big picture sense. I think it's important to remember that such a possibility exists, but that it's a matter of philosophy until you can present some evidence for that idea.

Science is a way to discard those ideas that are obviously wrong while keeping around a bunch of useful ideas that haven't been shown to be wrong yet. That's what it's for, and it is the best system we've got for that.

I think it's really important that the public understands that scientists are trying to understand the universe but that many of them are deep skeptics who would be willing to completely change everything they think if presented with appropriate EVIDENCE. That's what makes science so useful and strong. It frustrates me that so much of the media discourse about science is focusing on the internal disagreements and the constant overturning of old ideas and pointing to it like it's a BAD thing. It's frustrating. It's kind of like having someone point at you in grade school and call out to all your schoolmates that you're stupid because you're WEARING GLASSES. It should be totally obvious to everyone who's ever seen you that you wear glasses, and yet, in certain social circumstances, people can wield power by pointing out an obvious fact and saying loudly enough that it's a negative thing.

You're absolutely right that you shouldn't look for "Truth" in science. Any good scientist should be on board with you on that. Our most important job is to be professional skeptics and to construct ideas and gather evidence that disproves other ideas and results. That's scientific progress, and having people point at you and make fun of you for doing that shows a certain immaturity, just the same as winning friends by making fun of someone's glasses.

Comment Re:Or... (Score 1) 511

" it's kind of health to ask for proof, as long as you don't keep denying once you receive it."

To SEEK proof (or, rather, undisproof) regarding things you're skeptical about is great, but the evidence has often been presented already!

There is *always* evidence and methodology presented in scientific presentations, both the source material and in most lay articles (though they could do better on that front, I think). No one should believe or disbelieve the conclusion until they've inspected the evidence and understood why it's evidence for the conclusion. Real skepticism requires a lot of neutrality toward new ideas for at least a few moments.

Comment Re:Flip flop the question: (Score 1) 511

The public does not need to know anything in any given field, but it would be helpful if they really understood how science works. The public needs to accept that science is a process of testing and gathering ideas, not a end-point collection of true answers and facts.

It is entirely possible that our scientific model of everything departs enormously from how the universe actually works. It could all be total bullshit. But if that's the case, we've slowly dug our way into giant pile of incredibly useful bullshit. Proper application of the scientific method always ensures that you move toward ideas that have useful predictive power and throw out those ideas that don't. It never ensures that you move toward Capital T Truth and it is incredibly unstable in terms of having any sort of lasting certainty about The Way Things Are.

That's tricky in terms of public relations. To properly understand an active scientific field, you have to be willing to consider and mull over ten possibly conflicting ideas at once without getting upset that no one can tell you which one is true.

Comment Re:Wait... They want them to dumb things down... (Score 1) 511

That's not true.

Active areas of research are complicated and full of conflicting ideas that are being tested currently to see which hypotheses are supported strongly by evidence and which can be proven false. The most current knowledge in an active field is a complicated mishmash of things that seem to be true (i.e. have been tested several times and not shown to be false), but that haven't all been tied together into one neat, elegant package.

It's absolutely useful for scientists to figure out how to put things as simply as possible, but asking for simplicity above all else is sometimes asking for an incredibly incomplete or misleading answers. A scientist with comprehensive knowledge of the work being done in his or her field will be aware of a dozen important ideas or important results that don't fit together in any obvious way. They might even appear to conflict with each other in the context of what is currently known. In a decade, more complete understanding will resolve that false conflict or further work will expose flaws in prior work.

How do you express that simply to people who want you to point at one idea and say it's the right one? If you know two things in an active field, either one or both or neither is correct. Science is a collection of ideas and results that say something interesting and haven't been proven false yet. That does not always allow simple, correct answers. Very old fields are easier, because things have been tested thoroughly. "Do like charges repel?" "Yes."
The Courts

Google Found Guilty of French Copyright Infringement 254

adeelarshad82 writes "A Paris court on Friday found Google guilty of violating copyright by digitizing books and putting extracts online, following a legal challenge by major French publishers. The court found against Google after the La Martiniere group, which controls the highbrow Editions du Seuil publishing house, argued that publishers and authors were losing out in the latest stage of the digital revolution."

Comment Re:As a physicist... (Score 1) 124

I'd like to be the first to complain that resonant power transfer has nothing to do with quantum entanglement.

Entanglement, no. Tunneling, yes... if you like to market your device by insisting on quantum descriptions of things that involve transition rates of 10^28 photons per second. A ~10MHz photon doesn't pack a very big punch, energy-wise.

It's a classical effect but can be framed in quantum terms for "welcome to the future" cred.

Comment Re:Edison? (Score 3, Informative) 124

It's not only possible, but really damn easy to do.

You can build a reasonably efficient resonant power transfer doohickey in your backyard out of some copper tubing, some low loss tuning capacitors, a RF power generator, and some diodes and filter caps on the far end to turn the received RF into DC.

I've built one to couple 4MHz pulses across to a rotating experiment for ultrasound measurement:

You couple 'em that tightly, and they're like 99% efficient at transferring power.

But even with Tesla aside, this isn't new... it's just not as vastly useful as people re-discovering it seem to think it is. It doesn't work over gigantic distances, only moderate ones, and there's no engineering you can do to get around that. It's near-field coupling between resonant circuits. That said, I think it might end up pretty useful for non-contact charging of your electric car like TFA suggests. That's a *good* application for it, and it has more efficiency than "ordinary" inductive coupling.

Comment Re:Retarded. (Score 1, Insightful) 124

It's called Shannon's Law -- and no matter how you sex up the technology, the fact is you're raising the noise floor doing this.

Bad engineer. No cookie for you.

Except that energy transfer is not information transfer, and doesn't really require any bandwidth. Of course, every emission has *some* bandwidth due to noise, etc, but you should be able to do wireless power with very narrow band oscillators and I suspect you have confine emissions to the the ISM (industrial, scientific, and medical) bands. Maybe it needs a little bit of slow digital transmission if you need to sync devices and chargers beyond just whether or not there is another resonant device around (you don't want charging stations trying to feed power to each other).

But the fact of the matter is that resonant power transfer requires sharply resonant circuits, so you can't emit much power over a wide bandwidth even if something goes wrong.

Comment Neural network... (Score 5, Funny) 1092

All you need to do is devise a complex computer with some decision making abilities and program it with information with destination coordinates in case it gets lost.

Program it to recognize a local authority figure like a policeman or teacher and provide them with the destination information so that they can help it find home.

I suspect the most effective hardware platform for such an application is some sort of fairly high-functioning biological organism.

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