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Comment Re:What would you even spend the money on? (Score 1) 289

It's all theory work. Money isn't the limiting factor there...

Exactly! Theory is essentially free. You just sit down and stare at a wall and maybe write some damn equations on it. There's no need to test those theories, or to even pay the utility bills for the scientists who create them. The best scientists work on a pro-bono basis because they have transcended the need to eat, sleep, or pay their staff a living wage.

Comment Re:Friendly AI (Score 1) 583

If we want friendly AI, the key may be to ensure that the AI has more positive associations with people than neutral or negative associations. Mistreat a dog or a cat its entire life and it probably won't be friendly toward people. Mistreat people when they're young and you make it harder for them to trust others, feel a sense of community, or recognize any duty to society (which might explain why so many nerds find libertarianism appealing). Why would an AI be different?

That's not a reliable solution actually, since a sophisticated AI would be able to modify its own programming.

See also: Robocop.

Comment Re:Botched understanding of science? (Score 1) 795

Science is the means by which we know what is true

Almost. Science is the way by which we find things which are false.

Almost almost: Science often progresses by finding which things are false (that is the method of Null Hypothesis Testing), but the ultimate outcome is learning which things are true through this process.

Comment Re:In lost the will to live ... (Score 1) 795

I hear what you're saying but I think that you're a bit off target because you're ignoring the complex realities of living in a world where there is so much scientific knowledge.

Just because I do not understand at a subatomic level how an LED works, this does not mean that my belief in its ability to light up a room is a magical one. It is sufficient for me to believe that SOMEONE on this earth knows how it works, and that if, given a few years, I could learn this knowledge for myself. Whether something is magic or science is not a function of whether the information concerning its function currently resides in my head, but rather that it exists somewhere in the world, and could, in principle, be learned, if time were no obstacle.

For example, tell me this: imagine that a person used to understand the principles of flight, but is now in their 90's and has lost that information. Has their belief in airplanes switched from science to magic?

Disclaimer: I am a scientist. I have been running experiments and creating models for years. I have over 30 publications in peer-reviewed journals.

Comment The article is more extreme than the summary (Score 5, Informative) 795

I read the summary and thought that this article might be on to something, but on reading it I don't think the author really understands science at all.

Here are some excerpts that I find particularly disagreeable:

"Science is not the pursuit of capital-T Truth. It's a form of engineering "

Absolutely not. Science is indeed in pursuit of Truth. The author criticizes Aristotle's form of "research", quite rightly, but then throws the baby out with the bathwater when he says this.

"Because people don't understand that science is built on experimentation, they don't understand that studies in fields like psychology almost never prove anything, since only replicated experiment proves something and, humans being a very diverse lot, it is very hard to replicate any psychological experiment."

This is factually incorrect. There are many Psychological phenomena that can be reproduced reliably. The Stroop effect, the Simon effect, visual illusions..

"What distinguishes modern science from other forms of knowledge such as philosophy is that it explicitly forsakes abstract reasoning about the ultimate causes of things"

This is completely incorrect. A core goal of science is to understand the cause of things by developing abstracted understandings of them (i.e. theories).

I know nothing about this author, but from the article, I suspect that he is trying to reconcile his beliefs in science and religion by convincing himself that science cannot answer the big questions, it's just for making airplanes and computers. I could be wrong of course (--- very important scientific principle)

Comment Re:For a First Step (Score 1) 143

Fact check your facts. Your second link's researcher was funded by Bayer

You've discounted one of the linked articles (for a reason I understand but don't entirely agree with). What about the other? Does finding a reason to discount one piece of data allow you to discount all of it, in your opinion?


Comment Re:For a First Step (Score 2) 143

One word of caution about proclaiming the involvement of these pesticides in bee deaths is recent findings that these pesticides are not found in the reproductive regions of plants:

Here's another study from last year which found no link between pesticides and bee deaths:

It's a popular and appealing story, but recent data suggest that it may not be true!

Comment Re:Translation... (Score 2) 784

Also, don't you understand how competitive science can be? For the time being we're stuck with anti-competitive oligopolies in oil and banking and several other industries. But not in science. If a few scientists had good evidence that Climate Disruption was wrong, do you suppose they would keep quiet and maintain the front? No way! They'd all be scrambling to publish first. It'd be a bombshell, like figuring out how to build a usable quantum computer and breaking many and perhaps all of our public key encryption schemes.

Sadly this last point you make isn't true at all. Speaking as a scientist I can point to quite a few cases where a scientist who could clearly prove that the establishment was wrong were ignored and ridiculed.

The best example is Ignaz Semmelweis, who could easily prove that washing his hands prior to surgery or delivering babies led to fewer fatalities. He was mocked by the scientific community, and eventually institutionalized and beaten to death.

I wish that science functioned differently but it doesn't. Therefore one cannot conclude that there is a huge incentive to disprove global warming. Such a paper is actually quite hard to publish, and even if published such a finding could easily disappear, silently ignored, into the oblivion of our vast scientific literature.

Comment Re:Ad hominem. It doesn't matter who says it. (Score 1) 769

I don't know where the GP got the 3-times figure, (which seems way too high), but there is little doubt that Germany's renewable energy policy has caused significant problems for consumers, and ironically, may end up increasing overall CO2 emissions now that new coal-plants are being brought online to patch the inadequacies of the renewables.

Here is a link:


Comment Re:Buggy whips? (Score 3, Informative) 769

Actually what is happening in Germany is a not an entirely rosy picture for the renewables industry. Their energy prices have been spiking, while simultaneously CO2 emissions have been increasing as a consequence of their new policies.

As evidence of the uncomfortable position that German is now in, their Vice Chancellor is reported to have said :

“The truth is that the Energy U-Turn (“Energiewende”, the German scheme aimed at pushing the “renewable” share of electricity production to 80 % by 2050) is about to fail”
“The truth is that under all aspects, we have underestimated the complexity of the “Energiewende”
“The noble aspiration of a decentralized energy supply, of self-sufficiency! This is of course utter madness”
“Anyway, most other countries in Europe think we are crazy”

Unfortunately my German is too rusty to confirm this for myself, but here's the video feed if anyone is interested in seeing it:

Comment Re:It's the end of the world as we know it (Score 0) 703

That's precisely the problem. The warming isn't going to cause much of a problem for most people old enough to post here. By the time the problems get too bad to ignore, we're already committed to even more problems, because the excess carbon dioxide stays in the atmosphere for hundreds of years. That's why we keep getting these warnings, so we can avoid those problems before it's too late.

You are aware, I trust, of these things called plants. It turns out that they absorb carbon dioxide right out of the air. What's even cooler is that the more CO2 that's in the air, the faster they grow and thus the faster they absorb it. This is why greenhouses will often run with drastically increased CO2 levels.

Comment Re:"These images are not snapshots"? No kidding. (Score 1) 59

...and yet, it does. It's become so routine, so reliable, so well-understood and well-controlled, that doctors and researchers know they can rely on it as a matter of course. They still have to be aware of the errors and distortions that can arise, but that's true of every imaging or monitoring system, all the way down to the stethoscope and the fever thermometer.

The problem with the activation maps is precisely that one is NOT looking at an image, so there's no way to fine tune the algorithms. Therefore, fMRI is NOT well understood in the way that CT or MRI are.

Consider that in imaging, you have the luxury of comparing the output of a brain scan to the known physical structure of the brain. Is there a hippocampus? No? Well then it didn't work, go back and fiddle until you can show me a hippocampus.

In fMRI, apart from low level sensory corticies (where visual field mapping techniques can reproduce broad level retinotopic maps), researchers are operating in a vacuum in which there is no hard and fast error signal to fine tune the methods.

Science has to proceed very cautiously in such a situation. This is particularly true when one has hundreds of thousands of voxels to sift through because it's easy to find any pattern in noise, if you have enough noise.

So I would argue that fMRI offers a very different set of challenges compared to MRI and CT scans, and therefore it's very important to keep a sharp, critical eye on the statistics used, as these authors are doing.

To illustrate this point further, here is a link to a poster in which someone put a dead salmon into a magnet and found that (in the absence of proper statistical controls) its decomposing brain was apparently reacting to the emotional content of pictures:

Comment Re:polar region climate change (Score 2, Informative) 633

These are really complicated systems, and one of the reasons we model them is that they're too complicated for any one person to understand every single aspect; models are a sane way to integrate the results of studies requiring disparate expertise (or at least different people).

I am a modeller, and I simulate the brain a system which is also mind bogglegingly complicated.

The secret ingredient that makes modelling work as an enterprise is the ability to make predictions, and then test them through experimental manipulations. The reasoning is that if your model captures a gem of truth, then it should be able to accurately predict data that you as the experimenter haven't seen yet.

Or at least, that's the theory. The ugly truth is that even in brain science that's a standard which is rarely lived up to.

And the situation is bound to be worse with modelling in climate science. One cannot even perform experiments because we don't have multiple earths to play around with.

So, while modelling is a way for scientists to explore theories and communicate, as you indicate, I fear that the climate modelling process is fundamentally bankrupt because it's impossible to run experiments for the purpose of testing models.

They do make pretty pictures though. A video of a virtual earth turning from blue to orange is extremely compelling!

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