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Comment Re: Another One? (Score 1) 140

You're examples are referring to progress, not fluctuations. Yes, it took 1800 years for heliocentrism, but there was progress during that time that lead the to technology and mathematics that could prove the geocentric model wrong. The fluctuation was the political mess starting in the 1500's where the church fought back against the clearer logic of heliocentrism. That held back the transition until Galileo and others had much clearer evidence that that was irrefutable (but that didn't stop the church from refuting it for a time).

Yes it took a long time to go from double helix to sequencing, but that's progress. No free lunch to EM drive is still very much questionable.

An example of fluctuation is the folks that hung on to classical physics in the face of clear evidence for quantum theory being more accurate. Some of them were prominent physicists that, if they had embraced QM earlier could have pushed the field forward rather than holding it back. Another example is creationism, a backward force that is sometimes gaining and sometimes losing traction (vs 100 years ago), but will someday (hopefully) be seen as a fluctuation.

Comment Re:So many theories... so many on the payroll list (Score 1) 140

Well, guys, we really don't know this. Be a little more humble...

No no, please don't end that with an ellipsis. Finish your thought there. What is the next thing he should say? Maybe:

Well, guys, we really don't know this. Be a little more humble. We should stop having a scientific debate about it. - said a scientist that should be fired

Well, guys, we really don't know this. Be a little more humble. We should just give up trying to figure it out. - said a scientist that should be fired

Well, guys, we really don't know this. Be a little more humble. We should stop taking data and go with our last answer. - said a scientist that should be fired

Well, guys, we really don't know this. Be a little more humble. We should listen to what our religious leaders say. - said a scientist that should be fired

Well, guys, we really don't know this. Be a little more humble. We're incapable of knowing this at all. - said a scientist that should be fired

Comment Re: Another One? (Score 1) 140

How do trends in democracy fit into scientific progress? Democracy isn't a scientific theory.

There's no guarantee that society gets better, or that politics gets better. Democracy is an ideology or movement that sometimes is popular and sometimes isn't. Science is always trying to do a better job at describing the truth (even if theories and models are just the closest representation of truth possible).

Theories generally do improve because data gets better/more precise/more accurate. New theories need to be able to accommodate old data, as well as the new stuff that is in conflict with the old theory. The history of science if rife with examples of this.

That said, there are times when theories are accepted or rejected for political or social reasons, regardless of their ability to reflect the truth (e.g. creationism, climate change denial, initial rejection of special relativity, heliocentrism). These are short term fluctuations, and as increasingly more data comes to light, the fluctuations generally stabilize to the theory that's closer to the truth (except creationism, there's no reasoning with that theory until we invent a time machine).

Comment Re:Leave. (Score 1) 433

I don't know about law in any of the US, but in the UK: a private letter is considered to be "published", for libel purposes, the moment it is opened (by someone other than the party being libelled, or someone acting as their agent and with their express permission to open it)

Yes. It is roughly the same in the U.S. See HERE, in the section headed "Publication".

Comment Re:Leave. (Score 1) 433

With the intent to cause damage. Look it up. They damaged party has to prove intent. Which is why there are almost never successful; libel or slander cases in the US.

This is not true. At least in most states, intent to harm is not required.

What IS usually required is to show that the accused knew, or reasonably should have known, that the statement was false.

That is not quite the same thing.

Comment Re:This. Libel need not be public, but must be unt (Score 1) 433

It's amazing to me how many people don't get the difference between stating an opinion and stating something as fact. I am thinking of a certain Slashdot frequenter who fits that profile.

There is a great deal of legal precedent in that regard. For example, calling someone "an ass" or similar is pretty definitely an opinion, even if it's stated as though it were fact: "You're an ass."

In college law classes there is a rather famous case study from, I think, the 17th century.

A guest at an inn told the innkeeper: "My horse can pisse better ale than you serve here."

The innkeeper sued the customer for slander. The judge ruled: "The accused did not slander the innkeeper. He complimented his horse."

So, while there are lines as to what is acceptable speech and what is not, it pays to be cognizant of where those lines are. And many people have no clue.

Comment Re:Leave. (Score 4, Informative) 433

This is quite incorrect. I would say dangerously incorrect. At least in most of the U.S.

In general, actionable defamation (of which libel and slander are particular examples) only requires that you express untrue, damaging things to someone other than the party you are referring to. There is NO specific requirement that it be public.

And "damage" is used loosely here. Damage could mean damage to their career, or damage to their public reputation, or even just damage to a single friend's opinion of them.

If you wrote untrue, damaging things in a document to your HR department, that could definitely be considered libel, and would likely be actionable. Specific cases vary, but again in general.

Of course, truth is (again in general... most U.S. states) an absolute defense. So if what you wrote is true and you can demonstrate that it is, by a preponderance of evidence, then you're probably safe. But you'd better have that evidence.

In addition, most corporations have as part of their employment conditions that you can't sue the company or other employees as a result of negative opinions expressed as part of "official" company communications, such as an employee review or exit interview.

Again in the U.S., that is simply not true. "Most" corporations do NOT have such a clause in their contract, and there is a very strong push to stop that practice in those states where it is still allowed. Because in some states such clauses are specifically prohibited by law, and the list of those states is growing.

Comment Re: what about GOP e-mails (Score 1) 715

Whether they hacked the RNC or not, that they hacked either side is what's scary. If they hacked only the DNC, we should be concerned that they only went after one candidate and not the other, showing clear favor for the other. On their other hand if they hacked both and only released the DNC emails, now they possibly have dirt on the incoming president for leverage. We should be concerned about that too.

In terms of whether this would have mattered, Nate Silver at 538 points out that if the voters in swing states had swung 1% back to Clinton overall, she would have won. So the possibility that the leaks could have swayed 1 out of 100 people to vote against her is very very real.

Comment Re:A .000002% incrase in something we didn't track (Score 1) 293

Actually it's a link to all of the data if you scroll down. Click on methane and it'll show you the methane plot.

It is a nonetheless a number to get upset about even though it's small. If you'd like a larger number: the mass of methane in the atmosphere is 5x10^12 kg. That seems like a lot, right? A hundred years ago it was 2.5x10^12 kg.

Feel free to do some research on your own about why 2 ppm is still a significant amount of methane from a radiative forcing perspective. Here is data showing the role of methane in climate forcing. A factor of 2 increase in CH4 will double that "methane" contribution. If you're still not concerned about such a small concentration, here is a link to CFC concentrations. They were only in the part per trillion (yes, trillion) range in the atmosphere when they were wreaking chemical havoc on the ozone. This is an example where small concentrations in the atmosphere can have a large impact.

We have the data in 5 years or shorter increments back to 1000 AD. Also, there is no model that would suggest that such swings could or would happen on such a short timescale. Without external meddling (such as humans), atmospheric concentrations of this kind of gas just don't move around that quickly (however others can).

Comment Re:A .000002% incrase in something we didn't track (Score 1) 293

To (1), see this and this and this and the obligatory xkcd. Important take home message - it's not just the raw scale of increase, but the rate of increase. It's well outside of a natural timescale which those same historical records indicate is on the order of thousands of years. What's happening now is 8x faster. Also, we know what natural causes drive global temperatures (Milankovitch cycles, ninos, volcanic eruptions, and other things) and can model that. When we take those into account, the observed warming is NOT recovered. Only including the effects of increased CO2 and CH4 levels accounts for the observations.

To (2), see this, and this and a lot of other refs if you google it. Main take home point: in the past, natural global warming (which should take place over thousands of years, see above links), has lead to the further emission of CO2 coming out of the oceans and other places (see here, hence the lag. This was predicted to be the case by Hansen et al before the lag was discovered.

Comment Re:A .000002% incrase in something we didn't track (Score 1) 293

A few ppb makes a large difference when the optical pathlength through the atmosphere is so long. You don't need much CH4 to make a big difference in light absorption. In this case it went up 10 ppb in two years, out of 1800, so it's a 0.5% increase. Much more than 0.000002%.

To be clear, methane has been monitored for more than a few years. See here

It is also been indirectly measured via ice cores back hundreds of thousands of years.

In addition the the current surge, what should be alarming is the following:

In the past 100 years, the concentration of atmospheric methane has nearly doubled from 925 ppb in 1916 to >1800 ppb now. In the past 250 years it's nearly tripled. That's very fast and very far outside of statistical variation and is clearly not slowing down.

Comment Re:This is what happens when you have (Score 1) 193

Let's not forget that it's also a thermostat which is "smart" enough to call home (its home, that is) and report on your your thermostat settings and other activities that might be deduced from interaction with the device.

Some people think it's stupid to worry about such things. I think it's a "foot in the door". Remember, Nest was going to be part of a complete home "system".

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