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Comment Re:"Deprecate"? (Score 1) 235

"To express ernest disapproval" of something (Random House); to avert by prayer; from "de" + "precari", to pray. The appearance of "deprecate" in the software-engineering community (about 25 years ago ISTR, give or take a decade) seemed magical: a solidly classical -- even slightly arcane -- word popping up in a powerfully appropriate place ("for security reasons, use of this feature is now deprecated") in the middle of a community that was notoriously indifferent to linguistic finesse. (On a whimsical study in 2003, I found that the ratio of incorrect to correct spellings of "supersede" was higher on web pages that also contained the word "megahertz". [If you're wondering, the anti-megahertz is charybdis, whose appearance on a web page almost guarantees that any supersede on that page will be correctly spelled.])

Comment Re:23andme? (Score 1) 171 lists 99 SNPs in the ADRA2B gene. The following 8 of these SNPs also appear in my 23andMe results: rs3813662 rs29000571 rs4907299 rs2229169 rs29000569 rs4426564 rs28932482 rs35053873 . The available abstract doesn't say where on the gene the deletion mutation occurs, so I can't tell which of these SNPs is closest to it. (I would expect that a deletion mutation would never be a SNP.) Since they're all pretty close together, any one of them would be very likely to track the mutation over many generations.

Comment Coinciding with 2012 DA14 (Score 1) 196

NASA has one expert stating that the flyby of asteroid 2012 DA14 is a once-in-forty-years event, and another expert stating that this Russian meteor/meteorite is a once-in-100-years event, and yet another expert asserting that the fact that these two events happened on the same day is a coincidence. Given that the standard statistician's definition of "highly significant" corresponds to a 1% chance of coincidence, and that one day out of 40 years is 0.007%, I think the probability that NASA has spoken hastily is greater than the probability that this was a coincidence.

Comment While I'm going through my root certs . . . (Score 1) 177

Why shouldn't I disable *every* root cert that I'd be surprised to find authenticating a browser session with my bank? Only a handful of root certificates suffice for nearly all of my secure browsing. Wouldn't I very much want to be alerted if an SSL session with my bank were based on a certificate issued by the Lower Slobbovian Postal Authority?

I hope this incident leads browser makers to adopt more realistic certificate husbandry mechanisms, such as alerting me when my bank's cert changes.

Comment How many anomalies should we expect? (Score 1) 766

Let's eyeball the statistics: 60 measurements per organ (according to the abstract), times seven organs (adrenal glands, brain, gonads, heart, kidneys, liver, and spleen), times two feeding durations (5 and 14 weeks), times two sexes (male, female), time three strains of corn tested (NK 603, MON 810, MON 863), equals 5040 measurement series. (Wow! 7!) So in the absence of any effect, we should expect 5040/20 = 252 "statistically significant" (p < .05) discoveries and 5040/100 = 50 "statistically highly significant" (p < .01) discoveries.

Are we learning something about health, or are we just illustrating the perils of data dredging?


Scientists Say a Dirty Child Is a Healthy Child 331

Researchers from the School of Medicine at the University of California have shown that the more germs a child is exposed to, the better their immune system in later life. Their study found that keeping a child's skin too clean impaired the skin's ability to heal itself. From the article: "'These germs are actually good for us,' said Professor Richard Gallo, who led the research. Common bacterial species, known as staphylococci, which can cause inflammation when under the skin, are 'good bacteria' when on the surface, where they can reduce inflammation."

Comment Goofy phylogeny (Score 1) 133

"Their genomic organization was strange and a little unexpected," says Batzer. "It appeared much more bird- and reptile-like than mammalian, even though it is indeed classified as a mammal."

Batzer is one of the researchers. He should know that in the standard evolutionary phylogenetic model, the platypus is no more closely related to birds than we are, since we and platypodes share a common ancestor that existed in the mammalian line after the mammalian line separated from birds.

While it is true that to a human a platypus looks more like a bird than does another human, it is equally true that to a platypus a human looks more like a bird than does another platypus.

And the implication that classifying it as a mammal is a mistake ("even though it is indeed classified as a mammal", rather than "even though it's a mammal") is just silly.

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