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Comment Re:Correlation between Antibiotics and Obesity? (Score 1) 253

The original reason that farm animals were given antibiotics was to prevent / cure illnesses due to them living together in close proximity, in large numbers. The observation that this led to them gaining weight explains why these animals are now fed with low dose antibiotics.

Since we are animals it is reasonable to assume that, whatever the mechanism behind the observations, the same holds for us too.

Of course it might be a 'virtuous circle' but it seems to me that the GP has a very valid point.

Comment Re:eating less (Score 2) 253

You're missing the point. This is about explaining why the same amount of food (or energy) intake affects people differently

Absolute nonsense. From the Sunday Morning Herald summary (I don't have a Nature subscription):

From the abstract: "Here, we identify an intestinal microbiome signature that persists after successful dieting of obese mice, which contributes to faster weight regain and metabolic aberrations upon re-exposure to obesity-promoting conditions and transmits the accelerated weight regain phenotype upon inter-animal transfer."

So no, not nonsense at all, you did miss the point, and your 'common sense' hypothesis that "the gut microbiome changes have an impact on appetite" is at best a guess and at worst a post facto rationalisation because you didn't like the conclusion the authors drew. You think they went to all the effort to perform the experiments, wrote a paper on it, but somehow didn't think to control for calorific intake? Really?

Comment Re: mdsolar (Score 1) 294

As for the apparent quality of their design, you're applying modern standards of what a prototype should look and feel like to a vastly more adventurous era.

First rule of product design: Fail fast, fail often. Companies that understand this are the ones that bring the 'must-have' products to market. This is true in the modern era too.

It's one of the reasons we made massive strides during the first half of the 20th and now typically make far more incremental advances:

Hmm, maybe, maybe not. An early test / improve loop when creating a product allows for more rapid advancement, and while those advancements are, for that product, all incremental the finished product is more than an incremental step forwards from the point before it existed.

...we're terrified of failure, particularly if there's any risk to any human life.

This is, I'd say, a twofold issue, each of which feeds into the other: the 'nanny state' with its assorted regulations - mostly good, some bad; and the 'special snowflake' psyche, where not trying is better than failing, and risks you're not willing to take simply shouldn't be taken by anyone - for their own safety.
Of course part of the problem is that while you could, working alone in your barn, build something that flies you are unlikely to build a jet plane or a manned rocket, or something that breaks records. Sure.lone inventors do still exist, as do people who are willing to take personal risks, but when it comes to creating something new the low hanging fruit has largely been picked over the last couple of centuries.

We can but hope (or dream) though...

Comment Re:@hyperbolic propaganda (Score 1) 235

I too can personally remember warnings of global cooling in the 70's and, more so, the early 80's, as reported in print media*. I can still hear some of the debates I and my school friends had on the topic (and yes, we were woefully naive).

What I don't remember is reading about consensus (from the scientific community), the intimate details of the science behind it, long term international bodies being set up to assess, inform, and counteract climate change, and many of the other things that characterise informed debate today.

The difference between then and now is huge, and I'd suggest that anyone who compares the two, in an attempt to dismiss current fears of climate change, either has an ulterior motive or is engaged in some serious cognitive dissonance.

*Since it was in national print media there will be copies still in existence. Attempting to deny facts, whichever 'position' you support, is idiotic, and counterproductive.

Comment Re:How many times... (Score 1) 230

Indeed OLED technology has gone nowhere since its inception around 10 years ago.

As for those foldable displays, yeah, they don't exist either... /s

OK, so not all research is immediately practical, not all technical hurdles are easily solved but at least try to remember the things that have made it to market (and are now so common place it seems like they never didn't exist or the technology was never new) as well as the things we're still waiting on...

Comment Re:Modern kids are retarded (literally) (Score 1) 403

I suspect you've hit the nail on the head.

A few years ago I found myself assisting in the delivery of a short external course at HBS. The standard of some of the first year MBA students that attended that course was truly impressive - actually that doesn't do them justice, it was staggeringly impressive.

Whenever I feel disillusioned about the state of education today, or disheartened by what I read, or see firsthand, I find these memories somewhat comforting.

Comment Re:Modern kids are retarded (literally) (Score 1) 403

Purely anecdotally:

As someone who taught secondary school maths, you can take it from me A-levels have got easier. It has got so bad that 'quality' universities are now having to lay on, for want of a better word, remedial classes in certain subjects, including maths, to get their students up to a level where they can start their degree. Well, It's either this or just lower the standards of the degree - but then this is a not-particularly-surprising-outcome when a government sets an arbitrary target (I believe it was 50%) for people in higher education.

It is very difficult to make direct comparisons between the US and UK systems when it comes to education, as depth and breadth vary enormously, however when I was at school we studied calculus for AO level maths, that's roughly at age 15, a couple of years earlier than AP calculus, and a couple of years before calculus is generally taught in secondary schools today. Futhermore the treatment we gave the subject back then was considerably more thorough than is generally given today, in this country at least - I can't comment on the US system..

Having said all that my education barely touched on high level computer programming (well, if machine code wasn't your thing then your options were flavours of BASIC, so no real surprise there) and I'm sure there must be other things that children are taught today that we weren't back then...

Now, I'd like to agree with the OP, that the median child of today is less literate, less numerate, and generally less knowledgeable than the median child of yesteryear but, honestly, I find myself unable to do so, because I have no reliable frame of reference. Not only did I not know most students back when I was one (I saw only the top few percent on a daily basis) even now I can't say for sure that I've seen both the best and worst that current schools have to offer. There's a huge gap between the highest and lowest performing students, and, even discounting these extremes the whole subject is multidimensional - even ignoring the so called soft skills reducing the question to a single better or worse figure renders any answer essentially meaningless. However, I also find myself unable to agree with you. When exam rates show such a consistent year on year increase there are a number of possible explanations: Genetic evolution is making us smarter; Social evolution is making us smarter; The education system is getting better; The exams are getting easier; Some other factor I haven't thought of right now; Some of, if not all of, the previous...

It's probably overly simplistic to use Occam's Razor to arrive at an answer but I've run out of time ;-)

Comment Re:This isn't a mechanical loom we're talking abou (Score 1) 540

A very good post!

However I can think of one 'industry' that is crying out for more people, and that is caring - as in caring for the elderly (especially, given current and near future demographics), the sick, and the young.

Of course I know that people are working their socks off to automate these roles too I just doubt the practicality, and the morality for that matter, of their efforts.

Comment Re:Climate change,yep millions of years of change (Score 1) 302

While you make some interesting points I'm not sure I can agree with all that you write:

Humanity has existed in a more or less recognizable form for 100,000 years. We survived the onset of an Ice Age. (Barely.) That is climate change. We survived the aftermath of the Ice Age.

Big Picture: Within the time frame you mention there is evidence that the total human population was as low as 5 thousand individuals. Moving forwards, the population of the world 10,000 years ago was roughly 5 million people. Today it stands at over a hundred times that number, over 5 billion people. Historically, when local factors changed, specifically climate for the purposes of this discussion, people were able to simply move on (and if they weren't they tended to die out). Given the already fraught situation regarding immigration I'm pretty sure it's not going to be that simple in the foreseeable future.

A trend that's a mere few decades old doesn't even qualify as a change in climate. It's fucking weather. A trend, but still weather.

Years ago I was pointing out that weather is not climate but, while I slightly misspoke then, I think you're going too far now. Any change in climate is a change in climate! If average temperatures in a region rise by 0.1 degrees then the climatic temperatures have risen by 0.1 degrees. If local fluctuations mean specific highs are now 1 degree hotter than previous records that's weather. A trend over a couple of decades is a trend over a couple of decades (which may - in this case almost certainly will - continue for years to come) not weather or climate, though it will affect the specifics of both.

There is no catastrophe to masturbate over here. ... We'll make adjustments as we go, and as needed.

I wonder at what point it might be considered a catastrophe. How many inches of sea level rise are needed for it to qualify as one? How many species lost due to climate change constitute a catastrophe? What number of people suffering severe water shortages, once the glaciers they rely on are all gone, will it take for it to be a catastrophe? Right now it does't look to me as though the adjustments we're making, made against huge opposition it should be pointed out, are quite sufficient to the task.

I bought an electric lawnmower this year, which radically reduces my emissions of noxious fumes. What have you done, Internet Warrior?

I'm not sure I could cope with such a huge change in my lifestyle, so I make do with driving considerably less and walking much more, growing as much of my own food as possible (with no added chemical inputs), recycling approx 95% of everything I use / buy, and wearing an extra layer of clothing rather than putting the heating on when it's "slightly chilly". Each to their own I guess.

Comment Re:Friday (Score 1) 227

For that matter, I'd be really happy to see Spider Robinson's Callahan novels...

Damn, there was more than one? I came across a copy of Callahan's Crazy Cross Time Bar once, long ago, and it made me laugh / groan so hard. An entire novel written purely to set up the pun at the end. Genius!

Comment Re:Friday (Score 1) 227

On the basis that you're right I nominate Piers Anthony's Adept series. I don't think he's a great author or anything but I remember thinking that would translate pretty well.

I remember thinking the same about the Bio of a Space Tyrant series. It's a long long time since I read them but plenty of sex, plenty of violence, and plenty of both together iirc.

Comment Re:I've seen this before (Score 1) 284

I do recall that at about this same time (again +/- 2 years) we were discussing the "pause" in global warming that has at that point gone on for about a decade. Since this pause has continued for now nearly two decades there must come a time when we stop calling this global warming, no?


I'm not going to try to persuade you that there has been no pause in global temperature rises, but there are certainly reasons why, for an individual, they might be experiencing what appears to be the opposite. One of these is the weakening of the circumpolar current which allows colder arctic air to travel further south. If you live just south of this 'boundary' local temperatures, especially during the winter months, will be colder than in previous years.

However one of the mains reasons the current is weakening is because of local warming effects within the arctic, so the question becomes one of: Is the global average - taking the rise in temperatures in the arctic, the drop in temperatures at slightly lower latitudes, and any change in temperatures in the rest of the world (using similarly appropriate local scales) - rising, falling, or remaining the same?

Hmm, ok, that might have been an indirect attempt at persuasion...

Anyway, back to the point, you finished with a question. Partly due to local variances, such as the one described above, in global temperature trends an alternative phrase, Climate Change, was suggested to replace Global Warming. You may have seen it in such acronyms as the IPCC. For some reason, even given reasonable explanations, those people who have come to be termed denialists were not mollified.

I do have to wonder about the mentality of these AGW "scientists". For people that claim to be all about science they seem very hostile to people that provide evidence that may disprove the AGW theory. ... Instead I see anyone that sees a flaw in the "science" is met with accusations of being a "denier". Which I'm not sure why being a "denier" is supposed to be such a bad thing.

There are extremists on both sides, people who rabidly believe ... well, what they believe, and will attack anyone who challenges this viewpoint. This mindset does not accurately describe most scientists*. If there is evidence it will be considered. If there are flaws in the science they will be looked at and corrected. This is one of the fundamentals of science.

Being a critical scientist is practically redundant, as all scientists should be critical. Confounding factors, sources of error, alternate explanations - all this is part and parcel of doing science. Denying evidence (without a very good reason - and even then this should be included in any explanatory notes when going public), cherry picking evidence to show something that's not true, fabricating evidence - all this is not science, and you'll note I started with "denying".

Being a critical thinker (scientist or otherwise) is good, being a denier is not.

I thought science was about taking in new evidence and using it to better our understanding of the universe. Instead we have "the science is settled" and then what? Are we supposed to stop looking at CO2 levels and temperatures now?

And to end quickly:

In a sense, partly, it is. I think, in this case context is everything - increasing concentrations of CO2 lead to increasing temperatures due to IR scattering, of this there is no doubt, none whatsoever, which basically means that question is settled. I'm not sure why you would even ask such a thing. Is this an example of the "Straw man fallacy"?

*It should be pointed out that most climate scientists have concluded, from the available evidence, that: global temperatures have been rising suprisingly rapidly of late (roughly the last 50 to 100 years) and the rate of increase itself is increasing. They have further concluded that the primary factor influencing this rise is the level of CO2 in the atmosphere and, furthermore, mankind is. by and large, responsible for this rise in CO2. There is still some disagreement as to what exactly will happen in the future but the current consensus is that if we continue to pump CO2 into the atmosphere atmospheric CO2 levels will continue to rise, global (average) temperatures will continue to rise, and various "Bad Things" will happen which will negatively impact the lives of at least the majority of the world's population.

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