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Comment Re:What's changed? (Score 1) 126

The problem is that social media reduces us to the way we present ourselves. While that certainly is part of who we are, it's not the whole story.

One of the most popular maxims of ancient Greek philosophers was "know thyself", and the reason they considered it important is that it turns out to be a lot harder than it sounds. You think you know yourself, but chances people who spend a lot of time in close physical proximity to you understand you in ways you don't.

But online your identity is mediated by how you present yourself. This is not only inevitably somewhat dishonest (in ways that may be more obvious to others than to yourself), even when you are trying to be honest you at best are presenting who you think you are.

Comment Re:"The science is settled" (Score 1) 52

Some of the science is settled, certainly. Methane is a greenhouse gas; nobody expects that to change. Atmospheric methane decays primarily through a long, well-documented chain of reactions starting with oxidation by the hydroxyl radical; the carbon in the CH4 eventually ends up in a CO2 molecule. This is nothing new, and nobody expects it to change.

The precise dynamics by which CH4 interacts with hydroxyl radicals in the atmosphere is far from settled science, and nobody should be particularly surprised that there are things about the process we don't know. Not knowing some things about a process doesn't mean we can't know other things about that process.

But some people obviously do believe it means that. They do not distinguish between not knowing everything and knowing nothing. Implicitly requiring scientists to know everything before you consider science credible makes everything a matter of opinion, and all opinions more or less equally valid, at least as far is evidence is concerned. And it's easy to see the attraction: if everything is a matter of opinion you can believe whatever you find comforting. Why not believe Adam and Eve rode around on dinosaurs? After all scientists don't know everything, which means science is never "settled".

But of course settling questions with evidence is what science is all about. True, there is no science so settled it cannot be attacked; but there *is* science sufficiently settled that claims to the contrary require extraordinary evidence.

Comment Re:I believe it (Score 1) 63

I've been saying this for years: the reason that the same stupid security holes keep popping up is that they keep showing up in the tutorials that people use to learn new systems and languages.

The cognitive burden of learning a new system is rough on most people, so it's tempting to make things easy on them. In fact you might have higher satisfaction from students if you do. It certainly makes them feel like they're learning more for less effort if they can make something happen that looks right. But you should never, ever model a bad practice for beginners, even if you have the intent of going back and explaining to them that they shouldn't do it that way. It's better to say, "OK, you don't understand this particular bit, but don't worry I'll come back to it later."

Comment Re:Gut flora and artificial sweeteners (Score 1) 5

This is probably the most recent, well-cited article on the topic. The authors looked at the effects of saccharin in mice, and were able to determine that there was a significant elevation in blood-glucose level for the mice that were fed saccharin instead of actual glucose over the course of nine weeks. This suggests a mechanism for previous findings that suggest artificial sweeteners cause insulin insensitivity, weight gain, type II diabetes, et cetera. The difference between the two diets went away when both groups were raised with antibiotics, strongly suggesting the underlying cause was gut microbiota. They also found evidence that the saccharin diet led to changes in gut microbiome composition:

In agreement with the experiments with antibiotics, next generation sequencing of the microbiome indicated that mice drinking saccharin had distinct compositions from controls. This distinct microbiome was characterized by enrichment of taxa belonging to the Bacteroides genus or the Clostridiales order, with under-representation of Lactobacilli and other members of the Clostridiales. Several of the bacterial taxa that changed following saccharin consumption were previously associated with type 2 diabetes in humans.

Keep in mind that everyone has different gut flora, so in general these impacts will vary from person to person, which is why the effect is inconsistent, as with obesity and type II diabetes in general. I can't say for certain that these results would directly transfer into humans, but since the bacteria are the same, it's unreasonable to assume they wouldn't. Less clear is whether this effect transfers to other sweeteners; the paper includes a table showing a number of studies pertaining to a diversity of chemicals, some of which found an effect, and some of which didn't.

Non-professionally, my advice would be to avoid artificial sweeteners, and ideally all liquid candy. Some people find that drinking normal, sugary soda produces a state of lethargy, and I'm pretty sure this is a result of the long-term exposure to sucralose. It's sort of a trap!

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