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Comment Re:Yes - sounds like "grant time" (Score 4, Informative) 285

IIRC from the times when I used yeast in my PhD research, wild type (that means: not mutated) S. cerevisiae clumps in advanced stationary phase (end of growth curve, nutritional deprivation). Such circumstances happen more often that not in the real life of S. cerevisae: just imagine that in nature it cannot walk to the nearest grapevine and say 'hey lets do some sugar fermentation here'... no it depends on being able to survive in times of drought. ne way it does that is through forming spores, another way of temporarily surviving could be this kind of 'clumping'. So, the 'clumping gene' is already there, it is just expressed in certain circumstances, circumstances easily simulated in a lab situation.

In my mind the argument would revolve around self-organisation versus (old, dormant) organisational information still present in the S. cerevisae genome. I'm bummed I cannot access the original article at the PNAS site, else I could comment on that in a bit more detail.

Comment "I've got nothing to hide" (Score 1) 520

Companies like Facebook base their income on the information they collect from you, and are therefore in a continuous arms race with you to lure you into giving out more information. I admire your absolute understanding of privacy choices on every level and nuance imaginable, but most of the other people in this world are less aware and more easily tricked... and even if they are rather smart, they make mistakes.

Is it therefore fair to put the onus on the person who has a Facebook profile to protect their privacy? Especially when the founder of Facebook has been on record a few times, stating that privacy is on a slippery slope anyway, and they'll just go with the flow? Especially when the "I've got nothing to hide" argument has been thoroughly debunked, because just about any information can be (selectively) used to incriminate you, even when you're entirely innocent?

As much as I am a fan of individual responsibility, I do believe that this tit-for-tat game of deception between social networking sites and their users is rather immoral on the side of the social networking sites, and that it is a cop out to say that the user is being stupid. This is where Assange draws the line, which is not paranoid, but realistic. They really are after eroding our privacy.


Submission + - Isaac Newton, Alchemist (

Pickens writes: "It wasn't easy being Isaac Newton because he didn't like wasting time: Newton didn't play sports or a musical instrument, gamble at whist or gambol on a horse. Newton was unmarried, had no known romantic liaisons and may well have died, at the age of 85, with his virginity intact. But, as Natalie Angier writes in the NY Times, it is now becoming clear that Newton had time to spend night upon dawn for three decades of his life slaving over a stygian furnace in search of the power to transmute one chemical element into another. "How could the ultimate scientist have been seemingly hornswoggled by a totemic psuedoscience like alchemy, which in its commonest rendering is described as the desire to transform lead into gold," writes Angier. Now new historical research describes how alchemy yielded a bounty of valuable spinoffs, including new drugs, brighter paints, stronger soaps and better booze. "Alchemy was synonymous with chemistry," says Dr. William Newman, "and chemistry was much bigger than transmutation." Newman adds that Newton's alchemical investigations helped yield one of his fundamental breakthroughs in physics: his discovery that white light is a mixture of colored rays that can be recombined with a lens. “I would go so far as to say that alchemy was crucial to Newton’s breakthroughs in optics,” says Newman. “He’s not just passing light through a prism — he’s resynthesizing it.”"

Comment Re:Food for Thought (Score 1) 428

I agree with the parent post to a large extent, but I think that maybe some things get mixed up here with regard to who is responsible for what.

The extension of human knowledge through science is based on verifiable experimentation. If I do an experiment, and publish an article based on it, the reviewers of the article require that I specify the exact circumstances needed to find the published outcome. If others cannot repeat the experiments, the speculations in my discussion are unfounded and therefore discarded.

The problem is not one of relativism and Popperian verifiability issues. The problem is that people mix up the notions of information and truth. Information, from any source, can be seen as a form of communication. One can agree or disagree, and when something new is presented, the onus is on the information provider to explain why (s)he thinks this information is relevant to a certain problem.

In the case of Wikipedia, this becomes difficult, but it's not Wikipedia that's the problem, but a general property of compendia of knowledge. Printed encyclopedia, textbooks, reviews in scientific magazines all have this property: the presentation of conclusions.

Conclusions are not the outcome of scientific research, they are merely new questions asked to the scientific community. They state: I found X, and within the current state of affairs in this discipline, I think it means Y. Sometimes Y becomes a temporary truth, a dogma, but that's not the fault of science, but of people thinking they are right ;-)

The issue at hand is the issue of critical reading. When we criticise Wikipedia for being incorrect, we are actually saying that we want them to be trustworthy enough so that we don't have to be critical anymore.

If there is a general underlying problem, it is the problem of trust, and why people seem to have adopted the notion that they should assume the worst relying on the simple dichotomy of truth and lie. There are 'factual untruths' in Wikipedia, as there are in any encyclopedia. The problem is that anyone can edit, and that we don't trust them.

Now, without spinning off into conspiracy theory land, what are the variables influencing trust that someone's intentions are genuine? I can think of a few, but it's a problem that needs collaborative solving. After all, I may be 'wrong' ;-)

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