Thursday, June 25, 2015

Paragraph o' the Day

So far my favorite response to Scalia's "weighty" descent from this Wonkette article:
And poor Antonin Scalia was so angry about the majority decision that he proclaimed in his dissent, “Words no longer have meaning if an Exchange that is not established by a State is ‘established by the State.’” We would comment on this, but banana dust intriguingly parses our kleptomaniac vertebrae. Moist colander prevails! Justice Scalia needs to ask himself: Has Anyone Really Been Far Even as Decided to Use Even Go Want to do Look More Like? Truly, we say, armadillo.

There's Always Been Anger

I agree with Atrios that the kids are alright, but I don't think the anger he mentions here is new.  I think that it is just more easily dispersed via the internet.  The vitriol you read in most comments sections today was always there, but pre-internet it was someone reading the paper and yelling at the wind (and maybe his wife and kids...and yes, it was probably a "he" then just as now).

The internet is a remarkable force in our lives, and primarily (overwhelmingly?) for good, but it is a tool, and one that can be and is used for ill at times.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Conservative Catholics in the US

Interesting history lesson on conservatism and Catholicism in the US in the 60's and 70's and its parallels to today.

Catholic--indeed most Christian--conservatives have always struck me as odd.  Excepting sexual liberalism, it is very clear that liberal policies fit in far better with New Testament teachings than do conservative policies.  In fact most conservative Christians point to the Old Testament to find justifications for their political beliefs, ignoring the many times that the New Testament directly or implicitly contradicts those points.

Rich, athiest conservative (e.g. Ayn Rand) makes logical sense.  General asshole/jerk (e.g. racists, Sheldon Adelson) conservative makes emotional sense.  There is a narrow weaving of non-asshole, non-rich that may make some sort of sense, though a strong sense of individualist (aka selfishness) or kook (e.g. Ron Paul) is still required to fit in that gap.  Christian conservative just doesn't.  At all.

Unlike asshole Bill Maher I think that religion can be a positive force in society.  Most religions preach tolerance, love of neighbor, helpfulness, caring for others, disdain for violence, selflessness... That doesn't mean that there are not [always] going to be people who twist some aspect of some religion to violence and selfishness.  There is also a lot of us and them isolationism in religious communities (Mormons donate a the LDS church, they give to other charities at much lower rates than the general public).

I've got lots more thoughts on the subject but this is it for now...

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

"If You Don't Want to Pay for Other People's Health Insurance...

...You Can't Live in a First World Nation."

Title says it all, but the text explains it to assholes (i.e. Republicans who think Obamacare Medicaid and Medicare should all die).  Unfortunately, the evidence shows that said assholes won't have their mind changed by the facts presented which run counter to their beliefs.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Scientific Repetition

Reading through this Vox article I nodded quite a bit.  A few quick notes...

In graduate school I did some research that...didn't discredit so much as countered previously published work by another group (note: I seriously doubt it was fraud).  Nothing came of it.  In a perfect science world, it would have been written up.  Not a major publication, but a short note, with the relevant data and the [correct] explanation.  Except: most researcher's wouldn't really care, lots that would may have figured it out anyway (actually, probably not, but I like to think the best of other scientists) and publication of a short note like that, which really only exists to say "those guys were wrong" seems...petty and spiteful.  That I didn't know the other researchers at all is irrelevant, petty and spiteful are not good reasons to publish.

Still, it would have been best for that particular field of science had that work been published.  Better information which may have helped other researchers doing similar work and referencing the older, [partly] incorrect work.  But had we tried, I've no idea where it would have been accepted.  It's another side of the coin from a "failed experiments" journal.  Science that should have worked but didn't, things that did work, but for which the explanation was wrong or incomplete.

There's a lot of science out there and so there are a lot of these "failures".

One point that I would like to make has to do with the statement in the article that
Most studies aren't replicated — and researchers are discouraged from doing so
which may be true for some longer/larger experiments.  Those that require a full grad student career (or more) to complete, or that are so expensive, that repeating them practically requires a grant application that details "why we should do this again".  In many of those cases, lots of researchers are involved early on and do a lot of checking of each other's work.  Also, in many cases, the raw data is available for subsequent researchers to look into.  But for a lot of smaller experiments--which actually make up the bulk of science research--the studies often are replicated, in the same lab by subsequent students, or by other labs with similar interests/directions.

In those cases, problems do get found out and understood and passed around, but very rarely does that occur via publication that directly counters previous work.  More likely a post-doc comes into a lab knowing about the old paper, and a senior level grad student informs her "actually, that wasn't right and this is what really is happening" and the post-doc is now informed and does research with her new understanding...that has not been published.  Sometimes you can comb through a trail of publications and note that a change took place without any acknowledgement to it taking place, and sometimes you have to either go through the lab or know people connected to it to find out.  So researchers connected to a research network may know a particular thing doesn't work, or didn't mean what it was initially thought, but researchers outside that network may not.