I[f] you divide 1 by 998,001 you get all three-digit numbers from 000 to 999 in order.
Except for 998.
Archive for January, 2012
… will be duped by the Wall Street Journal. Two years ago George Will tried to make a dubious claim about there being no evidence of recent global warming, and I objected and showed why the interpretation was wrong.
The latest I’ve read is at Bad Astronomy, where Phil has included a graph of temperatures over the last ~40 years. It’s a noisy graph. So noisy that (as with the George Will article) if you took any 10- or 15-year period, you could conceivably draw a straight line through it and consider it a possibility. But when you look at a longer data set, the rise is unmistakeable. Incontrovertible, one might say.
However, I must repeat my prior analysis: a slope larger than the best fit is equally plausible as a straight line through any short data set. Which is why saying that there is no statistically-significant evidence of warming — zero increase isn’t statistically excluded — is a very different statement from saying that there has been no warming. That latter statement implies that you can statistically exclude an increase, which is a ludicrous claim.
Phil goes on to mention another turd of an article that came out recently. In it they make some dubious claims, including a no-recent-warming assertion similar to the WSJ, and conclude that the climate models must be wrong. Anyway, the Bad Astronomy post has lots of links if you are interested in the followup to all this.
Once again, I belatedly realize that my blogoversary has come and gone. Friday marked four years of blogging. Yay me.
The keynote presentation at the UnConference, ScienceOnline2012 was given by Mireya Mayor, an Anthropologist/Primatologist who has worked for National Geographic, entitled The Vain Girl’s Survival Guide to Science and The Media, and told (part of) her tale of her path to becoming a scientist and science communicator, and some of the obstacles on it. You can watch a video of an earlier, similar presentation and audio of the talk — the story of someone who chose to dive into the deep end of science in the field, and quickly learned to swim. Pretty awesome. I had the thought that if she had chosen to be an archaeologist, she would be a real-life, modern-day Indiana Jones. (Maybe with less shooting)
There were some strong messages I took away from the talk. Mireya spoke of expectations and also of a risk she took in showing emotion in a documentary (in a situation involving gorilla poachers, and gorilla parts on a barbecue pit), which is more of a risk because she’s a woman. It’s a risk because of the stereotype of a scientist: a man in a lab coat, probably with a test tube and bunsen burner, and coldly analytical. (The only emotion you can show is geeky enthusiasm) So that particular scene strikes at all three facets of the stereotype — not a man, not in a lab, and showing a forbidden emotion.
That led into a related question: what does a scientist look like? I think it’s great when scientists show they are not at all like the stereotype, though I’ve seen that this does not always happen — read The Sexing Up Of Science (I’m Coming Out! And So Can You!) for another perspective, and Things I Found Ponderable: #scio12 Report the First for some reactions to Mireya’s talk (including a response from her). The issue evokes some strong feelings, some surprising, some all too predictable. But the goal is getting people interested in science, so the approach seems to be working, as evidenced by feedback she gets, like I didn’t know I could become a scientist.
There’s some good science communication advice in the talk as well. Keep it simple, talk to a general audience as if you were talking to someone in a bar. Remember you may be dealing with people who don’t see the connection of the science to them — if they don’t see how it affects them, they don’t know why they should care about it.
The Hundehiet (meaning Dog Den in Norwegian) was recently spotted by Henrick Eriksson outside a grocery store in Oslo, Norway. For just 10 Danish kroner (around $1.72 USD), you can keep your dog safe and dry in a storage unit while you go in and shop.
A similarly-themed feline enterprise run by Erwin Schrödinger had some customer service problems when only half of the inhabitants survived.
I’m still in recovery mode from my recent trip to ScienceOnline2012. It didn’t help at all that I had a nasty cold the week prior to it, except that having that cold during the conference would have been much worse, because I couldn’t have gone. The residual congestion and wrecked voice weren’t the biggest problem — it was not being at full strength and stamina, which made being “up” for the conference and after-conference activities that much harder.
And being “up” is a requirement. This is the Un-Conference, so unlike traditional gatherings where speaker after speaker drones on for 12 (or 15 or whatever minutes), delving deeper into material you may or may not understand very well, this gathering is very interactive. Even though I was tired, I was rarely in danger of falling asleep.
I find the ScienceOnline series to be an elevating experience. It had better be, because for me this is a vacation and all expenses are out-of-pocket, so I truly appreciate how far the organizers (Bora Zivkovic, Anton Zuiker and Karyn Traphagen, and many other volunteers — thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou) stretch my conference dollar to provide such an event. You have several hundred people whose passion is science communication (either by job or by hobby), many of whom are either well-reknowned science journalists or practicing scientists. Anyone you walk up to is going to be good at talking about some aspect of science at a level you (especially being scientifically literate) are going to be able to understand. As I did last year, I met a lot of people by simply sitting down at breakfast or lunch with some people I didn’t know, do the introductions and ask them what they did (also on the bus for one-on-one conversations). The other strategy was hanging out with DrSkyskull, because he knows everyone.
The un-conference style meant that most sessions were basically a large conversation on the topic at hand, albeit with only one person talking at a time. The session moderators contribute and keep the conversation moving and although they might have an outline of how the hour is supposed to go, they have to react to whatever comes up; some sessions are structured more than others.
Another aspect of this was that the break are — the café — was always open during the conference hours. There were scheduled breaks between sessions, which gave you an opportunity to follow up on a discussion if you wanted to, but the availability of beverages and food was not limited — there was no “you will mingle NOW and only now” structure imposed on us.
I’ll continue with the conference sessions I attended soon; I’ve already posted about the art and the eternal struggle between scientists and journalists, and won’t talk more about the session on history of science.
You might ask: why would you do this? The answer of course is: why wouldn’t you do this?
In addition to resolving long-standing paradoxes and puzzles in chemistry and biology, Dr. Andrulis’ theory unifies quantum and celestial mechanics. His unorthodox solution to this quintessential problem in physics differs from mainstream approaches, like string theory, as it is simple, non-mathematical, and experimentally and experientially verifiable. As such, the new portrait of quantum gravity is radical.
All I can think is someone has compromising pictures of the PAO or Dean, etc. That’s the only way this gets released on university letterhead.
I found the article online, in case you don’t want to download the pdf.
Thus, as modeled by the ohiogyre, quantized macrophoton influx induces macroelectrogyre oscillation between excited and ground states, explaining both the periodicity of planetary orbit and why a planet does not gravitationally collapse into a star. Finally, as with atomic orbitals, in planetary orbits, the attractorepulsive effects diminish the further away from the macrophoton singularity. The macroelectrogyre predicts that increased size and slower orbit of distal planets relative to proximalones (as in the Solar System) corresponds to the composition, length, and stability of macroelectronexuses.
That’s some tasty word salad.
Still going with my general trend of reporting on ScienceOnline 2012 by working backwards, I’m going to quasi-summarize the panel discussion, The Sticky Wicket of the Scientist-Journalist Relationship, which closed out the conference. The panel members were David Kroll, Bora Zivkovic, Maggie Koerth-Baker and Seth Mnookin, which means it was slanted toward the journalist point of view, but it was indeed interesting to get that perspective.
Out of the gate, Maggie Koerth-Baker set the tone about the journalist perspective: I am not your goddam stenographer. I don’t trust you implicitly and I don’t want to be a fanboy. (That’s a paraphrase, but pretty close to a direct quote). And that’s fair, I think, especially with the recent and laughable query about being fact-vigilantes, one shouldn’t expect any journalists to simply repeat what they are told.
We were also cautioned that the journalist’s motivation for writing an article may not coincide with the scientist’s agenda — don’t assume it is and find out those details. This ties in to the concern of some about being misquoted; even though the journalist probably isn’t out to “get” a scientist, you won’t have a chance to backtrack on your comments. So you should correct yourself immediately if you mis-speak. There was also the suggestion that it’s OK to speak to a reporter off the record, and then agree afterward to allow some comments to be on the record. That gives the scientist some control over the issue.
What was interesting to me was a comment by Seth Mnookin about how scientists are surprised that journalists often don’t check back with the scientist they’ve interviewed and show them the story before it’s published. Some of this is motivated by not wanting to edit quotes, but from my perspective it’s about a concern to get the facts right. My own experience on this is mixed — I’ve been interviewed or involved in email exchanges, and been offered differing levels of opportunity to provide feedback. But I completely understand the scientist position — I think it’s a general desire in the science community that the science be understood correctly, and anyone who has taught knows how often it happens that complex concepts are misunderstood, especially without the feedback. So it is a surprise to me that a journalist would not double-check their story to make sure they got it right. Getting it wrong undermines the credibility of everyone involved, though my personal bias is that when I see obvious errors I am going to assume the scientist knows what s/he is talking about and the journalist screwed it up. That might not always be true, but it’s probably the way to bet.
One the other side of the coin, journalists can get burned by scientists pushing bad science and treating it like peer review, in that they figure a newer story can come along and correct any mistakes. I don’t think much of that approach — scientists have an obligation to make clear what is sound and what is speculation.
Having said all that, I have to agree with what Ed Yong has posted a few days back: Every scientists-versus-journalists debate ever, in one diagram
Basically, good journalists are going to complain about bad scientists and good scientists are going to complain about bad journalists. I know I do. And I don’t praise good science journalism often enough.
Which brings me to the point that I wish I has thought of before the panel discussion ended. Perhaps we have some common ground after all. Maybe we can agree on a problem we have in common: crap story titles. There’s something uniquely frustrating in reading the title of an article and then find out that the article itself doesn’t support the title, or (in some cases) completely contradicts it. It’s usually an editor that did it. I hope that journalists find this as annoying as this scientist does.