Natura non facit saltus
Debunking the Paradigm Shifters
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Sunday, Dec 31, 2006
Copernican Principle is wrong
The Encyclopedia Britannica defines the Copernican Principle:
The Copernican Principle is a basic statement in physics that there should be no ``special'' observers. For example, the Aristotelian model of the solar system in the Middle Ages placed the Earth at the center of the solar system, a unique place since it ``appears'' that everything revolved around the Earth. Nicolaus Copernicus demonstrated that this view was incorrect and that the Sun was at the center of the solar system with the Earth in orbit around the Sun.This is nonsense from beginning to end. The geocentric model is called the Ptolemaic model, not the Aristotelian model, and it originated at least 1000 years before the Middle Ages. Copernicus never demonstrated that the geocentric view was incorrect. His model put the Sun near the center of the solar system, but not at the center.
Copernicus did not challenge the "foundations of moral theory" or anything like that. There was no massive opposition to his idea that the solar system could be modeled with the Sun near the center. His famous book had the explicit imprimatur of the Roman Catholic Church, altho its approval was later conditioned on nine minor corrections being made.
Today, the name of Copernicus is the battle cry of crackpots. The article endorses a view of Freud, who really was a crackpot.
The Big Bang theory requires a special point of origin for the universe. If all such theories are necessarily implausible, then I guess that we should reject the Big Bang theory. But the Big Bang theory is the most plausible theory we have for the expansion of the universe. Without it, scientists cannot explain why it gets dark at night. (Olber's Paradox)
Senile slug research
Sci. American reports:
The ancestors of humans and sea slugs diverged more than a half billion years ago, but scientists have now unexpectedly found genes that are remarkably similar in the brains of both. These findings could help shed light on the evolution of the brain in the animal kingdom and the mechanisms of human disorders such as Alzheimer's disease.I'll be updating this if anyone ever learns anything about Alzheimers, from humans having common ancestry with sea slugs.
Wednesday, Dec 27, 2006
Cause of global warming is irrelevant
I am suspicious of the global warming activists for these reasons:
1. The so-called science matches the leftist ideology too conveniently. If someone wanted to shut down global development and economic growth, there is no surer way than to impose an international carbon tax or otherwise reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It reminds me of those who want to stop some power plant or logging operation because of some supposed endangered species that no one had heard of. For the most part, they are just leftist ideologues masquerading as environmentalists.
2. They rarely mention nuclear power. If the greenhouses gases are really a harmful form of pollution, then nuclear power is by far the cleanest and cheapest form of energy available. Anyone who is really concerned about greenhouse gases should be promoting nuclear power plants.
3. They emphasize human causes. The climate scientists have made a convincing case that industrialization has caused big CO2 increases in the atmosphere, that greenhouse gases can cause global warming, and that some parts of the world have already seen a noticeable warming. But they are hung up trying to demonstrate that Man caused the warming.
Why do they even care? When Yellowstone Park burned in 1988, the authorities let it burn because the fire had been started by lightning rather than Man. There are even those who think that the ethics of cloning Neanderthals should depend on whether humans wiped them out 35kyrs ago.
So it appears to me that these folks think that we should try to do something about global warming if Man is the cause, and not otherwise. That is why they believe that it is so crucial to show that Man is the cause.
This is crazy. It sounds like some sort of pagan nature-worship, not science. If fire in Yellowstone is really a good thing, then we should deliberately set that fire, and not wait for the lightning. If global warming is really a bad thing and we really have the technology to economically reverse it, then we should do that regardless of whether Man originally caused the warming.
I think that scientists should work on telling us the cost-benefit ratios of feasible climate interventions, and forget about whether Man is the cause of global warming.
The risks of being Homo Urbanus
Jeremy Rifkin writes that human civilization is unsustainable:
Large populations living in mega- cities consume massive amounts of Earth's energy to maintain their infrastructures and daily flow of human activity. The Sears Tower alone uses more electricity in a single day than the city of Rockford, Ill., with 152,000 people. Even more amazing, our species now consumes nearly 40 percent of the net primary production on Earth -- the amount of solar energy converted to plant organic matter through photosynthesis -- even though we make up only one-half of 1 percent of the animal biomass of the planet. ...When he expresses concern for "our fellow creatures", is he talking about humans or animals? Normally I'd assume humans, but when he complains about extinctions and about our species using more than our fair share of sunlight, I'm not so sure.
Ronald Bailey attacks Rifkin for other reasons.
Tuesday, Dec 26, 2006
Evolution of dishonest frogs
NY Science Times reports:
If you happen across a pond full of croaking green frogs, listen carefully. Some of them may be lying.The NY Times treats this as some big breakthru in evolutionary theory. It supposedly explains how dishonesty evolved in humans. Here is the theory, as I understand it.
Any time one animal has some behavioral response to another, we could regard this as a communication signal. A growl, a sharp claw, or a peacock's tail might be considered a signal.
The next step is to regard the signal as being correct or false. You have to use your imagination to say whether a peacock is telling the truth or not when it shows its tail, but assume that.
Furthermore, assume that there are advantages and disadvantages of animals telling the truth with these signals, and of lying.
The new research shows that if the advantages can be quantified in a computer model, then the optimal behavior for the animal will be to sometimes tell the truth, and sometimes lie.
The NY Times explains:
Tales of animal deception reach back at least as far as Aesop’s fables. In the late 19th century, the naturalist George Romanes made a semi-scientific study of deceptive animals. In his 1883 book, "Mental Evolution in Animals," Romanes wrote about how one of his correspondents had sent him "several examples of the display of hypocrisy of a King Charles spaniel." ...I am wondering what it new or scientific about this. Why is that 1883 book only "semi-scientific", while some untested model is considered a hot new evolutionary result. Who would be surprised that there might be an equilibrium between honesty and deception under the above assumptions?
Every kindergarten teacher understands that if she rewards honesty, she'll get more honesty, and if there are rewards for deception, there will be more deception. Depends on the rewards, there will be a balance. The whole thing seems trivial.
Judge denounces femifascists
St. Louis judge Robert H. Dierker Jr. has written a book titled, The Tyranny of Tolerance: A Sitting Judge Breaks the Code of Silence to Expose the Liberal Judicial Assault. It says:
Just as we saw with the femifascists, illiberal liberals don't want equality; they want to make some people more equal than others. And they've made it happen through their dominance of the courts over the past seventy-five years. Liberals have converted the courts from the 'least dangerous' branch of government envisioned by the Founding Fathers to the most dangerous. ...A female lawyer complains here. I think that she is concerned that he might be prejudiced against femifascist lawyers in his court.
Sunday, Dec 24, 2006
Imported workers depress wages
BatesLine denies that foreign workers with H-1B workers are depressing American wages:
H-1B visa holders must, by law, be paid comparably to or better than American workers. Companies have to post notices listing the salary, job title, and experience of H-1B employees to allow other employees to verify that the visa holders aren't driving out American workers by accepting a low wage. The companies I have worked for have complied with this requirement.I think that he needs some lessons in supply and demand. Increasing the supply of workers always lowers wages. That is the way economics works. It is the whole purpose of the H-1B program.
Maybe some 1% of the H-1B workers have some unique skill that some employers especially needs. But the vast majority of them are computer programmers, engineers, nurses, and others coming into a job market where there are millions of American workers already available. They have no special skill, and they are just being hired because they will work more hours for less money.
BatesLine goes on:
Most H-1B visa holders I've known are using it as a first step to qualify for permanent residency and eventual citizenship. ... They are not tethered to the first employer that hires them.This is misleading. They are not "tethered" in the sense that they can leave the USA at any time. But they need that employer sponsorship if they want to get on the waiting list for permanent residency. If an H-1B worker changes jobs, then he must get another H-1B sponsor and forfeit his application for permanent residency. As a result, the employer gets an indentured servant, and won't have to give him pay raises to keep him from jumping to another employer.
This statement of Schlafly's just floored me:Yes, she does complain about our schools, but she wants to improve our schools, not import foreign guest workers to make our schools irrelevant.Much of the Compete America discussion involved blaming the U.S. educational system and the fact that fewer U.S. students are going into math and computer sciences. Yes, U.S. students have figured out that our engineers have a bleak employment future because of insourcing foreigners and outsourcing manufacturing.Isn't this the same Phyllis Schlafly who has been telling us what a bad job our schools are doing of educating our children in the fundamentals of reading, writing, and arithmetic?
Thursday, Dec 21, 2006
No more evolution stickers
The LA Times reports:
ATLANTA — A suburban school board has abandoned its four-year legal fight to place stickers in high school biology textbooks that say "evolution is a theory, not a fact."The Cobb school board says:
"Appealing the lower court ruling was the right decision by the school board because that ruling was incorrect," said Dr. Plenge. "The Board maintains that the stickers were constitutional, but, at the same time, the Board clearly sees the need to put this divisive issue behind us. There will be no stickers in textbooks, and, as always, we will continue to provide Cobb County students a curriculum that follows national and state standards in teaching science and the theory of evolution."The lower court had said that the stickers were unconstitutional, and the appellate court vacated (reversed) that ruling. Apparently the school will continue to take the position that evolution is a theory.
Sunday, Dec 17, 2006
Weinberg on ST
The eminent physicist Steven Weinberg said:
The critics are right. We have no single prediction of string theory that is verified by observation. Even worse, we don’t know how to use string theory to make predictions. Even worse than that, we don’t really know what string theory is.And he is someone who likes String Theory! He says that it is the only game in town:
I don't see any alternative to string theory. I don't see any other way of bringing gravity into the same general theoretical framework as all the other forces of nature. Yes, it could be entirely wrong. I don't think it's likely at all. I think it's best to assume it's not and take it very seriously and work on it.The string theorists idolize Weinberg, but they do wish that he'd retract this statement:
The geometric interpretation of gravitation has dwindled to a mere analogy, which lingers in our language in terms like "metric", "affine connection", and "curvature", but is not otherwise very useful.The string theorist love their geometrical interpretations because that's all they have.
Friday, Dec 15, 2006
Why Truth Matters
A new book on Why Truth Matters gives this as its prime example:
In the David Irving libel trial held two years ago, in which I served as an expert witness for the High Court in London , Irving was suing Penguin Books and their author Deborah Lipstadt for calling him a Holocaust denier and a falsifier of history. ...If it is Truth that really matters, then why aren't they satisfied with just proving Irving wrong? Why is it so important to argue that Irving had bad motives, and to ruin him?
Irving apparently has some sort of theory that the Jews at Auschwitz were killed by means other than gas chambers. He cites publicly documents and evidence. Other historians say that he is wrong. Irving has been bankrupted and jailed by Europeans and Jews who are offended by what he says.
Praising the punishment of Irving is not a good example for the search for Truth. It is a sad day when Iran is the only country that can have a conference dedicated to telling the truth about the German Holocaust.
What is going on in Iran is not the Truth, but just hate speech. They are just doing that to generate support for anti-Israel terrorism.I am not a mindreader, so I don't know about anyone's motives. Certainly most of the Mohammedan world is anti-Israel. I think that the only way that we'll get at the truth is to allow historians to have free speech to present their theories. I don't see how anything Irving could say would be worse than what the Mohammedans say all the time about Jews and Israel.
Lumo Motl's latest evidence for String Theory is the nine US patents involving string theory, and the lack of patents on other quantum gravity theories.
Maybe he is making a joke, because some of the patents aren't really String Theory. Those that are just give more evidence that ST is just another wacky physics fad with no relation to reality.
Wednesday, Dec 13, 2006
Rushing math to publication
A respected mathematician Joan Birman wrotes that the Math community has too much tolerance for bad behavior:
I focus on one small part of the complex array of matters discussed in the Nasar-Gruber article, namely the manner in which the normal peer review process, essential to the integrity of the profession, was tossed out the window when the paper of Cao and Zhu was accepted for publication in the Asian Journal of Mathematics (AJM). The submitted paper appears to be mainly an exposition of Perelman’s work on the Geometrization Conjecture, however it asserted that there were gaps in Perelman’s proof, which the authors filled. That was a serious assertion. The decision to publish the Cao-Zhu paper was made by the two editors-in-chief of the AJM, without consultation with the journal’s twenty-six member editorial board, even though it was known that the authors had deep personal attachments to the editors-in-chief. The members of the editorial board of the AJM were notified of the pending publication a few days before the journal issue appeared, but were not shown the paper, an abstract, or reports by independent referees.There must not be very much bad behavior in the Mathematics community for Birman to complain about this. Here is what happened.
Perelman published what he claimed was a proof of the Poincare and Geometrization Conjectures in some papers around 2003. The papers appeared to have some gaps, and most mathematicians were still unsure in 2006 as to whether Perelman had a complete proof or not. If correct, it would be the biggest result in ten years. The International Congress of Mathematicians (ICM) meets every four years, and the August 2006 meeting would surely want to make an announcement as to whether the proof is correct.
Several groups of mathematicians worked thru Perelman's details, and wrote up more complete proofs. The new papers convinced everyone that Perelman's theorem was correct. According to the New Yorker article, S.-T. Yau rushed one of them into print in time for the ICM to award a Fields Medal to Perelman for the proof.
I am still baffled as to how anyone could find fault with this. Three years is a long time to wait for a resolution of this issue. If Yau sped up the process by a couple of months, so much the better. The Math community needed to know whether the theorem was correct or not.
Perhaps someone might think that the new papers complicate the process of assigning credit for the proof the conjectures. How much credit should goto Richard Hamilton and other who did the work leading up to Perelman's papers, how much to Perelman, and how much to the later mathematicians who filled in the details?
These credit issues are secondary, at best. The really important thing was to determine correctness of the theorems, and to make a readable proof available. That has now happened, and Yau contributed to it.
People can debate the credit if they want, but there are no facts in dispute. Perelman published his papers promptly on a public web server. If anyone wants to form an opinion about the completeness of his arguments, then he can just download the papers and read them for himself. Nothing Yau or anyone else can do will change that.
Other academic fields have endless squabbling about who deserves credit for what. In many cases, big-shot scientists take credit for what a grad student did, and no one outside the lab knows for sure. In spite of attempts by Sylvia Nasar and the New Yorker magazine to artificially create controversy, the Math community has very few such disputes.
Maxwell pioneered relativity
PhysicsWorld magazine says:
James Clerk Maxwell – unlike Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein, the two giants of physics with whom he stands – made that mistake, dying in 1879 at the age of just 48. ...Lorentz and Poincare did discover special relativity before Einstein.
Tuesday, Dec 12, 2006
The great Chilean leader Augusto Pinochet has died. He was hated for proving that free-market economic policies work much better than Marxist ones. Leftists complain that about 2k Chileans died under his rule, but AFAIK they are all commie revolutionaries who were out to destroy Chile.
People commonly claim that the USA had something to do with the 1973 Chile coup. No connection was ever proved. Wash Post editorial says:
It's hard not to notice, however, that the evil dictator leaves behind the most successful country in Latin America. In the past 15 years, Chile's economy has grown at twice the regional average, and its poverty rate has been halved. It's leaving behind the developing world, where all of its neighbors remain mired. It also has a vibrant democracy. Earlier this year it elected another socialist president, Michelle Bachelet, who suffered persecution during the Pinochet years.Thanks to Alex Forshaw.
Monday, Dec 11, 2006
Anti-Zionists speak up
USA Today reports:
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran on Monday hosted a conference gathering prominent Holocaust deniers that it said would examine whether the World War II genocide of Jews took place, drawing condemnation from Israel and Germany.The conference opened with a declaration that "Anti-Semitism has never existed in the Muslim territories".
This doesn't bother me. They are not literally anti-semites because they are not opposed to Semites. They oppose the Jewish religion. Germany is in no position to complain as it has no free speech on the subject. If it wants an open examination of the truth, it should host its own conference and allow people to express their opinions.
No, what offends me today is Jimmy Carter complaining about how public discussion of his latest Mideast peace plan is being suppressed:
Book reviews in the mainstream media have been written mostly by representatives of Jewish organizations who would be unlikely to visit the occupied territories, and their primary criticism is that the book is anti-Israel. Two members of Congress have been publicly critical. Incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, for instance, issued a statement (before the book was published) saying that ``he does not speak for the Democratic Party on Israel.''Carter has new book Palestine: Peace not Apartheid that blames Israel and is sympathetic to Palestinian Arab terrorists. He thinks that if he were President, he could talk Israel into trading land for peace.
Israel has being trying to trade land for peace for decades. The Palestinian arabs have been offered an independent state many times, and every single time they've turned it down and repeated a vow to destroy Israel.
Jimmy Carter is an embarrassment to the USA. Pelosi was just stating the obvious -- Carter's kooky views are out of the mainstream and he does not speak for anyone.
Recent Instance of Human Evolution
another article claiming that humans are still evolving:
A surprisingly recent instance of human evolution has been detected among the peoples of East Africa. It is the ability to digest milk in adulthood, conferred by genetic changes that occurred as recently as 3,000 years ago, a team of geneticists has found. ... Throughout most of human history, the ability to digest lactose, the principal sugar of milk, has been switched off after weaning because there is no further need for the lactase enzyme that breaks the sugar apart. But when cattle were first domesticated 9,000 years ago and people later started to consume their milk as well as their meat, natural selection would have favored anyone with a mutation that kept the lactase gene switched on.It is funny how all scientists say they believe in evolution, and yet it is always surprising when someone finds some actual evidence of humans evolving.
Science casts doubt on arson convictions
Apparently a lot of innocent people have gone to prison as arsonists, based on bogus expert testimony. AP reports:
Up until the 1990s, this is what fire investigators were taught:More discussion on Slashdot. Judges and lawyers usually know nothing about science, and have a long history of allowing junk science in court.
Saturday, Dec 09, 2006
Reconsidering Brown v Board of Education
Adam Liptak writes:
IF there is a sacred text in the American legal canon, it is the Supreme Court’s 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education. It is the court’s one undisputed triumph, and no Supreme Court nominee who expressed doubt about the decision would ever be confirmed. Who can argue, after all, with the wisdom of putting an end to state-sanctioned racial segregation in the public schools?Brown v Board was actually a terrible decision. It was an attempt to make social policy based on some dubious assumptions and incoherent arguments. The proof that it is overrated is here -- everyone agrees that it was a great decision, but no one can agree on what it means.
Friday, Dec 08, 2006
String Theory reviews
String theorist Joe Polchinski reviews a couple of books critical of String Theory, with footnotes here.
But what about the lack of predictions? This is the key question, for Woit, for Smolin and for string theory. Why have the last 20 years been a time of unusually little contact between theory and experiment? The problem is partly on the experimental side: The Standard Model works too well. It takes great time, ingenuity and resources to try to look beyond it, and often what is found is still the Standard Model.Polchinski admits that ST cannot make any predictions, and furthermore says no one can even predict how long it will take ST to make any predictions.
A major point for Woit is that no one knows exactly what string theory is, because it is specified only through an infinite mathematical series whose sum is ill-defined. This assertion is partly true: With new physical theories there is often a long period between the first insight and the final mathematical form. For quantum field theory, the state of affairs that Woit describes lasted for half a century .This is nonsense. Throughout those 50 years, QFT had enough theory to make numerical predictions that could be tested experimentally.
His defense of ST is quite weak. You would think that he would be able to point to some hypothesis or prediction or argument to persuade that ST is on to something worthwhile.
It is also odd the way the ST crowd castigate the Standard Model. They all have some sort of ideological belief that the SM theory is incorrect, and express bewilderment every time it is confirmed by experiment.
Wednesday, Dec 06, 2006
Speaking truth to power
Jonathan writes about this phrase:
The phrase has been on my own mind recently, but I disagree with what Joe has to say. I don't think the phrase "speaking truth to power" is in any way a special province of leftists, liberals, feminists, etc. And I don't think that "Allahu Akhbar" is in any way commensurate with it.Joe responds:
Lordy!!! Look, "speaking truth to power" came from people like Toni, Maya and Jesse, and was probably rooted in left wing lit crit twenty years ago. It's one of those code phrases like "viewing such and such through the LENS of such and such." It's just standard-issue street cred lingo that has gone mainstream. It's just a PC way of stating the concept that shows your left-wing bona fides. That Krauthammer is using it just shows that it has gone mainstream. You know, like rap. Ugh.Jonathan responds:
"Speaking Truth To Power" is NOT leftist in origin. Apparently this phrase was born in the efforts of German Quakers to resist Nazi tyrrany. A simple Google search gave some intersting results. If this source is accurate, as it would appear to be, it shows that your friend Joe is all wet and may require a large "beach" towel to get dry. From: Living The Truth, Speaking To Power:The phrase "speaking truth to power" goes back to 1955, when the American Friends Service Committee published Speak Truth to Power, a pamphlet ii at [sic] proposed a new approach to the Cold War. Its title, which came to Friend Milton Mayer toward the end of the week in summer 1954 when the composing committee finished work on the document, has become almost a cliche; it has become common far beyond Quaker circles, often used by people who have no idea of its origins. (One current example: Anita Hill entitled her memoir of her sensational charges of sexual harassment against Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas, Speaking Truth to Power.)Ergo, the origin of the phrase is not leftist. Its original meaning was to describe the actions of the sort of person who was the exact opposite of the proverbial "Good Germans" who did whatever the goose-steppers ("Power") told them to.
Trying to disprove Intelligent Design
Evolutionist Jack Woodall writes:
What can we make of the further complications that led the Large Blue butterfly (Maculinea arion) to extinction in Britain? It entrusts a critical stage in its life cycle to the tender care of a single species of red ant that is particularly finicky about where it nests. ...Evolutionists are split between those who say that Intelligent Design (ID) is a non-scientific hypothesis (because it is untestable), and those who say that it is a testable hypothesis that has been disproven. Woodall is in the latter camp. And his best argument is the extinction of the Large Blue butterfly?!
This is weird. If the blue butterfly had not gone extinct, would that have disproved survival of the fittest? Certainly not.
Tuesday, Dec 05, 2006
Is Richard Dawkins endorsing eugenics?
Evolutionist Richard Dawkins causes more controversy:
Dawkins holds the Charles Simonyi Chair in the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University, but is best known as one of the world's most outspoken current opponents of religious belief, giving lectures and interviews and writing articles in which "fundamentalist" Christianity is among his favourite targets.
Sunday, Dec 03, 2006
Speak Truth To Power
On NBC Meet The Press, I just heard the new US Senate Armed Service chairman Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) say:
We’ve got to have a change in Iraq policy. We have to have someone who will speak truth to power and not just tell the president what he wants to hear.He was defending his support for Robert Gates as the new Secy of Defense. I was puzzled by what he meant by "speak truth to power".
Some brief research indicates that "speak truth to power" is a Quaker code-phrase for a pacifist agenda. According to the Quakers, it dates back to the 18th century. It is the title of this 1955 Quaker essay against the use of military power.
The title "Speaking Truth To Power" was used by Anita Hill in her 1997 memoir about her attempt to sabotage the career of her mentor, Clarence Thomas. She promoted her book by saying things like, "My reality did not comport with his reality".
I don't know what to make of this, except that it is very strange for Carl Levin to be using this jargon in this context.
"Speak truth to power" is a phrase very commonly used by feminists and leftists in general. It's like muslims yelling "Allahu Akbar". It's basically a left-wing cliche.The phrase must mean something, and there must be some reason those people use it.
The phrase Allahu Akbar is arabic for Allah is Greater. Literally, it boasts of the superiority of the Mohammedan god. Sometimes it is just a routine prayer beginning. It is supposed to be recited whenever animals are slaughtered. It is also commonly said by Mohammedans when they want to cheer the terrorist murder of infidels.
Saturday, Dec 02, 2006
New immigration exam
The Si Valley paper reports:
Some immigrants who want to become Americans will be given a new, more detailed test next year, one designed to gauge not just their memorization skills, but also a broader sense of their knowledge of government and history. ...No, U.S. Supreme Court does not have the final say on what the Constitution means. The newly-elected Congressmen will be taking an oath to the Constitution, not to the the Supreme Court's interpretation.
The article makes it sound as tho the new test is a difficult test. In fact, a new citizen just has to answer 6 out of 10 questions correctly, and the 10 questions are selected from a list of just 144 question. All 144 questions with answers are posted on www.uscis.gov. Many of the questions are quite easy, like "Who is the President now?" and "What country is on the southern border of the United States?".
The newspaper had to print a correction the next day over whether Mississippi or Missouri river was the longest in the USA.
Here are the old INS questions
NY Times reports on a science and religion conference:
Steven Weinberg, a Nobel laureate in physics, warned that "the world needs to wake up from its long nightmare of religious belief" ... ...