Ramblings

Usually drunken.

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Axioms: Meta-Nature's Candy

Feb 24, 2009, 11:16 pm by Paul Stiverson

The following is a guest post made by my roommate, Tim.

Sometimes in philosophy and math, it becomes requisite to acknowledge that certain "facts" are unverifiable. Assumptions are made, and arguments use these assumptions as a starting point. There's not a question of them being right or wrong, as they're either "self-evident" or just light from the proverbial void. I point this out in reference to a statement that "2+2=4" is "always completely verifiable". It's not that it's a bad assumption to make, but it's being somewhat abused to make a point about morality or birth control... or something.

Let's start with what doesn't have anything to do with scientific fact (in this case, because it isn't scientific). Firstly, the afore-mentioned "2+2=4" is a special instance of what is called the law of identity (e.g. a = a). For certain arguments, this so-called law has been used as the assumption upon which various blitheringly stupid arguments have been made (see: Ayn Rand). Basically, science doesn't enter into it. Science is all about figuring things out based on empirical observation (called "a posteriori" knowledge), and the law of identity is self-asserting, not based on experience (called "a priori" knowledge), but draws its truth value from the claim itself. 2+2=4 is neither a scientific claim nor a scientific fact.

That being said, let's talk about another thing that doesn't have anything to do with scientific fact (in this case, because it isn't fact). It's true that scientists of a sort became aware of a possible health danger exists in the consumption of eggs. Researchers (people who experiment and analyze results) discovered a link between the amount and type of cholesterol in egg yolks and a dangerous increase in LDL cholesterol levels in the human blood stream. The researchers in question work in biomedical science, which at this point is far softer science than something like chemistry, making it particularly difficult to verify the veracity of claims made. At very best, there was fairly compelling evidence that the assertion could be true. The link was popularized, and many people did accept as "gospel truth" that "eggs gon' kill us". This speaks more to the fickleness of the general populus and less to the claims made by "science". As happens with things that may or may not be true, studies have been done that suggest the exact opposite; that eggs in fact lower bad cholesterol and raise good cholesterol. The absolute truth of the matter is arguably difficult to pin down, and as long as people keep immediately believing anything published on paper, people will continue to scapegoat "science" for giving us lowly commoners "facts" that later end up not being true. To clarify, the Houston Chronicle's "health" section doesn't count as science, as far as any vaguely accurate definition is concerned.

Now, let's change things up completely and talk about why scientific fact doesn't have anything to do with what was said (in this case, because the term "scientific fact" doesn't make a damned bit of sense). The "facts" (I'm just going to discuss the laws of thermodynamics as the strongest possible objection to my own argument) that science currently possesses are very strong, but no matter how strong they contend to be, there's an implicit assumption that they are correct and that they are just so compelling that they're almost certainly true. I'm not going to disagree, as they are very, very compelling. Despite that opinion/fact, there are various contingencies in which science's strongest facts manage to be actively false (e.g. our context isn't as clear as it seems, there are forces at work we just flatly can't currently see... There are more. But don't take my word for it!).

I've managed to pretty bluntly avoid my real problem with the obviously referent argument. The morality/ethics/religion/science battle royale being waged earlier was convoluted enough that I'm not sure that any of the parties involved were necessarily sure what was even being argued. But I suppose that's content for another headache.

I suppose it's pointless to mention that THIS MATTERS.

Array Brownies

Jan 23, 2009, 2:01 pm by Lew

array cake get!Yesterday was my bday and for the occasion my fiancee made me a delicious and hilarious microarray brownie cake. if you are a bio nerd this is funny. if not then it is jargon. i wanted to share though.

planet blu-ray

Dec 27, 2008, 1:29 am by Lew

that's sir david I learned two things recently. The first is that blu-ray is totally worth it and that if you are making a documentary you either need to have someone who speaks English with an accent or you need James Earl Jones or Morgan Freeman. There are no other Americans who can narrate for a damn. I got a blu-ray player for Christmas and the planet earth bbc discs. The difference is amazing. I did not think the vhs to dvd jump was a big deal, the picture is comparable. Watching a wolf take down a caribou in hd is amazing. I like nature films and this is the best non-Jacques Cousteau series I have seen. Cousteau may lack hd but the weird places he went and the drama he brings more than makes up for it. Now if they could do his movies on blu-ray I would probably sell a testicle to see them. This tangents to my other point. David Attenborough narrates planet earth. I watched a (regular def) documentary by Jean-Michel Cousteau (son of Jacques) and it was good. But it was narrated by just regular American dude. Why the hell didn’t Jean-Michel narrate? He is franco-american he was born to narrate. Documentaries either need the authenticity and exotic quality of accented English or the gravity of james earl jones, otherwise it just footage of outside with dudes chattering.

flu vaccine II

Dec 9, 2008, 2:15 pm by Lew

Here is a nice citation about mass flu vaccination Over the last seven years Ontario gave free influenza vaccinations to everyone over 6 months old. The rest of Canada, like the USA, continued population targeted vaccinations. In Ontario the number of influenza related deaths and hospital visits went down dramatically compared to the rest of the country.

The Effect of Universal Influenza Immunization on Mortality and Health Care Use

The results of this large-scale natural experiment suggest that universal

vaccination may be an effective public health measure for reducing the annual

burden of influenza.

I can't find the link but the cdc is adding people 6 months to 18 years old to the targeted vaccination group. Not because they are vulnerable but because school children are a major vector pool for influenza.

flu vaccine

Nov 4, 2008, 12:25 pm by Lew

get vaccinatedI the flu vaccine today. If you don't get vaccinated you are a jerk. If you aren't part of the solution you are a vector. Oh and go vote while you are out.

Witchcraft!

Oct 25, 2008, 2:36 pm by Zach

Teenage Mutant Ninja PoodleWhile looking at this picture, I got to thinking about Sarah Palin. Look at this poor dog. Forced to look like a ninja turtle. Not just any ninja turtle, but Leonardo, the de facto leader of the group. This poor poodle doesn't look too happy about that. I doubt he feels equipped or ready to handle a leadership position, but, well, here he is, like it or not. There's a pit bull lipstick joke here somewhere.

This morning I saw this video of Mrs. Palin talking about how silly it is for scientists to get funding to study something as silly as "fruit fly research in Paris, France," all the while doing that folksy little headcocking business. Way to play to the uneducated hicks who make up the vast majority of your voting base, ma'am. I also saw a clip somewhere of John McCain saying he wanted to end funding silly projects like "black bear DEE ENN AY" (with strategic pauses between DEE, ENN and AY to highlight the notion that it's all just made up hoo-ha).

It really grinds my fucking gears when people think any research that isn't directly related to CANCER or something is stupid and a huge waste of money and effort. As if all scientists (especially biologists) are just a bunch of crazy kooks in lab coats, drunk on lab-grade ethanol, laughing in a menacing manner and studying bear DEE ENN AY. Give me a cotton pickin' break.

Vote Democrat, if only for the reason that the Republicans want to squash funding for research they don't understand.

Also, happy birthday, Paul.

I don't normally tackle the divine, but here I go anyway

Oct 7, 2008, 11:12 pm by Lew

you get two point if know why i used this graphicSomething just made me a little sad. Intelligent Design is making me a little sad. Not the idea itself but the existence of it. Intelligent Design is another name for creationism. If you believe in creationism that is your faith. Calling it intelligent design is trying to use scientific logic to justify your faith. If you have faith I think it is sad to feel you need science to justify it. That to me is what it sad. To me that is a lack of faith.

John Steinbeck is what got me thinking about this. In a few paragraphs in “Log from the Sea of Cortez” he discusses how people react to ideas that they hate. He argues that the best reaction to a new idea is to study it for complete comprehension and only then giving your views of the strengths and faults of the ideas. When someone hates an idea, they do not try to understand, they try to destroy it. This made me think about the evolution vs. intelligent design debate. 5 minutes ago I would have said I hate the idea of intelligent design. But then I tried to understand why intelligent design is out there in the first place. I do not think anyone actually loves the idea in and of itself. It is obviously a way to try to work creationism into the domain of science. It is a reaction by people of faith to the theory of evolution. If you are a person of faith you shouldn’t be scared of biological theories. If you think god is almighty and unfathomable why be scared of science? Yet enough people of faith are scared that they make a public issue out of scientific fact. They realized they cannot fight evidence based logic with faith based beliefs. So they have dressed up genesis with science. The testaments don’t command you to accrue the evidence necessary to prove the divine. The bible asks for faith. If you have faith, then have faith.

E85

Sep 9, 2008, 12:48 pm by John

So I passed by HEB down here in Houston this weekend and noticed that they were selling E85 for about $2.80 and that got me to thinking about whether or not E85 was worth it or not. The only thing I could come up with is that it is renewable...atleast in a short term sense. However, it has LOTS of problems.

First of all i'd like to say that i am all for helping out the farmers and ranchers of america. That being said the only person who benefits from this product is the corn farmer, again, only in the short term. he grows oodles of corn and is now able to sell it because everyone wants it for E85 manufacturing. however, this means that the national price of corn increases because the demand increases.

so the price of corn goes up a few cents...so what? well i'll tell you what. every domestic animal in this country also enjoys corn as much as you and i, except they eat it almost every day. so mr. rancher's feed gets more expensive. so of course the price of beef, pork, and chicken increases, either because they have to charge more, or because ranchers are forced out of business by increasing prices and the supply drops. every cow, pig, chicken, horse, dog, cat, and turkey in the country eats this stuff. so not only does the price of corn go up, but so does the price of milk, eggs, butter, pork, beef, chicken, leather, cosmetics, glue...etc.

but this is okay because the environment is better off. wrong.

being the engineer that i am, i know that the amount of energy out of anything has to equal the amount of energy in. so this means, unless the process is 100% efficient, which, obviously, nothing is, we have to put more power into the system to get e85 out for our cars. this means that more coal and natural gas has to be burned to make energy to power the e85 plant. so we end up with even more polution then if we had just stuck with gasoline.

for those of you who buy kroger gasoline because it's cheaper, don't forget that little sign that says "may contain up to 15% e85". they are basically putting a thinner in their gas that makes your car less efficient, yet you pay around the same amount per gallon. i will say i haven't tested this yet, but i do know that e85 is less efficient, so if you are paying the same price for this slight blend, it can't be worth it.

finally, let's just say that growing e85 is unstoppable because we run out of oil. then, all of the big companies will take over all of the little corn farms and will put the farmer out of business. this means that the farmers and the ranchers are out of work, we have no beef, we pay $10 per ear of corn, a gallon of milk cost 5 times what a gallon of gas does, and our dog's food is more expensive then ours.....well maybe not quite that extreme but you get my point.

rant over. have a great day :)

Big Flippin’ Windtunnel

Jul 16, 2008, 5:46 pm by Paul Stiverson

look at dat fukken windtunnelI just got back from a tour of the 80'x120' windtunnel here at Ames. They finished building it in 1987, and it was built as an addition to the existing 40'x80' tunnel (which was the biggest until the 80'x120' was finished). I’ve walked by this thing pretty often and it is pretty impressive, but when compared to Hangar 1 it isn’t that big, however when you walk inside all the illusion is dissipated by the hugeness of the room. They had a parachute for the set up for testing.

The inlet (there in the picture) is as big as a football field.

Texas A&M is awesome

Jun 26, 2008, 8:33 pm by Lew

i already knew this to be true but i was really mulling it over yesterday. texas a&m is a fucking great university. the school is austin is a very good school no doubt, one of the top schools in the country. but it isn't really anything special. i went there for a bit in grad school. it was nice. they obviously have a lot of money. but the only thing going for them that sets them apart from other state schools elsewhere is that is lucky enough to be in the capitol city of the great state of texas. nothing else really sets it apart. a&m has set itself apart despite being in a tiny town in the middle of nowhere. a&m does a lot and basically gets little recognition. i think the thing is that a&m is strong in the sciences but could give a rats ass about everything else. so people think aggies are a bunch of hicks. the following is a list of a&m's awesomeness. please contribute more points of greatness in the comments as i am sure i left out many.

  1. the mars lander that found ice at the poles. an aggie is the head of that mission.
  2. norman bourlag. basically saved the indian continent from starvation. got a nobel prize and almost no popular recognition.
  3. root stock from grape vines discovered by an a&m professor saved the french wine industry from a grape blight. old grape vines in france still are growing on texas a&m roots.
  4. i believe half of all officers who served in ww II came to a&m to get trained.
  5. oil, all of it flows through a&m on its way to the rest of the world. i am pretty sure this is true.
  6. robert gates. the only one with a brain in the whole bush administration. and they stole him from a&m.
  7. a&m has an extension station in every county in texas. every damn county.
  8. replant. big event. the largest volunteer organizations of any american university.
  9. silver taps. muster.

Only at NASA

Jun 22, 2008, 11:44 am by Paul Stiverson

Last night I watched Star Wars (Eps. 4 et 5) with four other people. This in-and-of-itself isn’t too strange, I’ve watched Star Wars in groups before, what was strange is that I was the only guy in the room. That’s right, there are an abundance of girls here, and they are the types of girls that like Star Wars.

FakeEdit: Upon review of this statement I realize that I know lots of girls who like Star Wars, but scarcely have I seen four girls in one room watching it. Also, these aren’t the weird sorts of girls who play D&D and claim to be pagan… but they are into science and shit, which is cool. I think Rachel would fit right in here.

He Gonna Be A Doctor Son

Jun 12, 2008, 10:55 am by Lew

Science!On monday my good friend vince nieto passed his preliminary exams in the microbiology program at t.u.- Austin. I would like to use this entry to say congratulations sir. If you are not familiar with the process of a biology PhD know that it is grueling. I didn't last a year in my program. Vince was in the same time as me and through an herculaian amount of work and a ventnerian amount of genius he has qualified and is now a phd candidate. In addition to be a microbiological champion he maintains a darn good bloog. madpimpvince check it out after refering 10 of your friends to thismatters.net.

Flight Simulator

May 22, 2008, 4:40 pm by Paul Stiverson

I just got back from watching a flight simulator demonstration/trial at one of the (many) flight simulators here on the Ames campus. It happened to be the same one that the Mythbusters used for the Talked Into Landing Myth, it was a really cool facility. They were running an experiment to test a new bit of feedback they are looking to give pilots in close proximity landing situations—where two planes are landing at nearly the same time on two runways that are close togethter.

Seminar

Apr 16, 2008, 3:32 pm by Paul Stiverson

For those who are unaware, I’m taking one hour of classes this semester. This one hour is a seminar class, wherein we sit and listen to a person tell us about his or her research, and we fill out an evaluation every week. While this sounds easy enough, it is actually quite a pain in the ass because apparently the only people Dr. Ochoa could find to come and lecture to us belong to a subset of the population who cannot make the one thing they have centered their livelihoods around sound even mildly interesting. Over the course of the semester there have been exactly two lecturers who have managed to maintain the interest of a majority of the room (one of them had to resort to self-deprecating humor).

The main problem that each of them encounters is that they are too close to the material they are presenting, and they tend to focus on details that they find wildly interesting, but are far too specific to be of use to anybody else (ever). The one good presenter was actually talking about some really boring stuff, but he kept it on a level that everybody in the room could understand (we are all graduate level engineers, so we are capable of understanding quite a lot), and he was enthusiastic enough to make us all excited about it. Further, he described the entire apparatus he was using before he started discussing experimental results, this gave us a relatively deep understanding of the project before we got bored by charts and graphs.

I bring this up because I just got done reviewing last week’s presenter who was talking about the characterization of a 3D woven fabric composite, and who was presenting results that were less than 3 days old… while being at the cutting edge of science is fun, it is only fun if it is your science.

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