PhDP

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PhDP last won the day on December 8 2007

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About PhDP

  • Rank
    Formerly Phil

Profile Information

  • Gender
    Male
  • Location
    Québec
  • Interests
    Listening to classical, reading, board games :P...
  • College Major/Degree
    UQ, Mathematics & Biology
  • Favorite Area of Science
    Evolutionary theory, Theoretical population genetics, Bioinformatics, Computational Chemistry
  • Occupation
    Grad Student
  1. Giffords Shooting

    It's hard to blame anti-gun lobbyists for blaming guns, especially since it's far from being an anecdote, and a 9-year-old just died. Just for once, the gun fanatics should have some decency and shut up, people just died, and they won't lose access their precious firearms anyway.
  2. Ubuntu now easier than Windows?

    While Ubuntu is improving a lot, I wouldn't say it's better than the other OS (yet), but for science and programming it is. Several scientific libraries just won't work on Windows, or are such a pain to install. I don't want to spend hours trying to install plplot or doxygen when I can do it with a simple click on Ubuntu (and pretty much any Linux distribution). Fair enough. I really hope that Ubuntu, or some other open-source operating system, will eventually replace Windows. I use proprietary software every day (on Linux) and I don't believe in the supremacy of open-source over proprietary software. Both have their strengths, and I'm always happy to see a diverse array of approaches and products. On the other hand, proprietary operating systems cause huge problems. It gives way too much power to a company, and of course they use this power to push their own product and ruin their competitor's software (e.g.: Microsoft's "embrace, extend and extinguish" philosophy). Mac OS X is even worst, as they control both the operating system (much of it anyway) and the hardware.
  3. Ubuntu now easier than Windows?

    I don't know if it's easier, but it's certainly improving faster than any other OS. I tried all versions of Ubuntu since 7.10 and, especially since 10.04, it has been improving very quickly. In 10.10 it's possible to get flash/mp3 support by clicking an option in the installer, and the Ubuntu Software Center can do pretty much everything (installing deb files, packages, ...). It's true that Windows support more software, but in science it's not true, especially in physics and scientific computing. Even 'R' doesn't work 100% on Windows, and I get to use the free Intel compiler
  4. Are Whales Worth Saving?

    IMHO, we should really stop focusing (and spending millions) on cute animals (most often mammals or birds).
  5. France Bans the Burqa

    I think it's irrelevant to the present discussion. If banks feel they can't tolerate the burqa for legitimate safety reasons, they can ban it. It's a simple as that. But if a women want to wear a burqa on the street, honestly I doubt it poses a serious threat to anybody. There is often a trade-off between freedom X and freedom Y (of course, not always, I can't see how, for example, banning gay marriages or prostitution increase any freedom). IMO, banning nukes (and guns) is a very minor inconvenient, and significantly increase freedom. I'm very happy to live in a town where I can let my girlfriend or my teenage cousin walk absolutely anywhere, at any hour, without any worries, and this incredible freedom hasn't come at the expense of any important freedom.
  6. Fox News Channel is the "News of Record"

    About point #2, credibility and popularity and two very distinct thing. Creationists are far more popular than evolutionary scientists, they're certainly not more credible, and they arguably have more impact on politicians. A so-called "news network" can easily become big, popular enough to scare politicians, and have litte merit as a news organization, even if they get a good story from time to time. Fox isn't a legitimate news network if it doesn't do its job, which is to inform (the "news" part). I'm not sure they do that very well, I'm not sure people who watch Fox news comes out better informed, and I also doubt Fox news is taken very seriously outside the US (as most polarized "news networks"). I would be curious to see; (1): The proportion of Fox news viewers who believe completely crazy things (creationism, Obama is born in Kenya, global warming doesn't exist, WMDs were found in Iraq, [insert crazy stuff from the left/right]), compared to, say CNN or MSNBC viewers. After all, if Fox news fails to inform, how can it a legitimate "news" network ? (2): How many times Fox News stories are used outside the US. In short, are journalists with no association to any US political party taking Fox seriously ?
  7. France Bans the Burqa

    I don't like this part, and the penalty is too high (up to 30 000 euro + 1 year in prison). I agree 100% with ParanoiA here, it's too subjective, and if the husband is threatening to kill his wife if she doesn't wear the burqa, well, it's already illegal. But I must say the thing that infuriates me the most in this law is the "citizenship class" for offending women. It's just incredible to see this kind of thing in the so called "free world".
  8. France Bans the Burqa

    France bans the burqa... Switzerland bans Minarets... Belgium, Italy and the Netherland are going the same road (some cities in Netherland are trying to cut social benefits from women wearing burqas...)... In Quebec, you can't received government services if your face is covered (yep, a new law). It's ridiculous, in part because it's a clear violation of individual rights, but also because it's completely counterproductive. It's the best way to make Muslims feel unwelcome, and I'm sure it will only slow down the inevitable downfall of the niqad/burqa. Quebec's new law have done nothing to encourage women to remove their niqab/burqa. On the other hand, because of the new law, a perfectly well-integrated women trying to learn French was kicked out of school.
  9. Death Penalty

    To have my support, capital punishment would have to satisfy two conditions; (1): I would only support death penalty if it could be justified on rational grounds, i.e.: if it was a very effective deterrent. Killing someone simply because his/her crimes are disgusting is, in my opinion, quite disgusting as well, especially since we always run the risk of executing an innocent, or someone mentally unstable. In short, we run the risk of killing a perfectly innocent person, to save absolutely nobody. (2): It would have to be fair. For example; for the same crime, minorities shouldn't get death penalty more often (which seem to be the case in the US). I'm actually not against death penalty on principle, but neither of my conditions are satisfied, and even if death penalty was an effective deterrent I would have to think about it very seriously. But for now, it seems pretty simple to me; death penalty is ineffective as a deterrent, it seems hard, if not impossible, to do it fairly, and the risk to kill an innocent is still very real. So it all comes down to revenge. In short, we would kill someone, knowing we can't be sure he's guilty, knowing he could be getting death penalty because he's from a minority, knowing it won't save anyone's life, for what ?
  10. democracy is an ad populum

    Fair enough. P.S.: No blades ? Not even a Katana ? You're a softie.
  11. democracy is an ad populum

    What are you doing here then ? It's a science discussion forum, not McVeigh's fanclub. A quick look at your last posts (and your signature) seem to indicate you're done with the "discussion" part, and pretty much everybody here fits in your definition of "tyrant/statist cowards afraid to be free" (I know I am). You certainly have the right to say what you want, but I'm curious about your motives.
  12. Has Canada always had a doctor shortage?

    No, it's relatively recent.
  13. You're sure you want to have as prime minister ? ;P
  14. "The creator, if he exists*, has an inordinate fondness for beetles".- attributed to Haldane. As for the subject of the discussion... Many have pointed out the basic flaw in Tripolation's reasoning, but I think nobody mentioned this: one of the first discovery of population genetics was that natural selection is much, much more effective in large populations. To put it another way; if a given allele decreases fitness, it is of course less likely to reach fixation than a beneficial allele... that's basically what selection is about. By the way; allele = the particular form a gene, and fixation = when only one allele is present in a population (frequency = 1.0). But still, if the population size is small, and the allele doesn't decrease fitness by an enormous amount, it has actually a decent chance to reach fixation at some point because random genetic drift is a very potent force in small populations. Of course, the nature of fitness has changed a lot with modern technology, but it's also the case for other organisms when there is some variation in their environments. By allowing us to maintain such an unusually large population, technology has shielded us, at least in large part, from some of the most dangerous stochastic forces, making selection more effective. * = ...and he doesn't
  15. First of all, if you're looking for the C-value of several organisms, there are entire databases devoted to this; Animals: http://www.genomesize.com/ Plants: http://data.kew.org/cvalues/homepage.html ... The term "C-value paradox" is quite misleading, "C-value enigma" makes more sense. It's not a paradox in the sense that we very well know what mechanisms could generate such pattern. It was a paradox only until we discovered that so much DNA is noncoding, "junk". In short, again, if the concept of C-value and junk DNA are so difficult to understand for some people, it's because they are either convinced natural selection is the main driving force of evolution, or, even worst, they think it's the only one. Now, the C-value enigma is not to be solved with a simple answer, there are too many things going on inside the genome; some groups have more transposable elements than others, some groups are more likely to experience whole-genome duplication, some selective pressure seem to keep the genome small in some group with high energy demands (like: flying organisms) and genome size also has an impact on the phenotype (cell size, development rates...), so negative selection is certainly not out of the picture... You're certainly not going to get any good answer to your question here, the various solutions to the C-value enigma are currently actively debated, you would likely not even get the same answer from two scientists working on the subject. Still, if you want to study the question further, I suggest Gregory's "onion test" (http://www.scientificblogging.com/genomicron/junk_dna_and_the_onion_test), it's a nice, well-written article, and "the evolution of the genome" (a book edited by Gregory). He's specialized in the genome size debate, and he's also a skilled science popularizer.