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Everything posted by PhDP

  1. 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. 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. 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. IMHO, we should really stop focusing (and spending millions) on cute animals (most often mammals or birds).
  5. 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. 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. 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... 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. PhDP

    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. Fair enough. P.S.: No blades ? Not even a Katana ? You're a softie.
  11. 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. You're sure you want to have as prime minister ? ;P
  13. "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
  14. 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.
  15. We can build predictive models assuming evolution is driven by drift, mutations, draft, selection, (...). We can generate predictions about patterns of molecular evolution, predict species divergence time, understand patterns of life-histories, et cetera. Not only none of these predictive model assume a "purpose", but these models increasingly rely on stochastic forces (i.e.: "randomness"). Many people are quick to forget that science is not about describing the universe, it's about seeing patterns, building models, and generating predictions that you can tests with real data. Evolutionary theory does that very well, in fact surprisingly well given the complexity of our object of study. And we achieve this without the concepts of "aim" or "purposes", au contraire. Does it constitute a formal proof against the idea or purpose in life ? No. But so far, as the proponents of teleological evolution have offered no positive evidence for their theory, I really see no place for "purpose" in evolution. You might believe blind evolution "makes no sense", but science has very often lead to counter-intuitive theories. We do not select theories to fit people's prejudices, and if you're really interested in evolution, I suggest that you take a good book about it. I don't want to be rude, but I doubt you've done that. Much of the "creation-evolution" controversy is supported by people unwilling to take the time to read about evolution, but very quick to bash anything that goes against their religious beliefs (to be fair, however, I do think evolutionary theory IS a threat to christianism).
  16. Java's faster, much faster (and with IBM's X10, we might even have a good Java-like language for high performance computing). ...and some people prefer static typing, I certainly do (except for small scripts). That being said. there are so many good packages for scientists written in Python...
  17. Punk eek is relevant, and it certainly hasn't been rejected by most scientists, but it's far from being as relevant as "nonspecialists" think it is, Gould is seldom quoted in journals like "Evolution", and for good reasons. So I'd say it would be more accurate to say most evolutionary theorists just don't care. I'm writting my thesis on speciation and the shape of phylogenetic trees (and how to make inferences of macroevolutionary processes using them), which is arguanly the topic Gould was most interested about, yet I doubt I'll even quote him once. As a side note, I particularly dislike Gould's style of writting. Too often, his texts are vague, crippled by long and unnecessary analogies to completly unrelated subjects, and even worst, he has a tendency to make a big deal out tiny details, e.g.: the difference between the words "framework" and "foundations".
  18. F# is the next language on my list, which is basically a 'better' OCaml aimed at the .net framework. But it seems like Mono is doomed to always lag behind .net...
  19. Yea... But it's still very immature. If it could go somewhere it would be great. Merged post follows: Consecutive posts merged The truth is, as much as I want to get rid of C++ (but not Python), there are enough advantages to keep me writing C++ codes, especially since it's easy to cooperate with other scientists. Hopefully one day I'll find my dream language and I'll start evangelizing, but it would have to be a really great language for me to invest the time to master it and for now: Java: I know it pretty well, it's a great language for teaching. I'll teach basic programming for scientists to a small group of biology students soon and I'll go with either Java (or Python). The tools are great, with NetBeans it's hard to make mistakes, JavaDoc is quite usefull, the debugger is great, good performance, ... Yet, very few people use it in science, it already feels like an old language (generics sucks), in terms of syntax it's actually not much better than C++, and in most programs I have to write it's often much worst thanks to the lack of operator overloading (a.multiply(b.add©....). Beside it's harder to use with Python, and there are surprisingly few librairies for scientists. C#: Still an ugly C-like syntax. It's really much better than Java on nearly all counts: operator overloading, functional, you can write parts in F#, there are good librairies (dnAnalytics is great), real "generics", and the list goes on. But ! Mono is not mature enough, and unless Microsoft takes the issue of portability more seriously the mono implementation is always going to lag behind. Beside: it's still hard to use with other languages (except if they're translated to the CIL of course). Nevertheless I wrote a couple of things with C# and I liked it. I tend to prefer how .net languages are implemented to how the java world works, but I must admit i would have to read more about this. OCaml: Just the opposite of C#/F#, it doesn't work well on windows... Beside I've heard bad things about nearly every aspect of the language (the syntax is ugly, the standard library has problems, ...). Haskell: Very interesting, a fascinating language. Too pure for me, however [and the typing discipline is ridiculously strong, to the point of being really annoying]. Scala: I like the "everything-is-an-object" philosophy, it's an elegant language and already manages to be nearly as fast as Java. As soon as I have more time I'm going to look closely at Scala, it really seems like the best option right now, but I have two concerns: it carries some of the problems of Java, like type erasure, and for some reasons it's really, really hard to get good tools to work with Scala, it's the exact opposite of Java. F#: An immature language I would have to run on an immature implementation of the .net framework. It could very well become much more interesting than C# and Scala in the future.
  20. What I find really surprising is that everybody seems to know that C++ is horrible, yet very little is actually done to improve it. There is a place for a statically-typed, compiled language with low-level features, but from my perspectives C++ could be made into a reasonable language just by removing a couple of features and by making the syntax a little more clear. I'm not a computer scientist so I don't know much about compilers, but it would seem possible to create a language very similar to C++, with a clear syntax, that would be compiled using C++ as an intermediate (and that could generate C++ code if someone needs it). A lot of simple things could be done to improve C++: optional garbage collection, removing structs, removing the preprocessor, I would perhaps remove function pointers and go with the "everything is an object" philosophy to make everything even more coherent... I think part of the success of Python is that is was made by a mathematician looking for a beautiful, coherent language with a nice syntax. Perhaps someone could do the same with C++ ?
  21. True (mostly). But it would be completely absurd to make a point against modern evolutionary biology using 19th century "biology". Evolutionary biology became a science in the first half of the 20th century thanks to the work of people like Morgan, Yule, Fisher, Wright... Before that we had no coherent mechanistic theory of evolution that could generate reliable predictions. And by the way Haeckel's drawing were made in the second half of the 19th century. Which is rather rare in Japan...
  22. The point is really not to outperform C++, but to make programming more elegant and less painful. I also tend to prefer languages that encourage functional programming. It has been interesting to see the rise of high-level languages capable of competing with C and C++ in terms of speed. Haskell and Scala are good examples. So, why bother with memory, with pointers, with the ugliness of C++, when you can have good performance *and* a clean code ? I'm still not satisfied with any of these languages but I'm optimistic for the future. Also, to be honest, I'm not even sure C++ is that fast in practice, Most benchmarks are done in unrealistic conditions, 100% of the scientists I know who rely on C/C++ are far from being expert in C++ optimization, in many cases they would be better off with Java/C#.
  23. So.... ecoli, what was your choice after all ? I had to deal with both Java and C++ in the last couple of days, I must say that programming in Java was so much easier (thanks to NetBeans). I will likely have to teach basic programming pretty soon and I will likely go with Java, I want the students to be able to concentrate on the science problem they have to solve, not to spend their time worrying about memory and pointers.
  24. I would have to take a serious look at Scala one day, it does seem interesting. Mono might offer better support for F# now that it's pretty much a standard .Net language, so that's an option too. OCaml on the other hand has some problems with portability, I'm on Linux so it's not an issue for me but it is for many collaborators.
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