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Everything posted by AL

  1. According to a survey by the journal Nature, Wikipedia has been doing quite well compared to traditional encyclopedias (in this study, Brittanica) regarding science-related entries. http://www.wired.com/news/culture/0,1284,69844,00.html (This is sort of old news; I don't know if it's already been posted here, so forgive me if it has.) I'm not sure what these content stewards could add that a potentially limitless internet pool of contributors could not, but I guess the proof will be in the pudding. In any event, my favorite encyclopedia is still Uncyclopedia, if only because it's the most fun to read. Check out their entry on Wikipedia.
  2. If you had posted this several weeks ago, I would've nominated Dr. Woo Suk Hwang for his work on stem cells. Too bad it's come to light that he's a fraud! For shame.
  3. AL


    There's a website where you can read more about pleneurethics and its placement of "neurological sufficiency as the centerpiece for health and ethical conduct," whatever that means: http://www.pleneurethics.org/ Sounds very Scientology-ish, if you ask me, but maybe I'm too cynical.
  4. Just a few weeks ago, Singapore executed a 25 year old Australian national for carrying heroin on an airplane into the country. He was executed by hanging, no less. There's a real-world example of taking the "putting people at risk" argument to an extreme. http://xtramsn.co.nz/news/0,,11965-5094037,00.html
  5. Here: http://www.cbsnews.com/elements/2003/12/11/2003/photoessay588043_0_2_photo.shtml
  6. Well, apples and oranges. SciAm is a pop-sci magazine, whereas Nature is an actual peer-reviewed journal. You use SciAm to get the latest science news in a condensed format that is easy and fun to read. You use Nature to do serious literature review and research. Of course you can read Nature front to back for fun too, but if you're reading that many technical journal articles a week, I doubt you'd get more than a cursory understanding of the material presented (unless you're an actual researcher and the articles are all relevant to your field, the latter being doubtful in the case of Nature since it is an multidisciplinary journal encompassing a wide range of subjects). SciAm reports on many of the most interesting results that get published in Nature anyway, so you can get straight to the meat and not have to sift through filler.
  7. I noticed the similarities too. Revprez was banned on another forum I used to frequent long before he was ever banned here. A quick google reveals he was banned from quite a few places. There are whole threads dedicated to people venting their frustrations about him on other forums. He's quite the celebrity.
  8. I agree with zyncod on this. Being objective does not mean refusing to take a position on an issue. To the contrary, if all the evidence leans heavily to one side, it would be unobjective to present a fence-straddling position. Now I think it's perfectly OK to disagree with Sciam's presentation of the facts (whether or not the evidence really does lean to one side) and the position they hold as a result of it, but I don't think it's reasonable to expect them not to take a position. Just thought I'd add further though that SciAm's editorializing is for the most part really restricted to about one page in the whole magazine, unless you also count Michael Shermer's skeptic column, and sometimes Steve Mirsky's antigravity column, for which Mirsky has taken heat for poking fun at "evolution is just a theory" disclaimer stickers and things of that sort.
  9. A friend of mine showed me that video yesterday, and said this article speaks of it: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20051207/ap_on_fe_st/christmas_house_1 There are no pictures or links in that article to verify the connection between it and the video, but it's an interesting story nonetheless. Wish I had that kind of free time.
  10. I'm not too sure about the protecting children bit, but likely the nude female caricature would fall under obscenity laws, though it may depend on how "tasteful" the nude depiction is, as the SCOTUS's Miller test for obscenity seems to allow room for those sorts of vague interpretations.
  11. The apathist in me wonders why anyone would even care if a hanging Santa Claus is displayed. Is it such a big deal? On the other hand, the cynic in me also wonders why anyone would even want to make such a display in the first place, and would go so far as to speculate the only reason this man is doing it is to deliberately antagonize people he's never even met. Well, until I know the man's motivations with a larger degree of certainty, I'm going with the apathist in me.
  12. AL

    Is Kyoto worth it?

    Money is very much a factor, and it is oversimplifying things to ignore the very real opportunity costs involved here. Money we spend removing greenhouse gases from our air is money we will NOT spend on reducing pollution, cleaning our water supply, improving our medicine, providing education, etc. I'm not saying we should ignore global warming, only that we need consider costs (including opportunity) versus benefits before outright declaring all of our money should be thrown at this problem. There are very few environmental disasters I would approve throwing all our money at. An imminent meteor strike for sure, for instance.
  13. There is a practical difference, maybe -- from a political standpoint. There is certainly no moral difference. Mistreatment of people is mistreatment of people, regardless of the nationality of the people.
  14. While I may trivially agree that Saddam "only killed those who committed treason," it hardly vindicates Saddam of any charges of wrong-doing. What do you expect Saddam to say of the people he killed but that they were guilty of some high crime (treason may as well be it)? Even Hitler and Goebbels had propaganda "justifying" their killing of Jews (Mein Kampf makes it abundantly clear that Hitler viewed Jews as threats to national security). The comparison with Hitler is apt.
  15. Wood contains many substances including lignin, but it's mostly cellulose. Termites use cellulase they get from symbiotes in their gut to digest wood.
  16. If your project gives you style points, you can go for cellulase enzyme, but it ain't cheap: http://www.worthington-biochem.com/CEL/cat.html
  17. I still see no point in invoking language limitations to defend ID. Do you have evidence that Asian languages produce a "more defined understanding?" The 5000+ characters in Asian languages aren't even analogous/comparable to the 26 letters in English, as the former is ideogrammatic and the latter is phonetic. Furthermore, multiple word meanings exist in English as well, and more can be added as needed as there is nothing intrinsic to English that restricts creation and usage of homographs. Though again, I fail to see how homographs make language more defined, since it would seem, all other things equal, that they make language more ambiguous. First of all, as has already been pointed out to you, abiogenesis != evolution. Secondly, naturalistic explanations for abiogenesis aren't even taught in any detail in general biology courses, so why should you expect that the ID version of it be given a thorough treatment? The issue is not abiogenesis but common/uncommon descent. The IDers believe that disparate species could not have evolved from a common ancestor but must have been specially created because they possess constructs like blood clotting systems and so forth that require too much genetic information to have evolved by chance rather than divine teleology. If you want to argue abiogenesis, fine. But realize a) it's not the issue, and b) all sides are speculative. It is no less a conjecture to invoke a divine being to explain how life originated than to say life began from clay templates. The latter though, has the advantage that we can argue against it because we know something about clay, whereas we know nothing of any divine teleological agent. (I think this is the primary reason IDers find naturalistic explanations to be deficient -- naturalistic explanations can actually be argued against and refuted, whereas a divine being cannot, and this fuels the IDers' confirmation bias).
  18. Language does have limits, but the number of letters is not it. Even an alphabet with 2 letters can produce an infinite number of words and messages (think binary). Furthermore, how do you know ID is beyond our comprehension?
  19. Be grateful you don't have this problem in Germany, but here in America, the religious right have a lot of clout, and they're very serious about turning America into a theocracy one step at a time. In any event, the ID movement is about teaching that complex life-forms were intelligently designed by a Creator-being, rather than having evolved from simpler forms. Since the ID proponents seem to have a bit of a problem getting their research accepted (the bulk of which is concerned with finding fault in evolution rather than substantiating ID), they have gone the political/legal route and have attempted to introduce their ideas into classrooms by packing schoolboards and such. Some key players in the ID movement you might need to know: Philip Johnson is a law school professor at Boalt (makes me ashamed I went to Cal, but Cal also produced Duane Gish, a prominent young-earth Creationist), and is considered to be the founder of the ID movement. He established the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture, which is the foremost ID think-tank responsible for strategizing how to get this stuff into our schools. Aside from believing in ID, Johnson is also a proponent of the idea that HIV does not cause AIDs. Guess he enjoys reveling in crankdom. Michael Behe is a biochemist at Lehigh who wrote a book called "Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution," which is very popular among ID proponents, and one of the few ID books that does not mention religion. He argues that certain biological constructs, such as the mammalian immune system, are so stupendously complicated ("irreducibly complex"), that they could not have evolved all at once. And if they only evolved piecemeal, the organism would be dead from lack of a functional mammalian immune system. Of course, what he conviently forgot was that there are actually lots of living organisms that don't have mammalian immune systems, and they survive just fine without them: we call them non-mammals. William Dembski is a mathematician/philosopher/theologian (yes, he quite impressively has degrees in all 3 fields) who takes more of a mathematical approach to ID, basically pointlessly introducing mathematical symbolism to William Paley's old arguments for divine teleology ("if you found a watch, you'd have to conclude a watchmaker"). I've read one of Dembski's books and several of his essays -- he actually premises Christianity and seems more concerned with making the argument that you cannot be a Christian and accept evolution than convincing non-Christians of ID's merits. Anyway, there are several good refutations of his work. I recommend the articles by Mark Perakh you can get on talkdesign.org.
  20. It is of course reasonable to assume that intelligence follows a normal distribution in which case median = mean and 50% of all people are below average, but otherwise, I, like Mr. Eisenhower, would (wishfully) like to think that intelligence is skewed so that 99% of people are above average.
  21. It depends on initial concentration too. If you had 8 M acetic acid and tossed in 0.0001 moles of sodium bicarbonate, the solution would still be acidic. If not, change the numbers in my example until it's so.
  22. AL


    What do they mean by not a good source? Do they mean that the information is factually incorrect or unreliable, or do they mean that the information is too general and not "scholarly" or "esoteric" enough? If the latter, there's still nothing wrong with using Wikipedia for general info -- that's what encyclopedias do. If the former, then you should ask them to tell you what information specifically did Wikipedia provide that was incorrect or questionable. Otherwise, the objection itself is too general and introduces a red herring -- forcing you to defend Wikipedia rather than defending the merits of the information you quoted from it.
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