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Messages - Mesozoic Mister Nigel

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46
Split the thread, since the old one was at 100+.  Couldn't think of a decent title for this one, so this will have to do.

And to celebrate, here is a video of a magma dragon pooping all over me.

 :lulz:

47
OK, actually, having done a search of Dawkins' scientific work, I take that back. He did do a bit of actual research, some of which probably advanced the science. His "Arms Races Between and Among Species" certainly was a significant contribution. But most of his career appears to be devoted almost solely to disproving creationism, which, by the time he was doing the research, was no longer a hotly disputed subject in the scientific spheres in which he was circulating. I would love to get his advisor's take on him.

As far as his popular science contributions, I remember The Greatest Show on Earth being pretty good. I got the impression from the book that he was someone who was truly in love with evolutionary biology and was very excited to share all the weird cool things with the reader. Since I didn't read the physical book and just listened to the audiobook, it's possible that I missed or forgot huge chunks of him being a douchebag, though. I know "writing about science" and "being a scientist" aren't the same thing.

I really enjoyed many of his popsci books, but I can't take them into account when considering his research contributions. He really did not come across as a douchebag in the books of his that I read in the 90's, though.

48
OK, actually, having done a search of Dawkins' scientific work, I take that back. He did do a bit of actual research, some of which probably advanced the science. His "Arms Races Between and Among Species" certainly was a significant contribution. But most of his career appears to be devoted almost solely to disproving creationism, which, by the time he was doing the research, was no longer a hotly disputed subject in the scientific spheres in which he was circulating. I would love to get his advisor's take on him.

49
I am not sure what it is he thinks he stands to gain from alienating biologists, except maybe a cult foll... oh.

Yep.  Guru syndrome.

He'll be the Dr Oz of the anti-GMO crowd by this time next year, having pissed away his credibility for said cult following.

Sort of like how nobody remembers Dawkin's actual work.

Not convinced Dawkins ever did any actual scientific work.

50
I am not sure what it is he thinks he stands to gain from alienating biologists, except maybe a cult foll... oh.

Yep.  Guru syndrome.

He'll be the Dr Oz of the anti-GMO crowd by this time next year, having pissed away his credibility for said cult following.

Sort of like how nobody remembers Dawkin's actual work.

Why would he even want this? One of the core elements of his philosophy is that unpredictable elements make you stronger. Why would anyone with that basic worldview ever choose to surround themselves with sycophants? Has he been an idiot all along?

I am paraphrasing one of his critics, but I think one of the core elements of his philosophy is that sometimes someone gets famous for writing a book and being an asshole.

51
I am not sure what it is he thinks he stands to gain from alienating biologists, except maybe a cult foll... oh.

Yep.  Guru syndrome.

He'll be the Dr Oz of the anti-GMO crowd by this time next year, having pissed away his credibility for said cult following.

Sort of like how nobody remembers Dawkin's actual work.

Yep. And he's discrediting the work he's done, for whatever value it has, with his play for charismatic leader cred.

I can't help suspect he's also compromising the already tenuous credibility of his field, as well.

52
I am not sure what it is he thinks he stands to gain from alienating biologists, except maybe a cult foll... oh.

53
I've never read his books, but they were on my list. However, I am not so sure I can trust his analyses, considering his apparent behavior toward people with whom he disagrees.

http://violentmetaphors.com/2015/08/14/good-science-communication-means-never-calling-them-retard-even-if-youre-nassim-taleb/

Quote
Communicating science to people who aren’t scientists is very hard to do well. Nassim Taleb should be very good at it, based on his enormous book sales and even more enormous opinion of his own skills. But we all have our demons, and Taleb has succumbed to his. Rather than encouraging a healthy discussion about science, he’s picked a side and declared all-out war on the people who disagree with him. Taleb even admits that his strategy is to prevent conversations from happening by abusing and insulting people who question him, and encouraging his followers to join in. What’s the point of that strategy? It doesn’t help communicate science, resolve legitimate questions about the facts, or even address the supposedly evil motives of his critics. All it really does is feel good. Nassim Taleb has chosen self-gratification over real engagement. Let’s talk about why that’s unproductive and unethical.

Taleb has been kicking up the dust lately on Facebook and Twitter, encouraging his readers to not even listen to people who disagree with his beliefs about GMOs. I caught an edge of it when I saw his contemptuous remarks about a scientist I follow, Kevin Folta:


Another example:




Actually, when I saw this, my first thought was to investigate whether it was true; apparently, it is. Or, perhaps, Taleb is embarking on some sort of new experiment. So I looked for some other sources:

http://www.geneticliteracyproject.org/2014/11/03/is-nassim-taleb-a-dangerous-imbecile-or-just-on-the-pay-of-the-anti-gmo-mafia/

Quote
If you think the headline of this blog is unnecessarily inflammatory, you are right. It’s an ad hominem way to deal with public discourse, and it’s unfair to Nassim Taleb, the New York University statistician and risk analyst. I’m using it to make a point–because it’s Taleb himself who regularly invokes such ugly characterizations of others.

Taleb rocketed to seer and cult celebrity status after his 2007 book on extreme risk, The Black Swan, was followed serendipitously by the 2008 global market crash and Great Recession.

Taleb has recently become the darling of GMO opponents. He and four colleagues–Yaneer Bar-Yam, Rupert Read, Raphael Douady and Joseph Norman–wrote a paper, The Precautionary Principle (with Application to the Genetic Modification of Organisms, released last May and updated last month, in which they claim to bring risk theory and the Precautionary Principle to the issue of whether GMOS might introduce “systemic risk” into the environment. Taleb portrays GMOs as a ‘castrophe in waiting’–and has taken to personally lashing out at those who challenge his conclusions–and yes, calling them “imbeciles” or paid shills.

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/collideascape/2014/11/01/nassim-taleb-venomous-twitter/

Quote
Watching Nassim Taleb, author of The Black Swan and other books, engage on twitter, is like being ringside at a verbal boxing match with the intellectual equivalent of Clubber Lang, the snarling, contemptuous boxer played by Mr. T in Rocky 3. In the movie, Clubber Lang was so mean and nasty the performance was almost a parody.

When you see Taleb go ballistic on Twitter, as he often does, you wonder similarly if the guy is truly an angry asshole of the highest order, or if it’s just some performance schtick by an egghead scholar trying to liven up his day. Then again, he can’t seem to help himself: The guy did get into it one time with a parody Twitter account. As one observer noted:

Taleb has a propensity for being quite combative on Twitter, on topics ranging from bonds to GMOs, and Taleb will fight with just about anybody.

Yeah, you could say that again. Some people, such as the economist Noah Smith, make allowances for Taleb’s bad behavior:

Quote
Nassim Taleb is a vulgar bombastic windbag, and I like him a lot.

But Taleb is more than just a venomous, preening, brawler. It’s not enough for him to slug it out with real and imagined adversaries (including journalists). He has to smear their reputations with innuendo. I learned this myself when I engaged with Taleb some months ago. I saw that he was circulating a paper on GMOs and I asked to interview him. He declined and then asked:

Quote
!! RT @nntaleb: @keithkloor BTW do you get (indirect) funding from GMO corporations? Can you state this here (which is on the record)?

— keith kloor (@keithkloor) August 13, 2014

What the hell, Taleb? Is he trying to coattail on Dawkins' enormous success at being a complete asspipe?

54
Hell in a Dry Place is going up today, if I can figure out what to use as a cover.

Also, NIGEL:  Can you locate the LO w/spider pic?  The one I have didn't survive transferring from one laptop to another when the hard drive failed.  That will be the cover for volume I.

I still need covers for Vol II (The Engines of Creation) and Vol III (Armageddon).

Here's the page for it, if it's not big enough I'm sure b has a bigger version: http://bijijoo.com/2011/ophelia-and-her-spider

b just got married last week, by the way! His bride is a delightful woman, also a good friend, and they are a beautiful and charming couple.

55
So, tonight, while bartending, a wine glass flew off its rack to the floor, untouched. I was six feet away, and nobody else was behind the bar. The four people sitting at the bar all saw the same thing I did, apparently.

Not suggesting anything other than that it was fucking weird.

Could have been internal stress within the glass releasing abruptly, breaking the glass and causing it to leap from the rack. Spontaneous fracture happens frequently in bar glassware, because it is typically soda-lime glass, not always annealed well, used frequently, and typically subjected to high temperatures during washing. This, along with daily taps and bangs, gradually introduces additional stress into the glass, along with stress that was present at manufacture due to poor annealing processes, and glasses can abruptly release that stress in the form of kinetic energy, jumping at fracture or even exploding. The thicker parts of the glass, such as stem or base, are both more likely to build stress and capable of releasing more energy at fracture; in the upper part of the glass you're more likely to see a spontaneous circular crack.

I keep forgetting you used to blow glass. You must have all kinds of hyperspecialized glass expertise that comes up either way more or way less often than it should.

Very much less often. :lulz: I'm a repository of untapped glass facts.

56
I was hoping that would be the answer you'd have :lulz:

I mean, I guess some philosophy major might try to sell something like "religion" but I'm pretty sure animals also believe things that they have no concrete evidence for, they're just less complicated things.

Right, and they actually may not be less complicated things, as we still know very little about the cognition of, for example, dolphins, except that their brains are enormous and have relatively much greater cortical area than ours do.

57
I was thinking it was possibly heat related, since most pubs use dishwashers these days (placed in such a way that, as it cooled, it ended up being forced from the rack), but it could be that, too.

I could see contraction from cooling causing it to slide off the rack, as well. Another possibility (and one I've seen) is thermal shock from a hot glass being placed in a cold rack. 

58
NOTHING. NOTHING MAKES US DIFFERENT.

At least, not in the way  the question is most often posed. In many psychology books, operating on a philosophy that is straight outta 1896, you will see again and again statements like "This makes humans unique among the animals of the world". This statement is almost always unequivocally false.

There is no one thing, no great difference, that makes humans different from other animals. Nothing that is biologically derived, anyway; you could argue that no other animal wears pants, and you would probably be correct, but given Nature's history of proving us wrong, eventually we'd probably discover some small Amazonian beetle that weaves pants for its young out of caterpillar silk. Other animals have culture, other animals have language, other animals use tools, other animals have enormous frontal lobes. There is simply no one thing that is so special about humans that we can hold it up like a trophy, some sort of divine symbol that we stand apart from all the other species. In all ways, our differences are emergent and in measures of degree, using different versions of the same structures present in other animals in ways that make us unique-- just like all the other animals.

I would like to see the "What makes humans unique and different from all other animals?" question put to bed forever. It is an irrelevant question, it asks nothing useful and there is no useful or enlightening answer. Seeking one fundamental difference, something which we share with no other creature, is a philosophical and scientific dead-end; and at this point, philosophy has nowhere to go if it fails to embrace science. "What makes us different from all the other animals?" is a question as deep and as elucidating as "What makes a horse different from a badger?"

If we can't be satisfied with that, we probably aren't ready to move forward in asking the more significant question, not of what sets us apart, but of how we fit in.

59
So, tonight, while bartending, a wine glass flew off its rack to the floor, untouched. I was six feet away, and nobody else was behind the bar. The four people sitting at the bar all saw the same thing I did, apparently.

Not suggesting anything other than that it was fucking weird.

Could have been internal stress within the glass releasing abruptly, breaking the glass and causing it to leap from the rack. Spontaneous fracture happens frequently in bar glassware, because it is typically soda-lime glass, not always annealed well, used frequently, and typically subjected to high temperatures during washing. This, along with daily taps and bangs, gradually introduces additional stress into the glass, along with stress that was present at manufacture due to poor annealing processes, and glasses can abruptly release that stress in the form of kinetic energy, jumping at fracture or even exploding. The thicker parts of the glass, such as stem or base, are both more likely to build stress and capable of releasing more energy at fracture; in the upper part of the glass you're more likely to see a spontaneous circular crack.

60
I learned that there is a secret airline that flies to deserts in Arizona and Nevada, such as Black Rock.

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