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Topics - Kai

Or Kill Me / The German Guide to Arguing.
October 23, 2013, 09:53:42 PM
There's a Bavarian professor in my department. Originally from Munich, he moved to get his PhD, married a Canadian citizen, and ended up moving again to the US (his kids are tri-citizens, which is pretty cool, but irrelevant to this story).

Having spent many hours speaking with Germans, Canadians, and Americans, he found that our conversations are kind of broken, that the way we argue (or avoid arguing) is a bit unhealthy. Given my German heritage, I have been following his instruction in the German fine art of arguing, and have gleaned a few rules which may or may not be of interest. As I internalize these lessons, I am becoming less full of butthurt, and more prone to having fun.

1. Never take anything personally. In a German argument, insults are often thrown, people get excited, and it may seem outwardly that the interlocutors really hate each other. Do not be fooled! German arguments are almost always in the spirit of kind contentiousness. When a topic is exhausted, the discussion moves on, and there are no hard feelings. This is of course, opposed to the American spirit of argument, which is to wound, and the Canadian tendency to avoid argument all together. Arguing like a German should always be done in good spirits. If the situation truly gets nasty, you'll know because the talking stops.

2. Never intend anything personally. This goes with lesson one. When insults are intended to be personal, then you no longer have a German argument, you have a German fight, which, in contrast to arguing and similar to Discordia, is not nice at all.

3. Be quick to forgive incorrectness, and to correct when incorrect (i.e. give and take). When an argument becomes stuck in a circle, it stops being fun. If no one is willing to give in, to allow room for consideration, you have entered the American school of argument. Recommended actions are giving in, if even momentarily. Or just not arguing with this person in the future.

4. Go balls out. Part of the fun of German arguing is getting excited. Don't be afraid to raise your voice. And while keeping in mind lessons one and two, don't be afraid to throw insults. If it starts getting personal, then it's time to back things off. This is about having fun, not making enemies.

5. Surround yourself with people who know the German school of arguing. If the only people you argue with practice the American school, chances are they will take everything you say personally, even if (in the true spirit of German argument) you never intend it as so. Local pubs can be good for this, sometimes. Universities are often hotbeds of people trained in German argument. Put the two together, and you'll usually find at least one person to practice with. It also takes time and effort to master Lesson One, which is only possible in the presence of others trained in this art. There's no sign for the German school, and on the internet it can be even more difficult to feel this out, even for people with low autism ratings.

6. Mastery of the German school is difficult. Especially for Americans. We are so used to taking and giving offense, to digging our feet in and breaking up flow, or to the opposite, to backing out of any situation where things get heated. Practicing these lessons has added benefits as well: lower butthurt levels, higher fun levels, and stabilized stress levels.

Or, you know, we could all just attempt to wound each other until everyone stops talking.

QuoteI know [that it should have been rejected] because I wrote the paper. Ocorrafoo Cobange does not exist, nor does the Wassee Institute of Medicine. Over the past 10 months, I have submitted 304 versions of the wonder drug paper to open-access journals. More than half of the journals accepted the paper, failing to notice its fatal flaws. Beyond that headline result, the data from this sting operation reveal the contours of an emerging Wild West in academic publishing.

QuoteThe paper took this form: Molecule X from lichen species Y inhibits the growth of cancer cell Z. To substitute for those variables, I created a database of molecules, lichens, and cancer cell lines and wrote a computer program to generate hundreds of unique papers. Other than those differences, the scientific content of each paper is identical.

The fictitious authors are affiliated with fictitious African institutions. I generated the authors, such as Ocorrafoo M. L. Cobange, by randomly permuting African first and last names harvested from online databases, and then randomly adding middle initials. For the affiliations, such as the Wassee Institute of Medicine, I randomly combined Swahili words and African names with generic institutional words and African capital cities. My hope was that using developing world authors and institutions would arouse less suspicion if a curious editor were to find nothing about them on the Internet.

QuoteThere are numerous red flags in the papers, with the most obvious in the first data plot. The graph's caption claims that it shows a "dose-dependent" effect on cell growth—the paper's linchpin result—but the data clearly show the opposite. The molecule is tested across a staggering five orders of magnitude of concentrations, all the way down to picomolar levels. And yet, the effect on the cells is modest and identical at every concentration.

One glance at the paper's Materials & Methods section reveals the obvious explanation for this outlandish result. The molecule was dissolved in a buffer containing an unusually large amount of ethanol. The control group of cells should have been treated with the same buffer, but they were not. Thus, the molecule's observed "effect" on cell growth is nothing more than the well-known cytotoxic effect of alcohol.

In short, of the 255 journals that the fake paper was submitted to (not counting the derelict journals), 157 of them passed peer review.

Michael Eisen points out the hilarity of this expose being published in Science:

QuoteMy sting exposed the seedy underside of "subscription-based" scholarly publishing, where some journals routinely lower their standards – in this case by sending the paper to reviewers they knew would be sympathetic - in order to pump up their impact factor and increase subscription revenue. Maybe there are journals out there who do subscription-based publishing right – but my experience should serve as a warning to people thinking about submitting their work to Science and other journals like it.

OK – this isn't exactly what happened. I didn't actually write the paper. Far more frighteningly, it was a real paper that contained all of the flaws described above that was actually accepted, and ultimately published, by Science.

That's right, the arsenic-eating bacteria paper from last year was published by Science, a big name, "closed-access" journal. He goes on to argue:

QuoteBut it's nuts to construe this as a problem unique to open access publishing, if for no other reason than the study, didn't do the control of submitting the same paper to subscription-based publishers (UPDATE: The author, Bohannon emailed to say that, while his original intention was to look at all journals, practical constraints limited him to OA journals, and that Science played no role in this decision). We obviously don't know what subscription journals would have done with this paper, but there is every reason to believe that a large number of them would also have accepted the paper (it has many features in common with the arsenic DNA paper afterall). Like OA journals, a lot of subscription-based journals have businesses based on accepting lots of papers with little regard to their importance or even validity. When Elsevier and other big commercial publishers pitch their "big deal", the main thing they push is the number of papers they have in their collection. And one look at many of their journals shows that they also will accept almost anything.

None of this will stop anti-open access campaigners  (hello Scholarly Kitchen) from spinning this as a repudiation for enabling fraud. But the real story is that a fair number of journals who actually carried out peer review still accepted the paper, and the lesson people should take home from this story not that open access is bad, but that peer review is a joke. If a nakedly bogus paper is able to get through journals that actually peer reviewed it, think about how many legitimate, but deeply flawed, papers must also get through. Any scientist can quickly point to dozens of papers – including, and perhaps especially, in high impact journals – that are deeply, deeply flawed – the arsenic DNA story is one of many recent examples. As you probably know there has been a lot of smoke lately about the "reproducibility" problem in biomedical science, in which people have found that a majority of published papers report facts that turn out not to be true. This all adds up to showing that peer review simply doesn't work.

While I agree that pre-publication peer review is inconsistent, I don't think it's broken. It does reasonably well when the reviewers and editors are on task and not just passing papers through a pipeline. Once in a while a paper like the above gets through a big name journal, where the checks on methods weren't strict enough, but for the most part, pre-publication peer review does exactly what it is supposed to.

My disagreement with all these folks is on the /purpose/ of pre-PR: it is NOT to judge the scientific value of a paper.

Pre-PR is, at best, a low pass filter. It insures that editors don't get shamed (often) for publishing gaffs, and that scientists in a particular field of research don't have to trudge through miles and miles of dreck just to find a paper that might be worthwhile. As such, reviewers and editors clean up the writing, make sure the methods follow from the introduction and the conclusion follows from all of the above, check logical consistency and reasoning, read the methods carefully, and look over the statistics. This is the job of pre-PR.

The job of judging the scientific /worth/ of a paper is what POST-publication peer review is for. I have spent many hours during my graduate career in these classes called "journal clubs". A group of students meet and one of us presents a paper, which we have all read, and the rest of the hour is spent tearing it to shreds. This is Post-PR, and it is absolutely necessary and far, far more important than Pre-PR could ever be. This is where the judgement comes in. All this training wasn't to make me a better pre-PR reviewer, it was to make me a post-PR reviewer who is not bound by the opinions of a few, usually anonymous people.

The problem is, people treat pre-PR as if it is the be all, end all of the peer review process, as if what is published is automatically worthy, or correct, or not fraudulent, just because it "passed peer review". The solution isn't to change the pre-PR process, the solution is to actually do post-PR review, to not simply trust the contents of a paper because it has Science or Nature or PLoSOne in the header. If I am simply taking what I find in an article as Word of God because some unnamed people got together and decided it was good enough to go, then what is /my/ worth as a scientist? How am I any more useful than people who take whatever media spin gets distributed?

This semester, I'm taking a journal club like class, with a bit more structure, but the main event every week is always a paper presentation and discussion. I spend HOURS carefully reading through these papers, even if I am not myself presenting. I go through the steps on this page, not only so I have good questions to ask, but so I train this skill until it becomes second nature. This is how every scientist should address a paper they are doing more than a skim over, or considering for use in their research, or as background for a paper, or if controversial. It is necessary, it is not just a game, and it plays a far more important role than the so called "broken" pre-publication peer review.
Or Kill Me / On Jazz.
October 12, 2013, 10:49:49 PM
I'd like to revoke what I said about Jazz in the past.

I can't find the exact quote, but it was something to the effect of "Jazz is noise". This was revised from my previous, rather naive statement about Jazz from a dilletantte's perspective (and given that I don't play the genre, that's likely all I'll ever be).

Perhaps not revoke, but a further revision. Like taxonomy, sometimes new information comes to light and the evolutionary relationships that seemed so clear yesterday are suddenly a polyphyly or polytomy, or worse, a premise based on some study in Science proclaiming arsenic-eating bacteria. The model needs updating.

And it stems from something that I think many people here agree with, in at least the basic premise, and that is that music worth listening to doesn't have to be easy listening. And I don't mean in the sense of LOUD or having controversial lyrics, though these are also acceptable. I'm talking about difficult listening in the form of sounds and rhythms that are outside my comfort zone. Because, like the definition of "weed", noise is sound where it's not wanted.

If I had to pick any genre that tends to go outside that comfortable range, it's Jazz. Complicated, dissonant, often including nothing resembling a melody, definitely not easy listening. Even if your preffered music is death metal at ear drum bursting levels, Jazz is still difficult. Why should being uncomfortable mean it's not worth anything? Once again, uncomfortable being "that which is incongruent to my MO".

The obvious answer is that many people find Jazz worth quite a lot, and not just dilettante hipsters either. I know I'm really going against the grain here (some might even call it groupthink) to say that I'm willing to give more Jazz some listening. Hell, I'm listening to Herbie Hancock's Maiden Voyage right now, and you know what? It hurts. It /feels/ in great part like noise but for goddsake I'm never going to grow musically if I don't get over some shallow notion of what constitutes music. There's plenty of discussion in the Apple Zone thread right now on musical stagnation, and I think it applies equally to this.

In closing: fuck what you think you know about noise. It's worth listening to at least once, if my ears aren't destroyed in the process. This isn't about taste, this about a willingness to explore, lest I become some sort of horrible narrow-minded critic that listens to the same 5 tracks over, and over, and over...

Techmology and Scientism / Labhacks.
September 27, 2013, 08:10:15 PM

Two things from this site that I want to/will be using in the future.

1. One of the major pains of presenting a poster at a scientific meeting is keeping it from getting damaged in transit. With a fabric poster, I no longer have that issue. Hell, I don't even need to use a tube! Just fold or scrunch that thing up and it can fit in my suitcase.

2. I didn't really care about 3-D printing either way until I discovered all the useful tools I could make. These include standard tools I can purchase, or custom things that don't exist. I've been looking to make some custom tool storage systems for my dissection kit, and I just realized how easy this would be with a 3-D printer.
Or Kill Me / Stupid Omniscence and Novelty.
September 21, 2013, 05:08:49 PM
When we bring people from out of university for departmental seminars, we usually have a grad student lunch with the speaker before the talk. This generally starts out with everyone going round table introducing themselves and their research, after which we talk about various things, often relating to research or grad school.

Last week's grad lunch was atypical. The enthusiastic speaker lead a discussion/lecture from the whiteboard (pausing only for a bite of sandwich), and it was by far the most stimulating grad lunch we've ever had, and also simultaneously the most interesting and most infuriating. This wasn't even the seminar, this was just him holding court in grad lunch. Topics covered everything from Mendel to Memeology, but the focus was these three questions:

What is novelty?
What is an idea?
What is chance?

Now, I'm not going to try to cover the whole talk right now because it was a long, rambling, and dense, but one of the things he mentioned was technological omniscience.

30 years ago, and for the majority of time that there has been universities, the academics have acted as a repository for knowledge. We needed them because it was much faster to ask them than to try to find the information for ourselves. Hundreds of years ago it was sometimes the /only/ way to get this information, because it was either not written down or only written in very rare books only a few people possessed.

But now, he said, pointing to a smart phone on the table, we all carry a second brain along with us. We are essentially omniscent with the rest of humanity. So academics can't rely on their job as knowledge repository anymore, they have to find something else to do.

And his answer was the generation of novelty, which comes from the "remixing" of ideas in the brain. He said it was like natural selection in practice. And I generally agreed with his assessment of novelty, that it takes a great many ideas remixed in the brain to actually generate novelty.

But I had a big problem with his idea of technological omniscience. Never mind he had already peeved me a bit with his statements about genetics being "dead" and essentially "engineering" at this point (since only work at the bleeding edge is science, I guess). His sort of omniscience with the tricorder reference we carry around with us seems to be a very stupid sort of omniscience. It doesn't generate novelty, it doesn't communicate new ideas, PEOPLE do that. If intelligence is the ability to absorb, integrate, and communicate information, then technological omniscience is only the absorb portion of that, and the really interesting stuff happens in the integrate and communicate portions. It's in those parts that novelty is generated.

So, you can be walking around with the sum of all knowledge in your hands, but if you don't actually /have any of it in your brain/, that knowledge is not generating novelty. Cain has said as much here before, and I'm pretty sure that Yudkowsky has as well. Which means that despite professors being no longer necessary as a repository for language /for everyone else/, that repository of language is necessary /for their own work/.

I hear undergrads bemoan having to remember things, why do we have to remember this if we can just look it up? Because that sort of all knowing "power" is about as dumb as an automaton. Technological omniscience is about as stupid as people who think intelligence is all about how many digits of pi you can remember. I'm not reducing the significance of having humanity's amassed knowledge at my fingertips, I'm saying that complete reliance upon such things eliminates novelty. Like the person with no short term memory, technological omniscience only supplies that which was known years ago, and that which is right in front of me. It doesn't give novel solutions, and if used too often it becomes a brain crutch.
Techmology and Scientism / Cronodon: Museum of the Future.
September 20, 2013, 06:56:51 PM

I really don't even know what to make of this. Writings on just about every subject, including fantastical things. The stuff on biology is accurate and quite well written.
So, I was looking at the videos for Abandoned Japan (I gave you a playlist before, but /this/ is the channel:, and I found a tumbler linked (

One of the photoseries was of this abandoned Buddhist temple for missing children. Parents would bring a doll for the priest to bless and keep, and so many of the dolls have names on them.

ETA: Should clarify, that tumblr is /not/ connected to those youtube accounts. It's a completely different person, which I just realized.

Or Kill Me / The Collective "You" (short).
September 11, 2013, 06:28:37 PM
There's this tendency to generalize when making statements of opinion. And I don't mean the "all sheep are black" sorts of opinions. I'm talking about making declarative statements as if they are fact which use the collective "you". Example: "You know when you go outside and it's raining, and you didn't know beforehand, and you end up wet and irritated and crabby with your co workers? This is why you should always bring an umbrella." Completely made up, I'm sure you could provide your own. (Hey, there's another one!).

What it seems is that these are projection. The speaker assumes everyone else shares his or her experience, and projects their opinions into the ether. This is annoying. Maybe I check the weather before going outside, or don't get crabby when I get soaking wet. The collective you not only pretends that the opinions are general, but also avoids taking responsibility for those opinions.

Antero Ali has a segment on this in Angel Tech, and I can't remember it exactly but it goes something like this: When stating an opinion, use "I" or "me" or "myself" instead of "you". This takes responsibility and agency into the hands of the wielder, and avoids passing the buck. At which point I can say, "Sorry, I don't share your experience", because it's quite clear that the statement is opinion and theirs. I don't have to pretend it's fact because there's no collective you.
I figured this weirdness needed some explaining.

Start off by reading Bug Girl's excellent bit on the Phalloblaster. It's either not what you think, or exactly what you think.

First, a practical reason. If you go outside and collect a bug, and you want to find out what kind of bug it is, chances are it's going to be small. 99% [citation needed] of all animals are smaller than a bumble bee. Second chance is that it's going to be rather nondescript. Entomologists call these LBBs (little brown bugs), and there are /tons/ of them. Third chance is that it's going to be of a rather large group, one with hundreds or more species in North America (or whatever other godforsaken place you live).

When entomologists (that's people who study insects) first started doing in depth microscope work, they discovered something really different. You could have two different insects that looked outwardly identical, but when you look closely you find the genitalia strikingly different. And not just different, but /consistently/ different. Consistently different enough that you can tell these very closely related species apart with a glance. And it turns out these differences and similarities have a lot of phylogenetic signal. That is, they can tell us a great deal about the evolutionary history of these related species. Questions like: which are most closely related? Are these groups we had previously designated good ones? Are there any correlations with ecology or behavior?

And, they're kinda weird looking. I've recently characterized insect genitalia as being "a costume party on Lovecraft's birthday". Spines and hairs and membranous sacs and clasping arms with hooks and all sorts of non-euclidean geometry. And that's just the males! The females have all sorts of other weird, internal structures, sometimes with large, piercing external structures like ovipositors.

Here's just one example: a recently new to science forcepfly with massive clasping arms on the male genitalia Male sure to check out the damselfly genitalia near the bottom.

So, they're great for identification, weird and different among species, but why?

This isn't just an insect question, by the way. This is something that researchers on many groups of animals have been asking, about duck penises, for example, which are tightly wound helixes (the female orifice winds the /opposite/ direction, if you were wondering). Or Hyenas. Yeah, I'll just leave that one there.

The answer is sexual selection. Or, really, it's three answers, three hypotheses, and not necessarily competing hypotheses. All of which lead to a rapid and divergent evolution of insect genitalia.

The first is called sexual antagonistic selection. The "interest" of the male is to get his spermatozoa as close to the ova as possible, so he evolves all sorts of structures to make that happen. The problem is, these structures often are sharp spines and hairs, hooks, and in extreme cases, a piercing structure that goes straight through the body wall in an act called traumatic insemination. This is what bedbugs do. There are also often fluids included, ones that sometimes alter the behavior of the female, make her less prone to further mating, for example.

As you might imagine, the female doesn't benefit much from these insertions. They can lower the overall ability of the female to produce offspring, shorten their lifespans, and depress their immune systems. So she is heavily selected upon for defenses to combat the male structures. Over time this becomes an arms race between males and females, the females evolving better defenses, the males evolving spinier phalluses. In bed bugs, the females have an elaborate internal system of sacs to reduce the male's impact upon her immune system when he puts a big hole in her abdomen. Some even have a groove that directs the piercing phallus into a particular place of weakness, reducing the overall damage. Summary: sexual antagonistic selection is an arms race between males and females with the males initiating.

The second hypothesis is sperm competition. Sex in most animals goes a particular way. The males are promiscuous, and attempt to mate with multiple females. The females are passive and choosy. The main driver for this is that males generally have a low energy investment for reproduction. Sperm, in most cases, are cheap to make. Females on the other hand have a high energy investment, as eggs (or pregnancy in mammals) are expensive. In pretty much all cases the female investment is higher, and so there is reason for her to be more choosy in her mating. (When the opposite happens, as it does in some species, it's called a sex role reversal. Think seahorses). In cases where both parents take near equal energy investment, including post-natal parental care, both tend to do the choosing. Humans, for example.

So, if multiple males are mating with a single female, as is often the case, there is going to be competition between male sperm to reach the ova. The male that gets the sperm closest is the male that wins. Thus, elaborate genitalic structures, or sperm plugs, or genitalia that actually can't get out of the female once they're put in (the male just leaves them behind; think about that for a few minutes.), or just better sperm. Anything that will maximize the chance that that one male's sperm will get to the eggs first. Summary: Sperm competition is where males are competing with each other.

The third is female choice. Since females have the most energy invested in reproduction, there is reason for selection to act on their systems to maximize their ability to choose between spermatozoa, both before and after mating. The best example of pre-mating choice is the tail of male peacocks. Or courtship rituals. Or wing spots. Or nuptual offerings (that's a cool one; check out these balloon flies.) Basically, anything the female can sense about potential mates which would allow her to pick ones that have characters indicative of health and genetic fitness. Post-mating choice is a bit...stranger. Somehow, females are often able to choose between sperm that she has received. This can be a matter of chemical constituents of the reproductive tract, or also how they are stored in a sac called the spermatheca. In any case, the female chooses and therefore the males are forced into an arms race with the female to try to catch up, finding ways to bypass these barriers. It's the inverse of sexual antagonistic selection. Summary: Female choice is an arms race between males and females where females are the initiators.

All of the above happen in combination, in most cases. It's seldom just sperm competition, or just antagonistic selection. Since there's all these arms races and competition, there's selection for insect genitalia to be flexible in construction. Or, more precisely, the fundamental flexibility of insect genitalia may be the greatest cause of their diversity, behind wings and the general segmented ground plan.

Two recent articles: - A story about spiky beetle phalluses. - A story about flies with hooks, and how one entomologist is shaving them off with a laser.

Hopefully now you have a better understanding of my obsession. Or you're disgusted, or terrified.
Or Kill Me / Dear MRAs and PUAs.
September 02, 2013, 02:20:57 AM
Dear MRAs/PUAs,

          I am truly sorry for your predicament. You have one desire in life, to have sex with women (who meet your arbitrarily high set of standards), and you can't seem to meet this goal. I hear you complaining about the "bitches" who put you in "the friend zone", and I feel your pain. I sympathize with your inability to get dates through "negging", despite all the evolutionary psychology papers you've read. It seems no woman on the planet will have sex with you, the whole world is against you, people are discriminating against you, and you're living in your mother's basement and practicing poor hygiene. It's sad.

         I'm writing this friendly letter to ofter some wisdom on the problem and solutions. It's my gift to you, no cost, no thanks needed. No reply, even.

          There are two fundamental reasons you are in this unfortunate situation. The most obvious (and as should be clear shortly, most minor) problem is that women find you having nothing. I don't mean nothing in terms of limited money, or physical possessions, but rather in terms of self-currency. You are, as aforementioned, living in your mother's basement, you have no life aspirations aside from having sex with women, very few skills beyond your work (if you work at all), even more limited social skills, the hygiene issue I already mentioned, and no ambition. You have, in plainer terms, nothing going for you. Baring the Second Reason, women like having sex with people who are interesting, through muscle mass, intelligence, humor, charisma, technical skill in the bedroom, all of these are possible avenues. You have none of these, at least not in ways that are obvious. Without some extraordinary willpower, this is not likely to change.

            Which brings me to the Second Reason, which is, you're a douchebag. WOAH WOAH, CALM DOWN! I'm using the term in a technical manner here, not as an insult. A douchebag is person (typically male) women find annoying and unpleasant, and often even harmful. Much like the namesake object, women do not enjoy the presence of a douchebag. Sometimes the qualities listen in the First Reason can overcome this syndrome, but given the prevalence of feminists this is becoming more difficult. 

                  What may come as a shock is that you're a douchebag precisely because of your greatest and only desire. Yes, you are a douchebag because you just want to have sex with women. And I'm not saying that women don't enjoy sex; many do. The douchebaggery comes from that little word "just". You just want to have sex with women. You don't want to be friends, you don't want to have nice conversations, to build relationships, to actually care about their lives and their desires. You just want to have them as an object you can stick your ding dong into (and what's so bad about that, really? Your onahole doesn't complain). 

            The truth is, women are people. Yes, people just like everyone else. Albeit usually with different kinds of parts than you (the parts your ding dong likes so much). And as people, they don't generally like being objectified. And if they do, they like it more as a game that is quickly over, and with someone who has qualities of the First Reason. Baring that, they like building relationships and good conversation that includes their interests, having friendships, doing things they consider fun. I'm sure you could build a long list of things that people enjoy doing. Go ahead if you need to, I can wait.

          Got your list? Good. Now realize this: if you want to have sex with women, and you don't have any First Reason qualites, it's okay, you can still end up having sex with women. You just have to treat them as people and take a sincere interest in their lives and eventually there will be a woman who will enjoy your company enough to have sex with you. It's far more likely than you might think.

          I know, I can hear your protestations. "But Kai, I don't care about women's interests, I don't care about their lives, I just want to stick my ding dong where the sun don't shine!" Then my admonition to you is: FAKE IT. Fake it with all your mind and all your heart and all your adipose cells and all your neck hairs. Fake empathy, fake caring, fake interest, fake it as hard as you can, as long as you can. Fake it so hard it becomes second nature.

          Eventually, it won't be fake anymore. You'll have pulled out of your misogynistic narcissism and actually start caring about women as people. You might even gain some social skills in the process (point to reason one qualities!). Women will sense that you actually care about them, and eventually one of them will want to have sex with you. By that point, sex will have a back seat in your mind because those other things like empathy and love will actually be important to you. You'll be happy, they'll be happier, and everyone else will be ecstatic because we'll no longer have to suffer a douchebag. It's a non-zero sum game, everyone wins!

Warm Regards,


P.S.: You might also want to do something about that neckbeard.
QuoteBefore you begin: some general advice
Reading a scientific paper is a completely different process than reading an article about science in a blog or newspaper. Not only do you read the sections in a different order than they're presented, but you also have to take notes, read it multiple times, and probably go look up other papers for some of the details. Reading a single paper may take you a very long time at first. Be patient with yourself. The process will go much faster as you gain experience.

QuoteYou see, there is no uniformly sound advice on where to get good ideas. There's no recipe for discovery. In fact, this informal claim can be made rigorous in several mathematico-computational senses and proven, something I studied earlier in my career. Furthermore, the discovery process doesn't always give you an indication of how close you might be to the end, nor if there will be an end at all. In fact, in my work I've been able to prove that for some discoveries it is intrinsically impossible to know how close one is to reaching the end. For these puzzles, sudden breakthroughs—aha moments—are in fact logically required rather than due to some quirk of human psychology.

The result is that how we scientists find our ideas is ugly, and frankly embarrassing to show folks. That's why we don't put this part of the process into our journal articles or books.

It includes a slideshow of 1.5 years of his idea notebooks.
Two vast and trunkless legs of stone / BEES.
August 22, 2013, 03:08:52 PM

QuoteIn the 9th Annual Bee Beard Competition held in Ontario, Canada competitors covered their faces with bees to form a 'beard'
The person with the heaviest and more aesthetically pleasing bee beard is declared the winner
Competitors place a queen bee in a cage around their neck to attract the rest of the colony to land on their upper body

Did someone say BEES?
LMNO thought I should crosspost this from Facebook, so I am.

QuoteThe first conclusion of this essay is that many of us live in different worlds with different personal belief systems. And, although many of us believe that ours is correct, it is no trivial task to convince others. Once a belief system is developed, it is, almost completely, locked in. The term epistemic closure* has been popular recently. Each of these systems is self-consistent and forms a bubble of epistemic closure. When a person is in one closed belief structure, ideas outside of that structure just seem crazy. Within the structure, things make sense. There is logical consistency and no cognitive dissonance. Trying to believe ideas outside of a belief bubble creates creates ideational tension and is not stable.

The second conclusion of this essay is that most of our fundamental knowledge is not acquired by personal interaction with the world, but is delivered by experts. People cannot just call themselves experts, however, and be experts. The set of experts that Joe trusts has no overlap with the set that Mary trusts. Both Joe and Mary think that the experts outside of their bubble are fanatics, and, possibly, evil.

It was rather challenging to read this, because as a scientist I mostly take my map for granted. I hold strongly that it can be changed, but it is still true for me as it is for everyone that at least some of my beliefs are expert derived rather than experience. Strike that, most are expert derived. When I think about this I realize just how shaky my own beliefs are, so much more so than fundamentalists who are sure of themselves. It's not the fact that they can change that make them shaky, but the lack of confidence from direct experience. I may witness firsthand certain chemical reactions, but I take the rest of the expert advice on chemistry through extrapolation and consistency. Likewise for most other things.
Two vast and trunkless legs of stone / Well, I did it.
September 16, 2012, 03:27:20 PM
I just clicked "mark all posts as read".  :eek:
There's this Mormon I'm friends with. He's an alright sort, even with the occasional rant about how socialized health care will be the death of America, or a perchance for Glen Beck quotes. But not the sort who would push it in your face if you asked him for some quiet. And he has interesting things to say about other subjects, particularly literature. And he's not a misogynist or a racist or even an asshole.

I've been telling myself I keep him around because he broadens my perspective, that the worst thing possible I could do is surround myself with people who all agree with me. Of course that's not true, plenty of my friends disagree with me. But there is usally much more agreement with Discordians than there is with a religious conservative.

Just today I was noticing my tendency to poke at some of the silly things he says. These are things I could leave well enough alone. They are seldom enough that I could ignore them without trouble. But for some reason I feel the need to poke.

And now, I'm wondering if I've got your sickness. I could have dropped this person months ago, or conversely I could ignore the opinions that, while I dislike them, they are otherwise quaint. But I don't. I HAVE to poke. And the more I see it happen, the more I want to poke.

I wonder if I am keeping him around just because I want to poke and poke and poke. Like you when you put yourself out there with your neighbors. It's not just an exercise in civic activism, it's the need to put them on edge. Pull them in calm and then stir them up.

I think it's a Discordian disease, and I think I caught it from all these years watching you. And now I /can't not poke!/
Techmology and Scientism / Derp
July 10, 2012, 09:45:25 PM
Herp Derp.
Which I post because I love you all so, and since you are so preoccupied with that other 100+ page thread, I might as well get another one going.  :lulz:

QuoteDavid Nutt and his colleagues have studied the relative harm of drugs. In one of Nutt's studies that were published in the lancet, members of the British Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs was asked to rate 20 drugs on 16 criteria such as drug-specific damage, mortality, dependence and international damage. Drugs were scored on a 100-point scale. Here is a display of the weighted scores:

QuoteIn the diagram above both individual and societal factors are considered. It may come to a surprise to many readers that LSD and ecstasy are one of the least dangerous drugs. Notice also that Alcohol is the highest rated dangerous drug and that tobacco is on seventh place just below Cocaine (Both alcohol and tobacco are not even considered a drug by many people, including, sadly, politicians). However, heroin, crack and metamfetamine tops the list for the most dangerous drugs when only individual factors are considered, alcohol then dropping down to a fourth place amongst the most dangerous drugs. So, even when the obvious societal effects due to the widespread use of alcohol are not considered (alcohol rates very high, unsurprisingly, on "family adversities" and "environmental damage") it still is the fourth most dangerous drug. Yes, that's right. Alcohol nearly receives the bronze-medal for danger to individuals.

The particular type of neurotransmitters that a drug affects in the brain has a huge impact on the harms the drug can contribute to. A major similarity between the drugs that tops the list above is that these drugs, in addition to other areas in the brain (click here for a discussion), directly affect the dopaminergic "reward system" in the midbrain. This area has been shaped and "designed" by millions of years of natural selection in mammals to reward for adaptive behavior such as sex and the intake of nutritious food. When they are artificially stimulated by drugs such as heroin and crack cocaine they have adverse consequences for addiction and health (that is the reason why drugs such as nicotine and heroin have the characteristic addictive effects). Drugs at the bottom of the list, such as MDMA (ecstasy), mushrooms and LSD stimulate mainly serotonergic neurons (several places in the brain), and does not directly stimulate the mesolimbic reward systems (which is why they are not addictive).

The many myths and popular beliefs surrounding psychoactive substances and their harms are perpetuated through the popular media. An empirical observation of this phenomenon was provided by Alasdair Forsyth in 2001. He compared the official statistics on drug deaths in Scotland to the drug-deaths reported in the Scottish newspapers.  His results are somewhat astounding: a huge proportion of deaths caused by recreational drugs were reported, whereas deaths caused by pharmaceutical drugs were vastly underreported. For example, 26 of 28 deaths were MDMA (ecstasy) was a possible contributor to death was reported, whereas just one in every 256 deaths caused by aspirin and one in 50 deaths caused by paracetamol were reported. This clearly gives a biased representation of the relative harm of drugs, particularly ecstasy, which, as is reported in the diagram above, is not at all that dangerous.

The rest is about cannabis and the "gateway drug" hypothesis, as well as pro-cannabis and pro-hallucinogen rhetoric, so use the link if you really want a rehash of that. The research above, on the other hand, is new to me and interesting, ESPECIALLY because it considers more than just mortality and damage.

Again, I love you all so very much. <3 And heres a link to journal article, if you have access [I don't :(].
That's right. Oreos, in addition to being sinfully full of fat, sugar, and other tasty yet deadly things, are actually SINFUL.

Just look at all these wonderful people saying so.
I was just in the Aneristic Illusions, rereading Cain's post about the direction of that subform. I am not much for geopolitics in general, so I have little to contribute to that discussion. However, I agree with the general sentiment: small, local notions about how much American conservatism sucks, for example, are not really useful in discovering and illustrating worldwide geopolitical patterns which matter to the Discordian mindset. We already know that large factions of rural and southern USAdia are racist, bigoted, and religiously fundamentalist, and yet one more story about this is not going to alter our perceptions of the more worldwide problems of neo-conservative authoritarianism backed by economic players such as industry and banking. In fact, I don't even really understand if the that last statement is true, because I'm ill informed about the issues particularly because all I see is local politics.

You may notice that, while I started a "weekly science news" thread in this subforum sometime ago, I have not updated it in almost as long. The same things that hold for geopolitics is true for science. There are a large number of daily "oos and ahhs" which I love to hear about. I in fact have been providing a "Kai's SCIENCE! Facebook edition" for several weeks now. This is not only a free service for my friends, but also a way for me to keep up to date on scientific discovery. Feel free to add me; you'll have science news coming at you daily, Monday through Friday.

But, these stories are largely minor. In isolation, they don't illustrate larger scale trends, not only in scientific discovery and technological progress, but also in the way science is conducted and published. A story about the pendulum motions of cockroaches and geckos allow them to flip under ledges is cool, but it doesn't go into the larger trends of biomimetic robotics. As much as I love waxing on about new species and my own science of taxonomy, this seldom addresses the changing scope of the biodiversity crisis, not to mention the vague idea people have about climate change and what that actually means when you get down to error bars in estimations. The same goes true for individual discoveries in medicine, planetary science, and personal technology. I look at the top stories in Science and Technology on the Newsmap applet every morning, and inevitably they are inconsequential corporate tech news. This is as useless as talking about the latest stateside racist episode.

I don't claim to be an expert on every scientific field, but I do feel like I have a pulse on whats going on day to day, as little or as much as I understand it. What I want to do /here/, is provide you all with, not individual stories, but broader discussions, again, similar to those Cain spoke of. And I would love if you would provide me with those as well.

I unfortunately don't have a bulleted list at the moment. Maybe you could help me with that: What science do you all find to be the most important? What trends do you want to track?
Reposting here from my SCIENCE! Facebook edition, because this is fascinating. The guest is Ed Yong of Not Exactly Rocket Science, the best damn science journalist out there.
Techmology and Scientism / I can haz PhD program.
May 26, 2012, 03:52:50 AM
Looks like I'll be heading back to grad school. All I have to do is apply, and I'll be starting with a research assistantship and program funding in the fall.
Do not read unless you want to be a in a screwed up headspace. I, personally, made a mistake in clicking.

Only other comment: 600 million years, that's it? ;_;
Wherein we ask questions about cooking experiments where things did not turn out right, and everyone else guesses what the problem might be.


So, last night I was attempting to make a gluten-free sponge cake as a ladyfinger alternative in tiramisu. My best friend has either a gluten allergy or celiac, I can't remember which, and I was trying to make this for her birthday. I found a recipe that was as follows:

4 eggs

equal amount of sugar to eggs

same amount of gluten free flour to the rest (I used one half potato flour and one half almond flour)

1. I beat the eggs and sugar together till it was light

2. gently folded in the flour

3. and put in the oven for about an hour and a half at 300 F. Mind you, convection oven. Which was maybe the problem.

The "cake" is lighter than my first attempt, but it did not bake fully. It feels like all the liquid settled to the bottom. Not really sure if I can salvage it.

QuoteImagine for a moment that the hurly-burly history of American retail was chronicled not by reporters and academics but by life-long employees of A&P, a largely forgotten supermarket chain that enjoyed a 75 percent market share as recently as the 1950s. How do you suppose an A&P Organization Man might portray the rise of discount super-retailer Wal-Mart, or organic foods-popularizer Whole Foods, let alone such newfangled Internet ventures as Life looks a hell of a lot different from the perspective of a dinosaur slowly leaking power than it does to a fickle consumer happily gobbling up innovation wherever it shoots up.

That is largely where we find ourselves in the journalism conversation of 2012, with a dreary roll call of depressive statistics invariably from the behemoth's point of view: newspaper job losses, ad-spending cutbacks, shuttered bureaus, plummeting stock prices, major-media bankruptcies. Never has there been more journalism produced or consumed, never has it been easier to find or create or curate news items, and yet this moment is being portrayed by self-interested insiders as a tale of decline and despair.

It is no insult to the hard work and good faith of either newspaper reporters or media-beat writers (and I've been both) to acknowledge that their conflict of interest in this story far exceeds that of, say, academic researchers who occasionally take corporate money, or politicians who pocket campaign donations from entities they help regulate, to name two perennial targets of newspaper editorial boards. We should not expect anything like impartial analysis from people whose very livelihoods—and those of their close friends—are directly threatened by their subject matter.

This goes a long way toward explaining a persistent media-criticism dissonance that has been puzzling observers since at least the mid-1990s: Successful, established journalism insiders tend to be the most dour about the future of the craft, while marginalized and even unpaid aspirants are almost giddy about what might come next. More kids than ever go to journalism school; more commencement speeches than ever warn graduates that, sadly, there's no more gold in them thar hills. Consumers are having palpable fun finding, sharing, packaging, supplementing, and dreaming up pieces of editorial content; newsroom veterans are consistently among the most depressed of all modern professionals.

So, it's like this, chaps.

Imagine that, out of the blue, there was this new technology that allowed the average joe to build a small scale solar energy farm in his backyard. Or wind mill, or something similar. In other words, imagine that there was this new electrical generator tech that was relatively open source in as to how and where people could get the parts to put it together, and it was in all ways equal to the old tech in efficiency, if not better. The details aren't necessary for this little thought experiment.

Now, what do you think the people in coal and gas and nuclear would do? They would bemoan the downfall of energy supply, of course! They would comment on just how many jobs will be lost, how depressing and bleak the future looks, how the government needs to subsidize their industry so they can keep doing business.

Meanwhile, we would be giddy on just how directly we could work with the supply for our electrical power.

Likewise for journalism. When I look at newsprint science journalism, for example, and compare it to the spectacular pieces I find from all over on the Internet, I feel good about the way science reporting is going. I could bemoan the declining science reporting in newspapers, but why bother? Ed Yong supplies me with amazing discoveries every day. I get stories that friends and family send to me, I get news straight from the article authors on their blogs, writing their own press releases. It's EXCITING.

If the traditional journalists can't adapt, I think selection should take its course and slowly drive them to extinction, maybe putting a few in reserves so we can go look at them through the bars now and again.
Just read it. It's an amazingly interesting hypothesis.

Editors representing 23 journals have publicly asked officials at seven Japanese institutions to investigate the integrity of 193 publications authored by anesthesiologist Yoshitaka Fujii.

As reported yesterday by Retraction Watch, questions were first raised about Fujii's work a decade ago. Tokyo-based Toho University, his most recent employer, dismissed him in February for not following ethical review procedures in producing eight of nine papers investigated by an internal committee. (Fujii agreed to retract those papers, according to a statement on the university's Web site.)

On 8 March, the journal Anaesthesia published an analysis questioning data in 168 of Fujii's papers. Now the group of editors, mostly from journals focusing on anesthesiology, is planning to retract what may be Fujii's entire English language body of work if the institutions with which he was affiliated cannot confirm that the studies took place, that the original research data have been verified, and that the studies had been properly reviewed in advance for ethical considerations.

Oh boy.  :lulz: And for anesthesiology too! It's not like this is taxonomy here, which, while loads of made up new species descriptions would be a horrible mess to clean up, the mistakes generally are not used in medical policy that may kill people.
The best damn summary of everything that is wrong with scientific publishing:

QuoteLet's take a look at the flow of money in the production of research. The government takes tax revenue from citizens and uses it to fund university research groups and libraries. Researchers obtain government grants and use the money to conduct experiments. They write up the results in manuscripts that are destined to become published papers. Manuscripts are submitted to journals, where they are handled by other researchers acting as unpaid volunteer editors. They co-ordinate the process of peer-review, which is done by yet other researchers, also unpaid. All these roles—author, editor, reviewer—are considered normal responsibilities of researchers, funded by grants.

At this point, researchers have worked together to produce a publication-ready, peer-reviewed manuscript. But rather than posting it on the Web, where it can contribute to the world's knowledge, form a basis for future work, and earn prestige for the author, the finished manuscript is then donated gratis to a publisher: the author signs away copyright. The publisher then formats the manuscript and places the result behind a paywall. Then it sells subscriptions back to the universities where the work originated. Well-off universities will have some access to the paper (though even they are denied important rights such as text-mining). Less well-off universities have access to varying selections of journals, often not the ones their researchers need. And the taxpayers who funded all this? They get nothing at all. No access to the paper.

Let's say, you give me the goods, and then I give it back to you for a one time low fee, and to anyone else for the same. I'm sure you'll see this is an offer you can't refuse.


Discordian Recipes / Recipes for the future.
March 19, 2012, 03:13:58 PM
Here's the situation:

The last 4 months have been a huge renovation project. I'm staying with my parents currently, and in October my dad got the idea to check what the original ceiling looked like above the then current ceiling in the kitchen. This may or may not have been a mistake, depending on how you feel about 40 thousand dollar kitchen renovations. To make a long story short, the contractors will soon be finishing their part, the last coat on the floor will be put down, the counter tops measured, cut, and affixed, and the appliances. This includes a top of the line gas range and gas convection oven. This kitchen is going to be like a dream. The whole thing is beautiful. (I will post pictures upon completion.)

Here's where you come in. You post recipes that I should try in this new, amazing kitchen. I will post a few recipes that run in the family, as well (including my Great Grandma Burington's chicken pot pie recipe). Then I post pictures of how they turn out, in this kitchen, when it is completed.
Principia Discussion / Any relevance for religion?
March 13, 2012, 11:11:23 PM
Talking with an old friend yesterday, he brought up that he thought religion, despite being pretty much false, has a necessary place in the human world. I immediately disagreed, but I wanted to ask that question here, because I'm looking for new insights.

Does religion serve a necessary place in the human world? Is it relevant in an age of science where what were formerly the most profound questions are now answered (e.g. where does the sun go at night?)?

And on that note, would Discordianism fit into that necessity or lack thereof and why?
Full summary over here:

Basically, John Bargh, a researcher at Yale, conducted a psychological experiment to see if by talking about old age he could prime people to feel the effects of age (aka walking slower). This was back in 1996.

Just recently, Stephane Doyen attempted to replicate this study, but with blinding in some units, something that the original study did not have. Which ended up showing that the individuals walked slower "only when they were tested by experimenters who expected them to move slowly". A basic case of blinding revealing unconscious bias.

Bargh then wrote a blog post where he proceeded to throw a fit. Mind you, it's the sort of gentlemanly like fit that you see in academic circles, but most obviously a case of a grown man loosing it because he wasn't right. He attacks the journal, the authors, and Ed Yong as well. The last was a particularly dumb move, since Yong is probably the best damn science journalist out there, and wasn't exactly going to let it go at that.

This all illustrates that scientists aren't really different than other people when it comes to territoriality, and that replication, /published/ replication studies, are needed now more than ever. Until a study is replicated, it's a sample size one.
Aneristic Illusions / "Scientific" Racism.
March 03, 2012, 11:26:03 PM
I'm currently reading The Mismeasure of Man by SJ Gould, which is about the historical use of quantitative measures of intelligence (through brain size, skull size, IQ, and other numbers) to justify racism, sexism, and classism.

I am finding myself entirely fascinated by this, partly because just about every scientist of the 19th century (including Charles Darwin, a known abolitionist) was racist to some degree, and used evolutionary argument to support these social constructions. And the way they went about it was the backwards version of scientific method, despite these being scientists in all other respects. They started with socially generated racial stereotypes and then, more or less unconsciously, found their data to fit the conclusions. I'm not saying they fabricated the data, rather, they inserted ad hoc hypotheses to explain why the data didn't fit with their conclusions in an effort of immense cognitive bias. The anthropologists were the worst of them; if I'm to understand correctly, the whole field was originally created as unconscious think tank to justify Caucasian male superiority. It was almost evangelical, with evolutionary theory twisted to support a "hierarchy of man" with very precise, yet ultimately mishandled, measurements. Some of the worst offenders being Louis Agassiz, who was otherwise a world renowned glacial geologist and morphologist of fishes, and Paul Broca, the neuroanatomist who discovered the speech center of the brain.

Despite scientific racism being put out of style in the last 50 years (most scientists these days would be horrified at the idea), I can still see these same issues going on in medicine and psychology to target other groups, including women, homosexuals, and other "social deviants".

Take the Duesberg anti-AIDS type schtick. It is almost formulaic of Broca's style: take a social stereotype ("homosexuality is not innate, it is a lifestyle choice, and furthermore immoral"), choose an area of measurement (in this case, African population dynamics), pick the data for measurements that support the stereotype, and present the argument so it leads to the conclusions you desire ("since HIV doesn't lead to AIDS, it must be a disease in gay men brought on by drug use"). Shift the argument as needed to account for refuting evidence. This is not science, yet it looks scientific because there are numbers involved. And people take it seriously because it supports their prejudices.

You can even find these sorts of arguments outside of social concerns. Those people who still deny that birds are dinosaurs, for example. They start with a conclusion ("only birds have feathers"), see fossils with feathers (even Dromaeosauridae fossils), and present their argument ("they can't be dinosaurs [even though we labeled them such before we knew they had feathers] because they have feathers, therefore they are birds"). Shift the argument for every new feathered fossil found. Or, for example, when that T-rex hemoglobin was discovered, and found to be very similar to chicken hemoglobin.

The worst part about all of this is that the manipulation, the self-deception, is largely unconscious on the part of the people involved. They do not see how their own biases are shaping their conclusions. They think they are just following data.
AKA, 9 volt battery a day keeps the voices of doubt away.

Not in the least bit clear how it works. Yes yes, it's 9 volts of current coursing through your brain, but how is it interfering with the connectome specifically?

And if that wasn't enough, you can make your own.. If electrocuting your brain is the sort of crazy thing you like to do, anyway.

Quotea little gadget that can sequence DNA while plugged into your laptop

Quotethe DNA does not need to be amplified

Quotecan sequence DNA strands as long as 10,000 bases continuously

the MinION would take about 6 hours to complete a human genome

QuoteEach unit is expected to cost $900 when it goes on sale later this year

WhattheIdon'teven. No PCR, no shotgun sequencing, speed comparable to pirosequencing, fits in the palm of your hand, and COSTS LESS THAN 1000 DOLLARS.

How it works -

QuoteOxford Nanopore is also building a larger device, GridION, for lab use. Both GridION and MinION operate using the same technology: DNA is added to a solution containing enzymes that bind to the end of each strand. When a current is applied across the solution these enzymes and DNA are drawn to hundreds of wells in a membrane at the bottom of the solution, each just 10 micrometres in diameter.

Within each well is a modified version of the protein alpha hemolysin (AHL), which has a hollow tube just 10 nanometres wide at its core. As the DNA is drawn to the pore the enzyme attaches itself to the AHL and begins to unzip the DNA, threading one strand of the double helix through the pore. The unique electrical characteristics of each base disrupt the current flowing through each pore, enough to determine which of the four bases is passing through it. Each disruption is read by the device, like a tickertape reader.

This is science fiction territory, people. Combine one of these with an iphone, and you have damn near a tricorder.

My only question in this is "are the MinIONs one time use or mult-use?" Because if they are multi-use /I. Want. One./
either exposure to pesticides and herbicides or chronic dehydration.

And I thought, really, chronic dehydration? Seems far more likely to be toxin related.
An obvious parody, but hilarious all the same.

In the science section because this are parthenogenic species, without males, the females laying clonal eggs. And before egg laying they engage in homosexual pseudocopulation. A whole species of lesbian lizards. And god hates them.  :lulz:
of North America.

QuoteNew DNA analysis of ethnic groups living in the Altay Mountains (see map) revealed a unique genetic mutation that also occurs in modern-day northern Native Americans.

A possible link between Siberians and Native Americans is an "age-old question" that was first raised by European explorers in the New World, said study leader Theodore Schurr, an anthropologist at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

That's because some of those early explorers had also been to Asia, and they noticed physical similarities between the two populations.


The scientists received written consent to take DNA samples from nearly 500 people, many of whom were living in remote areas and had never met Americans. As part of ongoing genetic research, the team had previously taken samples from close to 2,500 Native Americans in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.

Depending on the location and individual preferences, the researchers collected DNA via cheek swabs, mouthwash samples, or blood samples.

In their analyses of Altay and Native American DNA, the scientists focused on two parts of the human genome: mitochondrial DNA, which is passed down through mothers, and the Y chromosome, which is passed down through fathers....

Over time, mutations accumulate in these part of the genetic code that can help scientists pinpoint when populations branched off and migrated to new places, said Schurr, who is also the North American director for the National Geographic Society's Genographic Project, which is conducted independently from the Altay DNA project. (The Society owns National Geographic News.)

In the case of the Altay people, the scientists found a mutation in one paternal lineage that arose about 18,000 years ago—a genetic marker that's also found in modern-day Native Americans.

The finding dovetails with previous studies, including some by Schurr, that found a shared mutation in the two groups' mtDNA, one that arose around the same time as the newfound Y chromosome mutation.

As we talked about this before on these forums and the discussion was controversial (albeit less so than discussions on drug legalization ethics), I should mention that this is support, not confirmation, that other populations in East Asia also show these traits, and that molecular clock dating is notorious for large confidence intervals. Algorithm calibration for these tests at best uses a good series of fossil evidence, and at worst is a just so story of average mutation rates.

QuoteAccording to anthropologist Connie Mulligan, the new paper—to be published in the February 10 issue of the American Journal of Human Genetics—offers the most detailed genetic picture yet of ethnic Altay peoples.

Yet she thinks Shurr is "a little overly specific" in saying that Native Americans' founding DNA comes from the Altay region.

"I would broaden [that] to say [it's] that general region of central East Asia," said Mulligan, of the University of Florida in Gainesville.

That's because the mitochondrial and Y chromosome mutations that Schurr identified are also found together elsewhere in Asia, for instance, in China and Mongolia, she said.

The bottom line is that it's important to keep other Asian "populations in the running, and [it] means we should do dating studies on those populations as well," Mulligan said.

Stephen Zegura, a professor emeritus of anthropology at the University of Arizona in Tucson, thinks Schurr and colleagues have a strong case for pinpointing Altay. But he added that, ultimately, it'll be difficult to tease out exactly how the New World was peopled.

"We don't have definitive information, like remains of people from the Beringia land bridge with ancient DNA," he said.

"This is one of the problems—we have hypotheses, but we don't have strong confirmation."


It may seem like videos of robots folding laundry, and an all terrain robot "mule", but the movements and the corrections the robots make, and how they were trained to do these things makes their movements almost biological. Especially when the robot mule stumbles. It just about freaked me out how much that looks like a cow stumbling and attempting to get up.

QuoteTechnology Review magazine says "Abbeel taught one robot how to fold laundry by giving it some general rules about how fabric behaves, and then showed it around 100 images of clothing so it could analyze how that particular clothing was likely to move as it was handled." No live human instruction. Just pictures.

In this towel-folding video, you can almost feel the robot studying the cloth, trying to figure out which two points are farthest apart and therefore the best places to grasp and fold. It's spooky.

Spooky is right. My whole response during the video was laughter and "Oh my god..."

The Maxberg Archaeopteryx- One of 11 complete specimens, first to show that the bones were hollow. Lost after the death of the owner, now for 20 years.

Musaeum regalis societalis
- A specimen of long neck seal showing natural variation that may in part have been responsible for myths of long necked marine creatures. Lost since the 17th century.

The Apollo Plaques - Brought back to Earth from the Moon during the Apollo missions, many of the moon rocks were gifted to foreign nations and US states. While the vast majority of the moon rocks are protected, many of the plaques have been stolen or lost.

The Peking Man - Discovered in 1921, these were the oldest homonid bones known at the time, and very clearly were that of a Homo but not of Homo sapiens that used tools and fire. Lost in 1941.

Greek Fire - A secret weapon of the Byzantine Empire, it was shot from the bow of ships and struck terror into the hearts of their enemies. The recipe is lost.

The Soviet Seed Bank - A collection of 250,000 seeds and plant samples from Soviet Russia, meant to contain varieties enough to feed a vast empire. A large portion were stolen by the NAZIs during WWII and taken to Lannach Castle in Austria. Now destroyed, lost, or misplaced in Russian university collections.

The Mars Polar Lander
- Sent to Mars' south pole in 1999 to study climate, lost connection upon landing. People are still searching from photographs.

Damascus Steel - Crucible steel produced by Middle Eastern smiths in the middle ages, with high flexibility and strength. The recipe was a guarded secret and is lost.

The Moon Trees
- In 1971 Stuart Roosa carried "roughly 500 pine, sycamore, sweetgum, redwood and Douglas fir seeds" with him on Apollo 14 to lunar orbit and returned with to Earth. Most germinated and were given to people in North America and around the world to plant, but no one kept track of where. The locations of ~80 are now known, most of which are still alive.
I really can't summarize it any better than other people have.

Overview by Greg Fish

More in depth look by PZ Myers

Another investigation and summary over at Ars Technica

Quote from: From the Ars Technica linkThe theory in question springs from the brain of one Erik Andrulis, a CWRU faculty member who has a number of earlier papers on fairly standard biochemistry. The new paper was accepted by an open access journal called Life, meaning that you can freely download a copy of its 105 pages if you're so inclined. Apparently, the journal is peer-reviewed, which is a bit of a surprise; even accepting that the paper makes a purely theoretical proposal, it is nothing like science as I've ever seen it practiced.

The basic idea is that everything, from subatomic particles to living systems, is based on helical systems the author calls "gyres," which transform matter, energy, and information. These transformations then determine the properties of various natural systems, living and otherwise. What are these gyres? It's really hard to say; even Andrulis admits that they're just "a straightforward and non-mathematical core model" (although he seems to think that's a good thing). Just about everything can be derived from this core model; the author cites "major phenomena including, but not limited to, quantum gravity, phase transitions of water, why living systems are predominantly CHNOPS (carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, and sulfur), homochirality of sugars and amino acids, homeoviscous adaptation, triplet code, and DNA mutations."

He's serious about the "not limited to" part; one of the sections describes how gyres could cause the Moon to form.

Is this a viable theory of everything? The word "boson," the particle that carries forces, isn't in the text at all. "Quark" appears once—in the title of one of the 800 references. The only subatomic particle Andrulis describes is the electron; he skips from there straight up to oxygen. Enormous gaps exist everywhere one looks.

The theory is supposed to be testable, but the word "test" only shows up in the text twice. In both cases, Andrulis simply claims his theory is testable in specific areas of study. He does not indicate what those tests might be, nor what results would be predicted based on his gyres.

ETA: You can download the full text here: I'm not going to start reading it till I've had something to eat, and then I will dive in. Expect an investigation like the AIDS paper.
Techmology and Scientism / 'Man vs MRSA'
February 02, 2012, 08:30:30 PM
Methicilin-Resistant Strephlococcus aureus (AKA MRSA) is becoming a huge problem in some parts of the country. You have probably heard of staph infections before, which occur when wounds are not properly sterilized. That's because S. aureus is all over our skin, it's a commensalist organism that usually doesn't cause us problems. And like most bacteria, a good sulfactant such as soap kills them without issue. And up until recently, antibiotics worked in most cases when they ended up inside people.

However, and like many pathogenic organisms these days, they are becoming resistant. In MRSA infections, there isn't much treatment that works because, as I said, it's resistant to antibiotics and /all over your skin/. If you get one MRSA infection, chances are that a second staph infection will also be MRSA.

So the current work is towards a vaccine.

QuoteThe heretical approach was inspired, in part, by a patient. As part of an ongoing project to root out the causes of recurring infections, in 2009 two of Daum's team members went to the home of a toddler who had recently been in the emergency department. But the girl wasn't there; she was in the hospital's intensive-care unit with a new infection. When Daum tracked her down, he noticed something odd in her records. She had had unusually frequent abscesses and repeated bouts of pneumonia.

Acting on a hunch, Daum teamed up with Steven Holland, chief of the clinical infectious diseases laboratory at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in Bethesda, Maryland, to carry out a detailed genetic analysis. Daum's hunch was right: the girl had a mutation that Holland had recently linked to a rare immunodeficiency called Job's syndrome7. People with the syndrome have persistent, smouldering S. aureus infections, owing to an inability to make a type of lymphocyte, or immune cell, called a TH17 cell.

These cells, which make a proinflammatory protein called interleukin-17, have become a hot topic in vaccine research. They are produced by a different branch of the immune system from the one that makes antibodies, yet they still seem to be involved in the body's memory of exposures to pathogens.

Daum believes that TH17 cells are the key to an S. aureus vaccine. "It looks like T cells are very important in staphylococcal immunity," he says. Spellberg demonstrated in 2009 that a vaccine that stimulated production of interleukin 17 could protect mice against infections of S. aureus and Candida albicans8. (That vaccine is now being developed by NovaDigm Therapeutics as NDV3.)

QuoteMark Tarnopolsky, a neurometabolic researcher at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada, was one of those physicians—until he suffered a severe hamstring injury in a waterskiing accident 4 years ago. Massage therapy was part of his rehabilitation regimen, and it was so effective at easing his pain that he became determined to track down the mechanism that made him feel so good. "I thought there has to be a physiologic basis for this," he says. "And being a cellular scientist, my interest's in the cellular basis."

So Tarnopolsky and colleagues—including the coordinator of his rehab program—recruited 11 young men willing to exercise in the name of science. The subjects underwent a grueling upright cycling session that left their muscles damaged and sore. Ten minutes after their workout, a massage therapist massaged one of their legs. Meanwhile, the researchers took tissue samples from the volunteers' quadriceps muscles—once before the workout, once 10 minutes after the massage, and once 3 hours after the workout—and compared the genetic profiles of each sample.

The researchers detected more indicators of cell repair and inflammation in the post-workout samples than in the pre-workout samples. That didn't surprise them because scientists know that exercise activates genes associated with repair and inflammation. What did shock them were the clear differences between the massaged legs and the unmassaged ones after exercise. The massaged legs had 30% more PGC-1alpha, a gene that helps muscle cells build mitochondria, the "engines" that turn a cell's food into energy. They also had three times less NFkB, which turns on genes associated with inflammation.

The results, published online today in Science Translational Medicine, suggest that massage suppresses the inflammation that follows exercise while promoting faster healing. "Basically, you can have your cake and eat it too," Tarnopolsky says. He adds that the study found no evidence to support often-repeated claims that massage removes lactic acid, a byproduct of exertion long blamed for muscle soreness, or waste products from tired muscles.

This is really cool research with physiological evidence supporting the use of massage therapy after muscle injury or even heavy exercise. And out with this lactic acid crap that people blame for muscle soreness. It's a byproduct of anaerobic metabolism, and it only sticks with you short term. The soreness is actual injury to the muscle tissue, which is then strengthened during repair.
Principia Discussion / The original Principia Discordia.
February 01, 2012, 10:25:55 PM
Quote from: pg 00075 Principia Discordia 4th ed.This being the 4th Edition, March 1970, San Francisco; a revision of the 3rd Edition of 500 copies, whomped together in Tampa 1969; which revised the 2nd Edition of 100 copies from Los Angeles 1969; which was a revision of PRINCIPIA DISCORDIA or HOW THE WEST WAS LOST published in New Orleans in 1965 in five copies, which were mostly lost.

Has anyone ever heard what happened to these earlier editions and if any copies survive? La Wik mentions

QuoteIn 1978, a copy of a work from Kerry Thornley titled "THE PRINCIPIA DISCORDIA or HOW THE WEST WAS LOST" was placed in the HSCA JFK collections as document 010857 [1]. A scan of this document has been identified as the first edition and uploaded to The record identifier can be found by searching for Thornley and Discordian on

However, I can't find it on 23ae. I'm interested, because of historical significance as an artifact, and to compare the first with the latest editions and see if any parts have mutated.
At least it's beyond low earth orbit.

QuoteWASHINGTON -- There's no firm date yet, but sometime in early 2014 NASA intends to take its first major step toward rebuilding its human spaceflight program.

The milestone is the maiden test flight of its Orion spacecraft, a launch that has come into sharper relief in the three months since NASA and manufacturer Lockheed Martin announced it.

As planned, an unmanned Orion capsule will begin its journey at Cape Canaveral and take two loops around Earth before splashing down in the Pacific Ocean. What's now clear is that the capsule will be sent far beyond the lower Earth orbit of the International Space Station.

At its peak, Orion's orbit is expected to extend nearly 3,700 miles from Earth -- the farthest a NASA spacecraft built for humans has gone since the early 1970s.

That distance is "significantly higher than human spaceflight has gone since Apollo," said Larry Price, Orion deputy program manager at Lockheed Martin. "The reason for that is so we can get a high-energy entry so we can stress the heat shield."

The test will determine whether Orion can survive the re-entry into Earth's atmosphere -- where temperatures are expected to reach 4,000 degrees -- in preparation for a human flight in 2021. NASA hopes that Orion eventually can carry astronauts back to the moon or to nearby asteroids.

Besides the heat shield, the practice flight is designed to test 10 systems whose failure could be disastrous, including the capsule's flight software and parachutes. Like its Apollo-era predecessors, the four-person Orion capsule is designed to land in water.

The test also gives NASA, and Lockheed Martin, a chance to showcase part of the agency's new exploration program, details of which were agreed to last fall after a year of negotiation among the White House, Congress and industry.

The timetable for NASA's new exploration program envisions a first manned flight of Orion in 2021 aboard a new rocket -- still under development -- that NASA expects to be the most powerful ever. An unmanned test flight of that rocket, being built by Lockheed Martin rivals Boeing and ATK, is planned for 2017.

I was hoping we wouldn't have to wait 10 years, but I guess that's better than the alternative (which is never).