Show Posts

This section allows you to view all posts made by this member. Note that you can only see posts made in areas you currently have access to.

Topics - Kai

Pages: 1 ... 17 18 19 [20] 21
Quote from: IOZ
There are some fine moments in the remade The Day the Earth Stood Still--Keanu telling Jennifer that his true form would "only frighten you"--and a wagon-load of howlers from John Cleese's Nobel for "biological altruism" on down to the giant Play-doh robot (my buddy D. sez, "Gumby, it coulda been you!"). I know that hashing out the spectacular science-and-technology fuck-ups in blockbusters is what the internet was originally designed for, but instead I'm going to talk about our hilariously backward pop-cultural ideas about science as demonstrated in this movie.

All right. One mathematical malapropism, just to wet your whistle. Dear Hollywood, exponential does not mean what you think it means. If fetus-Keanu was really growing exponentially, then he would not have fit into that 42 Long, kay? That said.

The central conceit of the film is that the leaders of Earth are not it's machinating politicians and generals, but the scientists, in their noble, apolitical, altruistic quest for the core truths that give meaning to life and . . . Now this, emphatically, is not what science is. There is very little narrative romance in a system of inquiry, experimentation, and verification through which we can discover and describe natural phenomena. And even if scientists were, each and ever' one of 'em, a little metaphysician, it's still a stretch to say that they represent the leadership of the human race: moral, political, spiritual, or otherwise. Robert Oppenheimer was a cosmopolitan and Renaissance man, as concerned as any scientists with questions of philosophy and morality, but he still built the damn bomb when the generals told him to, and when he later expressed reservations about its use, Harry Truman did not give a flying fuck. We could also engage in a digression here about how the military drives technological innovation.

So there's that. The saintly scientist in his cardigan writing equations on the chalkboard of his lovely home is no more a representative of the human race than the flagellant beating himself bloody with repentance while cloistered in some monastery.

These sorts of misconceptions and miscues aside, the more glaring error, one that is relentlessly perpetuated, is that science is an equivalent religion, that it represents not a regularized system of inquiry but a moral philosophy. Scientists in film are always believing in things. John Cleese tells Jennifer Connelly that she must convince Klaatu to spare the earth "not with your science, but with yourself." I mean, why? Cause that pussy is tight, yo? You can't convince aliens to save the earth because of its brilliant minds struggling to understand the nature of their universe. What convinces them is the love of a white chick for her black stepson and her repeated, teary avowals that we can change--because, apparently, of science, which is a sort of new-agey, pacifistic, high-tech, mutualistic Quakerism. This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine. That sort of junk. The important thing about Jennifer Connelly is not that she knows what sort of bacteria grow on Europa, or whatever, but that she drives a Prius and loves her little black son. The important thing about John Cleese is that he's hospitable, and plays Bach. But if we've been under observation since we started blowing up the Earth circa the Industrial Revolution, wouldn't the aliens have known about Bach already? Couldn't they have just assassinated Thomas Newcomen and and James Watt? Or just popped down back when the whole destroying the Earth thing was getting underway and said, whoa, like, hold up guys. Or do they have a policy of non-interference except when they opt for total destruction?

I said I wouldn't do this. Look, I am a big fan of science, but the perception of a lack of spirito-cultural unity in the West today cannot be remedied by proposing that sexy-chick scientists and ol' perfessers with Brit accents represent the moral core of humanity as priests once did, or whomever. If narrative exigency required that mankind be saved by a weeping woman, they could've kept her a housewife.

I agree with all the above. The whole quote is chock full of one liners.


In lieu of the Purdue species, I thought this was an excellent article because it talks in depth about the problems associated with formal nomenclature, the ICZN,  and the fact that the code and council are very hands off when it comes to upper level taxonomy. This is essentially like scientific anarchy, with the only thing keeping back "taxonomic terrorism" is the peer review process, and sometimes things slip through the cracks (see Olah and Johansen. 2008. Generic review of Hydropsychinae, with description of Schmidopsyche, new genus, 3 new genus clusters, 8 new species groups, 4 new species clades, 12 new species clusters and 62 new species from the Oriental and Afrotropical regions (Trichoptera : Hydropsychidae). Zootaxa 1802.). Theres also the difficulty between evolutionary phylogenetics and phylogenetic systematics (cladistics).

Definitions of taxa are a matter of taxonomy, not of nomenclature. Different taxonomic “schools” use different kinds of definitions of taxa. Nowadays, no taxonomic school claims to be “Linnaean”, i.e., to use “Linnaean” definitions of taxa. There exist no such things as “ICZN-taxa” (Joyce et al. 2004) because the Code does not provide any guideline for defining taxa, being theory-free regarding taxonomy. In current taxonomy, only two kinds of definitions of taxa are widely used: phenetic definitions or diagnoses; and cladistic or “phylogenetic” definitions, or cladognoses (Dubois 2007a: 43).

Esentially there is this split between people who want to modernize and continue using what used to be Linnaean taxonomy in evolutionary phylogenetics, or they want to scrap that system and go to nameless clades in cladistics. They both have uses, though honestly in the insects we are much closer to the truth than the vertebratologists when we use the modified linnaean system. My adviser said this may just be a consequence of insects being around longer, with more of the pieces in the descent chain preserved, while in vertebrates you are missing a massive piece of that chain, the Dinosauria, which gave rise to mammals and birds.

Think for Yourself, Schmuck! / The "Bad Guy" Bias
« on: December 09, 2008, 05:26:17 pm »

    Nations tend to focus far more time, money and attention on tragedies caused by human actions than on the tragedies that cause the greatest amount of human suffering or take the greatest toll in terms of lives. ... In recent years, a large number of psychological experiments have found that when confronted by tragedy, people fall back on certain mental rules of thumb, or heuristics, to guide their moral reasoning. When a tragedy occurs, we instantly ask who or what caused it. When we find a human hand behind the tragedy -- such as terrorists, in the case of the Mumbai attacks -- something clicks in our minds that makes the tragedy seem worse than if it had been caused by an act of nature, disease or even human apathy. ...

    Tragedies, in other words, cause individuals and nations to behave a little like the detectives who populate television murder mystery shows: We spend nearly all our time on the victims of killers and rapists and very little on the victims of car accidents and smoking-related lung cancer. "We think harms of actions are much worse than harms of omission," said Jonathan Baron, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania. "We want to punish those who act and cause harm much more than those who do nothing and cause harm. We have more sympathy for the victims of acts rather than the victims of omission. If you ask how much should victims be compensated, [we feel] victims harmed through actions deserve higher compensation."

Via Overcoming Bias.

Techmology and Scientism / Wastebasket taxa
« on: December 04, 2008, 05:25:26 pm »
Also known as the incertae sedis phenomenon. Incertae sedis is latin for "of unknown placement". When biologists don't know where a particular group or species of organisms should go taxonomically, they label it incertae sedis. Of course, the taxa cant just sit NOWHERE until we figure out where it goes. This leads to the wastebasket taxa, groups where organisms of unknown placement are all thrown together until the phylogeny is a huge mess (and the taxonomy is even WORSE) that needs to be sorted through and cleaned up.

The below blog posts courtesy of Catalogue of Organisms look at two different wastebasket taxa, the Amaurobioidea superfamily of spiders, and the huge order of fishes, Perciformes. I don't know if this would be of interest to anybody here, but I thought I would note it for its taxonomic and systematic relevance. (NSFF&S)

Think for Yourself, Schmuck! / The Process of Sustaining - Emergence
« on: November 30, 2008, 03:55:11 am »
So, I was talking on IRC with Burns and a couple other people last night, and we came around to the topic of things I have written. The Reverse Brainwashing essay was mentioned, and I put in a word for the Unintelligent Design rant I wrote years ago. Both of those things can be found if you search my old B_M_W account.

One thing that people here have not seen is The Process of Sustaining, and upon hearing about it and reading it, several people urged me to post it on the forums, as well as write a new chapter to address emergence.

The Process was written 2 years ago, in June 2006. I was at a Natural Resources camp in Wisconsin, doing some coursework that needed to be finished before heading off to Europe for 6 weeks later that summer. Here I was in a forest setting, sleeping in cabins near a beautiful clear lake, learning about forestry, wildlife biology, ecology and other topics. It was the perfect setting for some transcendent thinking. I can still clearly remember the SMELL of those cabins, and when I do it makes me shiver, makes me want to go back, the memory is so comfortable.

One night I was sitting on the computer in the main lodge, talking to LHX and procrastinating on sleep. The doors were open, and a cool breeze was drifting in from the lake. I could hear a loon calling, and if you have ever heard a loon you know just how soul reaching and haunting its song can be. I can't remember what X and I were talking about, but suddenly I was in a moment of perfect clarity, and I just started....well, talking perfect truth. I was talking about Taking and Giving and energy transfer from feeding and sustenance and....I was in the zone. X lead me on till I was exausted and crying with joy.

The next morning I woke up and wrote this in one sitting. It is the closest thing I have to religion, and with the additions I am soon going to make it is the closest thing I know of to divinity in this universe.


Discordian Recipes / Thanksgiving stew.
« on: November 28, 2008, 05:42:14 pm »
So, since I had no where to go yesterday, I made a thanksgiving stew. Its simple. Also, just increase the veggies and meat if you want more, but this meal is for one.

A package of precut stewing beef. Perfect sized for this.
Clove or two of garlic, minced
A smallish sweet onion, minced
two carrots, peeled and cubed
Celery (to your liking) cubed
mushrooms cubed
some salsa (tomato salsa, not verde)
olive oil

1 bay leaf
black pepper
cayenne pepper
kosher salt

Brown the meat in the saucepan with the olive oil, onions and garlic. Add the vegetables and spices with water. I put in some leftover salsa and it turned out awesome. Simmer the SOAB for 2 hours. The broth should be rich and flavorful. Make sure to remove the bayleaf before eating.

It serves well in a bowl, because the broth is like a soup. You could probably add cubed potatoes too, or peas.

Aneristic Illusions / Reading I Don't Believe In Athiests right now.
« on: November 25, 2008, 04:41:19 pm »
Chris Hedges is also the author of American Fascists: Christian Right and the War on America. In this book, he is arguing something that I have thought for a while now, that the new athiests are religions fundamentalists in many ways. I'm reminded of Dawkins' "Brights". In the introduction he asks the reader to reject the 'utopian' visions that fundamentalists of all types share, and face the coming reality.

I find myself deeply interested in the works of a person who can argue against both Christian and atheist fundamentalism. It shows deeper intelligence than most people display, and mirrors many of my own beliefs.

Literate Chaotic / I just saw 48 Laws of Power in the bookstore.
« on: November 06, 2008, 08:27:44 pm »
I need to read it now, after I finish The Selfish Gene, of course.

The contents make me feel both wise and dirty.

Techmology and Scientism / I'm reading The Selfish Gene right now.
« on: November 04, 2008, 08:41:12 pm »
For a long time I put off reading this book because I hate HATE Dawkins' "Brights", I despise them as much as I do fundies of any religion. However, the book has some good ideas in it.

The main premise of the book is that biology, and organisms, are protective structures for modern forms of the original replicators, now DNA. The whole reason for everything extra to that replication process is facilitation of the replication, all the way up to human behavior.

Now, I'm not sure I agree completely with his main premise, mostly because I'm so tired of how far some athiest idiots take this. However, Dawkins makes it clear that the selfishness of our genes should NOT be any basis for morality. It is important to be aware of the latent selfishness so you can correct for it.

Thats about all I've gotten out of it so far but I am only a 4th of the way through.

Techmology and Scientism / Revision of ICZN - Electronic Publication
« on: November 03, 2008, 06:16:02 pm »

I just received this from my professor. Its pretty exciting for taxonomists, because this revision of the International Code of Zoologic Nomenclature (ICZN) will allow for names published in electronic formats to be recognized.

Meaning: Low cost, paperless publication of new species descriptions. This is especially important in invertebratology, and entomology, where new species are being described all the time. Making it easier to publish new species descriptions by allowing electronic format will hopefully mean that more new species descriptions will be published. Many times, its a matter of cost, time, and effort for someone to publish a new species, especially for third world areas of the globe. As you know, I had been working on a new species till I realized how little time I have and how much work it is.

Furthermore, the electronic publishing of new species means A) instantaneous knowlege of the new species across the world and B) easy dissemination of the new species information. If you look at the nomenclatural background information of many older species, they have a long long list of synonyms after the currently recognized name. Those are all previous descriptions and changes in taxonomy, often because people working on the same organism across the world were unable to communicate. Since the onset of the internet, this confusion does not happen much anymore (thank fuck).

This is all good stuff for taxonomists, and no, it doesn't remove the peer review process, just makes the actual publishing process easier. Journals like Zootaxa are trying to go almost completely electronic (for good reason), and this will help.

Think for Yourself, Schmuck! / What is Chi?
« on: October 26, 2008, 04:18:00 pm »
I don't know if we've ever had a thread about this on here, but I thought I might bring it up because of the very different filters that other people have around here, different perspectives and different ideas.

So what is Chi? Is it actual manipulation of internal energy? Is it some sort of psychosomatic effect? Something is going on when I visualize chi manipulation and while I'm going with psychosomatic right now, I would like to hear other peoples opinions about it. There also seems to be some deep health benefits of the sustained practice of Chi Gung, what is that from? I hear stories about older people, well into their 70s, who were once in poor health and after several months of chi gung practice have recovered from intense arthritis, and so on.

Techmology and Scientism / Kai's research thread/caddisfly geekout
« on: October 22, 2008, 11:35:40 pm »
(Formerly Known as "I just discovered a new species today.")


From a conversation with the author of The Big Necessity: the unmentionable world of human waste and why it matters (bolding for emphasis)

  You found in your research there's no single solution. Why not?

    The answer is not that everybody should have a sewer or everyone should have a toilet. That is simply impractical, and most countries can't afford it. Culturally, in sanitation, we're very different around the world. People have different attitudes to hygiene and toilets. Some countries are fecal-phobic and some countries are not. China is quite at home with excrement, and uses it as fertilizer, whereas Indians are not. They're quite averse to any use of human waste.

    In Benin, Africa, some very interesting research was done into what would make people buy a latrine. Mothers, who didn't have a latrine, could see that their kids were getting sick every week with diarrhea. They were spending money on medicine, and their kids weren't going to school, but they still wouldn't buy a latrine.

    An academic named Mimi Jenkins discovered that the biggest incentive for someone to buy a latrine in Benin was to feel royal, because the royal family had one. It was a question of pride and status, it wasn't about health. Health messages never work, because nobody wants to be nagged, even when they've got the evidence in front of them.

    So telling people, "This is where the cholera is coming from," doesn't have as much impact as appealing to their pride?

    Exactly. It's what I call the "doctors who smoke" understanding of people. Doctors who smoke know it's bad for them, yet they still do it. What a lot of sanitation activists are saying is that we have to make people want toilets. It has to be something they aspire to and desire.

    Isn't part of that incentive making defecating in the outdoors unappealing?

    Yeah, and there's a very interesting movement going on in many developing countries, including India, Cambodia and Bangladesh, called Community Led Total Sanitation. It appeals to people's sense of disgust.

    A few visitors will go to a village, and the villagers will want to show off their village to the guests. They'll take them around the village, and then at the end of the tour, the visitors will say, "Well, yes, that's nice, but can we see your open defecation grounds?"

    Because they're polite, the villagers will take them there. The technique is to make people stand there and confront it, to not be able to turn away from the fact that they're shitting in the open, and that their kids are tramping it back into the village, and that they're all eating it. Someone calculated that people in villages who are doing open defecation are probably ingesting 10 grams of shit a day. That's pretty disgusting.

    People will run off and dig latrines. Once the whole village is cleaned up, nobody will want to be the dirty person in the village. And once the village is cleaned up, the clean village will be in competition with the next village, and that village will want to clean up. It's a chain reaction.

Found via Overcoming Bias


Just an interesting blog article from Overcoming Bias on lying and scales of lying.

Discordian Recipes / I now have a 12 qt. slow cooker
« on: October 16, 2008, 05:37:27 pm »
AKA a pot of crock. My parents keep sending these kitchen appliances. I think it is a hint I need to eat more. I am grateful, its a rather cool beast.

However, I don't have the slightest clue what I should cook in it. I know the general stuff that can be cooked in it, but I don't know what to make.


Pages: 1 ... 17 18 19 [20] 21