Archive for February, 2012

No Offense

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

intended, but this post by Daniel Finke seems to me to be so wrong on so many counts that it deserves demands a rebuttal.

Abortion Discussion at Briggs' Place

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

This post (from a source I find sometimes interesting but often wrong) appears to take the simplistic (but common) position that the state of personhood which defines murder is discrete In addition to agreeing with commenter Alex Heyworth that “logical consistency is not a necessary condition for moral codes, nor even a common one”, I would […]

A Bayesian Paradox ?

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

William M. Briggs post The Jeffreys-Lindley Paradox Isn’t refers to this article at Science2.0 by Tommaso Dorigo Ina  sense both seem to be saying the same thing but perhaps for different reasons. Dorigo concludes that there is no paradox because the two approaches are answering different questions - which is certainly the case from the […]

On Life Eternal

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

Albert Einstein: "I cannot conceive of a god who rewards and punishes his creatures or has a will of the kind that we experience in ourselves. Neither can I—nor would I want to—conceive of an individual that survives his physical death. Let feeble souls, from fear for absurd egotism, cherish such thoughts. I am satisfied […]

The Secret Life of Bees

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

This article in  Smithsonian Magazine is not about the novel but is a nice clear exposition of a simple experiment designed to expose the process by which a swarm "decides" on where to locate its next hive. Human democracy is a wonderful thing but it will never match the efficiency of bees. The bees (and neurons) […]

Upper Class People More Likely to Cheat

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

Despite the self serving concept of  "noblesse oblige",  this report (which came to me via 3QuarksDaily) shouldn't really be too surprising. The title phrase "more likely to" doesn't really suggest causation in either direction, but I suspect that it does actually work in both. 3QD commenter Jason Bosch points out that cheating (being the "defector" in a […]

"Race Finished" declares American Scientist

Monday, February 27th, 2012

This article at American Scientist was evidently not written in response to my Mythical Myth #3. Indeed, it exemplifies the unfortunate tendency of well-intentioned people whom I would like to agree with to sabotage their own position by overstating the case and reacting to anything we don't like by denying that it exists. Anyone who […]

Not so Selfish

Saturday, February 25th, 2012

3quarksdaily  excerpts from Peter Richerson's  review in Nature of Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis's A Cooperative Species: Human Reciprocity and its Evolution. They also link to a more critical view put forward by Michael Price in Evolutionary Psychology.

Animal Understanding of Animal Understanding

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

Colin Allen (in American Scientist) reviews a book by Robert Lurz which takes what I am inclined to call a typical philosopher's miss-take on the issue. Apparently Lurz notes that an animal's responses to another animal's looking at food through a chink in the fence could, in principle, be just an instinctive response to the looking […]

Silly Questions?

Friday, February 17th, 2012

Statistical pundit William M. Briggs has written a piece for 'Significance' on Why Do Statisticians Answer Silly Questions That No One Ever Asks?. Briggs is right to object to instances where statisticians (or more often users of statistics) respond to silly questions with the answers to different (and often equally silly) ones without making it clear […]

Who's Doing Bad Statistics?

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

Phil Plait, at Discover Magazine, objected to an article in the Wall Street Journal where a number of climate change skeptics claimed, among other things, that the last decade has seen no global warming. Plait asserted that this amounts to "blatantly misinterpreting long term trends, instead wearing blinders and only looking at year-to-year variations in temperature" and reproduced […]

Social and Biological Construction(s) of Race

Monday, February 13th, 2012

This article by Razib Khan at Discover Magazine makes an important distinction which relates to my earlier post on the same topic (Mythical Myth #3). The fact that the strength of a concept can be widely misunderstood does not mean that it has no basis in fact, and to deny that it exists at all (when […]

Contraceptive Coverage in US Health Care Plans

Friday, February 10th, 2012

The fact that, in the USA, having decent basic health insurance for all is dependent on some funny scheme involving employers is something that most of the “civilized” world finds hard to understand. But given that it is so dependent, thinking about the cost impact of paying for contraception as opposed to the alternative raises […]

Will it "Take"?

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

These messages are not new but maybe there's  now at least a chance that they'll rise in volume sufficiently to overhwelm the mainstream censors: 3quarksdaily links to Why economic inequality leads to collapse and David Brin has some good words about the distinction between investment and rent seeking.

Time Series

Sunday, February 5th, 2012

William M. Briggs, a climate change skeptic who has been in a recent running battle with the other side ever since getting a podium at the Wall Street Journal is having a go at clarifying his position on Time Series. In Let’s Try This Time Series Thing Again: Part I, Briggs starts with the idea of such […]


Friday, February 3rd, 2012

This confession came to my attention via Michael Geist. Coincidentally this came at the same time via 3QuarksDaily, and I was also pleased to see that Neil Young has joined those who see the excessive criminalization of media sharing (and especially of  private copying) as ill advised. Personally I am not a big user of commercial […]

Mythical Myths #17: Humans radiate proportionately more than the Sun

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012

Sometimes a statement which is perfectly true is called a myth on the basis of a misstatement. A case in point is "Bad astronomer" Phil Plait's treatment of the statement in the above title in the post at  Q&BA: Pound for pound, are humans hotter than the Sun? | Bad Astronomy | Discover Magazine. The […]