Category Archive 'Science'
01 Aug 2021
New research indicates that some stained glass windows from Canterbury Cathedral may be among the oldest in the world.
The panels, depicting the Ancestors of Christ, have been re-dated using a new, non-destructive technique.
The analysis indicates that some of them may date back to the mid-1100s.
The windows would therefore have been in place when the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket, was killed at the cathedral in 1170.
10 Jun 2021
Leighton Woodhouse points out the intrinsic irony of calls for “Faith in Science.”
In The Revolt of the Public, Martin Gurri traces the exalted status of the modern scientist to the mythical figure of the early twentieth century renegade scientific genius, embodied most famously by Albert Einstein. Einstein, Gurri reminds us, was hardly a creature of the academy. He nearly dropped out of high school, and when he began publishing his scientific insights he was working not at a university but at the patent office. But Einstein’s singular genius, combined with his tenacious devotion to The Truth, made him first the equal and then the superior of every credentialed academic in the world. Like Copernicus, the intrepidness of Einstein’s spirit and the independence of his mind elevated him above the banal muck of human affairs, bringing him a step closer to the gods of nature.
This mythological image, Gurri writes, remains the template for our popular conception of the professional scientist. But the myth is wildly at odds with the reality of what science is today.
The modern scientific research industry is like a cross between a giant perpetual motion machine and a game of musical chairs. Scientific research is underwritten, in large part, by a steady stream of government funding. To keep the lights on in their labs, scientists need to tap into that stream. They do so by designing research projects that conform to whatever the government prioritizes at any particular moment. If, for instance, there was just a major terrorist attack and Congress was concerned about the threat of bioterrorism, scientific research that related to that concern would be likely to be fast tracked for funding, so it may be a good time for a savvy principal investigator to start pitching projects aimed at developing vaccines for bioengineered pathogens. The successful scientist is the one who is particularly adept at writing fundable grant applications pegged to some politically salient research objective, and then generating laboratory results that make some sort of incremental progress toward that objective to justify a renewal of that grant funding in the next cycle.
The modern professional scientist is thus less like Albert Einstein than like his co-workers at the patent office. He is a bureaucrat, albeit a highly technical one. His goal is, to be sure, to seek The Truth, but only within the very narrow parameters of what other bureaucrats and politicians have deemed to be questions worth asking.
Anthony Fauci is the Platonic form of the scientist-technician-bureaucrat, which is why he has held his position as one of the top scientists in the nation for decades and through multiple administrations. As a creature of both science and politics, he has made himself indispensable as an interface between the two worlds and as the individual best positioned to mold the former to suit the needs of the latter. After 9/11, he transformed NIH into the agency at the front line of defending America against the imminent threat of jihadis armed with weaponized plague viruses. He championed “gain-of-function” research, which essentially meant building those superviruses before the terrorists did, the better to find vaccines for them. And once the Islamic terrorist threat faded a bit from our collective memory, he re-tooled this heftily-funded research into humanity’s front line of defense against Mother Nature, “the worst bioterrorist.” Unfortunately for Fauci, in the process, he may have — oops! — created one of the biggest pandemics in human history. …
At every such juncture, we’ve been admonished to “believe the science.” But this is not science; it’s politics. Science demands a reflexive posture of skepticism toward received wisdom, tempered by trust in empirical evidence. Bowing habitually to expert authority on the strength of titles and credentials is the antithesis of the scientific mindset. It is precisely what Democrats adopted the “party of science” moniker to reject: willful obedience to those who hold cultural and political power.
02 Nov 2020
Pasha Kamyshev (Pierson 2009) correctly observes that politicization of Science and arguments consisting only of appeals to credentialed authority have widely underminded respect for experts and what purports to be science.
My current view is that large numbers of fields which are considered â€œscientificâ€ in the West are a complete mess and lack the essential feature of what it means to be a science in the first place. …
Big Tech has fully bought into the frame of â€œexpertsâ€ vs â€œlaypeopleâ€ as if experts are always â€œcorrectâ€ and laypeople are â€œwrong,â€ (unless they are repeating a statement by the experts).
If the laypeople are â€œwrong,â€ then there has been a massive failure of education to produce correct models for people to use for home reasoning. Obviously, the default answer for many people is to simply pour more money into education. But we lack understanding of what science and science education even are. Science is meant to produce world models, and education is supposed to impart them to everyone else. Neither is doing this, really, and what we have in place of those instructions is one large uncanny valley of ever-changing statement production. …
I have heard stories of professors at Yale in one department being mad about professors in another department teaching p-hacking to students. Inter- and intra-discipline fights are common, which isnâ€™t necessarily a bad thing as long as the overall combined output of the field is correlated with reality. However, the journalistic tendency to signal boost any paper that can have political impact amplifies some fights over others, further screwing up an already shaky system.
So right now science is losing its status among the general population. It is also losing status among those who can actually read statistics. This is both horrifying and encouraging. Without a structured way to sift actual reality into social reality, the social reality will diverge from reality, with further and further breakdown of health and sanity for society.
04 Aug 2020
Red ants: step on them before they get out of control.
The College Fix:
Slavemaker ant. Gypsy moth. Rape bug.
These are just three common English names listed in a spreadsheet of 60 plants and animals that have been recently deemed by some academics to have â€œproblematicâ€ monikers.
Herpetologist and University of Arizona Ph.D. candidate Earyn McGee, a science communicator and lizard enthusiast who runs a popular Twitter profile on her reptile expeditions, told The College Fix when asked about the spreadsheet that â€œThere is no room for racism in science.â€
There needs to be honesty about the history of natural resources management and environmentalism in the country, she said, adding there â€œis no reason to honor racist people or racial slurs by naming animals after them.â€
As the American Association for the Advancement of Science reports, the list was inspired â€œamid protests against racism,â€ and notes graduate students from around the world contributed to the spreadsheet. It currently lists 60 organisms. (See here and here).
Contributors to the spreadsheet list the organismâ€™s scientific and common names, as well as its kingdom, phylum, class, and order, along with comments in some cases meant to explain why either the common name, or in some cases the scientific name, is offensive or problematic.
Three species in the spreadsheet have the word â€œHottentotâ€ in their common names and the Latinized form hottentatus in their scientific names. According to one contributor, â€œHottentot is a racial slur used by white people, directed towards indigenous Africans, during apartheid.â€
Setophaga townsendi, a species of bird commonly known as Townsendâ€™s Warbler, also appears on the list. The commenter notes only, â€œJohn Townsend was terrible.â€
John Kirk Townsend was an ornithologist who studied bird species in Oregon. He would often rely on Native Americans to capture his specimens. During his studies, he would describe cultural differences and steal skulls from Indian graves.
The Immigrant Acacia Weevil is also on the list. The note reads, â€œRelated to pest species; can occasionally be a pest. Not really comfortable exterminating something with the word â€˜immigrantâ€™ in the name.â€
Other offensive animal names include the Large Faggotworm, although the f-word in this case refers to its definition as a bundle of sticks or twigs bound together as fuel.
Also on the list is a type of shield bug called the Rape Bug, as well as the Oriental Rat Flea, a vector for the bubonic plague, which infects rodents. None of these contributors offer additional notes.
While some could arguably be the result of over-thinking or over-sensitivity, others contain serious racial slurs. For example, Maihueniopsis clavarioides is also called the â€œN***** Finger.â€ Another, Orsotriaena medus, a dark-colored butterfly, is commonly known as just â€œthe N*****,â€ according to one student. …
McGee told The College Fix that she hopes to see a change to the name of Yarrowâ€™s Spiny Lizard, which she studies in her field. H. C. Yarrow was a herpetologist who served in the Union Army during the Civil War. But McGee said he was also a eugenicist.
â€œThere is no amount of scientific contributions that can make unabashed racism and bigotry ok,â€ she said. …
Another graduate student who has undertaken a similar campaign is Taylor Tai of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Tai successfully petitioned the Entomological Society of America to change the name of its annual Linnaean Games, a quiz-bowl-style trivia competition named after Carl Linnaeus.
Known as the Father of Taxonomy, Linnaeus paved the way for the current system of scientific classification. At the same time, the American Association for the Advancement of Science reports he also classified humans (Homo sapiens) based on race, assigning â€œnegative aspectsâ€ to people of color.
Tai refused to make a direct comment â€œ[b]ecause The College Fixâ€™s conservative perspective is incompatible with racial justice at its foundation.â€
She did, however, refer to a letter which she and other UW students sent to Entomological Society of America. The letter catalogs Linnaeusâ€™ system of racial classification.
â€œLinnaeus characterized the white Homo sapiens europaeus as wise, lawful, and gentle, while dehumanizing Indigenous (red Homo sapiens americanus), African (black Homo sapiens afer), and Asian (yellow Homo sapiens asiaticus) people with degrading descriptors like â€˜obstinate,â€™ â€˜haughty,â€™ â€˜covetous,â€™ â€˜crafty,â€™ â€˜indolent,â€™ â€˜lazy,â€™ â€˜lusty,â€™ and â€˜careless,â€™â€ Tai writes.
Tai also mentions that Linnaeus described disabled people as â€œHomo sapiens monstrosus.â€
19 Apr 2020
The Atlantic has news about an interesting new approach to DNA study.
The York Gospels were assembled more than a thousand years ago. Bound in leather, illustrated, and illuminated, the book contains the four gospels of the Bible as well as land records and oaths taken by clergymen who read, rubbed, and kissed its pages over centuries. The Archbishops of York still swear their oaths on this book.
The York Gospels are also, quite literally, a bunch of old cow and sheep skins. Skin has DNA, and DNA has its own story to tell.
A group of archaeologists and geneticists in the United Kingdom have now analyzed the remarkably rich DNA reservoir of the York Gospels. They found DNA from humans who swore oaths on its pages and from bacteria likely originating on the hands and mouths of those humans. Best of all though, they found 1,000-year-old DNA from the cows and sheep whose skin became the parchment on which the book is written.
Remarkably, the authors say they extracted all this DNA without destroying even a tiny piece of parchment. All they needed were the crumbs from rubbing the book with erasers, which conservationists routinely use to clean manuscripts. The authors report their findings in a preprint that, as of this article’s publication, has not yet been peer-reviewed, though they plan to submit it to a scientific journal.
If their technique works, it could revolutionize the use of parchment to study history. Every one of these books is a herd of animals. Using DNA, researchers might track how a disease changed the makeup of a herd or how the skin of sheep from one region moved to another medieval trade routes. Itâ€™s part of a growing movement to bring together scholars in the sciences and humanities to study medieval manuscripts.
Scientists have extracted DNA from parchment before, but this non-destructive technique expands the potential pool of research material. Archivists are loathe to allow researchers to cut off a piece of, say, the York Gospels, but some eraser crumbs? Sure. â€œThatâ€™s why itâ€™s such an exciting breakthrough. It allows a lot of different manuscripts from a lot of different areas to be analyzed together,â€ says Bruce Holsinger, an English professor at the University of Virginia who is writing a book about parchment.
The idea to study parchment came to Matthew Collins, an archaeologist at the University of York, after a failed study in bones. A few years ago, he had a graduate student trying to extract ancient DNA from animal bones at an old Viking settlement. There were thousands of bones on the site, but only six that they tested yielded DNAâ€”too few for any statistically significant results. â€œYou can imagine the frustration,â€ says Collins.
So Collins got to thinking about archives full of old manuscripts. â€œYou look at these shelves, and every one of them has a skin of an animal with a date written on it,â€ he says. Suddenly you have thousands of animals. And you didnâ€™t even need to go out into the field and dig.
23 Mar 2020
Harvard2thebighouse takes on Nature magazine’s claim that the Wuhan Virus could not possibly have been deliberately manufactured in a Communist Chinese Biological Weapons Laboratory.
Maybe you shouldnâ€™t blindly believe everything you read? Even if the source has a pretty solid reputation?
Nature magazine has censored over 1,000 articles at the request of the Chinese government over the past several years. And it seems pretty clear that their recent article, â€œThe proximal origin of SARS-CoV-2â€ is just one more example of their influence. China bought off the head of Harvardâ€™s chemistry department, you donâ€™t think they could buy off run-of-the-mill research scientists scrambling for tenure and funding and publication? Itâ€™s absolutely horrific that so many scientists and researchers are taking part in whatâ€™s really clearly a disinformation campaign orchestrated by the Chinese Communist Party, and willfully spreading a smokescreen about something thatâ€™s already killed thousands and is projected to kill millions more across the planet.
And while the mainstream corporate media mindless regurgitates claims from the Chinese government that are falsifiable with the simplest of google searches, allowing the public to be lulled into a false sense of security and complacency, and Reddit rapidly censors and moderates anything that might indicate that this virus leaked from a Chinese lab and so the Chinese government is to blame for this pandemic â€“ sites like ZeroHedge, that have been at the forefront of keeping the lines of investigation open, have been banished from Twitter and marginalized.
Detailed rebuttal follows.
HT: Kimball Corson.
22 Jan 2020
Larry Kummer suggests that we stop the silliness and end the Global Warming/Climate Change Debate the right way: with serious science.
Climate models are the center ring of the climate policy debate. Policy-makers need to know that modelsâ€™ forecasts provide a robust basis for policies that will shape the economy and society of 21st century America â€“ and the world.
That requries validation of models by experts. Human nature being what it is, those experts should be unaffiliated with the groups that designed and run the models (an insight from drug effectiveness testing). The cost of such a project would be pocket change compared to its importance.
America has a wealth of people and institutions capable of doing this. The National Academy of Sciences could be the lead agency in a Federal project to validate climate models. They could mobilize experts in the required wide range of fields.
Operational leadership could be provided by the Verification and Validation Committee of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). See their Guide for Verification and Validation in Computational Solid Mechanics, their Standard for Verification and Validation in Computational Fluid Dynamics and Heat Transfer, and An Illustration of the Concepts of Verification and Validation in Computational Solid Mechanics. NOAA and NASA could assist. There are probably other expert groups that could help.
This is the opposite of relying on blogs and academic journals to lead the policy debate (a process that would be considered primitive by a colony of cherrystone clams).
This is the opposite of the IPCCâ€™s methodology. It is focused, not broad. It requires a review of climate models by experts unaffiliated with their creation and operation. It uses proven methods relied upon in science, engineering, and business.
The policy gridlock has consumed scarce political resources for several decades, diverting attention from other severe threats (e.g., destruction of ocean ecosystems). If climate alarmists are correct, the gridlock burns time needed for action. Even if they are wrong, these kinds of hot political debates can put fanatics in power â€“ with horrific consequences.
If implemented, this project will not change the climate. But it could break the gridlock. If it shows that models are reliable guides, it could quickly make effective public policy possible.
Why would we continue to rely on the processes which have failed for so long when there is an obvious, easy, and relatively fast alternative?
14 Jun 2019
Norman Rockwell, 15 Below.
Short answer as to why Americans use Fahrenheit – it's people who want to know the temperature.Fahrenheit is how hot…
Posted by ScienceBlogs on Wednesday, June 12, 2019
Short answer as to why Americans use Fahrenheit – it’s people who want to know the temperature.
Fahrenheit is how hot it feels to humans.
Celsius is how hot it feels to water.
Kelvin is how hot it feels to atoms.
We’re all atoms, we’re all primarily water, but we are human.
03 May 2019
In Science, for a theory to be believed, in must make a new prediction –different from those made by previous theories– for an experiment not yet done. For the experiment to be meaningful, we must be able to get an answer that disagrees with that prediction. When that is the case, we say that a theory is falsifiable –vulnerable to being shown false. The theory also has to be confirmable; it must be possible to verify a new prediction that only this theory makes. Only when a theory has been tested and the results agree with the theory do we advance the theory to the ranks of true theories.
— Lee Smolin
27 Feb 2019
Ol’ Remus points out that Progress has not been progressing in the modern era nearly as much as a lot of people think.
There has been a noticeable lull in theoretical physics for a long while now. Quantum physics today, for example, amounts to experiments and commentary on a theory formulated in the 1920s, a resounding theoretical and technological success but getting long in the tooth. Physicists have been mining it like the Comstock Lode for almost a century, with diminishing returns.
Consider how little is really new. Television, the “modern marvel” that came of age in mid-twentieth century, depended crucially on the cathode ray tube, a device from the closing years of the eighteen hundreds, just another piece of lab equipment used by Victorian era nuclear researchers. Television was a parallel development of the electronic oscilloscope, first examples of which date to 1897.
A NASA engineer estimated that all the technology needed to launch a satellite was in place by the 1920s. The Hubble telescope’s central feature is a reflecting telescope invented in the mid-1600s. Einstein’s theory of special relativity was published in 1905, general relativity came ten years later. The LIGO gravity wave detector is built around a Michelson interferometer, invented in 1887. Electromagnetic particle accelerators were well developed in the 1920s, a concept still in use. The circular cyclotron was invented in 1930 , it’s the basis of the CERN Large Hadron Collider. And on and on.
Science has gone quiescent, and technology is getting drowsy. Consider. The first jet aircraft flew in 1939. Both the F-86 and MiG-15 of Korean War fame first flew in 1947. The Boeing 707 entered service in 1958, sixty one years ago, and it’s the dominant pattern for jet airliners to this day.
Semiautomatic rifles were marketed to civilians in 1903. Mexico issued standard 7×57 semi auto rifles to the infantry in 1910. France issued the 8×50 RSC , another successful semi auto, in 1917. The AR-15 goes back to 1956. The .45 ACP round goes back to 1910, the 9×19 mm to 1902. The first electronic infrared detector-display was invented in 1929 for the British air defense system.
Electronic analog computers were in use in 1939, some aboard US submarines. By 1941 they were programmable. The first digital electronic programmable computer was delivered to Bletchley Park in early 1944. The first transistor appeared in 1947. The marriage was as inevitable as in a 1940s two-hanky movie.
Oldsmobile began selling automobiles in 1897. Electric cars, also first mass marketed in the US in 1897 , were common until the electric starter replaced hand cranking for gasoline powered cars in 1912 and decisively captured the women’s market. GE built its first diesel-electric locomotives in 1918. By the 1930s “diesels” were in general use as yard switchers, were replacing steam in passenger service and in main line heavy freight service beginning in 1939 .
Telephones were in common use by the 1890s . Radio, in its “wireless telegraphy” form, was patented in 1896. AM radio was first demonstrated in 1906, by the 1920s it was a commercial success. Hollywood first screened color and sound-on-film movies commercially in the early 1920s. The first color television was demonstrated in 1928, the first all electronic color television in 1940. Even the current gee-whiz technological darling, the laser, was first demonstrated in 1960.
We’ve been cannibalizing the past for six or seven decades, combining this ‘n that, or developing existing stuff to the nth degree and calling it good. Where are the real breakthroughs today? In physics we’re reduced to reading of parallel universes and wormholes and hidden dimensions and “the universe as hologram” on the basis of little more evidence than a competent science fiction writer could conjure from public sources. String theory, the serial Lazarus of theoretical physics, has produced little more than string theorists.
You’ll notice physics began atrophying right about the time it became Big Science with grants and other government support.
12 May 2018
Kurt Schlichter claims that Science proves that you need a modern semiautomatic, so-called Assault Rifle.
[Y]ou should own, at a minimum, a modern semiautomatic rifle like an AR-15 that is simple to operate, easily accessorized for the individual user, reliable, and rugged. Liberals call these â€œassault rifles,â€ though they are not. Insisting that liberals be accurate when describing what they seek to ban is â€œgunsplaining,â€ a heinous macroaggression that is right up there with assuming someoneâ€™s gender on the Big List Oâ€™ Liberal Sins.
If you don’t agree with me, you clearly hate science. Why do liberals hate science so much?
But it is science â€“ the math is clear that chaos is in the cards, and you better be ready.
Now, if only Kurt will get to work demonstrating the scientific basis for my need for a side-lever Stephen Grant hammergun…