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Dec. 3rd, 2014


Evolutionary Psychology is still bullshit

I think it's normal for humans to be looking for confirmation on our biases.   However, confirmational bias is a known fallacy, and it behooves scientists to be aware of this, rather than merely confirm their biases.    Some biologists are apparently either too lazy or too entrenched in their own baloney to pull their heads out of their asses. 

Nov. 12th, 2014


What I read in November - The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

Sarah and I read the twelve stories in the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to each other out loud.   The characters have this way of talking that can be a bit of a challenge to read outloud, they end up sounding a bit like Yoda.

The stories were fun and I'm pretty sure all of them have been adapted for television, as there were none that were completely unfamiliar.   I liked that some of the stories had no "crime" that the police had to intervene in.   I've always appreciated that Holmes was a champion for the less fortunate and was empathic to the situations poor folks find themselves drawn into.  These stories also have some interesting words that definitely are ancient and/or distinctly British.   Gasogene was just one example, for a seltzer bottle.   

Oct. 29th, 2014


Advice on how to pick up chicks - 1a) Don't call women chicks

There seems to be perpetual anger arising from over-priviledged dinks who feel they have been slighted by women, gamergate is only the latest of these manifestations.  After listening to other women share their experiences on such sites as OkCupid I have some basic advice for the fedora wearing crowd.

1)  Avoid hun or baby when conversing with a potential date.   Some women don't mind, most find it offensive.  Anyone who has reached sexual maturity is not a girl, despite the title on the latest Country Music News.

2) Avoid sexual innuendo when conversing with a woman on a first date/first contact.   If you're on a date you've already made it past the first hurdle, you're already on her radar. If all you do is hint about sex all night she's not going to be impressed.  And you're a complete ass if you think mentioning what you'd like to do to a woman or complimenting their body parts is a worthwhile strategy on a first date/contact.

3) Do tell the potential date something about yourself, and I don't mean the size of your johnson.  Common interests are the lifeblood of a relationship.   Acting interested in what your potential date says is sexy, guys.  If you're only looking for sex there's a class of women you can frequent, they are called prostitutes.  Don't confuse a random person on the internet with a prostitute, they won't be happy.

4) Be a gentleman, not a douchebag.  A gentleman is gracious about rejection and understands that a NO now could become yes later.  Sending any type of message that expresses hostility and/or insults the woman will not make it more likely she will be interested in the future.   Treat your potential date like a human being, not an object of desire.   Only a douchebag touches someone without permission.

5) Advanced strategy for role-players.   On your first date pretend the woman is not a potential girlfriend, but instead is someone's wife or sister that you are merely entertaining for a friend.   You will be more relaxed and won't feel like you have to put on an act to impress her.

Foul language aheadCollapse )

Oct. 27th, 2014


What I read in October - There and Back Again

There and Back Again is nominally a science fiction novel by Pat Murphy, and her imaginary friend Max Merriwell.  What it really is: a retelling of the Hobbit in space.   It's silly and fun, almost seems like an experiment by the author, and turned out so well she decided to have it published.  While Pat got some of the oddity of traveling near the speed of light right, there is also much that is scientifically improbable/impossible.  

However, if you ever were irritated that there are no female characters in the Hobbit, this does fix that, since the majority of the characters are clones of one woman.   Now a more thorough exploration of the idea of a community of clones and the ramifications of being a twin to everyone around you would have been more interesting from a speculative fiction angle.  Ms. Murphy barely scratches the surface here.  And one could also set a whole novel on the planet that stands in for Lake Town, the inhabitants having descended from a mixed group that included clone members.

While entertaining, unless you're a super fan of the Hobbit and want to read everything even remotely related to it there's not enough here for me to recommend it, other than as a pleasant diversion.   On the other hand, perhaps there is value here I'm dismissing, since I've read plenty of novels which where poorly done rewrites of other novels.  This has the charm of the Hobbit and is well written.

May. 12th, 2014


What I read in May - The Happy Atheist

PZ Myers is a cantankerous biologist who has become famous for defending atheism, debating various religious figures and regularly doling out criticism on his blog Pharyngula.    Last I was reading the publishers of a conservative (and free) rag at his university were accusing him of stealing their papers, because some twit thought he smelled something sciency.  Stealing student papers isn't PZ's style, he uses his erudition to criticize the religious to (hopefully) make them think.   Seems like it's conservatives, not wacky liberal biology professors who engage in this type of censorship.

The Happy Atheist is a series of short chapters in which PZ discusses some aspect of religion in regards to atheism.   Parts are scathingly hilarious, others are merely chuckle worthy.    He takes his atheist viewpoint and skewers many sacred cows.  I recommend this book for anyone who is an atheist or anyone who is curious on how atheists view all the religious craziness surrounding them.    PZ does not pull any punches, so if you're easily offended I might recommend skipping this one.   Like him, I don't find coarse language as offensive as the stupidity and justifications that the religious use for their abominable behavior.

The religious are not the only group in PZ's cross-hairs.  He also takes on wishy washy apologists and other scientists who make asses of themselves.   Did you know one scientist thinks God exists in the quantum realm?  Poor Yahweh, he's gone from making the universe to existing in Planck level spaces.   

May. 9th, 2014


Penguicon recap - much fun was had

Went to Penguicon again this year.    Was nice to see some of the same people we see most years in additional to lots of new people.  There was a record amount of participants, apparently they had exceeded all time attendance by Friday afternoon.   I can report lots of attractive women, some in amazing costumes.  

This got really longCollapse )We're considering exploring other Midwestern cons so we have a home base to explore other areas.  Madison and Minnepolis both have interesting conventions, might have to check them out next year.   There needs to be a good fan run con in Florida in February, that would be sweet.

Apr. 11th, 2014


Boost the signal - Sarah article

For those of you who may not have seen this:

Apr. 1st, 2014



I find it sadly amusing so many people are fired up about a tweet (TWEET, for fuck's sake) Stephen Colbert posted.

If we could take all this outrage at Stephen and redirect it at a real asswipe, say someone who's first name rhymes with flush, then it might do some good.   Colbert has consistently "punched up" and I think based on years of behavior in which he mocks conservative commentators we can give him the benefit of a doubt.

Or we can all be ANGRY over a TWEET.  Your choice.

Oct. 21st, 2013


Wii research for replacing sensor bar - using candles right now!

Uses USB connection to power sensor bar

Hack the current sensor bar?

Would need soldering iron for this one.

Soldering iron needed here too.

Quite simple, uses old remote IR LED's.

Cable for component video, will need to check back of media player.

Oct. 16th, 2013


A good example of how science works (evidence vs interpretation)

I was looking up the Carnotaurus based on a TV show I was watching and noted it has characteristics that make it a good example of the limits of scientific knowledge.

Carnotaurus knowledge is based on one specimen found in Argentina.  And check this out, it was inside a hematite concretion.  I didn't know that hematite, a form of iron ore, could be formed by sedimentation.  But it happens around springs and other areas with suspended minerals.  And thanks to the relatively unique preservation of Carnotaurus we also know the texture of its skin!

I couldn't explain how a dinosaur fossil was preserved in iron ore if I didn't know that iron ore can be formed by sedimentation.   Loons probably use this as an example that paleontologists don't know what they are talking about.

Scientists can also make educated guesses on basic morphology of related species, which is the case with Carnotaurus.  This does not rule out revisions based on new fossil evidence.  The more specimens we have of this critter the more accurate our educated guesses become.

There's nothing better than primary evidence, like bones.  Geological stratification is a complex topic,  but while the rocks can be confusing, they don't lie.   Opponents of evolution have only to find fossils in the "wrong" strata to disprove evolution.  Unfortunately for those opponents, over 200 years of paleontology has yet to find this type of inconsistency.

Science is structured to be self-correcting.   Yesterday's Lysenkoism is today's Evopsych and tomorrow's Psychohistory.    Without the controls of peer review and criticism we get stuck with propaganda.

Lysenkoism wasn't science, it was ideology.   Any evidence that refuted Lysenkoism was suppressed.  Eventually the science of genetics was allowed to be practiced in Russia again, because otherwise they'd have continued to fall behind the rest of the world.

Similarly, evolutionary psychology is a current darling among some who enjoy the comfort of its' 1950's version of reality it values above all others.   Evolutionary psychology is a valid subject of study, but in my mind seems to fall in the same field that anthropologists study.

Anthropologists study current and past human civilizations by either direct observation or digging.  Evolutionary psychologists poll college students.  Which of these forms of data would you suspect has more validity?

Evopsychs like twin studies, even though we know much of the twin study data is faulty.  Evopsychs love gender differences, but their research seems to get lost in the static of cultural relativity.  They spend time trying to show that rape is a valid reproductive strategy without considering the ramifications of their research.

Evopsych folks attempt to explain gender and racial differences through evolution.  They then get branded as misanthropes and racists.  Why are we picking on them?  Evidence, or the lack thereof, is the main problem, along with models of behavior.  One of the tasks of a researcher is to illustrate you've ruled out other hypotheses that have better fit for your subject.

So when you start with a hypothesis that men make more money than women because they are more evolutionarily fit, you better do your homework.  By which I mean sifting through the mountains of data collected by anthropologists over centuries.   I'm still not convinced much of what evopsych tells us is inherited isn't just cultural bias.  In fact, it's obvious to many that most evopysch research starts with a cherished opinion and the researcher merely cherry picks evidence to support discredited opinions on the poor, women and minorities.  Social dogma, similar to the religious dogma we see with creationists.

I don't see any evopsych people working closely with primatologists, which to me seems an obvious place to start to tease out cultural versus inherited characteristics.  If I was a department chair I'd challenge the evolutionary psychologists to go back to first principles.  You can't bake a cake without flour.  You can't call youself a scientist when the evidence you claim supports your theories is suspect.   And like that sad lump of material that people try to pass off as gluten free cake*, evopsych isn't well respected.  Something's missing, and all the college student polls in the world aren't going to correct it.

I'll even throw a "bone" to the evopsych folks.  Take a good look at the research that says that women were the primary cave painters.   You've got primary evidence in the form of artist hand impressions.  Just don't go out beyond what your data suggests.   This still doesn't explain gender pay differences, for instance.

* I've had some decent gluten free desserts, just don't call it cake. :)

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