View 833 Thursday, July 17, 2014
“Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency.”
President Barack Obama, January 31, 2009
If a foreign government had imposed this system of education on the United States, we would rightfully consider it an act of war.
Glenn T. Seaborg, National Commission on Education, 1983
Today is our wedding anniversary. Our 50th was a few years ago, during the time I was still recovering from the radiation sickness I got from the 50,000 rads of hard x-rays that did in fact cure my brain cancer.
There’s a war going on…
A Malaysian Air jet was shot down over eastern Ukraine killing all 295 people on board, with the government in Kiev blaming pro-Russian rebels. The separatists denied the accusation.
The Boeing 777 flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was hit by a missile and went down near the eastern town of Torez, about 30 kilometers (18 miles) from the Russian border, Ukraine’s Interior Ministry said.
The plane crashed in the main battleground of Ukraine’s civil war and is one of a number to have been downed in the region in the past month. Russian President Vladimir Putin, who’s returning to Moscow from a visit to South America, has repeatedly denied his nation is involved in the insurgency. The U.S. said this week that the rebels are getting weapons from Russia and tightened sanctions against it yesterday.
As of Noon today, Russia says it didn’t happen over Russian territory, and Russia had nothing to do with it. Ukraine says they didn’t do it. The Ukrainian separatists say “We don’t have the capability to shoot things down at 33,000 feet. It fell in our territory and we have the black boxes. We have not opened them and we are turning them over to the Russians.”
I don’t usually get involved in breaking news, but this is intriguing. I believe the separatists: they wouldn’t have missiles with that capability unless the Russians gave them and the Russians would have to send some technical advisors too; it’s just not likely. Russia almost certainly did not order the intercept as a matter of policy, but a Russian air defense officer might have seen the aircraft coming and ordered an intercept. Time is short in these situations. I don’t know the level of alert Russian Air Defense is on now, but I’d have thought scrambling an intercept would be more likely than firing a missile. And I can’t think of a good motive for the Ukrainians to have shot down a Malaysian airliner.
The area is on the international warning system as a war zone to be avoided.
One of the passengers on the flight send a message just before departure: it was a picture of the airplane and a tag saying this is what the plane looks like just in case it goes missing…
While we are thinking about that part of the world:
The article should be required reading everywhere.
Those were serious times. Tyrants often cut off the heads of the tallest poppies; it’s one of the side effects of tyranny. Augustus was secure enough that he could give commands and missions to highly competent officers and not fear that they would march on Rome to replace him. Claudius worked to try to regularize the Imperial civil service and not be so dependent on the Army. He was followed by Nero…
The Peer Review Scandal
A quick and easy fix to the peer review scandal could be a simple attitude adjustment in the scientific community. Science must be published or it is useless to all. Science is also going to vary in quality and accuracy even if all parties to the process are being as careful and honest as is possible — it is a human enterprise after all and Nature can be subtle, providing false positive and false negative results under the best of conditions and efforts.
Replication of experiments is therefore highly important to the process, and this is where the attitude adjustment comes into play: publish your results, perish if not enough of them are replicated. On the funding side, fund the principle research, but automatically budget the money for replication research. Additional funding for a researcher will depend upon the quality of the researcher’s work judged by a high replication rate.
Further, a ‘major’ result cannot be declared until the result is replicated. Until then, it is an ‘important’ or ‘interesting’ result of no merit beyond being moved to the head of the replication priority list. Accolades and awards will need to be re-thought as well in order to recognize the importance of replication and reward the efforts of the replication researchers.
Some of the problems with this approach are that it will take a while to make the change, as funding for replication has been light and most work does not get replicated for failure to even try. Also, many results may take years to replicate as the original research may take years to carry out. This can be dealt with the way high-energy physics research is done: build replication into the original experimental setup. Such work deserves two independent teams working simultaneously using different but complimentary methods and results are claimed only if both teams reach the same conclusions. Additionally, some results are important enough to deserve multiple replications.
Science is a large and complex enterprise of immense import to humanity. It is import that it work and work properly and we must be careful not to break science in our efforts to fix it. Changing attitudes to put an appropriate emphasis on replication may well be a simple and effective fix, enhancing science without breaking it.
That might work but I wouldn’t call implementing it quick and easy. One problem is that there is a lot of useless ‘research’ funding: the topic might be useful or interesting, but there the people the money goes to aren’t talented. They might be capable of duplicating someone else’s work – confirming results – but that doesn’t get you on tenure track. And of course the voodoo sciences have to be ‘equal’ with the real sciences, and get lots of money for studies of hermeneutic convergences in James Joyce and e e cummings.
It’s the attitude changes that are tough. There was a time when academics weren’t paid huge salaries and benefits; they wore leather patches on the elbows of their tweed jackets, and lived quite modestly. But that was long ago. Now there’s all that money flowing from the student loans and it has to go somewhere…
Congress says: Americans Too Stupid for GMO Labels
I like to keep an eye on the leftist news; sometimes it’s worth my time. The Huffington Post seems to report more on Kim Kardashian’s butt than it does on anything else. Would you believe, I’d never even heard of Kim Kardashian until she kept popping up in the "Huff Post"
twitter feed? But, every so often, they produce a real story:
It’s pretty rare that members of Congress and all the witnesses they’ve called will declare out loud that Americans are just too ignorant to be given a piece of information, but that was a key conclusion of a session of the House Agriculture Committee this week.
The issue was genetically modified organisms, or GMOs as they’re often known in the food industry. And members of the subcommittee on Horticulture, Research, Biotechnology, and Foreign Agriculture, as well as their four experts, agreed that the genetic engineering of food crops has been a thorough success responsible for feeding the hungry, improving nutrition and reducing the use of pesticides.
People who oppose GMOs or want them labeled so that consumers can know what they’re eating are alarmists who thrive on fear and ignorance, the panel agreed. Labeling GMO foods would only stoke those fears, and harm a beneficial thing, so it should not be allowed, the lawmakers and witnesses agreed.
And, as if saying that Americans are too stupid to handle GMO labels wasn’t enough, matters take an Orwellian twist:
The issue may soon gain fresh relevance on Capitol Hill, where a measure backed by Reps. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) and G.K. Butterfield
(D-N.C.) to stop states from requiring GMO labeling could get marked up as early as September. The bill also would allow genetically engineered food to be labeled "100 percent natural."
Yes, it’s all making sense to me now.. Labeling the food as "100 percent natural" will let those who know avoid GMO while those who do not know will consume it. In fact, people might avoid non-GMO foods thinking those are not natural. It’s a bit of a sick joke, but it’s publicly invisible and privately recognizable while subject to the pact of law.
Joshua Jordan, KSC
An interesting interpretation. My own view is that the one thing the government ought to be doing is enforcing truth in advertising. I don’t care if you buy snake oil, but it is fraud if I sell you Wesson Oil and tell you I squeezed it out of a snake…
Another reason I don’t Facebook: I’d never do anything else. My wife follows Facebook including my daughter’s page, on which was posted today something fascinating: a Great Blue Heron, on what looks like a golf fairway: a large well mowed level grass field, no body of water in sight, nothing around but this big bird walking slowly across the lawn, clearly stalking something. Slowly he advances. Then stops. Assumes the pose they take when fishing, absolutely still, neck cocked back, beak aimed a foot or so in front of his feet. Stands that way for about half a minute. Then strikes. Out of a previously unseen hole in the ground comes beak and struggling gopher. Bird shakes gopher, finally bangs is on the ground several times. Gopher is still. Bird tosses gopher and catches it by the head, aims beak at the sky, and swallows gopher whole.
Of course he’d have to swallow the gopher whole, just as he does fish. He hasn’t got any teeth. But this was no accidental find. That bird knew precisely where he was going and watched that hole until he saw the gopher, and grabbed it. I once saw Sasha, the Siberian Husky we had previous to our last dog Sable, do that with a gopher up on the hill above us, but one expects wolf dogs to do that sort of thing, and Huskies can be very still, alert, and patient when they want to be; and of course you expect herons to be alert and patient when fishing, but I never saw one hunt a gopher before. Anyway, it was fascinating, and another reason I think I have to avoid Facebook…
Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free.