gmonkey42: cartoon Sephiroth (Default)
There was a troll post on ontd_science and it's already baleeted. It's good that the mods are on top of things. But the last time I saw it, there were only 9 comments and three of those were mine; I'm sure it got a lot worse and now I've missed it!

The OP asked us to comment with common misconceptions about science. The first comment was a link to the relevant Wikipedia page (which I didn't know existed until that xkcd strip!). The second comment was mine with a few of my favorites and a humorous quip about each one.

The OP replied that they weren't really looking for common misconceptions held by the general public, but by scientists. And that comment included the word "experts" in scare quotes. This was the first sign that the thread was headed for deletion. Another commenter and I replied briefly to explain that it doesn't really work like that - if experts (or, indeed "experts") disagree over the interpretation of data then yeah, one will turn out to be more right than the other but that doesn't mean the other one has a misconception. That's not what that word means.

Also we both used the phrase "by definition" and my final comment was to give the other explainer an internet high-five for that.

Then the OP replied that in fact there could be experts who cling to misconceptions but true experts will evaluate new information and be willing to change their minds. Yeahhhh, that second one is called "doing science." So the OP is saying there are experts, who actually adhere to the basic principles of science, and then there are "experts" who... don't? but they're still somehow regarded by other scientists, who know them to be wrong, as experts? Whut? The OP was obviously fishing for something but I can't really articulate what it was. Something involving the OP not understanding how science works, I think. Like the goal of science is to assume we know everything about everything and then we write it down in a bunch of big, heavy textbooks and force everyone to believe in it because we think we're smarter than everyone. You're right, OP, scientists should totally stop doing that!

So at that point I left to watch stand-up comedy on YouTube for a while and when I came back, the post was gone.

You know what's cool, though? The way the OP seems to think science works is itself a common misconception!
gmonkey42: a lol!seal saying "O HAI!" (lolseal)

Is that David Tennant narrating? It sounds like him.

I would not like to be the one who has to write the proposal to renew that grant. "We need more money because the bears broke all our cameras."
gmonkey42: cartoon Sephiroth (Default)
From [ profile] ontd_science
A flock of blackbirds - and only blackbirds - drops dead out of the sky
and 125 miles away,
mass deaths of a single species of fish

So it's either the beginning of the End Times or, y'know, a COINCIDENCE.

Except I just read Zombie Survival Guide so I can't help snickering a little.
gmonkey42: cartoon Sephiroth (Judge Turpin)
1. In the winter above the arctic circle, there is no "next morning," it's dark all the time.


I liked the bit with Seth's dad as the narrator, though. That was cute.
gmonkey42: a lol!seal saying "O HAI!" (lolseal)
I would have thought a community about popular science would mostly consist of people who are either actual scientists or interested and reasonably well-informed non-scientists. Nope. It seems like about half the members don't know the first damn thing about science yet insist on arguing with those of us who do.

Case in point: this post about biocentrism, a bogus hypothesis that takes a principle of quantum mechanics, misunderstands it, and tries to use that misinterpretation to prove that human consciousness creates the universe. It's The Secret, basically.

A bunch of us explained why this is bullcrap but some people still think it's worth discussing. Because collective unconscious! Brains generate electromagnetic fields! There's, like, a lot we don't understand about the universe, man!

Congratulations, [ profile] ontd_science members who shall remain nameless, You Fail Science Forever!
gmonkey42: cartoon Sephiroth (Default)
My friends invited me to eat flapjacks then see Harry Potter with them this morning and I was going to go but then yesterday I got an e-mail from one of the scientists I'm going to be working with on my thesis: he asked if I could come in today because he was going to process some samples using the same protocol that I'll need to use for my samples. So I went to the lab.

It was cool! At the end, I got to look at the slides we'd made under the epifluorescent microscope. I saw a Euglena and some amoebas! That's going to be the tricky part, learning to ID all the critters by looking at them under the microscope. I asked if there was a good reference book with pictures of them and he said "NOPE." I'm just going to have to look at known samples and practice a lot.

ALSO I'm going to use the scanning electron microscope to take pictures of some of the stuff I find. WOOO!
gmonkey42: Professor Farnsworth from Futurama (farnsworth)
See, wouldn't my title have been better than "The Shadow Scholar" for this article by an anonymous writer whom students pay to write their papers for them? I saw the link on Pharyngula. It's an interesting read. I was aware that this happened but not that these places actually write entire PhD theses for people. I notice the author doesn't even mention science. They could write review papers, that's easy enough, but I don't see how they could write a thesis based on the student's research. Right? Or maybe the student could throw the data at them and they'd actually do the statistics and interpretation of results for you? I like to think that wouldn't be possible. I hope my work can be distinguished from that of someone who has no expertise in my field and is just paid to write papers on whatever subject comes up, based on what they can find on Wikipedia and Google. I'm not surprised that subjects like Business and Sociology are susceptible to that, but surely not STEM subjects. The author did say they don't do assignments involving math. It bothers me that an instructor probably can't tell the difference between my paper that I spend weeks on and a paper someone's paid to write in two days. Obviously the author of this article is extremely intelligent and hard-working. That softens the blow a little.

Read more... )
gmonkey42: Spock looking like "WTF?" (douchebaggery)
As seen on Feministing: a survey by has been erroneously interpreted to show that the average age at which gay people in Britain come out has fallen by more than 20 years. From the linked page:

The poll, which had 1,536 respondents, found that lesbian, gay and bisexual people aged 60 and over came out at 37 on average. People aged 18 and under are coming out at 15 on average.

Which would be fine EXCEPT there's a huge bias in their sampling: people who are closeted or haven't yet figured out that they're gay are not going to respond to the survey! Therefore people who respond to this survey and are under 18 are guaranteed to have come out at an age below 18! If someone who's not out did take the survey, they would just have to say "I'm not out yet." Which is not a number, you can't use that to calculate the average. It doesn't say how they handled that but I wouldn't be surprised if they just threw out those answers, or never got any of them in the first place. Which makes the entire study worthless.

I believe that the average age has decreased, that as a result of greater public acceptance, people don't have to wait as long and can recognize that they're gay at a younger age. But this survey didn't prove that.
gmonkey42: cartoon Sephiroth (Default)
Sensitivity to social rejection and inflammatory responses to stress

Although I can see a downside to this information being widely disseminated; telling everyone "you can make someone physically sick by being mean to them!" might not have good outcomes, you know? But I hope stuff like this makes people in positions of authority more mindful of how important it is to stop bullying, at all levels - people can be bullies at work just like at school.
gmonkey42: a lol!seal saying "O HAI!" (lolseal)
Read this thread on [ profile] ontd_science. Then read the rest of the comments but read this thread first.

ETA: The comments are less fun now that someone replied to EVERY SINGLE ONE with the same totally unnecessary comment. Other people had already debunked it! Read the other comments before you post one! Or fifty! Oh well.*

You know what? I don't think anyone really 100% believed this. If we really believed all of humanity had six months to live, we'd start acting differently. Not sitting at our computers going "oh no, I'm so scared!" Which is good, of course; if people believed every doomsday prophecy they read on the internet and behaved accordingly, we'd all be in a lot of trouble. It's just annoying. A bunch of LJ users need to get their bullshit meters re-calibrated.

* EagainTA: Aaaaaand they've flounced. LOL.
gmonkey42: cartoon Sephiroth (Default)
[Error: unknown template qotd]Pretty concerned. It's never as bad as the worst predictions (see: overpopulation) but it'll still be pretty bad. And the fact that it's (maybe) coinciding with peak oil makes things worse. We're going to start having more problems with producing enough food for everyone.

It's unfortunate that human nature is to wait until it's already a crisis before we start taking the problem seriously. The economic arguments against renewable energy and reduction of carbon emissions are ridiculous. We've built our economy to be so focused on ultra-short-term gains that too many people have lost sight of anything else. That's why the economy crashed and that's why a lot of people still resist even acknowledging that we're altering our environment... "environment" in general usage has become sort of a buzzword that polarizes people as pissed-off-redneck-conservative vs hippie-liberal-douche but it's not about some kind of abstract, one ideology vs another thing, it's about being able to freaking feed ourselves and not be breathing and drinking poison. I don't get how people can support the pro-starving-and-being-poisoned position. They think it'll only happen to poor people but climate change is going to make everybody's lives worse. We could be working a lot harder to mitigate the damage.

I like that the question was posed like this: it's not "do you believe in global warming" any more. It's getting harder to deny the facts in front of us. That's something, at least.
gmonkey42: cartoon Sephiroth (Default)
Read this Pandagon post about environmentalism: it's not about hugging trees, it's about having a place where humans can live.

That's why this George Carlin video pisses me the hell off:

"Human arrogance" isn't what it's about. We ALREADY interfered with nature and now we're trying to stop doing it more. Speaking of arrogance, how can they think they're so much smarter than scientists, that they know about mass extinctions of the past and we don't?

Carlin: "You know what [environmentalists] are interested in? A clean place to live - their own habitat." What the fuck is wrong with wanting a clean place to live? How is that not a worthy goal? Like that's supposed to invalidate our argument, like it would be better if we wanted to preserve the environment for abstract reasons? Fuck George Carlin.
gmonkey42: cartoon Sephiroth (Default)
[Error: unknown template qotd]SCIENCE.

I'd have them actually teach it properly, teach what the scientific method is actually about so people don't finish high school believing that it's all memorizing things out of textbooks.
gmonkey42: cartoon Sephiroth (trekfan)
[Error: unknown template qotd]Yes. We need to hurry up and invent a warp drive so the Vulcans will come visit us and take me away from this crappy planet and back to Vulcan, where people actually value intelligence.

But seriously? Probably not. Life on other planets, probably, yeah, but making the jump from single-celled life to complex, multicellular life is pretty astronomically improbable.
gmonkey42: cartoon Sephiroth (Default)
As seen on Pharyngula:

Toys R Us ad featuring microscopes that come in two versions: "standard" and "girl." The fact that they think the only way girls will want science toys is by making them pink is not the stupid part. The stupid part is that THE PINK ONES ARE LESS POWERFUL. The black microscope goes up to 1200X, the red one 900X and the pink one 600X (the store also has other color options for the less-powerful ones, which is beside the point). I am very glad that when I was a kid, the microscope I had only came in blue, so I didn't get stuck with a shitty pink version that didn't really magnify things. (It came with a bunch of prepared slides and also blank slides so you could make your own, it was so awesome.) AND the black ones look more like the real instruments that grownups use whereas the pink ones are designed to look like toys for little children.

So all the commenters going off about how it's not wrong to like pink are deliberately and willfully missing the point and are assholes.
gmonkey42: cartoon Sephiroth (Judge Turpin)
I briefly put this as an edited-to-add in the first post but people already read and commented there so here's a new post.

PDF of the actual paper! WHAT? They ran an ANOVA on a discrete variable. FAIL. And they reported M-values, not p-values. What the crap is an M-value? At least the variance they found was pretty small, which justifies a small sample size but ANOVA is the wrong analysis to use when there are only seven possible values of the dependent variable! And how big can your variance get when there are only seven possible values?

The second part of the study is better, though it still has the problem of using discrete variables in an analysis that's intended for continuous variables.

Also it sounds like the students who participated in the study were involved with the psychology department somehow; they got course credit for it and psych students would be much more aware of this and more inclined to participate than students in other departments. So basically the conclusions can only be applied to undergrads who at least took a psych class, or possibly are psych majors. This is potentially a huge source of bias.

Anyway, their methods are a little screwey but I don't doubt that women who aren't inclined to be geeky would find geek stuff more off-putting than non-geeky men would, because of the widespread perception (spread by the MSM articles about this paper, for example) that geek stuff is only for boys. It's not just the MSM misinterpreting the paper, though: from the paper's discussion section on the first part of the study:

This study suggests that a student’s choice of classes or a major can be shaped by simply the appearance of classrooms, hallways, and offices—therefore, providing compelling evidence for the power of environments in signaling who belongs.
The authors of the study are claiming that it's the posters etc. themselves that are the problem. No, it's that these objects signal to people that it's more likely to be an anti-woman environment than the neutral one, due to stereotypes about geek culture - I mean, it's not as if a non-geeky workplace never discriminates against women. The underlying problem is the discrimination. It bothers me that this paper is going to be used as evidence that we can just put up some different posters and then when that doesn't result in equal representation, just blame it on our ladybrains or "opting out" or whatever other bullshit they come up with that allows the patriarchy to keep steamrolling along.

I think it's reasonable to expect some people will read the articles about this paper and institute a "no geek stuff" policy in schools and workplaces in an effort to make women feel more comfortable. That would be stupid. The only effects would be:

1. to make men resent women in the workplace more, because it would be seen as special treatment
2. to piss off the geeks
3. to really really piss off the geeks who are also female
4. to totally fail to address any of the real sexism that the geek stuff symbolizes to some women

What would be a much better solution is to educate everyone about how they might discriminate or create a hostile environment without realizing it, for example by commenting on people's appearance, giving a man credit for work a woman did, expecting women to clean up after everyone, and expecting women in technical jobs to take care of secretarial tasks. ALL of this has happened to me in molecular biology jobs in academia and industry. And it was not cool. And forbidding me from putting Star Trek crap on my desk wouldn't have changed any of it.
gmonkey42: cartoon Sephiroth (snapesmack)
Some asshole psychologist did this study claiming that Environment May Be Why Women Don't Like Computer Science.

I LOVE computer science. I would have majored in it or engineering if it weren't for the rampant sexism and my tendency to fly into an apoplectic rage when I encounter rampant sexism. The reason I didn't go into computer science was because I knew I would face nothing but negative stereotypes about women and outright discrimination and I can't tolerate being in that kind of environment. Women are not "shying away," we're being driven away, not by Star Trek posters, but by people who think women care more about decorations than we do about equal pay and access to good projects and promotions.

This article is a slap in the face to all female geeks. I would love to work in an environment with more geek stuff. I have a Despair, Inc. calendar and a copy of the Ferengi Rules of Acquisition on my desk. I contemplated bringing in my 6-foot cardboard Spock but there isn't really a good place to put it and I don't want it to get damaged by people tripping over it.

Also the experimental design seems to have a serious flaw in only using people who aren't into computer science. Why are they trying to draw conclusions about one set of women by examining a separate set of women? These are college students, the individuals in the study have already decided they don't want to be computer scientists. Maybe they're more likely to be negatively influenced by Star Trek posters than their peers who are in computer science? Is that so hard to believe?
gmonkey42: cartoon Sephiroth (Default)
Once again, xkcd tells it like it is.

ETA: My interpretation is it's nothing against philosophy majors specifically; lots of people act like that. That's exactly the argument creationists use and I doubt many of them are trained in philosophy. They come up with something incredibly stupid and then accuse us of being knee-jerk and dogmatic when we point out how stupid it is.
gmonkey42: cartoon Sephiroth (Default)
The video with the condescending whack job claiming to be some kind of doctor in my last post reminded me:

I've been watching Flashforward because 1) John Cho, 2) cool sci-fi premise! and 3) JOHN CHO and something has happened a few times that I've seen happen in other sci-fi things too: a (usually male) character says to a (usually female) character "have you heard of [insert science-y thing]?" and the second character says "no" so the first character can explain it for the benefit of the audience.

I remember it happening twice in Flashforward: once it was "do you know anything about string theory?" and the other was "have you heard of the many worlds hypothesis?" and in both cases I could have said "WHY YES, ACTUALLY!" Oh, also there was the time Merry Dominic Monaghan's character acted like a huge, egotistical asshole in order to convince a stranger to sleep with him (and it worked). She hadn't heard of Schrödinger's Cat. WTF who hasn't heard of that? Anyway, that wasn't originally intended to illustrate the principle of quantum mechanics, it was to demonstrate the absurdity of trying to apply it to macro-scale objects. LIKE A CAT, FOR EXAMPLE.

A lot of people get that wrong. I'm not sure why a character who's supposed to be a genius physicist would. Ohh, right, it's because the writers are trying to make up cool physics things and can't even be bothered to look it up on Wikipedia and are relying on the assumption that most of the audience is even more ignorant about science than they are. And sadly, they're right.


Dec. 6th, 2009 07:24 pm
gmonkey42: cartoon Sephiroth (Default)
I'll repost the hilarious videos here before the post in [ profile] _scientists_ is inevitably and well-deservedly deleted:


You know what's sad? My nutjob dentist once started going off about the evils of fluoride in the water supply. He said it was the Nazis' idea. And you know whose fault the Nazis are, right? DARWIN.

This video was the entirety of the original post, just the embedded video with no comment. So people posted the videos below in response.

Read more... )

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