Economics Austerity: does it work? Evidence is scant.
We are adding jobs. All isn’t rosy but things are somewhat better:
Still, unlike some other months that presented decidedly contradictory signals, many of the underlying factors identified by government statisticians at least pointed in the right direction. Hourly earnings, as well as the length of the typical workweek, both increased. The overall labor participation rate, while still low by historical standards, rose two-tenths of a percentage point to 63 percent.
At the same time, jobs were added to a broad range of sectors, rather than restricted to a few, lower-paying areas.
Manufacturing, closely watched because its ups and downs serve as a bellwether of the overall economy, added 27,000 workers. Besides that jump, Mr. Gapen of Barclays said he was also glad to see that the construction sector gained jobs for the third month in a row, indicating that housing continues to rebound.
Protons, of course, are made up of subatomic particles. It turns out that the total mass of a proton doesn’t change over a superlong period of time. One might ask: “well, why would it?” But this is one of those fundamental questions that should be asked.
Lots of times, authors of pop-science articles and books will take a routine fact, loudly proclaim that this fact “kills well known theory/hypothesis/metaphor X” (even if all it does is kill a simplistic caricature of it) and then get blistered by other scientists. Here is such a case; here someone claims that the “Selfish Gene” metaphor is dead. Richard Dawkins says: “Really? I think not.”:
Over at Richard Dawkins’s own site, he’s responded to Dobbs’s misguided critique of the “gene-centered” view of evolution as described in The Selfish Gene. Richard’s piece is called “Adversarial journalism and the selfish gene.“ He’s remarkably polite for a man who’s been trashed in such an unfair (and erroneous) manner, and politely though firmly explains that, yes, he knows about regulatory genes and that, as we know, they’re simply selfish genes that regulate other selfish genes. He compares the toolbox of regulatory genes (a simile the biologist Sean Carroll also uses) to the subroutines of a Macintosh. and then notes:
Does Dobbs, then, really expect me to be surprised to learn from him that:
“This means that we are human, rather than wormlike, flylike, chickenlike, feline, bovine, or excessively simian, less because we carry different genes from those other species than because our cells read differently.”
Does Dobbs really think the existence of genes controlling the expression of other genes is either a surprise to me or remotely discomfiting to the theory of the selfish gene? Genes controlling other genes are exactly the kind of genes I have in mind when I speak of “selfish genes” as the “immortal replicators”, the “units of natural selection”.
Jerry Coyne (a biologist) says more here.
Larry Moran (a biochemist) mostly likes Coyne’s critique, but has some quibbles with it.
The upshot: a biochemist looks, of course, at the molecules and is apt to characterize evolution (a change in the frequency distribution of alleles with time) at the molecular level; the biologists tend to look more at the bodies, organs, etc.
In this case, Moran is more from what I’d call “pluralistic mechanisms for evolution” camp (assigning heavier weight to thinks like random genetic drift, in which neutral mutations (no effect on reproductive success) account for much of the variation) whereas Coyne has been called a neo-Darwinian (Natural Selection is the overwhelming factor, though other factors (such as drift) influence evolution).
This is the type of thing smart accomplished scientists argue about.
Speaking of evolution and biology This is an interesting result in cancer research.
The rough idea is this: cells use something called a “replication fork” when they reproduce. Sometimes this fork breaks. Healthy cells use one mechanism to repair a damaged “replication fork” whereas cancerous cells use a different one.
This might provide insight on how to fight some cancers.
There has been an exciting new biological discovery inside the tomb of the Chernobyl reactor. Like out of some B-grade sci fi movie, a robot sent into the reactor discovered a thick coat of black slime growing on the walls. Since it is highly radioactive in there, scientists didn’t expect to find anything living, let alone thriving. The robot was instructed to obtain samples of the slime, which it did, and upon examination…the slime was even more amazing than was thought at first glance.
This slime, a collection of several fungi actually, was more than just surviving in a radioactive environment, it was actually using gamma radiation as a food source. Samples of these fungi grew significantly faster when exposed to gamma radiation at 500 times the normal background radiation level. The fungi appear to use melanin, a chemical found in human skin as well, in the same fashion as plants use chlorophyll. That is to say, the melanin molecule gets struck by a gamma ray and its chemistry is altered. This is an amazing discovery, no one had even suspected that something like this was possible.
Surf to Doug’s Darkworld to read more.
Traffic jams: I don’t like them either, but some of these can be modeled by using the principles of fluid dynamics. Upshot: proper speed changes can avert SOME of these.
Some fluids change their viscosity and can turn into a solid, albeit briefly.
Evolution in action
This insect has evolved “ant” mimics on its wings to deter predators.
Galaxies can take several shapes; this article is about “ring” galaxies.
Here is a demonstration of angular momentum.
It is a non-intuitive concept; Mano Singham (physicist) explains it here.
Scientists: We Started Out As Clay
The latest theory is that clay – which is at its most basic, a combination of minerals in the ground – acts as a breeding laboratory for tiny molecules and chemicals which it ‘absorbs like a sponge’.
The process takes billions of years, during which the chemicals react to each other to form proteins, DNA and, eventually, living cells, scientists told the journal Scientific Reports.
Biological Engineers from Cornell University’s department for Nanoscale Science in New York state believe clay ‘might have been the birthplace of life on Earth’
…Professor Dan Luo of Cornell said: ‘In early geological history clay hydrogel provided a confinement function for biomolecules and biochemical reactions.
‘Over billions of years, chemicals confined in those spaces could have carried out the complex reactions that formed proteins, DNA and eventually all the machinery that makes a living cell work.’
Uh…all this means is that there was clay in the ancient earth and clay provided an environment for which the necessary biochemical reactions *could have* taken place.
This does NOT mean that is what happened or even that these scientists think that is what happened.
But we see the sensationalism here:
So, is this just a cynical attempt to sell more papers and/or draw attention to an article, or are reporters really this ignorant and sloppy? I am really not sure.
Workout notes: nothing yet; drinking the coffee to get ready to go. I’ll probably run on the treadmill (easy on the joints) and walk outside (too pretty not to)
Flu attack: how it enters your body.
Sometimes magicians can spot the weak spot in an argument or test to see if an experiment is really “double blind”. Beware of the “false positive”.
Science: not really the enemy of the humanities. This is a Stephen Pinker essay that appeared in the New Republic. I’ll quote two passages:
And contrary to the widespread canard that technology has created a dystopia of deprivation and violence, every global measure of human flourishing is on the rise. The numbers show that after millennia of near-universal poverty, a steadily growing proportion of humanity is surviving the first year of life, going to school, voting in democracies, living in peace, communicating on cell phones, enjoying small luxuries, and surviving to old age. The Green Revolution in agronomy alone saved a billion people from starvation. And if you want examples of true moral greatness, go to Wikipedia and look up the entries for “smallpox” and “rinderpest” (cattle plague). The definitions are in the past tense, indicating that human ingenuity has eradicated two of the cruelest causes of suffering in the history of our kind.
Though science is beneficially embedded in our material, moral, and intellectual lives, many of our cultural institutions, including the liberal arts programs of many universities, cultivate a philistine indifference to science that shades into contempt. Students can graduate from elite colleges with a trifling exposure to science. They are commonly misinformed that scientists no longer care about truth but merely chase the fashions of shifting paradigms. A demonization campaign anachronistically impugns science for crimes that are as old as civilization, including racism, slavery, conquest, and genocide.
I’ve seen a case in which an English professor refused to accept that the notion that the explosion of “repressed memory” abuse cases was due to people reacting to the suggestions of the therapist; that memories can be falsified. In her mind, research basically can show whatever you want it to show.
The humanities are the domain in which the intrusion of science has produced the strongest recoil. Yet it is just that domain that would seem to be most in need of an infusion of new ideas. By most accounts, the humanities are in trouble. University programs are downsizing, the next generation of scholars is un- or underemployed, morale is sinking, students are staying away in droves. No thinking person should be indifferent to our society’s disinvestment from the humanities, which are indispensable to a civilized democracy.
Diagnoses of the malaise of the humanities rightly point to anti-intellectual trends in our culture and to the commercialization of our universities. But an honest appraisal would have to acknowledge that some of the damage is self-inflicted. The humanities have yet to recover from the disaster of postmodernism, with its defiant obscurantism, dogmatic relativism, and suffocating political correctness. And they have failed to define a progressive agenda. Several university presidents and provosts have lamented to me that when a scientist comes into their office, it’s to announce some exciting new research opportunity and demand the resources to pursue it. When a humanities scholar drops by, it’s to plead for respect for the way things have always been done.
Sadly, this appears to be the case. I’d hate to see the humanities cut their own throat as it is a valuable part of someone’s education.
Queen’s We Are the Champions. Watch if you like Freddie Mercury in spandex or if you like goats:
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