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.
You can find it here (Dawkins starts at 13:20 into it). I enjoyed the interview.
This is a bamboo shark; this is how the walking motion may have originated. More at Why Evolution is True.
This got me started on this train of thought:
So, why won’t these “chickens” debate?
Well, think about it this way: why do you want the debate? Is it to seek scientific truth?
If it is the latter, consider this: suppose you want to know if, say, a bridge design is valid, or if a medicine will work.
Do you want the issue hashed out in a 90 minute debate on a stage? Or would you rather a hypothesis be formed, experiments run, thoughtful analysis (mostly written) done, and the models refined, if necessary?
That is how it is in science. Yes, there are debates and competing theories (well formed models of how nature works) and on occasion, a scientist will inform the public about it:
Though the competing theories are presented, scientists do things like run calculations and run experiments in order to pick the one that is most useful; they publish their results in peer reviewed media (mostly journals).
And, the judging is done by other scientists and not by what fits the intuition of the untrained.
So, if you are interested in knowing the truth about evolution, you are advised to visit the websites of the various science departments at our research universities, labs or natural history museums. This is where you will find the accomplished experts and where you’ll see the evidence carefully laid out.
At creationist debates, you are liable to find arguments of this caliber:
So, sometimes scientists decide to just have fun with the creationists and insult them:
Seriously, creationists are crackpots and do not deserve to be taken seriously.
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