# blueollie

## Via Vox: why Dr. Tyson speaking up about GMOs matters…(and it isn’t because he is a GMO expert; he isn’t)

What you see here is that the conditions exist for GMOs to become a liberal equivalent of climate denial. But one thing is missing: the key validators from the liberal establishment.

GMOs are actually an example of liberalism resisting the biases of its base. Though there’s a lot of mistrust towards GMOs and fury towards Monsanto among liberals, the Democratic Party establishment is dismissive of this particular campaign. You don’t see President Obama or Democratic congressional leaders pushing anti-GMO legislation.

YOU DON’T SEE PRESIDENT OBAMA OR DEMOCRATIC CONGRESSIONAL LEADERS PUSHING ANTI-GMO LEGISLATION

There are, of course, party actors who’ve been more helpful to the anti-GMO movement. In California, the Democratic Party endorsed a proposition to label GMO foods. But that’s a modest step — and even that step hasn’t yet made it to the national party’s agenda.

Part of the reason comes down to people like Tyson. Political scientists will tell you that parties, and the ideological movements that power them, are composed of much more than officeholders and electoral strategists. They’re driven by interest groups and intellectuals and pundits and other “validators” that partisans and politicians look to for cues when forming their belief.

Discover reminded us that this is important:

What this tells us is that elite opinions matter a lot in public discourse. The gap between liberals and non-liberals is not really there on this issue at the grassroots. That could change, as people of various ideologies tend to follow elite cues. This is why the strong counter-attack from within the Left elite is probably going to be effective, as it signals that being against GMO is not the “liberal position.”

Yes, Tyson is not a GMO expert; no one says that he is. But he is a famous public scientist and he understands what scientific consensus means.

Sure, on matter the issue: if it is an issue that the public (or even a sizable minority of the public) can presume to have an opinion on, one can ALWAYS find an outlier scientists here or there to disagree with the group consensus. This is true in evolution, global warming, and yes, GMO research. So, if one wants to know what is actually known in an area, one should turn to scientific consensus rather than isolated opinion, and it is nice to see public intellectuals speaking out.

So, if you are one of those who is trying to make up your mind, remember that there is big hazard in looking at an isolated study or at the opinion of a solitary scientist, or even a handful of scientists, no matter how brilliant.

Here are some “consensus” type sites and talks

Biology Fortified

Discover Magazine

Nature Magazine

United States National Academy of Science

French Academy of Science (English executive summary)

August 1, 2014

## A Goat Joke teaches me about science (and on having very smart friends)

I’ve had some good friends in my life; one if them is Mary. I met her early in my career at my university; she was serving as a sabbatical replacement. We walked and did various things (e. g. sometimes have lunch). We met at science conference; her Ph. D. is in physical chemistry; yes, that is the branch of chemistry that directly uses quantum mechanics. She has published in that area.

Though she moved away and lives on the west coast with her family, we sometimes have contact via the social media.

On Facebook, I have a joke persona: I play the part of a dumb, grumpy, smelly old goat. (it has a political origin) Ok, perhaps ALL of the adjectives apply to me, but I’ve been told that I am not “really” a goat. :-) But as part of my goat persona, I joke about getting kicked out of places for eating tablecloths, books, upholstery and the like.

Mary couldn’t resist informing me that my goat behavior was more in line with “myth” than reality and provided an interesting article. The common myth is expressed by this meme:

Now real life goats DO explore things with their mouths (e. g., tug at clothing) and they will “sample” things by nibbling and chewing; here we see examples of books, paper and kites. No one denies that they ARE chewers.

But when it comes to actual eating (via Modern Farmer):

In fact, goats are actually extremely picky eaters who go after only the most nutritious options available to them.

“They are the survivors because they are very good at finding the most nutritious stuff,” Solaiman says, “They don’t eat tin cans but they will look inside a container and find something and get something out of it.” In other words, goats are resourceful when it comes to finding something to eat. “You’ll see cattle skeletons on the ground in the desert, but [goats] are running around.”

Solaiman says that goats are browsers who go after whatever in their environment will benefit them most. She’s seen them eat the bark off trees, because bark is a good source of tannin which supplies the goats with antioxidants to help ward off parasites and fungi.

One thing goats aren’t crazy about? Hay. While livestock like cattle can get by on the feed, goats need a more varied, nutrient-rich diet.

“If you feed goats low-quality forage, they will play with it,” she says. “They’ll be like, ‘Are you kidding me? I’m not going to eat this. I can lay on it, I can pee on it. But I’m not going to eat it.’ In truth they are pickers and choosers.”

But what about when you wade into a goat pen and every mischievous little mouth is tugging at your shirt? Solaiman says this is just the curious nature of the goat. They do not want to eat your new Brooks Brothers, they’re just checking it out.

And their “checking it out” or sampling can be destructive.

## Evolution in my own back yard

Workout notes: NOTHING.

Main street mile tonight; my heat leaves at 7:20. I hope to do better than I did last week. It will be hot, but to improve, all I need to do is to hold back for the first 1/4 and not go crazy in the second 1/4.

Yardwork
I was in the back cutting and dealing with some of the weeds and weed trees. What I’ve noticed: since I started to pull more and more weeds by the roots, a type of weed with a prickly stem has become more prominent. It has a very shallow root; I saw one growing in an old pile of dirt near the garage. Clearly, these prickles act as a defense against being eaten or being otherwise destroyed. Reproductive success is what matters.

Then I had quite a few rabbits in the back yard as I worked. Formerly, rabbits were very, very shy, running away before I could get near them. Now their comfort distance is much, much shorter than it used to be. In fact, I asked one to move so I could pass the power cord to my mower beneath it. I am not saying that they are completely comfortable with me; they aren’t. But they are comfortable getting much, much closer to me than they ever did before.

June 27, 2014

## THAT was humbling…

“Ok, let’s do my 4.2 mile course all free and easy and quick” I said.

So I waited until 8:30 (mistake) and mile 1.02 was too fast for the conditions and my not being warmed up (9:34). I was at 3.2 in 30:12 and then I said “bleep it” and walked the last mile.
It was 76 F with 76 percent humidity by then (74 at the start) and I was dying.

At least the mile is short and the heat shouldn’t be much of a factor.

Notes

Heidi Carpenter got this cool shot of a toad hunting a worm.

Politics

Yeah, I watched this video. And no, Ms. Kelly did NOT “own” VP Cheney. In fact, she gave him a platform to spread his views, such as they are.

Why anyone listens to him remains a mystery to me.

LOL!!! Hey, when haven’t there been terrorist groups in the world?

If anything, these people scare me less than our own homegrown “open carry activist” nutbags. At least these people aren’t going into the places that I frequent.

June 19, 2014

## Nature Friday: GMOs, Chernobyl animals, energy, frogs, exercises and fisheries….

Exercise There is some evidence that exercise can clear unnecessary stuff in the short term memory. Tests on mice have shown that treadmill running helps them forget electric shocks. But there is more in this article:

Adult mice that exercised on a running wheel after experiencing an event were more likely than their inactive mates to forget the experience, according to a paper from researchers at the University of Toronto, published in Science today (May 8). The results suggest that the production of new neurons—neurogenesis—prompted by the exercise wiped out the mice’s memories. They might also explain why human infants, whose brains exhibit abundant neurogenesis, do not have long-term memories.

“In general, hippocampal neurogenesis has been thought to be the basis for memory and they’re suggesting that it’s the basis for amnesia,” said Thomas Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health. “That’s a very controversial and provocative concept.”

Infantile amnesia is common to all humans. Children typically do not develop long-term memories until age three or four. But why is that? Sheena Josselyn and her husband Paul Frankland, who are both neuroscientists at the University of Toronto, pondered precisely that question after noticing that their two-year-old daughter could easily remember things that happened within a day or two, but not several months in the past.

More specifically, they wondered whether it might have something to do with neurogenesis in the hippocampus—a brain region involved in learning and memory. Hippocampal neurons are produced rapidly during infancy, but neuronal generation in the region slows to a trickle in adulthood. “This inverse relationship between the levels of neurogenesis and the ability to form a long-term memory got us thinking that maybe one is due to the other,” said Josselyn.

Energy: this photo was captioned: “How windfarms RUIN landscapes – shocking illustration of the destruction wrought by wind industry fanatics” (via @Jonathan_Leake on Twitter)

Government intervention and fisheries: Via Paul Krugman:

Brad Plumer tells an important, little-known tale. It begins with things going badly:

Back in the 1980s and ’90s, many fisheries in the US were in serious trouble. Fish populations were dropping sharply. Some of New England’s best-known groundfish stocks — including flounder, cod, and haddock — had collapsed, costing the region’s coastal communities hundreds of millions of dollars.

So the government got involved. But we know that government is always the problem, never the solution; so you know what came next.

Or maybe you don’t. In fact, government intervention has been a big success. Many fisheries have rebounded, to the benefit of the fishermen as well as consumers.

Fighting climate change isn’t really all that different from saving fisheries; if we ever get around to doing the obvious, it will be easier and more successful than anyone now expects.

Frogs
There are types of frogs whose males dance to attract mates (surf to the page to see the video) but, unfortunately, these frogs are endangered. These are small, walnut size frogs.

Animals of Chernobyl
Since background radiation is too high for humans to live there, the exclusion zone around Chernobyl is like a wild habitat. So, scientists are seeing some interesting developments in the animals of the region.

GMO issues Here is a guide to looking at some of the anti-GMO stuff that is out there.

May 9, 2014

## Science: skepticism of new findings and explaining it to the public …plus one more Ryan comment

Are we seeing gravitational ripples from the big bang? It is possible.

But announcements of new discoveries or announcements that a long standing model has been modified or even overturned SHOULD be treated with skepticism. That it takes a long time for a new idea to take root in science is NOT a bug but rather a DESIRED feature. Sadly, many, including many in the mainstream media, do not know this. Get a load of this headline from NPR:

Not-So-Objective Scientists Cling To Accepted Wisdom

Overturning scientific dogma is tricky. Reporter Joe Palca tells NPR’s Rachel Martin that one astronomer learned that lesson when he calculated that the universe was younger than colleagues believed.

Note: the paper in question was reviewed for publication and then….published. That is hardly “censorship of new ideas”. Of course, some scientists behave badly but on the whole, existing theory will be modified as new evidence comes in. But proposed new evidence SHOULD be treated with skepticism. That is so difficult for many non-scientists to understand and evidently impossible for NPR to understand.

Speaking of taking science to the public: this 12 minute video from 60 symbols is interesting. A physicist gave a popular lecture and made the comment to the effect “no two electrons in the universe can have the same energy level; hence when one electron changes energy level, all of the rest of the electrons in the universe are affected, hence everything is connected.” Now strictly speaking, the Pauli Exclusion Principle says that no two electrons can have exactly the same quantum state, so if an individual electron changes state, that “affects” the rest of the electrons. This really isn’t controversial.

But of course, some physicists corrected him, and other people went crazy with the woo-woo (common interconnected consciousness, etc.)

Bonus: some politics
Paul Ryan’s comment: no he isn’t racist but his ideas are dated. Still, I don’t think that Mr. Ryan was using the “too lazy to work” canard but rather “the lack of role models…e. g. seeing your parents go to work” situation.

March 17, 2014

## A bit of science

Well, calm before the storm…we had a long…and productive search committee meeting. All I can say is that there are some smart, accomplished mathematicians looking for jobs.

Workout notes Full weight workout followed by snow shoveling (about 1/2 an inch due to a very brief but intense snow squall last night).

Supplemental: planks, McKenzie, hip hikes, rotator cuff, Achilles
pull ups: 5 sets of 10 (strong)
bench: 10 x 135, 4 x 180, 7 x 170 (not that bad)
abs: 3 sets of 10 of: twist, sit back, crunch, v. crunch.
super set with dumbbells: 3 sets of each exercise:

seated military (supported) 12 x 50
upright row: 10 x 25
bent over row: 10 x 65
curl: 10 x 30

Also 2 sets of 10 x 160 pull down, then 10 x 130 (different machine: without the cable)

It was ok, though my shoulders were a bit sore afterward.

A bit of science:

dogs and wolves: the new theory is that modern dogs and modern wolves had a common ancestor; the earlier theory was that dogs came from wolves. The path wasn’t as simple as had been previously believed.

The team of scientists sequenced the genomes of three grey wolves – one of which was from China, one from Croatia and another from Israel – to represent the three regions where dogs are believed to have originated.
They produced genomes for two dog breeds – a basenji, which originates in central Africa and a dingo from Australia – as both areas that have been historically isolated from modern wolf populations.
The researchers also sequenced the genome of a golden jackal to serve as an ‘outgroup’ representing earlier genetic divergence.

Their analysis of the basenji and dingo genomes, plus a previously published boxer genome from Europe, showed that the dog breeds were most closely related to each other.
Likewise, the three wolves from each geographic area were more closely related to each other than any of the dogs.
Dr Novembre said the findings of the study tell a different story than he and his colleagues anticipated.

Instead of all three dogs being closely related to one of the wolf lineages, or each dog being related to its closest geographic counterpart, they seem to have descended from an older, wolf-like ancestor common to both species.
‘One possibility is there may have been other wolf lineages that these dogs diverged from that then went extinct,’ Dr Novembre said.
‘So now when you ask which wolves are dogs most closely related to, it’s none of these three because these are wolves that diverged in the recent past.
‘It’s something more ancient that isn’t well represented by today’s wolves,’ he added.

Upshot: science is hard and can’t be reduced to a bumper sticker or a slogan.

New discovery about the Tiktaalik (fish to tetrapod species) Enjoy:

The fossilized pelves and a pelvic fin of Tiktaalik roseae reveal that the evolution of hind legs actually began as enhanced hind fins, according to the scientists. This challenges existing theory that large, mobile hind appendages were developed only after vertebrates transitioned to land.

“Previous theories, based on the best available data, propose that a shift occurred from ‘front-wheel drive’ locomotion in fish to more of a ‘four-wheel drive’ in tetrapods. But it looks like this shift actually began to happen in fish, not in limbed animals,” said Prof Shubin, who is the lead author of the paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Discovered in 2004 by Prof Shubin, Dr Edward Daeschler of Drexel University, and the late Dr Farish A. Jenkins, Jr., of Harvard University, Tiktaalik roseae is the best-known transitional species between fish and land-dwelling tetrapods.

Neil Shubin, of the University of Chicago and the Chicago Field Museum, discovered the Tiktaalik. I highly recommend his first book Your Inner Fish and can recommend his other book The Universe Within as well.

January 17, 2014

## losers, transparency and silliness (photos, etc.)

This post will be a “stream of consciousness” post with no set theme; I am reviewing a LOT of job applications and need a release. :-)

Workout notes 6 mile run on the treadmill in 1:01:11; varied the incline (0 to 1 mostly, every 2 minutes) and speed; last 20 minutes I varied between 10:20 and 8:54 mpm every 2 minutes. Then I walked a slow 2 miles on the track; legs were tired so I quit.

Stamina is still low, but blood donation was last Friday.

My back is stiff from sitting too long; so I need to do some back stretches.

Topics
Our local university basketball team is playing the number 4 (or 5) team tonight; it might get ugly.

Though this team made the Sweet 16 back in 2006, success after that has been limited and attendance has fallen: (only regular season games at the larger off campus arena were counted):

2007-2008 — 10,114 (+3.1%)
2008-2009 — 10,019 (-0.9%)
2009-2010 — 9,338 (-6.8%)
2010-2011 — 8,450 (-9.5%)
2011-2012 — 7,860 (-7.0%)
2012-2013 — 7,411 (-5.7%)

The 7 games in Carver arena this year: paid attendance (NOT “through the turnstile attendance) averages 6205, but that includes only 2 conference games and includes “winter break” games. Three times, the paid attendance was less than 6000 fans and the largest crowd was the “double header” against Chicago State (6797; this included a women’s game). Also, the weather has been dreadful as of late.

Texas Football
The Longhorns hired Charlie Strong (from Louisville) to replace Mack Brown. Strong has had quite a bit of success with Louisville and is known as an “in your face” coach. I am excited. However his reception has been cool among some big donors and, well, there is this:

Yes, this shirt has been pulled. Personally, I HOPE this is someone saying “cool, things at UT have changed so much we can have a black coach” but…well…I don’t know. This is, at best, clumsy and at worst, racist. I don’t know the intent.

Losers It appears to me that the Republicans, at least the top ones, at their heart, have a contempt for those who haven’t been economically successful. In fact, some conservatives have said that the Republicans should just up and admit it:

In short, the GOP’s attempt to be the party of the common man has backfired. With good reason. Not only have the policies not worked, but the pandering ignores that the “Party of the Rich” label is an aspirational one. It’s a good brand. People like exclusivity earned in a meritocracy, and if the Republicans embrace self-made achievement through policies explicitly geared toward the rich, they’ll be far more appealing. When it comes to giving things away, the Republicans will never be able to match up with the Party across the aisle which is expert at wealth redistribution.

Importantly, there are votes to be won if the Republicans simply be themselves. Per Friedkin it’s apparent that voters sense fraud rather easily, plus it’s probably too easily forgotten that the late George McGovern was shocked during the 1972 presidential campaign when blue collar voters gave a big thumbs down to his proposals in favor of steep inheritance taxes. Republicans need to remember that the American culture is an achievement culture. Americans, as the McGovern story clarifies, at least think they’ll eventually grow rich. When Republicans try to act poor in their search for the vote of the regular guy, it’s arguable that they lose a lot of ‘regular guy’ votes. Whatever their station in life, Americans want to be rich. Because they do, Republicans should embrace their label as the party of the rich in order to attract the achievers, along with those who aspire to achievement.

Even by measures of relative mobility, Middle America remains fluid. About 36 percent of Americans raised in the middle fifth move up as adults, while 23 percent stay on the same rung and 41 percent move down, according to Pew research. The “stickiness” appears at the top and bottom, as affluent families transmit their advantages and poor families stay trapped.

But that is *always* everyone else. :-)

“Internet Science”
These top two made me chuckle:

Now as far as this next one:

:-) Unfortunately, much of the woo-woo anti GMO stuff you see on the internet is of the above caliber. And unfortunately, my State Senator came out in favor of a stupid GMO labeling law:

In November, Washington became the latest state to reject a ballot proposal that would have required labeling of foods with genetically modified ingredients.
At the same time, Maine and Connecticut have passed laws requiring labels on genetically engineered foods. However, their laws won’t go into effect until other states in the Northeast also adopt GMO labeling laws.
Against that backdrop, an Illinois lawmaker said he will pursue legislation this year requiring labels on foods with genetically modified ingredients.
“I’m dealing with this strictly as a consumer right-to-know bill,” said Sen. Dave Koehler, D-Peoria. “I’m not saying yea or nay to the health risks. I’m saying consumers have a right to know and they can make up their own mind.”
Koehler’s Senate Bill 1666 would require that foods containing genetically modified ingredients (usually referred to as GMOs, for genetically modified organisms) carry a label that says as much. The specific ingredients don’t have to be identified, only that GMOs are present.

That is dumb; here is why: would he support a law that mandated labels that contained the phase of the moon at the time of harvest? Of course not: the reason is that this factor has no effect on the product. So, a “good” GMO law would be one that would require a label when there was a SCIENCE REASON for doing so; for example if a particular genetic modification changed how a food is digested by someone with a particular allergy or disorder (e. g. Celiac disease) then yes. Of course, I know of no such modification or even if it is possible.

Liberals drive me crazy sometimes; we can be every bit as stupid as Bible thumping Republicans.

Lululemon stock plunges
Lululemon has had a rough year. Perhaps it is the “transparent pants”:

(ok, NOT Lululemon but hey…)

Some want to claim this is the result of “fat shaming” (yeah right, people who do yoga in 100 dollar yoga pants so want to be associated with the obese)

Perhaps they were overvalued to begin with; they are boxed in the “yoga pants for the beautiful people” market, where they may well continue to thrive.

Back to the job application reading; at least, as mathematicians, we don’t have THIS to worry about. No one wants to sleep with us. :-(

But I did have a math article appear this month and….

:-) Hey, at my age, it is the older MILF and middle GILF crowd. Oh, all right, I got this from here and did a little modification. :-)

January 14, 2014

## A cold cottontail

Taken last night near the Unity Church in Peoria, IL.

## Tribalism, values, philosophy and what science you accept….

I can say that one of the hardest things to do is to give up a preconceived notion based on new data and science.

So, I am seeing all sorts of “oh, hah, hah, where is your “global warming now” posts and articles.

(side note: here is an interesting article about so called “wind chills”. Yes, 10 F with a strong wind feels worse than 10 F with no wind, but I’ve always thought the wind chill stuff was a bit bogus. Remember that the wind makes it feel colder as this enables heat to be transferred from out of your body; in engineering class you learned that $\frac{dQ}{dt} = k \Delta T \frac{dm}{dt}$ where $\frac{dm}{dt}$ is the mass flow rate of the fluid and the $\Delta T$ is the difference between the ambient temperature and the temperature of the object. You know this if you’ve taken a hot bath: in the tub if you are still, you might be ok, but you feel hotter if you move…..because if you move you are increasing the flow rate of the water around your body.

Well, wind does the same thing.

Back to the main argument:

So, people say “we’ve had record cold; how can the earth possibly be warming up?”

Well, for one, “global warming” is talking about a long time trend of average temperatures:

You can see the upward trend, but there are also ups and downs. For example, the next several years after 1998 were cooler years compared to 1998, mostly because 1998 was so blasted hot.

In fact, I took a similar graph, and started it in 1998 to “show” that the earth is really cooling!

I can easily see this being convincing to some.

Then one has to understand that warming means only small change in temperature per year and that how cold we are in winter largely depends on where the jet stream is, as it holds back that arctic air mass. And even if the arctic air mass is a degree or two “warmer”, it is still brutally cold (by our standards).

So, as you can see, the issue is a bit complicated. And yet, many conservatives deny it, just as they deny evolution.

Part of it is tribalism in action.

But part of it is philosophical; conservatives desperately want to believe that their deity is in charge:

They deny evolution for similar reasons: how can one believe that “every hair on your head is numbered by God” if you are the outcome of a stochastic process? (NOT a purely random process!)

So, one might say that philosophy matters. It certainly does to liberals; just look at the so-called “pro-science” liberals (so they tell you) who foam and the mouth about GMOs though, on the science issue part (whether the GMO foods are safe or not), they are dead wrong (more here)

Question them and once you get past their nonsense (IF that is even possible), you’ll find out that what they are really objecting to is the business practices of companies like Monsanto…and some are bound to an appeal to nature. Hey these mushrooms are natural; maybe we can get these woo-woos and crackpots to eat them?

So my frustration grows. It is ridiculous to resist facts (as currently understood) due to some philosophical point of view…..or is it?

This made me think of my post about Copernicus and the scientific objections to the Copernican theory of heliocentric astronomy.

My first reaction: why in the world would we view the earth as being special or different from the rest of the universe?

Oh oh…that is a PHILOSOPHICAL point of view. That is, the “null hypothesis” should be that the laws of science are basically the same everywhere; there are no “special” areas.

Yes, there is evidence that suggests that this is true, but why should this be the “null hypothesis”??? In fact, there is evidence that an aspect of this might not be true (albeit with tiny variations in our observable horizon)

I suppose that I should rethink my disdain for philosophy and point of view (lens of viewing things, if you will).

Of course, an expression of humility (we only know a little) does NOT open the door to wholesale crackpottery, woo-woo and nonsense.

January 7, 2014