# blueollie

## Intellectual narcissism, woos, whack jobs, protesters and reptilian corporations

Note: the upper picture is about the recent IRS scandal of targeting groups that had “conservative sounding names”. While what the IRS did was wrong, I think that no political group should have tax-exempt status, and that includes groups that I like (such as Priorities USA).

The lower photo lampoons the louder, more scientifically ignorant anti-GMO protesters by playing upon this true incident in which Christine O’Donnell said that US companies were “cross breeding humans and animals” and breeding mice with “fully functional human brains” (in reality, the companies grew a human “progenitor cell” into a mouse where it developed into a fully functional MOUSE BRAIN CELL.)

This reminded me of two incidents a long time ago.
The first occurred at a mathematics conference. Some mathematics professors asked me if I’d sign a petition protesting a female mathematics professor not geting tenure at the University of California, Berkeley. I declined to sign and gave the following reasons:
1. Her field of research was NOT mine and
2. I am in no way qualified to judge scholarship at such a level. Any objective search committee would throw out my CV well before any “short list” was made for a job opening at that institution.

So, absent some sort of evidence that said “she is qualified but she is getting turned down due to her sex”, I couldn’t sign such a petition. That does NOT mean that the petitioners weren’t right; they might have been!

The second incident occurred at a Unitarian Universalist church camp. Some teenager had a “clipboard” petition asking the government to devote “more money to….” (AIDS research, I think).

So I asked: “what is the current funding level, why would that be optimal, and what do you proposed be cut in its stead, or how would we raise the money?” The person holding the clipboard gave me a look of astonishment…as if “why would these be pertinent questions?” Frankly, I would have settled for an answer of the following type: “this was budgeted by the President but the House cut this and added X instead” or “Senator X proposed this but the GOP filibustered due to pressure from….” or even “I don’t know the details but Scientific American has a good article on why this research is currently underfunded…”. But of course, I got NONE of that.

And so it goes with Monsanto and anti-GMO protesters. I am NOT saying that there aren’t issues with Monsanto’s business practices (I’d like to educate myself on these). I am not saying that there aren’t GMO-crop related issues (such as such crops needing more pesticides due to their sending out stronger pollination signals, or due to the POSSIBLE rushing into new technologies before they’ve been conservatively tested).

But one has to be careful as to how one educates themselves. For one: mainstream outlets are notorious for being fooled (example) Yes, it sometimes happens that a non-renowned scientist/mathematician comes up with a genuine groundbreaking result (example) but in this case, the results were submitted to and verified by the editors and referees at Annals of Mathematics, the top journal in mathematics.

And frankly, much of the “science” that comes from the mouths of the loudest activists is either gibberish, or unfounded opinions or fears. It is almost as if people of this sort think that their confidence in their own opinion constitutes “evidence”.

I’ve seen this “from the other side”, so to speak.

Back in the early 1980′s, I was in the nuclear Navy. We did class room training, and then had training at prototype nuclear reactors. Outside of these reactor complexes, you had protestors (sometimes Catholic nuns) passing out leaflets which were designed to…well…I guess convince us that what we were doing was dangerous, wrong or harmful.

So I was polite and I took them. I read them. And they were hilariously wrong; it was clear that whoever wrote those had no understanding of science or engineering.

This is NOT to say there aren’t legitimate issues concerning nuclear power (storage of waste, mining, possibility of natural disasters (Fukushima), antiquated plants and designs (Fukushima again), industries taking money saving safety shortcuts, regulation (those who know most about nuclear power and are most qualified to oversee it are those who worked in it…huge potential for conflict of interest).

But I have no interest in listening to someone who has no better qualifications than confidence in their own opinions and in their own abilities to digest pop-level science.

This is why I followed the Fukushima incident via Scientific American and via the MIT nuclear science and engineering sites.

The same applies to the GMO stuff. There are science issues, and I don’t trust large corporations to properly balance public safety with the pursuit of maximum profit. I am for educating myself, but listening to some “activist” website or listening to some woo rant, rave and make bad analogies isn’t education. It is an irritating waste of time.

There are times when I grumble about there being “no difference between liberals and conservatives” when it comes to uninformed people trying to obtain a captive audience for their quackery and being offended when they are blown off.

But there is one difference: on the whole, liberals have a bit more freedom to say “ok, in this instance, most conservatives are saying X and they are right on this issue”; conservatives who do the same tend to be labeled as “no longer being conservative” (e. g., think of a conservative who admits that there is human caused or human aggravated climate change; how do other conservatives react to that person?)

May 25, 2013

## Keyboard Krugmans and Klitschkos

I was a bit amused when I read the following Tweet from Lennox Lewis, a former world heavyweight boxing champion:

Someone made a comment about “Keyboard Klitschkos”; it is sure easy to puff out the old chest and talk trash to someone you will never meet in the ring.

In terms of boxing: I had to box for PE at the Naval Academy. I made a B (86); they didn’t inflate grades. Basically, an “A” was someone who was at the level to box in intramurals, from which the boxing team was drawn. Going head to head with someone who could compete at that level was both a painful and humiliating experience.

Never mind a competitive amateur or a professional!

This internet principle holds in other arenas. On the internet, an average person can provide “corrections” to a Nobel Laureate economist. Paul Krugman talked about “pulling rank” (e. g. two economists are arguing over a policy, and the more lauded economist argues “hey, I am more successful than you are therefore….”). Paul Krugman thinks that is not a good thing to do. But he goes on to say:

Do I do this myself? Probably on occasion, when I don’t catch myself. But I try not to. I would say that commenters who begin with “I can’t believe that a Nobel prize winner doesn’t understand that …” might want to think a bit harder; mostly, though not always, I have actually thought whatever you’re saying through, and the obvious fallacy you think you’ve found, isn’t.

In other words, if YOU think that he missed something basic in economics, it is highly likely that you are wrong.

And of course, there are the untrained who think that their “common sense” observations (e. g. the heuristics that makes sense TO THEM) constitute something useful to the discussion of a complicated topic. It doesn’t:

In the nicest possible way and with great respect, could I make two suggestions to would-be commenters, based on past experience when this topic has come up-

Please pause before offering your own common sense view. There are topics in science, of which this is one, where common sense is not a good guide. If it were, professional biologists would not have been arguing about it for five decades. There is a large back literature in which the likelihood is strong that whatever commonsense view you put forward has already been proposed and exhaustively discussed. As an analogy, common sense is notoriously misleading when we try to understand quantum mechanics. If you could do physics by common sense, we wouldn’t need physicists. To a lesser extent, something like the same thing applies here.

I admit that the folks I just talked about are in the elite ranks of sports, economics and science.
I am NOT in the elite of anything, though I am competent in mathematics; I do get a few references in mathematical literature:

And even I get tired of dealing with cranks. I can handle it when people know that they don’t know what they are talking about. But, in many cases, people really don’t realize that there IS a body of knowledge out there and that “this makes sense to me” is NOT evidence of anything!

If an expert in a field is doing something in their field that seems counterintuitive to you, just remember that the chances that you are right and that the expert is wrong is very, very small.

I hasten to point out that having a blog or being a writer about a topic does not qualify as being an expert.

May 25, 2013

## A bit of science and math for 22 May

Workout notes Weights plus a 2.17 mile run on the treadmill (20 minutes; 9:13 pace): 10:09, 8:28 then a little bit more. I kept the incline at 0.5.

Weights: pull ups (5 sets of 10), hip hikes, Achilles, rotator cuff, bench: 10 x 135, 4 x 185, 7 x 170
ab series (3 sets of 10: crunch, v. crunch, twist, sit back), dumbbell military (3 sets of 12 x 50), dumbbell bench (2 sets of 10 x 65), dumbbell row (3 sets of 10 x 65), pull down (3 sets of 10 x 160), curl (3 sets of 10: 60, 60, 65; EZ curl bar).

It sure doesn’t seem like much.

A bit of math

Ok, a mathematician who is known to be brilliant self-publishes (on the internet) a dense, 512 page proof of a famous conjecture. So what happens?

The Internet exploded. Within days, even the mainstream media had picked up on the story. “World’s Most Complex Mathematical Theory Cracked,” announced the Telegraph. “Possible Breakthrough in ABC Conjecture,” reported the New York Times, more demurely.

On MathOverflow, an online math forum, mathematicians around the world began to debate and discuss Mochizuki’s claim. The question which quickly bubbled to the top of the forum, encouraged by the community’s “upvotes,” was simple: “Can someone briefly explain the philosophy behind his work and comment on why it might be expected to shed light on questions like the ABC conjecture?” asked Andy Putman, assistant professor at Rice University. Or, in plainer words: I don’t get it. Does anyone?

The problem, as many mathematicians were discovering when they flocked to Mochizuki’s website, was that the proof was impossible to read. The first paper, entitled “Inter-universal Teichmuller Theory I: Construction of Hodge Theaters,” starts out by stating that the goal is “to establish an arithmetic version of Teichmuller theory for number fields equipped with an elliptic curve…by applying the theory of semi-graphs of anabelioids, Frobenioids, the etale theta function, and log-shells.”

This is not just gibberish to the average layman. It was gibberish to the math community as well.

[...]

Here is the deal: reading a mid level mathematics research paper is hard work. Refereeing it is even harder work (really checking the proofs) and it is hard work that is not really going to result in anything positive for the person doing the work.

Of course, if you referee for a journal, you do your best because you want YOUR papers to get good refereeing. You want them fairly evaluated and if there is a mistake in your work, it is much better for the referee to catch it than to look like an idiot in front of your community.

But this work was not submitted to a journal. Interesting, no?

Of course, were I to do this, it would be ok to dismiss me as a crank since I haven’t given the mathematical community any reason to grant me the benefit of the doubt.

And speaking of idiots; I made a rather foolish remark in the comments section of this article by Edward Frenkel in Scientific American. The article itself is fine: it is about the Abel prize and the work by Pierre Deligne which won this prize. The work deals with what one might call the geometry of number theory. The idea: if one wants to look for solutions to an equation, say, $x^2 + y^2 = 1$ one gets different associated geometric objects which depend on “what kind of numbers” we allow for $x, y$. For example, if $x, y$ are integers, we get a 4 point set. If $x, y$ are real numbers, we get a circle in the plane. Then Frenkel remarked:

such as x2 + y2 = 1, we can look for its solutions in different domains: in the familiar numerical systems, such as real or complex numbers, or in less familiar ones, like natural numbers modulo N. For example, solutions of the above equation in real numbers form a circle, but solutions in complex numbers form a sphere.

The comment that I bolded didn’t make sense to me; I did a quick look up and reviewed that $|z_1|^2 + |z_2|^2 = 1$ actually forms a 3-sphere which lives in $R^4$. Note: I added in the “absolute value” signs which were not there in the article.

This is easy to see: if $z_1 = x_1 + y_1 i, z_2 = x_2 + y_2i$ then $|z_1|^2 + |z_2|^2 = 1$ implies that $x_1^2 + y_1^2 + x_2^2 + y_2^2 = 1$. But that isn’t what was in the article.

Frenkel made a patient, kind response …and as soon as I read “equate real and imaginary parts” I winced with self-embarrassment.

Of course, he admits that the complex version of this equation really yields a PUNCTURED sphere; basically a copy of $R^2$ in $R^4$.

Just for fun, let’s look at this beast.

Real part of the equation: $x_1^2 + x_2^2 - (y_1^2 + y_2^2) = 1$
Imaginary part: $x_1y_1 + x_2y_2 = 0$ (for you experts: this is a real algebraic variety in 4-space).

Now let’s look at the intersection of this surface in 4 space with some coordinate planes:
Clearly this surface misses the $x_1=x_2 = 0$ plane (look at the real part of the equation).
Intersection with the $y_1 = y_2 = 0$ plane yields $x_1^2+ x_2^2 = 1$ which is just the unit circle.
Intersection with the $y_1 = x_2 = 0$ plane yields the hyperbola $x_1^2 - y_2^2 = 1$
Intersection with the $y_2 = x_1 = 0$ plane yields the hyperbola $x_2^2 - y_1^2 = 1$
Intersection with the $x_1 = y_1 = 0$ plane yields two isolated points: $x_2 = \pm 1$
Intersection with the $x_2 = y_2 = 0$ plane yields two isolated points: $x_1 = \pm 1$
(so we know that this object is non-compact; this is one reason the “sphere” remark puzzled me)

Science and the media
This Guardian article points out that it is hard to do good science reporting that goes beyond information entertainment. Of course, one of the reasons is that many “groundbreaking” science findings turn out to be false, even if the scientists in question did their work carefully. If this sounds strange, consider the following “thought experiment”: suppose that there are, say, 1000 factors that one can study and only 1 of them is relevant to the issue at hand (say, one place on the genome might indicate a genuine risk factor for a given disease, and it makes sense to study 1000 different places). So you take one at random, run a statistical test at $p = .05$ and find statistical significance at $p = .05$. So, if we get a “positive” result from an experiment, what is the chance that it is a true positive? (assume 95 percent accuracy)

So let P represent a positive outcome of a test, N a negative outcome, T means that this is a genuine factor, and F that it isn’t.
Note: P(T) = .001, P(F) = .999, $P(P|T) = .95, P(N|T) = .05, P(P|F) = .05, P(N|F) = .95$. It follows $P(P) = P(T)P(P \cap T)P(T) + P(F)P(P \cap F) = (.001)(.95) + (.999)(.05) = .0509$

So we seek: the probability that a result is true given that a positive test occurred: we seek $P(T|P) =\frac{P(P|T)P(T)}{P(P)} = \frac{(.95)(.001)}{.0509} = .018664$. That is, given a test is 95 percent accurate, if one is testing for something very rare, there is only about a 2 percent chance that a positive test is from a true factor, even if the test is done correctly!

It isn’t a coincidence that the tornadoes hit after we had some warm spring weather: up to know, we’ve had an unusual cool spring thanks to the jet stream dipping down lower than normal. A side effect was a lighter than normal tornado season. Unfortunately that didn’t last:

Mind: soldiers and brain trauma.
It is no secret that soldiers can suffer a brain injury which doesn’t obviously show. But here is the rub: what if a soldier had a reputation for being a malcontent prior to the brain injury and then gets one. Then:

What happened when he came home is increasingly typical, too. At Fort Carson, the damaged soldier racked up punishments for being late to formation, missing appointments, getting in an argument and not showing up for work. These behaviors can be symptoms of TBI and PTSD, and Army doctors recommended Alvaro go to a special battalion for wounded warriors. Instead, his battalion put him in jail, then threw him out of the Army with an other-than honorable discharge that stripped him of veterans benefits. He was sent packing without even the medicine to stop his convulsions.

“It was like my best friend betrayed me,” Alvaro said at the hospital, his speech as slow as cold oil. “I had given the Army everything, and they took everything away.”

But, what if at least some of this behavior was present PRIOR to the brain injury?

“It’s hard to figure out,” said Maj. Gen. Anderson, who was the final authority for discharging soldiers at Fort Carson. “You are asking young captains, 30-year-old guys, platoon leaders, 25 years old, to decide if this guy is sick or this guy is not sick when the doctors don’t know for sure.”

The uncertainty sets up clashes. The Gazette has uncovered several cases at Fort Carson where doctors and commanders were in direct conflict. Doctors sent one soldier who pointed a gun at the soldiers in his squad to a psychiatric hospital, and commanders pulled him out and put him in jail. Doctors said another soldier who tested positive for marijuana could not be kicked out because he had a brain injury. Commanders discharged him anyway. Another soldier tried to commit suicide by crashing his car into a light pole. Doctors said he had PTSD and depression; commanders discharged him for damaging property.

Several doctors contacted at Fort Carson refused to comment.

It really isn’t easy and clear-cut, is it?

May 22, 2013

## Slut Shaming the Poison Dart Frog!

Yes, some females of some frog species choose the males that either croak the loudest or that have the right “pitch” of croak.

This type of poison dart frog: well, she just choses the closest male.

## Tornado: Oklahoma’s and in general

This Charles Cook video is just over 5 minutes and tracks the tornado from the time it started to form (but hadn’t touched down as yet) until it hit the ground and started to do damage.

It is hard not to watch.

Popular Mechanics has a “quick and dirty” as to how these things form to begin with.

1 | Supercell
Tornado-spawning thunderstorms, called supercells, arise where a current of low, warm, moist air traveling north from the Gulf of Mexico flows underneath a higher, cooler mass of air traveling east. Shear from these opposing winds causes the entire supercell to rotate slowly.

2 | Updraft
The low, moist air is warmed by sunlight, making it increasingly buoyant. The moist air breaks through the cooler air above and rises. As it does so, vapor condenses into water droplets—dumping the heat of condensation back into the rising air, warming it and further feeding the updraft that will ultimately power the tornado.

3 | Downdraft
The updraft is counterbalanced by a downdraft of sinking air, which is cooled by rain. This cool, sinking air next to warm, ­rising air produces a pressure gradient in the bottom 3000 feet of the atmos­phere, lending a spiraling motion to the updraft—which will become the tornado.

[...]

Surf to the link to read the rest and to see the cool diagram.

NASA has some views: close up (from space) and a “global” view:

As far as the situation on the ground: FEMA has an informal “Waffle House” scale to see how close the area is to recovering after the storm:

When the main US federal emergency agency arrives at the scene of a disaster-hit area, one of the first places it turns to is the local Waffle House – and not just for its officials to grab a quick bite.

Craig Fugate, the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, came up with the idea of the “Waffle House index” as an informal way of measuring the impact of a disaster. The chain, which has a large number of branches in tornado-prone areas, has a robust emergency management plan.

The index has three levels. If the local Waffle House is up and running, serving a full menu, a disaster is classed as green. If it is running with an emergency generator and serving only a limited menu, it is a yellow. If it is closed, badly damaged or totally destroyed, as during hurricane Katrina, it is a red.

There is only one Waffle House in Moore, the suburb worst hit by the tornadoes. The restaurant, located at 316 SW 19th Street and which normally offers a southern-tinged menu that includes grits, hash browns, and sausage and egg biscuits as well as hamburgers, was closed on Tuesday.

But the Moore tornado was classed as a yellow on the Waffle House index because managers were hoping to get it up and running soon. “It is a yellow because we are hoping to get a generator,” said Kelly Thrasher, a spokeswoman for the Atlanta-based restaurant chain. “Once we have the generator, we will be able to serve a limited menu, maybe a full one.”

May 22, 2013

## How Bilingual People Hear Language

Individuals who learn two languages at an early age seem to switch back and forth between separate “sound systems” for each language, according to new research conducted at the University of Arizona.

The research, to be published in a forthcoming issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, addresses enduring questions in bilingual studies about how bilingual speakers hear and process sound in two different languages.
“A lot of research has shown that bilinguals are pretty good at accommodating speech variation across languages, but there’s been a debate as to how,” said lead author Kalim Gonzales, a psychology doctoral student at the University of Arizona. “There are two views: One is that bilinguals have different processing modes for their two languages — they have a mode for processing speech in one language and then a mode for processing speech in the other language. Another view is that bilinguals just adjust to speech variation by recalibrating to the unique acoustic properties of each language.”
Gonzales’s research supports the first view — that bilinguals who learn two languages early in life learn two separate processing modes, or “sound systems.”

How this experiment was done is fascinating:

For the study, the bilingual participants were divided into two groups. One group was told they would be hearing rare words in Spanish, while the other was told they would be hearing rare words in English. Both groups heard audio recordings of variations of the same two words — bafri and pafri — which are not real words in either language.
Participants were then asked to identify whether the words they heard began with a ‘ba’ or a ‘pa’ sound.
Each group heard the same series of words, but for the group told they were hearing Spanish, the ends of the words were pronounced slightly differently, with the ‘r’ getting a Spanish pronunciation.
The findings: Participants perceived ‘ba’ and ‘pa’ sounds differently depending on whether they were told they were hearing Spanish words, with the Spanish pronunciation of ‘r,’ or whether they were told they were hearing English words, with the English pronunciation of ‘r.’
“What this showed is that when you put people in English mode, they actually would act like English speakers, and then if you put them in Spanish mode, they would switch to acting like Spanish speakers,” Lotto said. “These bilinguals, hearing the exact same ‘ba’s and ‘pa’s would label them differently depending on the context.”
When the study was repeated with 32 English monolinguals, participants did not show the same shift in perception; they labeled ‘ba’ and ‘pa’ sounds the same way regardless of which language they were told they were hearing. It was that lack of an effect for monolinguals that provided the strongest evidence for two sound systems in bilinguals.

## Disasters, science and curious responses….

Before you say “shut up and do something to help”: I did. It wasn’t Mitt Romney money; it was on the order of a football game ticket (college) or a race fee. I am too tired to race anyway.

Salamanders’ immune systems are key to their remarkable ability to regrow limbs, and could also underpin their ability to regenerate spinal cords, brain tissue and even parts of their hearts, scientists have found.
In research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences researchers from the Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute (ARMI) at Monash University found that when immune cells known as macrophages were systemically removed, salamanders lost their ability to regenerate a limb and instead formed scar tissue.
Lead researcher, Dr James Godwin, a Fellow in the laboratory of ARMI Director Professor Nadia Rosenthal, said the findings brought researchers a step closer to understanding what conditions were needed for regeneration.
“Previously, we thought that macrophages were negative for regeneration, and this research shows that that’s not the case – if the macrophages are not present in the early phases of healing, regeneration does not occur,” Dr Godwin said.
“Now, we need to find out exactly how these macrophages are contributing to regeneration. Down the road, this could lead to therapies that tweak the human immune system down a more regenerative pathway.”
Salamanders deal with injury in a remarkable way. The end result is the complete functional restoration of any tissue, on any part of the body including organs. The regenerated tissue is scar free and almost perfectly replicates the injury site before damage occurred.

Truly awesome, no?

Now as far as this disaster in Oklahoma:

It sort of looks like a World War II carpet bombing.

Will climate change make tornadoes worse? More frequent?
“The short answer is, we have no idea,” Michael Wehner, a climate researcher at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, told NBC News. For years, Wehner has been studying the climate models for extreme weather, and he’s a lead author for the next report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as well as the federal government’s latest national assessment on climate change.
One problem is that the observational record for tornadoes has not been uniform over time. “It has a bias to it, because more people are living where tornadoes occur, and more people are out looking for them,” Wehner said. That contributes to the perception that tornadoes are happening more frequently than they used to.

The other big problem is that current climate models don’t have the resolution that’s needed to simulate the localized, violent activity of a tornado. Currently, global models are built up from atmospheric interactions on a scale of 100 kilometers (62 miles). Improvements in computer power could soon bring that down to a scale of 25 kilometers (16 miles). That should make it possible for scientists to simulate the weather phenomena that give rise to tornadoes, but not the tornadoes themselves, Wehner said.
On a larger scale, extreme weather events are expected to become more frequent in a warmer world, Wehner said. “The metric that I like to look at is the daily amount of rain for a storm that happens once every 20 years,” he said. “That storm, in a much warmer world, would happen more frequently.” For example, if the world follows a “business-as-usual” scenario, he projects that the average temperature would rise 11 degrees Fahrenheit (6 degrees Celsius) by the end of the century, and that a once-in-20-years rainstorm would come around every five to 10 years on average.
That doesn’t necessarily mean tornadoes would be more frequent, however. In fact, the current projection calls for wetter spring weather in the northern U.S., and drier weather in the Southwest — with Tornado Alley right in the middle. “There’s some evidence that there might not be a change” in the character of a tornado season, Wehner observed.

I think that it is important to say what we have a good feel for and to admit what we don’t. As far as water born storms (hurricanes): yes, more heat in the oceans means more available energy. But the mechanisms for tornados are different.

There is much more in the article I quoted including a discussion about “tornado alley”: this, believe it or not, is not the worst place in the nation for tornado damage.

Human reaction to disaster
This sort of reaction to disaster has me shaking my head:

Here, you have people who really believe that some deity actually controls events on the earth. (I still don’t understand that one, especially in this day and age). This event blew away houses, killed in injured many and terrified even more.

Now they are praising this deity for saving a soggy Bible page?????? Really???? Seriously????

One sharp response:

My initial reaction is: What a bunch xxxxx!!!!!!! What is wrong with these people???!!!!

But that would be unfair, and probably inaccurate. Statistically speaking, I am sure that many people who think this way have skills and abilities that I don’t have (being good with construction or carpentry, can run a business, can farm, etc.).

What this shows, IMHO, is the power of superstition to brainwash people and to make otherwise competent human beings say dumb and illogical things and to corrupt their thinking.

Oh well.

May 21, 2013

## Fake Scandals, Parasites, Fracking and Calculus

Mathematics This is an interesting (and lengthy) post about Gottfried Leibniz: he was one of the cofounders of calculus and one who was credited with inventing the $\frac{df}{dx}$ notation, as well as the “product rule” in calculus.

IQ and race Mano Singham has a gift for writing about tough subjects; his ideas about “race and IQ” are worth reading. We pretty much agree.

Education
Should we use blood types, as a class project, to demonstrate genetics? That SOUNDS nice, but there are some pitfalls (hints: possibly adopted and unaware…or….the offspring of an extra marital affair?)

Academic Freedom: are there limits to this, especially when teaching at a public university in the United States? I say: “yes, there are limits”; we cannot use our students as a captive audience to promote religious beliefs. Note: I am NOT talking about “best teaching practices” but rather “what is legal.” Teaching incompetently is legal but ill advised.

The Obama Scandals: Paul Krugman says it well:

I picked a good week to be away — and I am still away, mostly, although playing a bit of hooky on the notebook right now. For it has been the week of OBAMA SCANDALS, nonstop.

Except it seems that there weren’t actually any scandals, just the usual confusion and low-level mistakes that happen all the time, in any administration.

Fracking I know that many who vote the same way that I do are anti-fracking. It is my opinion that fracking CAN be done competently. But when it isn’t, the consequences are disastrous. So when one considers a practice, one has to also consider safeguards and the likelihood that it will be “done right.”

Evolution, medicine, Malaria and Mosquitos
This is fascination. We’ve known for some time that a parasite can influence the behavior of its host. Now, there is solid evidence that the malaria parasite can make a mosquito more likely to “bite” a human, thereby helping the parasite spread. Read about the experiment at Jerry Coyne’s website.

May 17, 2013

## Fish, Residues and Pyromaniacs

Climate Change: yes, fish are swimming to cooler waters thereby hurting some in the fishing industry:

Fish and other sea life have been moving toward Earth’s poles in search of cooler waters, part of a worldwide, decades-long migration documented for the first time by a study released Wednesday.

The research, published in the journal Nature, provides more evidence of a rapidly warming planet and has broad repercussions for fish harvests around the globe.

University of British Columbia researchers found that significant numbers of 968 species of fish and invertebrates they examined moved to escape the warming waters of their original habitats.Previous studies had documented the same phenomenon in specific parts of the world’s oceans. But the new study is the first to assess the migration worldwide and to look back as far as 1970, according to its authors.

The research is more confirmation that “global change is real and has been real for a long time,” said Boris Worm, a professor of marine biology at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, who was not part of the study. “It’s not something in the distant future. It is well underway.”

[...]

Politics
Robert Reich makes the case that at the moment, President Obama is letting the critics define him, instead of defining himself. He can’t expect the Republicans to cooperate:

Barack Obama is allowing the fires to dominate because he has not defined his core agenda. During the 2012 campaign it appeared to be restoring jobs, rebuilding the middle class, and reversing the scourge of widening inequality. Since then, though, the core has evaporated – leaving him and his administration vulnerable to every pyromaniac on the Potomac.

Math fun: yes, a poem in College Misery about ….residue integrals!

May 17, 2013

## taper topics (science)

Science leads the way: cloning is used to create embryonic stem cells!

Ants: when should ants just wait out bad weather and when should they forage? Evolution works out an answer.

Brinicles: yes, super cold “icicles of brine” can reach below the surface of water and become a finger of death for the things that it touches:

I can see how an ancient person might see this as a “finger of god”.

May 16, 2013