No whining, some science/philosophy issues

It is has been a while since I linked to anything but “winter sucks” and “here is my workout”.

Jerry Coyne has a couple of interesting articles.

One: he talks about an article that claims that we “should study history to understand science”:

Alejandra Dubcovsky, an assistant professor of history at Yale, thinks that it’s essential for scientists to study history (she doesn’t specify what kind of history, or if she means the history of science), for another reason: because it gives us scientists “a sensitivity that only the humanities can teach.”

Or so she maintains in a new piece at The Chronicle of Higher Education, ”To Understand Science, Study History.”

Like the reader who sent me the link, Dubcovsky seems not only defensive about her discipline, but stretching a bit to make her point. To show how history informs our scientific sensitivities, she uses the examples of Rosalind Franklin, which will teach us that science is not gender-blind (she says Franklin is “largely forgotten,” which is simply untrue); of Rebecca Skloot’s wonderful book about Henrietta Lacks (donor of the HeLa cells), which should teach us that science and race have an “uneasy history;” and about Oppenheimer and the atomic bomb, which should teach us that “we find deep, sometimes unforeseen, and often devastating consequences, even from the most theoretical of projects.”

Yep. I am often amused to hear a non-specialist tell me what “I don’t know about” in my own discipline. 🙂
Frankly, the humanities ARE under fire and are really stretching to stay relevant. Why? My guess: higher education is getting more and more expensive, and there simply isn’t a great demand for humanities majors. The market for humanities Ph. D.s is also terrible.

And yes, science IS blind to sex; for example, if you get the laws of science wrong, what you build with them won’t work. I doubt that there is a feminist interpretation of quantum mechanics. 🙂

Note: the humanities ARE valuable IMHO…and even have practical value. Steven Pinker’s book Better Angels of Our Nature, gives a bit of credit to fiction in helping humans become less violent (e. g. reading a novel better helps us “walk a mile in another person shoes”).

In this day of a smaller globe, the study of language and culture is essential! And knowing some history is extremely helpful, especially given some of the turmoil we are seeing now. Much of it has ancient roots. For example: had we remembered that Vietnam and China were traditional rivals and enemies, we might have reacted better to the situation in Vietnam rather than escalating that horrible, wasteful war.

Professor Coyne has another article about Whole Foods (the store) and about how it promotes woo-woo (beyond the usual woo-woo stuff about “natural” and “organic”). Here, he goes off on Whole Foods pushing homeopathic remedies (placebo really). This might be seen as a “liberal” type of creationism, though conservative sites like NewsMax also pushes woo-woo “cures” and the like. If you get on their e-mail lists, you’ll see adds for them. Hey, there is nothing more Republican that cheating the gullible out of their money! 🙂

Sandwalk (Larry Moran’s blog) takes on the “argument from evil” response that some atheists attempt to use against theists (e. g. if your loving God exists, then why did horrible thing X, Y, or Z happen?)

I agree: this is a waste of time. The response by the theist (who believes in a specific deity) is something like “we don’t know God’s ways” or “this is in this life, which is just a microsecond in all of eternity…even the worst possible suffering in the here and now doesn’t compare to ETERNAL bliss that we are going to get (some of us anyway), blah blah blah.”

It is weak medicine, IMHO> And of course, there could be an Evil God. Here is my favorite:


February 28, 2014 Posted by | education, religion, science | , | Leave a comment

Putting points on the board

I didn’t sleep very well last night…at first anyway. About 10:30 pm, I went down hard and was awake 6 hours later.

I thought about moving one portion of the workout to one slot or another, but thought: “hey, tough it out and get it done”.

It wasn’t that bad…and the cold air from my house to the gym woke me up.

Weights: rotator cuff, Achilles, hip hikes
pull ups: 2 sets of 15, 2 of 10 (strong)
bench press: 10 x 135, 4 x 180 (ugly), 6 x 170 (not pretty)
upright rows: 3 sets of 10 x 25 dumbbells
super set 3 sets each: curls (dumbbell), bent over row (dumbbell), military (seated, supported, sets of 12)
10 x 25 row, 10 x 65 bent over row, 12 x 50 military
pull downs (3 sets of 10 x 160)

Then to the pool;
7 x 200 on the 4:05 (first was 3:55, then 3:50, then mostly 3:45-3:50; trying to stay smooth)
200 of swim/drill (fins)
100 of fly drill (fins)
2 x 25 fly (fins)
2 x 25 fly (no fins)
That is 1800 yards (just over 1600 meters, or over 1 mile)

This wasn’t a great swim and the two young women whipped me soundly again. But I did beat the guy (young) in the flowered swim trunks and the other one in the bikini.
No one asks me if I swam on a college team in my youth. 🙂 (I have been asked if I swam in high school though)

That what it is about for me these days: “getting points on the board”. April and May will be here…eventually.

And yes, though I didn’t exactly achieve at a high athletic level (or at any resembling an athletic level at all), I HAD FUN. Seriously, though I frequently lament my performance (weak, slow), I still enjoy doing it, and I should remember to appreciate that.

February 28, 2014 Posted by | swimming, weight training | | Leave a comment



Maybe in 2-3 weeks the weather will get better.

It might snow a little tonight; I am planning on NOT running tomorrow’s race. Last year the course was not well measured nor was it run very well anyway.

You can see here why this weather is hanging around.

February 28, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

A “whatever” workout

This extended winter that won’t go away is messing with my mind.

So today I did a “whatever” workout on the treadmill: I went, loosened my back, got on the mill and did whatever came to mind:

1. running: 6 miles in 1:01:25. I changed speed every 5 minutes until 55 minutes: 5.3-5.4-5.5-5.6-5.7-5.8-5.9-6.0-6.1-6.2-6.3-(6.4-6.5)
(cheated at bit at 56 minutes and sped up.)
I took a quick bathroom break and then got on the treadmill again:
walking: 3 miles in 46:30: changed elevation every 2 minutes 0-1-2-3-4-5-6-7 and kept it on 7 until 20, then every 5 minutes: 6-5-4 then 3 for the final 11:30; I sped up a bit.

I was beyond sweaty, and it was 9 more miles or 295 miles for 2014. No, not that much but I should be able to start increasing mileage around April.

Now back to work; I just figured out what the hell is going on with the “divided differences” technique for finding the Lagrange polynomial (a polynomial of degree n that goes through n+1 points in the plane, no two which lie on a vertical line). This is a case where the end result IS cool and has some nice symmetries but getting there involves some tedious, boring algebra (NOT the abstract variety).

February 27, 2014 Posted by | running, walking | Leave a comment

The midwest winter will stay and stay and stay…

The weather here will suck for quite a while longer…until April. Here is why…and this also shows that while WE have been getting pounded, well…the rest of the planet…not so much. The arctic air mass has decided to spend some time with us and neglect its other duties.

February 27, 2014 Posted by | science | , , | Leave a comment

Depressing and uplifting at the same time….

Workout notes I shifted my workout time to after my 9-10 class; I got in about 45 minutes of weights and than swam 1800 yards (just over a mile, or just over 1600 meters)

Weights: rotator cuff, hip hikes, Achilles
pull ups: 2 sets of 15, 2 of 10 (strong)
military press/upright row superset: 3 sets each (12 x 50 dumbbell military, 10 x 25 dumbbell row)
curl/pull down superset: 3 sets of 10: curls: 30 lb. dumbbells, pull downs: 160
incline press: 2 sets of 10 with 135, 1 x 150 (exhausted)
rows: 2 sets of 10 x 70 machine.

Now to the pool: 12 x 100 on the 2:05; these started at about 1:55 and migrated to the high 1:40’s.
300 of drill/swim (fins)
100 of fly drills (fins)
2 x 100 IM (untimed)

Today; yes, in the weight room, there are young guys who blew me away (I’ve seen bench presses of 330-340 here)
In the pool: young women on either side of me, blowing me away.
In class today: one of my female students reported a 9:57 3000 meter run over the weekend.

The good: we have some athletic, very fit students. That is a good thing! That is uplifting.
The bad: seeing this on a daily basis just demonstrates what a train wreck I’ve become physically.

So, I think: “maybe I am over training”, but when I lay off, I get slower and weaker! In fact, I am NOT over training.

Oh well….at least I am healthy enough to train and have enough means to afford a gym (actually two) to work out in.

And, yes, I am glad that I added swimming back; the shoulders seem to like it at this level.

February 27, 2014 Posted by | swimming, weight training | , , , | 1 Comment

More on outliers…cold and science…talking past one another

No workout this morning (up too late for the basketball game and I needed sleep). But I’ll lift after my 9-10 class and maybe catch a quick swim at 1100 (1000 yards?). I’ll take my lunch to the gym locker so I HAVE to go to the gym.

Yes, MORE snow and cold on the way (6-10 inches are forecast for the weekend, though that is a few days out):


Basically, we are having a (junior varsity) Canadian style winter this year, and I don’t expect relief until sometime in April.

A bit of science (I need cheering up)

The right conditions for ice to form is NOT only a function of temperature.


Why do some people continue to insist that “it is in the Bible” means anything at all?


(appropriately ridiculed here)

Talking past one another
Paul Kurgman’s mini essay made me think:

James Surowiecki makes an important point: if you want a society in which everyone has a decent life, you need to construct a society in which everyone has a decent life — not a society in which everyone has a small but equal chance of living the lifestyle of the rich and famous.

Not that we’re anywhere close to the second condition, anyway — the most important factor in whether you can become rich is whether you chose the right parents: Most people are going to end up with socioeconomic status close to where they started. But even if that weren’t true, those moving up the ladder would be matched by an equal number moving down. Since anyone could find himself or herself downwardly mobile, social mobility arguably actually strengthens the case for a strong safety net.

But many conservatives are just fine with a society that heavily awards winners and lets the losers flounder; this is the high risk, but high potential society which perhaps is left over from the old “frontier mentality”. Either you have some success, or die.

And statistically, the vast majority of us (myself included) are pretty average (despite what you read on the walls of Facebook; from the glowing reports of parents, you’d think that the off spring of my FB friends are all bound for the National Academy of Science!).

Having a society that caters more to the average might well be more realistic, but it might well crush the dreams.

February 26, 2014 Posted by | politics/social, science, social/political | | Leave a comment

Wichita State 69 Bradley 49: too much

I knew that Wichita State was 29-0 and ranked 2’nd. Bradley was excited: they had perhaps the best crowd of the season (though not a sell out) and the students were into it. The atmosphere was electric at first.

But WSU is used to getting the best from the teams that they visited and they were just methodical. There wasn’t much “run and gun”; not much “showtime”; just very solid offensive movement, looking for the open man and for the open lane. And of course, their defense is spectacular. They blocked 6 shots (average 7 per game) and altered many more; Bradley only shot 27 percent.

It was 35-25 at the half and ended up 69-49; BU did cut it to 62-49 with just under 4 minutes left in the game, but WSU did what they needed to do to close it out (made a couple of substitutions).

The game was on ESPN2. Bradley Basketball had made ESPN just the day before, but for another reason:

February 26, 2014 Posted by | basketball | | Leave a comment

Outliers and society

I think that this is common in this day and age: I have some students who are struggling in our “elementary conceptual calculus” course. They come to class, but work a large number of hours at a job in order to make ends meet. So…they are often left with very little time to study.

And yes, IN THIS COURSE, most of the students need to study quite a bit in order to have a chance at even a “C”.

In short: most students need to have a certain number of hours in order to sleep and to addition to making the classes and their part time jobs.

Now, some might say that this is nonsense.

I remember a professor I had at the Naval Academy. He said that when he was an undergraduate he studied very little for his math classes as he paid his own way through school by waiting tables. He made up for it by PAYING ATTENTION IN CLASS.

That is well and good…..but then remember that he had an earned Ph.D. in mathematics from MIT.

Most of us don’t have that type of natural ability.

Yes, Mohammed Ali could break the conventional rules of boxing (dangle his arms, lean away from punches):

But most, including most other professional boxers, don’t have that kind of ability.

Yes, there are people who can run a 2:15 marathon on 35 miles a week of training:

Following the 1976 trials he trained by running 35 miles per week and ran “a 2:14:37 for second place at the Nike-Oregon Track Club Marathon in Eugene in 1978. After that, he ran 2:15:23 for 15th place in the Boston Marathon in 1979.”

But most of us aren’t that gifted (this was Tony Sandoval, cowinner of the 1980 US Olympic Trials Marathon)

Yes, some can make a successful film while being stoned on marijuana, but most of us aren’t as talented as the Beatles.

The list can go on and on. The bottom line: you can gain inspiration from the incredibly successful, but you won’t be able to get away with taking the short cuts that many of them got away with. Neither you nor I are outliers.

Public policy should reflect this. Yes, it is great that a tiny minority of people might strike it very rich. But MOST WILL NOT. It is unjust to orient society that way.

February 25, 2014 Posted by | boxing, education, marathons, social/political | , | Leave a comment

Winter has to end SOMETIME….

But it won’t end soon.


Sooner or later I’ll see:


Although, realistically, I’d have zero chance of staying with her at a race. I have to aim for older, slower women with bigger curvier asses:


I was feeling just a tiny but run down, so I took it easy today:

easy 22 minute 2-mile warm up. I was then just fed up with the treadmill; I couldn’t stomach another minute of it.
So to the indoor track: 3 miles in 27:54 (last mile in 8:52; I was starting to fade.
Then 3 mile walk on the treadmill; 16 minute mile then 26:50 for 2 more walking miles (1.0 elevation; increasing to a 12:30 pace at the end)

I left: 8 miles under my belt and feeling refreshed rather than run down. I think that I needed this.

Still, I am sick, sick, sick of snow and winter. 🙂

Tonight: Bradley plays no. 2 Wichita State; WSU is only favored by 12. It will be on ESPN 2 but starts at 8 pm. I’ll sleep in a bit tomorrow and move my weight workout to 10 am. (after my 9-10 class).

My guess: close game for a half; BU gets blown away in the second half.

February 25, 2014 Posted by | basketball, running, walking | | Leave a comment