More Insight

Friday, February 29, 2008

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Land of the Free*

The New York Times reported today that over 1% of Americans are incarcerated. About 1 in 99.1 adults are in jail

Justice may be blind, but our judicial system certainly is not:

1 in 9 black men 20-34 years old is in prison
1 in 355 white women 35-39 years old is in prison

Maybe we should just get a clue from Norway...

The US spent about $49 Billion on corrections in 2007, almost $24,000 per inmate. About 7% of states' budgets are spent on incarceration.

I wonder how much we spend to lock up individuals elsewhere - Gitmo, Abu Ghraib, and all the other "black sites" we have around the world...

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Spoiler Alert!

This country is based on the fantasy that the government is the voice of the people; going through the motions of voting and keeping the king-makers' dealing secret is central to our culture.

Diebold Accidentally Leaks Results Of 2008 Election Early

Properly safeguard the illusion of democracy for all Americans

Better Late than Nader

Ralph responds to the immediate bashing of his campaign by the democratic frontrunners

Nader on the Daily Show last year

Sunday, February 24, 2008

It's Nadering Time!

Ralph Nader runs for President!
Nader also criticized Republican candidate John McCain and Democrats Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton for failing to support full Medicare for all or cracking down on Pentagon waste and a “bloated military budget. He blamed that on corporate lobbyists and special interests, which he said dominate Washington, D.C., and pledged in his third-party campaign to accept donations only from individuals.

The question now is whether Gore will run again to prove that Nader is a vote raider

Of the People, for the People, by the People

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Nader/Gravel 08?

Let 'em know

Scientific Principles and Reason

Principles everyone should live by:

Science is posing formidable challenges to some of our most ancient assumptions and fundamental precepts. Its two-edged byproduct, high technology, offers us unprecedented opportunities even as it tears at the intricate fabric of nature. We need a heightened level of scientific awareness to protect the environment that sustains us. The aspirations of democracy are based on the notion of an informed citizenry, capable of making wise decisions. The choices we are asked to make become increasingly complex. They require the longer-term thinking and greater tolerance for ambiguity that science fosters. The new economy is predicated on a continuous pipeline of scientific and technological innovation. It can not exist without workers and consumers who are mathematically and scientifically literate.

Ann Druyan
Cosmos Studios, Inc.

Adapted from Carl Sagan's The Demon Haunted World

-Wherever possible there must be independent confirmation of the facts.

-Encourage substantive debate on the evidence by knowledgeable proponents of all points of view.

-Arguments from authority carry little weight (in science there are no "authorities").

-Spin more than one hypothesis - don't simply run with the first idea that caught your fancy.

-Try not to get overly attached to a hypothesis just because it's yours.

-Quantify, wherever possible.

-If there is a chain of argument every link in the chain must work.

-Occam's razor - if there are two hypotheses that explain the data equally well choose the simpler.

-Ask whether the hypothesis can, at least in principle, be falsified (shown to be false by some unambiguous test). In other words, it is testable? Can others duplicate the experiment and get the same result?

Additional issues are:

-Conduct control experiments - especially "double blind" experiments where the person taking measurements is not aware of the test and control subjects.

-Check for confounding factors - separate the variables.

Common fallacies of logic and rhetoric

-Ad hominem - attacking the arguer and not the argument.

-Argument from "authority".

-Argument from adverse consequences (putting pressure on the decision maker by pointing out dire consequences of an "unfavorable" decision).

-Appeal to ignorance (absence of evidence is not evidence of absence).

-Special pleading (typically referring to god's will).

-Begging the question (assuming an answer in the way the question is phrased).

-Observational selection (counting the hits and forgetting the misses).

-Statistics of small numbers (such as drawing conclusions from inadequate sample sizes).

-Misunderstanding the nature of statistics (President Eisenhower expressing astonishment and alarm on discovering that fully half of all Americans have below average intelligence!)

-Inconsistency (e.g. military expenditures based on worst case scenarios but scientific projections on environmental dangers thriftily ignored because they are not "proved").

-Non sequitur - "it does not follow" - the logic falls down.

-Post hoc, ergo propter hoc - "it happened after so it was caused by" - confusion of cause and effect.

-Meaningless question ("what happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object?).

-Excluded middle - considering only the two extremes in a range of possibilities (making the "other side" look worse than it really is).

-Short-term v. long-term - a subset of excluded middle ("why pursue fundamental science when we have so huge a budget deficit?").

-Slippery slope - a subset of excluded middle - unwarranted extrapolation of the effects (give an inch and they will take a mile).

-Confusion of correlation and causation.

-Caricaturing (or stereotyping) a position to make it easier to attack.

-Suppressed evidence or half-truths.

-Weasel words - for example, use of euphemisms for war such as "police action" to get around limitations on Presidential powers. "An important art of politicians is to find new names for institutions which under old names have become odious to the public"

(excerpted from The Planetary Society Australian Volunteer Coordinators Prepared by Michael Paine )

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Damn Swedes

Not only are they the most innovative country, their 4 year-olds are also pretty innovative when it comes to knowing how to play the drums...

Check out the Globe's coverage of the American Association for the Advancement of Science:

Science dazzles us, science bewilders us, science touches everything and everyone — from life-saving medicines to technologies so blended into day-to-day existence that they seem nearly as natural as drawing breath. More than in any other nation, the American lifestyle and economy is driven by research and scientific innovation. Lose that edge, scientists warn — lose that obsession with discovery — and we may lose the very restless, questing quality that has made the United States, for all its warts, the most innovative and prosperous place on earth. A fundamental aim of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world’s largest general scientific society, is to show that science isn’t just weird stuff happening in a lab somewhere. It’s the neverceasing quest to explain our world and inhabit it more comfortably

Why Vote Obama?

Future Majority has some good reasons

Monday, February 18, 2008

Friday, February 15, 2008

Patriots Got Screwed

Not bitching about a play or a ref's "bad" call, just the clock

Timing is everything

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Nerds' Wet Dream

The Science Channel is Awesome

How could you not wanna watch?

For instance, nothing lasts forever - not even our planet (especially given our rate of self-destruction) - so why not look into a replacement? After all, earth can't sustain our rate of population growth for too much longer and extra-terrestrial colonization is a valid solution to deal with the crisis. Either way, if we as a species manage to survive another billion or so years, our planet will no longer be able to support life, so we'd need a good alternative.

That's why many scientists are looking at our neighbor, Mars, with hope and excitement. Terraforming advocates propose we transform Mars into an earth-like planet for human colonization. The first step is recreating a thick, hospitable atmosphere of CO2, either by directing a lot of huge mirrors at the planet, including its ice caps; by slamming 40 billion tons of asteroid into it; or by building lots of smokey factories to emit the same greenhouse gases that are shortening earth's lifespan.
After we warmed up Mars and thickened the atmosphere — a process that might take 50 years — the real planet-modifying work would begin. With atmospheric pressures raised, human colonists equipped with breathing apparatus could build large inflatable dwellings on the Martian surface. They also would scatter the seeds of plants genetically altered to tolerate Martian soil and perform photosynthesis at high efficiency, which would begin adding oxygen to the atmosphere so that humans and animals eventually could breathe freely. The oxygenation process could be speeded up even more with yet-to-be invented technological advances.

Although it all seems very science fiction and far off down the line, NASA plans a return to the moon in 2020, the first step in establishing a permanent moon base (several other countries, including China, India, Russia and Japan are on their way to the moon in the next decade as well.) NASA scientists are already working on producing fuel, water, and oxygen from moon rocks, potentially turning the moon into one big reservoir.
In 2030 NASA will send a 2 year manned mission to Mars, the first of its kind, and likely to yield some radical new data and a revival in colonization efforts. All in all, there could be a full scale human colonization of Mars by around the year 2100.

It probably won't look like this

Stay tuned...

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Two Faces of the Same Coin

How long will America keep flipping a coin?

Who controls the past now, controls the future. Who controls the present now, controls the past

If you're turned on to politics, politics will turn on you

Friday, February 8, 2008

Stimulus Package

But not everyone agreed on how to stimulate the economy...

The American public, however, would rather see US forces out of Iraq to stimulate the economy than a check in the mail

Here's how the Democrat frontrunners spend supporters' money

Sweden wants to make file sharing legal, by paying more for the internet.


Who Would Kidnap Jesus?