Journalistic Science

Mundane day. Week in. Summer has arrived with the desessioning of schule and the disappearance (happily) of the educationalists and their loud, shrill conversations of bog blather. Are there any INTRO educationalists or have they all been driven out by the EXTROs?

Speaking of which, what is the worst sort of Fruit Fanboy? The kind who pretends not to be. I ran across such in this article, [Link} extoling how “scientists use MACs”.

Really? Not to my experience. But then, I’m a physicist, which is sorta a scientist, who used to design missiles (one up from rocket science?) and served as a laboratory chief IT manager. (Cats are easy, try engineers who all want to be different and ignore the rules.) The Yankee army of occupation said these folks had to use Winders boxes. What OS did they want to use? LINUX.

I found out that I did too but had to wait for retirement and out from under the velvet thumb. Sorta.

I have used all three OS: Winders, OSX, Linux. And the choice, in my mind, is easy. Linux is best. Mostly because it doesn’t reduce the user to a chattel.

But I have the freedom to choose. In the main, people associated with big organizations have to use whatever the organization wants them to. Unless they can show they can’t do their work with that choice.

That mostly means Winders. It’s cheaper, at least if you invest in the MegaHard management model and can’t afford to get out. Venus Fly Trap. Quicksand.

Nowadays there are some Linux shops. Not many, but the number is growing. It’s really cheaper. Especially if you have a computate workforce. Which takes in most nerds. Not all. The artsy fartsy ones still want Apples. It’s a religion thing. The good side is they don’t cut off heads. Unlike too many religions.

And I know that the control OS at CERN is Linux. Seen the screens. Hard to mistake an Ubuntu logo for a MAC. Except by fanboys?

And by the way, since when does NASA run CERN? Or is this some tin foil hat thing we don’t know about?

Anyway, that’s enough. Just quit trying to feed us stercus.

Joe Physicist

It falleth. Dihydrogen oxide that is. From the sky. Which is itself a concept of much depth and breadth. But the liquid was not too obnoxious save for its diffraction on the windscreen of my motorcar.

And the gym was mediocre, which is about as good as it gets given the management’s incompetence and the overall paucity of good sense that abides in the organization. The weight bouncers were more than a bit arrogant this morning and there were moments when I was glad the gym is next the hospital even though that establishment is not greatly better than the gym. In competence, that is. Same management, of course.

And being two day, it was science podcast day and a poor representation of such at that. First I had to listen to some fellow from the Large Hadron Collider, a name that dares any male to misspell it, arguing that the folks who work there are just ordinary men-in-the-street.

Hardly. Just being a physicist is offsetting given that the number of physicists in the Yankee repulbic is o(2.3E4) and the population is o(3.1E8) which gives us a fraction of ~ 7E-5. Now given that most people have about 250 friends and acquaintances the probability, simply estimated, that any random person “knows” a physicist is o(2E-5). This is, of course, warped since physicist condense, like bosons, and so one wither knows no physicists or several.

So based on frequency of occurrence, physicists are not common.

Could the argument be construed to be one of temperament and behavior? That doesn’t seem to hold dihydrogen oxide either. All physicists have to do maths which distances them from the algebra fearing herd. They have quite specialized knowledge and are generally considered to not behave as the herd does. Yes, they still drive motorcars – in the main, and they wear clothes and eat food. They are humans. But a great fraction of them are nerds and aspects of autism spectrum are more common among physicists than in the general population.

So I come back to my original head shake that the contention that the fellows working at the LHC are average joes is specious and farcical.

Note that this is not a statement of elitism. Haven’t argued here that physicists are better than other people. Just that they are outliers in the spectrum of humanity.

But it is a bit disturbing that a physicist would make such a ridiculous contention. Probably this fellow is an administrator whose physics neurons have been rotted by bureaucracy. At least we can hope.

STEM Sexuality

Rather a calm day at gym this morning. No fog, and only a refreshing wind. And the gym was pleasantly sparse of educationalists and weight bouncers. The podcasts – all sciencey – were highly unmemorable. Much, perhaps a third, of the content, was dealing with women scientists and how they often get ignored.

I admit that women have not gotten as much attention. nor representation, in STEM as men. At least part of the reasons for this are inherent to the gender differences and I am unsure that these differences should be ignored solely for the purpose of some metric of “equality”. Somehow I rather doubt there is any stable situation other than fully undirected and fully directed and I doubt many want the latter. And a metastable situation cannot be imposed, or, at least, history indicates none has been imposed yet which leads us to the conjecture that it is at least very hard and likely impossible.

I was also rather disappointed by the presentation. It was largely an anecdotal listing of this woman held this post or made this discovery that had this benefit for society. None of these really has anything to do with science. The former are discipline independent and almost always boring except to insiders, and the latter are not so much about science as technology and society. This does not mean they are not important, just that they aren’t science and thus irrelevant and, often, irritating which alienates those sympathetic to the cause if not the argument.

I realize these maunderings are largely oriented to the bogs but IMHO the approach should be “in the trenches” and not top down. Until workplace discriminiation and bias is ameliorated – it can never be eliminated without exterminating the species – it does little good to promote management palliatives and analgesics.

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Scientist Intelligence

Not a bad morning so far. A bit nippish but nowhere as heat deprived as the middle and aft end of the week, Or at least that’s what the weather beavers foretell and I suspect they are being optimist and misleading. The gym was pleasantly sparse although the podcast was a bit dull.

So I was in a very good situation to consider an article [Link] sent me by a colleague, Magnetic Inductance Force, about how natural scientists are more intelligent than social scientists. I am not sure of this, personally. It seems to me rather like comparing one type of fruit with another. Are biologists less intelligent than physicists because they can’t do maths as well? Are biologists more intelligent than economists because what maths they can do they get right? I am not sure.

From what I have seen, intelligence quantification is somewhat arbitrary and subjective. Not to mention that intelligence itself is poorly posed and worse defined.  It seems rather like measuring the mass of a proton with a postal balance.

Having worked with other STEMs, and I think I can, on an individual basis, extend the appellation to include social scientists, I know that their smarts – I shan’t call it intelligence – is different from that of natural scientists. In facts, mathematicians are different from physicists from chemists…….. So there.

But I am still not convinced that bogs are actually intelligent. Or even sentient.

Not Science?

A lovely two day thus far. A bit warm, but the gym was blissfully sparse of educationalists and had only one, exceptionally noisy, weight bouncer. The podcast today was a selection of science podcasts from various sources and aside from a particularly unengaging interview about pesticide suicide – evidently an African activity – and the realization that public radio science podcasts (radio broadcasts) are particularly vapid, there was not much noteworthy.

I have been considering an article [Link] in Scientific American that asks the question of whether psychology is a science. This is a topic – in general – that intrigues me. Part of it is important, of distinguishing deliberate falsehood for unfair gain from actual seeking of understanding. But part of it is looking for a balance. Physics, and physicists, tends to look down on the other sciences as “stamp collecting”. As one who has collected stamps since childhood I don’t so much consider that insulting as disparaging of stamp collecting.

I should comment that I have colleagues who are psychologists and they are not at all like the psychologists one sees on the electromagnetic audio-visual receiver. They do not observe someone for thirty seconds and immediately offer some pithy insight. In fact, they don’t seem to have many insights to offer. They do experiments that are at once appalling and embarrassing. These are all observational experiments, and they are very poorly controlled, mostly because they deal with animals (including humans) that they don’t harm other than observing them and perhaps forcing them to participate in the experiments. From my standpoint they are treating whole animals as if they were elementary particles which strikes me as egregiously simplistic. And I can’t even think about identicality without pain medications. It’s rather like mixing Fermions and Bosons and then measuring the statistics.

The embarrassing part is that they really don’t have a choice. Given the restrictions on dealing with humans, and other animals, they really can’t have control, so rigorous experimentation and testability are basically irrelevant to these efforts. So the question is does this make it not a science?

I have to admit to being conflicted. One the positive side these folks are trying to understand an aspect of reality. On the other hand are they using effective methods? In the latter, are they like alchemists rather than chemists? I’m not sure, but I do know it isn’t stamp collecting – stamps don’t make poo and get ornery.

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Encrypted Golf

Two day and the gym was almost sparse enough. Only a couple of weight bouncers playing speed bump for every one else. As is usual, the podcasts were science episodes and the highlights were a discussion of the hundredth anniversary of the Bohr atom (Science) and an interview with E. O. Wilson (NPR – Abe Flato.)

I was already pumped on Bohr from the article in this month’s Physics Today but this was reasonably supplemental despite its superficiality and boggish positivity. And it did give me occasion to reflect on the use of the term “orbital”. But I was a bit leery of Wilson. After all, a great deal has been made of his statement that scientists don’t need maths: I cannot imagine this, at least for physicists. But I was pleasantly surprised by his argument for this, which is almost entirely in the biology context, so I will concede that those who do “stamp collecting” science may not need maths. And I rather took a shine to one of his statements that

“Real Scientists don’t play golf (or watch football.)”

On which azimuth, I noted an Ars Technica article [Link] that indicates if you use anonymous browsing or encrypted email then you are more likely to be watched by the Yankee government’s secret internet police.

Sorry, this one isn’t a surprise. It’s even logical as well as being in the category of a sore tooth that has to be repeatedly touched to make sure it is still sore. I am somewhat less taken with the bull-red analogy.

It only stands to reason that if the YG sees someone encrypting or anonymous then the natural conjecture is that they are up to something not innocent. Duhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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