Sunday, December 31, 2006

Science breakthru of the year

Science magazine declares the breakthru of the year (it was evolution in 2005):
To mathematicians, Grigori Perelman's proof of the Poincaré conjecture qualifies at least as the Breakthrough of the Decade. ...

While bringing new results to topology, Perelman's work brought new techniques to geometry. It cemented the central role of geometric evolution equations, powerful machinery for transforming hard-to-work-with spaces into more-manageable ones. Earlier studies of such equations always ran into "singularities" at which the equations break down. Perelman dynamited that roadblock.
At the end of the article, it mentions how the New Yorker magazine generated some artificial controversey by publishing a misleading article with distorted quotes.

I've wondered how the New Yorker magazine can brag about their meticulous fact-checking and still get this story so completely wrong. I think I just got the answer.

I just listened to a lecture from science journalist K.C. Cole (given to Annenberg school on Sept 30, 2005). She said that when she wrote for the New Yorker, she had to sign a 35-page contract forbidding her to consult with any experts about the correctness of what she was writing. She said that science writers sometimes do it secretly out of necessity, but that they can get fired if they get caught.
Q. To what extent do you use scientific consultants in your writing, to look over your articles and make sure they are scientifically valid.

A. [Cole] Well, the law is that you are not allowed to do that. You are not allowed to show the article. When I worked for the New Yorker, you had to sign a 35-page contract that assures you are not going to do that.
That explains a lot. I've noticed journalists with a reluctance to show their work in progress, but I had always assumed that it was a matter of personal pride or objectivity. I had no idea that they might be contractually obligated to turn in unchecked work.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Testing customer honesty

I just watched ABC Primetime, which used hidden cameras to test bystanders. It found that when a man is abusing a women in public, a female bystander is twice as likely to intervene as a man. But when a woman is abusing a man, the female bystander usually says that the man deserves it!

Then it gave people extra change in a fast food restaurant. Many returned the extra bill immediately, and others seemed not to notice. For the latter, the TV crew confronted each one and told him that he got an extra bill as part of a TV stunt, and tried to shame him into returning it.

If I got extra change by mistake, I would feel some obligation to return it. But if a TV crew told me that it was all a stunt, then it was not a mistake. Those people were being paid to participate in a commercial experiment, and they have no obligation at all to return it.

The only reason to return the money would be that some nasty TV producer might try to make you look bad on TV if you don't. Okay, that is a good reason. But there is no legal or moral obligation to return money that was deliberately paid to you.

Not a mind reader

I was sent this cartoon.

I sometimes post my theories about mindreading here. Briefly, I believe that the vast majority of humans suffer from a delusion that causes them to engage in mindreading. It is so widespread that most mindreaders don't even realize that they are doing it. If you point it out to them, they will insist that they are applying ordinary cognitive processes.

There are plenty of non-mindreaders, but for the most part they are oblivious to the mindreading that is taking place.

I don't do mindreading. I sometimes point out fallacious mindreading by others.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Our Founding Illegals

William Hogeland writes in this NY Times op-ed:
Every nation is a nation of immigrants. Go back far enough and you'll find us all, millions of potential lives, tucked in the DNA of our African mother, Lucy. ...

You wouldn't know it from the immigration debate going on all year (the bipartisan immigration bill-in-progress, announced this week, is unlikely to mention it), but America's pioneer values developed in a distinctly illegal context. In 1763, George III drew a line on a map ...

George Washington, a young colonel in the Virginia militia, instructed his land-buying agents in the many ways of getting around the law. ...

Parallels to today's illegal immigration are striking.
Washington didn't just circumvent King George III's orders, he organized an armed rebellion against the King.

I am not sure about these parallels. If we have illegal aliens who are bent on armed revolt, then I certainly favor keeping them out of the USA.

Foreign language not important

This Nat. Geographic study shows that a lot of Americans cannot find common places on a map, but I just heard it cited for its finding that 47 percent think it is "important but not absolutely necessary" to speak a foreign language, and 38 percent say it is "not too important".

I am with the 38%. In fact, I would say that learning a non-English language is not necessary or important at all, unless you want to be a UN interpreter or something like that. English is the World's language, and there is hardly any value in learning any other language.

In other news, the FCC has decided that Morse Code is no longer necessary for ham radio operators.

Parasite turns women into sex kittens

Australia news:
A common parasite can increase a women's attractiveness to the opposite sex but also make men more stupid, an Australian researcher says.

About 40 per cent of the world's population is infected with Toxoplasma gondii, including about eight million Australians. ...

"In short, it can make men behave like alley cats and women behave like sex kittens''.

Dr Boulter said the recent Czech Republic research was not conclusive, but was backed up by animal studies that found infection also changes the behaviour of mice.
Hmmm. I've noticed the correlation, but I thought that the female attractiveness caused the male stupidity.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Rich blacks have nanny troubles

The NY Times frequently has articles about the supposed suffering of certain groups. Today it has an article about rich black folks who have a hard time hiring nannies because a lot of nannies are black and they refuse to work for other blacks:
But interviews with dozens of nannies and agencies that employ them in Atlanta, Chicago, New York and Houston turned up many nannies -- often of African-American or Caribbean descent themselves -- who avoid working for families of those backgrounds. Their reasons included accusations of low pay and extra work, fears that employers would look down at them, and suspicion that any neighborhood inhabited by blacks had to be unsafe.

The result is that many black parents do not have the same child care options as their colleagues and neighbors. They must settle for illegal immigrants or non-English speakers instead of more experienced or credentialed nannies, rely on day care or scale back their professional aspirations to spend more time at home.

"Very rarely will an African-American woman work for an African-American boss", said Pat Cascio, the owner of Morningside Nannies in Houston and the president of the International Nanny Association.

Many of the African-American nannies who make up 40 percent of her work force fear that people of their own color will be "uppity and demanding", said Ms. Cascio, who is white. After interviews, she said, those nannies "will call us and say, 'Why didn't you tell me'" the family is black? ...

Some black sitters, both Caribbean and African-American, said they flat out refused to work for families of those backgrounds, accusing them of demanding more and paying less.
Conventional liberal wisdom is that only those belonging to dominant groups can be racist (or sexist, homophobic, etc). I wonder what they think of poor black powerless nannies expressing a racial preference.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Rats have visual dreams

NY Science Times reports:
Dr. Wilson also said that the new findings, by showing activity in the visual neocortex, confirmed that rats had humanlike dreams with visual imagery, a possibility some researchers had doubted.
I am always glad to see these grand mysteries resolved.

Commenting on injustices

A former prosecutor calling himself Ragerz argues that we shouldn't come to any conclusions about the Duke lacrosse case, and that criticizing the prosecutor is like a lynching:
I do think people should try to avoid making ultimate judgments about the case. ... I think we owe it to our system of justice to let these questions be decided by appropriate tribunals in formal legal proceedings. ... However, the alternative, which is equivalent to lynching, is worse than accepting the sometimes flawed outcomes of formal legal proceedings. I don't have any problem with anyone saying anything they want about these ultimate questions when the proceedings have been completed. ... But once an indictment has been approved by a grand jury, we should give the justice system a chance to work (or fail, as the case may be).
No, this is not how our justice system works. The NC DA Nifong did everything to try this case in the press, and the American system
is that the defendants can defend themselves in the court of public opinion.

I have come to the conclusion that the Duke lacrosse players are innocent of the charges, and that Nifong set out to frame the players for his own personal political gain. Our justice system is a public process for good reasons, including letting the public form opinions about the process while it is ongoing. Apparently there are prosecutors who think that we must be silent while good men are framed.

The NC paper says:
In the New York Times story, Nifong acknowledged that he should have turned that favorable evidence over to the defense. And he said withholding that information was an oversight -- he thought he had already turned it over.

That was Nifong's third explanation why he did not turn over the evidence. ...

But Nifong has bigger problems than his conflicting statements to reporters.

Since May, Nifong has repeatedly misrepresented his actions in filings and in face-to-face dealings with judges. Nifong has repeatedly said that he disclosed everything about the DNA evidence.
Here is a summary of the exculpatory evidence.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Duke lacrosse players still falsely accused

NY Times reports:
DURHAM, N.C., Dec. 22 -- The Durham district attorney dropped rape charges against three former Duke lacrosse players on Friday, but he said he would continue to pursue kidnapping and sexual offense charges that carry equally stiff sentences.

The district attorney, Michael B. Nifong, who has faced relentless and rising criticism for his handling of the case, said he dismissed the rape charges because the accuser [Crystal Gail Mangum] had begun to waver on crucial details.
Begun? Mangum has been wavering all along. The story continues:
The police showed her three sets of photographs during the first three weeks of the case, one with 24 lacrosse players, one with 12, and, after she failed to identify any suspects, one with all 46 white players.

She identified only one person with 100 percent certainty in two photo arrays as having been present at the team party. But that person, Dan Ross, was not there. He was 24 miles away in a dorm room in Raleigh.

The woman also identified the wrong player as having held up a broomstick while making a sexually crude remark to the two dancers.

As previously reported, she did not identify two of the defendants -- Mr. Seligmann and David F. Evans -- as attackers when she saw their pictures in the first photo arrays.
I think that Nifong and Mangum are the real criminals here.
It is outrageous that criminal charges persist against the Duke lacrosse players when the players have airtight alibis, the DNA tests were negative, and the only prosecution witnesses have recanted.

I also think that it is wrong that the major media have protected Mangum's identity. You have to find it on blogs like this. She is not a rape victim; she is just someone who has made some wild and implausible accusations.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Sometimes parents can be blamed

NY Times reports:
In recent decades, psychiatry has come to understand mental disorders as a matter of biology, of brain abnormalities rooted in genetic variation. This consensus helped discredit theories from the 1960s that blamed the parents -- usually the mother -- for problems like neurosis, schizophrenia and autism.

By defining mental disorders as primarily problems of brain chemicals, the emphasis on biology also led to an increasing dependence on psychiatric drugs, especially those that entered the market in the 1980s and 1990s.

But the science behind nondrug treatments is getting stronger. And now, some researchers and doctors are looking again at how inconsistent, overly permissive or uncertain child-rearing styles might worsen children's problems, and how certain therapies might help resolve those problems, in combination with drug therapy or without drugs.
So science now shows that bad parenting can contribute to bad behavior.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Carter defends his apartheid book

Former President Jimmy Carter defends his book "Palestine Peace Not Apartheid" in an interview:
Why do you think you're under attack for the book and the title?
You and I both know the powerful influence of AIPAC [the American Israel Public Affairs Committee], which is not designed to promote peace.
I am always suspicious about anyone who prefaces his argument with "You and I both know". It is presumptuous and it is mindreading. It is a feeble attempt to shift the blame for saying something without support. Here, Carter attempts to blame the listener for his own paranoid prejudices. His idiotic book would be under attack whether we had an Israeli lobby or not.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

No one cares about Si Valley scandals

The business pages have been relentlessly trashing Si Valley companies because of the stock option and HP spying scandals. And yet no one really case. The Si Valley paper reports:
So far this year more than 40 of Silicon Valley's biggest companies have been entangled in the [stock option backdating] scandal -- yet their stock prices are up an average of 19 percent, with a median gain of 8 percent. This exceeds the 13 percent gain for the Mercury News 150 and the 11 percent gain in the tech-heavy Nasdaq index. Though one-third of the implicated companies have seen their stocks sink this year, they're outnumbered by the companies enjoying double-digit gains.

The options scandal ranks as one of the most far-reaching in U.S. corporate history. It has toppled more than 60 executives and directors, forced scores of companies to make restatements topping $5.7 billion and triggered more than 325 lawsuits. Yet investors apparently are betting that factors like rising sales and profits outweigh the unquantifiable risk of the scandal's collateral damage.
The next day, it also reported:
Applicants flood HP: Hewlett-Packard's spying scandal may have battered the legendary computer company's reputation, but plenty of folks still want to work there.

The Palo Alto giant, whose 150,000 employees are spread across every time zone on Earth, said hiring is still on track. Even though news surfaced during the first week of September and dominated front-page headlines throughout the month that HP had used deceit to obtain the private phone records of board members and journalists to trace leaks to the media, the company received 102,000 applications from external job candidates that month -- more than twice the 44,800 applications it received in November 2005.

According to the company, the number of external job seekers knocking on HP's door over the past year "has been steadily rising".
These scandals might sell newspapers or give govt bureaucrats something to do, but the investors, employees, and customers just don't care. They may even be mystified as to why anyone would even consider these scandals. It is not obvious that anything was illegal or unethical, and it is doubtful whether anyone was really harmed.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Iraq is not flat

Thomas L. Friedman, the columnist who is mainly known for writing the book The World Is Flat said this today on NBC Meet The Press:
MR. FRIEDMAN: You know, Tim, if I can share with you another rule I had about the Middle East, it was that any general going to the Middle East -- or reporter -- should have to take a test, and it would consist of one question:

Do you believe the shortest distance between two points is a straight line? If you answer yes to that question, you can't go to Iraq. You can go to Korea, you can go to Germany, you can go to Japan. You can't go to Iraq.

And the problem is, when you hear the first lady, when I think of the way Bush is running this war, he thinks that in the Middle East the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.
That's the problem? If only President G.W. Bush took some geometry lessons from Tom Friedman, everything would be fine!

Friedman's book says:
I just wanted to understand why the Indians I met were taking our work,... When I set sail, so to speak, I too assumed that the world was round, but what I encountered in the real India profoundly shook my faith in that notion. ...

Columbus reported to his king and queen that the world was round, and he went down in history as the man who first made this discovery. I returned home and shared my discovery only with my wife, and only in a whisper.

"Honey," I confided, "I think the world is flat."
The book was a huge seller. The Economist magazine ridicules him here. See also Matt Taibbi.

I am filing this under mangled metaphors.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Mel Gibson is the worst

Julia Guernsey trashes Apocalypto:
I hate it. I despise it. I think it's despicable. It's offensive to Maya people. It's offensive to those of us who try to teach cultural sensitivity ... I think Mel Gibson is the worst thing that's happened to indigenous populations since the arrival of the Spanish.
When asked about inaccuracies in the movies, her main complaints were that it mixed early and late Mayan culture, and that the women didn't really flap their breasts when dancing at a human sacrifice ceremony.

Birth after Duke rape accusation

WorldNetDaily reports:
Just hours after defense attorneys for three Duke University lacrosse players filed a motion claiming their clients had been misidentified in a photo lineup by the victim of an alleged rape that occured during a team party, Fox News and WRAL-TV in Raleigh, N.C., are reporting that the woman gave birth last night at the University of North Carolina Hospital.

The reported birth comes nine months after she alleges she was raped by three players while working as a stripper at the March 13 party.

Following the party, the 27-year-old woman was examined at a local hospital and, according to a defense attorney, was found to be not pregnant at the time. She was given emergency contraception to prevent pregnancy.

This week, defense attorneys filed a motion that said male DNA from several sources had been found inside the accuser, but none from the defendants.
The Duke accuser, Crystal Gail Mangum, sure kept this a secret. Maybe the Durham NC DA knew about the baby, and hoped that it would look like a preppie lacrosse player. I guess I'll avoid mentioning the baby's name, as the baby is an innocent party.

Update: It turns out that Mangum is not scheduled to give birth for another 6 weeks. Meanwhile, here is another new story about prosecutor misconduct in the case:
RALEIGH - The head of a private DNA laboratory said under oath that he and District Attorney Mike Nifong agreed not to report DNA results favorable to Duke lacrosse players charged with rape.

Brian Meehan, director of DNA Security, said Friday his lab found DNA from unidentified men in the underwear, pubic hair and rectum of the woman who said she was gang-raped at a lacrosse party in March. Nurses at Duke Hospital collected the samples a few hours after the alleged assault. Meehan said the DNA did not come from Reade Seligmann, David Evans or Collin Finnerty, who have been charged with rape and sexual assault in the case.
They boys are still being charged, even tho they have airtight alibis and the DNA test was negative.

Thomas Sowell writes:
You think that is incredible? How about a statement made afterwards by District Attorney Nifong that he didn't say anything about this publicly because he was "trying to avoid dragging any names through the mud"?
Huhh? I thought that Nifong's main purpose was to drag innocent names thru the mud.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Girls indirectly aggressive

Scientific Magazine reports:
Girls and women are not necessarily less aggressive, as was assumed until the 1990s. But women engage in more indirect, covert aggression, whereas men tend toward immediate, outward physical aggression.
I'm not sure if some 1990s research proved this, or everyone just decided to make a different assumption.

Sunni v Shi-ite

Democrat House Intelligence Committee chairman Silvestre Reyes was embarrassed recently for not knowing the difference between the Sunni and Shiite (aka Shia) Mohammedans, so I looked it up.

Before Mohammed died in 632 AD, he tried to pass control of his kingdom to Ali, his cousin who had also married his daughter and had a couple of sons with her. He also had many other wives. The Shiites believed that Ali had the right genes for talking to God, and the Sunnis believed that power should be shared with other high priests (aka imams). So they fought a war over it, and both sides have been mad about it ever since.

There isn't much practical difference between the Sunnis and Shiites, except that the Sunnis put their foreheads on a prayer mat while praying, and the Shiites put the foreheads on a hard block of clay. Also, they regard each other as heretics who should be persecuted or killed like other infidels.

Most Mohammedans are Sunnis, including Saudis, Al-Qaeda, and Saddam Hussein. Shiite influence is on the increase, because of Iranian influence, the introduction of democracy in Iraq, and the success of Hezbollah in Lebanon.

I tried to figure out which faction is better, but I gave up. Trying was a bit like distinguishing Nazis and Commies. They are all dedicated to the destruction of much of what the civilized world consider great.

Update: Here is the NY Times version. It also describes additional splits. Most of the Shiites are "twelvers", meaning that they are still upset that the boy who was supposed to become the 12th imam disappeared in 874 AD.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Tofu is feminizing

Jim Rutz claims that soy is feminizing.
I have nothing against an occasional soy snack. Soy is nutritious and contains lots of good things. Unfortunately, when you eat or drink a lot of soy stuff, you're also getting substantial quantities of estrogens.

Estrogens are female hormones. If you're a woman, you're flooding your system with a substance it can't handle in surplus. If you're a man, you're suppressing your masculinity and stimulating your "female side," physically and mentally. ... In sad contrast, 60 percent of the refined foods in U.S. supermarkets now contain soy.
News to me, if true. It apparently is true that soy contains estrogen-like compounds. This could explain a lot about veggan health-food freaks.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

In Tuition Game, Popularity Rises With Price

Ever wonder why college tuition is so high? The NY Times reports that colleges have discovered that people want to pay more. After Ursinus sharply raised its tuition:
Ursinus received nearly 200 more applications than the year before. Within four years the size of the freshman class had risen 35 percent, to 454 students. Applicants had apparently concluded that if the college cost more, it must be better.
Of course the colleges argue that the students are still getting a bargain:
Take Swarthmore, the elite college half an hour's drive from Ursinus. With an annual budget of $106 million to educate just under 1,500 undergraduates, Swarthmore spends about $73,690 a student. But its tuition, room, board and fees in the last academic year were little more than $41,000.

"The half of our student body whose families are paying the full sticker price are paying $41,000 for something that costs $73,000," said Suzanne P. Welsh, the treasurer. "So they're getting a great discount."
No, it doesn't cost $73k. That just happens to be how much the college spends.

N.Y. Planning Sex Offender Polygraphs

AP reports:
Officials in two states proposed unusual plans Monday to tighten oversight of convicted sex offenders: Virginia's attorney general wants them to register their e-mail addresses and online IDs, and New York officials want them to take lie-detector tests.

In New York, the parolees' answers to a computer-based polygraph test about their whereabouts could be used to justify electronic monitoring, prohibit Internet use or restrict travel, said Division of Parole spokesman Scott Steinhardt.
I doubt that any good will come of this.

Women are more religious

Bryan Caplan writes:
Women are more religious than men by virtually every measure in virtually every culture.

But the fun doesn't stop there. Once people admit that this gender gap exists, the most popular explanation is that women are "socialized" to be more religious. Stark and Miller put this theory to the test. If the socialization hypothesis is true, they reason, then the gender gap should be larger in more traditional societies where socialization pressure is more intense. Make sense to me.

Survey says: Dead wrong. In fact, the gender gap is smallest in the most traditional societies, and largest in the least traditional societies! In societies that approve of single motherhood, with a high abortion rate, low fertility, and high female labor force participation, the religiosity gap between women and men is especially large.
This is only surprising to those who insist on only looking for environmental causes for human behavior. The obvious explanation is that men and women have cognitive differences, and women need religion more.

Fatherless babies in fertility revolution

The UK Telegraph paper reports:
A child's need for a father will no longer be a consideration when a woman seeks fertility treatment, ministers will say this week.

The move -- which comes despite widespread public opposition and which will give single women and lesbians the right to treatment -- forms part of a shake-up of Britain's embryology laws. One of the key proposals would allow research on test-tube embryos that were part-human, part-animal -- referred to as "chimeras". ...

Homosexual couples will have the same parental rights as heterosexuals and, for the first time, all parents will be banned from choosing the sex of their baby for non-medical reasons. ...

The creation of combined human-animal embryos under licence will be popular among stem-cell researchers, including a team from the North East England Stem Cell Institute, which has submitted plans to create a human-cow chimera embryo. ...

The aim of the shake-up is to bring the 1990 Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act into line with scientific advances and to make sure the law is "fit for purpose in the early 21st century". Caroline Flint, the health minister, claims in her foreword: "The over-arching aim is to pursue the common good through a system broadly acceptable to society."
I am all in favor of modernizing reproductive ethics, but medieval monks could do better than this. Britain now approves of cloning, creation of fatherless kids, homosexual parents, and human-animal chimeras, but if two ordinary healthy heterosexual parents want to have a real boy or girl, then the Brits have a law against it. Weird.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Inappropriate conduct

Texas news:
A four-year-old hugged his teachers aide and was put into in-school suspension, according to the father. ... Damarcus Blackwell's four-year-old son was lining-up to get on the bus after school last month, when he was accused of rubbing his face in the chest of a female employee.

The prinicipal of La Vega Primary School sent a letter to the Blackwells that said the pre-kindergartener demonstrated "inappropriate physical behavior interpreted as sexual contact and/or sexual harassment."
This is crazy. Here is another story about a 13-year-old girl who had sexual intercourse with a 12-year-old boy, and now both must register as sex offending pedophiles for the rest of their lives.

This blog has a list of amusing comparisons between how the schools handled problems a generation ago and today:
Scenario: Johnny and Mark get into a fist fight after school.

1973 Crowd gathers. Mark wins. Johnny and Mark shake hands and end up best friends. Nobody goes to jail, nobody arrested, nobody expelled.

2006 Police called, SWAT team arrives, arrests Johnny and Mark. Charge them with assault, both expelled even though Johnny started it.

Scenario: Jeffrey won?t be still in class, disrupts other students.

1973 Jeffrey sent to office and given a good paddling by Principal. Sits still in class.

2006 Jeffrey given huge doses of Ritalin. Becomes a zombie. School gets extra money from state because Jeffrey has a disability.
Click the link for more.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Brizendine on brain size

Deborah Solomon interviews Dr. Louann Brizendine:
How big is the average male brain?
It's about the size of a cantaloupe. It's 9 to 10 percent larger than the female brain.

But the size of one's brain is unrelated to one's level of intelligence, right?
Yes. Remember, the female brain has more connections between the two hemispheres, and we have 11 percent more brain cells in the area of the brain called the planum temporale, which has to do with perceiving and processing language.

If women have superior verbal skills, why have they been subservient to men in almost all societies?
Because of pregnancy.
So let me get this straight. If your brain is smaller then the difference has nothing to do with intelligence. But if a brain part is bigger, then that proves superior mental skills.

For those who hate stereotypes, read this:
Are you concerned that you are rehabilitating outdated gender stereotypes that portray women as chatterboxes ruled by female hormones?
A stereotype always has an aspect of truth to it, or it wouldn?t be a stereotype. I am talking about the biological basis behind behaviors that we all know about.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Stop mindreading Pres. Bush

Dutch Radio reports:
On Tuesday, Mr Gates said that the United States is not winning in Iraq. But is President Bush psychologically prepared to make the necessary adjustments to his own way of thinking on the subject? That's a question which Iraq Study Group chairman James Baker carefully skirted round on Wednesday:
I worked for former presidents and I used to get questions all the time: Tell me about this president versus that president or the other president. I never put presidents I worked for on the couch, so I am not going to answer that because that would mean I have to psychologically analyze the inner workings of his mind and I don't do that.
I agree with Baker. There is nothing to be gained by mindreadying Pres. Bush. Much of the Leftist criticism of Bush is based on some peculiar mindreading theory that is almost certainly fallacious.

A reader comments:
How about comparing his behavior patterns to those observed in other ex-alcholics? It is possible for an individual to to address and avoid such... but like alcoholism, you first have to recognize the existence of the problem.
This is just another example of faulty mindreading and fallacious reasoning by a Bush-hater. Pres. Bush is not an ex-alcholic, and has no difficulty recognizing the existence of a problem.

Bush was once cited for DUI, and later became an alcohol abstainer in conjunction with some deepened religious beliefs. Many people have similar experiences without being alcoholics.

The phoney programmer shortage

Norman Matloff writes in the SF CA paper:
Once again, the tech industry is putting heavy pressure on Congress to expand the H-1B visa program. Though the industry says the foreign workers are needed to remedy a tech labor shortage, for most employers the attraction of H-1Bs visa holders is simply cheap labor. The H-1B visa program allows skilled immigrants to work in the United States on a temporary basis. ...

The visas granted in computer-related fields are 10 times more numerous than in the next most common tech field, electrical engineering. The industry claims that it needs to import workers to remedy a severe labor shortage. Yet this flies in the face of the economic data.
He's right. The H-1B program is a scam. There is no programmer labor shortage.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Why the Neanderthals died out

Nicholas Wade reports in the NY Science Times:
At sites occupied by modern humans from 45,000 to 10,000 years ago, a period known as the Upper Paleolithic, there is good evidence of different occupations, from small animal and bird remains, as well as the bone awls and needles used to make clothes. It seems reasonable to assume that these activities were divided between men and women, as is the case with modern foraging peoples.

But Neanderthal sites include no bone needles, no small animal remains and no grinding stones for preparing plant foods. So what did Neanderthal women do all day?

Their skeletons are so robustly built that it seems improbable that they just sat at home looking after the children, the anthropologists write. More likely, they did the same as the men, with the whole population engaged in bringing down large game.

The meat of large animals yields a rich payoff, but even the best hunters have unlucky days. The modern humans of the Upper Paleolithic, with their division of labor and diversified food sources, would have been better able to secure a continuous food supply. Nor were they putting their reproductive core -- women and children -- at great risk.

David Pilbeam, a paleoanthropologist at Harvard, said the Arizona researchers' article was "very stimulating and thoughtful" and seemed to be the first to propose a mechanism for why Neanderthal populations declined.
So paleolithic cavemen kept their wives barefoot and pregnant back at the cave, while the men did men's work.

Neanderthal women were liberated and insisted on participated in hunts with men. And that is why Neanderthals went extinct.

Previous conventional wisdom was that humans excelled because they were smarter than Neanderthals, but Neanderthal brains were actually slightly bigger than those of most modern humans.

Update: Neander News has more. I had no idea that the Neanderthals had their own blog!

Monday, December 04, 2006

Michigan tries to ban undue influence

Glenn Sacks writes:
HB 5882, which passed the Michigan House 67-38, amends the Michigan Penal Code to create the Coercive Abortion Prevention Act. Its purpose is to prohibit the putative father of a pregnant woman's child from coercing or intimidating the woman into terminating her pregnancy. ...

HB 5882 actually makes it a crime for a man to "change or attempt to change an existing housing or cohabitation arrangement" with a pregnant significant other, to "file or attempt to file for a divorce" from his pregnant wife, or to "withdraw or attempt to withdraw financial support" from a woman who he has been supporting, if it is determined that the man is doing these things to try to pressure the woman to terminate her pregnancy.
This is weird. We already have laws that say that women can make their own abortion decisions without consulting or even informing their wives or boyfriends. In California, 14-year-old girls are not even required to tell their parents. And now Michigan wants to criminalize any man who even tries to influence a pregnant woman!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

More on Einstein

A couple of people commented on my Einstein criticism. Let me clarify.

I am not denying that Einstein deserved a Nobel Prize for his explanation of the photoelectric effect. I am also not particularly interested in blaming Einstein for plagiarism. Einstein's work would be considered ethical if he had properly credited his sources. There is overwhelming evidence that he relied crucially on papers by Lorentz, Poincare, and Hilbert, and that he dishonestly failed to cite those sources. There are also accusations that he failed to credit his first wife, who was also a physicist.

But that is not what interests me. A lot of great work has been done by egomaniacs who don't give proper credit. What is striking to me is that we have a consensus that Einstein is the greatest genius who has ever lived, and that reputation is based almost entirely on his creation of the Theory of Relativity.

Now if it turns out that Einstein did not create Relativity, then that raises the question about why people idolize him so much.

Copyrights have expired, so you can read Poincare's popular 1905 book and You can find Einstein's Annus Mirabilis Writings for yourself.

My tentative conclusion is that Lorentz and Poincare had already worked out and published the essence of what we know now as the special theory of relativity. Einstein's contribution was to give a description of the Lorentz-Poincare theory without dependence on the luminiferous aether, and to clarify some of the physical consequences of the theory. For that he deserves credit for writing a brilliant paper, but not for being a genius. Surely Poincare was a much greater genius.

George writes:
You understate Einstein's achievement. He was the first one to declare that the ether does not exist. Until Einstein, scientists clung to their superstitious belief in the ether. They were as unscientific as those before Galileo who believed in the Ptolemaic (geocentric) solar system. It took a true genius to think outside the box and overthrow the shackles that confined lesser men into thinking that Man was at the center of the universe. Galileo proved that the Sun was really at the center, and Einstein showed that we are not grounded in a motionless ether either. People just couldn't grasp that empty space was really empty and that there are no preferred inertial frame. It turned out that Einstein and that there is no ether.
This is nonsense on so many levels that I don't know where to start.

First of all, Einstein didn't completely deny the aether. He merely said that it was "superfluous" to his derivation. He certainly wasn't the only one to question the necessity of the aether. Others had attempted to experimentally observe it and failed. People openly doubted whether it could ever be seen.

According to our best scientific theories, empty space is not empty. Quantum electrodynamics (since 1950) requires that even a vacuum has a structure where virtual electron-positron pairs are being created and destroyed. Modern cosmology (since 2000) requires that a vacuum also includes a mysterious dark energy everywhere. In general relativity, there are no inertial frames anyway, but some model have some preferred frames. So all this emphasis on the aether is misguided.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Opus anagrams

Tomorrows Opus comic strip has more anagrams. It gives the anagram of GOD as DOG and The Prophet Mohammed as "Hmmm Heap red-hot poet". Except that the author, Berkeley Breathed scratches out the latter as too offensive for newspapers to print. Weird. I am putting it here just in case you are trying to figure out the joke.

A reader comment says:
Breathed wimped out big time, and not just by scratching it out. Consider the alternative anagram of "Hemp, harem do tempt, oh!"
Another comment says:
My daughter came up with "Pope -- the hammered moth"
She is using as extra E. Maybe she meant "Pope -- the hammer'd moth" or "Pop the hammered moth".