Wednesday, September 30, 2009

How soccer gets it wrong

Soccer fan David Post writes:
in a good healthy weekend’s dose of soccer-watching (say, 3 or 4 games), you will see, guaranteed, anywhere from a half-dozen to twenty incorrect offside calls. Not “possibly wrong” or “arguably wrong,” or “judgment-call wrong” — just wrong, plain and simple, as shown on the slow-motion replays. A study published in Nature several years ago confirmed what every soccer fan knows – the linesmen get a lot (around 20%) of the offside calls wrong. ...

And the really extraordinary thing is: it’s not going to get fixed anytime soon, or ever. Nobody is proposing video replay for offside calls, and soccer fans would revolt around the world if they did. Not that we like all these mistakes, exactly — we yell and scream and moan about lousy offside calls all the time. But in a very strange way that I only vaguely understand, that’s kind of the point, and it makes us love the game even more than we otherwise would. It’s just a part of the game, ...

This, I realize, is simply inconceivable to most American sports fans. The whole point of having referees is to “get it right” – it seems obvious — and so we’ll do whatever it takes ...
It is not just that the soccer referees are incompetent or crooked. The soccer rules are so silly that they invite bad calls. It is almost as if the game were designed to make it easy for a referee to throw a game.

My simple explanation is that soccer is a Third World sport with Third World rules. Non-Americans don't seem to have the concepts of fair play and victory to the better team.

Several months ago someone pointed me to a video of a recent championship soccer match that he said was one of the most excited games played in many years. But not only was the outcome of the game determined by a series of very bad referee calls, but the outcome was a 1-1 tie! According to the rules, the visiting team was to be declared the winner on a tie score.

Zero is even

Volokh has a poll on the evenness of zero. Over half his readers get it wrong. I am becoming convinced that most people do not understand that zero is a number. Situations requiring the most trivial understanding of zero seem very difficult for many people.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Free will is not an illusion after all

NewScientist mag reports:
Champions of free will, take heart. A landmark 1980s experiment that purported to show free will doesn't exist is being challenged.

In 1983, neuroscientist Benjamin Libet asked volunteers wearing scalp electrodes to flex a finger or wrist. When they did, the movements were preceded by a dip in the signals being recorded, called the "readiness potential". Libet interpreted this RP as the brain preparing for movement.

Crucially, the RP came a few tenths of a second before the volunteers said they had decided to move. Libet concluded that unconscious neural processesMovie Camera determine our actions before we are ever aware of making a decision.

Since then, others have quoted the experiment as evidence that free will is an illusion – a conclusion that was always controversial, particularly as there is no proof the RP represents a decision to move.

Long sceptical of Libet's interpretation, Jeff Miller and Judy Trevena of the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand, attempted to tease apart what prompts the RP using a similar experiment, with a key twist.
I have long been skeptical about that experiment also, because it does not seem to say anything about free will. Now these new experiments disprove the no-free-will interpretation.

Don't expect the determinists to give up easily, tho:
Marcel Brass of Ghent University in Belgium says it is wrong to use Miller and Trevena's results to reinterpret Libet's experiment, in which volunteers were not prompted to make a decision. The audio tone "changes the paradigm", so the two can't be compared, he says.
Be wary of the paradigm-shifting mindreaders.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Man's Book

I am reading The Man's Book: The Essential Guide for the Modern Man. It is written by a European physicist. It is very retro and and most of it reads as if it could have been written a century ago. Much of it is archaic or trivial, but there is also some old-fashioned common sense.

Here is some of its best advice:
It is a good rule in life never to apologize. The right sort of people do not want apologies, and the wrong sort take a mean advantage of them. [P. G. Wodehouse in The Man Upstairs]
He has a point. The book also has this quote:
People who wish to analyze nature without using mathematics must settle for a reduced understanding. [Richard Feynman]
That is correct. Some things cannot be explained to an innumerate.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The evils of conditional parenting

The NY Times reports:
In effect, we’re given tips in conditional parenting, which comes in two flavors: turn up the affection when they’re good, withhold affection when they’re not.

Thus, the talk show host Phil McGraw tells us in his book “Family First” (Free Press, 2004) that what children need or enjoy should be offered contingently, turned into rewards to be doled out or withheld so they “behave according to your wishes.” And “one of the most powerful currencies for a child,” he adds, “is the parents’ acceptance and approval.”

Likewise, Jo Frost of “Supernanny,” in her book of the same name (Hyperion, 2005), says, “The best rewards are attention, praise and love,” and these should be held back “when the child behaves badly until she says she is sorry,” at which point the love is turned back on.
Dr. Phil and the Supernanny don't have any research to back them up. They just have their opinions, and they are sure dogmatic about them. It turns out that research by Avi Assor, Guy Roth, and Edward L. Deci proves them wrong:
This July, the same researchers, now joined by two of Dr. Deci’s colleagues at the University of Rochester, published two replications and extensions of the 2004 study. This time the subjects were ninth graders, and this time giving more approval when children did what parents wanted was carefully distinguished from giving less when they did not.

The studies found that both positive and negative conditional parenting were harmful, but in slightly different ways. The positive kind sometimes succeeded in getting children to work harder on academic tasks, but at the cost of unhealthy feelings of “internal compulsion.” Negative conditional parenting didn’t even work in the short run; it just increased the teenagers’ negative feelings about their parents.

What these and other studies tell us, if we’re able to hear the news, is that praising children for doing something right isn’t a meaningful alternative to pulling back or punishing when they do something wrong. Both are examples of conditional parenting, and both are counterproductive.
I don't expect this to change many opinions. People like Dr. Phil are especially impervious to the evidence.

Monday, September 14, 2009

White girl is racist for not dating blacks

A Sacramento women writes:
Q: Some friends had been talking up this guy they thought would be perfect for me, so I finally went on a blind date with him. It turns out he's black, and while I am NOT racist and have no problem with interracial dating in general, I just prefer to date white guys.

I told my friends why I wouldn't be seeing him again, and they were horrified. Did I miss something here? I know interracial dating is more prevalent than it used to be, but I didn't realize it was SO common that you get in trouble if you don't want to do it.
Wash. Post advice columnist Carolyn Hax also chews her out for being a racist. This dame has to date all races indiscriminately, or else she will be called a racist.

The real racists are her so-called friends who played this prank on her. They could have more fully described her date, but they chose not to, and chose instead to try to impose their values on her personal life. She does not need friends like that.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Brits fear boy might scare fish

A UK newspaper reports:
Security guards reduced a nine-year-old boy to tears after banning him from sailing his toy boat on a pond because it 'frightens the fish'.

Noah Bailey was distraught after staff at Chiswick Business Park, in west London, stopped him playing with his model of the German battleship Bismarck.

His grandfather Paul Fabricius, 57, said that when they went to complain about the draconian rule the guard refused to tell him the name of the manager for 'security reasons'.
The Brits seem to be a little ahead of us when it comes to advancing paranoia.

Meanwhile, the satirical site The Onion reports that Scientists Discover Portal To Outside World.

Friday, September 11, 2009

No sex tests in sports

Why do we have separate athletic competitions for women, but no standards to assure that only women compete?

When Caster Semenya won a big 800m race, everyone said that she was obviously a man. Now the tests confirm that. Not a hermaphroditism as some have reported, but a man with testes and no ovaries. He looks and talks like a man. See this blog for detailed info.

The Olympics have very strict drug tests and other eligibility tests, but no sex tests. Apparently it is politically incorrect to have rules that make transexuals and intersexuals feel awkward. I think that they are going to feel awkward anyway.

Now some people are saying that Semenya will be allowed to compete as a woman if he has his testes removed and enrolls in some sort of sex-change medical program.

This is crazy. The male hormones and steroids have already made him stronger and faster. The sports authorities should just allow geniune women in the women's events, and do some standardized test to prove it.

The news reports:
South Africa's sports minister says there will be a "third world war" if 800-metre world champion athlete Caster Semenya is barred from competing, after media reports that the gold medallist is a hermaphrodite.
No, a hermaphrodite would have male and female organs. Semenya only has male organs.

Here is a science site:
Experts say Semenya should be allowed to race as a woman and they cringe at how her case is exploding publicly in the news media. They worry about psychological scars. Two years ago, a star female track athlete who tested male attempted suicide.
Psychological scars? Since when does anyone care about anybody else's psychological scars?
Dr. Louis Elsas, chairman of biochemistry at the University of Miami and a member of the IAAF panel with Genel, said he had hoped the genetic gender testing issue was over after the 1996 Olympics, when most major sports abandoned regular testing.
No, abolishing testing did not solve the problem.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Scouts cannot have knives

And other news.

Newsweek mag says kids as young as 6 months judge others based on skin color.

British men cannot have guns, and now British boy scouts can
no longer bring penknives on camping trips.

Swedish taxpayers have to fund feminist porn.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Murder conviction overturned

The San Jose paper reports:
Rena Alspaw was only 16 when she pulled out a stolen pistol along an isolated wooded trail and shot her ex-boyfriend four times — three to the body and one to the back of the head.

After a brief trial in 1994, the San Jose teen was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to 30 years to life.

Now, fifteen years later, a judge has taken the rare step of voiding that guilty verdict, opening up the possibility that the girlish-looking 31-year-old killer with long auburn hair could be retried — or even freed — on the grounds that she was a battered woman.

What makes this case so unusual is that Alspaw isn't a classic battered woman. She didn't live with the man she killed, and he didn't physically abuse her, except for handcuffing her once against her will. But there's evidence he harassed her, including calling the police on her for no reason and broadcasting insults about her over a loudspeaker. His violent past, and the threat of violence are what Alspaw contends made her a battered woman.

Her case is getting a second look thanks to a 2002 state law that allows certain convictions to be overturned because jurors didn't get a chance to take into account substantial evidence of the role of battering.
No, she was not physically abused. Her complaint is that the jury was not told that her victim had served time for killing cats!
But most compelling might be Swanson's substantial record of animal cruelty.

"All you need," said Kelly, Alspaw's lawyer, "are animal lovers on the jury."
This is crazy. She confessed to a cold-blooded premeditated murder of her boyfriend. Are cat lovers going to excuse this because he was a cat-killer? If so, I would favor keeping all the cat lovers off the jury.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Woman says women are the biggest cheats

A UK newspaper columnist cites studies that women cheat more than men, and writes:
Why do women lie? Because we must, and because we can. In spite of apparent equality and a more sexually open society, we are still more harshly judged for our sex lives than men. ...

But we also lie naturally and instinctively, as a way to manage and control our relationships, to protect our partners and our families, and to keep our options open.

In fact, we lie so much and for so many reasons that often we don't even think of it as lying at all, but as 'relationship management'.

Women are taught to lie from childhood. Those simple, altruistic lies such as saying we've had a lovely time when we haven't, that someone looks nice when she doesn't, or that we're delighted with a gift we don't really like, are just some of the small ways that lying oils the wheels of our social lives, keeps the peace, and makes other people happy.

Girls will lie to protect someone's feelings or to build a relationship. Honesty, in these circumstances, looks highly overrated, and we quickly learn the value and power of being economical with the truth in relationships.
A commenter there writes:
Plainly, someone doesn't understand statistics! Take it to the extreme, suppose all women in Britain are celibate except 13. All men in Britain have sex with each of these 13 women. Then the average for men would be 13 and the average for women would be almost zero.

Just beacause the reported averages differ doesn't necessarily indicate that men or women are lying.
No, the average for men and women will be exactly the same in that example. And those 13 sluts are likely to lie about it.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Being smart really is sexy

The UK Telegraph newspaper reports:
Psychologists have found that men with the highest IQ also have the healthiest sperm. ...

The research, by the evolutionary psychologist Professor Geoffrey Miller of the University of New Mexico, centred around a study of 400 Vietnam War veterans who were put through extensive mental tests and were also asked to provide sperm samples. ...

Professor Miller, who is speaking at a conference of the Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour at Oxford University, believes that sperm quality was directly related to brain quality.

The two traits could have evolved together as a way to advertise good genes, he said.

He believes a number of human traits – including language, intelligence, humour and selflessness – may have evolved because they are attractive to the opposite sex.
Maybe they are all just correlated with good health.

Meanwhile, an Australian newspaper reports:
High school students allegedly filmed sex acts while believing that the Large Hadron Collider was about to end the world.

At least three teenagers from a Brisbane state high school are being investigated by police for allegedly filming sex acts on a mobile phone and distributing it to other students, the Courier-Mail reports. ...

It is understood the girl wanted to lose her virginity to the boy - believing that the world was about to end.
I am guessing that the boy has a high IQ. More than the girl's, anyway.