Thursday, April 23, 2009

Journalism and Science - Peanutbutter and Chocolate fare much better...

The good professors at Language Log offer us another disgusted criticism of science reporting - this time the headlines pretty much promised us that Twitter would make us evil.

Yes, one more time a minor effect detected in a study is reinterpreted to yield headlines such as Facebook hurting moral values, says study and Facebook and Twitter 'make us bad people'. Not that the study actually involved Facebook or Twitter, read the article for a full description.

Professor Liberman offers credit where credit is due:
Kudos to Ben Goldacre, whose BS detector went off on cue, and who managed to get an early copy of the paper by some back-channel route ("Experts say new scientific evidence helpfully justifies massive pre-existing moral prejudice", Bad Science, 4/18/2009), and to Chris Matyszczyk at CNET, who was suitably skeptical on the basis of common sense ("Oh, so now Twitter is making us immoral", 4/15/2009). Chris also wins Best Line: "Your brain might, at this point, be scanning the thought that if all the subjects of this research were from Los Angeles, it might be surprising that the scientists found any moral compass at all."

And props to the 74% of respondents in that internet survey who weren't persuaded by this fake-scientific morality play.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Absolute zero might actually NOT be as cold as it can get....

At least that is my impression after reading this section of the tax topics.


.... adversity is always inspirational. Sometimes it can be funny as well as inspirational, like when somebody has a successful life after being a boy named Sue or a girl named Marijuana Pepsi Jackson.

HT Freakonomics

Sunday, April 19, 2009

(Shaw) Quote of the day

You have been badly brought up, little darling. Would any lady or gentleman walk unannounced into a room without first looking through the keyhole?
(Potemkin in "Great Catherine")

Smart Slime Molds

Interesting experiment described HERE. (HT MR)

Accentchuate the positive...

As much fun as it is to bash Strunk&White, it leaves people who really want a guideline to good writing stranded. This post spackles that gap.

For my single friends, or those with VERY tolerant spouses...

Will somebody please try this pick-up strategy and report back how it worked?

Judge not lest ye be judged?

I'm generally not a big fan of vindictiveness...the entertainment value of stringing the rascals up on lampposts after you've thrown them out is probably outweighed by the additional evasions and maneuvers that sort of policy induces. But the case of Judge Bybee (HT Uncommon Priors) finds me just a little bit bloodthirsty.

It's not easy going out into the world as a German. Even if you were born well past all the atrocities, and even your parents were merely children at the time, you are still faced with the prototype of the sadistic villain being the sadistic German. This makes it especially painful when your new adopted country stakes out the position that (non-consensual - I have no beef with the consensual kind) torture is really OK when it seems necessary or useful.

I don't know if the man is merely a well-meaning fool, but when Ackerman writes
Under the Constitution, impeachment requires a finding of "high crimes and misdemeanors." This is a high standard. Although Bybee's opinion fails minimum tests of legal competence, he may have acted in good faith. This should protect him from conviction. But his legal distortions might also be evidence of the abdication of his fundamental legal responsibilities. Instead of engaging in a good-faith interpretation of the War Crimes Act and the Geneva Conventions, he may have merely been responding to political pressures from the White House to liberate the CIA and the military from the rule of law.

Bybee should, of course, be given a full opportunity to clarify this matter at the impeachment proceedings. But at present, his only public explanation is his extravagant appeal to executive privilege. This cannot suffice. He should be required to take personal responsibility for his actions and explain why they don't make him into a systematic enabler of the war crimes that have disgraced America.

he has a point. I'd like to see the matter at least considered.


Not actually getting any, I don't really have to distinguish between the types on my own...but this bestiary could be used like your North American Field Guide to the species.

When I comment myself, I usually TRY to be:
The Droll - The mainstay of all fun sites, this poster regularly tosses out clever comments, plays of words, one-liners, amusing pictures. There’s a lot of these characters on places like

but I fear that others would tend to classify me as:
The Lecturer - This is the buzzkill pedant who feels the need, even in a casual, light comments section to post a 1,000 word exegesis on what everyone should be talking about. Hey, thanks pal!