Archive for the ‘Science and Edumacation’ Category
It’s bogus. And whoever put it together — I can’t find the composite on the NASA site — has been deliberately deceptive.
The first image dates from 2001, not 1978. You can find it here in wikipedia. It was taken on July 29 — summer for the Northern hemisphere. Check the cloud patterns and you’ll see it’s the same image. The second image you can find here from January of this year from the new Suomi satellite. And for those of you keeping up, that means it’s a winter image.
So this is not an image of deforestation at all. It doesn’t cover 34 years. And it’s not even from the same satellite. And I didn’t have to use any of my NASA insider skills to figure out how the deception was done.
If you want to know the facts about deforestation, try wikipedia. In the US, forests declined about 25% from 1600 to 1900. Since then, they’ve been stable due to protection, better management and sustainable logging practices in which new trees are planted as old ones are cut down.
This is bullshit. This is Paul Ehrlich level bullshit. I’m angry about it, not only because of the pollution of the debate but because of the political abuse of some beautiful images NASA has produced.
Update: Just to clarify why I was immediately suspicious of this image. One, I keep up with environmental issues so I knew the facts on deforestation already. Two, as a professional, I immediately noticed the difference in angle of the Earth in the two images, indicating the first was taken in summer and the second in winter. NASA can orient these images any way they want, since they are composites. But they angle them as they are shown to reflect the difference in seasons.
I suspect that the century long concern that children aren’t getting enough sleep is at least partially bogus. There are many problems with the scientific studies backing the supposed recommendation up, not the least of which is the assumption that all children need a similar amount of sleep. But why would we assume this when it’s so obviously not true for adults? There are may adults who function fine on a few hours of sleep, others are zombies with less than ten. And there is some evidence that sleeping a lot is correlated with a shorter life span.
I personally love a good night’s sleep, but I’m averaging about 5-7 hours. A good night is 7-8 hours. And while I wake up groggy and confused, I find that I really can’t go much beyond that. Is is shortening my life? I don’t know. No one knows. What matters more to me is quality of sleep, rather than quantity. A hard four hours is better than a broken eight.
I do think there may be a genetic component to it. Although Sue needs 8-9 hours, Abby only needs about 9, about 1-2 less than recommended for her age group. And like me, if we try to force her to get more, she just lies in bed wide awake.
A linkorama as I board a plane:
Gallup and USA/Today need to be beaten with sticks and sent back to remedial stats class. It’s yet another year and yet another useless poll about the most admired people in America.
President Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton are the nation’s most-admired man and woman — again — in the annual USA TODAY/Gallup Poll.
Each leads their category with 17% of votes in top 10 lists that favor the most familiar names in global politics, religion, entertainment and culture.
Does this strike you as being meaningful? For 83% of Americans, Barack Obama is not the most-admired man. The #5 man in the poll is Warren Buffett with … 2% of the vote.
USA Today and Gallup have run this piece of crap for half a century, using an unconstrained plurality. As such, it always puts whoever is most famous — usually the President — at the top of the list. Even in years where George W. Bush would’ve lost an election for Republican dog-catcher, he was still the most admired man because no one else was as famous.
Unconstrained pluralities are the most useless poll imaginable. They always produce embarrassing or useless results like this. We get this crap with “what issue is most important to you” polls as well, where they’ll say the second most important issue is, say, abortion, when abortion gets about 6% of the vote.
A more valid way would be to give people a list of potentially admirable people and ask if they admire them. That would be useful and unbiased. Gallup wants to keep it “unprompted”. Fine. Conduct an initial poll, then make the list from the top 100 names on it.
Polls are created news. They don’t tell us anything and are used to lead a slow news day. But this poll is especially stupid. And yes, I said it when Bush topped the poll too.
Bryan Appleyard argues against the idea of drugs causing people to act moral.
Moral enhancement cannot be a scientific project because neither term has any measurable meaning that can be universalised. Rather, it is an ideological project which would hand power to an oligarchy of neuropharmacologists who would be permitted to decide that somebody – probably them – had the power to determine our moral status. This embodies the familiar delusion of many powerful and prejudiced people that all history and culture attained some kind of apotheosis at the moment of their birth. The point is that there are as many definitions of morality as there are human societies. Dr Sandberg spoke about making people less violent which sounds fine until you realise that, for example, the Taliban would regard such a drug as immoral, refuse to take it and conduct a gleeful onslaught on the newly pacific remainder of the world’s population. Or perhaps sublimated violent impulses are good things, making people creative or successful. Steve Jobs may be a good example.
I think he misses the point.
All of us have our occasional moral failings. But people do not always fail because they’ve evil; frequently it’s because they’re weak. They know the right thing to do. But fear, prejudice, selfishness, egoism, greed, lust, avarice — these make it easy to give in.
It’s my basic philosophy of human nature: humans are basically good, but also weak. We find it far too easy to be temped into doing the wrong thing. It’s lead companies believing scientists who tell them their products are harmless, it’s people ignoring a mortally wounded child on the streets of China, it’s people spewing hateful invective. We know the right thing to do. But it’s so easy to give into those voices that say, “It’s not my problem.”
This state of moral tension is a form of anxiety. If you could identify the neurological background to it, you could develop a medication that calms those fears, makes it easier for people to do the right thing … whatever they judge the right thing to be. There would be a market for that.
I’m not necessarily saying this is a GOOD thing since sometimes it’s good to question morality. There are countries were brutal honor killings are considered moral. Those lingering doubts are how progress is made. But I do think it’s possible.
Update: Speaking of moral failings, McArdle has one of the better commentaries on the PSU mess.