Friday, December 31, 2010

Human Rights Violations

If our government is going to oppose human rights violations they should start with american businesses and industries. 

Printer Problems

In debugging Asa H 2.0 I frequently print out a hard copy of code to proof read, trace, and file.  I have 4 or 5 printers that I use but the one on my desk at ESU is an old Epson Stylus color 600.  I find that I have bugs in my code listings that are caused by hardware (printer) failure.  An equal sign in the code, = , gets printed as a minus sign, - , in the printed listing.  The first time I came across this in proof reading I thought I had caught a coding error.  More recently I have had cases where this happened 3 or more times in just a few hundred lines of code.  I may either retire the printer (if our administrators will buy me a new one) or restrict its use to word processing and the like.

Alternate Realities

At the "April" 2010 American Physical Society meeting I argued in favor of alternate realities (Bull. Am. Phys. Soc., vol. 55, #1, 2010) (See my web site , click on philosopher and then alternate realities.) I find that Kevin Kelly has a similar argument on pages 381 and 382 of his book The Logic of Reliable Inquiry, Oxford Univ. Press, 1996.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Preliminary Experiments

I have trouble getting the idea of a "preliminary experiment" across to my students.  They want their first data to be perfect and want to know what to expect before they even take that first measurement.  There's also the issue of not knowing what variations to expect after you've only taken 1 (or a few) measurements.  I wish all students had taken statistics before they enter a physics lab.

They also seem to expect more of physics than of other sciences.  I recall in biology we had trouble even finding some given organ in a frog, fish, etc.  And in chemistry we just wanted to see a reaction occur or a color change, etc.  But in physics lab they don't just want to see two objects fall side by side they want g=9.80 not 10. 

There is also the thought that if you just had better equipment your results would look better.  And they would, but when you have better equipment you are also looking at things that are harder to measure.  It's a sort of arms race, as your research gets more advanced your tools get better but what you are trying to do gets harder.  As a result you mostly "run in place" on a "tredmill."

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Blogs, refereed publications, and open science

How should one compare a refereed publication in SCIENCE to a blog on the web?  In the debate over arsenic-associated bacteria can one really prefer Rosie Redfield's blog over Felisa Wolfe-Simon, et al's journal article?  It seems to me that one should prefer the position that has the stronger arguments and/or greater experimental evidence.  When a paper appears in SCIENCE that makes it more likely that its arguments are probably sound (as opposed to some random web post) but in the end it is only the arguments and evidence that counts for anything.

If you're out looking for solid research you will find it more frequently in SCIENCE and less frequently on the web.  But any given paper (or blog or idea) must be judged on its own merit.

On the subject of alternate forms of life:   I believe that mechanical life is far more important to consider as opposed to the simple substitution of arsenic for phosphorus in DNA.

When a search returns a large number of hits it would be good practice to restrict your attention to refereed works.  When a search returns few hits you don't have that luxury and will have to study what you have.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Software Components

My AsaH 2.0 is assembled from standard software components like those for sorting, searching, taking vector dot products, etc. In experimenting with AsaH I have been spending more time and effort on the glue code (integrating the various components) than was spent on developing the components themselves. This makes me wonder if the component software methodology really buys us the advantages that were hoped for. I wonder what experiences others have had.

Monday, December 6, 2010

On War

Starting a war is murder and those who start a war should be tried for murder.  Of course you can plead self-defense but the issue should be decided by a neutral judge and jury.

Friday, December 3, 2010

the importance of Science

1. Our machines,nutritional and agricultural science, electricity, medicine, gas, plumbing, materials, etc. enrich our lives, make them as good as they are.

2. Science drives the progress that we have in our society. As a kid I read the book Scientists Behind the Inventors.  I recommend it.

3. Science is the nearest thing we have to a source of truth.