Articles to 2013-09-07

Zum Seitenende      Übersicht Artikel      Home & Impressum

First the link to this week’s complete list as HTML and as PDF.

Anonymity as in Couzin-Frankel is and stays a double-edged sword even if well established in the system of peer review. The suggestion has been made, and is IMHO to be taken seriously, to reverse the system and let named peers judge anonymized papers. As Richard P. Feynman said: “[T]he moment I start to think about the physics, and have to concentrate on what I’m explaining, nothing else occupies my mind—I’m completely immune to being nervous. [...] I was always dumb that way. I never knew who I was talking to. I was only worried about the physics. If the idea looked lousy, I said it looked lousy. If it looked good, I said it looked good. Simple proposition.” To my mind that’s the one and only way to do science. Anyone who can’t do it should go into public relations or politics instead. (Or perhaps not, honest politicians might make a nice change.)

It is very tempting to compare state driven research into carbon dioxide use with Soviet Lysenkoism. The funny thing is, that current advances in epigenetics as in Grayson et al. at least partly vindicate Trofim Denisovich Lysenko. This is no call for caution though, and no such thing is in sight for carbon capture, as that is no case of misguided theory but of open and deliberate fraud.

Kupferschmidt can’t be news to anybody, seeing how that burger has been dragged all through the yellow press. This is, at least as far as I’m aware, the first report to be taken seriously.

On the one hand House et al. is relevant for the development of man as a social species. On the other, if pro-social behaviour is a learnt cultural trait, so is the anti-social one and we should take a very wary look at current trends in our state-centred societies with their denial of personal responsibility.

As language very probably is not the older of the two, its evolution hooked into the pre-existing circuits for tool making. That much seems firmly established by Uomini & Meyer’s result. I don’t see any proof for coevolution, though, and no support against the hypothesis of language having come much later.

Once (or rather if ever) wind and solar leave the range of noontime peak filling and a bit of topping up and seriously take up base load, storage will become a prime requirement. Contrary to generation, electrical storage is old and mature technology, where price lowering through production efficiency has already been achieved. So if storage costs stay well above the full cost of generation from modular, intrinsically safe nuclear plants – Bishop et al. only hint at numbers here – there can be no future for unreliable and unplannable sources. Oil and gas are limited and coal will be needed as the raw material for chemical synthesis, so it surely is time to look again at the only viable long-term alternative that’s proven to work.

My personal list of favourite quotes has just grown by one: “It is unfortunate that it is only in geometry that a scholar must state his assumptions clearly before he begins his proof.” from Kober 1950.

Muchnik et al. remind of the seminal work of Boyd & Richerson 1995 (here included in the original because my previous copy was part of a collection). Culture can’t advance without innovators, but, as nobody has the time to find everything out for himself, it also can’t function unless the majority are copiers. In the same vain, while some critical thought is indispensable, a coherent society won’t function unless a majority is prepared to follow the lead and accept consensus values. Independent thinkers tend to be either social outcasts or dangerous demagogues, mostly due to whether they pick up followers or not.

Zum Anfang      Übersicht Artikel      Home & Impressum

Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License Viewable With Any Browser Valid HTML 4.01! Valid CSS!