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Podcast Episodes / Re: Episode #600
« Last post by Dan I on Today at 12:05:35 PM »
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Was it crick or Watson who put his foot in it a few years back?

No it was someone who was like the most pre-eminent "popular" scientist of his day, and he waded into something way out of his field and commented that some new idea in the field was just obviously completely wrong and since it was "him" saying so that was really all that needed to be said.

I don't THINK this was the actual issue but sort of like if someone had gone "This Einstein guy doesn't know what the hell he's talking about! Relativity!? Bah!" and the guy saying it was really famous Biologist and people went "Well if Mr. Biologist is saying it's bunk it must be bunk. After all he's such a good scientist!"

For some reason my mind keeps wanting to say it was Kepler, but I'm almost positive that's not right.

If nothing else this is REALLY going to bug me until I figure it out now.
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Was it crick or Watson who put his foot in it a few years back?
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I'd definitely like "who's that wack job" better than "Who's that noisy."   Maybe they should combined who's that noisy with the skeptical quote, that would be ok. 
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I'm in a debate with a climate change skeptic (I know, I know) and he threw out a youtube link to an interview with Freeman Dyson on "Climate Change Hysteria." Commenting "Well why are you against on the world's pre-eminent scientists!?"

I pointed out that Dyson, while obviously intelligent, is NOT a climatologist. I know there's an example of something similar, a famous scientist who was obviously 100% completely publicly wrong about something but was very "Well I'm a scientist!" but what he was commenting on was well out of his realm of expertise. But for the life of me I can't recall the name or the specific issue. I want to say it was turn of the 20th Century or mid-late 19th Century...but I might be wrong.

Anyone remember?
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I agree that the SGU preaches to the choir but that's no bad thing in my view. We sceptics need all the practical help and encouragement we can get in the current  environment, which is feeling more and more like something straight out of The Handmaiden.

On that note, I think it would be worth identifying ways in which the SGU's content could be e nhanced to provide even more support and have been thinking about a couple of possible new segments.  One would be "Who's That Wackjob?" in which one of the rogues lists a series of outlandish anti-science beliefs and the others (as well as listeners,of course) try to guess who is being described. Trump's cabinet nominees alone would provide the basis for a good number of episodes.

Secondly more seriously (although I was actually serious about the first one) how about a segment which covers practical actions that we can take to help stem the tide of woo and irrationality that's threatening to drown us? Called "...a single step" (working title only, based on "The longest journey starts with..." but I'm sure we can come up with something better) the segment could be very brief and could consist of ideas contributed by listeners, either of their own devising or things that they've experienced or spotted going on.

Some examples of single steps that occur to me:

  • Go to a Skeptics in the Pub meeting - brief discussion what Skeptics in the Pub is, what makes a good one succesfull, how to start your own group if there aren't any nearby etc.;
  • Arrange a talk/practical workshop on a skepticism related subject in your local/your chidlren's school: eg could involve inviting working scientists in to give a talk.
  • Making promotional material: ideas for bumper stickers, posters, cards to be stuck to notice boards

I'm sure there are dozens of other ideas, certainly more than enough for a year's worth of segments. There could also be some means of listeners reporting what they've done in terms of taking their own single steps - via a dedicated Facebook page, using a Twitter hashtag etc.

My feeling is that doing something practical which engages the hive mind of the skeptical community in a creative and interesting way could really add something and that a rogue led discussion of these practical actions could work very well. I'm not thinking of evangelising as such - the last thing that most people want is a couple of skeptics turnign up on their doorsteps trying to persuade them to developing critical thinking skills, just lost of small, subtle steps which, cumulatively, add up.

What do you think folks?

Bye for now from a cold UK.

www.twitter.com/andrewzcooper
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Podcast Episodes / Re: Episode #600
« Last post by brilligtove on Today at 11:33:41 AM »
...
By that logic almost all time-travel and FTL stories are fantasies. The Time Machine, Foundation, Ringworld... all magic-based fantasy.

Yes. (Though it's been too long since I read Foundation, in my teens, to remember if it contained violations of physics, and I don't know Ringworld.) But all FTL and time travel stories are fantasy.

Taking an absolute position that "if it's not proven science it's crap" is problematic at best.

Where have I ever said that?!?!? I've said over and over that I LIKE fantasy. I just want it to be called what it is.

... That approach means that Star Trek style communicators were once fantasy, but then they transitioned to SF as we entered the Information Age, and then they became just plain old reality after we built them.

Again, not at all what I said. In fact, practically the opposite of what I said. Small radios never violated the laws of physics. I've never said that a technology must exist today to be sci-fi. I said that it must not violate well-established laws of physics. FTL travel violates the laws of physics. Small wearable radios do not.

I'm not trying to put words in your mouth, or imply that you don't like fantasy. I was attempting a joke based on 'if it's not Scottish it's crap' is all. Please read the statement as 'if it is not proven science it is fantasy' instead.

"Small radios never violated the laws of physics."

They certainly did. To someone in 1802 a hand held device for long distance communication was fantasy powered by magic. There was no scientific foundation for radio. Heck, electricity was barely a thing. One might have imagined a magic mirror that could contact other magic mirrors, but this was outside known physical law.

But by the 1820s experiments exploring the relationship between electricity and magnetism began. Could that magic mirror be science fiction at that point? Or after 1873 when Maxwell's work triggered research into radio communication? Maybe the magic mirror became scifi  in the early 1900s when radio was demonstrated to made practical?

I'm not saying your approach is wrong. I'm just pointing out that it has problems, because the established body of scientific knowledge changes over time. I suspect this is the inspiration for Clarke's "any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

Right now physics has some interesting gaps, and a spotty understanding of spacetime. FTL is ruled out by GR, but we know GR is not perfect, because it does not integrate with quantum theory. Which is also not perfect because it does not integrate with GR. I doubt that a grand unified theory of everything Will give any indication faster than light travel is possible, but I'm not going to that possibility out completely. Maybe one day FTL will be conclusively ruled out. At that point pretty much all of science fiction will be retrospectively incorrect. I might still think of it as SF that was incorrect as opposed to fantasy, however.
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Tech Talk / Re: Learning to Code
« Last post by Andrew Clunn on Today at 11:32:08 AM »
If you're after the concepts and skills that will then translate into other language, may I recommend a very simplified instruction set meant specifically for learning coding?

https://cs.mtsu.edu/~untch/karel/

EDIT -

Actually the best version of that is likely the Python one, but it's the same principle, just much easier to get set up with:

http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Guido_van_Robot

EDIT EDIT -
If you decide to go this route, here are the links to all the things you need to download (in the order they should be installed):

https://www.python.org/downloads/
https://sourceforge.net/projects/gvr/files/GvR%20GTK/4.4/GvRng-4.4_win32.exe/download
https://sourceforge.net/projects/gvr/files/GvR%20Lessons/0.5/gvr-lessons-0.5.zip/download
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Tech Talk / Re: Learning to Code
« Last post by The Latinist on Today at 11:20:31 AM »
So ultimately it comes down to that I'm going to need to learn javascript and at least one other language for backend and application development.  I feel like maybe I should start with one which enforces better behaviors and then move to Javascript after I've got a handle on concepts.  So now the question is what language to choose for learning my basic programming concepts and developing good habits without getting too frustrated early on.  I'm thinking a higher level language like Python might be good because I don't want to have to deal with memory management.
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Update:

Went from 219 last Monday morning to 213 on Saturday.

It's Wednesday and I'm still hovering around 212.8 - 213.4.

That first week certainly resulted in dramatic weight loss, but the last 4-5 days seems to have slowed to almost nothing.  I did "cheat" on Saturday, in that I had some vegetarian panang curry when my wife requested we order Thai take out for dinner.  It's got more salt and oil than the diet allows, but is otherwise fine.

Interesting.  I'm going to wait a few more days.   If nothing much else happens in the weight loss department, I'm going to consciously decouple myself from this diet and go back to my weekly exercise routine.

I think I'll stick with the breakfasts and the giant, low calorie but extremely filling salads for lunch.  Perhaps return to nice omnivore food for dinner with seasonings and oil.  In any case, simply by paying attention for a week or so I've learned where it's easy and tasty to cut 500-750 calories and a bunch of sugar and sodium out of my diet with minimal effort at breakfast and lunch time.  (at least on work days) That can't be a bad thing.

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