Author Topic: Episode #591  (Read 1717 times)

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Offline Steven Novella

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Episode #591
« on: November 05, 2016, 11:24:32 AM »
Interview with Brian Wecht; What’s the Word: Relict; News Items: Expanding Universe Follow Up, Mystery Human Ancestor, Alaskan Lake Monster; Who’s That Noisy; Your Questions and E-mails: Memory, Halloween Candy Tampering; Science or Fiction
Steven Novella
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snovella@theness.com

Online Andrew Clunn

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Re: Episode #591
« Reply #1 on: November 05, 2016, 12:54:15 PM »
WTN is a short nosed fruit bat.
(click to show/hide)

Offline fuzzyMarmot

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Re: Episode #591
« Reply #2 on: November 05, 2016, 05:49:27 PM »
Hate to be that guy, but Chena is pronounced "chee-na". It is famous for its hot springs. It is a beautiful area, and worth visiting, river monster or not :)

Offline elert

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Re: Episode #591
« Reply #3 on: November 05, 2016, 07:29:46 PM »
Brian Wecht should have lead the interview with "…especially New Scientist, I'm sure I don't need to tell you guys that". New Scientist is great for its attitude, but the attitude sometimes eclipses the significance. I still love them. "Science is interesting and if you don't agree you can fuck off". Who can argue with that?

Offline bachfiend

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Re: Episode #591
« Reply #4 on: November 05, 2016, 08:02:16 PM »
Great episode.

Steve - please don't use the item on Homo heidelbergensis on Neurologica.

The thought of Hardnose/Michael Egnor hijacking the thread and causing it to inflate to 1,000+ comments is a depressing thought.

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Re: Episode #591
« Reply #5 on: November 06, 2016, 02:34:28 AM »
Hate to be that guy...

Oh, trust me. If I were that guy, I'd point out that English is just about the only language on the planet that uses a silent terminal E, and the Latin term that "relict" is derived from is pronounced "re-li-qua-ray" not "re-li-quair".

Offline Guillermo

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Re: Episode #591
« Reply #6 on: November 06, 2016, 12:22:16 PM »
Si Im listening to Brian Wecht and I'm going "where have I heard his voice before" and then suddenly realize this is Ninja Brian from Ninja Sex Party, and Its like a revelation. Curiously the only time I heard Ninja Brian speak was on GameGrumps were he said said he was a theoretical physicist PHD.


« Last Edit: November 06, 2016, 12:28:38 PM by Guillermo »
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Offline Clangador

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Re: Episode #591
« Reply #7 on: November 06, 2016, 12:59:33 PM »
Great episode. I especially like the physics talk.

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Offline werecow

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Re: Episode #591
« Reply #8 on: November 06, 2016, 01:42:15 PM »
The way Steve describes what he suspects memory will be like as we continue to increase our lifespan is closely analogous to what happens in artificial neural networks - perhaps not very surprising since these are loosely based on biological neural networks. When you train an ANN to perform a certain task, the order in which you provide the training examples can make a huge difference in your eventual performance. For example, let's say you want to teach your ANN to learn to distinguish images of dogs from images of cats. If you first provide it with all the dog images and then with all the cat images, the ANN will probably not perform very well. Earlier experience tends to be slowly overwritten by / merged with later experience. If the latter images are all cats, then that is what the network will remember best. A better way is to randomize your training examples so that the cat and dog images are more or less randomly distributed, so that the memory of both is roughly equally "fresh". This also means that, if you want to train the same network to perform a more expansive task (e.g.: also distinguish horses from dogs and cats), you have to keep re-feeding it the old training examples. The networks can, re-use the commonalities between the different tasks (e.g.: being able to detect lines, blobs, or even more complex structures like eyes), and use them to generalize, which makes subsequent learning potentially more efficient.

Of course, I think we have this kind of experience even over the course of our own, still shortish lives. Over the past few years I've been reading a ton of science and watching many lectures. I find it super frustrating how my earlier knowledge keeps fading so fast. I make some progress (I'm certainly capable of understanding some things a lot better now than I could a few years ago), but it's so much slower than I'd like it to be because I keep forgetting things I learned previously and having to come back to them. And I know that as a kid, I used to know pretty much everything there was to know about my then favorite comic book series (Suske & Wiske), including matching all the titles to their issue number. I was able to do that without effort for years, but now -even though I still do have the comic books somewhere- I don't think I could match any of them if you put a gun to my head. I also used to be able to say exactly which actor had played in which movie that I had seen, more or less regardless of how often I'd seen that movie or how long ago it was. Nowadays, I barely remember movies I've seen just a week ago. Some of that has to do with the fact that I got a projector at home now, so I just watch a lot more movies, but it kind of feels like my brain's wiring has changed a bit. I used to be good at remembering little bits of information. Now, I'm crap at that task, but I've become much better at finding the common threads among many distinct bits of information and putting them into a coherent picture and fitting that into the overall narrative I have from my general knowledge of the world.
« Last Edit: November 06, 2016, 01:54:37 PM by werecow »
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Offline fuzzyMarmot

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Re: Episode #591
« Reply #9 on: November 06, 2016, 02:00:10 PM »
Hate to be that guy...

Oh, trust me. If I were that guy, I'd point out that English is just about the only language on the planet that uses a silent terminal E, and the Latin term that "relict" is derived from is pronounced "re-li-qua-ray" not "re-li-quair".
Very cool! If I am going to indulge in being "that guy," I should also note the Chena is from Athabaskan. It means "River of Something" which is apparently a type of pun/joke.

Offline daniel1948

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Re: Episode #591
« Reply #10 on: November 06, 2016, 04:02:26 PM »
I call BOGUS! on one of the SoF items: diamond threads thinner but stronger and more flexible than carbon nano-tubes as science, but in the explanation it turned out that the threads are not actually diamonds, they just decided to call them that because diamonds are made of carbon and these threads are mostly carbon. WTF?

Also, the added "... might be useful for a space elevator" puts it squarely in the fiction category, since orbital mechanics would render any space elevator scheme unworkable, not to mention what happens when an airplane flies into the cable. (Which is so thin it's effectively invisible.) The space anchor point has to be in a geostationary orbit, but every time it hoists anything up, it pulls down on the satellite, which pulls the satellite out of the geostationary altitude. If you have it higher up to compensate for that, then it's above a geostationary altitude any time it's not hoisting anything. Effectively, you'd have to expend fuel to maintain the position of the satellite. And that fuel would have to be hoisted, which requires fuel to compensate and keep the satellite in position. And the satellite would have to be extremely massive to avoid being pulled out of orbit just by wind resistance on the cable, so would require even more fuel to keep it in position. Then there's birds, meteors, terrorists, and icing on the cable to worry about. The space elevator is firmly in the realm of fiction, so invoking it places the item as fiction.

I still love the show. I just think Steve flubbed up this item.
Daniel
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Offline daniel1948

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Re: Episode #591
« Reply #11 on: November 06, 2016, 04:06:28 PM »
Hate to be that guy, but Chena is pronounced "chee-na". It is famous for its hot springs. It is a beautiful area, and worth visiting, river monster or not :)

The monster is not an "American Loch Ness monster." The Monster is Nessie herself, visiting. How did she get there? The same way she built the pyramids: by telekinesis.
Daniel
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"Anyone who has ever looked into the glazed eyes of a soldier dying on the battlefield will think long and hard before starting a war."
-- Otto von Bismarck

Offline fuzzyMarmot

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Re: Episode #591
« Reply #12 on: November 06, 2016, 11:06:19 PM »
I was a little confused on the WTN. Minke whales are baleen whales... so the Minke whale vocalizations are communication, not echolocation, right?

Online arthwollipot

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Re: Episode #591
« Reply #13 on: November 07, 2016, 01:30:07 AM »
I was a little confused on the WTN. Minke whales are baleen whales... so the Minke whale vocalizations are communication, not echolocation, right?

Right.

And Minke is also a non-English word (Norwegian, I think), so it's pronounced "min-kee" not "mink".

Offline fuzzyMarmot

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Re: Episode #591
« Reply #14 on: November 07, 2016, 03:09:12 AM »
I was a little confused on the WTN. Minke whales are baleen whales... so the Minke whale vocalizations are communication, not echolocation, right?

Right.

And Minke is also a non-English word (Norwegian, I think), so it's pronounced "min-kee" not "mink".
Awesome. Thank you!

 

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