Author Topic: Episode #715  (Read 2409 times)

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Offline Steven Novella

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Episode #715
« on: March 23, 2019, 12:55:10 PM »
Whaddya Know: Animals and Music; News Items: Black Holes and Space Travel, Sugary Drinks and Heart Disease, Electrical Stimulation for Depression; Dumbest Thing of the Week; Questions and E-mails: Atomic Clocks, GMOs; Science or Fiction
Steven Novella
Host, The Skeptics Guide
snovella@theness.com

Offline daniel1948

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Re: Episode #715
« Reply #1 on: March 23, 2019, 08:04:40 PM »
Steve's idea of a robot pet is not a pet at all. It's a general purpose robot. It sounds like it would be a cool thing to have. But it's not a pet. A dog feels genuine affection for you and is loyal and cares about you. A cat is a benevolent landlord who graciously allows you to live in its home in return for a bit of cat food and petting. A robot is just a Rumba. It cleans your floor. As far as chasing the rodents away from your house, that would require a lot more machine sophistication than we're likely to have in a hundred years. A dog can be had from the pound or Humane Society for the cost of shots and sterilization and depending on the breed, will kill rodents without training or programming.

Using lasers and black holes to accelerate a space ship ignores the fact that no laser beam is perfectly collated. If you are far enough from the massive black hole not to be torn apart by the tidal forces, your laser beam will be so difuse by the time it returns to you that the energy it gains will be insufficient to overcome the momentum you lost by shooting it out in the first place.

The anti-GMO crowd needs to be made aware of the fact that convenional plant breeding involves irradiating seeds to create random mutations. This is far more uncertain and frought with dangerous possibilities than splicing known genes into DNA.

I had a cheap TENS unit (electrical stimulator, battery-operated) about 20 years ago. It was supposed to help suppress appetite. It delivered an adjustable electrical shock to my arms. At the highest level it was decidedly uncomfortable. At lower levels it was a pleasant kind of buzz. It didn't help.
Daniel
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Offline swan

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Re: Episode #715
« Reply #2 on: March 23, 2019, 09:03:06 PM »
If I were a Genie I'd give Steve the robotic pet he wishes for – but it would have only typical IoT security and privacy policies!  >:D

(MWUHAHAHAHAHA! and all that…)

Offline fuzzyMarmot

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Re: Episode #715
« Reply #3 on: March 24, 2019, 01:57:56 AM »
All of the talk about calorie counting on this week's podcast made me think of a recent article in The Economist:
https://www.economist.com/news/2019/03/16/death-of-the-calorie

It turns out that assigning a caloric value to food is highly imprecise and unscientific. If anyone thinks they can precisely monitor their caloric intake, they are mistaken. This article does a good job of debunking that approach.

Offline Tassie Dave

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Re: Episode #715
« Reply #4 on: March 24, 2019, 03:28:00 AM »
Steve's idea of a robot pet is not a pet at all. It's a general purpose robot. It sounds like it would be a cool thing to have. But it's not a pet. A dog feels genuine affection for you and is loyal and cares about you. A cat is a benevolent landlord who graciously allows you to live in its home in return for a bit of cat food and petting. A robot is just a Rumba. It cleans your floor. As far as chasing the rodents away from your house, that would require a lot more machine sophistication than we're likely to have in a hundred years. A dog can be had from the pound or Humane Society for the cost of shots and sterilization and depending on the breed, will kill rodents without training or programming.

I'd rate a robot pet above a cat. At least a robot can be programmed to pretend that it likes you. The best you get out of a cat is permission to worship them  ;)

A robot cat isn't going to grow old and require expensive vet visits and isn't going to lose control of its bodily functions or eat it's owner when they eventually die  ;D


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Re: Episode #715
« Reply #5 on: March 24, 2019, 05:07:05 AM »
We're a long ways off of it being cheaper to purchase such a robot than it would be to pay for many years of a cat's vet visits. Cats often being free to obtain, because there are too many of them. I think it should be mandatory to have cats fixed unless you get a license and take on certain responsibilities if you want to breed them. One of the responsibilities being to make sure that whoever takes them in has them fixed at the appropriate time.

The main issue with cats is that they breed like cats, and that people abandon them. Feral cats kill many times as many wild animals as homed cats do. A fixed cat that gets fed regularly isn't going to travel much, or otherwise add to feral cat populations.

Don't overfeed them, though. And don't treat them like babies, don't hold them like one, don't dress them up, don't feed them lactose. Allow them safe space away from any babies and other children that can't be trusted not to harm them, enough space that they don't have to fight with other cats over it, and it's still probably a lot less work than you need to do to keep a dog. Except you have to play with them regularly if they're stuck in the house all day every day, especially younger cats. So if you want a cat that's going to stay inside permanently and otherwise not do much, you should rehome an older cat.

Offline Tassie Dave

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Re: Episode #715
« Reply #6 on: March 24, 2019, 05:39:16 AM »
The costs will come down. Most people wouldn't pay the $3000 the one below costs, but I could see in 10 years time them being more advanced and much cheaper.

I'm not into pets. So I wouldn't want one real or robot.


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Re: Episode #715
« Reply #7 on: March 24, 2019, 06:57:35 AM »
Depends on what the pet is for. That's a nifty toy, but I suspect it's more than 10 years out from being able to catch rodents at all, let alone in a wide variety of environments.

Offline CookieMustard

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Re: Episode #715
« Reply #8 on: March 24, 2019, 09:17:36 AM »
All of the talk about calorie counting on this week's podcast made me think of a recent article in The Economist:
https://www.economist.com/news/2019/03/16/death-of-the-calorie

It turns out that assigning a caloric value to food is highly imprecise and unscientific. If anyone thinks they can precisely monitor their caloric intake, they are mistaken. This article does a good job of debunking that approach.

That article seems to be behind a paywall, but it is just a copy of the following (which seems to be free)
https://www.1843magazine.com/features/death-of-the-calorie

Offline daniel1948

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Re: Episode #715
« Reply #9 on: March 24, 2019, 11:48:27 AM »
Depends on what the pet is for. That's a nifty toy, but I suspect it's more than 10 years out from being able to catch rodents at all, let alone in a wide variety of environments.

Ten years? Try 150! First off, A.I.s can't even distinguish a rodent from a floor lamp. Second, they cannot move with sufficient agility. We already have ways to catch rodents without a robot cat or dog. It's called traps and poisons. If your objective is to catch vermin, you don't need a robot in the shape of a dog and you don't need something with a speaker built in to emit barking sounds. A real dog is better at keeping rabbits out of your yard than pretty much anything else precisely because it is an animal, and not a machine. It is intelligent and agile, and we are a thousand years away from building a machine that can come close. Steve obviously does not want a pet. People who love pets and who want a companion that is warm and shows affection are not going to be satisfied with a Rumba in the shape of a dog. My cat had personality and enjoyed physical contact with me, and that's something a machine will never provide. There will always be a market for robots, but they will not replace pets.
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 daniel1948

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Re: Episode #715
« Reply #10 on: March 24, 2019, 12:07:49 PM »
All of the talk about calorie counting on this week's podcast made me think of a recent article in The Economist:
https://www.economist.com/news/2019/03/16/death-of-the-calorie

It turns out that assigning a caloric value to food is highly imprecise and unscientific. If anyone thinks they can precisely monitor their caloric intake, they are mistaken. This article does a good job of debunking that approach.

That article seems to be behind a paywall, but it is just a copy of the following (which seems to be free)
https://www.1843magazine.com/features/death-of-the-calorie

And yet counting calories works, as long as you stick with consuming the right number of them. Obviously, counting calories won't take your fat off if you count 5,000 of them a day and never exercise. I gain weight when I eat too many calories, and I lose weight when I eat a sufficiently small number of them. It's not simple or easy because it's hard to not eat when you're hungry. But the math is straightforward.

A friend of mine told me that the problem with calories is that we don't convert all the calories in food into energy. We poop out some of our calories. I emailed the SGU and got a personal reply from Steve. What he said was that my friend was correct, but that the amount is small enough that it doesn't make a big difference.

Another problem is that it's really hard to know your metabolic rate. Calories in is easy to figure with reasonable accuracy. Calories out is hard. But it, too, can be estimated, and if you maintain a constant calorie intake and a constant level of activity, your weight change over time will give you your metabolic rate. Once you know that you can adjust your consumption accordingly.

In other words, count your calories, and if you are not losing weight, eat fewer calories. Or exercise more.

Calorie counting fails when you don't count all of them, or you don't stop eating after you reach your daily limit. That's the really hard thing: stopping at your limit. An effective diet is one that enables you to stop at your limit. If you are sufficiently motivated, that can be almost any diet. If your motivation is a bit weaker then you need a diet that provides the tools and incentives that keep you on it.

The conservation of energy is a physical law. You can induce yourself to eat less and/or exercise more, but you cannot break the laws of physics.
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 Tassie Dave

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Re: Episode #715
« Reply #11 on: March 24, 2019, 02:46:56 PM »
Depends on what the pet is for. That's a nifty toy, but I suspect it's more than 10 years out from being able to catch rodents at all, let alone in a wide variety of environments.

I doubt people who are going to buy a robot pet wants them to catch rodents  ???

The same people who will buy these are the people who buy handbag dogs  ;)

Offline fuzzyMarmot

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Re: Episode #715
« Reply #12 on: March 24, 2019, 04:12:56 PM »
All of the talk about calorie counting on this week's podcast made me think of a recent article in The Economist:
https://www.economist.com/news/2019/03/16/death-of-the-calorie

It turns out that assigning a caloric value to food is highly imprecise and unscientific. If anyone thinks they can precisely monitor their caloric intake, they are mistaken. This article does a good job of debunking that approach.

That article seems to be behind a paywall, but it is just a copy of the following (which seems to be free)
https://www.1843magazine.com/features/death-of-the-calorie
Thanks!

Offline mabell_yah

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Re: Episode #715
« Reply #13 on: March 24, 2019, 11:18:28 PM »
The woman who mainlined fruit juice seems to be an extreme interpretation of the appeal to nature fallacy. Nature is always good and more is better. That's kind of the problem with the simplistic label of healthy, which invites abuse. I like Steve's quote: "the poison is in the dosage".

Offline arthwollipot

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Re: Episode #715
« Reply #14 on: March 24, 2019, 11:51:13 PM »
The point of the robot dog was to chase the squirrels and rabbits away, not to catch them.
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