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    This weeks "Ask a Science Blogger" question is: "If you could shake the public and make them understand one scientific idea, what would it be?" I assume others will answer this also, so I want to get this out first: my reply is that the public needs to know that the most important idea about...
  • Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Good Day,
    My name is Rashid Mohammed and I need you help in claiming my late father’s propriety from a security company in Ghana here, I am straying in the refuge camp in Ghana and I am from Zimbabwe.
    Please if you are willing to help me do contact me on these email address [email protected] and my mobile line is +233 27 7721310 for more information.
    Thank you.
    Rashid Mohammed

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  • Question: I'll go narrow-church: low mutational load baby, look beyond the proximate and focus on the ultimate.
  • Linguists have the best pick-up lines — aside from the overused “cunning linguist” one, there are all sorts of double-entendres on “tongue” waiting to be had. The only catch is they make maximal sense when the target doesn’t speak the same language.
    E.g., “Trust me: as a linguist, I’m skilled at mastering other people’s tongues.”

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  • This week: Fritz Lang's 1927 film Metropolis. Cinematically it is an early masterpiece, but, it also features a protagonist who is a robot. The term itself was invented in 1920, and the massive field of robotics which exists today was still but a seed in the imaginations of pulp science fiction writers. I admire the...
  • yeah, i noticed. they weren’t pleased….

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  • I thought you among the more science geek-y of the SBers, and then boom, Metropolis gets your vote! That’s pretty film school-y.
    Anyway, what I really wanted to say was: check out the front page of SB — in the related entries section, their algorithm detected an unusual frequency of “Katz,” two of which refer to a person, and the other two of which are pics of your kitties. Hilarious!

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  • What makes a good teacher? That's what SEED is asking this week. Here's my top 10.... 10) Patience 9) Lack of ego (putting the focus on the student) 8) Enthusiasm 7) Social sensitivity (know the audience you are aiming at, whether it be the children of religious fundamentalists, 8 year olds or over-30 GED candidates)...
  • Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    I am a science teacher.
    I think to be a good teacher needs:
    - commitment
    -to be prepared and use different methods to encourage the students
    -to make very intereting for student and to make them know about the important of learning science
    -to arrange lab-activities, projects
    -to arrange field trip etc.

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  • A good teacher should understand what is happening in the kids’ minds when she teaches them (however she does it).

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  • “The power of instruction is seldom of much efficacy except in those happy dispositions where it is almost superfluous.”
    – Gibbon
    (as quoted by R. P. Feynman)

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  • I started writing a comment, but it got out of hand, so I wrote it up into a post at my blog, http://akinokure.blogspot.com/
    Short & sweet of it: teachers need to understand the findings of the past 100 years of psychometrics.

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  • This week's "Ask a Science Blogger" is: This question is loaded because how you interpret it really colors how you respond. I would say, no, the public doesn't really understand any specific science, just as physicists and biologists (or biochemists and population geneticists) don't really understand the particulars of other fields. Unfortunately, science is the...
  • Anonymous • Disclaimer says: • Website

    I am sorry, but I feel some kind of condescension in your answer to that question. It seems you don’t realize that scientists also can be led by ‘non-scientific’ arguments when choosing a model organism or a research topic (read Latour’s books in science studies!!). They are also motivated by fame, money, success, and so on. Once we admit that it is not ‘objective and pure science’ vs. ‘the ignorant rest of the world’ I am sure we can agree that there is no reason why public funded research sould not be undertaken to satisfy public’s willing and, eventually, make our dreams of better life come true. This may sound ridiculous to you but, as an agronomist, I am confronted with such decisions in my research: either develop new GM varieties (rejected by public) or breed using genetic diversity from ancient varieties. Or think about energy research… In France so far, this is driven by experts (who can also change their minds and priorities), and I would feel more comfortable if it would somehow involve the public. They have their word to say, and means exist to make them participate even if ignorant at first (look in Sweden and nordic countries!).

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  • This week they ask: Cosmology. Transcendence.
  • evolutionary history and cognitive neurosciece of music and dance. ;)

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  • *shrug*
    Very zen.

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  • What is “Transcendence”? How does one study it?
    *shrug*

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  • Transcendence
    That one is best studied as avocation rather than vocation.

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  • What is “Transcendence”? How does one study it?

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  • Going all Tagore on us, eh?

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  • Is it me, or did Janet explode by the old 300 world barrier? :) In any case, she brings up some good issues in her expansive post, and there is one thing I want to follow up in regards to the "brain drain." Who is it good for? Who is being drained? This is a...
  • pconroy,
    yea, I mistakenly reasoned that N E Ireland might be where you were from because I had anglo influence on my mind.
    Anyway, thanks for the links & info you provided; informative:)

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  • I thought as much. The situation in Wales is more complex, and depends a lot on class and other economic factors; however the long term trend seems a little depressing for Welsh speakers such as myself.

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  • Lorwerth,
    20 years ago ther were an estiamted 10,000 native Irish Gaelic speakers in Ireland, with the bulk of the population being to a greater or lesser extent bi-lingual, due to the fact that Irish Gaelic was a compulsory subject in High School. Now there are almost no native speakers left.
    The funny thing is that some people in the aformentioned Pale – especially Middle to Upper Middle Class types are trying to revive the language as an everyday spoken language again. My brother-in-law and sister are among this group, which I frankly think is laughable, as the language is on life-support as it is, and there is absolutely no economic reason for people to learn it, only a whimsical one.
    It’s like Americans being interested in the customs and cultures of Native Americans today, after past generations have devastated and virtually eliminated them off the face of the earth.

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  • Bork,
    Your “best guess” would be totally incorrect.
    The North East of Ireland – the georgaphical entity, as opposed to political – would be the Down, Antrim and Belfast areas of Northern Ireland. First off this is part of the UK, second Northern Ireland was the last arable area of Ireland to be colonized – due to the power and success of the O’Neill Clan is fending off successive waves of invaders – about 400 years ago, third, the language spoken in this part of Northern Ireland until recent times was really the Scots (aka Lallans) language – not English per se, but a close Western Germanic cousin.
    My family has lived in The Pale for centuries. I would go so far as to say that this area of Ireland was one of the seminal areas for the development of the Modern English language – as precursors to Modern English were spoken here, together with the rest of England, for centuries before the emergence of Modern English.

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  • Kidding.

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  • That’s Irish Gaelic speakers in Ireland and Welsh speakers in Wales, obviously… (There’s not many of the former in Wales and not many of the latter in Ireland.)

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  • ‘So if we could only convince the Irish to abandon their archaic Gaelic and learn English.’
    Ummm, you _are_ joking, I hope…
    I’m pretty sure that there are fewer first-language Irish Gaelic speakers than there are first-language Welsh speakers, and the number of the latter is not exactly large (though the numbers of bilingual Welsh/English speakers has increased in recent years).

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  • This weeks "Ask a Science Blogger" is: A "drain" seems to imply a net outflow, and that doesn't seem to be happening. But, as the paranthetical makes clear what meant is the reduction of the extent of the inflow. And yes, from all I can gather this is an issue in regards to student visas....
  • What about regression to the mean? Given the same woman, Joe-Schmo from a high mean group could produce a brighter kid than a bright dude from a lower mean group.
    depends on your parameters. you know the breeder’s equation, you can crank out the numbers for yourself (i.e., regression is less of an issue at high heritability, and the comparison depends on the deviation from the mean for the individuals in question).
    (also, regression is not a magical property, it is just the noise in the system, how you define “group” matters a lot and it is not unlikely that heritability could be high for elites from “low mean groups” for traits in question)

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  • Is it me, or did Janet explode by the old 300 world barrier? :) In any case, she brings up some good issues in her expansive post, and there is one thing I want to follow up in regards to the "brain drain." Who is it good for? Who is being drained? This is a...
  • If Finland or Ireland were successful enough in high tech, biotech, etc., they would BECOME large countries.
    Uh, how will that happen? Our ultranationalist fruitcakes have yet another try at a private invasion of Russia and this time it actually works? Or we just make a lot of babies? And this is going to happen in, uh, what time?
    The US emerged unprecedentedly because of various unique circumstances, like all that empty (or sort of empty) land to populate. No country is going to have similar advantages in population again without something unpredictable on a nuclear-holocaust-kind-of-scale happening first. (Even fantastic biotech to eg. eliminate aging won’t work, because what you need is a relative advantage and you can only have a slight head start on a tech, other developed countries will never be *that* far behind in today’s world. It’s not like a land advantage, which you can keep as long as you can, well, keep it.)
    I am really thinking of someone replacing the US rather than just supplementing it.
    The only ways for anyone in Europe to surpass the US now are through either some group as whole (but EU GDP is already bigger than US GDP…) or through lessening of the US (great powers have been reduced to nothing through their own stupidity before, the odds of the US screwing up that badly of course approach one with time). As a brain-drainer of failed states, the EU is probably roughly equal with the US right now. There’s no way to for the EU to *replace* the US ie. stop the flow of significant number of smart people into it, because there’s no way to leave the US far enough behind for it to look completely unattractive in comparison (the only way to get there is for the US itself to pull something moronic enough to end up that far behind).

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  • pconroy,
    English speaking for over 600 years
    If I may take one guess as to which area in Ireland you’re from, I’ll go with somewhere in N. Eastern Ireland. That my best guess.

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  • John,
    Surely you jest :)
    the part of Ireland I came from has been English speaking for over 600 years, and English has alweays been an official language of Ireland…

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  • This weeks "Ask a Science Blogger" is: A "drain" seems to imply a net outflow, and that doesn't seem to be happening. But, as the paranthetical makes clear what meant is the reduction of the extent of the inflow. And yes, from all I can gather this is an issue in regards to student visas....
  • JM says:

    work-a-day scientists are essential cogs in the system, and they are far more likley to produce the n + 1 generation native born superstars than Joe-Schmo.

    What about regression to the mean? Given the same woman, Joe-Schmo from a high mean group could produce a brighter kid than a bright dude from a lower mean group.

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  • Is it me, or did Janet explode by the old 300 world barrier? :) In any case, she brings up some good issues in her expansive post, and there is one thing I want to follow up in regards to the "brain drain." Who is it good for? Who is being drained? This is a...
  • If Finland or Ireland were successful enough in high tech, biotech, etc., they would BECOME large countries. I am really thinking of someone replacing the US rather than just supplementing it.
    Even for Finnish scientists in Finland, I suspect that the international language of science is English. So if we could only convince the Irish to abandon their archaic Gaelic and learn English.

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  • I’d also like to see Israel become part of the EU
    Not good, I believe. The political implications would be enormous, I think — likely not something the EU would want to deal with. The arab street already views Israel as the US’ arm of jurisdiction in the ME.
    Right now, most Israeli research gets funded by the US…
    Yea, see what I mean? Not good. There’s more to this issue than just science, R&D, & where it will/should flourish. It’s got some geopolitical dimensions too.

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  • jaakkeli,
    wrt Vietnam, AFAIK the entreprenurial class speak Mandarin, so this or English might become the language of high-tech in that country, as I agree that Vietnamese might well be as difficult as Finnish to learn.

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  • jaakkeli,
    I broadly agree with you, as I think Ireland and Finland are small enough, dynamic enough and smart enough to blaze a path for the large economies of Europe to follow.
    But, what I’d ideally like is much more fluid migration within Europe. My ex is French and her family live in Paris, which is now within commuting distance of London, but none of her family would ever think of working in England, let alone living there, due to anmity and rivalry between them.
    French graduates are flocking to Ireland though, and I would like to see more of this.
    I think this generation and the next one in Europe, will be more like Americans, and move between the regions and countries of Europe, over the course of their careers willingly and regularly.
    BioTech is taking off in Finland and Ireland right now, and I’d love them to become the hubs of R&D for the rest of Europe, with manufacturing of derived products left to countries like Germany – who excel in this.
    I’d also like to see Israel become part of the EU, as they are the only other country in the greater Europe area which are small, dynamic and smart as well. Right now most Israeli research gets funded by the US, but I’d like the EU to have the benefit of this country’s brainpower.

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  • pconroy, Finnish is abnormally problematic only in the European context – it’s not like Vietnamese is closer to becoming the next world language. Climate is much worse a repellant…
    But you’re right about John E having been sleeping on Europe. In *per capita* terms Finland has been the “tech powerhouse” compared to the US since cell phones got big (or since they stopped being big) – but we’re so small that we can’t ever produce a Silicon Valley no matter what we do. The future of the EU could be bright if an example by the small countries could lift some of the larger ones from their delusions… (Also, small countries can only be top of the world in a few field – if we’d attempt to do everything ourselves, we’d just end up doing everything worse than the big ones – so in the ideal case we’d be seeing *focus* by small countries and a lot of brain moving following that, with each country being a net winner in some areas and net loser in some. Minimization of the latter is not ideal at all.)
    And BTW, in the field I care about, European prestige leadership is guaranteed for decades. The US had all the prestige and then made an explicit decision to kill it. It alone doesn’t hurt the US, but I think it’s symptomatic. I don’t think there’s any way to salvage US leadership – the country is just too badly stuck in “we don’t need that fancy stuff, CUZ WE’RE NUMBER 1!!!” mode to do anything about it.

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  • This weeks "Ask a Science Blogger" is: A "drain" seems to imply a net outflow, and that doesn't seem to be happening. But, as the paranthetical makes clear what meant is the reduction of the extent of the inflow. And yes, from all I can gather this is an issue in regards to student visas....
  • Don’t forget that there is a big difference between an illiterate Irish Catholic immigrant of 150 years ago, and an illiterate Irish immigrant of today, or an illiterate from almost any part of the developed or even semi-developed world.
    Why, because 150 years ago, and even 80 years ago, it was an imprisonable offence to educate a Catholic in Ireland, so you had people of high natural aptitude living the life of peasants or later doing menial tasks in the new world. Unlike illiterate German immigrants, who often came with some skills like metal working, tool making, beer brewing or such, most Irish came with nothing more than the skills needed to dig with a spade – there was precious little industry outside farming in the country at the time, and what little there was was monopolized by non-Catholics.
    My grandfather, born in around 1870, came from a lower middle class Catholic farming family, was uneducated and illiterate when he entered the British police force in his teens. He was however of high aptitude, and self taught himself Latin, Greek, Math up to Calculus, memorized many of Shakespeare’s plays, and educated himself in law and represented paupers as a barrister for free. He would later rise to be head of the British police force in Ireland, own the first automobile in the country, and in his mid-60′s learned Irish (Gaelic) for the first time. I often wonder how such a gifted man would have fared if he had been born in the US, rather than under Penal Laws in Ireland.

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  • Is it me, or did Janet explode by the old 300 world barrier? :) In any case, she brings up some good issues in her expansive post, and there is one thing I want to follow up in regards to the "brain drain." Who is it good for? Who is being drained? This is a...
  • Actually come to think of it, Vietnam might have a good shot at being a great high-tech place, as despite a bitter colonial past and the Vietnam war, they have been exposed to the West and understand something about Western culture, though they are firmly located in East Asia. So it could be a draw for both Asians and Europeans, but not right now – it needs a big chunk of infrastructure development first.

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  • John said:
    What I’m wondering is whether some up-and-coming nation will put out the welcome mat and invest some serious money on becoming a tech powerhouse.
    John, where have you been for the last few years, seriously??
    Ireland has being doing this for a while now, and they have one of the highest quality of living standards in the world, speak English, are a friendly people etc. A few years ago they funded Nicholas Negroponte to open Media Lab Europe in Dublin. 10 years ago they hired Vinton Cerf and various other Internet luminaries as special consultants. Is it any wonder than Google opened up its first non-US operation in Ireland. Right now the country exports more software than the US does, and in a country whose population just reached 4 million, has over 800 indigenous software companies! They launched a 5 year plan 2 or 3 years ago to import 200,000 engineers and scientists – aiming at US, English, Australian and Indian nationals. Recently they have expanded this to recruiting Chinese nationals.
    My brother lived for 2 years in South Korea and informed me that it is intolerable for an American or European to do so. In any job you are expected to show utmost deference and respect to any asshole who happens to be your boss. You are expected not to question any decision, no matter how moronic and echo the party line on everything. So no, this country won’t be one where many non-East Asians would be interested in emigrating to.
    As regards Taiwan, it’s in the process of being reassimilated into Mother China, so that’s a non-starter too.
    I see Australia as being a good candidate to follow Ireland’s lead. Finland would be a good place for researchers too, but who wants to learn Finnish (Soumi)?

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  • Chad's response to this week's Ask a Science Blogger pointed to two issues which I think need some clarification. First, that brain drain might be good for the species in that it distributes the "wealth" of human capital around. This is not a trivial or baseless argument, but, The World Bank has done a study,...
  • I Think I agree w/ your point of view of that issue, even if it is Americo-centric.
    ..more important to small war-torn or poor ones than anything else because of the importance of to aid and outside intervention in these cases.
    I don’t believe for a moment that developed or rich nations, most saliently the *US & UK*, are really interested in helping the failed/poor states. All they really do is exploit them under the pretense of aid — e.g., installation of puppet politicians, promising relief to the people, friendly to western interests.
    I believe that USAID, IMF, World Bank are only quasi-honest — i.e., they will help as long as they are getting something profitable out of it. You know how all that interventionist folly charade goes… …

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  • Is it me, or did Janet explode by the old 300 world barrier? :) In any case, she brings up some good issues in her expansive post, and there is one thing I want to follow up in regards to the "brain drain." Who is it good for? Who is being drained? This is a...
  • To Rietzsche Boknecht
    Your argument is valid. But this does not apply to China any more. In book WORLD IS FLAT, Bill Gates said also, talent Chinese are no longer interested in emigration any more.

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  • talent in many nations will simply go wasted if they don’t go abroad.
    I believe that this(emigrating)is all to the better. (NOT that there are failing states where the educated sometimes see emigrating as their only option(that’s bleak), but that it just so happens that the emigrant can personally help the himself, contribute to host nation he has emigrated to & make the most of it, sometimes helping family back home or encouraging familes to emigrate as well — all the better if they’re a high g bunch, no?. It’s a win-win situation sometimes, wouldn’t you say?
    I don’t know whether I’m hypocritical or selfish on this issue or not, but I believe in putting great minds to use. And, as was pointed out, overly-populous nations like China & India can afford to spare some talent for the rest of the world.
    Is it bad that the best & brightest are getting themselves out of hellholes? They can’t even utilize their potential when they’re remaining in hellholes.
    We aren’t really sucking the developing or failed states dry, because high g people do not & cannot make the most of themsleves in such places anyhow.
    A big problem here is that the large influx of largely low g latino migrants is likely to lower the attractancy of the U.S. — in terms of scientists abroad looking where best to emigrate — by slowly tranforming it into a hellhole itself, possibly.

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  • Canada was experiencing a ’bout of “Brain Drain” to the United States, but a great deal of that had to do with job opportunities and the strength of the American Dollar. In 2000, the US dollar was worth $1.60 Canadian. So the same job between US and Canada might offer $50,000/year, living expenses would be roughly the same, but big ticket items (Cars, technology, furniture) would be about 60% of the relative cost, and Student loans could be paid off that much faster.
    Now with the Oil Boom in Alberta, and the US Dollar worth about $1.10 Canadian; we’re starting to see a reverse in the flow. Especially for that $50,000 job, Canada offers lower personal taxation rates (!) and a superior value on medical benefits.

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  • What I’m wondering is whether some up-and-coming nation will put out the welcome mat and invest some serious money on becoming a tech powerhouse. One disability most of the world has is that, pre-9/11, the US was one of the easiest countries for a foreigner to assimilate to. (Japan, for example, is extremely difficult.) A second disability is that English is the de facto standard in almost all tech and science areas so the local language usually wouldn’t help.
    The best bets to me would be So. Korea, Singapore, and Taiwan. So. Korea and Taiwan are quite hospitable, well on the way to development, and have strong but democratic governments. Singapore is more of a police state and less hospitable (I’ve heard) but very efficient and orderly.
    I don’t see Europe or anywhere in Europe being able to take an initiative of this kind, for fiscal and political reasons, though they are ideal in many ways. If the EU were able to pull this off it could be major.

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  • a says:

    Razib, I think your categorisation of “donor” nations is too simplistic. In Australia, politicans often talk about the “brain drain” even though Australia is a great place to live. I don’t know how much of a problem the “brain drain” actually is in Australia since I’m currently contributing to it and doing my PhD in europe. I’m waiting to see how Tim Lambert is going to weigh in on the subject.

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  • Razib, this was actually a reply to the previous comment by Roman Werpachowski.
    I was just trying to put the brain drain/flux in perspective with other things it’s related to and to make a point to basically say “nothing happens by itself” :)
    About joining the empire.. I’m hoping for the days that the internet will render it useless :)

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  • Mengu Gulmen,
    1) what does that have to do with the topic of the post?
    2) you ever hear of ‘if you can’t beat ‘em, join’ ‘em?’ scientists of the world, all roads lead to rome, come and be citizens of the empire!

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  • Anonymous • Disclaimer says: • Website

    If I left my country it would be bad for it, and good for the country I left for.
    Or at least that is what my humble ego tells me.
    Why would I want to leave? Why would anyone. Well, the state (any state) has tremendous power. When the state uses that power to enforce upon me conditions that are in excess of what I can endure I would wish to leave.
    Say I was a nurse in South Africa (I’m not). I work for the state. The hours are long, the pay is meagre and the working conditions are poor, dangerous and declining. If I was a nurse I would first try to enter the private sector, and if that did not work I would attempt to find employment in another field. If that was impossible I would emigrate to a country where I could work within my speciality in decent conditions.
    Or if I happened to belong to a group the government has chosen to actively discriminate against, If the discrimination became impossible to endure, I would leave.
    Likewise, if the conditions (infrastructure & social conditions) of the country becomes intolerable I would leave.
    In short any government experiencing massive voluntary emigration needs to look at itself and ask, what are we doing that so many people want to leave.

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  • “The brain drain is the fault of those countries which fail to keep their scientists home.”
    There’s another side to this.
    Mainly, they are 3rd world countries because the ‘big guys’ (primarily the US) *require* them to be so. The meddlings of the US, UN (which is practically the US’ playground), IMF under the cover of “helping them out” actually make them worse and worse with every passing year.
    This is not just about science. Their economies are mostly advised (read: controlled) by the World Bank, IMF, basically the US. And most of the time they have so much other problems to deal with (such as internal political instabilities [caused mostly by 'outside factors'], inflation, resource problems, international debts etc) they have no resources to provide for the scientific community.
    Most of the time, they live a ‘basic’ life, working their asses off and getting paid barely enough to survive.
    Most of the scientists, engineers, anyone migrating to the US or any other country, generally do it for a “life where the thing they love to do gets what it deserves”. If the government can’t pay what you think you deserve, and the private sector is saturated, this means that ‘local resources’ have been drained, and you have to move somewhere else.
    This “we’re liberating you” economics/politics has been going on for almost a century now. To undo its effects would require a major restructuring of the international community. And this is not an easy [or preferable] thing to do.
    People living in the US tend to think that the US is just a nation, their nation and that’s it. The truth is, the US is today a power controlling most of the world. The “International Trade System”, the “Rogue States (or more popular today, the Bush-concept: ‘AXIS OF EVIL!!!’)”, and everything related with them are extensions of this fact.
    War on Terrorism and such, are just tools to provide public acceptance of the “punishment” for the states that do not wish to become a part of this gigantic machine.
    There are a lot more things going on than meets the eye in one glance, really. History is a good teacher though. I suggest a review of world history of the last 200-300 years. Especially about the “Companies” set up in east asia in the 1600s by the british, dutch and the french, the causes for the first world war (why do you think there are no movies nor objective documentaries about the WWI?), the european business structure between the two world wars, “what was in the second world war apart from hitler, pearl harbor and hiroshima?”, how and why did the UN got set up, and all of the US’s exploits after the second world war. It all comes together in the end.
    Brilliant strategies, cunning tactics, I must say.

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  • The brain drain is the fault of those countries which fail to keep their scientists home. People do not emmigrate on their whim, they must have serious advantages elsewhere to consider leaving. A lot of young people leave my country (Poland) now, not just because it’s a poor country, but also because of widespread cronyism (also in science), lack of state funding for science (way below civilized standards in terms of GDP percentage) and large unemployment. Emmigration is warning sign for the politicians: “clean up the country”.

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  • yeah, i think the word count is dead. i just liked it cuz it let me respond really quickly.

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  • Word limits, feh!
    Obviously, there are a lot of complexities to this question, and the assessment depends on what variables you take as relevant. I’m the first one to acknowledge that personal interests may trump what’s optimal for your nation or for the scientific community. As well, there are some circumstaces (without infrastructure of a particular sort, etc.) where scientific talent might as well be bagpiping aptitude without a bagpipe.
    On the other hand, some of the things that might be good for a nation in the short term may have bad consequences in the longer term.
    Shorter version: Double my word count and I probably still don’t have a firm “it’s good” or “it’s bad” answer!

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  • This weeks "Ask a Science Blogger" is: A "drain" seems to imply a net outflow, and that doesn't seem to be happening. But, as the paranthetical makes clear what meant is the reduction of the extent of the inflow. And yes, from all I can gather this is an issue in regards to student visas....
  • “an influx…semi-literate farmers would not be good things.
    Correct me if I’m wrong, but nearly all the Irish, Italian and German immigrants in the 19th century were either semi-literate or completely illiterate”
    at a time when semi-literacy and illiteracy weren’t quite such a detriment as they are today.
    You know you need a GED or high school diploma to work at 7-11?

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  • Dan,
    Last comment: Thanks for your info & links; much appreciated:)

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  • Rietzsche,
    Although the temperature is very high, the fusion plasma is an extremely thin gas so the total amount of heat in it is quite small. Magnetic fields are used to confine the plasma to minimise contact with the walls. There has been recent progress reported in improving the stability of the plasma so as to reduce damage to the walls.
    We should keep this discussion short Rietzsche, we are hijacking Razib’s thread.

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  • Thanx, Dan,
    When I wrote that I had researched ITER, I used the word “researched” loosely. I’ve never studied it in depth as you’ve seemed to.
    potentially
    Yes, I was wondering about ITER because some people seem very skeptical of it’s technical achievement. The temperatures produced by such fusion are not an insignificant cause of such skepticism. Could such a device withstand such exceedingly high temperature & be expected not to pose some risks, like exploding or simply melting itself? If I am correct, current technical hurdles include: the development of a material/s capable of withstanding the temperatures involved with it’s processes.
    Apart from such issues Fusion seems like good, environmentally friendly energy source.

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  • R Boknekht,
    By the way I should have said “most fusion work is going to be in France with the ITER project”. There are other smaller programs elsewhere; some of them exploring different approaches.
    It depends what you mean by “technically feasible”. ITER aims to pass “Energy Break-Even”. To have more fusion energy coming out than heating, etc. energy going in. They are hoping to achieve an energy output/input ratio Q ~ 5 or 10. I have no reason to doubt they will succeed in this limited goal.
    But as this page from that ITER website shows, even their “fast track” to fusion doesn’t expect to achieve a prototype commercial electric power station before 2050. So at best, this is potentially an energy source for the second half of the 21st century.
    On paper fusion looks to be superior to fission in that, in principle, you can completely eliminate the problem of high-level radioactive waste. You still have to handle radioactive materials in the operation of the reactor, such as tritium and structural radioactivity induced by neutron bombardment. The tritium inventory could be fairly modest though, and the structural radioactivity could be managed by careful choice of materials, and by recycling the old irradiated components to make new components. So in principle, the radioactive crud never needs to leave the system.
    In the far future, other more advanced fusion reactions than deuterium-tritium could eliminate radioactivity altogether. This would require higher ignition temperatures. It may be difficult to do this in a tokamak-type reactor. Some other approach may be necessary, like pellet implosion.

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  • And Fusion is going to be in France with the ITER project.
    Dan,
    I’ve researched on this ITER project before; pretty fascinating stuff. Seems amazing if it will actually work. Do you think it is technically feasible?

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  • i’d be a little careful about “4-5 generation latinos.” you can have selection bias as these populations are small and it may be that those who remain after admixture every generation are a subset if you know what i mean (e.g., it may be that most descendents of people who were latino 4-5 generations ago are white americans).
    The achievement gap with second or third generation latinos (the children and grand-children of immigrants), in comparison, is less likely to be influenced by the selection or assimilation factors referred to above, and is still impactful w/o taking into consideration the fourth-fifth generations.
    If assimilation into the majority U.S. culture is a factor in a possible advantage of ‘non-latino’ descendants of latino immigrants, this seems likely to decrease the larger the minority group becomes, for a number of reasons. The Hispanic group will become the majority group in California, for example, by 2012, according to trends.*
    (The achievement gap can probably, unfortunately, be assumed to be substantial for a long time.)

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  • I agree with agnostic on the Selective influx
    If so, what are it’s implications?
    First I need my nootropics, or GE, or SOMETHING to increase my IQ where I’d be about on par w/, say, certain bloggers/researchers who I’ll leave anonymous. MY brain is already drained. Talk about implications. This could hurt ME. Now it’s news of a possible “Brain drain” w/ the brightest either not coming here or leaving?? I must, must increase my IQ & it must, obviously, be within my lifetime. There’s no way I’m gonna live out my life to old age & die stupid. No way. Unacceptable.:(

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  • And of course particle physicists have to go to CERN since the US has virtually abandoned the field since the decision to drop the SSC. And Fusion is going to be in France with the ITER project. And hey, even Finland where they are building a temple of civilization at Olkiluoto.

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  • The biggest brain drain might be American scientists going overseas to work on stem cell research say, where the environment is friendlier.
    The politicization of science in the US on questions like climate & stem cells is practically pushing people overseas.
    Also my advice for all aspiring Western scientists: Learn Mandarin. You’re probably going to find it useful in your career; especially if you’re under 30.

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  • Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Canada is gaining quite a few conferences because of the U.S.’s stupid paranoia. Rather than meet U.S. scientists in the U.S., people meet in Canada.
    The Perimeter Institute is perhaps the most notable example. Rumour has it that they got flooded with resumes from folks in the U.S. sick of the new Nuremberg laws

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  • But I would really love to have a harem, too.
    great-grandfather was polygamous. be careful what you wish for!
    where non-white Hispanics have been citizens for 4-5 generations, sometimes to the point where they no long speak or understand Spanish. There are still “achievement gaps” b/w these groups and European-origin groups.
    i’d be a little careful about “4-5 generation latinos.” you can have selection bias as these populations are small and it may be that those who remain after admixture every generation are a subset if you know what i mean (e.g., it may be that most descendents of people who were latino 4-5 generations ago are white americans).

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  • Correct me if I’m wrong, but nearly all the Irish, Italian and German immigrants in the 19th century were either semi-literate or completely illiterate.
    But then as time goes by, you can see what happens. There are regions in the US (New Mexico for Mexicans, New York metro area for Caribbeans) where non-white Hispanics have been citizens for 4-5 generations, sometimes to the point where they no long speak or understand Spanish. There are still “achievement gaps” b/w these groups and European-origin groups. Even more striking is the Af-Am / Euro gap, or Af-Am / East Asian gap, which are more striking at the higher levels of SES where lack of opportunity, poverty, etc., cannot be causal factors.
    So, opening the flood gates = bad idea. Selective influx by administering de facto IQ tests (SAT, GRE, whatever) = good thing.

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  • i know this shit, don’t fuck with me
    I would never do that. I’m allergic to Y chromosomes. :)
    I am here doing much the same thing that you said was your reason for this blog: collecting data for analysis. But I would really love to have a harem, too.

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  • Correct me if I’m wrong, but nearly all the Irish, Italian and German immigrants in the 19th century were either semi-literate or completely illiterate.
    irish and italian more than germans. and which groups took the longest to assimilate into the ‘middle class’? (about 1/3 of germans were roman catholic, so you can control that variable). also, in 1900 50% of americans lived on family farms and the vast majority of people did not graduate secondary school. that is not the case today. back then to some extent were were a republic of semiliterate peasants!
    the germans were likely to be freeholders back in the mother country (as opposed to serfs living under junkers in prussia). the irish catholics didn’t make a big transition to rural farming in the US because in ireland they were tenants who were basically dictated to by their anglo-irish lords. there were serious failures in regards to turning the irish catholic into yoeman farmers in the midwest, see archbishop john ireland’s attempt in minnesota, he gave the irish cows and left them unsupervised, and they ended up eating those cows and much of the fodder and nearly starved in the winter. they were later relocated into minneapolis, and were the nucleus of a slum that persisted for several decades.
    compare the jews to the italians. the jews often came as literates and were semi-skilled. today the italians don’t do badly, their concentration in the greater new york area means that they are well represented in the financial industry, for example, but it took them 3-4 generations to merge into the american median, while it took the jews 1 generation to jump into the upper middle class (ergo, “jew quotas” at elite universities to block their rise).

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  • an influx…semi-literate farmers would not be good things.
    Correct me if I’m wrong, but nearly all the Irish, Italian and German immigrants in the 19th century were either semi-literate or completely illiterate.

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  • Indeed. I’m one of those crazy libertarians who thinks entering into the country ought to be an easy, straight-forward process for pretty much anyone who wants to come here.
    well, the problem i have with this (as a not-so-crazy libertarian) is a republic is, i believe, more than just an arbiter for capitalist transactions between consenting adults. it is a community, and immigration seals an implicit pact of amity and fellow feeling between generations future.
    i also believe that the cultural characteristics of the united states at this time are pretty good. there are things i would change, but an influx of lots of muslims or semi-literate farmers would not be good things.
    remeber, polities are not run like a free market. you can’t just export citizens.

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  • Scientists by their nature seem to follow the rules, so change the damn rules!
    Indeed. I’m one of those crazy libertarians who thinks entering into the country ought to be an easy, straight-forward process for pretty much anyone who wants to come here. My concerns about letting in “the terrorists” aren’t non-existant, but then I remember that the 9-11 guys had entered the country legally, think about how the government can’t even seem to finish off a bunch of untrained peasants armed with old soviet equipment, and then realize that no matter what they do some number of shady characters are going to get into the country.
    So screw it, I’m more likely to be hit by lightning than I am to get killed by one of those feared terrorists from a rogue state or whatever, and I’m not sure giving in to xenophobia is productive from a security standpoint. We might as well just start letting people in, can’t hurt us. There will always be bad actors in the world, there’s little you can do without incredibly draconian measures to stop all of them, just have to learn to live with it.

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  • This week's "Ask a Science Blogger" is: This question is loaded because how you interpret it really colors how you respond. I would say, no, the public doesn't really understand any specific science, just as physicists and biologists (or biochemists and population geneticists) don't really understand the particulars of other fields. Unfortunately, science is the...
  • Over a decade we might be able to figure out if elite vs. non-elite funding was different in the quality of research produced
    This is one of those experiments which you don’t need to do to know the answer.

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  • I think it’s always been accepted that the value of specific lines research must be subject to peer assessment, because when it comes to matters of arcane scientific knowledge, laypeople are not competent to judge its value. That is why wise governments seek advice from committees of experts.
    Naturally, broad policy must be in the hands of our democratically elected representatives. Also governments have a right to monitor how expert committees dispense public funds. But it would be a foolish legislature that tried to direct scientific research in detail.

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  • i’m pretty sure the armed forces are also desparate for any insight into treatment for PTSD. some folks are trying to model it, but its hard to figure out what an ‘iraq war’ model would look like for rats. the most promising, but highly controversial, avenue is probably reconsolidation.

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  • The DOD does fund a lot of basic research in condensed matter physics. However, it doesn’t fund particle physics (though many would debate if particle physics is in any meaningful way more “basic” than condensed matter).

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  • It certainly would be in the best interests of the state to fund scientific disciplines with some relevance or applicability to the military.
    In my opinion, we need a country, a sovereign state where scientists had all the find they’d ever need to carry out whatever interested them, where that could have maximal fun. Maybe that’s a dumb idea:) Remember, human motivations being what they are, scientists probably love what they do anyway. Not every study any scientist would like to carry out would be deemed as “needed” or essential for the greater good. And every now & then, i hear discontented citizens asking “was this what they needed my tax money for?”
    But on another point, for example, were the HapMap Project or the Human Genome Projects undertaken just so guys like fascinated, mayby-nutty bloggers could get neat data on population genetics the world over, or were they undertaken more for the common good, for advancing knowldge of the genome w.r.t health & medical matters.
    IMO, all the neat data that’ll keep pouring in from the undertaking of these projects is rather an unavoidable consequence of what we’re doing – gaining intricate knowledge of the genome for a more serious purpose.
    I support funding for stuff like this; otoh, i’m not sure how much i support funding some other stuff, like more military/security oriented techology development. Although, the development of such technology can also one day allow us to colonize the universe – which might, one day not so long from now, be in humanity’s best interests. I don’t know.

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  • Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Greco: Yes, the military funds basic research—they did quite a lot in the 60s and 70s, then turned most of it over to NSF; since 9/11, I understand that the “basic/applied” balance has gone even further towards applied. But they indeed still give grants to university researchers to do interesting things with only far-future connections to weapons or defense. Things that come to mind: the Navy does some fairly basic astronomy research, especially related to GPS, astrometry, and timekeeping. DARPA (Defense Advanced Research … Projects … Agency?) funds all sorts of computer science, materials and applied physics, optics, nanotechnology, and nuclear/radiation detection—which sounds very engineering-y, but in reality is as basic as anything NSF or DOE funds.

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  • Orac says: • Website

    Something I’ve wanted to find out for a while: do the military fund any basic science?

    The military funds basic and translational biomedical research in breast cancer, prostate cancer, and a number of other biomedical programs. In fact, the Army is rather unique in that it emphasizes innovation more than almost anything else. That means that, if you have an intriguing idea but not much data, you can still get funded. For example, for its Idea Award program, 50% of a grant application’s score is based on innovation.
    I’ve gotten two Army grants myself in the last five years, the last of which finished in April. In fact, the grant writing that I was whining about the last couple of weeks was for the two Army grants I submitted on Tuesday, both to the breast cancer program. Given the funding constraints these days (because of the Iraq War and general budget constraints, last year only around 6% of applications to the breast cancer program were funded), I’m not optimistic that I’ll get either one.

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  • do a google search for DOE genome

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  • do the military fund any basic science?
    a lot of NIH funded stuff is “clinical” on paper only. i don’t see why the military would be any different.

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  • There is a reason that clinically oriented research gets so much money, and the military also funds a lot of science.

    Something I’ve wanted to find out for a while: do the military fund any basic science? I imagine that even in nuclear, chemical and biological weapons (no, of course no one is producing those last two), they pick what is discovered in civilian research and apply directly to weapons.

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  • This weeks "Ask a Science Blogger" question is: "If you could shake the public and make them understand one scientific idea, what would it be?" I assume others will answer this also, so I want to get this out first: my reply is that the public needs to know that the most important idea about...
  • Steven Shapin has written a number of good books about the social organization of early science.
    Everyone should read Descartes’ Discourse on Method. It’s short, easy reading, and much different than you would expect. He was a hands-on guy who deliberately spent many years knocking about the world in the company of uneducated people such as skilled craftsmen. (Education then was mostly theology, Latin and Greek classics, and law; alchemy, astrology, and medicine were proto-scientific, but were taught mostly through the reading of ancient texts.) The direction of attention of “gentlemen” to the knowledge of craftsmen (who were not gentlemen) was one of the origins of science; craftsmen’s knowledge was earlier stigmatized as material and empirical rather than rational and philosophical (or revealed).
    In Shapin it comes out that while the head scientist had to be a genmtlemen, a lot of the real work was done by very skilled non-gentlemen assistants of the craftsman type.

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  • Probably the idea about how scientific truth is provisional truth, and the nature of the connection between scientific evidence and scientific truth.
    People have to learn to accept uncertainty. So long as that uncertainty continues to decrease, we’re on the up escalator, hey!
    There are no absolute truths, only things we are more or less certain of.

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  • honestly, i never reflected deeply on this dichotomy, but yes, i’ve noted it.

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  • yeah, i know what you meant, but i just have to register annoyance that these terms have been twisted to make it seem like the leaders of the scientific revolution were armchair guys while the philosophical S.J. Goulds of the day (eviscerated by the Dawkinses of the day, like Thomas Reid) are thought to be experimental researchers.

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  • well, i didn’t mean ‘rationalism’ or ‘empiricism’ in the narrow philosphical sense. i mean, i guess bacon isn’t really an ‘empiricist,’ he’s just an empiricist :)

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    • Replies: @Anatoly Karlin

    I would not say Slavophilia automatically equals hatered of the West and its ideals.
     
    As it is currently interpreted (at least in Russia), there is little room for both Slavophilia and strong belief in Western values of rationalism, liberal democracy, etc.

    However, values change and can be redefined - either by evolution, or by radical redefinition of terms from above (as happened during the Bolshevik Revolution, for instance; the idea of what Russia is meant to be underwent a profound transition during the 1914-1953 period). The same redefinition can - and I would argue, Putin is trying to - be carried out to make the "real Russia" compatible with the West, which is the only way Russia can have both social stability and liberal democracy. Whether he will keep to this task or can succeed at this is the big question.


    Although Kundera’s critique of Kitsh is correct it leads nowhere. The nationalist kitch for example perpetuates a group. If the Jews were asking too many questions they wouldn’t have lasted for 3000 years.
     
    Very true. And the explanation to my observation that "Yet all societies need kitsch, a single dominant kitsch, in order to function; as such, these holy fools are spiritually rejected from all human societies" and "There are few absolute cynics, and even fewer people care to listen to their blasphemies".

    Anyway to me Slavophilia is not equivalent to pan-slavism or eurasianism which are both unrealistic theories. In my view Sceptical Russophiles are Slavophiles.
     
    I think it all depends on the ideological fervor with which you interpret these ideologies. Slavophilia can be either "skeptical Russophobia", or an insular Russian nationalism based on neo-Tsarist, ultra-Orthodox kitsch. Similarly Eurasianism varies the gamut from Strasserian national socialism to Gumilev's intellectually intriguing if overwrought theories of ethnoses and passionarity.
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  • I think that’s too over the public’s head. It’s like trying to give a legalistic definition of a cow rather than point to cows. What you pointed to will stick. :)
    …and not to nitpick, but the rationalists were the experimental scientists or practical engineers of their day (Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Huygens), while the empiricists were all armchair philosophers or civil servants (Locke, Hume, Berkeley).

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    • Replies: @Anatoly Karlin
    Again this is a case of different perspectives, different belief systems.

    I think viewing the USSR in a dim light is not Russophobic (using my methodology, that is), since Russia no longer defines itself along Soviet lines or values (using my methodology, that is). Besides, the only qualification for being a true Russophobe is to not only take a dim light, but to consistently decry and condemn it from Western terms.

    The thing about Central Asian fond memories of the USSR is not surprising and correlates with my own experience. From their perspective, an outside power came, gave them the amenities of industrial life, in large part formed their national consciousness; now that power is gone and so is their own (generally speaking, C. Asia fared very badly after the Soviet collapse - massive falls in GDP, cessation of development aid, rising insecurity and chaos, the intrusion of radical Islam in place of the dead ideology, etc).

    To an extent, the same is true in Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus - a large part of their national consciousness was developed during the Soviet era (however loud some of their protestations to the contrary), and the former two collapsed to a greater extent than Russia. To the contrary, Baltic nations with firm memories of their pre-1940 culture, stronger sense of connection with the West and overall more positive post-Soviet experience understandably hate the USSR and the Russophone detritus it left behind in their countries (as they see it).

    Re-your position on the grid, you can try to estimate your position yourself (presumably I will make a poor judge since I am not familiar with your work / views).

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  • Yes, that is the point. Science is much less a collection of facts than a way of interacting with reality to discover how it works. ‘Truthiness’ may be operative in the political sphere, but doesn’t apply to the objectively real world. Good post.

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  • The most important scientific idea is that science is the most important idea.

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