The Unz Review - Mobile
A Collection of Interesting, Important, and Controversial Perspectives Largely Excluded from the American Mainstream Media
 TeasersiSteve Blog
"Harvard University Will Begin Gene-Editing Sperm"
🔊 Listen RSS
Email This Page to Someone

 Remember My Information



=>

Bookmark Toggle AllToCAdd to LibraryRemove from Library • BShow CommentNext New CommentNext New ReplyRead More
ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
AgreeDisagreeLOLTroll
These buttons register your public Agreement, Disagreement, Troll, or LOL with the selected comment. They are ONLY available to recent, frequent commenters who have saved their Name+Email using the 'Remember My Information' checkbox, and may also ONLY be used once per hour.
Ignore Commenter Follow Commenter
Search Text Case Sensitive  Exact Words  Include Comments
List of Bookmarks

From MIT Technology Review:

Despite CRISPR baby controversy, Harvard University will begin gene-editing sperm

Even as a furious debate broke out in China over gene-edited babies, some scientists in the US are also hoping to improve tomorrow’s children.

by Antonio Regalado November 29, 2018

… Amid the condemnation, though, it was easy to lose track of what the key experts were saying. Technology to alter heredity is for real. It is improving very quickly, it has features that will make it safe, and much wider exploratory use to create children could be justified soon.

That was the message delivered at a gene-editing summit in Hong Kong on Wednesday, November 28, by Harvard Medical School dean George Daley, just ahead of He’s own dramatic appearance on the stage (see video starting at 1:15:30).

Astounding some listeners, the Harvard doctor and stem-cell researcher didn’t condemn He but instead characterized the Chinese actions as a wrong turn on the right path (see video). “The fact that it is possible that the first instance of human germ-line editing came forward as a misstep should in no way lead us to stick our heads in the sand,” Daley said. “It’s time to … start outlining what an actual pathway for clinical translation would be.”

In the future, no child will be left behind without the Harvard grad glibness & self-confidence gene, as seen in this “A Private Universe” video of Harvard grads and local blue collar kids explaining why it’s colder in winter:

Both sets of people come up with the same wrong answer — because the earth’s orbit isn’t perfectly circular and so we are further from the sun in winter — but the townies are obviously ashamed that that’s the best answer they can come up with, while the Harvard grads are completely self-assured in their wrongness.

I’m sure there were some Harvard grads who gave the right answer and ended up on the cutting room floor, but they will probably end up working for the Harvard grads who were technically wrong but winningly self-confident.

By germ-line editing, Daley means editing sperm, eggs, or embryos—anything that, if you alter its DNA, could convey the change to future generations. While other voices demanded a ban on germ-line editing, Daley and the other members of the summit’s leadership defended it. Their final statement said medicine’s daring and troubled project to modify humans in an IVF dish should move forward.

“It’s absolutely clear this is a transformative scientific technology with the power for great medical use.” Daley said.

Germ-line editing could be used, Daley said—and potentially should be used—to shape the health of tomorrow’s kids. By editing germ cells, it will be possible to remove mutations that cause childhood cancer or cystic fibrosis. Other genetic edits could endow children with protection against common diseases. On Daley’s list of potentially acceptable genes to edit was CCR5, the very gene that He altered in the twins.

At Harvard, Neuhausser says he and a research fellow, Denis Vaughan, will in the next few weeks begin editing sperm to change a gene called ApoE, which is strongly linked to Alzheimer’s risk. A person who inherits two copies of the high-risk version of the gene has about a 60% lifetime risk of getting Alzheimer’s.

It would be useful to have somebody propose a roadmap for just how much animal testing ought to be completed and verified before human testing is allowed to proceed. For example, laboratory mice can have a generation time of 3 weeks, so you could have 170 generations in a decade.

But what about animals with brains more like ours? Should we revive testing on chimpanzees, which has largely been phased out, for this?

Of course, that didn’t work out so well in Rise of the Planet of the Apes:

 
Hide 140 CommentsLeave a Comment
Commenters to Ignore...to FollowEndorsed Only
Trim Comments?
  1. But what about animals with brains more like ours? Should we revive testing on chimpanzees, which has largely been phased out, for this?

    Isn’t that the premise of Rise of the Planet of the Apes? I think they were trying to cure Alzheimer’s in it too.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    Right. Thanks.
    , @Oleaginous Outrager
    Dr. Quentin Q. Quinn: You can't test drugs on humans! There are rules, procedures. It has to be tested on animals first.

    Sparks: WHY? Why does all the crap we consume have to be tested on animals first?

    Dr. Quentin Q. Quinn: Because that's...

    Sparks: Et-hey! A rat doesn't wear lipstick okay? A rabbit doesn't use hairspray! A monkey doesn't need pills, to get ramped up for hot monkey sex! It's people, man! We're miserable! So why shouldn't we try it all first?

    Dr. Quentin Q. Quinn: Well... you've got a point there actually. I'll try it.
  2. @Anonymous

    But what about animals with brains more like ours? Should we revive testing on chimpanzees, which has largely been phased out, for this?
     
    Isn't that the premise of Rise of the Planet of the Apes? I think they were trying to cure Alzheimer's in it too.

    Right. Thanks.

  3. Come on down to the salon for a spermanent wave. Curl up and divide.

  4. I think I was a pretty normal boy. I went to an all boys Catholic HS. I remember going to confesion and telling the priest I masturbated. He said save that until you are narried. I had nearly 5 gallons.

  5. The Harvard professor at ~2:33 gives the dumbest answer in that video: “The earth’s position interferes with the sun’s reflection on the moon….”

    • Replies: @International Jew
    His answer is actually correct, if you cut him a little slack for inexact language. The part of the moon we see as lit is indeed "the sun's reflection", and when we see less than a full-moon, it's because the earth is in a place (its "position") that prevents us ("interferes") from seeing the entire surface that's reflecting the sun's light.

    Anyway, the funniest misunderstanding of astronomy comes in that Ali G interview of Buzz Aldrin.
    "Will man ever land on the sun?"
    "No, it's too hot."
    "But what if we went at night?"

  6. Astronomy isn’t a subject many Harvard students take. It’s not part of the standard course of study for physics majors (or “concentrators” as they say at Harvard). Students of other sciences will take a year of physics, which doesn’t cover astronomy either. Astronomy is something a non-science student might take to fulfill the distribution requirement, but there are a lot of other options so I don’t imagine more than 5% take astronomy.

    I’d expect most Harvard physics, math or chemistry majors to figure out the “what causes the seasons” and “what explains the phases of the moon” questions, given ten seconds, just drawing on general intelligence and a high likelihood they were interested in astronomy at some point in their childhoods. But for most of us, those are hard questions, if someone hasn’t already told us the answer. The phases of the moon question is the harder of the two; without a handy pencil and paper to make a sketch, all kinds of wrong ideas might seem plausible.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    But who will make more money: the Harvard grads left on the cutting room floor who explained the real reason it's cold in winter, or the ones in the video who are so happy to winningly share with you their expensive Harvard knowledge that the earth is further away from the sun in winter? The latter will probably wind up managing the former at McKinsey.
    , @Anonymous
    You make some good points, though I don't know if the cause of the seasons should be classed with highly specialized astronomical knowledge, as opposed to general knowledge. There does tend to be a relationship between general knowledge and IQ:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_knowledge#Intelligence

    High scorers on tests of general knowledge tend to also score highly on intelligence tests. IQ has been found to robustly predict general knowledge scores even after accounting for differences in age, sex, and five factor model personality traits.
     
    , @J.Ross
    Unacceptable attempt at blinding with science. This isn't an extra doctorate in an unrelated field. This is stuff they should already know before college. And in the names of Dunning and Kruger, they should be able to admit that they do not know something. The point isn't "astronomy might as well be astrology," the point is illustrating Dennis Prager's aphorism that true foolishness takes matriculation.
    True story: I gave the correct answer to this question in first grade and was immediately punished with extra work and public embarrassment. The teacher then called on the NPC kids, who answered in unison, "Because it's winter!" Nibiru cannot collide with the Earth soon enough.
    Hint to the folks at home playing along: what's happening in Australia when we have winter?
    , @PhysicistDave
    International Jew wrote:

    Astronomy isn’t a subject many Harvard students take. It’s not part of the standard course of study for physics majors (or “concentrators” as they say at Harvard).
     
    In the lower-middle-class/working-class public school I attended in the '60s, we were taught the correct answer in grade school. And tested on it. We were expected to learn it.

    I remember discussing the matter with my dad when I was in grade school. He too had learned the correct answer in public school. But, he thought the tilt mattered because the solar rays in winter came in at a slant and therefore more of the solar energy was absorbed in the longer path through the atmosphere in winter, leaving less energy to heat the surface. An interesting theory, though not a significant effect.

    I tried to explain to Dad that it was a simple geometric effect -- the northern hemisphere intercepts a smaller fraction of the sun's rays in northern winter than the southern hemisphere for obvious geometric reasons, as you can show with a simple diagram. But I don't think Dad ever got the point. (Admittedly, my explanation as a grade-school kid may have been poorly presented: our text explained it not the way I just described but rather by pointing out the equivalent fact that a given cross-section of solar rays are stretched out along a longer path on the surface in winter than in summer.)

    Anyway, in both the 1930s and 1960s this was required material in the public schools. And, today's Harvard grads don't know it.
    , @res
    If anyone thinks about the problem while realizing that the seasons are out of phase in the northern and southern hemispheres they should immediately realize how wrong that answer is. Agreed astronomy is not commonly taught in college. But the basics are something which arguably should be learned in high school (or even earlier, which is when I think I learned it). However, the academic track at my HS generally excluded the subject where that was taught. Is that common? It might help explain the Harvard students' results.

    The interesting thing about distance from the sun and the seasons is that they are almost exactly out of phase in the northern hemisphere. Perihelion (closest) is around January 3 and aphelion is around July 4.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perihelion_and_aphelion#Application_to_Earth

    One would expect this to moderate the seasonal temperature swings in the northern hemisphere, but apparently that is not the case (net).

    In the northern hemisphere, summer occurs at the same time as aphelion. Despite this, there are larger land masses in the northern hemisphere, which are easier to heat than the seas. Consequently, summers are 2.3 °C (4 °F) warmer in the northern hemisphere than in the southern hemisphere under similar conditions.
     
    Another interesting bit of trivia (if anyone has better references for all of this than the ones I gave please post).
    https://socratic.org/questions/do-earth-s-aphelion-and-perihelion-have-any-noticeable-effects

    As the Southern hemisphere is mainly ocean, it retains its heat during the Winter months. In fact the whole planet is a few degrees warmer at aphelion in July than it is at perihelion in January!
     
    I wonder how the hemisphere temperature swings would change if the Earth's tilt was reversed. It seems like that would accentuate rather than cancel the distance effect making the hemispheres' seasons very different and giving a larger overall variation with distance.
    , @Colin Wright
    'Astronomy isn’t a subject many Harvard students take. It’s not part of the standard course of study for physics majors...'

    As it happens, astronomy would be a field I too am ignorant of, and moreover, it happened that was thinking about why it gets colder in winter myself a couple of days ago. It took me a couple of seconds to toss the distance idea and go for tilt.

    Distance poses immediate logical problems, as the townies seem to at least suspect. The Harvard students apparently never even get that far.
    , @Gabe Ruth
    This comment is a shandah (sp?) fer da goyim. What is it supposed to be, half a standard deviation? Must be an outlier.
  7. I’m long past a zealot on this issue, but when people can abort a baby right at nine months, well, the morality behind this is a natural progression.

    • Agree: NZLex
    • Troll: Mr. Rational
    • Replies: @Almost Missouri
    You can kill it, just don't change it!

    Kinda weird how these supposed scientific rationalists get all sacred-divine-spark-of-life-y when they can't flush it down the toilet and will have to live with the result looking them in the eye.
  8. @International Jew
    Astronomy isn't a subject many Harvard students take. It's not part of the standard course of study for physics majors (or "concentrators" as they say at Harvard). Students of other sciences will take a year of physics, which doesn't cover astronomy either. Astronomy is something a non-science student might take to fulfill the distribution requirement, but there are a lot of other options so I don't imagine more than 5% take astronomy.

    I'd expect most Harvard physics, math or chemistry majors to figure out the "what causes the seasons" and "what explains the phases of the moon" questions, given ten seconds, just drawing on general intelligence and a high likelihood they were interested in astronomy at some point in their childhoods. But for most of us, those are hard questions, if someone hasn't already told us the answer. The phases of the moon question is the harder of the two; without a handy pencil and paper to make a sketch, all kinds of wrong ideas might seem plausible.

    But who will make more money: the Harvard grads left on the cutting room floor who explained the real reason it’s cold in winter, or the ones in the video who are so happy to winningly share with you their expensive Harvard knowledge that the earth is further away from the sun in winter? The latter will probably wind up managing the former at McKinsey.

    • Replies: @Realist
    If the value of a human is judged by how much money was made, humanity is lost.
    , @Henry's Cat
    Doesn't the video say 21 of 23 of the Harvard crew screwed up on one or both of the answers?
  9. It’s of no consequence if the kids don’t know anything about astronomy. For the good of the country, I’d much rather they knew:

    1. basic economics, so they might see through the “crops rotting in the field” fallacy.

    2. basic literacy about data, so they can understand Heather Mac Donald’s takedown of the Black Lives Matters nonsense.

    Today’s college graduates probably think people like me (or most of the other readers of this blog) are uneducated for being unable to name ten great black scientists (the ones a Google search for “famous scientists” serves up), or explain the intricacies of intersectionality.

    • Replies: @PhysicistDave
    International Jew wrote:

    It’s of no consequence if the kids don’t know anything about astronomy. For the good of the country, I’d much rather they knew:

    1. basic economics, so they might see through the “crops rotting in the field” fallacy.

    2. basic literacy about data, so they can understand Heather Mac Donald’s takedown of the Black Lives Matters nonsense.
     
    But, astronomy is a field relatively free of ideology and political correctness in which one can learn to think coherently and analytically. Learning the very basics of astronomy -- e.g., the relation between earth and moon and the cause of the seasons -- involves learning to think about what is actually happening instead of just pouring out a torrent of words, trying to get a valid picture in your head, and, above all, trying to see what might be wrong with your initial guess.

    Furthermore, anyone who lacks the curiosity (or ability to be embarrassed!) to learn these basic facts about the universe we all live in almost certainly also lacks the basic curiosity to learn anything of value about economics, history, etc.

    If nothing else, education ought to inculcate an ability to be embarrassed when you prove to be an ignorant fool on a matter that used to be taught in grade school.

    As the video shows (and I as I already knew) , Harvard grads are not educated.
    , @res

    It’s of no consequence if the kids don’t know anything about astronomy.
     
    The point being made is more about being wrong with complete confidence than the importance of astronomy knowledge.

    This example also serves to illustrate that the ability to learn or work this problem out is not just a factor of the kind of IQ which gets one into Harvard. Which is unsurprising to anyone with a STEM background IMO.

    PhysicistDave's response covers the rest more eloquently than I would be likely to so I'll defer to that.

    P.S. I agree with your final paragraph and think it is very much on point.
    , @Bard of Bumperstickers
    "Man, the flower of all flesh, the noblest of all creatures visible, man who had once made god in his image, and had mirrored his strength on the constellations, beautiful naked man was dying, strangled in the garments that he had woven. Century after century had he toiled, and here was his reward. Truly the garment had seemed heavenly at first, shot with colours of culture, sewn with the threads of self-denial. And heavenly it had been so long as it was a garment and no more, man could shed it at will and live by the essence that is his soul, and the essence, equally divine, that is his body. The sin against the body — it was for that they wept in chief; the centuries of wrong against the muscles and the nerves, and those five portals by which we can alone apprehend — glozing it over with talk of evolution, until the body was white pap, the home of ideas as colourless, last sloshy stirrings of a spirit that had grasped the stars." http://www.ele.uri.edu/faculty/vetter/Other-stuff/The-Machine-Stops.pdf
    ~ E. M. Forster
  10. One of the benefits of growing up in the southern hemisphere is you quickly appreciate – through exposure to popular culture – that the local seasons are out of whack (by six months) with the seasons in the northern hemisphere.

    I would guess that if you grow up in the northern hemisphere you seldom get exposed to that realisation because almost all of our culture comes from the northern hemisphere.

    The differences in the seasons are, of course, explained by the 23 1/2 degrees of tilt. If they knew about those differences even the learned graduates of Harvard would realise their explanations don’t work.

  11. OT: R.I.P. George HW Bush, 94.

    • Replies: @Jack D
    Now that he is safely dead, the TV networks have strange new respect for this Republican. He was kind, gentle, bipartisan, a gentleman, everything that Trump is not. "Bipartisan" means that he got suckered by the Democrats on raising taxes and the result was that Clinton later hammered him on this and he lost the next election. That's what you get for being "bipartisan".
  12. @Anonymous
    The Harvard professor at ~2:33 gives the dumbest answer in that video: "The earth's position interferes with the sun's reflection on the moon...."

    His answer is actually correct, if you cut him a little slack for inexact language. The part of the moon we see as lit is indeed “the sun’s reflection”, and when we see less than a full-moon, it’s because the earth is in a place (its “position”) that prevents us (“interferes”) from seeing the entire surface that’s reflecting the sun’s light.

    Anyway, the funniest misunderstanding of astronomy comes in that Ali G interview of Buzz Aldrin.
    “Will man ever land on the sun?”
    “No, it’s too hot.”
    “But what if we went at night?”

    • Replies: @Anonymous
    You're probably right. His answer would be right if he was explaining the phases of the moon, which he probably was doing. It's just they edited the clip so that they cut to him right after showing a bunch of students trying to explain the seasons.
    , @anon
    It sounded to me like he was describing an eclipse but went out of his way to avoid the word shadow (because he knows the shadow aspect is a novelty and not a part of the regular cycle, and thus it would cement his incorrectness).

    Just goes to show you how using abstruse language can make you look smarter or at least give you avenues for plausible deniability. Better for no one to understand what you are saying then to say something clearly wrong. You'll even have people 30+ years into the future, rushing to fill-in the gaps of what you were "really" trying to say.

    That Harvard prof. vs. the Harvard undergrads is the real comparison. Unfair to juxtapose adults to 9th graders, Steve!

    , @Jack D

    it’s because the earth is in a place (its “position”) that prevents us (“interferes”) from seeing the entire surface that’s reflecting the sun’s light.
     
    This is wrong. You are stretching his words and being much too charitable. Even if the earth was completely stationary, we would still see the phases of the moon because they are caused by the orbit of the moon around the earth. The moon is tidally locked so that the same side always faces the earth but as the moon orbits the earth (once every 4 weeks, roughly) that side is variously illuminated by the sun.
    , @Erik L
    That Ali G gag is lifted from "The Official Polish Joke Book"
  13. If anything I think it would be better to try out in dogs. Many breeds have genetic predispositions to certain diseases where a germ line gene edit would make sense (kidney stones due to defective SLC2A9 in Dalmatians for example). Fine tuned version of selective breeding. Of course some are mutant freaks by design (poor pugs).

    • Agree: TTSSYF, Mr. Rational
  14. I thought this crowd were excited about genetic enhancement. I support sperm editing. Be risk averse, make sure side effects are minimal, etc, but this is good news.

    I was recently aspiring to be a DNA scientist like this. The career didn’t pan out for me, but good for these guys.

  15. Anon[311] • Disclaimer says:

    This hasn’t been discussed much in relation to the Chinese CRISPR thing:

    And it surfaced as well in the discussions that this gene, CCR5, while it is related to HIV, it’s also been shown in mice at least to be related to learning and memory. So this in fact could be the first case of an attempt to engineer a baby with enhanced learning and memory, which would be an enhancement.

    https://www.npr.org/2018/11/29/671996695/harvard-medical-school-dean-weighs-in-on-ethics-of-gene-editing

    It’s becoming clear that most any trait has tens of thousands of polygenic genes behind it, and most every gene affects many, many traits, so this CRISPR thing could be very tricky in practice if it works.

    • Replies: @Aardvark
    Can someone tell the Chinese when they do the editing, can they add in these genes:
    1. The gene that causes them to use an alphabet instead of thousands of unique symbols.
    2. The diacritical gene as they will need it for (1).
    3. The gene that allows them to pronounce “L”, so that people named Holly don’t sound like Horry and people named Jill don’t sound like Jue.
  16. @International Jew
    His answer is actually correct, if you cut him a little slack for inexact language. The part of the moon we see as lit is indeed "the sun's reflection", and when we see less than a full-moon, it's because the earth is in a place (its "position") that prevents us ("interferes") from seeing the entire surface that's reflecting the sun's light.

    Anyway, the funniest misunderstanding of astronomy comes in that Ali G interview of Buzz Aldrin.
    "Will man ever land on the sun?"
    "No, it's too hot."
    "But what if we went at night?"

    You’re probably right. His answer would be right if he was explaining the phases of the moon, which he probably was doing. It’s just they edited the clip so that they cut to him right after showing a bunch of students trying to explain the seasons.

  17. Anonymous[276] • Disclaimer says:
    @International Jew
    Astronomy isn't a subject many Harvard students take. It's not part of the standard course of study for physics majors (or "concentrators" as they say at Harvard). Students of other sciences will take a year of physics, which doesn't cover astronomy either. Astronomy is something a non-science student might take to fulfill the distribution requirement, but there are a lot of other options so I don't imagine more than 5% take astronomy.

    I'd expect most Harvard physics, math or chemistry majors to figure out the "what causes the seasons" and "what explains the phases of the moon" questions, given ten seconds, just drawing on general intelligence and a high likelihood they were interested in astronomy at some point in their childhoods. But for most of us, those are hard questions, if someone hasn't already told us the answer. The phases of the moon question is the harder of the two; without a handy pencil and paper to make a sketch, all kinds of wrong ideas might seem plausible.

    You make some good points, though I don’t know if the cause of the seasons should be classed with highly specialized astronomical knowledge, as opposed to general knowledge. There does tend to be a relationship between general knowledge and IQ:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_knowledge#Intelligence

    High scorers on tests of general knowledge tend to also score highly on intelligence tests. IQ has been found to robustly predict general knowledge scores even after accounting for differences in age, sex, and five factor model personality traits.

    • Replies: @YetAnotherAnon
    Even an uneducated Brit would have known that the "earth further from the sun in winter" was wrong, because how then could December and January be summer, and hot summer at that, in Australia and South Africa, where our Test Cricket teams toured every few winters?
  18. there’s nobody to tell these people “no”?

    • Replies: @J.Ross
    Worse, there are staffs of people with advanced degrees and a militant cultural mandate, to always tell them "yes."
  19. Anon[311] • Disclaimer says:

    Watching Heather seem to grasp the astronomical concepts so well, but then fall apart, little by little, with more and more bizarre explanations, is really funny. A comedy writer could not have come up with better timing. You’re really rooting for the girl, and then she betrays a slight misunderstanding, but hey, she’s a high school student and she’s really talented so you cut her some slack, but then her explanation gradually turns into an epicycles with bending light rays thing that has the teacher rolling her eyes.

    • Agree: utu
  20. @International Jew
    Astronomy isn't a subject many Harvard students take. It's not part of the standard course of study for physics majors (or "concentrators" as they say at Harvard). Students of other sciences will take a year of physics, which doesn't cover astronomy either. Astronomy is something a non-science student might take to fulfill the distribution requirement, but there are a lot of other options so I don't imagine more than 5% take astronomy.

    I'd expect most Harvard physics, math or chemistry majors to figure out the "what causes the seasons" and "what explains the phases of the moon" questions, given ten seconds, just drawing on general intelligence and a high likelihood they were interested in astronomy at some point in their childhoods. But for most of us, those are hard questions, if someone hasn't already told us the answer. The phases of the moon question is the harder of the two; without a handy pencil and paper to make a sketch, all kinds of wrong ideas might seem plausible.

    Unacceptable attempt at blinding with science. This isn’t an extra doctorate in an unrelated field. This is stuff they should already know before college. And in the names of Dunning and Kruger, they should be able to admit that they do not know something. The point isn’t “astronomy might as well be astrology,” the point is illustrating Dennis Prager’s aphorism that true foolishness takes matriculation.
    True story: I gave the correct answer to this question in first grade and was immediately punished with extra work and public embarrassment. The teacher then called on the NPC kids, who answered in unison, “Because it’s winter!” Nibiru cannot collide with the Earth soon enough.
    Hint to the folks at home playing along: what’s happening in Australia when we have winter?

  21. Anon[311] • Disclaimer says:

    Should we revive testing on chimpanzees, which has largely been phased out, for this?

    We should forget the petri dishes and just mate chimps and humans. I’m sure volunteers can be found:

    GOING APE Inside the bizarre world of human-chimp hybrids known as HUMANZEES – as a renowned scientist claims one was born in a Florida lab before being killed by panicked doctors

    https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/5447151/human-chimp-hybrid-born-florida-lab-killed-humanzee/

    https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/11/26/so-im-saying-theres-a-chance/

    Is it murder to kill a humanzee?

    Which reminds me of the hoax Slate article “Monkeyfishing” about a monkey island in Florida:

    http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/press_box/2007/02/jay_forman_redux.html

    https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2001/06/monkeyfishing.html

  22. Anon[304] • Disclaimer says:

    OT: Interesting article about how some boys dressed up as girls turn into serial killers. There are more examples of this in the comments:

    https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/shadow-boxing/201611/boys-dressed-girls-who-became-serial-killers

    Anyone remember Omar Mateen, the guy who shot up the gay bar in Florida? He used to hang out there before he wrecked he place. I wonder if his mother tried to cross dress him as child.

    • Replies: @Foreign Expert
    Based on old family photos, in the late 19th century people would dress boys as girls and let their hair grow long u until about age five. I have a picture of a great uncle like that. Has anyone else seen pictures like that?
  23. Both sets of people come up with the same wrong answer — because the earth’s orbit isn’t perfectly circular and so we are further from the sun in winter — but the townies are obviously ashamed that that’s the best answer they can come up with, while the Harvard grads are completely self-assured in their wrongness.

    Huh? Say whut?

    First Bing search item for: e Showing results for earth orbit distance from sun in winter.

    The Earth is closest to the Sun, or at the perihelion, about 2 weeks after the December solstice, when it is winter in the Northern Hemisphere. Conversely, the Earth is farthest away from the Sun, at the aphelion point, 2 weeks after the June solstice, when the Northern Hemisphere is enjoying warm summer months.

    Perihelion, Aphelion and the Solstices – Time and Date
    http://www.timeanddate.com/astronomy/perihelion-aphelion-solstice.html

    Even though Earth is closer to Sol Invictus in Northern winter than in Northern hemisphere summer, winter is colder than summer because solar energy incident on the northern half on our planet is diminished by sine 23.5 degrees. … And similarly for Southern hemisphere winter. This tilt angle has a much stronger effect on terrestrial seasons than the changing distance from Sun.

    Look at Earth+orbit+tilt for drawings that show this. The point is that Earth’s North and South poles are permanently tilted relative to rays emanating from our star, so our North and South poles are equidistant from the big solar heater only at the spring and fall equinoxes.

    Part of the problem is centuries of mass market illustrations of our solar system which show Earth and the other planets making perfect circles orbiting around the sun, with no indication of the tilts of planetary north and south poles. This is factually wrong. All planets have somewhat elliptical orbits around the Sun. Also, different planets have different tilt angles relative to Sol Rex.

    Kepler’s First Law, from about 400 years ago:

    Kepler’s first law – a law stating that the orbit of each planet is an ellipse with the sun at one focus of the ellipse. Kepler’s law, Kepler’s law of planetary motion – (astronomy) one of three empirical laws of planetary motion stated by Johannes Kepler.

    Reference: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/Kepler%27s+first+law

    Johannes Kepler (/ˈkɛplər/; German: [joˈhanəs ˈkɛplɐ]; December 27, 1571 – November 15, 1630) was a German mathematician, astronomer, and astrologer.
    Kepler is a key figure in the 17th-century scientific revolution. He is best known for his laws of planetary motion, based on his works Astronomia nova, Harmonices Mundi, and Epitome of Copernican Astronomy. These works also provided one of the foundations for Isaac Newton’s theory of universal gravitation.

    Kepler was a mathematics teacher at a seminary school in Graz, where he became an associate of Princ…

    Read more on Wikipedia

    Extra credit for iStevies who can recite Kepler’s 2nd and 3td laws without looking them up.

    • Replies: @Anon
    All well and good, but our 'earth' is flat. Makes your crackpot ideas sound pretty silly.
  24. @Anon
    OT: Interesting article about how some boys dressed up as girls turn into serial killers. There are more examples of this in the comments:

    https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/shadow-boxing/201611/boys-dressed-girls-who-became-serial-killers

    Anyone remember Omar Mateen, the guy who shot up the gay bar in Florida? He used to hang out there before he wrecked he place. I wonder if his mother tried to cross dress him as child.

    Based on old family photos, in the late 19th century people would dress boys as girls and let their hair grow long u until about age five. I have a picture of a great uncle like that. Has anyone else seen pictures like that?

    • Replies: @Redneck farmer
    Uh, it meant your family was poor, and those were the best hand-me-downs for the boy to wear. That, or they guessed something about him you haven't.....
    , @TTSSYF
    Yes, but wasn't that they were purposely dressing boys as girls or letting boys' hair grow long to make them like girls. As explained to me, it was because they believed in letting babies and toddlers be "neutral" until about age five, when they would then start dressing and grooming them according to gender and turning them into little boys or little girls.
    , @utu
    It was common dressing boys as girls. Several reasons for it. One was https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Breeching_(boys).

    but also it helped to desexualize children. Not so long ago in Europe children till age of 7-10 of both sexes on the beach could run naked and nobody made anything out of it. The puritanical minds that forced little girls to wear one piece or worse the two piece swim suits were the ones that sexualized children.

    https://www.thevintagenews.com/2018/03/20/breeching-boys/
  25. I think that Natural selection has no bearing on Alzheimer’s genealogy. Because it is a desease that one develops late in life, well after reproductive fitness and peak vitality. It is interesting that we are going to gene edit away a disease that nature decided to never bother with. Maybe there is a fundamental reason that natural selection does not regard the genes associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

    • Replies: @NZLex
    Those kinds of questions are rarely given much time in the age of super-competitive global science races to come up with "great advances", particularly regarding "eliminating preventable deaths". Too soon to talk about anything being "edited away" yet - but even without gene-editing, all the transgender crap is probably already destroying the future of European humanity.
  26. @International Jew
    It's of no consequence if the kids don't know anything about astronomy. For the good of the country, I'd much rather they knew:

    1. basic economics, so they might see through the "crops rotting in the field" fallacy.

    2. basic literacy about data, so they can understand Heather Mac Donald's takedown of the Black Lives Matters nonsense.

    Today's college graduates probably think people like me (or most of the other readers of this blog) are uneducated for being unable to name ten great black scientists (the ones a Google search for "famous scientists" serves up), or explain the intricacies of intersectionality.

    International Jew wrote:

    It’s of no consequence if the kids don’t know anything about astronomy. For the good of the country, I’d much rather they knew:

    1. basic economics, so they might see through the “crops rotting in the field” fallacy.

    2. basic literacy about data, so they can understand Heather Mac Donald’s takedown of the Black Lives Matters nonsense.

    But, astronomy is a field relatively free of ideology and political correctness in which one can learn to think coherently and analytically. Learning the very basics of astronomy — e.g., the relation between earth and moon and the cause of the seasons — involves learning to think about what is actually happening instead of just pouring out a torrent of words, trying to get a valid picture in your head, and, above all, trying to see what might be wrong with your initial guess.

    Furthermore, anyone who lacks the curiosity (or ability to be embarrassed!) to learn these basic facts about the universe we all live in almost certainly also lacks the basic curiosity to learn anything of value about economics, history, etc.

    If nothing else, education ought to inculcate an ability to be embarrassed when you prove to be an ignorant fool on a matter that used to be taught in grade school.

    As the video shows (and I as I already knew) , Harvard grads are not educated.

    • Agree: Realist, Mr. Rational
    • Replies: @res
    Well said.
    , @Reg Cæsar

    As the video shows (and I as I already knew) , Harvard grads are not educated.
     
    Funny, they used to be. Back when they were significantly dumber.
  27. @International Jew
    Astronomy isn't a subject many Harvard students take. It's not part of the standard course of study for physics majors (or "concentrators" as they say at Harvard). Students of other sciences will take a year of physics, which doesn't cover astronomy either. Astronomy is something a non-science student might take to fulfill the distribution requirement, but there are a lot of other options so I don't imagine more than 5% take astronomy.

    I'd expect most Harvard physics, math or chemistry majors to figure out the "what causes the seasons" and "what explains the phases of the moon" questions, given ten seconds, just drawing on general intelligence and a high likelihood they were interested in astronomy at some point in their childhoods. But for most of us, those are hard questions, if someone hasn't already told us the answer. The phases of the moon question is the harder of the two; without a handy pencil and paper to make a sketch, all kinds of wrong ideas might seem plausible.

    International Jew wrote:

    Astronomy isn’t a subject many Harvard students take. It’s not part of the standard course of study for physics majors (or “concentrators” as they say at Harvard).

    In the lower-middle-class/working-class public school I attended in the ’60s, we were taught the correct answer in grade school. And tested on it. We were expected to learn it.

    I remember discussing the matter with my dad when I was in grade school. He too had learned the correct answer in public school. But, he thought the tilt mattered because the solar rays in winter came in at a slant and therefore more of the solar energy was absorbed in the longer path through the atmosphere in winter, leaving less energy to heat the surface. An interesting theory, though not a significant effect.

    I tried to explain to Dad that it was a simple geometric effect — the northern hemisphere intercepts a smaller fraction of the sun’s rays in northern winter than the southern hemisphere for obvious geometric reasons, as you can show with a simple diagram. But I don’t think Dad ever got the point. (Admittedly, my explanation as a grade-school kid may have been poorly presented: our text explained it not the way I just described but rather by pointing out the equivalent fact that a given cross-section of solar rays are stretched out along a longer path on the surface in winter than in summer.)

    Anyway, in both the 1930s and 1960s this was required material in the public schools. And, today’s Harvard grads don’t know it.

    • Replies: @Redneck farmer
    It's knowledge you don't really use,(it gets cold in winter, and you must prepare for it is) so It's easy to forget. Kind of like a local valedictorian. Went for an engineering degree, had to take a test to make sure they could do the math. Aced trigonometry, had to take remedial Algebra 1!
    , @res

    I tried to explain to Dad that it was a simple geometric effect — the northern hemisphere intercepts a smaller fraction of the sun’s rays in northern winter than the southern hemisphere for obvious geometric reasons, as you can show with a simple diagram.
     
    That is certainly true, and explains why peak solar irradiance varies so much by season (I see about a third or quarter less from max to min, probably more at higher latitudes). But I don't think that is the full explanation. Day length also matters.

    Here is a calculator for daily solar insolation by month (also depends on cloud cover): http://solarelectricityhandbook.com/solar-irradiance.html

    Based on what that says for my location, I think day length may be the larger factor (hard to tell given the weather variable), but I have not seen that calculated. Have you?

    To clarify terms for everyone, solar irradiance is power per unit area (e.g. W/m^2) while insolation is power per unit area per unit time (e.g. W/m^2/day). Though sometimes people are sloppy about these terms.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_irradiance
  28. Harvard doesn’t edit AGAINST specific genes, it just edits FOR specific genes.

    • LOL: Mr. Rational
  29. Some bonus questions on elementary astronomy (really simple questions but few people know the answers!):

    A. The earth actually goes through a full 360-degree rotation in 23 hr, 56 minutes, not 24 hours. So, why do we pretend the day is 24 hours long (and why aren’t our clocks off by 4 minutes a day)? (Hint: think of where a particular star in the sky is after 24 hr. relative to the sun. Second hint: divide 24 hours by 4 minutes and see if the number rings a bell.)

    B. How do we know the distance to nearby stars such as 61 Cygni or Sirius?

    C. What is the real iron-clad proof that the earth moves around the sun, as opposed to Tycho Brahe’s theory that the other planets all orbit the sun and then the sun orbits the earth? (Hint: the answer to B gives the answer to C.)

    And for extra credit:
    D. The initial major argument for Copernicus’ theory was that it eliminated several separate epicycles that had an interesting property in common and explained them all with one single orbit. What was the tell-tale property those epicycles all had in common?

    Question D is more about history than astronomy per se: I only learned the (obvious) answer after I got my Ph.D.

    I did know the answers to A-C before I got out of high school, but I suspect that almost no one knows the correct answers except for some (not all!) STEM majors and of course amateur astronomy buffs.

    It says something about our society that nearly everyone thinks that only morons believe in the geocentric theory and yet only a tiny fraction of the population can adduce the evidence for heliocentrism.

    For most people in our society, science is just an alternative faith to religion: you believe in science because only bad people do not believe in science, not because you understand the evidence for scientific conclusions.

    Which explains a lot about the debates (on both sides!) over global warming, on economics, etc.

    • Agree: Almost Missouri
    • Replies: @Anon
    Why is the moon not a planet?

    What is the shape of the moon's orbit around the sun?

    Alternately, does the moon orbit around the earth or the sun, or both? Elaborate.

    , @jim jones
    I grew up reading a lot of SciFi so I always found Physics and Astronomy interesting.
    , @EH
    Practically nobody can actually compute the exact direction of the planets from a given point on earth at a given time, even given a spreadsheet with data on their positions and orbital elements at the start of the epoch, it's just too complicated. I doubt it's even 5% of astronomy professors. Only a few percent more would even be able to do the coordinate system transformations needed to use an old-style paper ephemeris. Even our priests of science are mostly acting on faith, or less charitably: bluffing.
    , @utu

    ...only a tiny fraction of the population can adduce the evidence for heliocentrism.

    For most people in our society, science is just an alternative faith to religion...
     

    Exactly. That's why I admire genuine (not the Cass Sunstein's cognitive infiltrators) flat earthers because they actually try o think. Thinking away from 'the desired conclusion" and not towards it is harder.
    , @Mr. Rational
    Without looking at anything:

    A.  There's one less solar day in a year than there are siderial days, because going around the Sun subtracts one apparent rotation from the rotation against the distant stars.

    B.  We measure motion of the near stars against the distant stars to derive distance by parallelax.  This is where we get the definition of "parsec", an apparent motion of 1 second of arc across a triangle base of 2 AU.

    C.  Because the distant stars are so far away they would have to be rotating around us at speeds vastly faster than light to make one rotation in a year.

    D.  The arms of the epicycles were all the same length as, and parallel to, the Earth-Sun line.

    I'm one of these weird ducks who actually digs into the science (never took an astro class past K-12) and tries to understand the details down to the nitty-gritty.  For some reason this doesn't help me convince people whose grasp of science is at the level of dogma.  It doesn't even help me convince some people who pride themselves on high intelligence and mastery of dialectic; being very bright does not mean being able to break through cognitive dissonance regarding deeply-held beliefs.
    , @ThreeCranes
    I won't cheat by looking it up.

    Answer to B is (I believe) that by looking at the color of the star we can gauge its temperature and therefore it's size and absolute brightness. Then, by comparing it's relative brightness to the scale of absolute brightness, we can gauge its distance.

    Answer to A goes back to ancient myths and astronomy. The lunar month is 29 1/2 days. Nearest approximation to a solar year is 12 lunar months. For simplicity they rounded to 30 days/month and 12 months/year with the extra days being held as celebrations of some sort, where the King paraded around as a jester and the poor put on airs of royalty. So 360 days plus some remainder was the best the ancients could do. That the actual non-integer remainder is 1/4 (approx.) day is a relatively recent discovery, hence all the recalibrating the calendar that have taken place under various Popes etc. and our use of the leap year to bring us into close proximity.

    Of course, the actual number of rotations of the earth on its axis is not exactly numerically integrally coincident with the period of the earth's revolution around the sun. This kind of irrationality really bugged Plato and Pythagoras who thought that the heavenly spheres should display perfect accord and that meant whole number integers and regular solids, that sort of thing.

    All the confusion comes from trying to make the revolution of the moon, the rotation of the earth and the revolution of the earth about the sun into a coherent (as in musical or quantum wave) system.

    Here's a question for all of you. From our earthbound vantage point, the moon rises fifty minutes later each day (or night, as the case may be) as it makes its way on its monthly orbit. Now, looking down at the Earth from above the North Pole, does the moon revolve around the Earth in a clockwise or counterclockwise direction?
    , @dfordoom

    For most people in our society, science is just an alternative faith to religion: you believe in science because only bad people do not believe in science, not because you understand the evidence for scientific conclusions.
     
    An excellent point.
  30. @Foreign Expert
    Based on old family photos, in the late 19th century people would dress boys as girls and let their hair grow long u until about age five. I have a picture of a great uncle like that. Has anyone else seen pictures like that?

    Uh, it meant your family was poor, and those were the best hand-me-downs for the boy to wear. That, or they guessed something about him you haven’t…..

    • Replies: @TTSSYF
    This is an ignorant comment, although one probably made mostly in jest.
    , @Cloudbuster
    Nope. Clothing for young children was unisex in that time period.
  31. @PhysicistDave
    International Jew wrote:

    Astronomy isn’t a subject many Harvard students take. It’s not part of the standard course of study for physics majors (or “concentrators” as they say at Harvard).
     
    In the lower-middle-class/working-class public school I attended in the '60s, we were taught the correct answer in grade school. And tested on it. We were expected to learn it.

    I remember discussing the matter with my dad when I was in grade school. He too had learned the correct answer in public school. But, he thought the tilt mattered because the solar rays in winter came in at a slant and therefore more of the solar energy was absorbed in the longer path through the atmosphere in winter, leaving less energy to heat the surface. An interesting theory, though not a significant effect.

    I tried to explain to Dad that it was a simple geometric effect -- the northern hemisphere intercepts a smaller fraction of the sun's rays in northern winter than the southern hemisphere for obvious geometric reasons, as you can show with a simple diagram. But I don't think Dad ever got the point. (Admittedly, my explanation as a grade-school kid may have been poorly presented: our text explained it not the way I just described but rather by pointing out the equivalent fact that a given cross-section of solar rays are stretched out along a longer path on the surface in winter than in summer.)

    Anyway, in both the 1930s and 1960s this was required material in the public schools. And, today's Harvard grads don't know it.

    It’s knowledge you don’t really use,(it gets cold in winter, and you must prepare for it is) so It’s easy to forget. Kind of like a local valedictorian. Went for an engineering degree, had to take a test to make sure they could do the math. Aced trigonometry, had to take remedial Algebra 1!

    • Replies: @Disordered (with a bad memory)
    You'd think he'd need less knowledge of trigonometry 101 in life though, and therefore forget it easier according to your theory. Besides, engineering degrees are supposed to take calculus first semester now, making algebra just as fundamental if not more. Idk, it is paid more attention in curricula now, I had to take one course of trig and two of algebra to graduate hs in Florida a decade ago...

    (then again, too little pragmatism already present - had to take four credits of SJW English teachers and just 3 credits of math overall, and only half a credit of economics and half a credit of Am Gov, while of course needing to take one full SJW Am History credit, and three science credits that included bio, chem, phys, altho one could be replaced for an easier one; and of course, the lame Bush era standardized tests, easy boring useless wastes of time which the mixed and minority students in FL never get better at).

    And at any rate, it seems like the point is that whether astronomy is needed or not, ideally one would be curious to learn about it. I know, the Right is all about stoically maintaining yourself at work only minding your objective reality (and/or national/ethnic/volk community, whatever), and not bureaucratic hunching over in a desk trying to think a utopia to life and propagandize to that effect; but, the Right must know, learning and being learned is part of maintaining reality. Even the boot-strapping pioneers of old kept their folk art and almanacs and Bibles (closest thing to science and philosophy and culture they got). The Right sometimes rails against culture (both low and high) and education and learning for its own sake, like old boomers complaining just because - instead of realizing that, like the Left realized so long ago, it's easier to infiltrate these systems and rework them to make a thousand flowers bloom on the other cultural direction. This should be done rather than unsuccessfully trying to blow up the whole thing with neutrals in it who don't know better and who might even make allies (for example, disenchanted comic book and videogame fans turned off by the SJWization of those media and attending industries). Furthermore, we are still powerless and on the outside, not to mention always being separated and unfocused (only being united when in opposition, Tea Party style), thus react when the laws are already passed and the values changed even beforehand (to paraphrase Garrett iirc, "the revolution already was").

  32. @Kyle
    I think that Natural selection has no bearing on Alzheimer’s genealogy. Because it is a desease that one develops late in life, well after reproductive fitness and peak vitality. It is interesting that we are going to gene edit away a disease that nature decided to never bother with. Maybe there is a fundamental reason that natural selection does not regard the genes associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

    Those kinds of questions are rarely given much time in the age of super-competitive global science races to come up with “great advances”, particularly regarding “eliminating preventable deaths”. Too soon to talk about anything being “edited away” yet – but even without gene-editing, all the transgender crap is probably already destroying the future of European humanity.

    • Agree: Mr. Rational
  33. @PhysicistDave
    Some bonus questions on elementary astronomy (really simple questions but few people know the answers!):

    A. The earth actually goes through a full 360-degree rotation in 23 hr, 56 minutes, not 24 hours. So, why do we pretend the day is 24 hours long (and why aren't our clocks off by 4 minutes a day)? (Hint: think of where a particular star in the sky is after 24 hr. relative to the sun. Second hint: divide 24 hours by 4 minutes and see if the number rings a bell.)

    B. How do we know the distance to nearby stars such as 61 Cygni or Sirius?

    C. What is the real iron-clad proof that the earth moves around the sun, as opposed to Tycho Brahe's theory that the other planets all orbit the sun and then the sun orbits the earth? (Hint: the answer to B gives the answer to C.)

    And for extra credit:
    D. The initial major argument for Copernicus' theory was that it eliminated several separate epicycles that had an interesting property in common and explained them all with one single orbit. What was the tell-tale property those epicycles all had in common?

    Question D is more about history than astronomy per se: I only learned the (obvious) answer after I got my Ph.D.

    I did know the answers to A-C before I got out of high school, but I suspect that almost no one knows the correct answers except for some (not all!) STEM majors and of course amateur astronomy buffs.

    It says something about our society that nearly everyone thinks that only morons believe in the geocentric theory and yet only a tiny fraction of the population can adduce the evidence for heliocentrism.

    For most people in our society, science is just an alternative faith to religion: you believe in science because only bad people do not believe in science, not because you understand the evidence for scientific conclusions.

    Which explains a lot about the debates (on both sides!) over global warming, on economics, etc.

    Why is the moon not a planet?

    What is the shape of the moon’s orbit around the sun?

    Alternately, does the moon orbit around the earth or the sun, or both? Elaborate.

  34. @David Davenport
    Both sets of people come up with the same wrong answer — because the earth’s orbit isn’t perfectly circular and so we are further from the sun in winter — but the townies are obviously ashamed that that’s the best answer they can come up with, while the Harvard grads are completely self-assured in their wrongness.

    Huh? Say whut?

    First Bing search item for: e Showing results for earth orbit distance from sun in winter.

    The Earth is closest to the Sun, or at the perihelion, about 2 weeks after the December solstice, when it is winter in the Northern Hemisphere. Conversely, the Earth is farthest away from the Sun, at the aphelion point, 2 weeks after the June solstice, when the Northern Hemisphere is enjoying warm summer months.

    Perihelion, Aphelion and the Solstices - Time and Date
    www.timeanddate.com/astronomy/perihelion-aphelion-solstice.html


    Even though Earth is closer to Sol Invictus in Northern winter than in Northern hemisphere summer, winter is colder than summer because solar energy incident on the northern half on our planet is diminished by sine 23.5 degrees. ... And similarly for Southern hemisphere winter. This tilt angle has a much stronger effect on terrestrial seasons than the changing distance from Sun.

    Look at Earth+orbit+tilt for drawings that show this. The point is that Earth's North and South poles are permanently tilted relative to rays emanating from our star, so our North and South poles are equidistant from the big solar heater only at the spring and fall equinoxes.

    Part of the problem is centuries of mass market illustrations of our solar system which show Earth and the other planets making perfect circles orbiting around the sun, with no indication of the tilts of planetary north and south poles. This is factually wrong. All planets have somewhat elliptical orbits around the Sun. Also, different planets have different tilt angles relative to Sol Rex.

    Kepler's First Law, from about 400 years ago:

    Kepler's first law - a law stating that the orbit of each planet is an ellipse with the sun at one focus of the ellipse. Kepler's law, Kepler's law of planetary motion - (astronomy) one of three empirical laws of planetary motion stated by Johannes Kepler.

    Reference: www.thefreedictionary.com/Kepler%27s+first+law

    Johannes Kepler (/ˈkɛplər/; German: [joˈhanəs ˈkɛplɐ]; December 27, 1571 – November 15, 1630) was a German mathematician, astronomer, and astrologer.
    Kepler is a key figure in the 17th-century scientific revolution. He is best known for his laws of planetary motion, based on his works Astronomia nova, Harmonices Mundi, and Epitome of Copernican Astronomy. These works also provided one of the foundations for Isaac Newton's theory of universal gravitation.

    Kepler was a mathematics teacher at a seminary school in Graz, where he became an associate of Princ…

    Read more on Wikipedia


    Extra credit for iStevies who can recite Kepler's 2nd and 3td laws without looking them up.

    All well and good, but our ‘earth’ is flat. Makes your crackpot ideas sound pretty silly.

    • Troll: Mr. Rational
    • Replies: @Mr. Rational
    <Warner Bros.>

    WHAM!  "Your head is flat!"

    </Warner Bros.)
  35. @PhysicistDave
    Some bonus questions on elementary astronomy (really simple questions but few people know the answers!):

    A. The earth actually goes through a full 360-degree rotation in 23 hr, 56 minutes, not 24 hours. So, why do we pretend the day is 24 hours long (and why aren't our clocks off by 4 minutes a day)? (Hint: think of where a particular star in the sky is after 24 hr. relative to the sun. Second hint: divide 24 hours by 4 minutes and see if the number rings a bell.)

    B. How do we know the distance to nearby stars such as 61 Cygni or Sirius?

    C. What is the real iron-clad proof that the earth moves around the sun, as opposed to Tycho Brahe's theory that the other planets all orbit the sun and then the sun orbits the earth? (Hint: the answer to B gives the answer to C.)

    And for extra credit:
    D. The initial major argument for Copernicus' theory was that it eliminated several separate epicycles that had an interesting property in common and explained them all with one single orbit. What was the tell-tale property those epicycles all had in common?

    Question D is more about history than astronomy per se: I only learned the (obvious) answer after I got my Ph.D.

    I did know the answers to A-C before I got out of high school, but I suspect that almost no one knows the correct answers except for some (not all!) STEM majors and of course amateur astronomy buffs.

    It says something about our society that nearly everyone thinks that only morons believe in the geocentric theory and yet only a tiny fraction of the population can adduce the evidence for heliocentrism.

    For most people in our society, science is just an alternative faith to religion: you believe in science because only bad people do not believe in science, not because you understand the evidence for scientific conclusions.

    Which explains a lot about the debates (on both sides!) over global warming, on economics, etc.

    I grew up reading a lot of SciFi so I always found Physics and Astronomy interesting.

  36. @Steve Sailer
    But who will make more money: the Harvard grads left on the cutting room floor who explained the real reason it's cold in winter, or the ones in the video who are so happy to winningly share with you their expensive Harvard knowledge that the earth is further away from the sun in winter? The latter will probably wind up managing the former at McKinsey.

    If the value of a human is judged by how much money was made, humanity is lost.

  37. @Anon
    This hasn't been discussed much in relation to the Chinese CRISPR thing:

    And it surfaced as well in the discussions that this gene, CCR5, while it is related to HIV, it's also been shown in mice at least to be related to learning and memory. So this in fact could be the first case of an attempt to engineer a baby with enhanced learning and memory, which would be an enhancement.
     
    https://www.npr.org/2018/11/29/671996695/harvard-medical-school-dean-weighs-in-on-ethics-of-gene-editing

    It's becoming clear that most any trait has tens of thousands of polygenic genes behind it, and most every gene affects many, many traits, so this CRISPR thing could be very tricky in practice if it works.

    Can someone tell the Chinese when they do the editing, can they add in these genes:
    1. The gene that causes them to use an alphabet instead of thousands of unique symbols.
    2. The diacritical gene as they will need it for (1).
    3. The gene that allows them to pronounce “L”, so that people named Holly don’t sound like Horry and people named Jill don’t sound like Jue.

    • Replies: @tyrone
    Don't forget the Suzy Wong gene :]
    , @Jack D
    Apparently using a character based writing system doesn't interfere with having an advanced civilization. It hasn't hurt the Japanese either. OTOH, switching to an alphabet didn't really help Vietnam all that much. Maybe having to do all that memorization is really good for your brain.
  38. anon[166] • Disclaimer says:
    @International Jew
    His answer is actually correct, if you cut him a little slack for inexact language. The part of the moon we see as lit is indeed "the sun's reflection", and when we see less than a full-moon, it's because the earth is in a place (its "position") that prevents us ("interferes") from seeing the entire surface that's reflecting the sun's light.

    Anyway, the funniest misunderstanding of astronomy comes in that Ali G interview of Buzz Aldrin.
    "Will man ever land on the sun?"
    "No, it's too hot."
    "But what if we went at night?"

    It sounded to me like he was describing an eclipse but went out of his way to avoid the word shadow (because he knows the shadow aspect is a novelty and not a part of the regular cycle, and thus it would cement his incorrectness).

    Just goes to show you how using abstruse language can make you look smarter or at least give you avenues for plausible deniability. Better for no one to understand what you are saying then to say something clearly wrong. You’ll even have people 30+ years into the future, rushing to fill-in the gaps of what you were “really” trying to say.

    That Harvard prof. vs. the Harvard undergrads is the real comparison. Unfair to juxtapose adults to 9th graders, Steve!

  39. @Foreign Expert
    Based on old family photos, in the late 19th century people would dress boys as girls and let their hair grow long u until about age five. I have a picture of a great uncle like that. Has anyone else seen pictures like that?

    Yes, but wasn’t that they were purposely dressing boys as girls or letting boys’ hair grow long to make them like girls. As explained to me, it was because they believed in letting babies and toddlers be “neutral” until about age five, when they would then start dressing and grooming them according to gender and turning them into little boys or little girls.

  40. How about making USDA choice taste like Wagyu first. Superman can wait.

  41. @Redneck farmer
    Uh, it meant your family was poor, and those were the best hand-me-downs for the boy to wear. That, or they guessed something about him you haven't.....

    This is an ignorant comment, although one probably made mostly in jest.

  42. Bull sh*tting is a marketable skill which Harvard screens for. That’s all the admissions essay process entails.

    • Agree: Travis
  43. @Aardvark
    Can someone tell the Chinese when they do the editing, can they add in these genes:
    1. The gene that causes them to use an alphabet instead of thousands of unique symbols.
    2. The diacritical gene as they will need it for (1).
    3. The gene that allows them to pronounce “L”, so that people named Holly don’t sound like Horry and people named Jill don’t sound like Jue.

    Don’t forget the Suzy Wong gene :]

  44. Liberalism combined with Elite universities founded of, by, and for WASPs, for the dissemination of the fruits inherent in WASP culture, leading us into the paradise of Brave New World equality.

    No hint of a surprise to me.

    • Agree: Mr. Rational
  45. @Redneck farmer
    It's knowledge you don't really use,(it gets cold in winter, and you must prepare for it is) so It's easy to forget. Kind of like a local valedictorian. Went for an engineering degree, had to take a test to make sure they could do the math. Aced trigonometry, had to take remedial Algebra 1!

    You’d think he’d need less knowledge of trigonometry 101 in life though, and therefore forget it easier according to your theory. Besides, engineering degrees are supposed to take calculus first semester now, making algebra just as fundamental if not more. Idk, it is paid more attention in curricula now, I had to take one course of trig and two of algebra to graduate hs in Florida a decade ago…

    (then again, too little pragmatism already present – had to take four credits of SJW English teachers and just 3 credits of math overall, and only half a credit of economics and half a credit of Am Gov, while of course needing to take one full SJW Am History credit, and three science credits that included bio, chem, phys, altho one could be replaced for an easier one; and of course, the lame Bush era standardized tests, easy boring useless wastes of time which the mixed and minority students in FL never get better at).

    And at any rate, it seems like the point is that whether astronomy is needed or not, ideally one would be curious to learn about it. I know, the Right is all about stoically maintaining yourself at work only minding your objective reality (and/or national/ethnic/volk community, whatever), and not bureaucratic hunching over in a desk trying to think a utopia to life and propagandize to that effect; but, the Right must know, learning and being learned is part of maintaining reality. Even the boot-strapping pioneers of old kept their folk art and almanacs and Bibles (closest thing to science and philosophy and culture they got). The Right sometimes rails against culture (both low and high) and education and learning for its own sake, like old boomers complaining just because – instead of realizing that, like the Left realized so long ago, it’s easier to infiltrate these systems and rework them to make a thousand flowers bloom on the other cultural direction. This should be done rather than unsuccessfully trying to blow up the whole thing with neutrals in it who don’t know better and who might even make allies (for example, disenchanted comic book and videogame fans turned off by the SJWization of those media and attending industries). Furthermore, we are still powerless and on the outside, not to mention always being separated and unfocused (only being united when in opposition, Tea Party style), thus react when the laws are already passed and the values changed even beforehand (to paraphrase Garrett iirc, “the revolution already was”).

  46. @International Jew
    His answer is actually correct, if you cut him a little slack for inexact language. The part of the moon we see as lit is indeed "the sun's reflection", and when we see less than a full-moon, it's because the earth is in a place (its "position") that prevents us ("interferes") from seeing the entire surface that's reflecting the sun's light.

    Anyway, the funniest misunderstanding of astronomy comes in that Ali G interview of Buzz Aldrin.
    "Will man ever land on the sun?"
    "No, it's too hot."
    "But what if we went at night?"

    it’s because the earth is in a place (its “position”) that prevents us (“interferes”) from seeing the entire surface that’s reflecting the sun’s light.

    This is wrong. You are stretching his words and being much too charitable. Even if the earth was completely stationary, we would still see the phases of the moon because they are caused by the orbit of the moon around the earth. The moon is tidally locked so that the same side always faces the earth but as the moon orbits the earth (once every 4 weeks, roughly) that side is variously illuminated by the sun.

  47. @Anon7
    OT: R.I.P. George HW Bush, 94.

    Now that he is safely dead, the TV networks have strange new respect for this Republican. He was kind, gentle, bipartisan, a gentleman, everything that Trump is not. “Bipartisan” means that he got suckered by the Democrats on raising taxes and the result was that Clinton later hammered him on this and he lost the next election. That’s what you get for being “bipartisan”.

    • Agree: Mr. Rational
    • Replies: @Bizarro World Observer
    He didn't get suckered by anything. He was ruling class all the way, and had nothing but contempt for the people who voted for him. Remember "read my hips"?

    Bush was always on the other side.
  48. @Aardvark
    Can someone tell the Chinese when they do the editing, can they add in these genes:
    1. The gene that causes them to use an alphabet instead of thousands of unique symbols.
    2. The diacritical gene as they will need it for (1).
    3. The gene that allows them to pronounce “L”, so that people named Holly don’t sound like Horry and people named Jill don’t sound like Jue.

    Apparently using a character based writing system doesn’t interfere with having an advanced civilization. It hasn’t hurt the Japanese either. OTOH, switching to an alphabet didn’t really help Vietnam all that much. Maybe having to do all that memorization is really good for your brain.

    • Replies: @International Jew

    Apparently using a character based writing system doesn’t interfere with having an advanced civilization.
     
    Right, it's not going to prevent artists and artisans from doing their thing. But it does mean the common folk will be illiterate.

    By common folk I mean people who, in order to survive, can't spare the considerable amount of time it takes to learn the several thousand Chinese characters that amount to basic literacy. In the west, anyone could learn our alphabets of a couple dozen letters in a matter of days. At that point, Farmer Jones won't spell correctly, but he'll be able to get his message across even if he spells "cow" as "kow". Whereas in Chinese, if you don't know the right character, you're pretty much dead in the water. (Yeah, you can wing it with another character that has the same sound, but that's pretty limited.)

    Maybe the sweet spot is a writing system in which only the consonants are represented ;)

    , @J.Ross
    Japanese do learn English for science and school debate, but it's not because of the writing system (which, to contradict again, they heavily adapted, so that they effectively have a pure phoneme syllabary without inherently tied meanings should they need it), as a combination of Americanization after the war and because their own language tends to deliberate vagueness. There has been movement away from some of the Americanizing tendencies. However, Japan is not a good illustration of this any way you look at it because they believe in maximally refining tools, and they definitely spent a lot of time modifying the implementation of Chinese characters which are at times notably inappropriate for their language. Furigana is a little superscript "subtitle" in hiragana (phonetic) spelling out which reading of a kanzi (Chinese character) is appropriate, and many words use a compound of kanzi root with a hiragana suffix. Koreans developed the hangul alphabet (one sound for one symbol, like ours, not like the Japanese syllabaries that unite consonants with vowels), and similarly use it alongside Chinese characters (although modern Korean is generally all hangul).
    So there are few people who did this.
    Vietnamese looks like Polish, both because of the recognizable stain of evil batrachian cultural influence ("eau, zhast covhair evhairyteen un leetl merks, zat weell mek ut easyair to red"), and for the reason that they ought have have developed their own writing system from scratch, but chose not to, because they thought this would connect them to the wider world.
  49. Anonymous[183] • Disclaimer says:

    I wouldn’t trust for myself that CRISPR is quite yet ready for Primetime just yet. And I can say that as a molecular biologist. I know there have been a few uses of it in a medical setting, if I remember right, mainly in China, but it’s also been demonstrated that there are a significant number of off-target effects that happen. In other words, you change the gene you’re interested in, but also make some semi-random edits elsewhere. If you’re lucky, those will be somewhere that won’t matter, but if you’re unlucky you could very well create a serious problem, like up your chances of cancer. I guess if you have a terminal illness, rolling the dice is okay, but otherwise, forget it. I can’t see how it’s worth risking it with your offspring.

    • Replies: @Macumazahn

    I can’t see how it’s worth risking it with your offspring.
     
    Perhaps you can't, but I sure can. If I could give my offspring a 50% chance of a 140 IQ at the cost of a 10% increase in the likelihood of eventual cancer, I'd take that deal in a minute, on behalf of my offspring.
  50. I thought of Star Wars. Didn’t Star Wars have a rise of the Clones. George Lucas is anti Clone.

  51. ‘Harvard University will begin gene editing sperm’.

    A case of ‘he who comes last wins’ no doubt.

    Or so sayeth the semi mythological one-eyed Milkman of old Cambridge town.

  52. “I’m sure there were some Harvard grads who gave the right answer and ended up on the cutting room floor …”

    At 2:14 in the video the narrator says 21 of 23 randomly selected Harvard grads and faculty got it wrong. (91.3%)

  53. “Harvard University Will Begin Gene-Editing Sperm”

    Probably a good move – who gives a shit about men’s reproductive rights, or the ethics thereof?

    • Replies: @Sean
    2015 article discuses the very genes used in China and Harvard

    https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2015/12/what-can-you-actually-do-with-your-fancy-gene-editing-technology/418377/

    For example, deleting the CCR5 gene would make people resistant to HIV, but also make them 13 times more likely to die of West Nile virus. I can only think of a handful of things that are plausible variants for editing,” says Lander. For example, people with the E4 version of the ApoE gene have much higher risks of Alzheimer’s disease. You could edit that, says Lander, “but I can’t swear there’d be no problem because ApoE4 has been kept around in 3 percent of every human population.” That gives him pause. “If [editing that gene] is such a good idea, why didn’t evolution think about doing it?” he asks. After all, hokey vitamin supplements make rip-roaring trade, as do unproven and unregulated stem-cell therapies.... If these cases tell us anything, the answer to “Why would we use this technology?” might well be “Because we can.”
     

    Prescient! Plomin's book says fully half of the people with Alzheimer's do not have any copy of APOE4 (the one Harvard are editing out in sperm) at all. Harvard is very similar to the supposedly rogue Chinese researcher inasmuch the supposed benefits are a pretext. They just want to do it.
  54. @PhysicistDave
    Some bonus questions on elementary astronomy (really simple questions but few people know the answers!):

    A. The earth actually goes through a full 360-degree rotation in 23 hr, 56 minutes, not 24 hours. So, why do we pretend the day is 24 hours long (and why aren't our clocks off by 4 minutes a day)? (Hint: think of where a particular star in the sky is after 24 hr. relative to the sun. Second hint: divide 24 hours by 4 minutes and see if the number rings a bell.)

    B. How do we know the distance to nearby stars such as 61 Cygni or Sirius?

    C. What is the real iron-clad proof that the earth moves around the sun, as opposed to Tycho Brahe's theory that the other planets all orbit the sun and then the sun orbits the earth? (Hint: the answer to B gives the answer to C.)

    And for extra credit:
    D. The initial major argument for Copernicus' theory was that it eliminated several separate epicycles that had an interesting property in common and explained them all with one single orbit. What was the tell-tale property those epicycles all had in common?

    Question D is more about history than astronomy per se: I only learned the (obvious) answer after I got my Ph.D.

    I did know the answers to A-C before I got out of high school, but I suspect that almost no one knows the correct answers except for some (not all!) STEM majors and of course amateur astronomy buffs.

    It says something about our society that nearly everyone thinks that only morons believe in the geocentric theory and yet only a tiny fraction of the population can adduce the evidence for heliocentrism.

    For most people in our society, science is just an alternative faith to religion: you believe in science because only bad people do not believe in science, not because you understand the evidence for scientific conclusions.

    Which explains a lot about the debates (on both sides!) over global warming, on economics, etc.

    Practically nobody can actually compute the exact direction of the planets from a given point on earth at a given time, even given a spreadsheet with data on their positions and orbital elements at the start of the epoch, it’s just too complicated. I doubt it’s even 5% of astronomy professors. Only a few percent more would even be able to do the coordinate system transformations needed to use an old-style paper ephemeris. Even our priests of science are mostly acting on faith, or less charitably: bluffing.

  55. high tech cuck. soon we will all have kids that is not ours.

    alright they will be super kids. i understand.

  56. The Edited Humans will not pass natural selection’s real life’s tests.

    The Townies will pass the tests.

    Just like now.

  57. I assume (hope) the scientists go at this from the perspective of de-selecting for certain discrete genes, that is, single-allele runaway trains like Lou Gehrig’s disease.

    The trial lawyer analogy is jury selection: you strike the overtly and easily-identifiable hostile rather than rolling the dice on whether you read subtle mannerisms or idiosyncratic backgrounds correctly.

    Related, is de-selection versus selection broadly applicable and predictive of more preferred outcomes?

  58. @International Jew
    Astronomy isn't a subject many Harvard students take. It's not part of the standard course of study for physics majors (or "concentrators" as they say at Harvard). Students of other sciences will take a year of physics, which doesn't cover astronomy either. Astronomy is something a non-science student might take to fulfill the distribution requirement, but there are a lot of other options so I don't imagine more than 5% take astronomy.

    I'd expect most Harvard physics, math or chemistry majors to figure out the "what causes the seasons" and "what explains the phases of the moon" questions, given ten seconds, just drawing on general intelligence and a high likelihood they were interested in astronomy at some point in their childhoods. But for most of us, those are hard questions, if someone hasn't already told us the answer. The phases of the moon question is the harder of the two; without a handy pencil and paper to make a sketch, all kinds of wrong ideas might seem plausible.

    If anyone thinks about the problem while realizing that the seasons are out of phase in the northern and southern hemispheres they should immediately realize how wrong that answer is. Agreed astronomy is not commonly taught in college. But the basics are something which arguably should be learned in high school (or even earlier, which is when I think I learned it). However, the academic track at my HS generally excluded the subject where that was taught. Is that common? It might help explain the Harvard students’ results.

    The interesting thing about distance from the sun and the seasons is that they are almost exactly out of phase in the northern hemisphere. Perihelion (closest) is around January 3 and aphelion is around July 4.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perihelion_and_aphelion#Application_to_Earth

    One would expect this to moderate the seasonal temperature swings in the northern hemisphere, but apparently that is not the case (net).

    In the northern hemisphere, summer occurs at the same time as aphelion. Despite this, there are larger land masses in the northern hemisphere, which are easier to heat than the seas. Consequently, summers are 2.3 °C (4 °F) warmer in the northern hemisphere than in the southern hemisphere under similar conditions.

    Another interesting bit of trivia (if anyone has better references for all of this than the ones I gave please post).

    https://socratic.org/questions/do-earth-s-aphelion-and-perihelion-have-any-noticeable-effects

    As the Southern hemisphere is mainly ocean, it retains its heat during the Winter months. In fact the whole planet is a few degrees warmer at aphelion in July than it is at perihelion in January!

    I wonder how the hemisphere temperature swings would change if the Earth’s tilt was reversed. It seems like that would accentuate rather than cancel the distance effect making the hemispheres’ seasons very different and giving a larger overall variation with distance.

    • Replies: @Mr. Rational

    The interesting thing about distance from the sun and the seasons is that they are almost exactly out of phase in the northern hemisphere. Perihelion (closest) is around January 3 and aphelion is around July 4.
     
    Actually, it helps explain why we are currently in an interglacial right now.  Having summer at aphelion means summer lasts longer and has more time to melt off snow and ice while the polar regions are heated as much as 24 hours/day.
  59. @International Jew
    It's of no consequence if the kids don't know anything about astronomy. For the good of the country, I'd much rather they knew:

    1. basic economics, so they might see through the "crops rotting in the field" fallacy.

    2. basic literacy about data, so they can understand Heather Mac Donald's takedown of the Black Lives Matters nonsense.

    Today's college graduates probably think people like me (or most of the other readers of this blog) are uneducated for being unable to name ten great black scientists (the ones a Google search for "famous scientists" serves up), or explain the intricacies of intersectionality.

    It’s of no consequence if the kids don’t know anything about astronomy.

    The point being made is more about being wrong with complete confidence than the importance of astronomy knowledge.

    This example also serves to illustrate that the ability to learn or work this problem out is not just a factor of the kind of IQ which gets one into Harvard. Which is unsurprising to anyone with a STEM background IMO.

    PhysicistDave’s response covers the rest more eloquently than I would be likely to so I’ll defer to that.

    P.S. I agree with your final paragraph and think it is very much on point.

  60. @PhysicistDave
    International Jew wrote:

    It’s of no consequence if the kids don’t know anything about astronomy. For the good of the country, I’d much rather they knew:

    1. basic economics, so they might see through the “crops rotting in the field” fallacy.

    2. basic literacy about data, so they can understand Heather Mac Donald’s takedown of the Black Lives Matters nonsense.
     
    But, astronomy is a field relatively free of ideology and political correctness in which one can learn to think coherently and analytically. Learning the very basics of astronomy -- e.g., the relation between earth and moon and the cause of the seasons -- involves learning to think about what is actually happening instead of just pouring out a torrent of words, trying to get a valid picture in your head, and, above all, trying to see what might be wrong with your initial guess.

    Furthermore, anyone who lacks the curiosity (or ability to be embarrassed!) to learn these basic facts about the universe we all live in almost certainly also lacks the basic curiosity to learn anything of value about economics, history, etc.

    If nothing else, education ought to inculcate an ability to be embarrassed when you prove to be an ignorant fool on a matter that used to be taught in grade school.

    As the video shows (and I as I already knew) , Harvard grads are not educated.

    Well said.

  61. Something tells me this woman (below), who didn’t go to Harvard but matriculated at Meramec Community College and later took a few philosophy courses at Wash U, could give not only a detailed explanation, but critique the mathematical explanation of Physicist Dave. She had a critique of Andrew Wiles’ solution to Fermat’s Last Theorem that was taken up (addressed) by the American Mathematical Society

    Confidence is great but confidence based on a 228 IQ is better.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marilyn_vos_Savant

  62. Anon[188] • Disclaimer says:

    This gene editing reminds me of the Russian guy who domesticated foxes. The foxes ended up being very dog-like even to the point of starting to develop floppy ears.

    Genetics isn’t an RPG where you just hack in and assign values for each attribute. When you change one gene, you change a whole host of attributes. These things come in clusters which limits the possible number of outcomes.

    Like the foxes becoming dog- like, will gene edited Chinese become more like existing human races? Based on the Chinese’ revealed preferences, I wonder if the Chinese are just going to turn themselves into Nordic/ Germanic looking whites with an increased predilection for diseases like torsion dystonia.

  63. @PhysicistDave
    Some bonus questions on elementary astronomy (really simple questions but few people know the answers!):

    A. The earth actually goes through a full 360-degree rotation in 23 hr, 56 minutes, not 24 hours. So, why do we pretend the day is 24 hours long (and why aren't our clocks off by 4 minutes a day)? (Hint: think of where a particular star in the sky is after 24 hr. relative to the sun. Second hint: divide 24 hours by 4 minutes and see if the number rings a bell.)

    B. How do we know the distance to nearby stars such as 61 Cygni or Sirius?

    C. What is the real iron-clad proof that the earth moves around the sun, as opposed to Tycho Brahe's theory that the other planets all orbit the sun and then the sun orbits the earth? (Hint: the answer to B gives the answer to C.)

    And for extra credit:
    D. The initial major argument for Copernicus' theory was that it eliminated several separate epicycles that had an interesting property in common and explained them all with one single orbit. What was the tell-tale property those epicycles all had in common?

    Question D is more about history than astronomy per se: I only learned the (obvious) answer after I got my Ph.D.

    I did know the answers to A-C before I got out of high school, but I suspect that almost no one knows the correct answers except for some (not all!) STEM majors and of course amateur astronomy buffs.

    It says something about our society that nearly everyone thinks that only morons believe in the geocentric theory and yet only a tiny fraction of the population can adduce the evidence for heliocentrism.

    For most people in our society, science is just an alternative faith to religion: you believe in science because only bad people do not believe in science, not because you understand the evidence for scientific conclusions.

    Which explains a lot about the debates (on both sides!) over global warming, on economics, etc.

    …only a tiny fraction of the population can adduce the evidence for heliocentrism.

    For most people in our society, science is just an alternative faith to religion…

    Exactly. That’s why I admire genuine (not the Cass Sunstein’s cognitive infiltrators) flat earthers because they actually try o think. Thinking away from ‘the desired conclusion” and not towards it is harder.

  64. @PhysicistDave
    International Jew wrote:

    Astronomy isn’t a subject many Harvard students take. It’s not part of the standard course of study for physics majors (or “concentrators” as they say at Harvard).
     
    In the lower-middle-class/working-class public school I attended in the '60s, we were taught the correct answer in grade school. And tested on it. We were expected to learn it.

    I remember discussing the matter with my dad when I was in grade school. He too had learned the correct answer in public school. But, he thought the tilt mattered because the solar rays in winter came in at a slant and therefore more of the solar energy was absorbed in the longer path through the atmosphere in winter, leaving less energy to heat the surface. An interesting theory, though not a significant effect.

    I tried to explain to Dad that it was a simple geometric effect -- the northern hemisphere intercepts a smaller fraction of the sun's rays in northern winter than the southern hemisphere for obvious geometric reasons, as you can show with a simple diagram. But I don't think Dad ever got the point. (Admittedly, my explanation as a grade-school kid may have been poorly presented: our text explained it not the way I just described but rather by pointing out the equivalent fact that a given cross-section of solar rays are stretched out along a longer path on the surface in winter than in summer.)

    Anyway, in both the 1930s and 1960s this was required material in the public schools. And, today's Harvard grads don't know it.

    I tried to explain to Dad that it was a simple geometric effect — the northern hemisphere intercepts a smaller fraction of the sun’s rays in northern winter than the southern hemisphere for obvious geometric reasons, as you can show with a simple diagram.

    That is certainly true, and explains why peak solar irradiance varies so much by season (I see about a third or quarter less from max to min, probably more at higher latitudes). But I don’t think that is the full explanation. Day length also matters.

    Here is a calculator for daily solar insolation by month (also depends on cloud cover): http://solarelectricityhandbook.com/solar-irradiance.html

    Based on what that says for my location, I think day length may be the larger factor (hard to tell given the weather variable), but I have not seen that calculated. Have you?

    To clarify terms for everyone, solar irradiance is power per unit area (e.g. W/m^2) while insolation is power per unit area per unit time (e.g. W/m^2/day). Though sometimes people are sloppy about these terms.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_irradiance

  65. @Redneck farmer
    Uh, it meant your family was poor, and those were the best hand-me-downs for the boy to wear. That, or they guessed something about him you haven't.....

    Nope. Clothing for young children was unisex in that time period.

    • Replies: @Lurker
    About 25 years ago I remember being told by an elderly lady that it was so gypsies wouldn't steal little children. They wanted boys not girls. I used to think this must be a nonsense explanation but now, not so sure.
  66. @Foreign Expert
    Based on old family photos, in the late 19th century people would dress boys as girls and let their hair grow long u until about age five. I have a picture of a great uncle like that. Has anyone else seen pictures like that?

    It was common dressing boys as girls. Several reasons for it. One was https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Breeching_(boys).

    but also it helped to desexualize children. Not so long ago in Europe children till age of 7-10 of both sexes on the beach could run naked and nobody made anything out of it. The puritanical minds that forced little girls to wear one piece or worse the two piece swim suits were the ones that sexualized children.

    https://www.thevintagenews.com/2018/03/20/breeching-boys/

  67. @Anonymous

    But what about animals with brains more like ours? Should we revive testing on chimpanzees, which has largely been phased out, for this?
     
    Isn't that the premise of Rise of the Planet of the Apes? I think they were trying to cure Alzheimer's in it too.

    Dr. Quentin Q. Quinn: You can’t test drugs on humans! There are rules, procedures. It has to be tested on animals first.

    Sparks: WHY? Why does all the crap we consume have to be tested on animals first?

    Dr. Quentin Q. Quinn: Because that’s…

    Sparks: Et-hey! A rat doesn’t wear lipstick okay? A rabbit doesn’t use hairspray! A monkey doesn’t need pills, to get ramped up for hot monkey sex! It’s people, man! We’re miserable! So why shouldn’t we try it all first?

    Dr. Quentin Q. Quinn: Well… you’ve got a point there actually. I’ll try it.

  68. @Anonymous
    You make some good points, though I don't know if the cause of the seasons should be classed with highly specialized astronomical knowledge, as opposed to general knowledge. There does tend to be a relationship between general knowledge and IQ:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_knowledge#Intelligence

    High scorers on tests of general knowledge tend to also score highly on intelligence tests. IQ has been found to robustly predict general knowledge scores even after accounting for differences in age, sex, and five factor model personality traits.
     

    Even an uneducated Brit would have known that the “earth further from the sun in winter” was wrong, because how then could December and January be summer, and hot summer at that, in Australia and South Africa, where our Test Cricket teams toured every few winters?

  69. Here I’d disagree with Steve & most commenters. My opinion is that, basically, this test question is overrated & most people simply conflate various types of intelligence, talent, inquisitiveness, critical thinking & general education.

    A few examples from history.

    No one could say that philosophers like Hegel, Schopenhauer or Heidegger were not “intelligent” (whatever this may mean), but they’d been science illiterates, clueless about basic workings of the universe- and, more, just didn’t care. Their type of abstract thinking was not aligned with mathematical ability, let alone anything like curiosity about physical universe. And hardly anyone could claim they were not original, critical, highly abstract…thinkers.

    Theirs was a different type of intellect. I think that neuroimagining in past few years has shown that mathematicians’ brains, when solving problems, work basically with numbers (whichever the level of abstraction), while other types of highly concentrated brain activity are more evenly spread across brain (or this area is not yet fully explored?). Perhaps something to do with words? Dunno..

    https://www.livescience.com/54370-math-brain-network-discovered.html (this is partially wrong since Einstein was not a great mathematician, nor was his thinking “mathematical”, to be nitpicking)

    https://www.extremetech.com/extreme/232765-this-is-your-brain-on-physics

    Or, great mathematicians like Galois or Alexander Grothendieck were not particularly interested (gifted?) in physics & their ideas about human life, politics, society …. were frequently obscurantist or absurd. Simply- dumb.

    Also, some great physicists were not particularly “bright” re mathematics (or numerous other fields)- Faraday; Einstein, as a mathematician, is not so great. He was one of the greatest physicists; his mathematical ability was not stellar by any account.

    If we are to consider important life-sciences achievers (Aristotle, Darwin, Mendel, Watson,..) we can see again that their contributions do not show any kind of spectacular mental ability re math & physics.

    So, a rather trivial conclusion would be: 1. not knowing elementary stuff from astronomy does not entail anything (never mind Harvard snobbery), 2. various types of talent & inquisitive mind (mathematics, life sciences, astronomy, physics, philosophy, …) sometimes do intersect- but mostly they do not, these are worlds apart, 3. having said that all, critical thinking is a completely different issue & contrary to most expectations, it has nothing to do with high achieving-even at genius level- in any particular area.

    • Replies: @Samuel Skinner
    You sure it isn't just status signaling- aka "I'm so smart I don't need to know ordinary things to show how intelligent I am"?
    , @hugnor

    Einstein, as a mathematician, is not so great. He was one of the greatest physicists; his mathematical ability was not stellar by any account.
     
    You don't know what you're talking about. Einstein knew more math than his contemporary physicists. It's partly because of Einstein that more physicists (actually everyone soon after) took on courses like differential geometry, previously thought as irrelevant for physics.

    Einstein as a mathematician was not as great as Newton. But he's quite good in comparison to his contemporary physicists.

    And Faraday was dirt poor when he's little. It's probably not because that he did not have the brain to learn math.

    And people like Grothendieck they love to tackle difficult problems from radical angles. You cannot say they do not have the brain to learn the basics.

    So you obviously do not believeing things like the g factor.

    Smart people are smart. Sometimes they look dumb only because they're tortured by difficult problems.
  70. @PhysicistDave
    Some bonus questions on elementary astronomy (really simple questions but few people know the answers!):

    A. The earth actually goes through a full 360-degree rotation in 23 hr, 56 minutes, not 24 hours. So, why do we pretend the day is 24 hours long (and why aren't our clocks off by 4 minutes a day)? (Hint: think of where a particular star in the sky is after 24 hr. relative to the sun. Second hint: divide 24 hours by 4 minutes and see if the number rings a bell.)

    B. How do we know the distance to nearby stars such as 61 Cygni or Sirius?

    C. What is the real iron-clad proof that the earth moves around the sun, as opposed to Tycho Brahe's theory that the other planets all orbit the sun and then the sun orbits the earth? (Hint: the answer to B gives the answer to C.)

    And for extra credit:
    D. The initial major argument for Copernicus' theory was that it eliminated several separate epicycles that had an interesting property in common and explained them all with one single orbit. What was the tell-tale property those epicycles all had in common?

    Question D is more about history than astronomy per se: I only learned the (obvious) answer after I got my Ph.D.

    I did know the answers to A-C before I got out of high school, but I suspect that almost no one knows the correct answers except for some (not all!) STEM majors and of course amateur astronomy buffs.

    It says something about our society that nearly everyone thinks that only morons believe in the geocentric theory and yet only a tiny fraction of the population can adduce the evidence for heliocentrism.

    For most people in our society, science is just an alternative faith to religion: you believe in science because only bad people do not believe in science, not because you understand the evidence for scientific conclusions.

    Which explains a lot about the debates (on both sides!) over global warming, on economics, etc.

    Without looking at anything:

    A.  There’s one less solar day in a year than there are siderial days, because going around the Sun subtracts one apparent rotation from the rotation against the distant stars.

    B.  We measure motion of the near stars against the distant stars to derive distance by parallelax.  This is where we get the definition of “parsec”, an apparent motion of 1 second of arc across a triangle base of 2 AU.

    C.  Because the distant stars are so far away they would have to be rotating around us at speeds vastly faster than light to make one rotation in a year.

    D.  The arms of the epicycles were all the same length as, and parallel to, the Earth-Sun line.

    I’m one of these weird ducks who actually digs into the science (never took an astro class past K-12) and tries to understand the details down to the nitty-gritty.  For some reason this doesn’t help me convince people whose grasp of science is at the level of dogma.  It doesn’t even help me convince some people who pride themselves on high intelligence and mastery of dialectic; being very bright does not mean being able to break through cognitive dissonance regarding deeply-held beliefs.

    • Replies: @res

    For some reason this doesn’t help me convince people
     
    Have you read The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt? He makes a pretty good case that people are convinced more by their emotions than by reasoning. Probably not the first to observe that, but he puts it in a useful framework. As an added bonus if one is trying to convince a liberal, he came from that background so structures his book in a way that makes an effort not to offend that group.

    I think he is right and am trying to figure out how to incorporate that insight into my persuasion toolbox. My problem is I tend to be too direct and confrontational (which I am sure shocks anyone who reads my comments here ; ) which tends to generate a negative emotional response and reflexive pushback.

    P.S. Perhaps the most interesting observation in the book is the liberal focus on care/harm morality rather than things like sanctity and loyalty. I found that very illuminating.
    , @PhysicistDave
    Yeah, Mr. Rational, you're basically right on all four, although what I had in mind for C was that parallax only works because the earth is moving around the sun: i.e., we're measuring parallax from opposite sides of the earth's orbit. So, the fact that we can measure stellar parallax at all is evidence that the earth does move around the sun. One of the best of the early arguments against Copernicus was that no one back then could detect any stellar parallax at all.

    Strangely, as far as I can tell, no one before Copernicus realized that all the little epicycles were basically the same epicycle and therefore must have a common cause.

    For anyone not following what Mr. Rational and I are saying, there is a (rotating) vector from the earth to the sun and then another vector from the sun to, say, Jupiter. Add those vectors and you get the earth-to-Jupiter vector.

    Add the two vectors in reverse order, and you still get the correct earth-to-Jupiter vector (commutative law of vector addition). But now the first vector leads to some obscure point in space and Jupiter seems to be revolving around that empty point: hence, the epicycle. That, in a nutshell, is the error of the Ptolemaic system: vectors are added in the wrong order, and the physical reality is therefore obscured. (I'm ignoring some important complications: e.g., Ptolemy had the wrong relative scales for the radii of the epicycles; Copernicus automatically fixes that by collapsing all the epicycles into one single orbit -- the earth's orbit around the sun.)

    You wouldn't think it would take a genius to see this problem and fix it, but it did. And, you would think that part of a modern education would be to teach students about this, but I myself only understood this point after getting my Ph.D. in physics. I'm pretty sure that even most bright STEM people do not really know understand the logic of Copernicus' achievement. (Inciedntally, I stumbled upon this by accident when browsing a book by historian of astronomy Owen Gingerich.)

    Anyway, Mr. Rational, kudos to you for actually understanding something about the universe we all live in!
  71. @Anon
    All well and good, but our 'earth' is flat. Makes your crackpot ideas sound pretty silly.

    <Warner Bros.>

    WHAM!  “Your head is flat!”

    </Warner Bros.)

  72. @res
    If anyone thinks about the problem while realizing that the seasons are out of phase in the northern and southern hemispheres they should immediately realize how wrong that answer is. Agreed astronomy is not commonly taught in college. But the basics are something which arguably should be learned in high school (or even earlier, which is when I think I learned it). However, the academic track at my HS generally excluded the subject where that was taught. Is that common? It might help explain the Harvard students' results.

    The interesting thing about distance from the sun and the seasons is that they are almost exactly out of phase in the northern hemisphere. Perihelion (closest) is around January 3 and aphelion is around July 4.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perihelion_and_aphelion#Application_to_Earth

    One would expect this to moderate the seasonal temperature swings in the northern hemisphere, but apparently that is not the case (net).

    In the northern hemisphere, summer occurs at the same time as aphelion. Despite this, there are larger land masses in the northern hemisphere, which are easier to heat than the seas. Consequently, summers are 2.3 °C (4 °F) warmer in the northern hemisphere than in the southern hemisphere under similar conditions.
     
    Another interesting bit of trivia (if anyone has better references for all of this than the ones I gave please post).
    https://socratic.org/questions/do-earth-s-aphelion-and-perihelion-have-any-noticeable-effects

    As the Southern hemisphere is mainly ocean, it retains its heat during the Winter months. In fact the whole planet is a few degrees warmer at aphelion in July than it is at perihelion in January!
     
    I wonder how the hemisphere temperature swings would change if the Earth's tilt was reversed. It seems like that would accentuate rather than cancel the distance effect making the hemispheres' seasons very different and giving a larger overall variation with distance.

    The interesting thing about distance from the sun and the seasons is that they are almost exactly out of phase in the northern hemisphere. Perihelion (closest) is around January 3 and aphelion is around July 4.

    Actually, it helps explain why we are currently in an interglacial right now.  Having summer at aphelion means summer lasts longer and has more time to melt off snow and ice while the polar regions are heated as much as 24 hours/day.

    • Replies: @res
    That makes sense. Do you know much about the details? This page expands a bit: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/features/Milankovitch/milankovitch_2.php

    It separates out the effects of obliquity (change in axial tilt between 22.1 and 24.5 degrees over a 40k year cycle) and precession (which alters the dates of perihelion and aphelion).

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milankovitch_cycles goes into MUCH more detail. This seems worth noting:

    However, the Earth's eccentricity is always so small that the variation in solar irradiation is a minor factor in seasonal climate variation, compared to axial tilt and even compared to the relative ease of heating the larger land masses of the northern hemisphere.
     
  73. @Bardon Kaldian
    Here I'd disagree with Steve & most commenters. My opinion is that, basically, this test question is overrated & most people simply conflate various types of intelligence, talent, inquisitiveness, critical thinking & general education.

    A few examples from history.

    No one could say that philosophers like Hegel, Schopenhauer or Heidegger were not "intelligent" (whatever this may mean), but they'd been science illiterates, clueless about basic workings of the universe- and, more, just didn't care. Their type of abstract thinking was not aligned with mathematical ability, let alone anything like curiosity about physical universe. And hardly anyone could claim they were not original, critical, highly abstract...thinkers.

    Theirs was a different type of intellect. I think that neuroimagining in past few years has shown that mathematicians' brains, when solving problems, work basically with numbers (whichever the level of abstraction), while other types of highly concentrated brain activity are more evenly spread across brain (or this area is not yet fully explored?). Perhaps something to do with words? Dunno..

    https://www.livescience.com/54370-math-brain-network-discovered.html (this is partially wrong since Einstein was not a great mathematician, nor was his thinking "mathematical", to be nitpicking)

    https://www.extremetech.com/extreme/232765-this-is-your-brain-on-physics

    Or, great mathematicians like Galois or Alexander Grothendieck were not particularly interested (gifted?) in physics & their ideas about human life, politics, society .... were frequently obscurantist or absurd. Simply- dumb.

    Also, some great physicists were not particularly "bright" re mathematics (or numerous other fields)- Faraday; Einstein, as a mathematician, is not so great. He was one of the greatest physicists; his mathematical ability was not stellar by any account.

    If we are to consider important life-sciences achievers (Aristotle, Darwin, Mendel, Watson,..) we can see again that their contributions do not show any kind of spectacular mental ability re math & physics.

    So, a rather trivial conclusion would be: 1. not knowing elementary stuff from astronomy does not entail anything (never mind Harvard snobbery), 2. various types of talent & inquisitive mind (mathematics, life sciences, astronomy, physics, philosophy, ...) sometimes do intersect- but mostly they do not, these are worlds apart, 3. having said that all, critical thinking is a completely different issue & contrary to most expectations, it has nothing to do with high achieving-even at genius level- in any particular area.

    You sure it isn’t just status signaling- aka “I’m so smart I don’t need to know ordinary things to show how intelligent I am”?

  74. A positive relationship between brain volume and intelligence has been suspected since the 19th century, and empirical studies seem to support this hypothesis. However, this claim is controversial because of concerns about publication bias and the lack of systematic control for critical confounding factors (e.g., height, population structure). We conducted a preregistered study of the relationship between brain volume and cognitive performance using a new sample of adults from the United Kingdom that is about 70% larger than the combined samples of all previous investigations on this subject (N = 13,608). Our analyses systematically controlled for sex, age, height, socioeconomic status, and population structure, and our analyses were free of publication bias. We found a robust association between total brain volume and fluid intelligence (r = .19), which is consistent with previous findings in the literature after controlling for measurement quality of intelligence in our data. We also found a positive relationship between total brain volume and educational attainment (r = .12). These relationships were mainly driven by gray matter (rather than white matter or fluid volume), and effect sizes were similar for both sexes and across age groups.

    https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0956797618808470

  75. https://www.nationalreview.com/2018/12/book-review-blueprint-dna-science/

    Does DNA Make Us Who We Are?
    By RAZIB KHAN
    December 1, 2018 5:30 AM

    (Pixabay)
    A new book from a prominent scientist makes the case.
    Ideally science is a progressive enterprise, drifting and twisting ever closer to objective truth. And yet science is also a human enterprise, shaped by its practitioners’ aspirations. In reality it navigates somewhere between its Platonic ideal and the darkest denunciations of the skeptics, who claim it to be just another ideology.

    Psychology illustrates this perfectly. Despite their scientific pretensions, the dogmas of the 20th century — Jungianism, Freudianism, and Behaviorism — have given way to new scholarship more firmly grounded in rigorous method and fed by rich data. We now see that these movements were more reflective of intuitions and prejudices, not evidence and insight.

    But the discipline of behavior genetics — the study of human differences in psychological traits, including their genetic “heritability” — has gained strength through an infusion of methods and data from new DNA technologies. The field once relied on statistics to illustrate how similar parents were to their children, and how similar siblings were to each other. Today it has added molecular biology to its toolkit.

  76. @Bardon Kaldian
    Here I'd disagree with Steve & most commenters. My opinion is that, basically, this test question is overrated & most people simply conflate various types of intelligence, talent, inquisitiveness, critical thinking & general education.

    A few examples from history.

    No one could say that philosophers like Hegel, Schopenhauer or Heidegger were not "intelligent" (whatever this may mean), but they'd been science illiterates, clueless about basic workings of the universe- and, more, just didn't care. Their type of abstract thinking was not aligned with mathematical ability, let alone anything like curiosity about physical universe. And hardly anyone could claim they were not original, critical, highly abstract...thinkers.

    Theirs was a different type of intellect. I think that neuroimagining in past few years has shown that mathematicians' brains, when solving problems, work basically with numbers (whichever the level of abstraction), while other types of highly concentrated brain activity are more evenly spread across brain (or this area is not yet fully explored?). Perhaps something to do with words? Dunno..

    https://www.livescience.com/54370-math-brain-network-discovered.html (this is partially wrong since Einstein was not a great mathematician, nor was his thinking "mathematical", to be nitpicking)

    https://www.extremetech.com/extreme/232765-this-is-your-brain-on-physics

    Or, great mathematicians like Galois or Alexander Grothendieck were not particularly interested (gifted?) in physics & their ideas about human life, politics, society .... were frequently obscurantist or absurd. Simply- dumb.

    Also, some great physicists were not particularly "bright" re mathematics (or numerous other fields)- Faraday; Einstein, as a mathematician, is not so great. He was one of the greatest physicists; his mathematical ability was not stellar by any account.

    If we are to consider important life-sciences achievers (Aristotle, Darwin, Mendel, Watson,..) we can see again that their contributions do not show any kind of spectacular mental ability re math & physics.

    So, a rather trivial conclusion would be: 1. not knowing elementary stuff from astronomy does not entail anything (never mind Harvard snobbery), 2. various types of talent & inquisitive mind (mathematics, life sciences, astronomy, physics, philosophy, ...) sometimes do intersect- but mostly they do not, these are worlds apart, 3. having said that all, critical thinking is a completely different issue & contrary to most expectations, it has nothing to do with high achieving-even at genius level- in any particular area.

    Einstein, as a mathematician, is not so great. He was one of the greatest physicists; his mathematical ability was not stellar by any account.

    You don’t know what you’re talking about. Einstein knew more math than his contemporary physicists. It’s partly because of Einstein that more physicists (actually everyone soon after) took on courses like differential geometry, previously thought as irrelevant for physics.

    Einstein as a mathematician was not as great as Newton. But he’s quite good in comparison to his contemporary physicists.

    And Faraday was dirt poor when he’s little. It’s probably not because that he did not have the brain to learn math.

    And people like Grothendieck they love to tackle difficult problems from radical angles. You cannot say they do not have the brain to learn the basics.

    So you obviously do not believeing things like the g factor.

    Smart people are smart. Sometimes they look dumb only because they’re tortured by difficult problems.

    • Replies: @Bardon Kaldian

    You don’t know what you’re talking about. Einstein knew more math than his contemporary physicists. It’s partly because of Einstein that more physicists (actually everyone soon after) took on courses like differential geometry, previously thought as irrelevant for physics.

    Einstein as a mathematician was not as great as Newton. But he’s quite good in comparison to his contemporary physicists.
     

    Einstein was not a significant mathematician; he knew this area, doubtless, more than an average good physicist of his time, but even his field was shaped more by mathematicians like Minkowski, Levi Civita, Ricci, Hilbert, Weyl, ..... Einstein's contribution to physics (SR, dual nature of light, GR, stimulated emission, atoms (Brownian notion), Bose-Einstein stats, EPR paradox...) was immense. Great physicist. But not a great mathematician (unlike Newton, Euler, Hamilton, Lagrange, Helmholtz, Maxwell,...).

    The rest is just a stream of thoughts...

    , @PhysicistDave
    hugnor wrote:


    [Bardon Kaldian] Einstein, as a mathematician, is not so great. He was one of the greatest physicists; his mathematical ability was not stellar by any account.
     
    [hugnor]You don’t know what you’re talking about. Einstein knew more math than his contemporary physicists. It’s partly because of Einstein that more physicists (actually everyone soon after) took on courses like differential geometry, previously thought as irrelevant for physics.
     
    No, BK has a point. Einstein was basically taught the math he needed for general relativity by his friend Marcel Grossmann.

    In fact, physicists of Einstein's time were quite sophisticated in their knowledge of classical mathematics: differential equations and such. Einstein does not stand out in that respect.

    It was Einstein's physical intuition and his courage and perseverance in following his intuitions out to their logical conclusion that were the essence of his genius. Incidentally, he made some major errors (that he actually published!) in the process of working out general relativity. I will always be proud of the fact that in studying GR, I myself made the same errors as he did.

    Of course, the difference is that Einstein not only made the errors sixty years before I did, but he also fixed the errors on his own: I, alas, had to rely on Einstein's work to understand why my errors were in fact errors.
  77. @Jack D
    Apparently using a character based writing system doesn't interfere with having an advanced civilization. It hasn't hurt the Japanese either. OTOH, switching to an alphabet didn't really help Vietnam all that much. Maybe having to do all that memorization is really good for your brain.

    Apparently using a character based writing system doesn’t interfere with having an advanced civilization.

    Right, it’s not going to prevent artists and artisans from doing their thing. But it does mean the common folk will be illiterate.

    By common folk I mean people who, in order to survive, can’t spare the considerable amount of time it takes to learn the several thousand Chinese characters that amount to basic literacy. In the west, anyone could learn our alphabets of a couple dozen letters in a matter of days. At that point, Farmer Jones won’t spell correctly, but he’ll be able to get his message across even if he spells “cow” as “kow”. Whereas in Chinese, if you don’t know the right character, you’re pretty much dead in the water. (Yeah, you can wing it with another character that has the same sound, but that’s pretty limited.)

    Maybe the sweet spot is a writing system in which only the consonants are represented ;)

    • Replies: @Jack D
    In China now the literacy rate is over 96%, which is probably higher than ours.

    When the Chinese don't know the character for a word, I don't think they usually substitute another character with the same sound (except by mistake) because you know that's wrong. Nowadays the most common solution would be to write the pinyin (romanized) version. In fact because of cell phones (which virtually everyone has) most writing is done initially in pinyin and the phone switches it to character, so if you forgot the character you'd pull out the phone and type the pinyin and the phone gives you a menu of all the (many) characters that have the same sound. At this point it's really more of a hybrid computer assisted character/alphabet mixed system.

    , @dfordoom

    Right, it’s not going to prevent artists and artisans from doing their thing. But it does mean the common folk will be illiterate.
     
    That could be seen a a feature rather than a bug.
  78. @International Jew

    Apparently using a character based writing system doesn’t interfere with having an advanced civilization.
     
    Right, it's not going to prevent artists and artisans from doing their thing. But it does mean the common folk will be illiterate.

    By common folk I mean people who, in order to survive, can't spare the considerable amount of time it takes to learn the several thousand Chinese characters that amount to basic literacy. In the west, anyone could learn our alphabets of a couple dozen letters in a matter of days. At that point, Farmer Jones won't spell correctly, but he'll be able to get his message across even if he spells "cow" as "kow". Whereas in Chinese, if you don't know the right character, you're pretty much dead in the water. (Yeah, you can wing it with another character that has the same sound, but that's pretty limited.)

    Maybe the sweet spot is a writing system in which only the consonants are represented ;)

    In China now the literacy rate is over 96%, which is probably higher than ours.

    When the Chinese don’t know the character for a word, I don’t think they usually substitute another character with the same sound (except by mistake) because you know that’s wrong. Nowadays the most common solution would be to write the pinyin (romanized) version. In fact because of cell phones (which virtually everyone has) most writing is done initially in pinyin and the phone switches it to character, so if you forgot the character you’d pull out the phone and type the pinyin and the phone gives you a menu of all the (many) characters that have the same sound. At this point it’s really more of a hybrid computer assisted character/alphabet mixed system.

    • Replies: @International Jew
    Worth reading if you're into this topic:
    http://pinyin.info/readings/texts/moser.html
  79. @Jack D
    Now that he is safely dead, the TV networks have strange new respect for this Republican. He was kind, gentle, bipartisan, a gentleman, everything that Trump is not. "Bipartisan" means that he got suckered by the Democrats on raising taxes and the result was that Clinton later hammered him on this and he lost the next election. That's what you get for being "bipartisan".

    He didn’t get suckered by anything. He was ruling class all the way, and had nothing but contempt for the people who voted for him. Remember “read my hips”?

    Bush was always on the other side.

  80. @Mr. Rational
    Without looking at anything:

    A.  There's one less solar day in a year than there are siderial days, because going around the Sun subtracts one apparent rotation from the rotation against the distant stars.

    B.  We measure motion of the near stars against the distant stars to derive distance by parallelax.  This is where we get the definition of "parsec", an apparent motion of 1 second of arc across a triangle base of 2 AU.

    C.  Because the distant stars are so far away they would have to be rotating around us at speeds vastly faster than light to make one rotation in a year.

    D.  The arms of the epicycles were all the same length as, and parallel to, the Earth-Sun line.

    I'm one of these weird ducks who actually digs into the science (never took an astro class past K-12) and tries to understand the details down to the nitty-gritty.  For some reason this doesn't help me convince people whose grasp of science is at the level of dogma.  It doesn't even help me convince some people who pride themselves on high intelligence and mastery of dialectic; being very bright does not mean being able to break through cognitive dissonance regarding deeply-held beliefs.

    For some reason this doesn’t help me convince people

    Have you read The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt? He makes a pretty good case that people are convinced more by their emotions than by reasoning. Probably not the first to observe that, but he puts it in a useful framework. As an added bonus if one is trying to convince a liberal, he came from that background so structures his book in a way that makes an effort not to offend that group.

    I think he is right and am trying to figure out how to incorporate that insight into my persuasion toolbox. My problem is I tend to be too direct and confrontational (which I am sure shocks anyone who reads my comments here ; ) which tends to generate a negative emotional response and reflexive pushback.

    P.S. Perhaps the most interesting observation in the book is the liberal focus on care/harm morality rather than things like sanctity and loyalty. I found that very illuminating.

    • Replies: @Samuel Skinner
    Or in other words morality is an evolved construct and moral intuitions evolved in order to advance ones self interest.

    P.S. Perhaps the most interesting observation in the book is the liberal focus on care/harm morality rather than things like sanctity and loyalty. I found that very illuminating.
     
    I hate to break it to you, but he is lying. Ask a liberal about white flight and you'll rapidly discover they don't care about white people being murdered or driven out of their homes. You'd think that means the care about blacks, but they don't care about blacks being ethnically cleansed by illegal (or legal) immigrants by murder either.

    Liberals couch their rhetoric in the language of care/harm, but that is just to organize to seize power. They do not adhere to them in the slightest.
  81. @Cloudbuster
    Nope. Clothing for young children was unisex in that time period.

    About 25 years ago I remember being told by an elderly lady that it was so gypsies wouldn’t steal little children. They wanted boys not girls. I used to think this must be a nonsense explanation but now, not so sure.

  82. @Mr. Rational

    The interesting thing about distance from the sun and the seasons is that they are almost exactly out of phase in the northern hemisphere. Perihelion (closest) is around January 3 and aphelion is around July 4.
     
    Actually, it helps explain why we are currently in an interglacial right now.  Having summer at aphelion means summer lasts longer and has more time to melt off snow and ice while the polar regions are heated as much as 24 hours/day.

    That makes sense. Do you know much about the details? This page expands a bit: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/features/Milankovitch/milankovitch_2.php

    It separates out the effects of obliquity (change in axial tilt between 22.1 and 24.5 degrees over a 40k year cycle) and precession (which alters the dates of perihelion and aphelion).

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milankovitch_cycles goes into MUCH more detail. This seems worth noting:

    However, the Earth’s eccentricity is always so small that the variation in solar irradiation is a minor factor in seasonal climate variation, compared to axial tilt and even compared to the relative ease of heating the larger land masses of the northern hemisphere.

    • Replies: @Mr. Rational
    No, res, my time is limited and that's not one of my fields of study.  It's something I caught in passing from something, somewhere.
  83. @Steve Sailer
    But who will make more money: the Harvard grads left on the cutting room floor who explained the real reason it's cold in winter, or the ones in the video who are so happy to winningly share with you their expensive Harvard knowledge that the earth is further away from the sun in winter? The latter will probably wind up managing the former at McKinsey.

    Doesn’t the video say 21 of 23 of the Harvard crew screwed up on one or both of the answers?

  84. @South Texas Guy
    I'm long past a zealot on this issue, but when people can abort a baby right at nine months, well, the morality behind this is a natural progression.

    You can kill it, just don’t change it!

    Kinda weird how these supposed scientific rationalists get all sacred-divine-spark-of-life-y when they can’t flush it down the toilet and will have to live with the result looking them in the eye.

    • Replies: @Mr. Rational
    This may surprise you if you're under 45, but the USA used to have many institutions where mentally and physically handicapped babies were taken practically from birth.  They had rather short life expectancies because they lived under conditions of major neglect (by modern medical standards, not historical reality), but the parents were freed of the burdens of caring for them and could devote the typical amount of time and attention to their normal children (or having more).  Now we throw practically all of those burdens on the parents while publicly financing extreme life-saving measures for the defectives.  This reversal of burdens destroys families, so we can't blame those unfortunate people who discover they're carrying a defective fetus if they do everything they can to avoid it becoming legally human.
  85. @res
    That makes sense. Do you know much about the details? This page expands a bit: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/features/Milankovitch/milankovitch_2.php

    It separates out the effects of obliquity (change in axial tilt between 22.1 and 24.5 degrees over a 40k year cycle) and precession (which alters the dates of perihelion and aphelion).

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milankovitch_cycles goes into MUCH more detail. This seems worth noting:

    However, the Earth's eccentricity is always so small that the variation in solar irradiation is a minor factor in seasonal climate variation, compared to axial tilt and even compared to the relative ease of heating the larger land masses of the northern hemisphere.
     

    No, res, my time is limited and that’s not one of my fields of study.  It’s something I caught in passing from something, somewhere.

  86. @Mr. Rational
    Without looking at anything:

    A.  There's one less solar day in a year than there are siderial days, because going around the Sun subtracts one apparent rotation from the rotation against the distant stars.

    B.  We measure motion of the near stars against the distant stars to derive distance by parallelax.  This is where we get the definition of "parsec", an apparent motion of 1 second of arc across a triangle base of 2 AU.

    C.  Because the distant stars are so far away they would have to be rotating around us at speeds vastly faster than light to make one rotation in a year.

    D.  The arms of the epicycles were all the same length as, and parallel to, the Earth-Sun line.

    I'm one of these weird ducks who actually digs into the science (never took an astro class past K-12) and tries to understand the details down to the nitty-gritty.  For some reason this doesn't help me convince people whose grasp of science is at the level of dogma.  It doesn't even help me convince some people who pride themselves on high intelligence and mastery of dialectic; being very bright does not mean being able to break through cognitive dissonance regarding deeply-held beliefs.

    Yeah, Mr. Rational, you’re basically right on all four, although what I had in mind for C was that parallax only works because the earth is moving around the sun: i.e., we’re measuring parallax from opposite sides of the earth’s orbit. So, the fact that we can measure stellar parallax at all is evidence that the earth does move around the sun. One of the best of the early arguments against Copernicus was that no one back then could detect any stellar parallax at all.

    Strangely, as far as I can tell, no one before Copernicus realized that all the little epicycles were basically the same epicycle and therefore must have a common cause.

    For anyone not following what Mr. Rational and I are saying, there is a (rotating) vector from the earth to the sun and then another vector from the sun to, say, Jupiter. Add those vectors and you get the earth-to-Jupiter vector.

    Add the two vectors in reverse order, and you still get the correct earth-to-Jupiter vector (commutative law of vector addition). But now the first vector leads to some obscure point in space and Jupiter seems to be revolving around that empty point: hence, the epicycle. That, in a nutshell, is the error of the Ptolemaic system: vectors are added in the wrong order, and the physical reality is therefore obscured. (I’m ignoring some important complications: e.g., Ptolemy had the wrong relative scales for the radii of the epicycles; Copernicus automatically fixes that by collapsing all the epicycles into one single orbit — the earth’s orbit around the sun.)

    You wouldn’t think it would take a genius to see this problem and fix it, but it did. And, you would think that part of a modern education would be to teach students about this, but I myself only understood this point after getting my Ph.D. in physics. I’m pretty sure that even most bright STEM people do not really know understand the logic of Copernicus’ achievement. (Inciedntally, I stumbled upon this by accident when browsing a book by historian of astronomy Owen Gingerich.)

    Anyway, Mr. Rational, kudos to you for actually understanding something about the universe we all live in!

    • Replies: @Mr. Rational

    what I had in mind for C was that parallax only works because the earth is moving around the sun
     
    I was writing straight off the top of my head, as if I was one of those Harvard people stuck in front of a camera.  I agree your version is better; you'd had more time to think about it.
    , @ic1000
    An interesting and relevant sidebar discussion. Thanks, PhysicistDave.
    , @academic gossip
    The problem was the lack of explicit algebraic notation now used to describe epicycles. Modern trigonometric function notation (mid-1700s), using sums of those to describe arbitrary curves (c.1800) and vector addition (c.1900) all came later although it was all silently there in the formalism of epicycles. When the planetary orbits are written out and the Sun's motion appears as a summand in all of them it's obvious what to do. But if there is no Fourier expansion as such, the epicycles are not thought of as having anything to do with addition, and the measurements aren't good enough for the Sun terms to appear precisely the same for all planets then there are more, uh, moving parts to figure out and it might well take a genius to assemble all the clues.
    , @res
    Very interesting. Thanks. Owen Gingerich wrote quite a few books. Are there any in particular you would recommend?
  87. @Almost Missouri
    You can kill it, just don't change it!

    Kinda weird how these supposed scientific rationalists get all sacred-divine-spark-of-life-y when they can't flush it down the toilet and will have to live with the result looking them in the eye.

    This may surprise you if you’re under 45, but the USA used to have many institutions where mentally and physically handicapped babies were taken practically from birth.  They had rather short life expectancies because they lived under conditions of major neglect (by modern medical standards, not historical reality), but the parents were freed of the burdens of caring for them and could devote the typical amount of time and attention to their normal children (or having more).  Now we throw practically all of those burdens on the parents while publicly financing extreme life-saving measures for the defectives.  This reversal of burdens destroys families, so we can’t blame those unfortunate people who discover they’re carrying a defective fetus if they do everything they can to avoid it becoming legally human.

    • Replies: @Almost Missouri
    That's a good reply. My response is

    1) While it's true that in many states, at least the big rich ones (NY, CA), institutions used to take, almost automatically, handicapped children, thus relieving parents of the personal financial burden (this was ended by Jerry Rivers'--aka, Geraldo Riviera's--sensationalistic but career-making exposé), it's not really true that this is no longer the case. The system today is much more byzantine, and perhaps more hypocritical, but it still exists for those who want it.

    2) Irrespective of handicapped children's prospects, this is not the defense that those who oppose genetic engineering of humans use. The defense is almost always couched in the same terms that they turn around and deride when used to oppose abortion.

    3) Only a tiny fraction (1%-ish) of abortions are to prevent the birth of a handicapped person. The vast majority are simply for the mother-to-(not)-be's convenience.
  88. @hugnor

    Einstein, as a mathematician, is not so great. He was one of the greatest physicists; his mathematical ability was not stellar by any account.
     
    You don't know what you're talking about. Einstein knew more math than his contemporary physicists. It's partly because of Einstein that more physicists (actually everyone soon after) took on courses like differential geometry, previously thought as irrelevant for physics.

    Einstein as a mathematician was not as great as Newton. But he's quite good in comparison to his contemporary physicists.

    And Faraday was dirt poor when he's little. It's probably not because that he did not have the brain to learn math.

    And people like Grothendieck they love to tackle difficult problems from radical angles. You cannot say they do not have the brain to learn the basics.

    So you obviously do not believeing things like the g factor.

    Smart people are smart. Sometimes they look dumb only because they're tortured by difficult problems.

    You don’t know what you’re talking about. Einstein knew more math than his contemporary physicists. It’s partly because of Einstein that more physicists (actually everyone soon after) took on courses like differential geometry, previously thought as irrelevant for physics.

    Einstein as a mathematician was not as great as Newton. But he’s quite good in comparison to his contemporary physicists.

    Einstein was not a significant mathematician; he knew this area, doubtless, more than an average good physicist of his time, but even his field was shaped more by mathematicians like Minkowski, Levi Civita, Ricci, Hilbert, Weyl, ….. Einstein’s contribution to physics (SR, dual nature of light, GR, stimulated emission, atoms (Brownian notion), Bose-Einstein stats, EPR paradox…) was immense. Great physicist. But not a great mathematician (unlike Newton, Euler, Hamilton, Lagrange, Helmholtz, Maxwell,…).

    The rest is just a stream of thoughts…

  89. @PhysicistDave
    Yeah, Mr. Rational, you're basically right on all four, although what I had in mind for C was that parallax only works because the earth is moving around the sun: i.e., we're measuring parallax from opposite sides of the earth's orbit. So, the fact that we can measure stellar parallax at all is evidence that the earth does move around the sun. One of the best of the early arguments against Copernicus was that no one back then could detect any stellar parallax at all.

    Strangely, as far as I can tell, no one before Copernicus realized that all the little epicycles were basically the same epicycle and therefore must have a common cause.

    For anyone not following what Mr. Rational and I are saying, there is a (rotating) vector from the earth to the sun and then another vector from the sun to, say, Jupiter. Add those vectors and you get the earth-to-Jupiter vector.

    Add the two vectors in reverse order, and you still get the correct earth-to-Jupiter vector (commutative law of vector addition). But now the first vector leads to some obscure point in space and Jupiter seems to be revolving around that empty point: hence, the epicycle. That, in a nutshell, is the error of the Ptolemaic system: vectors are added in the wrong order, and the physical reality is therefore obscured. (I'm ignoring some important complications: e.g., Ptolemy had the wrong relative scales for the radii of the epicycles; Copernicus automatically fixes that by collapsing all the epicycles into one single orbit -- the earth's orbit around the sun.)

    You wouldn't think it would take a genius to see this problem and fix it, but it did. And, you would think that part of a modern education would be to teach students about this, but I myself only understood this point after getting my Ph.D. in physics. I'm pretty sure that even most bright STEM people do not really know understand the logic of Copernicus' achievement. (Inciedntally, I stumbled upon this by accident when browsing a book by historian of astronomy Owen Gingerich.)

    Anyway, Mr. Rational, kudos to you for actually understanding something about the universe we all live in!

    what I had in mind for C was that parallax only works because the earth is moving around the sun

    I was writing straight off the top of my head, as if I was one of those Harvard people stuck in front of a camera.  I agree your version is better; you’d had more time to think about it.

  90. @hugnor

    Einstein, as a mathematician, is not so great. He was one of the greatest physicists; his mathematical ability was not stellar by any account.
     
    You don't know what you're talking about. Einstein knew more math than his contemporary physicists. It's partly because of Einstein that more physicists (actually everyone soon after) took on courses like differential geometry, previously thought as irrelevant for physics.

    Einstein as a mathematician was not as great as Newton. But he's quite good in comparison to his contemporary physicists.

    And Faraday was dirt poor when he's little. It's probably not because that he did not have the brain to learn math.

    And people like Grothendieck they love to tackle difficult problems from radical angles. You cannot say they do not have the brain to learn the basics.

    So you obviously do not believeing things like the g factor.

    Smart people are smart. Sometimes they look dumb only because they're tortured by difficult problems.

    hugnor wrote:

    [Bardon Kaldian] Einstein, as a mathematician, is not so great. He was one of the greatest physicists; his mathematical ability was not stellar by any account.

    [hugnor]You don’t know what you’re talking about. Einstein knew more math than his contemporary physicists. It’s partly because of Einstein that more physicists (actually everyone soon after) took on courses like differential geometry, previously thought as irrelevant for physics.

    No, BK has a point. Einstein was basically taught the math he needed for general relativity by his friend Marcel Grossmann.

    In fact, physicists of Einstein’s time were quite sophisticated in their knowledge of classical mathematics: differential equations and such. Einstein does not stand out in that respect.

    It was Einstein’s physical intuition and his courage and perseverance in following his intuitions out to their logical conclusion that were the essence of his genius. Incidentally, he made some major errors (that he actually published!) in the process of working out general relativity. I will always be proud of the fact that in studying GR, I myself made the same errors as he did.

    Of course, the difference is that Einstein not only made the errors sixty years before I did, but he also fixed the errors on his own: I, alas, had to rely on Einstein’s work to understand why my errors were in fact errors.

    • Replies: @hugnor

    Einstein was basically taught the math he needed for general relativity by his friend Marcel Grossmann.
     
    That was because physicists of his generation and earlier were generally not taught differential geometry in college because the idea was that they only needed differential equations. Virtually everyone thought non-Euclidean geometry was a waste of time for physics.

    Einstein was not as great as Newton who created his own math, but Einstein was able to find a new (to the physicists) math for his (new) physics. I say that was enough testimony of his math talent.

    Comparing to younger generation like Dirac and Heisenberg, maybe Einstein did not stand out in terms of math abilities. But he's the reason that physicists learn tensor today. And, let's be real, if you do not compare bad to Dirac, then by definition you should be called a genius, no?

    Besides, general relativity is hardly an intuition plus bravery thing. Maybe you can say that about the first two or three pages of special relativity though.
    , @Sean
    In 1920 Arthur Eddington used Einstein's theory to audaciously work out that nuclear fusion was why the Sun had not cooled down. That was a big discovery, but also relatively low hanging fruit that it was maybe surprising no one else had got. Eddington was a bit more interested in the problems of astronomy than avoiding mathematical anomalies.
  91. The first use of the technology in China and Israel will be to engineer geniuses. The first use of the technology in the West will be to give immunity to AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. That must be first! After that it might be used to reduce any advantage men have over women. It will also make everyone an equal skin shade. After they have a world empire the Chinese and Israelis shall allow us to continue our amusing experiments.

  92. @International Jew
    It's of no consequence if the kids don't know anything about astronomy. For the good of the country, I'd much rather they knew:

    1. basic economics, so they might see through the "crops rotting in the field" fallacy.

    2. basic literacy about data, so they can understand Heather Mac Donald's takedown of the Black Lives Matters nonsense.

    Today's college graduates probably think people like me (or most of the other readers of this blog) are uneducated for being unable to name ten great black scientists (the ones a Google search for "famous scientists" serves up), or explain the intricacies of intersectionality.

    “Man, the flower of all flesh, the noblest of all creatures visible, man who had once made god in his image, and had mirrored his strength on the constellations, beautiful naked man was dying, strangled in the garments that he had woven. Century after century had he toiled, and here was his reward. Truly the garment had seemed heavenly at first, shot with colours of culture, sewn with the threads of self-denial. And heavenly it had been so long as it was a garment and no more, man could shed it at will and live by the essence that is his soul, and the essence, equally divine, that is his body. The sin against the body — it was for that they wept in chief; the centuries of wrong against the muscles and the nerves, and those five portals by which we can alone apprehend — glozing it over with talk of evolution, until the body was white pap, the home of ideas as colourless, last sloshy stirrings of a spirit that had grasped the stars.” http://www.ele.uri.edu/faculty/vetter/Other-stuff/The-Machine-Stops.pdf
    ~ E. M. Forster

  93. So, STAR WARS isn’t it.

    The real future is about STARCHILD WARS.

  94. @PhysicistDave
    hugnor wrote:


    [Bardon Kaldian] Einstein, as a mathematician, is not so great. He was one of the greatest physicists; his mathematical ability was not stellar by any account.
     
    [hugnor]You don’t know what you’re talking about. Einstein knew more math than his contemporary physicists. It’s partly because of Einstein that more physicists (actually everyone soon after) took on courses like differential geometry, previously thought as irrelevant for physics.
     
    No, BK has a point. Einstein was basically taught the math he needed for general relativity by his friend Marcel Grossmann.

    In fact, physicists of Einstein's time were quite sophisticated in their knowledge of classical mathematics: differential equations and such. Einstein does not stand out in that respect.

    It was Einstein's physical intuition and his courage and perseverance in following his intuitions out to their logical conclusion that were the essence of his genius. Incidentally, he made some major errors (that he actually published!) in the process of working out general relativity. I will always be proud of the fact that in studying GR, I myself made the same errors as he did.

    Of course, the difference is that Einstein not only made the errors sixty years before I did, but he also fixed the errors on his own: I, alas, had to rely on Einstein's work to understand why my errors were in fact errors.

    Einstein was basically taught the math he needed for general relativity by his friend Marcel Grossmann.

    That was because physicists of his generation and earlier were generally not taught differential geometry in college because the idea was that they only needed differential equations. Virtually everyone thought non-Euclidean geometry was a waste of time for physics.

    Einstein was not as great as Newton who created his own math, but Einstein was able to find a new (to the physicists) math for his (new) physics. I say that was enough testimony of his math talent.

    Comparing to younger generation like Dirac and Heisenberg, maybe Einstein did not stand out in terms of math abilities. But he’s the reason that physicists learn tensor today. And, let’s be real, if you do not compare bad to Dirac, then by definition you should be called a genius, no?

    Besides, general relativity is hardly an intuition plus bravery thing. Maybe you can say that about the first two or three pages of special relativity though.

  95. @PhysicistDave
    Yeah, Mr. Rational, you're basically right on all four, although what I had in mind for C was that parallax only works because the earth is moving around the sun: i.e., we're measuring parallax from opposite sides of the earth's orbit. So, the fact that we can measure stellar parallax at all is evidence that the earth does move around the sun. One of the best of the early arguments against Copernicus was that no one back then could detect any stellar parallax at all.

    Strangely, as far as I can tell, no one before Copernicus realized that all the little epicycles were basically the same epicycle and therefore must have a common cause.

    For anyone not following what Mr. Rational and I are saying, there is a (rotating) vector from the earth to the sun and then another vector from the sun to, say, Jupiter. Add those vectors and you get the earth-to-Jupiter vector.

    Add the two vectors in reverse order, and you still get the correct earth-to-Jupiter vector (commutative law of vector addition). But now the first vector leads to some obscure point in space and Jupiter seems to be revolving around that empty point: hence, the epicycle. That, in a nutshell, is the error of the Ptolemaic system: vectors are added in the wrong order, and the physical reality is therefore obscured. (I'm ignoring some important complications: e.g., Ptolemy had the wrong relative scales for the radii of the epicycles; Copernicus automatically fixes that by collapsing all the epicycles into one single orbit -- the earth's orbit around the sun.)

    You wouldn't think it would take a genius to see this problem and fix it, but it did. And, you would think that part of a modern education would be to teach students about this, but I myself only understood this point after getting my Ph.D. in physics. I'm pretty sure that even most bright STEM people do not really know understand the logic of Copernicus' achievement. (Inciedntally, I stumbled upon this by accident when browsing a book by historian of astronomy Owen Gingerich.)

    Anyway, Mr. Rational, kudos to you for actually understanding something about the universe we all live in!

    An interesting and relevant sidebar discussion. Thanks, PhysicistDave.

  96. @Jack D
    Apparently using a character based writing system doesn't interfere with having an advanced civilization. It hasn't hurt the Japanese either. OTOH, switching to an alphabet didn't really help Vietnam all that much. Maybe having to do all that memorization is really good for your brain.

    Japanese do learn English for science and school debate, but it’s not because of the writing system (which, to contradict again, they heavily adapted, so that they effectively have a pure phoneme syllabary without inherently tied meanings should they need it), as a combination of Americanization after the war and because their own language tends to deliberate vagueness. There has been movement away from some of the Americanizing tendencies. However, Japan is not a good illustration of this any way you look at it because they believe in maximally refining tools, and they definitely spent a lot of time modifying the implementation of Chinese characters which are at times notably inappropriate for their language. Furigana is a little superscript “subtitle” in hiragana (phonetic) spelling out which reading of a kanzi (Chinese character) is appropriate, and many words use a compound of kanzi root with a hiragana suffix. Koreans developed the hangul alphabet (one sound for one symbol, like ours, not like the Japanese syllabaries that unite consonants with vowels), and similarly use it alongside Chinese characters (although modern Korean is generally all hangul).
    So there are few people who did this.
    Vietnamese looks like Polish, both because of the recognizable stain of evil batrachian cultural influence (“eau, zhast covhair evhairyteen un leetl merks, zat weell mek ut easyair to red”), and for the reason that they ought have have developed their own writing system from scratch, but chose not to, because they thought this would connect them to the wider world.

  97. @Rabbinical Rube
    there's nobody to tell these people "no"?

    Worse, there are staffs of people with advanced degrees and a militant cultural mandate, to always tell them “yes.”

  98. @PhysicistDave
    hugnor wrote:


    [Bardon Kaldian] Einstein, as a mathematician, is not so great. He was one of the greatest physicists; his mathematical ability was not stellar by any account.
     
    [hugnor]You don’t know what you’re talking about. Einstein knew more math than his contemporary physicists. It’s partly because of Einstein that more physicists (actually everyone soon after) took on courses like differential geometry, previously thought as irrelevant for physics.
     
    No, BK has a point. Einstein was basically taught the math he needed for general relativity by his friend Marcel Grossmann.

    In fact, physicists of Einstein's time were quite sophisticated in their knowledge of classical mathematics: differential equations and such. Einstein does not stand out in that respect.

    It was Einstein's physical intuition and his courage and perseverance in following his intuitions out to their logical conclusion that were the essence of his genius. Incidentally, he made some major errors (that he actually published!) in the process of working out general relativity. I will always be proud of the fact that in studying GR, I myself made the same errors as he did.

    Of course, the difference is that Einstein not only made the errors sixty years before I did, but he also fixed the errors on his own: I, alas, had to rely on Einstein's work to understand why my errors were in fact errors.

    In 1920 Arthur Eddington used Einstein’s theory to audaciously work out that nuclear fusion was why the Sun had not cooled down. That was a big discovery, but also relatively low hanging fruit that it was maybe surprising no one else had got. Eddington was a bit more interested in the problems of astronomy than avoiding mathematical anomalies.

  99. @Svigor

    "Harvard University Will Begin Gene-Editing Sperm"
     
    Probably a good move - who gives a shit about men's reproductive rights, or the ethics thereof?

    2015 article discuses the very genes used in China and Harvard

    https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2015/12/what-can-you-actually-do-with-your-fancy-gene-editing-technology/418377/

    For example, deleting the CCR5 gene would make people resistant to HIV, but also make them 13 times more likely to die of West Nile virus. I can only think of a handful of things that are plausible variants for editing,” says Lander. For example, people with the E4 version of the ApoE gene have much higher risks of Alzheimer’s disease. You could edit that, says Lander, “but I can’t swear there’d be no problem because ApoE4 has been kept around in 3 percent of every human population.” That gives him pause. “If [editing that gene] is such a good idea, why didn’t evolution think about doing it?” he asks. After all, hokey vitamin supplements make rip-roaring trade, as do unproven and unregulated stem-cell therapies…. If these cases tell us anything, the answer to “Why would we use this technology?” might well be “Because we can.”

    Prescient! Plomin’s book says fully half of the people with Alzheimer’s do not have any copy of APOE4 (the one Harvard are editing out in sperm) at all. Harvard is very similar to the supposedly rogue Chinese researcher inasmuch the supposed benefits are a pretext. They just want to do it.

    • Replies: @Colin Wright
    ' “If [editing that gene] is such a good idea, why didn’t evolution think about doing it?” '

    Not so hot. Evolution didn't think about doing it because evolution could care less about what happens to you once you've stopped having children.
  100. @PhysicistDave
    Some bonus questions on elementary astronomy (really simple questions but few people know the answers!):

    A. The earth actually goes through a full 360-degree rotation in 23 hr, 56 minutes, not 24 hours. So, why do we pretend the day is 24 hours long (and why aren't our clocks off by 4 minutes a day)? (Hint: think of where a particular star in the sky is after 24 hr. relative to the sun. Second hint: divide 24 hours by 4 minutes and see if the number rings a bell.)

    B. How do we know the distance to nearby stars such as 61 Cygni or Sirius?

    C. What is the real iron-clad proof that the earth moves around the sun, as opposed to Tycho Brahe's theory that the other planets all orbit the sun and then the sun orbits the earth? (Hint: the answer to B gives the answer to C.)

    And for extra credit:
    D. The initial major argument for Copernicus' theory was that it eliminated several separate epicycles that had an interesting property in common and explained them all with one single orbit. What was the tell-tale property those epicycles all had in common?

    Question D is more about history than astronomy per se: I only learned the (obvious) answer after I got my Ph.D.

    I did know the answers to A-C before I got out of high school, but I suspect that almost no one knows the correct answers except for some (not all!) STEM majors and of course amateur astronomy buffs.

    It says something about our society that nearly everyone thinks that only morons believe in the geocentric theory and yet only a tiny fraction of the population can adduce the evidence for heliocentrism.

    For most people in our society, science is just an alternative faith to religion: you believe in science because only bad people do not believe in science, not because you understand the evidence for scientific conclusions.

    Which explains a lot about the debates (on both sides!) over global warming, on economics, etc.

    I won’t cheat by looking it up.

    Answer to B is (I believe) that by looking at the color of the star we can gauge its temperature and therefore it’s size and absolute brightness. Then, by comparing it’s relative brightness to the scale of absolute brightness, we can gauge its distance.

    Answer to A goes back to ancient myths and astronomy. The lunar month is 29 1/2 days. Nearest approximation to a solar year is 12 lunar months. For simplicity they rounded to 30 days/month and 12 months/year with the extra days being held as celebrations of some sort, where the King paraded around as a jester and the poor put on airs of royalty. So 360 days plus some remainder was the best the ancients could do. That the actual non-integer remainder is 1/4 (approx.) day is a relatively recent discovery, hence all the recalibrating the calendar that have taken place under various Popes etc. and our use of the leap year to bring us into close proximity.

    Of course, the actual number of rotations of the earth on its axis is not exactly numerically integrally coincident with the period of the earth’s revolution around the sun. This kind of irrationality really bugged Plato and Pythagoras who thought that the heavenly spheres should display perfect accord and that meant whole number integers and regular solids, that sort of thing.

    All the confusion comes from trying to make the revolution of the moon, the rotation of the earth and the revolution of the earth about the sun into a coherent (as in musical or quantum wave) system.

    Here’s a question for all of you. From our earthbound vantage point, the moon rises fifty minutes later each day (or night, as the case may be) as it makes its way on its monthly orbit. Now, looking down at the Earth from above the North Pole, does the moon revolve around the Earth in a clockwise or counterclockwise direction?

    • Replies: @ThreeCranes
    Well, no on hazarded a guess as to the direction of the motion of the moon with respect to the Earth, so either no one bothers to read this stuff, or no one cares. But here's the answer anyway.

    The sun rises in the east and it does so in London before doing so in Manhattan. So, from our vantage point, high above our Earth on the axis that passes through the North Pole, we can see that the Earth must be spinning counterclockwise.

    The moon rises above the horizon fifty minutes later each day. This means that it is outrunning the observer who is situated on the surface of our globe. So the moon also proceeds counterclockwise around the Earth (from our vantage point above the North Pole). The moon goes around in the same direction we are rotating.
  101. @International Jew
    Astronomy isn't a subject many Harvard students take. It's not part of the standard course of study for physics majors (or "concentrators" as they say at Harvard). Students of other sciences will take a year of physics, which doesn't cover astronomy either. Astronomy is something a non-science student might take to fulfill the distribution requirement, but there are a lot of other options so I don't imagine more than 5% take astronomy.

    I'd expect most Harvard physics, math or chemistry majors to figure out the "what causes the seasons" and "what explains the phases of the moon" questions, given ten seconds, just drawing on general intelligence and a high likelihood they were interested in astronomy at some point in their childhoods. But for most of us, those are hard questions, if someone hasn't already told us the answer. The phases of the moon question is the harder of the two; without a handy pencil and paper to make a sketch, all kinds of wrong ideas might seem plausible.

    ‘Astronomy isn’t a subject many Harvard students take. It’s not part of the standard course of study for physics majors…’

    As it happens, astronomy would be a field I too am ignorant of, and moreover, it happened that was thinking about why it gets colder in winter myself a couple of days ago. It took me a couple of seconds to toss the distance idea and go for tilt.

    Distance poses immediate logical problems, as the townies seem to at least suspect. The Harvard students apparently never even get that far.

    • Replies: @International Jew
    University of Colorado at Boulder students would have done well on this. As anyone who lives in a dry, high-altitude high-latitude place knows intimately well, it gets real cold real fast when the sun goes down. Or even when the sun goes behind a cloud. Such people would at least suspect the seasons have something to do with the length of the day. And from there they'd ask themselves what makes winter days short (other than no daylight savings time!).
  102. @Sean
    2015 article discuses the very genes used in China and Harvard

    https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2015/12/what-can-you-actually-do-with-your-fancy-gene-editing-technology/418377/

    For example, deleting the CCR5 gene would make people resistant to HIV, but also make them 13 times more likely to die of West Nile virus. I can only think of a handful of things that are plausible variants for editing,” says Lander. For example, people with the E4 version of the ApoE gene have much higher risks of Alzheimer’s disease. You could edit that, says Lander, “but I can’t swear there’d be no problem because ApoE4 has been kept around in 3 percent of every human population.” That gives him pause. “If [editing that gene] is such a good idea, why didn’t evolution think about doing it?” he asks. After all, hokey vitamin supplements make rip-roaring trade, as do unproven and unregulated stem-cell therapies.... If these cases tell us anything, the answer to “Why would we use this technology?” might well be “Because we can.”
     

    Prescient! Plomin's book says fully half of the people with Alzheimer's do not have any copy of APOE4 (the one Harvard are editing out in sperm) at all. Harvard is very similar to the supposedly rogue Chinese researcher inasmuch the supposed benefits are a pretext. They just want to do it.

    ‘ “If [editing that gene] is such a good idea, why didn’t evolution think about doing it?” ‘

    Not so hot. Evolution didn’t think about doing it because evolution could care less about what happens to you once you’ve stopped having children.

    • Replies: @Mr. Rational

    Evolution didn’t think about doing it because evolution could care less about what happens to you once you’ve stopped having children.
     
    Not true; if you are improving the survival and reproduction prospects of your posterity and your genes have anything to do with this, you're still in the evolution game.

    The question is, does that particular Alheimer's gene variant have any positive effects earlier in life, perhaps in non-European environments?  That would go a long way toward explaining the different in prevalence.
    , @Sean
    It is not that simple.

    https://www.health.harvard.edu/alzheimers-and-dementia/the-genetic-link-between-alzheimer-s-and-heart-disease

    The APOE gene provides instructions for making a protein that transports cholesterol in the bloodstream. Because of cholesterol's well-known role in heart disease, early research on this gene focused on how it might affect that risk. It turns out that having at least one copy of the undesirable e4 variant of APOE increases blood levels of both harmful LDL cholesterol and triglycerides by about 10 points.
     


    http://www.ravnskov.nu/2015/12/27/myth-9/
    Recently I published a paper together with 15 international colleagues, where we reviewed 19 studies of elderly people (>60 years) who had been followed for several years. None of these studies found that LDL-cholesterol (the ”bad” one) predisposes to cardiovascular disease; on the contrary, most of them showed that those with high LDL cholesterol lived the longest.19

    There is a logical explanation. What very few know is that LDL, the molecule that transport cholesterol in the blood, partake in the immune system by adhering to and inactivating all kionds of miocroorganisms and their toxic products. You can read more about that in two papers that I have published together with Kilmer McCully,
     


    https://medium.com/the-mission/higher-cholesterol-is-associated-with-longer-life-b4090f28d96e r four times more among those with the lowest cholesterol had died from AIDS compared with those who had the highest.Cholesterol may protect against infections and atherosclerosis.3 Cholesterol may protect against cancer.4 A strong association was found between low cholesterol and violence. Odds ratio of violence for cholesterol of <180 mg/dl was 15.49. 5 Several studies have found an association between low cholesterol and suicide. For instance, one study found that those in the lowest quartile (fourth) of cholesterol concentration had more than 6 times the risk of suicide as those in the highest quartile.6 .
     
  103. @Anonymous
    I wouldn't trust for myself that CRISPR is quite yet ready for Primetime just yet. And I can say that as a molecular biologist. I know there have been a few uses of it in a medical setting, if I remember right, mainly in China, but it's also been demonstrated that there are a significant number of off-target effects that happen. In other words, you change the gene you're interested in, but also make some semi-random edits elsewhere. If you're lucky, those will be somewhere that won't matter, but if you're unlucky you could very well create a serious problem, like up your chances of cancer. I guess if you have a terminal illness, rolling the dice is okay, but otherwise, forget it. I can't see how it's worth risking it with your offspring.

    I can’t see how it’s worth risking it with your offspring.

    Perhaps you can’t, but I sure can. If I could give my offspring a 50% chance of a 140 IQ at the cost of a 10% increase in the likelihood of eventual cancer, I’d take that deal in a minute, on behalf of my offspring.

    • Replies: @academic gossip
    You are overestimating the value, especially in the coming generation, of having a 140+ IQ.

    It doesn't increase anyone's life happiness by all that much (without other non-genetic factors also being in place) and can create its own set of problems when the number is high enough relative to one's environment. If your family is IQ 88 it will alienate them, and if the family average is 118 then they are probably doing well enough that 140 is nice but not as special or critical to success.

    Technology is automating more and more of the advantages that 140+ used to confer (much of the 130 and 120 stuff already being in-silico). That, immigration and the Internet erode the value of high IQs below the super-duper levels and even there it's a huge and exhausting competition for the narrow set of occupations that severely reward high analytical ability.

    The super-smart people I know (150+ and some 160+'s) are usually less happy than their bright normal-range siblings.

    , @anonymous coward
    Nobody knows the risks yet. It might be a 10% chance of 140 IQ with a 90% chance of cancer.
  104. @PhysicistDave
    Yeah, Mr. Rational, you're basically right on all four, although what I had in mind for C was that parallax only works because the earth is moving around the sun: i.e., we're measuring parallax from opposite sides of the earth's orbit. So, the fact that we can measure stellar parallax at all is evidence that the earth does move around the sun. One of the best of the early arguments against Copernicus was that no one back then could detect any stellar parallax at all.

    Strangely, as far as I can tell, no one before Copernicus realized that all the little epicycles were basically the same epicycle and therefore must have a common cause.

    For anyone not following what Mr. Rational and I are saying, there is a (rotating) vector from the earth to the sun and then another vector from the sun to, say, Jupiter. Add those vectors and you get the earth-to-Jupiter vector.

    Add the two vectors in reverse order, and you still get the correct earth-to-Jupiter vector (commutative law of vector addition). But now the first vector leads to some obscure point in space and Jupiter seems to be revolving around that empty point: hence, the epicycle. That, in a nutshell, is the error of the Ptolemaic system: vectors are added in the wrong order, and the physical reality is therefore obscured. (I'm ignoring some important complications: e.g., Ptolemy had the wrong relative scales for the radii of the epicycles; Copernicus automatically fixes that by collapsing all the epicycles into one single orbit -- the earth's orbit around the sun.)

    You wouldn't think it would take a genius to see this problem and fix it, but it did. And, you would think that part of a modern education would be to teach students about this, but I myself only understood this point after getting my Ph.D. in physics. I'm pretty sure that even most bright STEM people do not really know understand the logic of Copernicus' achievement. (Inciedntally, I stumbled upon this by accident when browsing a book by historian of astronomy Owen Gingerich.)

    Anyway, Mr. Rational, kudos to you for actually understanding something about the universe we all live in!

    The problem was the lack of explicit algebraic notation now used to describe epicycles. Modern trigonometric function notation (mid-1700s), using sums of those to describe arbitrary curves (c.1800) and vector addition (c.1900) all came later although it was all silently there in the formalism of epicycles. When the planetary orbits are written out and the Sun’s motion appears as a summand in all of them it’s obvious what to do. But if there is no Fourier expansion as such, the epicycles are not thought of as having anything to do with addition, and the measurements aren’t good enough for the Sun terms to appear precisely the same for all planets then there are more, uh, moving parts to figure out and it might well take a genius to assemble all the clues.

    • Replies: @ThreeCranes
    "Modern trigonometric function notation...all came later...When the planetary orbits are written out and the Sun’s motion appears as a summand in all of them it’s obvious what to do."

    That's why I presented my walk in the garden with an Ancient; so we would approach the problem the way it presented itself to humans naturally (inductively) and not deductively from the standpoint of what we know to be true today.
  105. Years ago, the introductory calculus class at a top Ivy League university used to assign the following problem as homework:

    find a formula for the length of the longest day (maximum number of hours of sunlight) at any point on the Earth as a function of its latitude.

    This is the same idea as in the question about the seasons. It was considered a relatively hard problem, given for extra credit or something like that, as the class was not for math hot-shots but the mass lecture to hundreds of economics and biology majors who had not learned calculus in high school.

    Some students were able to solve it, but some of the teaching assistants getting STEM doctorates needed help.

    • Replies: @keuril
    I have never studied calculus ever, or any other math for that matter since high school, but wouldn’t the answer be based on a) two known knowns—longest day is 12 hrs at equator and 24 hours at the pole; and b) a conversion of the latitudes between equator and pole to corresponding percentages of each 90-degree arc (with eg equator as 0% and pole as 100%); such that:
    MAX SUNLIGHT = 12 hrs + (latitude converted to percentage distance between equator and pole)(12 hrs)
  106. @PhysicistDave
    International Jew wrote:

    It’s of no consequence if the kids don’t know anything about astronomy. For the good of the country, I’d much rather they knew:

    1. basic economics, so they might see through the “crops rotting in the field” fallacy.

    2. basic literacy about data, so they can understand Heather Mac Donald’s takedown of the Black Lives Matters nonsense.
     
    But, astronomy is a field relatively free of ideology and political correctness in which one can learn to think coherently and analytically. Learning the very basics of astronomy -- e.g., the relation between earth and moon and the cause of the seasons -- involves learning to think about what is actually happening instead of just pouring out a torrent of words, trying to get a valid picture in your head, and, above all, trying to see what might be wrong with your initial guess.

    Furthermore, anyone who lacks the curiosity (or ability to be embarrassed!) to learn these basic facts about the universe we all live in almost certainly also lacks the basic curiosity to learn anything of value about economics, history, etc.

    If nothing else, education ought to inculcate an ability to be embarrassed when you prove to be an ignorant fool on a matter that used to be taught in grade school.

    As the video shows (and I as I already knew) , Harvard grads are not educated.

    As the video shows (and I as I already knew) , Harvard grads are not educated.

    Funny, they used to be. Back when they were significantly dumber.

  107. @Macumazahn

    I can’t see how it’s worth risking it with your offspring.
     
    Perhaps you can't, but I sure can. If I could give my offspring a 50% chance of a 140 IQ at the cost of a 10% increase in the likelihood of eventual cancer, I'd take that deal in a minute, on behalf of my offspring.

    You are overestimating the value, especially in the coming generation, of having a 140+ IQ.

    It doesn’t increase anyone’s life happiness by all that much (without other non-genetic factors also being in place) and can create its own set of problems when the number is high enough relative to one’s environment. If your family is IQ 88 it will alienate them, and if the family average is 118 then they are probably doing well enough that 140 is nice but not as special or critical to success.

    Technology is automating more and more of the advantages that 140+ used to confer (much of the 130 and 120 stuff already being in-silico). That, immigration and the Internet erode the value of high IQs below the super-duper levels and even there it’s a huge and exhausting competition for the narrow set of occupations that severely reward high analytical ability.

    The super-smart people I know (150+ and some 160+’s) are usually less happy than their bright normal-range siblings.

    • Replies: @Samuel Skinner
    Because we live in a degenerate society. In a sane, functioning one, high IQ individuals do better- that is how we got high IQ genes in the first place after all.

    If you think we will transition to a sane society soon, the transition will select for intelligence or gene editing will be lost in the transition, it makes alot of sense to get high IQ genes edited in.
  108. @Macumazahn

    I can’t see how it’s worth risking it with your offspring.
     
    Perhaps you can't, but I sure can. If I could give my offspring a 50% chance of a 140 IQ at the cost of a 10% increase in the likelihood of eventual cancer, I'd take that deal in a minute, on behalf of my offspring.

    Nobody knows the risks yet. It might be a 10% chance of 140 IQ with a 90% chance of cancer.

  109. @Mr. Rational
    This may surprise you if you're under 45, but the USA used to have many institutions where mentally and physically handicapped babies were taken practically from birth.  They had rather short life expectancies because they lived under conditions of major neglect (by modern medical standards, not historical reality), but the parents were freed of the burdens of caring for them and could devote the typical amount of time and attention to their normal children (or having more).  Now we throw practically all of those burdens on the parents while publicly financing extreme life-saving measures for the defectives.  This reversal of burdens destroys families, so we can't blame those unfortunate people who discover they're carrying a defective fetus if they do everything they can to avoid it becoming legally human.

    That’s a good reply. My response is

    1) While it’s true that in many states, at least the big rich ones (NY, CA), institutions used to take, almost automatically, handicapped children, thus relieving parents of the personal financial burden (this was ended by Jerry Rivers’–aka, Geraldo Riviera’s–sensationalistic but career-making exposé), it’s not really true that this is no longer the case. The system today is much more byzantine, and perhaps more hypocritical, but it still exists for those who want it.

    2) Irrespective of handicapped children’s prospects, this is not the defense that those who oppose genetic engineering of humans use. The defense is almost always couched in the same terms that they turn around and deride when used to oppose abortion.

    3) Only a tiny fraction (1%-ish) of abortions are to prevent the birth of a handicapped person. The vast majority are simply for the mother-to-(not)-be’s convenience.

  110. @academic gossip
    Years ago, the introductory calculus class at a top Ivy League university used to assign the following problem as homework:

    find a formula for the length of the longest day (maximum number of hours of sunlight) at any point on the Earth as a function of its latitude.
     
    This is the same idea as in the question about the seasons. It was considered a relatively hard problem, given for extra credit or something like that, as the class was not for math hot-shots but the mass lecture to hundreds of economics and biology majors who had not learned calculus in high school.

    Some students were able to solve it, but some of the teaching assistants getting STEM doctorates needed help.

    I have never studied calculus ever, or any other math for that matter since high school, but wouldn’t the answer be based on a) two known knowns—longest day is 12 hrs at equator and 24 hours at the pole; and b) a conversion of the latitudes between equator and pole to corresponding percentages of each 90-degree arc (with eg equator as 0% and pole as 100%); such that:
    MAX SUNLIGHT = 12 hrs + (latitude converted to percentage distance between equator and pole)(12 hrs)

    • Replies: @keuril
    I would restate this as: MAX SUNLIGHT = 12 hrs + ((Lat/90)*12 hrs)
    Or (if I remember how function notation works): f(x) = 12 + 12(x/90)

    Not counting the function notation, this is, like, maybe sixth grade math? I find it hard to believe that Econ and Bio undergrads (and even STEM grad students) at one of the nation’s most selective schools would consider this “hard.”
  111. @Colin Wright
    ' “If [editing that gene] is such a good idea, why didn’t evolution think about doing it?” '

    Not so hot. Evolution didn't think about doing it because evolution could care less about what happens to you once you've stopped having children.

    Evolution didn’t think about doing it because evolution could care less about what happens to you once you’ve stopped having children.

    Not true; if you are improving the survival and reproduction prospects of your posterity and your genes have anything to do with this, you’re still in the evolution game.

    The question is, does that particular Alheimer’s gene variant have any positive effects earlier in life, perhaps in non-European environments?  That would go a long way toward explaining the different in prevalence.

    • Replies: @Colin Wright
    'Not true; if you are improving the survival and reproduction prospects of your posterity and your genes have anything to do with this, you’re still in the evolution game...'

    You either passed on or failed to pass on your genes long before the Alzheimers showed up -- in fact, in premodern times, odds are overwhelming that you were flat out dead.

    So Mother Nature could care less. So what if a few demented old women get burned as witches? They already had their kids.

    Rule 1: Mother Nature is not a nice person. Once you've spawned, f___ off. That's the principle. There have been whole cultures where few made it past thirty five: teeth worn out from coarse grain. Fine with Mommy: just be sure 'n breed first.

  112. @res

    For some reason this doesn’t help me convince people
     
    Have you read The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt? He makes a pretty good case that people are convinced more by their emotions than by reasoning. Probably not the first to observe that, but he puts it in a useful framework. As an added bonus if one is trying to convince a liberal, he came from that background so structures his book in a way that makes an effort not to offend that group.

    I think he is right and am trying to figure out how to incorporate that insight into my persuasion toolbox. My problem is I tend to be too direct and confrontational (which I am sure shocks anyone who reads my comments here ; ) which tends to generate a negative emotional response and reflexive pushback.

    P.S. Perhaps the most interesting observation in the book is the liberal focus on care/harm morality rather than things like sanctity and loyalty. I found that very illuminating.

    Or in other words morality is an evolved construct and moral intuitions evolved in order to advance ones self interest.

    P.S. Perhaps the most interesting observation in the book is the liberal focus on care/harm morality rather than things like sanctity and loyalty. I found that very illuminating.

    I hate to break it to you, but he is lying. Ask a liberal about white flight and you’ll rapidly discover they don’t care about white people being murdered or driven out of their homes. You’d think that means the care about blacks, but they don’t care about blacks being ethnically cleansed by illegal (or legal) immigrants by murder either.

    Liberals couch their rhetoric in the language of care/harm, but that is just to organize to seize power. They do not adhere to them in the slightest.

    • Agree: Mr. Rational
    • Replies: @res
    I tend to think of it as care/harm combined with who/whom. I think that gives pretty good explanatory power for prediction of beliefs. But as you note, it is not that simple.

    How would you explain the (inconsistent!) liberal beliefs in examples like yours? It's not just seizing power IMHO. Though that may explain the motivation of the people who create the opinions (e.g. through media and other manipulation).

    A key overall point in the book is that morality is generally emotional/intuitive while the explanations are mostly rationalizations. It is only sensible that emotions/intuition would evolve to favor self interest. But I don't think evolution has had time to act to deal with the presence of mass media/education/etc. actively instilling beliefs which I think are harmful (or just plain incorrect).

    What I find strange is how much of liberal behavior appears to be actually counter to their self interest (at least as I perceive it). An example would be non-criminal New Yorkers who advocate permissive treatment of crime in their city.

    Team membership and the dynamics of signalling also explain a great deal.
  113. @International Jew
    His answer is actually correct, if you cut him a little slack for inexact language. The part of the moon we see as lit is indeed "the sun's reflection", and when we see less than a full-moon, it's because the earth is in a place (its "position") that prevents us ("interferes") from seeing the entire surface that's reflecting the sun's light.

    Anyway, the funniest misunderstanding of astronomy comes in that Ali G interview of Buzz Aldrin.
    "Will man ever land on the sun?"
    "No, it's too hot."
    "But what if we went at night?"

    That Ali G gag is lifted from “The Official Polish Joke Book”

  114. The one change I’d like to see using CRISPR is vastly more effective DNA repair mechanism. Partly for the protection from ageing and cancer, but also for the long term effects on mutational load. If we can decrease the mutation rate significantly, then (absent other dysgenic effects) the mutational load should decrease over the generations, leading to healthier and smarter (and longer lived…) descendants. Let nature continue to select the variants that get removed, just stop as many new ones from being added.

    • Agree: Mr. Rational
  115. How can you edit something when all the pages are stuck together?

  116. @academic gossip
    You are overestimating the value, especially in the coming generation, of having a 140+ IQ.

    It doesn't increase anyone's life happiness by all that much (without other non-genetic factors also being in place) and can create its own set of problems when the number is high enough relative to one's environment. If your family is IQ 88 it will alienate them, and if the family average is 118 then they are probably doing well enough that 140 is nice but not as special or critical to success.

    Technology is automating more and more of the advantages that 140+ used to confer (much of the 130 and 120 stuff already being in-silico). That, immigration and the Internet erode the value of high IQs below the super-duper levels and even there it's a huge and exhausting competition for the narrow set of occupations that severely reward high analytical ability.

    The super-smart people I know (150+ and some 160+'s) are usually less happy than their bright normal-range siblings.

    Because we live in a degenerate society. In a sane, functioning one, high IQ individuals do better- that is how we got high IQ genes in the first place after all.

    If you think we will transition to a sane society soon, the transition will select for intelligence or gene editing will be lost in the transition, it makes alot of sense to get high IQ genes edited in.

    • Agree: Mr. Rational
  117. @Colin Wright
    ' “If [editing that gene] is such a good idea, why didn’t evolution think about doing it?” '

    Not so hot. Evolution didn't think about doing it because evolution could care less about what happens to you once you've stopped having children.

    It is not that simple.

    https://www.health.harvard.edu/alzheimers-and-dementia/the-genetic-link-between-alzheimer-s-and-heart-disease

    The APOE gene provides instructions for making a protein that transports cholesterol in the bloodstream. Because of cholesterol’s well-known role in heart disease, early research on this gene focused on how it might affect that risk. It turns out that having at least one copy of the undesirable e4 variant of APOE increases blood levels of both harmful LDL cholesterol and triglycerides by about 10 points.

    http://www.ravnskov.nu/2015/12/27/myth-9/
    Recently I published a paper together with 15 international colleagues, where we reviewed 19 studies of elderly people (>60 years) who had been followed for several years. None of these studies found that LDL-cholesterol (the ”bad” one) predisposes to cardiovascular disease; on the contrary, most of them showed that those with high LDL cholesterol lived the longest.19

    There is a logical explanation. What very few know is that LDL, the molecule that transport cholesterol in the blood, partake in the immune system by adhering to and inactivating all kionds of miocroorganisms and their toxic products. You can read more about that in two papers that I have published together with Kilmer McCully,

    https://medium.com/the-mission/higher-cholesterol-is-associated-with-longer-life-b4090f28d96e r four times more among those with the lowest cholesterol had died from AIDS compared with those who had the highest.Cholesterol may protect against infections and atherosclerosis.3 Cholesterol may protect against cancer.4 A strong association was found between low cholesterol and violence. Odds ratio of violence for cholesterol of <180 mg/dl was 15.49. 5 Several studies have found an association between low cholesterol and suicide. For instance, one study found that those in the lowest quartile (fourth) of cholesterol concentration had more than 6 times the risk of suicide as those in the highest quartile.6 .

  118. @International Jew
    Astronomy isn't a subject many Harvard students take. It's not part of the standard course of study for physics majors (or "concentrators" as they say at Harvard). Students of other sciences will take a year of physics, which doesn't cover astronomy either. Astronomy is something a non-science student might take to fulfill the distribution requirement, but there are a lot of other options so I don't imagine more than 5% take astronomy.

    I'd expect most Harvard physics, math or chemistry majors to figure out the "what causes the seasons" and "what explains the phases of the moon" questions, given ten seconds, just drawing on general intelligence and a high likelihood they were interested in astronomy at some point in their childhoods. But for most of us, those are hard questions, if someone hasn't already told us the answer. The phases of the moon question is the harder of the two; without a handy pencil and paper to make a sketch, all kinds of wrong ideas might seem plausible.

    This comment is a shandah (sp?) fer da goyim. What is it supposed to be, half a standard deviation? Must be an outlier.

  119. @Mr. Rational

    Evolution didn’t think about doing it because evolution could care less about what happens to you once you’ve stopped having children.
     
    Not true; if you are improving the survival and reproduction prospects of your posterity and your genes have anything to do with this, you're still in the evolution game.

    The question is, does that particular Alheimer's gene variant have any positive effects earlier in life, perhaps in non-European environments?  That would go a long way toward explaining the different in prevalence.

    ‘Not true; if you are improving the survival and reproduction prospects of your posterity and your genes have anything to do with this, you’re still in the evolution game…’

    You either passed on or failed to pass on your genes long before the Alzheimers showed up — in fact, in premodern times, odds are overwhelming that you were flat out dead.

    So Mother Nature could care less. So what if a few demented old women get burned as witches? They already had their kids.

    Rule 1: Mother Nature is not a nice person. Once you’ve spawned, f___ off. That’s the principle. There have been whole cultures where few made it past thirty five: teeth worn out from coarse grain. Fine with Mommy: just be sure ‘n breed first.

    • Replies: @Mr. Rational

    You either passed on or failed to pass on your genes long before the Alzheimers showed up
     
    And if you did, you could make a significant difference in how much FURTHER your genes got passed along by assisting the rearing and education of your grandchildren.

    Even if you had no children of your own, if you assist with your nieces and nephews you help propagate your own genes too.  This is what inclusive fitness is about.
    , @Sean

    There have been whole cultures where few made it past thirty five
     
    The "old man" of Cro-Magnon was 40-50 years old.


    Once you’ve spawned, f___ off. That’s the principle. There have been whole cultures where few made it past thirty five: teeth worn out from coarse grain. Fine with Mommy: just be sure ‘n breed first.
     
    Major Greenwood and J.O. Irwin discovered long ago the mortality plateau effect, in their data 99 year old women were no more likely to die than those who were 93. If the effect on fitness of increase in mortality is zero, as is the case after the age when survival affects reproduction, then natural selection does not weed out the tendency for rates of mortality to accelerate with age. The idea that selection for reproduction in youth causes accumulating dysfunction in later adulthood is a commonly accepted explanation for aging. Protagonistic pleiotropy is the opposite effect: beneficial effects in later life as a result of selection for reproduction in earlier life.relative to the age of reproductive maturity a transition to the late-life stage of life occurs much later in humans than in the populations of flies for which there are data. In humans, the 'late-life' stage of life is only reached at 90 years old, whereas the data for flies scaled to humans would predict a 'late-life' stage for humans at 40–50 years old. It has been suggesteds that human populations' adoption of agriculture led to more children surviving to adulthood, and to reproduction occurring later in life

    https://paulareednancarrow.files.wordpress.com/2016/09/jeanne-calment1.jpg
  120. @PhysicistDave
    Some bonus questions on elementary astronomy (really simple questions but few people know the answers!):

    A. The earth actually goes through a full 360-degree rotation in 23 hr, 56 minutes, not 24 hours. So, why do we pretend the day is 24 hours long (and why aren't our clocks off by 4 minutes a day)? (Hint: think of where a particular star in the sky is after 24 hr. relative to the sun. Second hint: divide 24 hours by 4 minutes and see if the number rings a bell.)

    B. How do we know the distance to nearby stars such as 61 Cygni or Sirius?

    C. What is the real iron-clad proof that the earth moves around the sun, as opposed to Tycho Brahe's theory that the other planets all orbit the sun and then the sun orbits the earth? (Hint: the answer to B gives the answer to C.)

    And for extra credit:
    D. The initial major argument for Copernicus' theory was that it eliminated several separate epicycles that had an interesting property in common and explained them all with one single orbit. What was the tell-tale property those epicycles all had in common?

    Question D is more about history than astronomy per se: I only learned the (obvious) answer after I got my Ph.D.

    I did know the answers to A-C before I got out of high school, but I suspect that almost no one knows the correct answers except for some (not all!) STEM majors and of course amateur astronomy buffs.

    It says something about our society that nearly everyone thinks that only morons believe in the geocentric theory and yet only a tiny fraction of the population can adduce the evidence for heliocentrism.

    For most people in our society, science is just an alternative faith to religion: you believe in science because only bad people do not believe in science, not because you understand the evidence for scientific conclusions.

    Which explains a lot about the debates (on both sides!) over global warming, on economics, etc.

    For most people in our society, science is just an alternative faith to religion: you believe in science because only bad people do not believe in science, not because you understand the evidence for scientific conclusions.

    An excellent point.

  121. @Colin Wright
    'Not true; if you are improving the survival and reproduction prospects of your posterity and your genes have anything to do with this, you’re still in the evolution game...'

    You either passed on or failed to pass on your genes long before the Alzheimers showed up -- in fact, in premodern times, odds are overwhelming that you were flat out dead.

    So Mother Nature could care less. So what if a few demented old women get burned as witches? They already had their kids.

    Rule 1: Mother Nature is not a nice person. Once you've spawned, f___ off. That's the principle. There have been whole cultures where few made it past thirty five: teeth worn out from coarse grain. Fine with Mommy: just be sure 'n breed first.

    You either passed on or failed to pass on your genes long before the Alzheimers showed up

    And if you did, you could make a significant difference in how much FURTHER your genes got passed along by assisting the rearing and education of your grandchildren.

    Even if you had no children of your own, if you assist with your nieces and nephews you help propagate your own genes too.  This is what inclusive fitness is about.

    • Replies: @Colin Wright
    'Even if you had no children of your own, if you assist with your nieces and nephews you help propagate your own genes too. This is what inclusive fitness is about.'

    Meh. I'm skeptical. Most of natural selection has occurred while human beings were migratory hunter/gatherers.

    Granny's ability to babysit and pass on her (questionable) wisdom to her nieces and nephews is probably more than offset by the liability she poses as she eats food in times of scarcity, slows up the band when they're trying to move to the lowlands in a cold spell, and endangers precious young males when she gets grabbed by a pack of wolves.

    Past about fifty, you're probably more bother than you're worth -- and prior to modern medicine, most people didn't make it past some point in their fifties or sixties. Go visit a cemetery some time.

    For most of human history, Alzheimers has been a freak condition affecting a tiny minority of dubious value in the first place.
  122. @Colin Wright
    'Not true; if you are improving the survival and reproduction prospects of your posterity and your genes have anything to do with this, you’re still in the evolution game...'

    You either passed on or failed to pass on your genes long before the Alzheimers showed up -- in fact, in premodern times, odds are overwhelming that you were flat out dead.

    So Mother Nature could care less. So what if a few demented old women get burned as witches? They already had their kids.

    Rule 1: Mother Nature is not a nice person. Once you've spawned, f___ off. That's the principle. There have been whole cultures where few made it past thirty five: teeth worn out from coarse grain. Fine with Mommy: just be sure 'n breed first.

    There have been whole cultures where few made it past thirty five

    The “old man” of Cro-Magnon was 40-50 years old.

    Once you’ve spawned, f___ off. That’s the principle. There have been whole cultures where few made it past thirty five: teeth worn out from coarse grain. Fine with Mommy: just be sure ‘n breed first.

    Major Greenwood and J.O. Irwin discovered long ago the mortality plateau effect, in their data 99 year old women were no more likely to die than those who were 93. If the effect on fitness of increase in mortality is zero, as is the case after the age when survival affects reproduction, then natural selection does not weed out the tendency for rates of mortality to accelerate with age. The idea that selection for reproduction in youth causes accumulating dysfunction in later adulthood is a commonly accepted explanation for aging. Protagonistic pleiotropy is the opposite effect: beneficial effects in later life as a result of selection for reproduction in earlier life.relative to the age of reproductive maturity a transition to the late-life stage of life occurs much later in humans than in the populations of flies for which there are data. In humans, the ‘late-life’ stage of life is only reached at 90 years old, whereas the data for flies scaled to humans would predict a ‘late-life’ stage for humans at 40–50 years old. It has been suggesteds that human populations’ adoption of agriculture led to more children surviving to adulthood, and to reproduction occurring later in life

    • LOL: Mr. Rational
  123. @International Jew

    Apparently using a character based writing system doesn’t interfere with having an advanced civilization.
     
    Right, it's not going to prevent artists and artisans from doing their thing. But it does mean the common folk will be illiterate.

    By common folk I mean people who, in order to survive, can't spare the considerable amount of time it takes to learn the several thousand Chinese characters that amount to basic literacy. In the west, anyone could learn our alphabets of a couple dozen letters in a matter of days. At that point, Farmer Jones won't spell correctly, but he'll be able to get his message across even if he spells "cow" as "kow". Whereas in Chinese, if you don't know the right character, you're pretty much dead in the water. (Yeah, you can wing it with another character that has the same sound, but that's pretty limited.)

    Maybe the sweet spot is a writing system in which only the consonants are represented ;)

    Right, it’s not going to prevent artists and artisans from doing their thing. But it does mean the common folk will be illiterate.

    That could be seen a a feature rather than a bug.

    • Agree: Mr. Rational
  124. @Jack D
    In China now the literacy rate is over 96%, which is probably higher than ours.

    When the Chinese don't know the character for a word, I don't think they usually substitute another character with the same sound (except by mistake) because you know that's wrong. Nowadays the most common solution would be to write the pinyin (romanized) version. In fact because of cell phones (which virtually everyone has) most writing is done initially in pinyin and the phone switches it to character, so if you forgot the character you'd pull out the phone and type the pinyin and the phone gives you a menu of all the (many) characters that have the same sound. At this point it's really more of a hybrid computer assisted character/alphabet mixed system.

    Worth reading if you’re into this topic:

    http://pinyin.info/readings/texts/moser.html

  125. @ThreeCranes
    I won't cheat by looking it up.

    Answer to B is (I believe) that by looking at the color of the star we can gauge its temperature and therefore it's size and absolute brightness. Then, by comparing it's relative brightness to the scale of absolute brightness, we can gauge its distance.

    Answer to A goes back to ancient myths and astronomy. The lunar month is 29 1/2 days. Nearest approximation to a solar year is 12 lunar months. For simplicity they rounded to 30 days/month and 12 months/year with the extra days being held as celebrations of some sort, where the King paraded around as a jester and the poor put on airs of royalty. So 360 days plus some remainder was the best the ancients could do. That the actual non-integer remainder is 1/4 (approx.) day is a relatively recent discovery, hence all the recalibrating the calendar that have taken place under various Popes etc. and our use of the leap year to bring us into close proximity.

    Of course, the actual number of rotations of the earth on its axis is not exactly numerically integrally coincident with the period of the earth's revolution around the sun. This kind of irrationality really bugged Plato and Pythagoras who thought that the heavenly spheres should display perfect accord and that meant whole number integers and regular solids, that sort of thing.

    All the confusion comes from trying to make the revolution of the moon, the rotation of the earth and the revolution of the earth about the sun into a coherent (as in musical or quantum wave) system.

    Here's a question for all of you. From our earthbound vantage point, the moon rises fifty minutes later each day (or night, as the case may be) as it makes its way on its monthly orbit. Now, looking down at the Earth from above the North Pole, does the moon revolve around the Earth in a clockwise or counterclockwise direction?

    Well, no on hazarded a guess as to the direction of the motion of the moon with respect to the Earth, so either no one bothers to read this stuff, or no one cares. But here’s the answer anyway.

    The sun rises in the east and it does so in London before doing so in Manhattan. So, from our vantage point, high above our Earth on the axis that passes through the North Pole, we can see that the Earth must be spinning counterclockwise.

    The moon rises above the horizon fifty minutes later each day. This means that it is outrunning the observer who is situated on the surface of our globe. So the moon also proceeds counterclockwise around the Earth (from our vantage point above the North Pole). The moon goes around in the same direction we are rotating.

    • Replies: @Macumazahn

    The moon goes around in the same direction we are rotating.
     
    Indeed. Moreover, the same is true of the great majority of the Solar planets and their moons. Looking back toward Sol from the direction of Polaris we would see most everything rotating counterclockwise and also revolving counterclockwise.
    When, as a child, I first learned about the NINE planets, the one thing that wasn't clear to me was the ecliptic. All the illustrations showed the planets' orbits in the same plane, but it wasn't discussed at all, so I couldn't be sure. I was so young that I didn't really know how to frame my question, I just knew that maybe these orbits were not all "flat" as I thought of it at the time.
    Nowadays I tutor a 7th-grader in math. Today I made quite certain that he knows what causes the seasons and what causes the phases of the Moon. Sure enough, he'd been harboring the closer/further misconception regarding the seasons. I'd pulled a question off this discussion that really exploded that one - "Hmmm, so if it's Winter because we're further from the Sun, what's happening in the Southern Hemisphere?" He did better with the phases of the Moon, because he already understood that the Sun is illuminating parts of the Moon that we cannot see. If I can get him to understand about Lunar and Solar eclipses, that ought to give him a minimal foundation for future schoolwork.
  126. Is ‘He’ with an uppercase ‘H’ the preferred pronoun of this Chinese scientist? Guess that would be fitting, since some would say he He is playing God.

    • LOL: Mr. Rational
  127. @Colin Wright
    'Astronomy isn’t a subject many Harvard students take. It’s not part of the standard course of study for physics majors...'

    As it happens, astronomy would be a field I too am ignorant of, and moreover, it happened that was thinking about why it gets colder in winter myself a couple of days ago. It took me a couple of seconds to toss the distance idea and go for tilt.

    Distance poses immediate logical problems, as the townies seem to at least suspect. The Harvard students apparently never even get that far.

    University of Colorado at Boulder students would have done well on this. As anyone who lives in a dry, high-altitude high-latitude place knows intimately well, it gets real cold real fast when the sun goes down. Or even when the sun goes behind a cloud. Such people would at least suspect the seasons have something to do with the length of the day. And from there they’d ask themselves what makes winter days short (other than no daylight savings time!).

  128. I predict the Chinese will be winning all the gold medals in the Olympics in 30 to 50 years.

    • Replies: @Mr. Rational
    I bet not, because the Chinese will have more important things to do.  If they're winning, letting their targets get all the gold medals to lull them might just be on their agenda.  If they're losing, they will likewise be too busy with more important matters.
  129. @keuril
    I have never studied calculus ever, or any other math for that matter since high school, but wouldn’t the answer be based on a) two known knowns—longest day is 12 hrs at equator and 24 hours at the pole; and b) a conversion of the latitudes between equator and pole to corresponding percentages of each 90-degree arc (with eg equator as 0% and pole as 100%); such that:
    MAX SUNLIGHT = 12 hrs + (latitude converted to percentage distance between equator and pole)(12 hrs)

    I would restate this as: MAX SUNLIGHT = 12 hrs + ((Lat/90)*12 hrs)
    Or (if I remember how function notation works): f(x) = 12 + 12(x/90)

    Not counting the function notation, this is, like, maybe sixth grade math? I find it hard to believe that Econ and Bio undergrads (and even STEM grad students) at one of the nation’s most selective schools would consider this “hard.”

    • Replies: @Mr. Rational
    Watch out for limits there.  The poles enjoy 24-hour sunlight between equinoxes, and 6 months of night the rest of the time.  Your formula has no such binary cutoff.
  130. @Don't Look at Me
    I predict the Chinese will be winning all the gold medals in the Olympics in 30 to 50 years.

    I bet not, because the Chinese will have more important things to do.  If they’re winning, letting their targets get all the gold medals to lull them might just be on their agenda.  If they’re losing, they will likewise be too busy with more important matters.

  131. @keuril
    I would restate this as: MAX SUNLIGHT = 12 hrs + ((Lat/90)*12 hrs)
    Or (if I remember how function notation works): f(x) = 12 + 12(x/90)

    Not counting the function notation, this is, like, maybe sixth grade math? I find it hard to believe that Econ and Bio undergrads (and even STEM grad students) at one of the nation’s most selective schools would consider this “hard.”

    Watch out for limits there.  The poles enjoy 24-hour sunlight between equinoxes, and 6 months of night the rest of the time.  Your formula has no such binary cutoff.

    • Replies: @keuril
    The question is simply find the length of the longest day at each latitude.
  132. @Mr. Rational
    Watch out for limits there.  The poles enjoy 24-hour sunlight between equinoxes, and 6 months of night the rest of the time.  Your formula has no such binary cutoff.

    The question is simply find the length of the longest day at each latitude.

  133. @ThreeCranes
    Well, no on hazarded a guess as to the direction of the motion of the moon with respect to the Earth, so either no one bothers to read this stuff, or no one cares. But here's the answer anyway.

    The sun rises in the east and it does so in London before doing so in Manhattan. So, from our vantage point, high above our Earth on the axis that passes through the North Pole, we can see that the Earth must be spinning counterclockwise.

    The moon rises above the horizon fifty minutes later each day. This means that it is outrunning the observer who is situated on the surface of our globe. So the moon also proceeds counterclockwise around the Earth (from our vantage point above the North Pole). The moon goes around in the same direction we are rotating.

    The moon goes around in the same direction we are rotating.

    Indeed. Moreover, the same is true of the great majority of the Solar planets and their moons. Looking back toward Sol from the direction of Polaris we would see most everything rotating counterclockwise and also revolving counterclockwise.
    When, as a child, I first learned about the NINE planets, the one thing that wasn’t clear to me was the ecliptic. All the illustrations showed the planets’ orbits in the same plane, but it wasn’t discussed at all, so I couldn’t be sure. I was so young that I didn’t really know how to frame my question, I just knew that maybe these orbits were not all “flat” as I thought of it at the time.
    Nowadays I tutor a 7th-grader in math. Today I made quite certain that he knows what causes the seasons and what causes the phases of the Moon. Sure enough, he’d been harboring the closer/further misconception regarding the seasons. I’d pulled a question off this discussion that really exploded that one – “Hmmm, so if it’s Winter because we’re further from the Sun, what’s happening in the Southern Hemisphere?” He did better with the phases of the Moon, because he already understood that the Sun is illuminating parts of the Moon that we cannot see. If I can get him to understand about Lunar and Solar eclipses, that ought to give him a minimal foundation for future schoolwork.

  134. @academic gossip
    The problem was the lack of explicit algebraic notation now used to describe epicycles. Modern trigonometric function notation (mid-1700s), using sums of those to describe arbitrary curves (c.1800) and vector addition (c.1900) all came later although it was all silently there in the formalism of epicycles. When the planetary orbits are written out and the Sun's motion appears as a summand in all of them it's obvious what to do. But if there is no Fourier expansion as such, the epicycles are not thought of as having anything to do with addition, and the measurements aren't good enough for the Sun terms to appear precisely the same for all planets then there are more, uh, moving parts to figure out and it might well take a genius to assemble all the clues.

    “Modern trigonometric function notation…all came later…When the planetary orbits are written out and the Sun’s motion appears as a summand in all of them it’s obvious what to do.”

    That’s why I presented my walk in the garden with an Ancient; so we would approach the problem the way it presented itself to humans naturally (inductively) and not deductively from the standpoint of what we know to be true today.

  135. @Mr. Rational

    You either passed on or failed to pass on your genes long before the Alzheimers showed up
     
    And if you did, you could make a significant difference in how much FURTHER your genes got passed along by assisting the rearing and education of your grandchildren.

    Even if you had no children of your own, if you assist with your nieces and nephews you help propagate your own genes too.  This is what inclusive fitness is about.

    ‘Even if you had no children of your own, if you assist with your nieces and nephews you help propagate your own genes too. This is what inclusive fitness is about.’

    Meh. I’m skeptical. Most of natural selection has occurred while human beings were migratory hunter/gatherers.

    Granny’s ability to babysit and pass on her (questionable) wisdom to her nieces and nephews is probably more than offset by the liability she poses as she eats food in times of scarcity, slows up the band when they’re trying to move to the lowlands in a cold spell, and endangers precious young males when she gets grabbed by a pack of wolves.

    Past about fifty, you’re probably more bother than you’re worth — and prior to modern medicine, most people didn’t make it past some point in their fifties or sixties. Go visit a cemetery some time.

    For most of human history, Alzheimers has been a freak condition affecting a tiny minority of dubious value in the first place.

  136. @PhysicistDave
    Yeah, Mr. Rational, you're basically right on all four, although what I had in mind for C was that parallax only works because the earth is moving around the sun: i.e., we're measuring parallax from opposite sides of the earth's orbit. So, the fact that we can measure stellar parallax at all is evidence that the earth does move around the sun. One of the best of the early arguments against Copernicus was that no one back then could detect any stellar parallax at all.

    Strangely, as far as I can tell, no one before Copernicus realized that all the little epicycles were basically the same epicycle and therefore must have a common cause.

    For anyone not following what Mr. Rational and I are saying, there is a (rotating) vector from the earth to the sun and then another vector from the sun to, say, Jupiter. Add those vectors and you get the earth-to-Jupiter vector.

    Add the two vectors in reverse order, and you still get the correct earth-to-Jupiter vector (commutative law of vector addition). But now the first vector leads to some obscure point in space and Jupiter seems to be revolving around that empty point: hence, the epicycle. That, in a nutshell, is the error of the Ptolemaic system: vectors are added in the wrong order, and the physical reality is therefore obscured. (I'm ignoring some important complications: e.g., Ptolemy had the wrong relative scales for the radii of the epicycles; Copernicus automatically fixes that by collapsing all the epicycles into one single orbit -- the earth's orbit around the sun.)

    You wouldn't think it would take a genius to see this problem and fix it, but it did. And, you would think that part of a modern education would be to teach students about this, but I myself only understood this point after getting my Ph.D. in physics. I'm pretty sure that even most bright STEM people do not really know understand the logic of Copernicus' achievement. (Inciedntally, I stumbled upon this by accident when browsing a book by historian of astronomy Owen Gingerich.)

    Anyway, Mr. Rational, kudos to you for actually understanding something about the universe we all live in!

    Very interesting. Thanks. Owen Gingerich wrote quite a few books. Are there any in particular you would recommend?

  137. @Samuel Skinner
    Or in other words morality is an evolved construct and moral intuitions evolved in order to advance ones self interest.

    P.S. Perhaps the most interesting observation in the book is the liberal focus on care/harm morality rather than things like sanctity and loyalty. I found that very illuminating.
     
    I hate to break it to you, but he is lying. Ask a liberal about white flight and you'll rapidly discover they don't care about white people being murdered or driven out of their homes. You'd think that means the care about blacks, but they don't care about blacks being ethnically cleansed by illegal (or legal) immigrants by murder either.

    Liberals couch their rhetoric in the language of care/harm, but that is just to organize to seize power. They do not adhere to them in the slightest.

    I tend to think of it as care/harm combined with who/whom. I think that gives pretty good explanatory power for prediction of beliefs. But as you note, it is not that simple.

    How would you explain the (inconsistent!) liberal beliefs in examples like yours? It’s not just seizing power IMHO. Though that may explain the motivation of the people who create the opinions (e.g. through media and other manipulation).

    A key overall point in the book is that morality is generally emotional/intuitive while the explanations are mostly rationalizations. It is only sensible that emotions/intuition would evolve to favor self interest. But I don’t think evolution has had time to act to deal with the presence of mass media/education/etc. actively instilling beliefs which I think are harmful (or just plain incorrect).

    What I find strange is how much of liberal behavior appears to be actually counter to their self interest (at least as I perceive it). An example would be non-criminal New Yorkers who advocate permissive treatment of crime in their city.

    Team membership and the dynamics of signalling also explain a great deal.

Comments are closed.

Subscribe to All Steve Sailer Comments via RSS
PastClassics
Are elite university admissions based on meritocracy and diversity as claimed?
The sources of America’s immigration problems—and a possible solution
What Was John McCain's True Wartime Record in Vietnam?
Hundreds of POWs may have been left to die in Vietnam, abandoned by their government—and our media.