Wonky Thoughts: The Scientific Method, Redefined

The process of objective reasoning is essential not only to science, but to most other aspects of civilization, including government, law, economics, journalism, education and medicine.

The premise is that objective truth exists, and that it is accessible by everyone. The scientific method is the process by which we analyze the world around us to illuminate objective truth for ourselves and others.

Explanations matter. Equations without explanations are empty, and their predictions limited.

A good explanation:

  • Must define a process which changes some aspect of reality.
  • The process must be observed in action.
  • The process must be measured and quantified.
  • The explanation must reconcile theory and observation.
  • The work must meet the standards of objectivity listed above as ancillary elements of the scientific method.
  • The explanation must be verified through successful prediction of experimental results or observations of real-world changes.
  • The explanation will often explain other phenomena in areas unrelated to the initial inquiry.

Source: Wonky Thoughts: The Scientific Method, Redefined

Quit Social Media. Your Career May Depend on It. – NYTimes.com

Our increasing addiction to the constant stimulus of updates, likes and posts is damaging our ability to concentrate deeply and focus on work that matters.

In a capitalist economy, the market rewards things that are rare and valuable. Social media use is decidedly not rare or valuable.

Professional success is hard, but it’s not complicated. The foundation to achievement and fulfillment, almost without exception, requires that you hone a useful craft and then apply it to things that people care about.

the ability to concentrate without distraction on hard tasks is becoming increasingly valuable in an increasingly complicated economy. Social media weakens this skill because it’s engineered to be addictive.

The idea of purposefully introducing into my life a service designed to fragment my attention is as scary to me as the idea of smoking would be to an endurance athlete, and it should be to you if you’re serious about creating things that matter.

A dedication to cultivating your social media brand is a fundamentally passive approach to professional advancement. It diverts your time and attention away from producing work that matters and toward convincing the world that you matter.

Source: Quit Social Media. Your Career May Depend on It. – NYTimes.com

A Powerful Russian Weapon: The Spread of False Stories – The New York Times

Using both conventional media and covert channels, the Kremlin relies on disinformation to create doubt, fear and discord in Europe and the United States.

Moscow’s targeting of the West with disinformation dates to a Cold War program the Soviets called “active measures.” … the ideological component has evaporated, but the goal of weakening adversaries remains.

Source: A Powerful Russian Weapon: The Spread of False Stories – The New York Times

Are GMOs safe? Yes. The case against them is full of fraud, lies, and errors.

The war against genetically modified organisms is full of fearmongering, errors, and fraud. Labeling them will not make you safer.

Here’s what I’ve learned. First, it’s true that the issue is complicated. But the deeper you dig, the more fraud you find in the case against GMOs. It’s full of errors, fallacies, misconceptions, misrepresentations, and lies. The people who tell you that Monsanto is hiding the truth are themselves hiding evidence that their own allegations about GMOs are false. They’re counting on you to feel overwhelmed by the science and to accept, as a gut presumption, their message of distrust.

there are valid concerns about some aspects of GE agriculture, such as herbicides, monocultures, and patents. But none of these concerns is fundamentally about genetic engineering

it makes no sense to avoid GMOs based on standards that nobody applies to non-GMO food

By making cropland more productive, with less output lost to weeds and insects, GMOs reduce the amount of land that has to be farmed and the amount of water that’s wasted.

Pesticide vs. pesticide, technology vs. technology, risk vs. risk—it’s all relative. The best you can do is measure each practice against the alternatives.

Source: Are GMOs safe? Yes. The case against them is full of fraud, lies, and errors.

Why Mathematicians Are Hoarding This Special Type of Japanese Chalk

This spring, an 80-year-old Japanese chalk company went out of business. Nobody, perhaps, was as sad to see the company go as mathematicians who had become obsessed with Hagoromo Fulltouch Chalk, the so-called “Rolls Royce of chalk.”

With whiteboards and now computers taking over classrooms, the company’s demise seemed to mark the end of an era.

This isn’t just a story about a dead chalk company—it’s the story of a dead medium, the chalkboard, now being superseded by whiteboards and tablets. But it’s not hard to see chalk having old-fashioned appeal, much like vinyl records and mason jars.

Source: Why Mathematicians Are Hoarding This Special Type of Japanese Chalk

Guy Trading at Home Caused the Flash Crash – Bloomberg View

The futures exchange wrote to Sarao on the day of the flash crash, telling him to stop spoofing, and he called them back “and told em to kiss my ass.” And then regulators pondered that reply for five years before deciding that they’d prefer to have him arrested in London and extradited to face criminal spoofing charges.

But the FBI’s and CFTC’s theory here is far more troubling: It suggests that existing algorithms are not just dumb enough to give spoofers some of their money, but dumb enough to give spoofers so much of their money that they destabilize the financial markets. It’s not especially confidence-inspiring to read that a guy with a spreadsheet can trick everyone into thinking that the market is crashing, and thereby cause the market to crash.

Source: Guy Trading at Home Caused the Flash Crash – Bloomberg View

What Blogging Has Become – The Atlantic

Medium’s new features go straight for the heart of the Facebook-friendly web.

Each of Medium’s new features seem small individually, and the tech press is treating them like a minor product update. … Taken collectively, these features completely alter the feel of the site. Medium feels more like a social network than it ever has before.

But you can only flirt with being a platform for so long before you just become one. The description of Medium that’s most stuck with me is from Josh Benton again, this time on Twitter: Medium is now “YouTube for prose,” he said. In other words, it’s a platform. And I think with these product changes, it’s embracing that.

Source: What Blogging Has Become – The Atlantic