Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Summer Solstice and Science Literacy


From time to time my colleagues and I discuss the basic requirements of science literacy. We envisage a group of intelligent people at a party discussing various topics. Let's restrict our discussion to Western European culture.

Everyone agrees that they should be familiar with the basic outlines of history (e.g. who did Paul Revere warn in 1775?) and politics (what's the difference between socialism and capitalism?). Everyone agrees that you would look like an idiot if you didn't know who Will Shakespeare was and what Hamlet said. Everyone agrees that you can't call yourself an intellectual if you don't know the difference between French Impressionists and Michelangelo. You're expected to know something about Socrates and Aristotle. You're expected to know at least a few foreign words and knowledge of a foreign language is almost a requirement.

You should know something about food even if it's only the difference between couche couche and curry. Any "intellectual" should be able to discourse for five minutes on a favorite wine. You get the picture—there are some things that you just have to know if you claim to be literate.

What about science? Are there any things in science that you just have to know if you want to be taken seriously as an informed literate person?

No, there aren't. We've all experienced the situation I describe where a group of non-scientists at a party or bar are showing off their knowledge. Knowledge of science and math is not a requirement. In fact, you get points if you brag about always being too stupid to understand mathematics and dropping it as soon as you could in high school, especially if you're a woman.

Are there scientific facts and concepts that you really should be expected to know if you claim to be literate? Yes there are, and it's up to us to make sure they are widely publicized.

Today's your chance to publicize one of those facts. The summer solstice happens two hours from now no matter where you are on the planet. Ask your non-science friends to explain the summer solstice (Northern Hemisphere). It's one of those simple science things that everyone should know about. Not being able to explain it is like not knowing that Libya is in Africa, Napoleon lost the battle of Waterloo, Charles Dickens wrote Oliver Twist, and Frank Lloyd Wright was an architect.

Can you explain the solstice? If so, you are on the way to scientific literacy. What are some other must-know scientific facts and concepts? Evolution is one. If you don't understand the basic concepts of evolution then you can't clam to be scientifically literate. My point is that I'd like to live in a world where you can't claim to be literate, period, if you aren't scientifically literate.


[Image credit: Wikipedia]

44 comments :

  1. Latitudinally ChallengedTuesday, June 21, 2011 12:53:00 PM

    "The summer solstice happens two hours from now no matter where you are on the planet."

    Technically that is true, but the social significance of this event does depend on where you are on the planet.

    Where I live, this solstice gives us a whopping six more minutes of sunshine than that other solstice.

    So solstices tend to pass without notice here.

    Which might mean that knowledge about the summer solstice is not a universal gauge of scientific literacy.

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  2. Well...[gulp]... I guess I could yammer for 5 minutes about a cheap Shiraz, but boy, I sure hope the "food and drink" category doesn't emphasize wine. Beer, on the other hand...

    Great point though, and I agree.

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  3. I too would like to live in a world where scientific literacy was considered an essential component of overall literacy. However, I don't think being able to properly define the solstices is all that important. On this topic, I'd say scientific literacy would include understanding that the earth rotates on its axis and revolves around the sun, that the axis is tilted with respect to the plane of revolution, that this tilt is what mainly defines our seasons, and that summer generally coincides with the period where the axis tilts towards the sun (versus tilting away during winter).

    I completely agree that understanding the basic concepts of evolution is should be considered essential to literacy - scientific or otherwise. Even evolution deniers should at least understand what they're denying.

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  4. I'll give it a shot, I'll be explaining it to my 7 year old, as I try to do at each solstice and equinox, so I might as well start here.

    The earth tilts in its orbit around the sun. That tilt means one half of the earth faces the sun more fully than the other most of the year. Today is the day that the Northern Hemisphere is most fully facing the sun. Because of this that hemisphere sees its longest day and the sun at its highest location in the sky.

    The Southern Hemisphere gets just the opposite today--it's their winter solstice. In six months the solstices will occur again, but switch hemispheres.

    How's that?

    **I usually have trouble with blogger, I hope this isn't a duplicate. Sorry, but Blogger's a pain.

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  5. Of course I can explain the solstice, but I am cheating, I have read one too many books on history of science, and most involve the astronomy issue. Also lots of books by Carl Sagan. The merit is all his.

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  6. Science Literacy vs. Literacy!

    WHOM did Paul Revere warn in 1775?

    Sorry, couldn't resist.

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  7. There's not that huge a list I can think of. Evolution is defiantly in there. I think that being science literate is primarily about being familiar with the scientific process and the ability to think critically - more a way of thinking. Secondarily I think everything else like Evolution.

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  8. anonymous says,

    Science Literacy vs. Literacy!

    WHOM did Paul Revere warn in 1775?

    Sorry, couldn't resist.


    You should have resisted. I would never, under any circumstances, say "Whom did Paul Revere warn." That's just silly even though fifty years ago it may have been considered the only grammatically correct way to speak (see: who/whom; who (pronoun)).

    You'll be pleased to know that in the latest edition of my textbook we use the word "data" as a singular collective noun as in, "The data shows that ..."

    I bet you don't like that either. Get over it.

    Now if you want to talk about abusing "myself," that's a different story! :-)

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  9. You'll be pleased to know that in the latest edition of my textbook we use the word "data" as a singular collective noun as in, "The data shows that ..."

    I don't know about anonymous, but I am certainly pleased.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I would think you of all people would be pleased to utilize the lexical "junk-DNA" buried all throughout the English language, Dr. Moran.

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  11. Easy-Peasy:

    I learned recently from the television machine that Paul Revere warned the British that the Americans would cling to their guns because the 2nd amendment said they could, [notwithstanding that the Constitution hadn't yet been written, let alone the Bill of Rights]. Of course, in Grade 6, I learned that he warned the colonists that the British were coming, but I got that from Johnny Tremaine, which is fiction.

    Socialism is government-funded universal health care. Capitalism is the largest government-funded military-industrial complex the world has ever seen, and an appalling number of personal bankruptcies due to medical expenses that aren't government-funded.

    Will Shakespeare was Edward de Vere's front man, because the Earl of Oxford was too embarrassed to take credit for writing the greatest works of literature in the English language (so far).

    Hamlet said a lot of things: the whole play is nothing but a lot of famous sayings strung together.

    The French Impressionists were french and impressionistic; Michelangelo was Italian and not.

    As a Canadian, of course I know a few foreign words: "Je ne pas parler Francais. Parlez vous Anglais?" Guess I'm not an intellectual.

    As for food, curry is for dinner. I don't like couche couche, but I like cush cush for breakfast.

    As for talking about wine for five minutes, I simply recite Monty Python's discourse on Australian Table Wines.

    But seriously, as to science, Newton's laws of motion are useful to know for anyone driving a car, or riding a bike or motorcycle.

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  12. It's unfortunate that most North Americans could not figure out how to mix water and antifreeze to get a 45% coolant mixture and other such simple and quite useful tasks. Science literacy is behind the eight ball given this situation. I agree that it should be a social requirement of anyone who thinks themselves intelligent. You'll have to start with children and wait 20 years for them to show up at dinner parties.

    We need a nice wealthy atheist to organize a pageant for intelligence rather than one for how good you look in a swimsuit.

    We need to value such knowledge now and make it seem as important as it is. Ever see cash cab? There is a fairly good motivation for knowing science knowledge. There are others I think. Perhaps get some big companies to start making science literacy a part of their hiring process. Problem solving is an important part of how you work. Science is an important part of solving a lot of problems. Perhaps get the Jackass crew to do some science 'conjunction junction' etc. Force famous people who break the law to do PSA's about science?

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  13. Paul Revere warned the British (as well as the colonists).

    I assume this is a reference to Sarah Palin.
    She was actually correct.

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  14. Should people know that there are 57 states as Obama stated?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EpGH02DtIws

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  15. Kinda crazy that only one person in the comments bothered to define the summer solstice.

    The earth's axis is tilted. On the northern hemisphere's Summer Solstice, the Sun is directly overhead at noon at the Tropic of Cancer. For locations north of the Tropic, the sun reaches its highest point in the sky that day and we get the longest 'daytime'.

    On the southern hemisphere's Summer Solstice, the sun is directly overhead at noon on the Tropic of Capricorn. South of the Tropic the sun also reaches its zenith.

    Northern Winter solstice corresponds to Southern Summer Solstice.

    The tilt of the axis is what is responsible for Earth having seasons. The seasons basically 'follow' the sun (even though of course the sun isn't moving around). During the months when the Sun's rays are intensely "overhead" near the Tropic of Cancer, its Northern Summer. If they're intense and 'overhead' in the Northern Hemisphere, then they're diffuse and dim in the Southern Hemisphere, so its their Winter.

    I also like the names of these hemisphere, Boreal and Austral for Northern and Southern, so we have Boreal Summer and at the same time Austral Winter.


    Further, the Tropics change over time, they are determined by the tilt of the Earth's axis, which wobbles between 22-24 degrees. Its currently at around 23 degrees, pointing to a star called 'Polaris', which for us is the 'north star'. When the axis changes, it points to other stars, and infact it does this in a regular cycle, so sometimes Polaris is the North Star, other times its Vega, sometimes near Draco if I recall correctly.

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  16. We've all experienced the situation I describe where a group of non-scientists at a party or bar are showing off their knowledge. Knowledge of science and math is not a requirement. In fact, you get points if you brag about always being too stupid to understand mathematics and dropping it as soon as you could in high school, especially if you're a woman.

    I have never seen this happen and I have never heard an anecdote from any individual of this happening to them, though I have been told many times that it's happened to everybody (or every scientist, or every academic, or every scholar, or every person who considers themselves well educated), as a generalization; I've never heard a detailed, specific story of such a thing happening. I'm pretty sure it dates back to an essay by somebody named Snow, though beyond that I'm unclear of how this myth got going.

    The divide I've seen isn't between scientists and non-scientist academics (scholars of the humanities is how they might describe themselves), it's between people who enjoyed / are still enjoying their education and people who hated school and think academics are arrogant blowhards without knowledge of "the real world". That second group of people are the ones who complain about government grant money going to fund studies they cannot see the value of, and who are likely to talk endlessly about "my tax dollars" and related topics. It's not between people with different views of what it means to be literate, it's between literate people and people who think literacy is for chumps.

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  17. Should people know that there are 57 states as Obama stated?
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EpGH02DtIws

    Presumably Moran has disdain for Obama who was howlingly wrong.
    Listen to the video.
    Obama thinks he has actually visited 57 states!
    "One left to go".
    Obama is not only wrong - he is delusional.

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  18. Logical Literacy:

    Can you find the difference between

    1. Saying "57 states", when you meant to say "47 states".

    vs.

    2. Saying that Paul Revere was warning the British that.... the British were coming. And then when repeatedly asked about your quote, you steadfastly refuse to admit you were wrong, and submit that yes, in fact, Paul Revere wished to warn the British about America's gun ownership resolve.

    Extra credit if you can utilize "whom" in your answer.

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  19. @TheBrummell

    I've heard this before. As an undergrad at the UofT, I'd have the occasion to hang with philosophy majors, and every once in a while they'd express their disdain for mathematics and science.

    If people said something like that at Caltech, they'd get some strange looks.

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  20. Science literacy starts IMHO by someone NOT expressing percentages of 13 votes (see the blog owners'"statistics" on left wing margin, item in the bottom). Elementary school stuff. Get help soon from your daughter who already calls you "stupid" (in just a few years, accept criticism from your - cute toddler - granddaughter). Maybe they can help to teach how to round numbers, since presently none of your polls add up to 100%. Sad for you. Dare to libel - sad for Canadian scientists. In the US, lawsuits for your libel and negligence would wipe you out in in no time.

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  21. I find it interesting that with the exception of scientific literacy, many of the examples of "basic literacy" given in the main article have very strong cultural biases. For example, Paul Revere and his 'famous' ride have no real historical significance unless you happen to be American (or possibly British) and being able to wax eloquently about one's favourite wine is of zero relevance to someone who does not drink alcohol. In contrast, with even a modest level of care, one can come up with a respectable list of culturally neutral 'litmus tests' for science literacy.

    It is almost as if literacy comes in two flavours - culture-specific (e.g. historical literacy) and culture-agnostic (e.g. scientific literacy).

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  22. The solstice is easy. More fun is explaining why the evenings carry on getting lighter for a couple of weeks past it (likewise the mornings continue to get darker after 21st December). Unfortunately, I explain this to my friends, they roll their eyes. 22 men booting a ball round a field, sadly that's the motion that really ignites a conversation. I screw up my detailed diagrams and leave 'em to it!

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  23. Science literacy is probably the most important sort of literacy all students need to have a handle on if we are to survive this century.

    Literacy as it it is usually defined refers to language and language skills and often takes in literature and history as well. All well and good. Literacy in those terms are more than covered during primary, secondary and tertiary education.

    But science literacy is needed as a core subject necessary for qualification to move ahead in education. It is the sort of literacy that needs to be present through all education curricula from toddlers to PhD grads.

    Core subjects need to be science literacy, logic and critical thinking and ethics.

    Surely that's not too much to want for a fully rounded education?

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  24. Danny says,

    It is almost as if literacy comes in two flavours - culture-specific (e.g. historical literacy) and culture-agnostic (e.g. scientific literacy).

    Excellent point!

    I may steal it in my next posting on this subject. (Note to irony deficient idiots, this is not to be taken literally.)

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  25. Pellionsz says,

    Get help soon from your daughter who already calls you "stupid" (in just a few years, accept criticism from your - cute toddler - granddaughter). Maybe they can help to teach how to round numbers, since presently none of your polls add up to 100%. Sad for you.

    Thanks for reminding me of some important characteristics of kooks and idiots.

    1. They tend to be extremely irony deficient.

    2. They tend to be both scientifically illiterate AND mathematically illiterate.

    One of the most common tests of mathematical illiteracy involves the rounding up of percentages. If you are mathematically illiterate then it seems incomprehensible that those percentages may add up to more than 100% or less than 100%.

    What continues to astonish me is that some of the mathematically illiterate will proudly advertise their stupidity in public fora. It never seems to occur to them that they might be wrong and the rest of the world (in this case, Google) might be right.



    ReplyDelete
  26. Pellionisz says,

    Dare to libel - sad for Canadian scientists. In the US, lawsuits for your libel and negligence would wipe you out in in no time.

    Damn! I forgot one of the other characteristics of kooks.

    ReplyDelete
  27. I wonder why so many people buy into this "intellectual literacy" concept. So much of it is but the brocade and laces ostentatiously displayed to out-flourish the upper estates (Ancien Regime).

    I was blessed with attending a catholic gymnasium (German college) emphasizing humanities, where we learnt Latin and old Greek - church attendance was mandatory. Lovely. We could have learnt English and Spanish.

    I don't know scratch about wines. This Paul Revere guy I remembered only after looking him up, and only because he was in an article about the minute men from civilization (computer game series).

    Solistice? Draw parallel circles (latitudes) around a sphere (earth), tilt the sphere (by .41 tau) and draw another circle (around the center). That's the sun's path. Where it's closest to a pole (circle = point) is a solistice.

    What is tau you ask? Watch this and be amazed:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jG7vhMMXagQ

    Or be even smarter and read the paper: http://tauday.com/

    ReplyDelete
  28. Latitudinally ChallengedThursday, June 23, 2011 11:52:00 AM

    "I find it interesting that with the exception of scientific literacy, many of the examples of "basic literacy" given in the main article have very strong cultural biases."

    What Danny said...

    Though I should add that Larry's choice of tests for scientific literacy are also culture-specific.

    Not everyone places solstices and evolutions on such a high pedestal. If I get to pick, explaining how light bends and how airplanes fly should be basic knowledge for the literate.

    And one should not claim as an intellectual if one is unable to explain eight-to-fourteen modulation to a grade school kid.

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  29. Pellionisz wrote:

    Science literacy starts IMHO by someone NOT expressing percentages of 13 votes (see the blog owners'"statistics" on left wing margin, item in the bottom).

    Since Dr. Moran didn't answer this part, I think it would be useful to add some remarks. Among other features, blogspot pages have a built-in poll functionality: there is a counter for opinions which sums them up and expresses the occurrence frequencies in terms of percents. The fractional values (multiplied with 100 for making happy most scientifically challenged people who can't simply stand numbers such as 0.577... and have a basical need to see a % following a value somewhere) are automatically computed and rounded to the lower integer (not to the nearest integer value, as we do in science, so the mentioned example number will be displayed as 57%, not as 58%): if you are unhappy with that, you should complain with the programmers who built the blog software and certainly you should not incriminate Dr. Moran for using this feature. If you really want to criticize him, it would be for a mess in the grad student poll (I suppose multiple answers were possible in this poll, explaining why the number of expressed votes is 7 while the total number of selected options is 12, thus the anyway low-relevance fractional values cannot sum up to 100%). The way you have chosen to attack him is not typical for an informed objective observer but for a personal subjective ennemy.

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  30. And one should not claim as an intellectual if one is unable to explain eight-to-fourteen modulation to a grade school kid.

    What's a grade school kid?

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  31. Larry Moran Junked in Math

    M. Dionis, you are right that Moran didn’t answer my criticism that “Science literacy starts IMHO by someone NOT expressing percentages of 13 votes (see the blog owners'"statistics" on left wing margin, item in the bottom).”

    Moran's failure in elementary school math is indefensible for a number of reasons. Maybe this is why when fudging an answer he resorted to his usual name-calling that demonstrably applies actually to Larry Moran himself: “What continues to astonish me is that some of the mathematically illiterate will proudly advertise their stupidity in public flora”. Moran is on record with his admission that his daughter calls him rather “stupid” when it comes to abstract sciences – math is the King! - apparently he proudly advertises his lack of virtues not only publicly, but also within his family.

    Scientific literacy includes the critical use of basic tools (such as a calculator) in a more intelligent fashion than a monkey would do. For your argument’s sake, let me pretend that I accept your defense of the name-caller, that Moran’s elementary school “statistics” litter his pseudo-scientific site because “blogspot pages have a built-in poll functionality: there is a counter for opinions which sums them up and expresses the occurrence frequencies in terms of percents”. … which are “automatically computed and rounded to the lower integer (not to the nearest integer value, as we do in science, so the mentioned example number will be displayed as 57%, not as 58%)”.

    Moran should have abstained from the use of a glaringly defective tool that does not do “as we do in science”!

    Further, Moran alluded to “rounding” when e.g. one of his “statistics” (“drawn” from a sample of a mere 7 votes!) yields a grand total of more than 100% (in the graduate student question 169%) of answers. It is impossible to accept the “Dionis excuse” that it was a “multiple choice question”, since it asked “What’s the BEST way to describe a graduate student”. If Moran asks such “multiple choice question” asking “what’s the BEST way” and accepts more than one box checked, students would be perfectly justified to rate him very low as a teacher.

    Worse of all, in addition to using a defective tool, Moran apparently has no concept of the relationship of a sample from a population, in order for the “percentages” to be statistically significant. In my mentioned example he “draws statistics” from a mere 13 votes, in an issue where all his readers could have provided an answer (e.g. by checking on “Don’t know. Don’t care”). For a sampling of less than a hundred, “percentages” are known to be grossly distorted, and the scientifically literate abstain – give just the received number, instead. His “sample” of 625 votes for “Junk DNA” is also deemed too small (the population to be addressed amounts to many tens of thousands) – even if his sample were “random”. However, not only it was too small, but it was also a definitely biased sample, since (according to his own statistics!) his readership has a very marked (non-random) profile.

    Though I maintain that “Junk DNA” is not a matter of ideologies, certainly not a matter of Moran’s “Junk Polls”, but a matter of science; based on what principle does the whatever percentage regulate recursive genome function, I am glad that we can forget Moran’s trashed math and take instead of his Junk Polls a much-much larger sample, and much more importantly, providing a novel set of axioms from my Google Tech Talk YouTube with currently 11,222 views.

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  32. Latitudinally ChallengedFriday, June 24, 2011 5:06:00 AM

    "What's a grade school kid?"

    Ё моё, I meant to say a Homo sapien attending primary/elementary institutes of education of around eight to twelve years of age, measured after birth.

    I cannot believe I used culture-centric USAmericanese in my attempt to communicate, 恥ずかしい! Tis like the proverbial "own goal" in our local game of "football", which is much like your soccer but without the "assoc." and with a greater chance of ale induced curry consumption.

    To make amends for my bigotry I shall flail myself with an oarfish - made from genuine polyurethane rubber, as tradition dictates.

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  33. Pellionisz posted a huge rant about math and a sample of seven that adds to eleven (or so),

    Pellionisz, I think you are too stupidly bent into this poll as if Larry really went publishing something out of that.

    1. Who cares.
    2. It was obviously kinda a humorous poll
    3. If it adds to eleven, it obviously means that the people could chose more than one answer, so what?
    4. That there are percentages displayed does not mean that anybody derived anything close to "statistics." Percents are far from being stats (I have to use lots of stats in my work, and I don't think that neither me, nor my colleagues would dare to call percents "stats").
    5. For the polls on junk DNA, those did not get into any stats either.
    6. Larry did not publish that into a journal.
    7. He did not refer to any of those polls as statistically significant, but reflecting his readership/visitors, and then said if they reflected his experience.
    8. Fuck off.

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  34. As long as Larry Moran litters the web with ad hominem libel, unfortunately an adequate stream of replies must be maintaned, making it obvious to all readers, that tensor geometry of neuroscience and fractal geometry of the recursive genome function are light years away from crass name-callers who are so incompetent in math that can’t even round numbers. If Larry Moran thinks that libel is a joke, should amend it to self-disqualify his name from the ranks of bona fide scientists and stop pontificating on the same libelous site e.g. what “science literacy” is. Some of us are serious about those hundreds of millions who die of genome misregulation. Genomics is Informatics where new axioms are overdue by half a Century. If Larry Moran is incompetent in math, it is fine (not everybody has to have degrees in abstract sciences) but it would be appropriate for him to stop badmouthing those who are in a hurry to make up for half a Century lost due to false axioms.

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  35. Pellionisz,

    Could you be more obvious about your desperation for attention and recognition please? Also, I don't see how calling Larry a math illiterate helps your case. You want scientists attention, work the science and stop trolling on useless discussions about misapplied math where it does not correspond. Your comments and your links to your "scientific proposals" have no relationship whatsoever. Your accusations of "libel" are also misplaced and useless to your apparent cause, which, in those links, seems to be a cause for some kind of new way of thinking about some problems as opposed to some other kind of thinking, where I detect a veiled straw-man you seem to be fighting against, which also deters from your point if you have any. The ad hominem is all yours. Giving you some well-deserved insults is not ad hominem, nor is it libel (you have no idea what a dictionary is, do you?). Also, I am not Larry. If you have something to tell me do so, and address me directly. Stop acting as if you had some kind of moral superiority. Stop acting as if you had some kind of intellectual superiority. Your failure at connecting your comments here with your supposedly new ways of "scientific" thinking show your intellect at its right level. I can't but expect that your "ideas" over there must be as much plagued with stupidity. In summary, stop being such a jack ass.

    (See? Not ad hominem, I don't insult you instead of, but besides addressing your stupidity. Even better, the insult is but a logical conclusion of the analysis of both your comments and those links. Grow up and accept the consequences of your actions.)

    ReplyDelete
  36. NOTICE

    Larry Moran, owner of this Internet-site is henceforth on Public Notice to Remove any/all his publications calculated to injure the reputation of Andras Pellionisz and Cease and Desist exposing him to libelous general damages and defamation.


    ----

    http://www.cyberlibel.com/libel.html

    What is the definition of libel?

    The classic definition is:
    "a publication without justification or lawful excuse which is calculated to injure the reputation of another by exposing him to hatred, contempt or ridicule."
    (Parke, B. in Parmiter v. Coupland (1840) GM&W 105 at 108)

    http://www.libelandprivacy.com/cyberlibel_home.html

    Cyber Libel and Canadian Courts
    Canadian Internet Defamation Rulings

    Cases published to May 16, 2011
    http://www.cyberlibel.com/damage.html

    INTERNATIONAL BAR ASSOCIATION
    Damage Awards for Libel in Canada
    Hill there upon commenced an action for damages and libel against Manning and the Church. Both Manning and the Church of Scientology were found jointly for general damages in the amount of $300,000 and Scientology alone was found libel for aggravated damages of $500,000 and punitive damages of $800,000. This decision was affirmed by the Ontario Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Canada.

    1. The Supreme Court of Canada held that unlike in personal injury cases, a "cap" should not be placed on general damages and defamation cases

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  37. Pellionisz wrote:

    Moran's failure in elementary school math is indefensible [...]

    Were it an elementary school math failure, nobody could "defend" it. But it simply isn't.
    You claim loud: "Science literacy starts IMHO by someone NOT expressing percentages of 13 votes [...]"; the phrase is not exposing the facts correctly; it suggests that Dr. Moran made himself all the computations and choosed to express the results in percents. Actually:
    1. the computations (and subsequent not-so-scientific rounding up to lower integers) were automatically performed by the computer hosting the blog software and data;
    2. he had no choice concerning the default output: the blog software poll feature automatically reports fractional frequencies as percents; you insert one vote in the poll, the chosen option will be displayed as 100%, end of story.

    So it's not OK to build criticism starting from a screwed assumption.
    You are lamenting: "Moran should have abstained from the use of a glaringly defective tool [...]", but even this claim sounds ridiculous because:
    1. a blog poll is neither a scientific inquiry nor its results are to be used in scientific papers. A blog poll is a simple tool made for fun and any blogger is fully entitled to freely use this tool for its basical fun purpose without asking for yours, mine or someone else's permission.
    2. AFAIK, Dr. Moran never claimed that these blog polls bear statistical relevance neither he sustained that these results are to be considered as scientifical data of any kind.
    3. the rounded results are in a decent neighborhood of the "true" values so they can be taken "as is", as any normal-minded person should figure out.

    Now I see you are still getting on with labeling Dr. Moran "incompetent in math that can’t even round numbers" even it should have been crystal clear by now that he didn't do anything of that. You are building a case on a repeated proven nonsense: this is not the approach of a decent scientist.

    Further, Moran alluded to “rounding” when e.g. one of his “statistics” (“drawn” from a sample of a mere 7 votes!) yields a grand total of more than 100% (in the graduate student question 169%) of answers. [...] If Moran asks such “multiple choice question” asking “what’s the BEST way” and accepts more than one box checked, students would be perfectly justified to rate him very low as a teacher.

    Dr. Moran replied to your observation "none of your polls add up to 100%".
    You didn't specifically pointed out that question, I did it first, after he answered you (while he was obviously referring to the bulk of his polls which add up to 9x% since all decimal parts are discarded by automatic rounding process).
    I did not provide an excuse, but a straightforward explanation: since there were 7 voters and 12 options selected, the poll was a multiple choice one. Why Dr. Moran choose a multiple choice poll for this question?!
    1. if non-intentional, the most probable explanation is that he made a distraction mistake in completing the form. He might be criticized for not correcting the error, but for a fun poll that doesn't count.
    2. if intentional, one can easily understand the multiple choice for ex-aequo "best ways": the (former) students had the freedom to choose whether they single out one of the proposals or they rank two of these on the same level.

    Have I had a teacher like you who don't look for alternative explanations and pick up as ultimate truth the less likely explanation (because it fits your "ad hominem" discourse), I would have rated you very low indeed.

    [...] should amend it to self-disqualify his name from the ranks of bona fide scientists and stop pontificating on the same libelous site e.g. what “science literacy”

    So you would label yourself a fully qualified bona fide scientist? A person who casts labels based on proven false assumptions and ignores alternative explanations?!

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  38. Pellionisz says,

    Larry Moran, owner of this Internet-site is henceforth on Public Notice to Remove any/all his publications calculated to injure the reputation of Andras Pellionisz and Cease and Desist exposing him to libelous general damages and defamation.

    Could you be a bit more specific? Is it the postings where I discuss whether you are a kook [Is Andras Pellionisz a Kook?] that injures your reputation the most? Or is the ones where I make fun of your ridiculous arguments against junk DNA and the Central Dogma of Molecular Biology [Junk DNA Is "Dead as a doornail"]?

    I presume you want me to keep all the comments you've posted on this blog, especially the ones where you insult me and attack my family, right?

    I'm quite fond of this one ...

    Morons who make a virtue out of ignorance may inadvertently play useful roles. When filing for IP protection, a necessary condition is to document the non-obviousness of an invention. Even an obscure "Canadian professor" comes in very handy with his wow of disbelief - the more visibility he cranks up, the better. Nobody will ask about his scientific accomplishments, if any. Suffices for non-obviousness that a country still pays him a tenured salary by their taxpayers. Neglecting to keep up with the advancement of science (see below), of course, may help explain why the Canadian system is so close to pulling the plug on them.

    But this one ranks a close second ....

    A year ago someone professed: “Most of the genome is still junk”. It was “Lonely Moron” (this a riposte to a crass name-caller from Canada, with hubris to resort to an attempt to dismiss a University student because of belief system).

    I am parsimonious with my time on L.M. since his (scientist) daughter declared her father as “stupid” – she probably learnt it the hard way. I take her word (quoted by her father) as she had plenty of experience.


    Good luck with your lawsuit.

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  39. .......anyway. Getting back to science literacy.

    Anyone notice that there are plenty of science classes that are also 'writing intensive', wherein a person learns what is supposed to be taught in English/Literature classes, but that there's, to my knowledge, no such thing as a 'Science Intensive' Literature class?

    Some people, I've noticed, get pretty hot under the collar about this, I think its a little bit annoying but not a 'huge terrible error', just curious to see what others here think about this.

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  40. Pellionisz,

    If you come to a blog like this and put links to your stuff, you can't complain for any criticism you earn. At the same time, given the "substance," and the tone of your comments I can't think of your claim for "libel" as anything but ironic. Any "loss of reputation" would be self-inflicted, and clearly so.

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  41. "Tide goes in, tide goes out. You can't explain that."

    And how much does Bill O'Reilly make...?

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  42. Latitudinally Challenged said...

    "...I meant to say a Homo sapien attending..."

    Speaking of scientific literacy, can we get this one simple thing right? Homo sapiens is the name of our species. The fact that it ends in 's' has exactly nothing to do with singular or plural. Whether you are talking about one human or many, the species name remains the same.

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  43. To Moran,

    RE: Pellionisz

    Pellionisz explained the function of the cerebellum using tensor geometry (combining mathematics and biology). He was one of the first scientists who modeled the brain with computers. His colleagues such as Janos Szentagotai (Neurobiology) and his friend Edward Teller (Physicist) were well known giants in science.
    Pellionisz’ extraordinary intellect is evident; he holds PhD’s in 3 separate fields:
    (1) Biology,
    (2) Physics, and
    (3) Computer engineering.

    Moran, do you think that you can discredit this great man with your mediocre credentials???
    Pellionisz is a visionary with experience, intellect, and knowledge you can’t possible match.
    Knocking him; calling him a “kook” just makes you look like a bloody fool.

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  44. Anonymous may want to look up the fallacy of appeal to authority.

    X.

    ReplyDelete