Thursday, September 25, 2014

Are "science" fairs really about science?

Another year, another "Science" Fair. The winners of the Google Science Fair 2014 have just been announced. Congratulations to all the winners.

It's time for my regular tirade about the difference between science and technology. Look at the list of projects (below). Most of these studies would be carried out in Engineering Faculties or in Clinical Departments at hospitals. Most of them are better described as engineering or technology and not science.

I think there should be two categories at most "science" fairs: one should be "science" and the other should be "engineering and technology."

What's amazing about the list is the tiny number of projects that are actually investigating the basics of how the universe works (naturalism). There's only one project on astronomy and none on geology. There's a couple that may count as chemistry. I don't see any that are looking at basic concepts in biochemistry. Most of physics isn't represented. There's hardly any mention of evolution.

I do understand why students are interested in the applications of scientific knowledge but I fear that we are not spending enough time teaching about the value of fundamental research (basic science). Is there something we can do to change this?
  1. Efficient management and use of rain in the Tilacancha basin, Chachapoyas, Amazonas, Peru.
  2. FABRICATION AND CHARACTERIZATION OF CARBON NANOTUBE DOPED ORGANIC SOLAR CELLS
  3. The Synthesis of Oleic Acid Core Silica Nanoparticles for the Safe Delivery of Enzymes
  4. Determining the ideal pendulum tuned mass damper length for optimal reduction of building earthquake resonance
  5. UTILISATION OF SOLAR ENERGY BY MAKING SOLAR WATER SPRINKLER
  6. Quantifying the Carbon Footprint of Academic Institutions to Address Systemic Inefficiencies
  7. Fruit Fly-Inspired Flying Robots
  8. "Krishak": Empowering farmers for better agriculture outcomes!
  9. Novel Artificial Neural Networks For 3D Chromosome Reconstruction Bias Correction
  10. Using Measures of Diversity and Disturbance to Assess Eelgrass Restoration Sites
  11. The ThereNIM: A Touchless Respiratory Monitor
  12. The Effect of Water Salinity on the Vitamin C in Radishes
  13. MASE – Selective Absorption Membrane
  14. Device for Associating Colors with Sounds
  15. Preparation of PS/PMMA Polymer Nanocomposites containing Ag Nanoparticles and their Physical Properties
  16. Stopping the Sahara: Building a Barrier against Desertification
  17. Developing Arginine as Inhibitor of alpha-synuclein aggregation- Innovative Therapy to Combat Parkinson's Disease
  18. Caloric Content of Zoo Animal Food
  19. The Effects Of Atmospheric Circulation On The Water Balance in Boulder, Colorado
  20. Effect of UV and Infrared light irradiated chitosan on Cu2+ and Ni2+ ions performance adsorption
  21. The SMART System - Stroke Management with Augmented Reality Technology
  22. Acidic pH determines if Cryptococcus neoformans can survive in the environment and within the host
  23. The great significance of small insects, or the impact of large earth bumblebees on tomato plants
  24. Effect of Amylase on Different Grains
  25. Development of TCO-less Dye Sensitized Solar cell: An approach to low cost solar cell
  26. DETECTION AND VISUALIZATION OF THE QUANTIZED BEHAVIOR OF RESISTANCE AND CONDUCTIVITY IN GOLD WIRE
  27. Ion Culture: Using Microbial Fuel Cells to Stimulate Plant Growth and Electricity with Kimchi
  28. Cleaning the world with sunscreen & pencils!
  29. Sustainable Electricity Generation and Water Purification
  30. Improving Power Plant Efficiency by Recovering Waste Heat
  31. The Olfactory Awakening
  32. Photo-realistic 3D rendering using Path tracing with dynamic recursion depth
  33. Study of children's fears.
  34. Converting Breath to Speech for the Disabled
  35. Smart Portable Interactive Whiteboard: A Novel HMI using 3D Vision, SVMs, and Kalman Filters
  36. A Novel Approach for the Rapid Detection of Food-Borne Pathogens Using Cell Imprinted Polymers
  37. Wheelchair Controlled by Eye Movements
  38. NOS ∞ [computer operating system)
  39. Wearable Sensors for Aging Society
  40. One Cent Test for Toxicity
  41. Rethink: Effectively Stopping Cyberbullying
  42. Can Learning Vocabulary Words Be Made More Efficient?
  43. Binaural Navigation for the Visually Impaired with a Smartphone
  44. Harvesting Energy From Human Interactions The Future of Renewable Energy
  45. Electricity Harvesting Footwear
  46. Virtual jogging - interactive network with Google Streetview
  47. Parking Pigeon: Application for Enhanced Localisation in Multi-Story Parking Lots
  48. A Method for the Mobile Study of Fracking Sites
  49. Predicting Alcohol Dependence Genetically
  50. Lowering costs for algae biofuel
  51. Computationally-Predicted Structure of Human DP Prostaglandin G-protein Coupled Receptor-Bound to Medications to Combat Cardiovascular Disease
  52. Using Machine Learning to Create an Efficient Irrigation Controller
  53. Ultrasonic burner
  54. An Intelligent Power Switching Device with an Energy-Saving Protocol
  55. A Real Time Map Based Approach to Emergency Management Systems
  56. Server to User Energy Infrastructure for Wireless Microwave Power Transmission
  57. Quiet Eye: A novel way to improve accuracy in badminton
  58. Construction of a light sensor to measure the light level in the surroundings and the section of the sky being observed in the telescope
  59. Dynamic Support Surface (Bed) for Effective Pressure Ulcer Prevention
  60. Sustainable Future for Endangered Species? Predicting the Impacts of Wilmar's Policy on Bornean Orangutan Populations
  61. The Correlation Between Highway Proximity and the Photosynthetic Rate of the Shinus terebinthifolius (Brazilian Pepper)
  62. Development of a cash-free cashier system
  63. Soil moisture sensor for plant watering
  64. KL_AS_YOL [painting asphalt roads with chlorophyll]
  65. An Enhanced Weather Forecast Model Based on Studies of Forecasted vs. Observed Weather
  66. Superconducting Levitation and Propulsion Control System
  67. A Modular House incorporating a MFC and a MEC to initiate efficient usage of resources
  68. Inzeolation! How zeolite and cellulose make a perfect combination for ecological, recyclable, multi-efficient thermal insulation?
  69. Predicting Cancer Drug Response Using Nuclear Norm Multi-Task Learning
  70. Somnolence Detection And Aiding System For Better Driving Conditions
  71. Effect of different organics on seed germination and growth of Indian economical seeds
  72. Correlation Analysis and Smartphone Terminals to Monitor and Analyze Geographic Relevance the of PM2.5
  73. The Accident Detection and Location System (ADLS)
  74. Identification of Gravitationally Lensed Quasars
  75. COMPLETE ORGANIC FARMING WITHOUT ANY MEDICINE OR HORMONE, WITH ONLY WASTE PROPOLIS
  76. A Simple Method for Simultaneous Wastewater Treatment and Chemical Recovery Using Temperature and Pressure Changes
  77. Kindling Cracker [an easy way to cut kindling]
  78. Detection of gamma hydroxybutyrate in acidic and sugary drinks
  79. Intellectual Device Capable of Diagnosing Cardiovascular Diseases
  80. Cleaning Up Oil Sands Waste
  81. Development of a Computer-Based Multi-Sensory System to Better Relay Pharmacotherapy Information
  82. Braille E-Book
  83. Enabling Situational Awareness: A Hat-Based Hands-Free Haptic Navigational Aid for the Visually Impaired
  84. The Charging Pan [harvesting heat waste from a kitchen stove]
  85. Natural Bacteria Combatting World Hunger {GRAND PRIZE WINNER!)
  86. Multidecadal Changes in Warm Season Convective Storms over the Northeastern United States
  87. Seeing Hands
  88. Frictionless Pedal Power Electromagnetic Induction Generator (for USB charging devices)
  89. Breaking the AGE Barrier! Inhibiting Advanced Glycation End-products to Combat Atherosclerosis, Cancer and Diabetic Disorders
  90. Common dandelion, as an indicator of geomedium well-being
  91. Analysis on the acute-toxicity of CeO2 nano particle
  92. Non-invasive Search for Optimal Cancer Treatment
  93. Two-hit Approach Blocking Alzheimer's β-amyloid Toxicity: Fibril Formation and Inhibition of newly characterized Oxygenase activity
  94. Vehicle for disabled people
  95. Novel Automated Next-Generation Multijunction Quantum Dot Solar Cell Designs Using Monte Carlo Modeling
  96. P.E.ACE (Portable.Evasive.AssistanCE)
  97. Haptic Feedback e-Reader for the Visually Impaired
  98. A Microbial Fuel Cell for the Eco-Friendly Processing of Acid Whey and Power Generation
  99. Jute-reinforced Polyester to Replace Steel Manhole Covers
  100. Remote controlled school presentation microscope
  101. Photovoltaic additive for paint and varnish
  102. Possibility of removing oil products from the water surface by means of magnetic fields
  103. A New Class of Pluripotent Stem Cell Cytotoxic Small Molecule
  104. Detergents in the lakes of Zainsk municipal area and their impact on the buoyancy of the aquatic birds
  105. Improving Raloxifene’s Affinity with ER-Beta Through Synergy with S-Equol as a Novel Chemopreventive Treatment
  106. Using the Soapnut, Spaindus Mukorossi, to prevent mosquito breeding
  107. Tomatricity - converged electricity
  108. Enhancing Solar Hydrogen Generation via Computer-Aided Development of Novel Metal Nanostructures
  109. Oil in the Soil
  110. BIOTECHNOLOGICAL METHOD DEVELOPMENT BASED ON AFFINITY MEMBRANE SYSTEM FOR ANTIBODY RECOGNITION
  111. Instant curd using Wrightia tinctoria plant latex as starter
  112. Technology of processing foliage, plastic bottles and waste paper into paper
  113. Advancing Cancer Research with an Integrated Repository and Search Engine for Gene Regulatory Networks
  114. Automated Lip-Reading Technique For Speech Disabilities By Converting Identified Visemes Into Direct Speech
  115. The effect of dormancy on poplar tree remediation of nitrates, phosphates, and fecal coliform

40 comments :

  1. Well, you can't really blame this one on the clueless general public. After all, it is the scientific community itself that every time that funding for research has to be defended in public does so by pointing how it leads to the development of cures and cool gadgets and how research spending is the best way to boost economic growth and improve the competitiveness of the nation. Is it any wonder then that the public misunderstands what the goals of science are?

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  2. I think the boundaries between basic science, applied science, and engineering is far more fluid than most people (even scientists) acknowledge. After all, *all* scientists turn into applied scientists and engineers when they write grant proposals. Nobody gets a grant for merely advancing naturalism -- you have to explain how your research impacts health, or would have economic consequences.

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    1. This might be true, but isn't that the core of the problem?

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    2. Only if you think usefulness of research is somehow "dirty". I don't, even though most of my work is pretty much basic science.

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    3. I never said that.

      I referred to the need to justify anything one wishes to study in practical terms as the problem -- there are many foundational areas of science that would be completely gutted if such criteria were to be always applied, and this is in fact where things are headed. This is a huge problem, and it is one that the scientific community is only exacerbating by continuously feeding the anti-intellectualism that's behind such attitudes instead of openly confronting it. Which, to put it bluntly, is suicidal behavior -- in the grand scheme of things it does not matter much whether the current system can be sustained for another decade, or two, or three, if its eventual collapse is guaranteed.

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    4. What is an example of an area of science with no applications? I can't think of any. Even things as basic as phylogenetic methods can be justified in that knowing accurate phylogenies is important to epidemiologists tracing the origin of viral epidemics, and so on. I think the problem of anti-intellectualism is really more from the other side -- that the public sees scientists as "ivory tower" snobs that study arcane things for no purpose rather than understanding that scientists care about society and are researching to improve their lives.

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    5. You can justify phlyogenetics as a discipline.

      But I want to see you successfully do that to a laymen regarding papers like these:

      http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1055790314002504
      http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1055790314002176
      http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1055790314001420
      http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1055790314001481

      (Note that this is not a shot at the papers, actually some of these lineages I care about quite deeply myself)

      Then there is also most of math, theoretical physics, and many others.

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    6. I agree with both of you. And both forms of anti-intellectualism are troubling.

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    7. I think it was David Hilbert who expressed the view that mathematical logic in sensu Russel&Whitehead and relativity would never have direct applications (of course they now do - and in fact did have applications within a decade from the quote). But seriously, I don't think there are direct applications for what I do. There may be indirect applications in that the statistical methods I work on may find other uses. But how the heck am I supposed to know that? What percentage of bioscience grant proposals has the word cancer in them (heck, I've seen grant proposals on the ecology of mesozoic insects that vaguely hint that the research may in some way aid finding cures for cancer).

      The basic issue is this:
      Mathematicians invent formal structures. Only some of them are useful to formulate scientific theories - but there is no telling which. From the large number of mathematical structures that were around at the time, who could have picked Riemannian geometry (relativity), Hilbert spaces (QM) and probability theory (population genetics)?

      Scientists try to figure out how the universe works. That's it in the simplest terms. And there's generally no telling what theories will yield practical applications. People were messing around with thermodynamics for ages before there was a steam engine. Sticking metal rods into frogs got electrodynamics started.

      Engineers try to take our current best understanding of how the universe works and come up with solutions to problems. That's a different ballgame, because it has an ethical dimension - consider that "how do I kill as many people as possible for as little money as possible" is an engineering question...

      Hackers use the products of engineers for unintended purposes. It's usually the least considered category of the 4 (but an interesting one nevertheless). Engineers start with a problem and try to find a solution. Hackers start with a solution and try to find another problem.

      There are several "We don't know"s in there. We can't predict what maths is good for science. We can't predict what science is good for engineering. And nobody cares what engineering is good for hacking (though maybe we should). Viewing maths and science through the lens of the next part of this chain presupposes that mathematicians can tell whether there's a scientific theory that needs their input (in some cases they do because they work in both areas - Newton came up with Calculus because it was needed for mechanics, Fisher made contributions to statistics because it was needed to formulate population genetics) and that scientists know what engineers will make of their work.
      And that's where the "talk to the applied scientists, who talks to the engineer" part breaks down. Given a particular basic research question it may not be clear for which applied science question it is important until after the fact. And the same goes for the applied science to engineering part. Needing to have such a pipeline when you apply for a grant seems ridiculous - imagine Church writing a grant proposal for the lambda-calculus in the early 1930s: "75 years in the future people will be able to fling exploding birds at a number of pigs on a device operating on the principles which we will strive to elucidate".

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    8. @ Simon GunkelThursday, September 25, 2014 7:42:00 PM

      I think you are missing one critical aspect of the whole thing, and it is that by acquiring pure knowledge about the world around us we also develop the capacity to better decide which things we should be trying to do and which we should not be doing. This is the absolutely worst thing about "Science helps grow the economy" because the scientific knowledge we have at this point clearly tells us that growing the economy is the last thing we should be doing right now as by pursuing it we are signing our own death sentence (as growth is what drives us deeper and deeper into a global ecological overshoot and we know what the inevitable consequence of that is). There are many other examples, but it does not get more important than this one.

      Basically we base our decision making on completely irrational preconceived notions and then use science to develop the technologies needed to achieve the narrow practical objectives defined that way instead of using science (as a method and as a body of knowledge) to drive the decision making. It is a complete insanity and it is why this topic goes so much deeper than what gets funded and what does not.

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    9. Oh, the old "philosopher-king" idea of Plato -- that society should be ruled by the "wise" rather than in a democratic manner. I'm not convinced that scientists (at least of the natural science type) would really be the best decision makers for society, which has more complicated and "fuzzy" problems than scientists are used to dealing with. In any rate, converting to more sustainable technologies is going to be expensive -- if people can't make this transition in an economically favorable manner, it isn't going to happen. The economy matters.

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    10. Re Jonathan Badger

      I'm not convinced that scientists (at least of the natural science type) would really be the best decision makers for society, which has more complicated and "fuzzy" problems than scientists are used to dealing with.


      Well German Chancellor Angela Merkel, PhD physicist and former college professor, ain't doing too badly, having won 3 elections in a row.

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    11. But does her scientific background actually have anything to do with her (somewhat right-wing) policies and her "Christian Democratic" party? A fair number of politicians come scientific backgrounds -- that doesn't mean that they govern according to scientific principles.

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    12. Merkel wasn't a college professor. She held a position at the ADW, which is now the Leibnitz Gemeinschaft, i.e. she had a Postdoc at a pure research facility. It does show in the way funding has changed during her administrations, with less grant money available through grants anybody can apply to and more money requiring association with one of the federal societies (Planck, Fraunhofer, etc.). I'm currently funded through Leibnitz, but I'm sitting at a university and this translates into: No we don't have a subscription to that Journal and we can't buy the single article, but... we can fly you over to the first author and you can ask him what's in his paper. There's a certain degree of increduity on my part when these things come up, but yup - there's a very extensive travel budget in the Leibnitz part and access to literature is an issue for the university, which has been starved of funds.

      That being said, I don't know what "governings according to scientific principles" would even mean. Merkel isn't really on the right (nor on the left - she seems to be mostly driven by polls) and her success is largely based on the lack of viable alternatives and a lot of the SPD base turning into non-voters after the reforms under Schröder.

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    13. Jonathan BadgerThursday, September 25, 2014 10:30:00 PM
      Oh, the old "philosopher-king" idea of Plato -- that society should be ruled by the "wise" rather than in a democratic manner.


      I don't see how you can argue that the current situation is the best we could possibly achieve.

      I'm not convinced that scientists (at least of the natural science type) would really be the best decision makers for society, which has more complicated and "fuzzy" problems than scientists are used to dealing with.

      I didn't say "scientists" as they currently exist, I said "scientifically based decision-making". It's a sad fact of life but the professional scientists who have no real training in scientific methodology (and yes, I am aware of the fact that there is no such thing as a "scientific method") are probably in the majority.

      In any rate, converting to more sustainable technologies is going to be expensive -- if people can't make this transition in an economically favorable manner, it isn't going to happen. The economy matters

      You seem to have some blind spots on that subject.

      The key issue is growth. You cannot have infinite growth in a finite system, it's such a simple truth yet it is completely absent from most mainstream thinking. There is no "transitioning to more sustainable technologies" without ending growth and moving to a steady-state economy (and a lot of degrowth in between in our case). It is physically impossible to have a "sustainable technology" if its use is perpetually exponentially growing, by definition. Yes, that means an extreme restructuring of the socio-economic system, but we don't have a choice - there are those pesky laws of physics that mandate that we do so and stubbornly refuse to change to allows us to grow indefinitely. This may sound overtly inflammatory, but given the state of the world circa 2014, every scientist who comes out and says "Give me funding, my research will help grow the economy" is implicitly denying the existence of these laws and thus betraying his profession -- the position of the scientific community on the subject should be very strongly anti-growth because if the scientific community does not come out with that message, nobody else will, with predictable consequences.

      If you think about it, the belief in infinite growth is actually just as bad as creationism in terms of how much basic science you need to deny to hold it.

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    14. Economic growth doesn't necessarily mean constantly producing more physical stuff, which, yes, cannot continue infinitely. A large fraction of the economy is now based on non-tangible things like software. Even a lot of consumer goods these days are non-physical: books, movies, video games and music are increasingly being sold as digital downloads rather than physical objects.

      Yes, you can argue that a lot of these servers powering the digital world are using electricity generated by non-infinite supplies of fossil fuels, but this is the sort of thing that can be practically changed rather than utopian dreams of restructuring society (which as history has shown, often tend not to go so well even if they "succeed")

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    15. 1) That a decoupling between economic growth and consumption of physical resources is going to happen has been talked about for a very long time. It has never happened in practice. And it's not just because of the physical infrastructure of the internet (which indeed uses quite a lot more resources than most people imagine) - a look at the lifestyle of the typical Silicon Valley software engineer is quite instructive on why that is.

      2) Even if some decoupling could be achieved, that is irrelevant in practice because by all indicators we are already deeply in a global ecological overshoot and only quite drastic and urgent contraction can get us back within carrying capacity.

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    16. Of course if you would listen to the kind of scientist who specializes in understanding who society works and won a Nobel for it, you'd realize that your attitude actually helps the right wing. Suggesting that the solution is to kill the economy isn't going to convince anyone other than the right wing types who think we should do nothing for the environment because doing so will kill the economy.

      See Paul Krugman's latest:
      http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/19/opinion/paul-krugman-could-fighting-global-warming-be-cheap-and-free.html?_r=0

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    17. I saw that a few days ago, it's horrible.

      It is just another demonstration that having a Nobel prize dos not really make you an authority on anything but the subject you got the Nobel prize for (and not necessarily even that). Also, it should be kept it mind that there is no such thing as Nobel prize for economics.

      But that's the least of the problems when it comes to economics because the way it is practiced currently, it is a pseudoscience as first, it largely consists of opinions with no real way to reconcile them and establish any sort of objective truth so it ends up being mostly a way of imposing certain political ideologies on the rest of society, and second, it is based on a number of demonstrably false assumptions such as those that the world is infinite (it clearly isn't), that resources can be infinitely substituted for each other (they can't), etc. I don't see how you can argue against that. Also economists tend to see nature as a subsystem of the economy, which is also clearly absurd, and completely backwards. The human economy is a small subsystem of what happens on this planet as a whole, and is therefore constrained by can can only be interpreted in the light of the physical processes that keep it going. You don't need to have a very advanced understanding of science to do that, but economists tend to have close to zero of it, as, first, it is never a serious part of their higher education, second, whatever they learned in high school (which should really be sufficient for most purposes), they have long forgotten, and third, they are actively and constantly taught complete falsehoods.

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    18. Continued: Since you brought up Nobel prize in economics here is a famous exchange with another famous recipient of it:

      ====================

      Q: But there are many other environmental problems…

      A: (Milton Friedman) Of course. Take oil, for example. Everyone says it’s a limited resource: physically it may be, but economically we don’t know. Economically there is more oil today than there was a hundred years ago. When it was still under the ground and no one knew it was there, it wasn’t economically available. When resources are really limited prices go up, but the price of oil has gone down and down. Suppose oil became scarce: the price would go up, and people would start using other energy sources. In a proper price system the market can take care of the problem.

      Q: But we know that it takes millions of years to create an oil well, and we can’t reproduce it. Relying on oil means living on our capital and not on the interest, which would be the sensible course. Don’t you agree?

      A If we were living on the capital, the market price would go up. The price of truly limited resources will rise over time. The price of oil has not been rising, so we’re not living on the capital. When that is no longer true, the price system will give a signal and the price of oil will go up. As always happens with a truly limited resource.

      Q Of course the discovery of new oil wells has given the illusion of unlimited oil …

      A:: Why an illusion?

      Q Because we know it’s a limited resource.

      A: Excuse me, it’s not limited from an economic point of view. You have to separate the economic from the physical point of view. Many of the mistakes people make come from this. Like the stupid projections of the Club of Rome: they used a purely physical approach, without taking prices into account. There are many different sources of energy, some of which are too expensive to be exploited now. But if oil becomes scarce they will be exploited. But the market, which is fortunately capable of registering and using widely scattered knowledge and information from people all over the world, will take account of those changes."

      ======================

      You see the problem?

      You don't want to listen to anything that people who think like that tell you -- it does not matter what level of mathematical sophistication you apply in your work, if your foundational assumptions are bogus, your conclusions will most likely be bogus too.

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    19. Re Simon Gunkel

      I stand corrected. Merkel had what would be called a research associate position in the US before going into politics. It's her current husband who is a research quantum chemist at a German university.

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    20. On the other hand,the Hardy-Weinberg model in population genetics assumes an infinite population mating randomly, which on the the surface seems equally as invalid as any economic assumption of infinite resources. But this is how science (social or natural) works -- a simplified model is used to analyze the real world even if the model describes an impossible world.

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    21. This is an obviously invalid analogy.

      1) The assumptions of that model are clearly stated together with the fact that they are often false

      2) What happens when the assumptions are relaxed has always been an active area of research

      3) Reality is much better approximated by it than in the case of economics, with the difference having much less severe consequences

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    22. What do you think economists do in their research? Just like quantitative biologists, they are constantly exploring assumptions in their models to improve predictive power. And claiming that biology is more accurate than economics is rather like how physicists claim physics is more accurate than chemistry and biology. It may be technically true, but only because the simpler the system being studied, the easier it is to find models explaining it.

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    23. Not this assumption..

      It's only questioned by ecological economists and nobody listens to those.

      You saw the quotes I posted.

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    24. Also, your "those people are experts, trust them" logic can be equally well applied to theologians. In fact, when I think about it, there are many many similarities between theologians and economists. Are you going to defend theologians and their subject of study too?

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    25. The difference is economic policy has a real consequence in the world. There have have plenty of people who thought they knew better than economists how to run an economy. Stalin and Mao, for example thought economic arguments against agricultural collectivization were just bourgeois superstition. And yet millions of people paid the price with their lives when the predicted hoarding and shortages happened. So I'm not very optimistic about future experiments in restructuring society contrary to economics.

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    26. I know this will sound horrifying but even if they led to the death of millions those are minor mistakes compared to the one neoclassical economics has made, which can potentially lead to the extinction of the whole species and will with 100% certainty lead to the collapse of industrial civilization, which will be accompanied by the death of billions.

      But you have yet to give me a clear answer the question do you believe that infinite growth in a finite system is possible and on what grounds.

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    27. No, I don't think it is, and even extreme free-marketeers like Friedman didn't. Notice how he made a distinction between oil being physically limited and economically limited. They really are different things.

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    28. "No, I don't think it is, and even extreme free-marketeers like Friedman didn't. Notice how he made a distinction between oil being physically limited and economically limited."

      The distinction was insane. If "economically limited" is different than the reality, "physically limited", then the free market does not transmit accurate information about reality. This undermines Friedman's ASSUMPTION that the free market transmits accurate information. The evidence should have made him challenge his assumptions that the free market transmits accurate information, but his market fundamentalism won't permit that.

      Instead, he defined into existence an alternate reality, "economically limited", an imaginary thing defined as whatever the free market does. And THAT imaginary thing, the free market must BY DEFINITION give us accurate information about, because it's a tautology: what the free market says is always what the free market is saying.

      I agree with all tautologies, e.g. the free market says what it is saying. This is not evidence it tells us information about reality.

      Friedman is totally uninterested in reality-- indeed, violently opposed to it, like Mao was. Just because Mao was wrong, doesn't mean this demonstrably insane demagogue is right.

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  3. Well of course it is to be expected that there will be more applications than basic science projects - but I do see a good mix of basic science in there as well. There are also some that blur the boundaries - e.g. nr 9 is methodology development (i.e. engineering) with application to basic science: where do you classify that one?

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  4. I seriously think that the changing definition for "science" is related to science needing to become more multidisciplinary, especially in biology, as explained in this video:

    Denis Noble discusses systems biology and what makes a systems approach different

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  5. One should not question why evolution does not come up in science fairs when creationists are about!!!
    Anyways.
    Not only this year but every year its these kind of lists. Some were interesting and too many about the environment nonsense. People must think making cleaner, greener, healthier planet gets the prestige, the money, and the chicks.
    Most or more are quackery things.
    I heard about that sahara stuff back in the '80's in high school. It couldn't be that aggressive.

    The author of the thread is saying science is not figuring things out in mechanics? robots are sciency things.
    Once again the myth of science rears its head.
    Its just people figuring things out. how things work or how to manipulate things into new things.
    the science list there was all science. including childrens fears study's.!
    Science is a fancy term for a careful methodology before conclusions are determined.
    Indeed there is no such thing as science fairs.
    its just new ideas fairs. The ideas claim to have careful methodology behind them before they present them as true to the world.
    No need to segregate into tech etc.
    Edison was a scientist or Einstein wasn't if their are species here.
    I didn't see any creationists ideas either.
    How about that marsupials are placentals that changed in minor ways upon migration to new areas??? That should beat the sahara stuff!

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  6. Not to be all feel-good about science fairs, but during the 80's I was on the committee, chaired the committee and judged science fairs in our region. Sure, we had a lot of baking soda volcanoes, styrofoam solar systems and dead plants, but one project will stand out in my mind forever.

    At a science fair in a rural school in Oklahoma this one kid had been passed over by all the other judges. He was a sullen looking kid with no poster display. Just a hand-scribbled sheet of ruled paper and what looked like clods of dirt. I stopped to chat.

    Turns out the kid was a "problem" child who was being raised by his grandparents. Because he was a "problem" his guardians banished him to the attic for long periods. There he observed mud dobbers, a harmless wasp common to the area, building nests out of mud on the rafters. That kid knew everything there was to know about mud dobbers. How they built their nests, how they flew, what they ate, how long the eggs/larvae took to hatch, what the young looked like. It was astounding.

    A brief consultation with the other judges resulted in more conversations with the child and our vote was unanimous: best of fair, first place.

    Some years later I reconnected with the science teacher at that school and asked her about some of the notable exhibits we had seen over the years including the mud dobber boy. Turns out he did well in school, went to college and became a petroleum engineer. He credits his 8th grade science teacher in turning around his life and giving him the confidence to succeed. I'd like to think the recognition he got from his school and his classmates at that science fair played a part.

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  7. I don't really understand why you see such a big distinction between engineering and science. Science describes how a dolphin swims through the water, engineering describes how a boat swims through the water. Yes, the latter is generally more applied, but it only works because they figure out how very specific rules of the world around us.

    In my home country we really don't have something like science fairs, by the way.

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  8. Robert Byers said:
    Science is a fancy term for a careful methodology before conclusions are determined.

    What "careful methodology before conclusions are determined" are you applying on the hypothetical global Noachian Flood?

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    1. There is a witness in good standing about that. The bible. Then plenty of earth evidence to back it up and no evidence against it.
      Science is a fancy term for regular human thinking save doing a more careful job and only when done is the special term SCIENCE used.
      However since its really about quality and quantity of evidence then human judging is involved.
      I say there is no biological scientific evidence for evolution and evolutionists say ID and YEC are not scientifically involved. Most not all.
      So science means different things to different folks.
      Its just a methodology after all.
      Science fairs are not methodology fairs.
      They are idea fairs whether or not the stuff is established by the methodology.
      Thats why tech is demoted from being science by some.
      Yet it is just as sciency if it uses the methodology to establish its new ideas.
      Many things on the list probably are not science as they are not carefully done at a higher standard of investigation.

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    2. "There is a witness in good standing about that. The bible. Then plenty of earth evidence to back it up and no evidence against it."

      LMAO! Hey Robert, show the evidence that a man can live inside a fish for three days and survive, that dead 'saints' can get out of their graves and walk around, that a woman can be supernaturally created from a man's rib, that a serpent can talk, that people can live for 900+ years, that there are such things as angels and demons, that a loaf of bread will feed thousands of people, that any so-called 'miracle' ever occurred, that this entire universe is only 6,000 years old, that humans were 'specially created in the image of God', that your chosen, so-called 'God' is the one and only 'God', and that you are a biological life form and not a robot. Be sure to show your work that was done via a "higher standard of investigation".

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    3. I think most of those things were on the list. just kidding.
      I said there was a witness. A witness said these things are true. its permissible in court
      If natures evidence is relevant then it should be used. If folks say natures evidence says the bible ain't so then we can take them on.
      Yes a higher standard of investigation is needed in these important things.
      Science is a good word. YET lets pay attention to the standard.
      Not this biology conclusions based on geology deposition of life(fossils) A strange idea of a high standard of investigation.

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    4. Robert, "biology conclusions" about past life aren't just based on geology and deposition of fossils. A wide variety of scientific disciplines are used to find, test, and explain evidence of the history of Earth and it's life. The bible is only "witness" to the fact that some people write, believe in, and promote monstrous, ridiculous, impossible fairy tales. Blindly believing in a so-called 'holy-book' and promoting it as 'truth' is NOT a high or higher standard of investigation. I would REALLY like to see you try to use the fairy tales in the bible as a "witness" in court, especially in an attempt to establish that the bible is the best evidence (or even just credible evidence at all) of nature's historical (and that includes pre-historical) processes and events. Go ahead, Robert, take it to court.

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