Sunday, October 24, 2004

Structure of Scientific Revolutions Chap. 2

I've been forgetting about writing about this for awhile, so before I go to bed this evening, I'll catch up about.

Chapter 2 -- The Route to Normal Science

In this chapter TK discusses how we go about getting into a paradigm in the first place. Obviously, people who have never encountered a phenomenon can't have a paradigm that explains it. The researchers have to fumble along until the gain enough knowledge to explain what they know and what they don't know. There are some very interesting results of this process evident in the scientific literature.

The word 'paradigm' is first defined in this chapter as scientific achievements that are both "sufficiently unprecedented to attract an enduring group of adherents away from competing modes of scientific activity, and are sufficiently open-ended to leave all sorts of problems for the redefined group of practictioners to resolve." It is through paradigms that normal science must progress. Students are indoctrinated into the field through roughly the same textbooks as every other practitioner of the field. Because of the similar indoctrination, the members of a shared paradigm will rarely disagree over fundementals (F=ma means the same to all physicists).

TK examines the progression of study of both physical optics and electricity to illustrate the state of science before a dominant paradigm arises, and why it is necessary for a dominant paradigm to arise so that scientific advancement can proceed more quickly. In physical optics,

" no period between remote antiquity and the end of the seventeeth century exhibited a single generally accepted view about the nature of light. Instead there were a number of competing schools and sub-schools, most of them espousing one variant or another of Epicurean, Aristotelian, or Platonictheory. One group took light to be particles; for another it was a modification of the medium that intervened between the body and the eye; still another explained light in terms of an interaction of the medium with an emanation from the eye."

TK describes how Newton was able to draw pieces from all of these different 'pre-paradigms', to create a universally accepted dominant paradigm. It is interesting to note, TK's discussion of the men (possibly women) who studied light before Newton:

"Any definition of the scientist taht excludes at least the more creative members of these various schools will exclude their modern successors as well. Those men were scientists."

You'll remember that Newton himself was wrong about optics. Newton's optics is an entirely particle based theory of light. Newton does not introduce waves. Newton's paradigm was replaced by the wave theory of Young and Fresnel in the 19th century, because this new paradigm was able to explain much more of the world. These scientists were also wrong, however, in that the quantum theory of the 1920's replaced them as well.

Why might we view the predecessors of Newton as unscientific, viewed through his paradigm? Previous to Newton, there was no paradigm, so that,

"Being able to take no common body of belief for granted, each writer on physical optics felt forced to build his field anew from its foundations. In doing so, his choice of supporting observations and experiment was relatively free, for there was no standard set of methods or of phenomena that every optical writer felt forced to employ and explain. Under these circumstances, the dialogue of the resulting books was often directed as much to the members of other schools as it was to nature."

Paradigms provide the structure in which scientists can work. Paradigms not only provide accepted explanations of certain phenomena, but they also provide a direction for questions and research. Without a paradigm, it is hard to know what facts are important, and how they fit together. TK cites Pliny and Bacon's writings as examples of pre-paradigm fact collecting. These authors were able to complile enormous collections of observations, but the observations were often juxtaposed in odd ways. That different observers will also juxtapose the same observations in very different manners is also a typical occurence in pre-paradigm science.

Also, Early observers often miss minor details that will later become important. TK cites that "none of the early histories of electricity mention that chaff, attrated to a rubbed glass rod, bounces off again." These authors assumed that the "bouncing" was caused by a mechanical explanation, as opposed to the reversal of charge, and ignored the effect as being trivial.

Eventually, all of these divergent observations and explanations are overwhelmed by a dominant paradigm (which most likely grew out of one of the competing paradigms). This process is unique to the fields that we refer to as science and is suprising. Why is it that one paradigm takes hold over all the practitioners of a certain field? TK explains that it is usually that a certain paradigm is able to explain most of the pressing questions of the day. He cites Franklin's model of electricity as a prime example. "Most" is an important qualification, though.

"To be accepted as a paradigm, a theory must seem better than its competitors, but it need not, and in fact never does, explain all the facts which it can be confronted."

TK discusses how the adoption of a paradigm causes changes within a scientific society. First of all, the younger students of the field are indoctrinated solely into the paradigm, and do not need to learn the world from first principles as did their predecessors. Textbooks become common place in the field to the exclusion of all other books. The only books that are written by practicing scientists in a field are either popularizations or memoirs. Scientists begin to communicate solely by condensed journal articles that are only understandable to other scientists in their field. The scientists do not need to write the initial chapters that explain the reasons for choosing the observations/experiments that they have chosen, since those reasons are implicit in the paradigm. Scientists can begin to focus on much more narrow and esoteric research pursuits, since the large questions are explained, again, implicitly by the paradigm. The overall speed of scientific progress increases due to the focusing of research. The practitioners of the field may begin to form professional societies and demand that their field be taught as a separate subject from earlier, more general topics.

It is interesting how the progress of science, as viewed in this framework, is in someways opposed to the popular understanding of science. As research becomes more esoteric, the usefulness of explaining what a scientist is doing to others not in that subfield diminishes. Yet, as the rate of scientific progress increases, the results of this progress are certain to have more and more of an impact on the general public's life. At one time, a well educated person (Franklin or Newton, say) could understand all of physics. Now, that is not the case. However, neither Franklin nor Newton had to operate in a world dominated by airplanes, cellphones, computers, and missile defense systems. Now would seem to be the time that a wide knowledge of physics would be most useful, but it is less possible because of specialization. Is it possible to teach a broad knowledge of physics to all students? Is specialization a good thing?

Friday, October 22, 2004

literature drop

A fun night was had by all at the Moran campaign headquaters last night. We're preparing for a massive literature (250,000 homes) drop this Saturday, so the office's main task is to get everything ready. When we first showed up, we were collating the literature. But as the people in charge started to leave throughout the evening, we moved up the campaign totem pole until Soon-To-be-Mrs.Hoagieboy and I were running the show. (Keep in mind that this was the first time that STBMS had set foot in the office. Random people would come in the office and ask us what to do. STBMS handled the people who had lots of questions, and I got the boxes packed that needed to be packed. I loved it.

More delivering of Helium, signs, and boxes for today, though.


Just because you have something to say . . .

Just because you have something to say doesn't mean that you're right or that the rest of us have to listen to you. I saw that letter in the AAS newsletter a bit ago too. I tried to just ignore it and throw the thing away like I typically do, but I think it's good of you to bring it up.

Dr. Grey-bear-garber-whatever his name may be is a war mongering, sexist, self-hating, partisan shill. Thankfully, even the Republican people of Maryland are smart enough not to even have ever noticed him. In his 3 runs for Senate he pulled in a total of 20,000 votes (I won't bother linking, because it's not worth it to me to cut and paste). I'm quite confident that I could pull in 20,000 votes over the course of 6 years. My apartment complex alone houses about 1,500 residents. With some nice leaflets, I could bring in those kinds of numbers without trying.

People like him are, frankly, weird. To run for the US Senate 3 times and not receive any popular support means that you have absolutely no ground game and you're just running to satisfy your ego and strange ideas (in much the same manner that Ralph Nader runs for President). To me, it is shocking that someone like this was allowed to get near the development of our nukular weapons. (By the way, what is it with nukular weapons and conservative cranks. Edwin Teller comes to mind.)

The fact that this letter, written by someone substantially outside of the mainstream, was able to be printed in the newsletter at all says something about the creeping "neutrality/objectivity" of the media. Even though the folks at AAS are (obviously) not part of any major media operation, the fact that they printed this garbage is telling. Not wanting to offend the community's sense of evenhandedness (or to not risk offending the other nut-cases who believe this junk), they feel obligated to print an opposing viewpoint to the AGU statement on climate change. It's not important to them to check out who the author is. It's not important to them to address the scientific viability of the studies that Grey-bear-graber references in an editor's note. It's important to them to look evenhanded and live out some radical mis-interpretation of the 1st Amendment.

The newsletter of a private membership organization can choose to print or not print whatever it chooses. It has no 1st amendment obligation. Its only obligation is to print items that are in line with the beliefs of a majority of the membership who pay for the newsletter. Thankfully, I would venture to say that the likes of Grey-bearer-garb are in the minority in the AAS (We're in the minority on education issues in the AAS, and thus you don't see anything aligned with our beliefs in there. If I wrote in a letter critical of the AAS for the garbage it prints in the newsletter from a reformed educational perspective, do you honestly believe they'd ever print any?).

Who wins when Bearer-of-all-things-Grey gets to print his mis-informed screed in the AAS newsletter? Is it the membership, because we get to participate in a lively discussion about today's issue? Hardly. I don't feel like reading 10 missives in next month's issue complaining about Grey-beard's letter. (I do wonder who they'll print, though). And do you really think that the Grey-labyrinth will change his mind through a sensible dialog?

Is it science in general, because now we get to dispense with alternative paradigms? No. Grey-Stoke-Legend-of-Tarzan's letter is wholly unscientific. They claims he makes are not based on legitimately peer reviewed work, and much more a part of the "faith-based-community". Science isn't served here. Debating the mechanisms of climate change and CO2 emissions is scientifically valid. Debating the reality of climate change and denying the negative effects of climate change if by some odd chance it is happening, is not science.

Is it really He-Man-and-the-Castle-of-Grey-skull, Exxon, Shell, W, Dick Cheney, etc. who win? Yes!!! The AAS has provided a forum for these unscietific fools to present their case unfiltered and uncontested. Yeah, the letters will reign in next month, but it won't matter. The believers of this non-sense will be fortified, and the few people that might have not really known anything about climate change and won't happen to read next month's responses might just actually think that ol' Howie's got a point. Lies presented evenly with the truth have a good chance of winning. You'd think it would be in the best interests of our community to stop that from happening.

Yes, the pursuits of science and the "truth" were injured by the AAS in its last newsletter. Hopefully, we don't let that happen again.


Wednesday, October 20, 2004

More Science & Politics

Funny you should write about this. I opened up my AAS (American Astronomical Society, in case anyone but us ever reads this!) October Newsletter today and read this letter to the editor:

Dear Editor,

In the Final Text of the unfortunate AAS Endorsement of the AGU Statement on Climate Change, the words include "increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere which is significantly contributing to the warming of the global climate." This is certainly NOT proven at all. Climate change is very far out of the areas of AAS expertise.

Dear AAS Officials: Please, was the well documented Medieval Warm Period (950 - 1350) due to huge amounts of oil and coal burning then by humans? What caused the "Little Ice Age" from 1750 - 1850 when industrial production rapidly increased? What about the 1970's when the press featured "scientific" claims about 'Worrisome Global Cooling' amid speculation that Earth may be entering "A New Ice Age"!?

A considerable fraction of distinguished experts on climate, like Dr. Sallie Balunias (Harvard SAO) are convinced that other causes are far more likely for climate change, such as variation in the solar radiation impinging on the Earth. Modern computer climate models simply do not mimic actual climate changes. S. Solanki, direction of the Max Planck Institute on Solar System Research in Gottingen, Germany led research that shows more solar activity in the last 60 years than in the last 1000 years. Using evidence from satellites and balloons, Douglass Perkins, and Singer in the July 9 issue of Geophysical Research Letters, show THERE IS NO WARMING in the past 20 years. Clearly more careful research along these and other lines could be very fruitful.

Fellow members would be enlightened if they read an excellent website on climate change and sources of energy, by Meteorology professor S. Fred Singer, formerly of the University of Virginia, and former Director of the U. S. Weather Service.

Howard D. Greyber
San Jose, CA

I get annoyed enough with W saying we don't really have to care about greenhouse gases and so on. But I get really annoyed to read letters like this! Why do people put so much energy into saying that there is no such thing as the greenhouse effect/global warming? Even if that's true, that doesn't make it GOOD to burn a lot of oil and coal. There is nothing you can say that makes that sort of consumption GOOD, which is what people seem to want to say. Mostly, I think, they argue about things like this so that we can keep living our happy decadent lives, polluting the world, and not have to think about what we are doing to our environment, or how people in other countries must live so that we can live our spoiled lives. (I know I use gas and oil and coal, too -- but I don't pretend it's a great thing and it's patriotic and my God-given right.)

Since he got MY dander up so much, I did a little research on this "Howard D. Greyber" and here's what I found. Looks like he has lots of unpopular opinions and likes to write lots of letters to the editor. Looks like he used to live in Maryland and in the early 90's ran for the U.S. Senate. I'll leave it to you to guess what party he ran for.


- maki girl

When Physics becomes Partisan

There's been alot of discussion over the past couple years about the relationship of the current administration to science. This New York Times article covers alot of it very nicely. It's pretty friendly to the scientists complaining about W, since it can only muster the White House Scince Advisor and one climate change hack to defend W.

TAPPED cites the piece and brings up comments from early in the article where John Marburger (the Science Advisor) basically admits that the typical corporation rhetoric about deregulation being in line with science is complete bologna. But I was also interested in a couple of statements from Marburger at the very end of the article:

Dr. Marburger argues that when scientific information is flowing through government agencies, the executive branch has every right to sift for inconsistencies and adjust the tone to suit its policies, as long as the result remains factual.

He said the recent ferment, including the attacks from the Union of Concerned Scientists, Democrats and environmental groups, all proved that the system works and that objective scientific information ultimately comes to the surface.

"I think people overestimate the power of government to affect science," he said. "Science has so many self-correcting aspects that I'm not really worried about these things."

He acknowledged that environmental and medical issues, in particular, would continue to have a difficult time in the policy arena, because the science was fundamentally more murky than in, say, physics or chemistry.

"I'm a physicist," Dr. Marburger said. "I know what you have to do to design an experiment where you get an unambiguous result. There is nothing like that in health and environment."

In his first statement, Marburger has to stretch pretty far to defend W. Yeah, if the government was interested in picking and choosing between different research results regarding the number of dimensions present in the early universe, then he might have a point. Any number of different research groups have come up with any number of different answers, and at this point, one answer is probably as valid as another. This is not the case, however, with climate change. There exists a dominant paradigm among basically all non-industry sponsored researchers, that the Earth is heating up, that humans are causing at least part of this change, and that this change will probably end up being pretty bad for us. W and his cronies pick their info from a small group of industry-sponsored scientists that know what their results will be, well before they start. To say that these industry sponsored scientists have found "inconsistencies" and that the administration has every right to highlight them is hogwash. The administration might as well be talking to invisible dragons.

In the middle paragraphs, he's being particularly disingenous. The simple fact is that government sponsors (through many different avenues) the vast majority of basic scientific work in this country. Thankfully, the US is an open society and science has been able to work itself out, even against the wishes of the rich and powerful at times. But, in societies that aren't open, Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union, science hasn't worked itself out, particularly in medicine and health related fields. In both of these societies, eugenics played a major role, largely because of what science the government was willing to fund, and what questions researchers were allowed to ask. Science flourishes in the west, because scientists are able to ask really dumb questions . When that process stops, (e.g. when scientists are not able to ask questions about sex, homosexuality, AIDS, climate change, environmental distruction, etc.) the corrective powers of science disappear. Sadly, this is where W and his henchmen are taking us.

Finally, Marburger really gets my dander up in the last paragraph. Here he brings up the typical physics superiority statement:

--Physics is simple and straightforward. There are no uncertainties in physics research. Research in other subjects is not as good as in physics, because the answers aren't reducible to simple varifiable equations. --

Will physicists be saying this forever? Good research is good research whether it's about physcis or climate change, or whether it is reducible to equations or not. If an environmental researcher studies detailed models of climate change, and controls for all the variables that they can think of (yeah, its harder because there's more than in a simple mechanics problem), and explains where their uncertainties lie, and where future research work should be done, then it's good work, and should be accepted as such. It shouldn't be passed off as murky just because it's cutting edge. If Marburger really accepted what he was saying, then he would have to conclude that General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics are "murky", because there still are large areas of these theories which are unexplored and unexplained. Just because science involves people doesn't make it less valid.

And as a last thing, here's an article about W's apparent lack of real Christian values. It is left as an excersize to the reader to develop a correlation between the two articles.


P.S. Back to being messangerboy.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Can't Wait to Celebrate This One

Ok, one last post before I go to bed. I clicked the "next blog" on the banner up above (just because I'm crazy), and I ended up on a "2nd Amendment Blog". Lots of fun.

Anyway, did you know that November 19th is National Ammo Day? Well, now you do, and you can go out and buy some implements of destruction (oops, I meant -- protection), and be a real 'Muric'n.

I was going to ask where these people come from, but then I realized that they actually come from our physics classes. All that talk of cannon balls and projectile motion is just too much for some people. They need some real hands on experience. Maybe you should have your class come up with a suitable activity for the day, Makigirl.


P.S. I guess I should comment that I made some minor alterations to the site design. Hope you like it.

Carrying T-shirts and Maps

Another posting with a title. I hope that you have fun coming up with titles now, Makigirl.

I spent the day volunteering in VA again. I ran some t-shirts and bumperstickers from one office to another, and then I drew maps for the canvassing to come on Saturday. I think the project that we're working on may have huge implications in the future of America. Supposedly, we've rounded up nearly 200 volunteers to head all over northern Virginia and talk to every last man, woman, child, and dog (sorry, cats don't have the vote in this country yet). If VA is to go for Kerry (and it still just might) it will be because of a huge democratic turnout in the DC area.

I'm supposed to pick up hundreds of signs from some old, rich lady tomorrow afternoon. I'm not quite sure why she has them (maybe she runs a print shop out of her mansion). She also told me that she has special conditions for their proper display. Sorry, but I don't rate high enough to make those decisions. But, whatever. If Lt. Kerry needs me to pick up signs from a strange lady, then I'll be picking up signs from a strange lady. Yessir.


A new set of titles for the dragon

I wanted to try out titles here, just to see how they would look. I've been a bit bothered with how the text seems to run together.


I certainly agree with you that US citizens (aren't I being responsible by not refering to my fellow countrymen as "Americans") buying Canadian drugs is not the answer to our healthcare problem. With such a small population compared to the US, Canada can't possibly buy enough prescription drugs to support the medicine habit of the US. Also, it's kind of intellectually stupid to have US citizens buying drugs over the internet from another country thousands of miles away.

However, barring a freeze on internet sales by the Canadian government (which I doubt would happen), this problem isn't going away. Canada, by virtue of being nice and being near, has been dragged into the US's problems, and it's not getting out until we figure out what we want to do with our healthcare system.

Actually, if the US allowed Medicare to buy drugs either from Canada, or to negotiate prices here in the US, the problem might go away a bit. Big Pharma is able to keep costs low in Canada and Europe because they charge so much in the US. If they knew they couldn't do that anymore, then there would have to be a major reevaluation of pricing. Prices would go down in the US, and up a bit everywhere else.

Of course, for that to happen, W and the Republicans in congress would have to be out of power, so there might be some other concurrent restructurngs of the pharmaceutical industry, which would lower prices across the board. We might want to evaluate how public NIH research dollars go to subsidize for-profit companies' drugs, for instance. The biggest possible change, though, would be to shift the emphasis of our healthcare system from private based post-diagnosis treatment to public based pre-diagnosis prevention. In that system, the prescription drugs that we worry about now, would be a minor side issue, since people would be less likely to have diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and all the related chronic conditions which necessitate long term prescription drug use.

Here's an article about how Americans buying drugs from Canada might not be such a great idea ... (and it's not because our drugs may not be safe!)

- maki girl

Monday, October 18, 2004

Another day of heavy lifting for the VA Victory campaign. Yeah, the guy in charge needed me to pick up more helium tanks today. I haven't seen a balloon anywhere yet, but whatever. Maybe they're slowly filling up a blimp for election day.

I was refered to today as the "campaign courier", kind of cool. It's very interesting being a working stiff for the time being. Nobody really knows that I'm an -hushed tones- academic. I had to stop in at a business today (it was some sort of weird "destination management consultance" whatever the hell that means), and I was in my sweaty carrying helium tanks clothes. I think they thought that I was actually from a courier service. One of the girls at the reception desk paused, I think, while she decided whether to tip me or not. (She didn't.) It's an interesting world that we live in. It's interesting to see the structures that people invent for themselves (a company that provides destination management consulting, for instance), and the things that we leave out of the mix (health care, anyone?).

I look forward to volunteering tomorrow. John Kerry and Jim Moran owe me a couple tanks of gas now, but I'm having a ton of fun. I only wish that I would have been able to start this sooner. But I guess there's always next cycle.


I got an interesting email this morning from someone on the wacky physics education listserve that I've discussed before. It deals with why women don't do as well in physics classes as men (the major sociological question about the field which we are allowed to ask). The writer's solution is contained in the following:

"As part of this project, I'm asking for funds to develop a totally new paradigm for teaching introductory physics that STARTS with symmetry and Noether's principle (a woman!) and gets to Newton's so-called laws later, and removes ALL references to war and military devices in mechanics. There is so much about physics that is NONviolent: cosmology and astronomy are purely nonviolent; other branches are, in and of themselves, nonviolent, but do have potential to be applied to violent activities. We just need to remove the connection in our undergraduate and K-12 teaching that involves even a shred of violence or connection with war. I believe that this is a
major deterrent to young girls from thinking of themselves doing physics, namely, because introductory physics, which is fraught with military applications (planes, bombs, projectiles, missiles, racing cars, etc) is emotionally aligned with traditionally male activities."

The class that the writer talks about designing is a good one, I think. Recently, I've become a strong believer in the need to deemphasize Newton's Laws in introductory physics classes. However, I think this needs to be done for other reasons than the global goal of deemphasizing violence in the physics classroom.

Do women do worse in physics classes because they are uninterested in war making technology and terminology?

I don't think so. It seems that the writer is bringing in their own predjudices about foreign policy into their thinking on education. I might buy the argument that girls don't want to pursue careers in physics becuase they are turned off by the miltary talk, but I can't accept that they don't do well in a class that they are already enrolled, because of the masculine military talk.

More likely, they don't do well in a class because (in this order):
(1) the teacher isn't good at teaching them.
(2) the class requires incredible amounts of memorization (see #1)
(3) the class is decontextualized from other learning and the rest of their lives

Frankly, I don't really remember alot of war talk in class, anyway (selective male memory). Yeah, there's the "shooting the monkey" deal and projectile motion, but most of mechanics for me was boats trying to cross rivers and pushing boxes up ramps (I guess those are men's jobs as well). The whole second semester of thermo and E&M has even less to do with warfare.

Further, the triviality of war speak in physics classes is made even more apparent by the fact that most students don't encounter physics until their senior year in highschool, if not college. Students are taking biology for most of their science experience prior to this. Women entering college don't feel an affinity to science, and don't enroll in high school physics classes at the same rate as men. The leaky pipeline has already been set up, even before girls have taken thier first physics class.

I think we need to concentrate on other more global things (it not being a woman problem but a people problem). The simple fact is that the majority of intro physics classes are taught horribly by people who know nothing about teaching. Of course, the students with the least background resources (women, minority, poor) are going to get the least out of these classes on average. (I'm saying here that WM&P students have fewer role models in science, less access to personal contact with scientists, fewer opportunities to have performed real science in the past, less familial/peer support, less knowledge of where to obtain resources.) But really, all students suffer from bad classes even if they do manage to survive and pursue a career in the field.

My guess is that the writer's class will show improvement in achievement for the women in the class. However, I bet that it will also show improvement in achievement for the male students in the class. The effect of the demilitarization of the class will likely be vanishingly small, if compared to other reformed classrooms that still use Newton heavily and military terminology.

Whenever a teacher looks closely and critically at their practice, all students benefit. I think that's what we need to focus on.


edited for clarity

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Oh, and going back to the insensitive comments about your veganism, makigirl. . . I decided tonight that homemade whipped cream was the main reason why I could never become a vegan. Wow.


Here's a really exceptional post and discussion about health care from Daily Kos. The author did a good job of framing the question of who gets healthcare and who doesn't. I don't think that I've ever thought of the current system as a de facto rationing of healthcare, but I guess that's what it really is. The system is able to afford crazy technology and hyperfine specialization because it's able to charge a few people through the roof for access to it, while 45 million of us don't get to play at all. The basic healthcare that the 45 million of us could be getting is rationed over to the wealthy and insured so that they one more procedure or one more drug.

It makes me sick when I hear W on the debates talk negatively about the Canadian and European model. I'll say it again, I'd love rationed healthcare. Even at it's long waiting lines worst, it's better than the care I have now.

You're a vegan becuase you don't like to eat anything, right? Your life is just so grey and depressing that you don't want the colour of meat brought to your attention. It's better to eat cold porridge all the time.

I think it is interesting that even people who are supposedly enlightened and worldly, still carry predjudices with them. Do we ever crawl out of our caves? I don't think I've always understood your morality in the most sensitive manner (maybe that's why we weren't friends for so long). Yours is a very different world view than what I was brought up in. The concept of belief being more important than beef is something that my parents would have a very hard time coming to terms with, even though I consider them forward looking.

I wonder what would happen if you told people that you were part of a certain Christian sect (or whatever) when they found out about your eating habits? Most normal people don't think twice about a Catholic not eating meat during lent. Jewish people can happily not eat pork. Maybe they would think you're weird, but I bet it would be more understandable to them. Most likely, you wouldn't get the same type of taunting questions or strange statements. Not that I think you should do it, but it might be an interesting experiment some time.

One could make an argument that our political-socio-economic-educational class isn't that much better than everyone else. People in our world view have been taught to be cynical of everything, and not to accept any explicit or implicit show of morality. Yet, they still use their own internal morality and beliefs to make decisions. I wonder if some the questionable reactions that people of our class show to you is a result of having their morality and beliefs threatened by your choices. (Obviously, much of it is just based in ignorance of your choices.) Not that your lifestyle represents some objective "best way to live", but if someone considers themselves to be environmental and socially/economically progressive, it becomes hard to defend a lifestyle that is largely a result of corpoate marketing and influence. I wonder if that's why sometimes people who are otherwise left politically react to your choices very irrationally and emotionally?

I think you're right about people creating the strangest excuses to cover up for their laziness or choices. If you weren't my friend, and I wasn't trying to take on parts of your non-animal lifestyle (something about imitation and flattery), I probably would be using the same excuses. I think it really says something about taking a walk in other people's shoes (yours are a bit too small for me).

Now does that mean I think we shouldn't still make fun of all the people we typically make fun of? Of course not. We should happily make fun of the weirdos we know.


Sunday, October 10, 2004

I know it's hard to go around knocking on doors -- you did great! And only one door-slam. That's not bad. I'm glad you're getting all involved. Ho Ho would be proud! (WHY is he called Ho Ho?) I feel better this time knowing what is going on with the election -- last time around (Gore/Bush) I was semi-aware but not following things very closely. I even settled down to read Howard Dean's new book last night about how to reinvigorate the Democratic Party. I fell asleep after the first few pages but that was not the book's fault. And, although I still will not be able to vote next time around, I would like to be more involved with elections next time. I am feeling too overwhelmed and uninformed about local issues right now to do much for the Democratic Party in Rutland ...

Which brings me to what I've been musing about. I asked a friend this week if he would like to watch the debate on Friday and he had not been planning on it but said he would since I wanted to. He said they don't usually watch politics in their house because he just yells at the TV and his wife can't be in the same room as George Bush's voice/face. Then he made a comment that "the Canadian" knows more about politics than he does, but that it's only because I haven't been here long enough to be sick of it yet.

Hmmmmm. I find that very often people find ways to excuse their own behaviour. Another comment I have been musing (I promise to stop using the word musing now) about -- the same couple made comments the other night that they could "never" become vegan because they just like cheese and milk chocolate "too much." As if all vegans just happen not to like the things they choose not to eat, therefore making it "easy" for them but excusing others. I am not saying I think they should go vegan, but to be honest about other people's reasons for making choices.

People are funny.

-maki girl

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Thanks for the kind words, makigirl. I'm glad that you're getting busy too.

Even though we already discussed this on the phone, to record for posterity, I went to Arlington today to canvass for Kerry/Edwards. It was exciting. I was worried awhile ago that there wouldn't be any good election activities here in the metro areas, but it's looking like VA just might be a swing state this time (depends on the last debate, I guess). It's not as close as Ohio, but Kerry's within 2-5 points in Va.

I went to Jim Moran's campaign headquarters in Clarendon this morning to get my assignment. I was a bit late, so I wasn't quite sure what I was doing at first. I also didn't have a canvassing partner for awhile, so that was nervewracking, but it all got sorted out. We drove down to Fairlington, which is close to where I used to live in VA. It was like coming home. I was intrigued that we would go to that section of Arlington. It's more young professional and well off than other areas. Plus there's a large concentration of military personnel there, making me think that it might be swinging the other way.

My canvassing partner, Christiana, was a real pleasure. She's a nurse in the district. She got into politics this cycle because of Howard Dean. Go Ho-Ho! She's been out canvassing before, so it was nice to have someone who was able to lead. Christiana knocked on the doors and said hi, while I marked the clipboard and answered any questions that might come up. Our list was made of independants, and we were trying to determine which way they were breaking.

Suprisingly, to me, Kerry won 9 to 8. Moran won 7 to 3, with some Kerry supporters being less favorable to him. It seems like the independants are really breaking towards Kerry. It seemed that people who had thought out the decision through the debates were going for Kerry, where most of the Bush supporters were people who had always been supporting Bush. I think that if this one street in Fairlington is going for Kerry (barely), then with a big turn out in the Latino and African American sections of Arlington, Kerry could suprise a few people in Va.

All in all it was a good day. Other than one lady who slammed the door on us after saying that "this house is voting for the President of the United States", people were completely nice. I appreciate that, because doing work like this is hard for an introvert like me.

I may be driving my truck for the Kerry Virginia campaign next week.


I'm impressed Hoagieboy -- you have been busy! I enjoyed your debate commentary; only sorry you missed the "Anyone want some wood?" comment when your feed died. W is such a joke. You're right that Kerry looks much more presidential. (Is his middle initial really F?)

I'm also impressed by all your plans. You are inspiring and propelling me so tonight I'm going to set up the teaching blog where we can record things about my classes (for reference and future use). Maggie is helping me by sleeping on my lap and loudly purring/snoring. That walk today really tuckered her out!

I'm glad you haven't forgotten about your book! I really want to help with that. And, while you're thinking of research and things, don't forget I should have a whole class of pre-service non-science major teachers next semester. Hopefully 25 of them.

- maki girl

Friday, October 08, 2004

Debate wrap-up

Simple answer, Kerry won. Bush did significantly better this week than last, but I don't think it mattered. Kerry knows more, looks presidential and was attacking the whole time. It showed in the final summaries. Kerry was able to appeal to the optimism in America. . ."I believe that America's best days are ahead of us," while Bush was not able to do that. He had to defend Iraq the whole time.

Kerry looks presidential and there's nothing Bush can do about it. I think that's the thing that suprised people in the first debate, and it will probably lead him to victory. You can't debate with good looks.

More importantly, though is the spin that will result from this debate. Kerry has been gaining momentum all week. He doesn't need to do anything special to keep moving. The media has grabbed on and he needs to ride it. Let's face it, W wasn't going to explode tonight or next week, as much as we might want it. He is somewhat smarter than that. Constant pressure and body blows (my first boxing reference for the night) is what will win the election.

A caller to CSPAN just brought up the last question to Bush, and how he didn't admit that he did anything wrong. So far, the callers have been pro-Kerry. Either he won the opinion battle, or the democrats have a strong ground game for the phones.

Speaking of which, I have to go take some online polls.

Closing statements now. . .

Kerry's was pretty good. Above average, but not outstanding. It was very similar to the one last week, but that's good since people may not have watched, or tuned out. I think he looked very Presidential. His tie and hair both look good.

Bush's wasn't too bad either. It's the same as last week, that he does so much better when he has a speech memorized, and there's no one to counter him. He didn't look so bad today either.

Very much a draw on final summaries, but as I said before, that's fine with me.

Last question - - give 3 instances where you've screwed up.

Let's see. . . He's stalling big time. He can't come up with anything. Answer the damn question George.

He turns the question into Iraq and whether he did the right thing. No, that wasn't the question. The lady asking the question wants to see whether you are humble. He says the only mistakes that he's made is to appoint some wrong people.

"the president has to accept the responsibility" But he hasn't accepted any responsibility. 1050 soldiers died. $200 billion are going to be spent, at least. Someone should be fired, but that's not the way he does things. Jackass.

JFK should be talking about how W's not humble, but he's stayed on Iraq, and I think that's fine.

Question near the end on abortion. He's saying that as President he has to respect the beliefs of all Americans, and thus he can't be pro-life as a president. I think it is definitely the right answer, but I'm not sure how exactly it will play with America.

Bush says that he won't spend money on abortions, and signed the ban on partial birth. In the end, I don't think it will matter in this election. The economy and iraq are too important, and people are sick of abortion except for the fringes on both sides.

Someone, should be pointing out, thought that teenage pregnancies have gone up on Bush's watch after an minimum under Clinton.

Kerry gave a very good answer to the stem cell question. And you wonder why scientists are overwhelmingly supporting him. It was a great line to say that "respecting life is to look for cures". Bush is a liar saying that embryonic stem cell research involves destroying life. The embryoes are already frozen and they aren't coming back.

"Talking about walking a waffled line" -- real good line. He's been attacking all night.

Bush is standing up before Kerry is done with his time. He's breaking the rules.

I'm on radio for right now. . . the stream came back. Interestingly, my stream is about 1 minute behind NPR.

Question on the Patriot act now. Why are my rights being watered down? Great question.

Actions require court orders and stuff. That's a lie. What about Hamdi? He didn't have a court order for 2 years, and then the court ordered them to let him go.

Strangely, my stream is much better now. I can see in crystal clarity.

Kerry has such a sense of hope in his rhetoric that W just doesn't have. I really think that's what he needs to bring home in the last 3 weeks.

--Oh no, my feed broke. I'll be back

On the environment, W has a plan to increase the wetlands by 3,000,000. Being an old astronomy teacher, I'd tend to wonder what exactly his units are. 3,000,000 square centimeters?

W has no idea what he's talking about in re the environment. He's making shit up, and trying to spit out his memorized facts. And then he says that he's going to rely on technology. How does he expect to increase R&D if we have 200,000,000,000 dollars going to Iraq. Maybe their environment will be nice.

JFK brings up Enron and smacks Bush around with the tax cuts and give aways.

Next question to Kerry -- promise not to raise taxes to people under 200K. Could have been a Bernie Goldberg death penalty moment, but he went with it. Has to sound good to people.

Bush says he will raise taxes and isn't credible as a fiscal conservative. And how exactly is Bush fiscally conservative? How exactly is Bush conservative at all?

Question about trial lawers. John Edwards did not sue medical professionals, he sued insurance companies. That's what people don't get about trial lawyers. It's the insurance companies being greedy, not lawers suing doctors. But I guess that's too difficult for most media to report.

JFK was a bit shaky on the beginning of this question, but got around to it by the end.

Ohhh. Bush brings out the National Journal ranking of Kerry as liberal. Well, NJ is conservative to begin with, so don't you think that they would rate the democratic frontrunner as liberal. Please.

George Bush doesn't want government run health care because it would involve rationing. Well, maybe I would like rationed health care, because it's better than what I got right now. Jackass.

Questions to Domestic policy now --- straight up, why did you block drug importation?

W wants to keep us safe. Damn you makigirl and your Canadian drugs. All those drugs made by American pharmaceutical companies just might be from the 3rd world, and you're letting them into our country to kill good god fearin' Americans.

Our number 1 threat after Saddam is Canadian Drugs.

Question straight up to Bush about the draft. He's heard rumors on the "in-ter-net". Nice try with the folksy stuff W.

By the way, he just said we're drawing troops down from Korea, but I thought he just said we couldn't tust Kim Jung Il. Why aren't we protecting ourselves.

Kerry just lists the Generals supporting him. Who's tougher on terror?

"The military's job is to win the war. It's the President's job to win the peace."

Best line so far.

Powerful 30 seconds from Kerry on Iraq.

Question 3 on the future of Iraq. Kerry has a different plan. His voice is passionate tonight. He keeps talking to Bush. He's stronger, and tougher. But don't look at him too much John.

Bush's answer to Question 1 goes right back to the same old stupid lines. He tells you he's a flip flopper and only opposed the war because of Ho Ho. What a joke.

Qestion 2 about WMD's. Good question, brings up North Korea.

-Each situation is different. Yeah, North Korea is more of a threat and he knows it.

And there we go with 9-11 changing everything. Grrr.

Yeah right he used diplomatic options. We all knew the war was going to happen from the fall of '02.

"Saddam Hussein was a unique threat" -- Yeah, a minimal one.

First question is for JFK from a woman who's friend's think he's too wishy-washy.

And he goes right after W. Go Johnny. It's not about you being wishy washy. It's about W lying to you.

I think we're in for a fun night.

Here we go. . .

dag gummit. I burned my popcorn. It's still mostly edible, though.

Alot of people on the internet have been really pulling for a big Kerry victory tonight. I'd love to see it, but I'd be real happy with a nice draw to slight win, that people can spin afterwards. The after spin is more important anyway. We need to just keep the momentum up.

Of course, W breaking down and crying would be useful too, I guess.

Laura and Teresa just came out. Who's the better first lady?

Unfortunately, I'm not getting any pre-debate spin right now. I'm watching CSPAN online, so right now I'm getting Charlie Gibson telling me to be quite during the debate and telling me what happened in the Red Sox game. (minor aside) - You know, I always root for the Sox against the Yankees, but I'm getting a bit sick of the Sox taking over American culture.

Well, tonight is a special night for the dragon. I'm sitting at home (I didn't feel like driving to one of the debate parties this evening. I ran too much.), so I'll be blogging the debate. I'll also be posting comments on . It's a great site, and I'm happy to be a new member. Click on the debate thread to find comments.

Talk soon.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Alright, Sunday night and I'm ready to get cracking on some of my writing. Hopefully, these reviews serve some purpose to you, makigirl, as it will save you from having to read all this stuff I ramble on about. I think I can be a bit more clear in this format. Also, then I'll have all this stuff cataloged and searchable (thanks google! :)) for future use, I'm imagining that my memory won't be photographic forever. So. . .

"The Structure of Scientific Revolutions" by Thomas S. Kuhn

Chapter 1:
In this chapter, TK makes the case for an historical perspective of science. By historical he means something more than just the collection of facts and figures. From his first sentence, "History, if veiwed as a repository for more than anecdote of chronology, could produce a decive transformation in the image of science that we are now possessed." He draws the disticntion between the way that a true history would look at science and the way that a textbook presents the history of science. Again, from page 1, "Inevitably, however, the aim of such books is persuasive and pedagogic; a concept of science drawn from them is no more likely to fit the enterprise taht produced them than an image of a national culture drawn from a tourist brouchure or a language text." The use of textbooks by scientists to smooth over the transitions in science's past will be examined in a very interesting way later in the book.

When viewed through the lens of a textbook, where scientific progress is presented as a slow, but direct accumulation of facts, the study of the history of science becomes, "the discipline that chronacles both these successive increments and the obstacles that have inhibited their accumulation." Furthermore, the historian must "describe and explain the congeries of error, myth, and superstition that have inhibed the more rapid accumulation of the constituents of the modern science text."

Why didn't we know more earilier? Why didn't the Greeks discover Oxygen? Why didn't the Romans build rocket ships? As historians examine the world views of these ancient cultures (or even non-ancient scientists), it becomes harder to dismiss them as purely myth and miguided intuition. Aristotelian dynamics was scientific, and did describe much of the world in the same manner as General Relativity does now. According to TK, "Out of date theories are not in principle unscientific because they have been discarded. That choice, however, makes it difficult to see scientific development as a process of accretion."

What does scientific development look like then? Kuhn suggests that modern (remember this was written in 1962) views "the historical integrity of that science in its own time." When viewed from this perspective, the progress of science becomes a series of leaps and bounds made between competing groups.

TK separates the process of these leaps and bounds into a number of categories, which he then will describe in order through the book. To first have what TK decribes as a "normal science", the investigators of a certain set of phenomena have to agree on their basic conception of the world. Questions such as "What are the fundemental entities of which the univers is composed? How do these interact with each other and with the senses? What questions may be legitimately be asked about such entites and what techniques employed in seeking solutions? must be answered in order for science to proceed.

At this point TK proposes that "normal science" proceeds. In this era, questions that are proposed by the world view (which will later be known as a paradigm) are answered. The world view provides the manner in which the questions will be asked, and gives the investigator an idea of what the answer to their research question will be. I find this idea very intrigueing. Although we are told we are to do original research for our Ph.D. degree, rarely do we ever do truly original research. Our research is proscribed by the paradigm, and typically, if we are smart, we know the result before we start. If we receive an answer that is not what we expect, we tend to blame ourselves or our equipment, not the paradigm.

However, eventually, if a number of research questions are unanswered satisfactorily by the paradigm, then TK proposes that the science will go into a period of "crisis". This period is when people start activily questioning the paradigm instead of thier results. A second competing paradigm can arise and challenge for the minds of the scientific community. TK will spend the end of the book addressing these paradigmatic challenges and how the winning and losing paradigms are incorporated by the community.

Stay tuned for Chapter 2. . .

Friday, October 01, 2004

John Kerry cleaned W's clock last night. No question about it. He was more poised, polished, and looked more Presidential. This was supposed to be W's strong point. His people wanted this foreign policy debate first to end John Kerry's campaign. Well, it backfired. Big John's around, and he's moving in to the White House.

I did my part by taking newspaper and tv internet polls in every swing state. Heh.

And, here's a bit of visual comedy.