Physicist and dabbler in writing fantasy/science fiction.

Wiki Contributions


A "Gallifreyan" sounds also like a Doctor Who timelord (IE an alien from Galifrey).

All true. But, sometimes people are having IVF anyway, for fertility or other reasons, and in that case the argument for doing it is stronger. Also, I am not advocating that you go in and change one gene to reduce the diabetes chance by 0.3%. If you are doing anything at all you are changing many genes, so that the overall change of diabetes is cut by some larger percentage, and the chance of cancer is reduced similarly, and the chance of ... 

To clarify, I am in no way saying that the current offering is anywhere near being worth the current price for the typical person. I am speculating that in the future the offerings will be more attractive (more diseases reduced by larger percentages) at lower prices, and that there are some atypical scenarios (eg. if you have an awful genetic disease, or are having IVF anyway) where the gap to "worth it" will close relatively fast.

I believe that the CRISPR cost is for treating an already existing adult, and that it would be much cheaper to do it for a newly fertilised egg that is about to implanted as a pregnancy. Looking to the future we could also hope that CRISPR will get cheaper.

The point about creating other problems sounds like it could be a real issue unless people are very careful. Maybe you have good data for identifying medical problems, but not knowing the causal pathway means weird stuff can happen. Lets say their is a gene that effects your sense of taste in such a way as to ruin (or significantly hamper) your enjoyment of food. That gene might anti-correlate with diabetes, but you probably wouldn't want it.

I understand what you mean now. Thanks for clarifying.

Its like the old argument about how if a "miracle" is defined as something that breaks the fundamental laws of physics then they can't happen by definition. Observing Jesus water walking only indicates that the true laws of physics controlling buoyancy contain an exception for which a sufficient cause is being the son of god. (Its not that the code wasn't followed, but that it contained "if" statements).

If we find a "god" who seems a lot like the ones people worship (eg, actually fathered a man called Jesus), but is made of some kind of real physical stuff (a type of matter or energy, or some new thing as yet undiscovered), then I would chalk that up as a victory for the theists, definitional issues aside. I think the only logically reasonable way of interpreting theists is to take them as postulating real physical things (made of some kind of matter, or other thing not yet understood by science). Obviously on firm evidence of such beings step one is to study them extensively. Find ways of harnessing, their capabilities. Once they were understood, and "god" derived spirits or materials were commonplace they would seem no more special than radioactivity or computers.

Often in fantasy settings with magic systems the author seems to realize that they have turned magic into a "mundane" thing that is no more special in there world than radioactivity is in ours.  This cane lead them to draw a distiniction between two levels of magic, the explained "ordinary", "mundane" magic (the one power in Wheel of time, "Wingardium Leviosa" in Harry Potter). And a deeper level of magic with less reasoned rules (the True Power in wheel of time, Harry's mothers love protecting him in Harry potter).

(Sorry for the wall of text ramble, I think its an interesting distinction you are making.)

You seem to be saying that the existence or not of god does not follow the usual rules of updating your beliefs based on evidence. I disagree with that.

Say, for example, that you put a very low (possibly zero) probability on the idea that god exists. Your argument seems to be saying that there is no sensory experience whatsoever that should make this hypothetical atheist update their beliefs on that point. Even seeing God, convincingly turn up and speak to them, repeatedly, many times, until its as normal as seeing the sky, should not apparently convince them.

I think this is bad reasoning. Yes, sensory experience can be flawed, drugs can addle your mind. That just means you don't update all the way. I believe in the moon, but I cannot completely rule out that I have been drugged and its a hallucination. I don't think that the rules of logic and evidence should have an exception clause for spiritual or godlike entities.

I know the UK system, the US is probably the same.

Whenever a professor applies for a research grant, and gets it, the university gets a slice of the money. Whenever a professor publishes a paper in a fancy journal, the university gets a bit of prestige (and, in the UK, every few years some computer evaluates all those papers by some criteria of fancyness and doles out money to universities in proportion to how many good papers their employees have made.)

Two people apply for a professorship at the university. One of them last year secured a load of grants, which they translated into a lot of papers in Nature journals. One of them didn't. That is a measurable, quantifiable difference.  You can write down the numbers, and see that $X>$Y.

Maybe at interview you ask them both to do a dummy lecture. Its all a bit subjective though, nothing you can pin a hard and fast number on.

So any of the following is sufficient reason to hire the one with the grants and papers:

  • They are not that much worse at teaching.
  • The institution is cynical and wants money. The bottom line isn't directly damaged by bad teaching, it is by missed grants. Teaching only very softly feedbacks on revenue.
  • You (consciously or not) weigh objective measures more highly that subjective ones.
  • You believe in "the game". It wouldn't be fair to hire person B when everyone knows the game is research grants, and person A has played the game better. If the game doesn't matter then why do you deserve to keep your own job that you got by playing it so well?

You hire the grant-machine. Do they suddenly put all their time into teaching as best they can? Well to get promoted they need ... more grants! The teaching is something that pulls time away from the activities that the system rewards.

Yes, its an awful system. How to fix it I don't know.

I am a little confused by this. If there is an email chain where all the engineers are speculating wildly about what could go wrong, then that posses a legal risk to the company, if and only if, they are later being sued because one of those wild speculations was actually correct.

That is not to say that the speculation is necessarily useful, an infinite list of speculative failure modes, containing a tiny number of realistic ones, is just as useless and a zero-length list. But I would prefer that the choice between a longer list (where true dangers are missed because they are listed alongside reams of nonsense) and a shorter list (where true dangers are missed because they were omitted)  was made to maximise effectiveness, not minimize legal exposure*.

*This is not a criticism of any organisation or person operating sensibly within the legal system, but a criticism of said system.

Perhaps. I would not consider it "trickery". You wanted specific information, but instead asked for general information that contained that specific.

If I am the one being asked "are you still working on X", then (for some values of X) I can imagine my though process being "Oh yeah, X, I have been meaning to get onto that", and replying "Sorry, I have been busy with other stuff, will get onto it", then drop the other stuff and do indeed get on with X. In the context of this discussion that would not be the intended outcome, because the intent of the question was to discover information, not to change my priorities.

I think you are sort of missing the point when you bring in "honesty". Even an honest co-worker who you trust can have a thing that is number 10 on their to-do list.  A simple yes/no "is it on your to-do list" would yield a yes. Although in this case it is in real danger of never actually being done, simply because if its number 10 on the list now then its implied value is low enough that new things coming onto the list are very likely to leapfrog it.

Very well described.

In terms of asking people where a project is, I have a vague idea that instead of asking "Are you still working on project X", you can instead ask

Q : "Hey, what projects are you working on/prioritising at the moment?"

A: "A is happening today. I want to get onto B at the end of the week. C is happening in the background. I haven't forgotten D, don't worry."   

Q: (Knows that X is not happening)

This is a point of disconnect between me and my partner. I have never worried about the time elapsed before talking to someone again, but she does. Often I will suggest she meets one of her friends, and she says something like "I haven't spoken to them in years". My response is always "if more time makes it more awkward, then you should {ring/email/facebook message/text}   immediately."

One of the good things about facebook (a very small category in my opinion) is that major life events (births, weddings etc) result in people who have kind of forgotten each other being reminded and exchanging a few pleasant messages.

Load More