Re: FAME!

1

There is a lot of space between 100 years and forever.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 6:27 AM
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The 4th of Never, for instance.


Posted by: Jimmy Pongo | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 6:32 AM
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The 4th of Never, for instance.


Posted by: Jimmy Pongo | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 6:32 AM
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Growing old in good health with a large, caring extended family of children and grandchildren (and possibly great-grandchildren) in close proximity who visit often seems like it would be great, even if everyone from the first half of your life has passed away.

Growing old in lonliness, with family distant and contact intermittent, with failing health, with a feeling that the world has all changed, has moved on without you, even though you're still hanging on, mostly forgotten except as a burden? Seems like it would be miserable.

So, circumstances matter.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 6:33 AM
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For instance.

I agree that I wouldn't want to extend my life indefinately simply for the sake of life extension, but I'm attached enough to the concept of being alive that I'd easily take another forty years if I could manage a reasonably good quality of life.


Posted by: Jimmy Pongo | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 6:36 AM
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the part where you outlive everyone from the first half of your life seems really depressing.

In the scenario where medical science advances really fast, you wouldn't be the only person living to 120 (or 200 or whatever).

And, too, even living to 80 involves a lot of people from the first half of your life passing away.

My late grandparents had the following conversation many times when they were both in their late 80s:
(reading newspaper) "Oh, dear. So-and-so has died."
(shocked) "Really? But he was just our age!"


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 6:37 AM
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2: How about never? Is never good for you?


Posted by: OPINIONATED GUY IN NEW YORKER CARTOON | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 6:42 AM
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7: What a misunderstanding!


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 6:42 AM
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I dunno. We're looking at this from a long way away (Is anybody here over 70? I'm just 60, and I think there are one or two others around that age, but that's it.) My father died at 88; he was mentally as sharp as a knife until that moment, and had been physically pretty fit until the last couple of years. But well before he died he was saying that he felt it was time to go, that he'd done enough and seen enough and had enough.

Perhaps you get to feel that way. I hope so, really.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 6:53 AM
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Yeah if you were going to live to be much older than everyone else you should start practicing making friends with younger people as you go along. This seems like just a good idea in general, otherwise you never find out about internets, etc.

From what I see on TV from time to time, the people who make it to 120 seem to have a pretty good quality of life, and I kind of think this stands to reason: if they were bedridden, or even senile, they would have died much earlier. Maybe someone can be senile for 10 years, but not much more, because you become too forgetful to keep your organs going? (Senile for 10 years is my only datapoint.)

But I don't *love* the idea of having an old-ass body for 30-to-infinity years, so hopefully the science keeps improving beyond just slowing down senescence. Maybe every 20 years or so would be a new body phase, something we'd grow ourselves (stem cells, etc)... years 110-130 would be the pegasus years, years 130-150 would be the albatross years... in fact this is my ideal way it plays out.


Posted by: ursyne | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 6:54 AM
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9 moi.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 6:54 AM
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I would totally be down for being a functioning brain-in-a-jar after my body gave out, able to continue observing and learning.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 6:57 AM
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Especially if the jar could be mounted in some sort of large and intimidating robot chassis.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 7:00 AM
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I don't know that I want to keep working beyond the next 25 or 30 years, but if I didn't I'm not sure how I'd afford to live to 120.


Posted by: Mr. Blandings | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 7:01 AM
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The robot chassis is key. I love observing and learning a whole big lot, but I think if you took away the possibility of interaction I'd be headed for madnessville pretty quickly.


Posted by: Jimmy Pongo | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 7:03 AM
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...able to continue observing and learning

Eventually, people would start to feel creeped out by having to make new porn for the brains-in-jars and they'd put Net Nanny on the brains' computers.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 7:04 AM
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Both my grandmothers were in their late 90s, in pretty good condition considering, not bed-ridden, not in any great pain, and as much as anything they were bored of sticking around. Their friends were all gone; everything was new and no longer the way they liked; the world was clearly getting no better. I think the notion of another 25 years apiece would have appalled both of them.


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 7:05 AM
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Their friends were all gone; everything was new and no longer the way they liked; the world was clearly getting no better. I

Of course if everybody was living to 120 that would no longer be true, but the rest of it would. The other thing about freakishly old people these days is that they're treated as special for being freakishly old. If you're looking at that additional 50% of existence and everybody's "Yeah, so?" maybe it's not so exciting.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 7:09 AM
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I've certainly read about super old people who were miserable and wanted to die. A minority, but it would make sense for the happy ones to be overrepresented in the media.


Posted by: David The Unfogged Commenter | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 7:16 AM
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20

Once my body starts to go, I'm planning on making the transition to cyborg.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 7:21 AM
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21

I'm hoping to ascend to a higher plane of existence, so if I end up in a mason jar just tell my brain I've ascended and point it to some appropriate part of the internet.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 7:26 AM
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I always enjoy the feature in the Fortean Times they run every year: basically a little where-are-they-now catch-up of the oldest known humans. Who's died; who's a fraud after all; who now tops the bill, and so on. The interviews are always the same shape: asked what they attribute it to, they declare that they've (for example) eaten a plate of sausage washed down with a glass of red wine, followed by brandy and a good cigar, for the last 70 years. Plus they danced a lot when they were young, or whatever. The Georgians all ate nothing but yogurt and honey (and lied a lot).

There's a French woman who made a rap record aged 121. It's not terribly good, mind you.


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 7:29 AM
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It's not terribly good, mind you.

It probably wouldn't have been if she'd been 21. She'd never thought of herself as a musician until she turned out to be the oldest person on earth.

What I like are the memories of times I think of as being totally lost. I remember reading an interview a few years ago with an incredibly old Spanish woman who was talking about the young men in her village leaving to go to Cuba to fight the Yanquis. I mean, WTF?


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 7:33 AM
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a little where-are-they-now catch-up of the oldest known humans

The last American survivor of the Bataan Death March just died at 105.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 7:38 AM
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23: It's kind of exciting to think that if I live long enough I might one day be asked to describe what it was like during the collapse of the Republic.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 7:38 AM
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The last surviving veteran of World War I anywhere (technically) is a woman who joined the RAF in 1918. She served as a canteen waitress.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 7:44 AM
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I'd just like to have the choice. (And for other people to have the choice.)

I think it's easy to confuse wanting to keep on living with wanting to keep on aging. If we extend life materially beyond 120, the extra years will likely be like a 30-65 year old, not more years like a 90 year old.

Also I suspect there's some sour grapes going on; if it were really possible to live long past 120 in good health, probably some of the people who think they don't want any more life would change their minds.


Posted by: Benquo | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 7:46 AM
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28

They also serve who only stand and wait.


Posted by: John Milton | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 7:47 AM
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29

27. I have to work hard not to come over all Malthusian about the prospect, tbh.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 7:50 AM
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29: Don't worry: the jars will stack nicely.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 7:52 AM
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and as much as anything they were bored of sticking around. Their friends were all gone; everything was new and no longer the way they liked; the world was clearly getting no better. I think the notion of another 25 years apiece would have appalled both of them.

I was this at 30.

Wasn't enough to go actively seek death, which seemed too much hassle. Might as well let the inertia carry me through another day. I mean there's isn't any point in living or dying, there never was, there never will be, I seek (take just a little effort) pleasure and avoid pain and ain't gonna either live or die as a matter of fucking principle.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 7:56 AM
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32

I have to work hard not to come over all Malthusian about the prospect, tbh.

Longer life expectancy will necessarily lead to lower fertility rates, because a prospective relationship has the potential to be mucked up not only by any of four interfering parents, but also by any of eight interfering grandparents, sixteen interfering great-grandparents and thirty-two interfering great-great-grandparents. Actually sustaining a relationship in the face of this sort of thing to the point of marriage and progeny will be a near miracle.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 8:00 AM
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33

26: they say that the waiting is the hardest part.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 8:01 AM
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34

To move to a hypothetical extreme, SF seems to have reached an approximate consensus that if youthful lifespan is made indefinite, and people aren't altered much otherwise, we'd probably choose to die after some handful of centuries on average, as some combination of ennui, having done everything you hoped to, the brain going out of warranty, and the growing incomprehensibility of the world mounts up.

The debates on the subject tend to include a number of people assuming eternal life would automatically become the norm. I agree that would suck, but I don't see it as likely.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 8:01 AM
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7: How about never? Is never good for you?

"Death ray, fiddlesticks! Why, it doesn't even slow them up!"


Posted by: NOT COMPLETELY OFF-TOPIC NEW YORKER CARTOON GUY | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 8:03 AM
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36

Next week, I'll officially become the parent of a high school student, which makes me feel like I should go ahead and start putting aside money for my brain-jar already.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 8:04 AM
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34: Remember, if you can't die (and can't travel at near light speed), you eventually get stuck in a supernova or stranded alone on a cold rock.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 8:04 AM
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38

Next week, I'll officially become the parent of a high school student

How long ago did the unofficial ones hit high school?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 8:06 AM
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39

34: advances in medical science won't mean indefinite lifespan, because there will still be accident, suicide and murder.
Violent deaths alone (suicide, murder, war) run at 26 per 100,000 per year in the US. Accidental injury gives you another 57. So that's 83 per 100,000; life expectancy of about 1200 years even if you cure every infectious and non-infectious disease.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 8:09 AM
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40

"[Old Parr] existed and even ">thrived on a diet of 'subrancid cheese and milk in every form, coarse and hard bread and small drink, generally sour whey'"

Winner: for "subrancid" -- is this better or worse than merely normally rancid?


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tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 8:11 AM
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41

...because there will still be accident, suicide and murder.

Or as we call it, the PTA fundraiser.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 8:11 AM
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42

I could see wanting an extraordinarily extended life if it were more years of healthy maturity rather than old age. Career switching, and picking up new skills generally, is the thing I'd be interested in -- if I could, after packing my kids off to a properly launched adulthood, go back to grad school for something completely different, spend three hours a day for a decade learning a musical instrument properly, or learning to play basketball well, or something like that. The sorts of things that while I could be doing them now, I don't really have the time and energy to invest, and when I do I'll only have a decade or so before I really start losing capacity.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 8:12 AM
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43

subrancid


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 8:12 AM
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44

I'd like to see how it all "turns out"* but an extra 40 (or even 1120) won't really accomplish that.

*The next few billion years** of plate tectonics for instance.

**Speeded up.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 8:16 AM
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45

How far into the future can they predict plate tectonics?


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 8:18 AM
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46

I predict they will stop moving.


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 8:19 AM
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47

I'd like to see how it all "turns out"

Snape wasn't evil, Harry doesn't die for very long, and Hermione winds up with Ron.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 8:21 AM
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39: I did call it a hypothetical extreme - it can include ubiquitous backups.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 8:28 AM
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39: With a 0.083% chance of dying each year, if you start with 1,000 people, 369 of them will still be alive in 1200 years. Almost 2800 years to get below 1% survival.


Posted by: Mr. Blandings | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 8:29 AM
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50

As we're seeing now, even moderately extended lifespan will suck without a generous social welfare system, making it in everyone's reach to switch careers.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 8:32 AM
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51

I wonder how long you could sustain a monogamous-ish relationship under these conditions. I doubt 1200 years, and I speak as someone who's naturally fairly monogamous. So that's a norm that would have to change.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 8:39 AM
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52

35: God, I love that cartoon.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 8:42 AM
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51: Many norms would have to change.

For one, having kids would be a bigger deal.

For another, it would probably be necessary to reexamine attitudes toward suicide.


Posted by: Benquo | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 8:42 AM
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54

51: Would it really be worth living to 1000 if it means you end up with 25 ex-wives?


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 8:43 AM
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54: I'm guessing that everybody having 25 ex-spouses (and who knows how many unmarried exes) would boost the 0.083% chance of dying a violent death by a considerable amount.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 8:46 AM
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For one, having kids would be a bigger deal.

Or a smaller deal. Apo's mentioned wondering what childless people do with all of their money, and he's right, kids are wildly expensive for most of your prime earning years. Having kids would be very different if it were a huge economic drain for a fifth of your adult life rather than two-thirds of it.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 8:47 AM
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There was an article on aging in New Scientist recently. Apparently it stops once you reach a sufficiently great age. Not in the sense that people don't die, but in the sense that senescence peters oout eventually.

My grandfather is 97 and still pretty hale and hearty and doesn't seem to be in any great rush to pop off. He is quite amused -- not in a nasty way -- at how decrepit the guys he used to work with now look when he meets them in the street [he retired in 1978]. I can't say how long I'd personally like to go on, but if life remains/becomes interesting enough, I see no reason not to want to keep going.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 8:48 AM
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58

He's 97? Looks great.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 8:49 AM
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59

His teeth are whiter than mine.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 8:51 AM
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60

Is that his guitar in the background?


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 8:51 AM
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61

re: 58

Took that photo a couple of days after his birthday. But he doesn't wear glasses, doesn't use a walking stick, and while he gets tired after a day out and has to have a sit down after an hour or two of walking, he's still fitter than a lot of people 20 years his junior.

re: 59

They aren't real.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 8:53 AM
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62

He does not look 97.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 8:53 AM
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63

re: 60

Heh. He's a big fan of Hendrix. But no, that's my flat.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 8:53 AM
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64

Thank god.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 8:54 AM
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65

56: Or you'd end up paying for a larger portion of your kids life.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 8:55 AM
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re: 65

That's already happened for a lot of families. College, etc. Helping them with deposits for a flat, and so son.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 8:56 AM
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Holy crap Ttam's 97 year old grandfather looks amazing.

Here's another pet theory: the US sucks for getting old relative to almost anywhere else in the industrialized or mostly industrialized world. Old guys in Europe tend (more often, anyway) to look healthy, dress well, and have a lot of familial and othe contact with the young. Old Americans look and dress worse, are more isolated, and ride around on those horrible "Rascal" things.

I have no idea if this is actually true, but it seems like it could be true.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 8:57 AM
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68

64: Not only must I succeed, but others must fail have worse teeth than me.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 8:57 AM
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69

Right, so my assumption was that if life-spans continued to increase, I'd expect the trend of paying for older adult children to keep pace.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 8:58 AM
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re: 67.1

I presume it's partly lifestyle. His young life was quite tough -- worked in cotton mills when he was 14 or 15, etc -- but when he was a bit older and in the RAF he ran marathons, and boxed, and then stayed fit. I have distinct memories of staying with them when I was in my teens (so he was in his 70s) and at that time he still got up in the morning and did his 'exercises' [push-ups, situps, and so on] every day, without fail. And for years after he retired he had several allotments he used to cycle between every day, gardening.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 9:03 AM
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69: There's some point at which that's going to level out, wouldn't you think? Launched is launched. Actually, it would be interesting in that people would have bigger families -- even with one or two kids each, if you had them early in your lifespan, you'd know several generations of your descendants as adults. I'd bet intra-family help and support would flow from successful to struggling family members regardless of generation: you'd be as likely to be getting help from your fifty-year-old kids as continuing to help them out.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 9:17 AM
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45: How far into the future can they predict plate tectonics?

A long way when measured in human lifespans. Not very long in earth history terms. For something on the order of tens of millions of years there seems to be pretty good consensus* although incipient rifts start and stop for reasons not generally understood. "Pangaea, the comeback".

*Keep betting on the Alps and the Andes in the medium-term. I recall there being some evidence/speculation of a potential new subduction zone developing south of India which would presumably take some of the steam out of the Himalayas (but no time soon).


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 9:17 AM
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Keep betting on the Alps and the Andes in the medium-term.

Bet on them to do what? Promote situational cannibalism?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 9:23 AM
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71: Your assumption on advent of menopause is? Is there any evidence in movement of that age in the past 100 years or so?


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 9:23 AM
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75

I didn't realize until a few months ago just how recently the theory of plate tectonics was established. The key ideas didn't exist until the 40s and 50s, the theory wasn't really developed until the late 60s, and it wasn't fully accepted until the 70s!


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 9:24 AM
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74: You mean in terms of when in your lifespan you could have kids? We can freeze eggs now -- if whatever the life-extension technology we're talking about didn't extend fertility as well, I figure people would conventionally freeze some eggs as young adults.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 9:26 AM
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73: Existing. Staying erect. Keeping, keeping on. The Mediterranean Sea, not so much.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 9:27 AM
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78

The big question would be whether income by age would continue to have it's current increasing profile, or whether it would become more plateaued. As long as young people are making a small fraction of what people at their peak earning potential are making, you're going to have money flowing to older children.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 9:27 AM
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76: OK, right. I'm not thinking outside the box enough.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 9:28 AM
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80

Doesn't it plateau now? Outside of a small minority on a tall career ladder, I'd be surprised if 55-year-olds consistently earned more than 50-year-olds.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 9:30 AM
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I'm not thinking outside the box

As it were.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 9:30 AM
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80: It does where I work.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 9:31 AM
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The big question would be whether income by age would continue to have it's current increasing profile, or whether it would become more plateaued

Or multi-peaked, if people have the sort of multi-chapter career that LB is suggesting in 42.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 9:31 AM
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Hrm. You're totally right. So I guess there's no particular reason to think that living longer would make the run-up to that plateau longer.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 9:32 AM
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85

When I was a kid (early 60s) I had a dinosaur book with lovely pictures of tail dragging beasts living in swamps. But the part which retrospectively seems even wierder was that it included world maps for the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous, which were basically modern continents with more or less inundation and these insane ribbon like land bridges crossing the middle of the oceans to explain, for example, how the same genus managed to live in Europe and North America.

At the end there was a brief note about Wegener's "theory" of continental drift, which explained what a pity it was that it couldn't possibly be right.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 9:33 AM
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75: Yes, a massive revolution in the science. However, "40s and 50s" probably does not give Wegener* enough credit for his seminal ideas dating from the 1910s. He was fucking right not a crank.

*Died semi-heroically on a meteorological expedition to Greenland in 1930.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 9:34 AM
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The thing is that Wegener's theory of continental drift *couldn't possibly be right*. That is, all the proposed mechanisms for how the continents were moving (plowing through the ocean crust as a result of the moons gravity??) were physically impossible. There's a big difference between the modern theory of plate tectonics and the older theory of continental drift. The key point was the discovery of seafloor spreading


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 9:36 AM
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88

In fact you might find that a 60-year-old new graduate would be cheaper to hire than a 20-year-old; the 60-year-old has savings (or at least won't have university debt), she's paid off her mortgage, she's maybe even got a pension from her last (pre-college) job...


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 9:36 AM
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87: Fuck the physical mechanism.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 9:38 AM
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87, 89: Yeah, while I shouldn't secondguess the midcentury geologists, wouldn't you think that just looking at maps and fossils would convince them that it had happened somehow, and that the problem was coming up with a mechanism?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 9:41 AM
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87. I know. But I think it's interesting that even at that date the author, whose name I've forgotten - I keep thinking it was Ned Colbert, but he wrote my other staple reference of the time - recognised that it fitted the data in some ways far better than the conventional explanation. After all, what was the proposed mechanism for persistent peninsulas three thousand miles long and a hundred miles wide?


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 9:41 AM
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86: I looked that up and found canine situational cannibalism so at least I learned something useful.

Also, the name Wegener comes up in my field (Wegener's granulomatosis) and now I know why the name is being changed (during the war, he was very bad).


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 9:43 AM
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The now extinct causeway snail, a mollusc lacking hard parts, so entirely absent from the fossil record, but whose lifecycle involved building long narrow heaps of seafloor ooze.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 9:44 AM
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84: If we could find a way to reliably keep the brain young for longer, that would push farther out the point at which diminishing ability matters more than accumulating experience and wisdom.

Though it's by no means obvious that mean income by age is a function of productivity.


Posted by: Benquo | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 9:46 AM
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89: Sorry, a classic example where the more "rigorous" science screwed the pooch** in the face of compelling "circumstantial" evidence from a "softer" science*. Like the age of the earth in the late 19th century.

Sure, sea-floor spreading/magnetic striping of the seafloor was what sealed the deal, but it is less a "mechanism" (still not really understood today) and more some more pieces of the puzzle. Wegener had a legitimate early theory in the terms of his particular science, but instead is marginalized and it irks me.

*Other than the plowing continents part he actually the physics more right than many physicists

**To be fair, also most geologists and biologists (when George Gaylord Simpson blasted continental drift out of the water in the early 40s it was well and truly dead).


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 9:47 AM
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More ... more


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 9:49 AM
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(OT: How obvious is it that I'm dodging writing a brief this week? It feels as if I'm commenting even more compulsively than usual, but I don't know if it shows up.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 9:54 AM
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I'm dodging doing work in Access. I'd rather do work in SAS, but we have more people who can do that.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 9:57 AM
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Regardless of how much credit Wegener deserves, plate tectonics certainly wasn't generally accepted until far far more recently than I'd realized. Certainly he deserves some credit. It also seems to me that understanding the mechanism better makes the theory much more valuable in terms of predictive and explanatory power. It seems likely to me that there's more than enough credit to go around to everyone involved, given what a huge accomplishment it is.

Have there been any conceptual scientific revolutions in the hard sciences on the level of plate tectonics in the time since then? The timeline on the big bang is pretty comparable. DNA and related discoveries in molecular cell biology is also roughly the same time frame. Anything since then?


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 10:02 AM
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81: As it were.

Explicit, thanks for making that.

I'm both dodging work and recovering from a rage-inducing work meeting this morning.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 10:02 AM
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88 makes me wonder whether young people would be employable at all. Maybe your first career would be an unpaid internship career, because everyone knows you're not really valuable until you've had the experience of having one career.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 10:03 AM
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99.2: Other than unraveling the mysteries of the universe and the fundamental building blocks of life, not much has happened.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 10:05 AM
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98. Are you referring to the Microsoft toy database that my former employers banned across the site twelve years ago?


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 10:08 AM
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I don't understand 102. The conceptual revolution in the fundamental building blocks of life happened a generation ago. What's happened since then is technological breakthroughs which have allowed excellent work to be done fleshing out that conceptual revolution.

Hopefully in the next generation or two will have a revolution in cognitive science and in the origin of life/astrobiology. But it does seem to me that we're running out of things that we totally don't understand.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 10:09 AM
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But it does seem to me that we're running out of things that we totally don't understand.

We're running out of women?!


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 10:11 AM
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103: Yes.

104: It just seemed you were a bit too disappointed with science.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 10:12 AM
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99: How dare you respond graciously! And yes the Wegener thing is just a historical nit. The whole thing really was great and mostly happened within my lifetime . Early in my career, I overlapped at one job with a pretty good scientist who was a co-author on what he acknowledged was probably the last non-plate tectonics explanation of magnetic sea floor striping.

One of the hardest exam questions of my life was in a Historical Geology class where you needed to describe the evolution of a particular geologic feature using a pre-plate tectonics theory. Something, something, isostasy ... something something mumbel (makes no sense).


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 10:12 AM
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Have there been any conceptual scientific revolutions in the hard sciences on the level of plate tectonics in the time since then?

String theory and its bastard brood? But that was a remarkable epoch. I just googled the Higgs mechanism in connection, and that was proposed in 1964, which is about then too.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 10:12 AM
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Other than who we are, and whether we are alone in the universe we've pretty much got it all nailed down.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 10:13 AM
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I was thinking dark matter/dark energy might be a candidate. But I'm not sure whether that counts as at the level of plate tectonics.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 10:13 AM
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Though I guess knowing the future of the universe is kind of a big deal.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 10:15 AM
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I should also probably put computational complexity theory on the list of likely future revolutions. A good theory of the unknowable (that is, which things are unknowable in practice and why) is also a huge gap in our knowledge.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 10:19 AM
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Before dark matter, how did people think large structures cohered? I honestly don't remember if I ever knew.

Oh, I know what's happened! The CBR!


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 10:19 AM
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"Cold Beer Room"?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 10:21 AM
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Cosmic microwave background radiation is roughly same time-frame as tectonics (though without a Wegener figure). The Nobel was given out in 78 before I was born. I want something from my lifetime.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 10:23 AM
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I thought dark matter was hypothesized when people first noticed things cohereing that oughtn't.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 10:23 AM
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115: There's the dinosaurs/birds thing. That's kind of cool.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 10:24 AM
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113: The current AMNH planetarium show has Whoopi Goldberg talking about dark matter a lot. ("Dark matter's gravity pulled these gasses together forming the first stars!") It's great. It's the first time I ever heard dark matter mentioned in something aimed at kids.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 10:25 AM
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For fuck's sake we're trying! Give us a clue, are you still in high school? Undergrad? When were you born?


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 10:25 AM
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Just to be a pain in the ass - seafloor spreading is not the mechanism of plate techtonics. The plates move due to enormous convective cells of magma which drag the plates around, leading to spreading in some places and subduction in others. The spreading of the sea floor is due to the plates being pulled apart, it is not pushing them apart. You can readily enough see this by noting that forces large enough to shove India into the rest of Asia with sufficient force to raise the Himalayas ought to be strong enough to push the sea floor up above the surface at the location of the spreading.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 10:27 AM
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115: Structuring pooled mortgages into "tranches".


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 10:28 AM
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120: Maybe the weight of the water stops the sea floor from being pushed up.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 10:29 AM
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I was born in 1980.

The dinosaurs/birds thing is certainly cool. I don't think it's close to the level of tectonics though.

The Alvarez theory of the K/T extinction is in my lifetime. Still not as important as tectonics. But pretty huge nonetheless.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 10:30 AM
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117. Way cool, but by Commenter's standards well within the "golden age" before he was born - Deinonychus antirrhopus (Ostrom, 1964) would seem to be the key to it (yes, I did have to look up the date.)


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 10:31 AM
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123: I cured cancer, but I keep putting off writing the paper.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 10:32 AM
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Also, the dinosaur/bird thing was originally proposed by Thomas Huxley, but later scientists progressed...


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 10:32 AM
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120: Of course mechanisms have mechanisms going all the way down. Still there's a big difference between spreading/subduction as a mechanism versus plowing through. For example, the former explains why ocean floor rock is recycled.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 10:33 AM
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What about reading, as opposed to "proposing a mechanism for" the genome?


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 10:34 AM
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mechanism s/b structure.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 10:35 AM
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124: That's 10 years after the key discoveries for tectonics. The dinosaur renaissance does overlap with my lifetime, though it is on the very early end of it. But I still feel like it's too specific. For example, our understanding of moons of gas giants was revolutionized within my lifetime. But both of those seem to me to be specific discoveries rather than conceptual revolutions. But I'll admit I'm probably being too picky.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 10:40 AM
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In terms of solving millenia-old problems, Viagra's pretty significant.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 10:40 AM
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My dad -- who was a botanist and a geographer -- told me there was a big conference, in maybe 1965-ish, where the continental-drift episteme shift largely happened: he said basically all these young scientists arrived at it, expecting to be defending their own solitary very radical and heretical paper against all-comers, and discovered they all agreed with one another. He said the change of perspective within the various relevant disciplines really was almost total, almost overnight: very unusual.

Also that the discovery of sonar during WW2 was the key to all the relevant work undertaken in the 50s.


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 10:42 AM
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132.2: That makes a great deal of sense. It's has got to be much easier to posit all kinds of land bridges before you have any idea about the depth of the seas.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 10:44 AM
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"The message is that there are known knowns. There are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say there are things that we now know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we do not know we don't know."

See "Pieces of Intelligence: The Existential Poetry of Donald H. Rumsfeld;" Free Press, 2003.


Posted by: bill | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 10:44 AM
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our understanding of moons of gas giants was revolutionized within my lifetime.
As has our understanding of our own.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 10:45 AM
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135: I thought that was mostly in the 70s?


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 10:46 AM
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136: It appears you're right, although refinements are still being made.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 10:49 AM
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Like that cool "an extra moon crashed into the far side of the moon depositing all the highlands and causing big lava flows on the near side" theory that hit the news a couple weeks ago.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 10:50 AM
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You know, instead of complaining all the time maybe you should go out and revolutionize how we perceive ourselves and the universe.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 10:51 AM
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You mean go drinking?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 10:53 AM
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If I were going to live for a 1000 years then maybe I'd switch careers into a field more likely to have a huge breakthrough. However, given current life-spans I'm sticking with the field I'm in. (Math's last big conceptual revolutions of the caliber we're discussing were Godel and computers. Computational complexity theory may be the only one we have left that's of this caliber.)


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 10:53 AM
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138: Also the discovery that the moon itself comes from a mindbuggeringly violent collision between the early earth and another body, the debris from the collision eventually coalescing into the moon. In other words, the Earth used to have rings like Saturn.

And on the subject of collisions - the asteroid theory for the extinction of the dinosaurs is one that went from "haha look at the wacky nutcase" to established fact within my lifetime.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 10:55 AM
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The tree of life has been reorganized since I was in high school; Archaea (and maybe fungi) promoted. Also, there's a lot of RNA/transcription/proteome/non-DNA subtlety that (I think) hasn't hit the pop press hard enough to loosen the DNA-is-fate story.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 10:55 AM
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I really liked the younger Alvarez's pop-science book about the impact theory, despite it's terrible terrible name ("T. Rex and the crater of doom").


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 10:56 AM
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140: No, that merely revolutionizes how you perceive your friends. I mean drop acid, but this time remember your brilliant new insights.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 10:56 AM
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Oh yeah. Archaea is a huge fucking deal. Initial paper in 77, but certainly acceptance falls in my lifetime.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 10:57 AM
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A lot of the lifespan stuff we've been discussing is in a Bruce Sterling novel, plus: pensions, health insurance, real estate, early careers, and pop music basically hosed. I don't like his juvenphilia, but surely agree about the pensions.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 11:00 AM
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Not like last time, when you came down with nothing but a post-it on which was written "I love orange juice" and an urgent need to pee.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 11:01 AM
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On the archaea theme, discoveries about extremophiles more generally are a big deal. (Undersea vent communities (1977), life far underground, etc.) Though I think we're still missing the big revolution there. (Is there life on Mars and/or Enceladus? Does life travel between different planets/moons on a regular basis? Did life start in an extreme environment?)


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 11:04 AM
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143. Fungi certainly promoted, but not as far as Archaea as I understand it. When a fungus sees an archaean it salutes.

The most exciting bit to me about playing shuffleboard with the 'tree of life' is that fungi have ended up closer to animals than plants. A very small addition to the catalogue of things that knock humans off their self-imagined perch at the top.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 11:05 AM
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The first division of life is into Bacteria, Archaea, Eukaryotes. Within Eukaryotes Fungi are a top-level division (comparable to animals and plants, though as chris y says, closer to animals).

The basic story that our classifications overemphasize things closer to humans at the expense of more fundamental divisions is a long long story. Linnaeus's classification of invertebrates is pretty hilarious.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 11:12 AM
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118: It's the first time I ever heard dark matter mentioned in something aimed at kids.

I know it's a stretch, but what about the Dust in the "His Dark Materials" books? Milton meets fantastical physics, plus armored bears.



Posted by: | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 11:13 AM
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152 was me.


Posted by: bill | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 11:13 AM
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Linnaeus's classification of invertebrates is pretty hilarious.

DUDE, IF IT'S BILATERALLY SYMMETRICAL AND LONGER THAN IT IS WIDE, IT'S A FUCKING WORM. YOU GOT A PROBLEM WITH THAT?


Posted by: OPINIONATED LINNAEUS | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 11:18 AM
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The first division of life is into three parts, one of which Bacteria occupy, another, Archaea, and a third a group which is called in its own tongue "good nuts" and in ours Eukaryotes.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 11:20 AM
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Linnaeus's classification of invertebrates is pretty hilarious.

Yay Vermes!

It should be emphasised more that Linnaeus was a botanist. When he ventured outside botany he was pretty damn hypothetical.

It should be emphasised more that Linnaeus was a courtier. When he ventured outside botany he was pretty damn respectable.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 11:21 AM
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Someone try power-cycling chris; he appears to be on the fritz.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 11:22 AM
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I'm not even as blown away by the extremophiles as by all the activity going on everywhere by things we can't culture (so they didn't "exist" until fairly cheap sequencing). Amazement in the quotidian is a lot of why I study soil.

If I had a long second career, I'd study fungi: a lot more...velleity than you'd think, & 32000 sexes, & their bodies don't need to be topologically connected, & metabolically talented at STP.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 11:27 AM
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132: He said the change of perspective within the various relevant disciplines really was almost total, almost overnight: very unusual.

I have speculated t(to myself) at times that the advent of pictures of the Earth from space helped prepare people mentally for the shift in perspective*.

*But of course everyone was already familiar with globes, but at some level I believe I'm fucking right.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 11:28 AM
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32000 sexes

At last, a reason to live to 1200!


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 11:29 AM
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Amazement in the quotidian is a lot of why I study soil.

It's also a good reason to avoid air travel, Greenland, dog sleds, radium, and other killers of scientists.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 11:29 AM
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I was trying to sort out the other day why fungi exist. Usually when you have some giant successful group like that, you can point out one thing that makes them obviously awesome (e.g. photosynthesis, rapid movement, silk, flight, continuously growing constantly sharpened teeth, etc.) What is that thing for fungi? I think I was able to narrow it down to something involving eating dead things, but failed at getting more specific than that.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 11:31 AM
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Creepiness?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 11:33 AM
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God wanted me to eat mushrooms.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 11:33 AM
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163: Why not? It's kept Steve Buscemi working for years.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 11:34 AM
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The tree of life has been reorganized since I was in high school....

Tempted to go with "Back when the foundations of the Earth were laid, and I could draw up Leviathan with a hook by the dappled light of a Texas magic hour," but also to venture farther afield:

"Now it's pimps in the front, hoes in the back and chumps in the trunk, son!"


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 11:35 AM
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At some point this year I realized that reading scientific papers (well mostly I mean biology and related fields) to get the main ideas isn't actually that hard. This kind of surprised me, because I can't read math papers outside of my subfield. But it's a lot of fun to realize that just because wikipedia doesn't know the answer doesn't mean I have to give up on a question.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 11:35 AM
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One last note on the Plate Tectonics stuff; as late as 1963 one of the scientists who first got it right on sea-floor striping was having his papers rejected.*

Another noteworthy mention to Vine and Matthews' hypothesis was that at the very same time Vine was penning their paper, a geologist by the name of Lawrence Morley from the Canadian Geological Survey was writing a similar paper, and in fact, submitted it to Nature before Vine and Matthews submitted theirs. Nature rejected Morley's paper on the grounds that it was "too radical and speculative" (p. 57). He then submitted it to the Journal of Geophysical Research, but it was again rejected, with a note to add insult to injury: "[The] idea is an interesting one -- I suppose -- but it seems most appropriate over martinis, say than in the Journal of Geoophysical Research." At that point, Morley admits he "felt frustrated with the system," and shifted his career focus to satellite remote sensing (p. 84). Vine became aware of Morley's paper in the late 1960s, and now the theory is referred to as the Morley-Vine-Matthews Hypothesis.
*Now there is often more than meets the eye to stories like these--the papers might have in fact been poorly argued or lacking in evidence.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 11:37 AM
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I was trying to sort out the other day why fungi exist.

Burning Man?


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 11:37 AM
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Steve Buscemi's wikipedia page should somehow have a link to Peter Lorre's page. I'm not sure exactly how you'd define it, but they are clearly members of the same something.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 11:37 AM
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160: Surely with indefinite near-youth you can average better than 27 times a year.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 11:39 AM
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Peter Lorre is more closely taxonomically grouped with Marty Feldman than Steve Buscemi. Steve Buscemi is with Don Knotts.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 11:42 AM
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85: At the end there was a brief note about Wegener's "theory" of continental drift, which explained what a pity it was that it couldn't possibly be right.

One more. Those kind of provocative asides in textbooks are probably a good thing.

Vine admits that he became interested in geology, quite by accident, while studying for the geography portion of his upcoming "O" (Ordinary) level exams at the age of 15. The textbook he was reading noted that geologists had no way to confirm that South America and Africa had once been connected, despite their similar coastlines. "It seemed to me that one could hardly conduct any meaningful study of the history of the earth until one had resolved this issue," he states in Reversals of Fortune (p. 49).


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 11:45 AM
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Don Knotts evil twin maybe.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 11:50 AM
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I don't know why I didn't try to become a geologist in college. It's the greatest career ever, no -- you work outside doing interesting things, travel to weird places, and if you're willing to work for Exxon you can even get rich.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 11:51 AM
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175: That one that I've talked to recounted being put in a survival suit and told that if the helicopter crashed he'd only have 15 minutes before he froze into oblivion even with the suit.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 11:55 AM
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If working outside appeals to you... I occasionally have pangs of regret that I'm not doing science of one sort or another, and then realize that I'm just not cut out for field work or lab work. I don't actually want to camp out in the middle of the arctic for a summer hitting stones with a hammer. And even if I did want to, I don't have the kind of attention to detail that would make me good at the practical aspects of science.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 11:56 AM
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162: It's the metabolic talent; they are supreme at digesting (rocks, lignin) & mostly hard to digest. Pretty sure of the first, second may be a eukaryotic view.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 12:37 PM
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I told you not to park below those windows. People throw stuff out them.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 12:54 PM
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Old guys in Europe tend (more often, anyway) to look healthy, dress well, and have a lot of familial and othe contact with the young.

Also a big thing with this: public transportation and walkable neighborhoods. If you lose the ability to drive in the U.S., you're pretty much isolated in most places. And even somewhere like Boston, it just seems hard for old people to get around. Whereas you see old people all the time in German cities.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 1:22 PM
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That may be true. There's old people on the bus all the time here. If I'm still here when I'm old, I'm going to get a cane to smack kids who take seats at the front when the bus is full.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 1:23 PM
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I think about half the elderly people who I see on the bus in these parts are Asian women.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 1:24 PM
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Recent decades have seen some significant advances in discovering novel arrangements of carbon atoms.

Buckminsterfullerines were developed in 1985. Carbon nanotubes were 1991.

Graphine was invented in the 1950s, but nobody cared about it until around 2004, when scientists first realized it had magical properties.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 1:33 PM
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178 to 182.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 1:33 PM
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If people lived long enough there would still be folks around who had observed continental drift. Also, people could tell you whether the current warming is really that unusual, and attest personally to the theory of evolution. There would be a lot fewer scientific controversies.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 1:37 PM
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There would be a lot fewer scientific controversies.

I disagree! The arguments would have a different character though, as they would be primarily disputes about who was remembering things correctly.



Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 1:42 PM
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As far as I can tell, nobody ever remembers the winters of their childhood as anything but colder than the winters of today. Global warming could explain that, but it's probably just human nature.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 1:46 PM
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The snow came up to here on me! Honest!


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 1:52 PM
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187: That's certainly how I remember NYC. It snows a lot in the last decade or so, but it all melts between times. In the seventies and eighties, I remember heaps of gray snow that didn't melt from November to March -- the top layer might melt, but you wouldn't have a long enough time above freezing to really clear the snow away from the first snow until spring.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 1:56 PM
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189: I remember the same thing in Nebraska, but I also remember my dad talking about it being worse when he was younger.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 1:59 PM
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Is 187 a joke? No one remembers the winters as anything but colder in their childhood, and complains every year about the recordbreaking heat in the summer. Oh,of course, that could be because the planet is fucking hotter, objectively, as all the science indicates. Or, you know, maybe everyone just likes to complain. In a bizarrely uniform manner. That seems more likely.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 2:02 PM
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Or, you know, maybe everyone just likes to complain.

That's true, but it turned out that my dad was telling the truth about the shitting in a little building outside in the yard. So I don't want to assume he's complaining about nothing.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 2:04 PM
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Is 187 a joke?

Murder is no joke, urple.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 2:04 PM
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The winters of my childhood, on the other hand, were pleasant and beautiful. As they are now.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 2:04 PM
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Anyway, 187 reflects that I have grew up hearing complaints about the winters being colder well before anybody ever heard of global warming. And I never heard anybody complaining about it getting hotter until fairly recently. It was always the depth of the snow and how far they had to walk to school in it.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 2:06 PM
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It was always the depth of the snow and how far they had to walk to school in it.

And the shifting of the tectonic plates was so extreme, that the walk was uphill in both directions.



Posted by: | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 2:09 PM
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196: I have carefully chosen Sally's school such that by choosing which subway stations to use, she can walk from the subway to school uphill both ways. When she's a parent, she'll thank me.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 2:12 PM
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I lay claim to the nonsense that is 196.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 2:13 PM
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197: Best mom ever!


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 2:13 PM
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So you're giving her bad altitude?


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 2:16 PM
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191: I would say this 20% a correct perception of reality and 80% the perversity of the human animal. Moby is fucking 80% right.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 2:18 PM
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There were a few heavy-snow winters in my DC-area childhood, but also quite a number of years where we only managed to eke out a few measly inches spread out over the winter months. Lately its been a lot snowier.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 2:23 PM
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It was always the depth of the snow and how far they had to walk to school in it.

My father has an elaborate routine about the lack of toys in his childhood: "All we had was a stick, and not one of your fancy store-bought sticks, no, sir. We had to venture into the fearful depths of a terrifying forest to secure the merest twig, and let me tell you climbing trees isn't easy when you're barefoot and it's snowing. Of course, at Christmas we received a piece of string to go with the stick, but the string usually wore out by spring, etc., etc., etc., etc."


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 2:26 PM
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Returning to the OP, it occurs to me, rather late to the table, that the historical figures whom I most admire did not, in most cases, live exceptionally long or dedicate themselves to life's extension. In contrast, life-extension hobbyists/obsessives [link to some creepy Singularity-obsessed robot-head libertarian goes here] are often -- and I cast about for the politic term -- morally repugnant and socially repulsive. Cough In/st/apu/ndit cough.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 3:00 PM
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201: Going back and reading this leads me to change that from 80/20 to 60/40. People still tend to "over report" their experiences in my experience.
Relevant data--ratio of daily record highs* to record lows by decade for the US.
50s - 1.09
60s - 0.77
70s - 0.78
80s - 1.14
90s - 1.36
00s - 2.04

*Actually, daily record high low temperatures would probably show even a larger ratio as greenhouse gas-induced warming in general tends that way (however, "urban heat island" effects do as well).


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 3:00 PM
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But the amount of snow might increase with slight warming.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 3:04 PM
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Again, anecdotal, but I think NYC winters are both warmer and snowier than the winters of my childhood. (Global warming worries me, and multiple days over 100 in the summer suck a whole lot, but 21st century NYC winters, if the changes I believe I've observed are real, are a real improvement over my childhood winters. More fun snow, fewer days that make your ears feel like they're going to fall off.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 3:07 PM
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Plus, they'll probably put a bike path on top of the 50 foot seawall that will surround Manhattan, so you'll get some good use out of those warmer days.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 3:14 PM
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204: For most of history meaningful life extension (beyond eating at least once a day and not putting your head anywhere it shouldn't go) was not feasible. It's still highly speculative. So that's very weak evidence for the virtues of mortality.


Posted by: Benquo | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 3:20 PM
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209: 21st century life extension seems to me to differ from past efforts only insofar as anyone with a First World disposable income can be his own Gilgamesh, to quite the same ultimate effect. Implying the residual value of old examples, pro and con.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 3:39 PM
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I don't take Flippanter as arguing for mortality so much as that life is not an adequate purpose in itself.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 3:40 PM
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*I* saw the Sybil hanging in a bag, and the children cried, Sybil, Sybil, what do you want already yet?


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 3:40 PM
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50 foot seawall that will surround Manhattan

I don't think they will do a seawall. I think if you put one dike where the Verazanno-Narrows bridge is today, and another one at the Throgs Neck bridge, that should do enough to keep out the first couple meters of sea level rise. At least until the dikes get wiped out by a Category 6 Supercane.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 3:42 PM
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OT: Cell phones would be more acceptable if people's conversations on them included less "What? No. No. Yeah. No. I'm on my way there," and more "Agreed: one billion Euros, in Zurich by noon" and "Sterilize the site. Scorched earth" and "Don't get on that plane, [woman's name], I love you!"


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 3:59 PM
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Some day there will be a Manhattan the size of an iceberg.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 3:59 PM
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If so, they'll use shitty whiskey.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 4:06 PM
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204: Number one.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 4:26 PM
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that life is not an adequate purpose in itself.

Who the fuck needs a purpose?

(Assuming no physical problems)

Lot of weird ageism around. I guess you whippersnappers think you are collecting experiences and memories (Overdrawn at the memory bank tears lost in the rain) in a jar for use in your golden years. Wisdom is accumulative. Nah.

If the memory bank gets filled up it overflows you lose stuff and make room for new. That old stuff isn't anymore valuable than the new. Better off forgetting the name of that 50-yr-old pain who claims to be your daughter.

People get bored, fed up, and hang themselves at fucking 15. They aren't wrong, ain't necessarily right, and are no fucking wiser than Strom Thurmond marrying a Hooter's waitress.

Fucking twenty somethings looking forward at their golden years plus 100 and whining:"But there's nothing to do!" Jeez.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 4:28 PM
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217: Wow, we've got like half of those already.

Descartes also intended his project to lead to practical immortality.


Posted by: Benquo | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 4:39 PM
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The thing linked in 204 is wonderful.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 4:44 PM
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I mean, 217. "Emulation of fish."


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 4:47 PM
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I'm sorry, "The emulating of fish without engines by custome and education only.". Uhhhhhh, sounds like a plan.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 4:49 PM
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I got it from here, I think.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 4:50 PM
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Aha! It was ajay.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 4:56 PM
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Well, then why wasn't it more widely remarked upon? That's like the best thing ever. What has happened to this place? I blame the front page posters, the absence of Ogged, feminism, the perifidious Dutch, and the fall of the Carolingian Empire, in that order.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 5:03 PM
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"For carrying on an undertaking of great advantage; but nobody to know what it is."

Good luck attracting funds for that one.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 5:08 PM
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225: Dutch feminist bloggers: the New Satan.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 5:14 PM
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Went for a hike in the mountains today, though still sore from Sunday's hike. Aging, like democratic centrist or democracy itself only looks good when compared to the alternatives.

So I'm sitting here looking out the window at Glacier National Park, typing on a small rectangular device, in a house with neither phone nor utility lines (solar and wind generated power), gabbing pointlessly with people on the other side of the earth. A goddamn miracle if ever there was one.


Posted by: CCarp | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 5:17 PM
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226: "Conference Room A: Attracting venture funding; keeping trade secrets. Conference Room B: Tim Ferriss."


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 5:19 PM
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I just ran my usual 3.4 miles in 34.6 minutes, which is my fastest ever and very close to my goal. However, I'm sore, in much shittier scenery, and using a regular computer.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 5:32 PM
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So many miracles, the magic miracles.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 5:33 PM
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It's possible that I made my goal (10 minute miles) if 3.4 miles is actually 3.46 miles. I need a more accurate measure.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 5:35 PM
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228 is nice. The part about looking out the window, etc. I missed this thread, and I'm sure it's been said, but the grimmer part of aging is the increasing aches and pains, and the bit about people from your earlier life dying: a person begins to get tired. And support for elders, on several fronts, is rather lacking in our society.

It may be that I'm just tired at the moment.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 5:37 PM
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||
Completely O/T (I assume, haven't even looked at the post), but I just came across the following for Heebie: a Hokey Pokey University t-shirt. Now granted, it's from Jimmy Buffett, and it specifies the School of Bartending, but still. It's on sale, and that's all that matters.
|>


Posted by: JennyRobot | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 6:18 PM
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I have an HPU shirt, but its from Hawaii Pacific U.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 6:43 PM
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The "Maragritaville Lifestyle" Jimmy Buffet menswear collection didn't quite live down to my very low expectations, but it still seems to feature plenty of ways to look really terrible.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 7:07 PM
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If we cannot protect innocent children from Jimmy Buffett, what good are we as a society?

The foregoing has nothing to do with my father's new collection of Hawaiian shirts. My father lives in Vermont. Which is not in Hawaii. Or the Caribbean.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 7:10 PM
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If I weren't drunk and commenting on a phone, I'd link to the Onion piece where Jimmy Buffet confesses to his wife that he is the "Jimmy Buffet."


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 7:13 PM
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Hawaiian shirts were all the rage when I first lived in Montana in the 70s. And swing music. Guess which is still in fashion.


Posted by: CCarp | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 7:15 PM
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Anyway, I'm drinking rusty nails, which apparently only one of the two bartenders can make.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 7:15 PM
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Which is fine because they are too sweet to drink too often.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 7:28 PM
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That's a nice drink. Good, Moby. Good.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 7:34 PM
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Now I'm drinking scotch on the rocks, because I'm a minimalist.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 7:35 PM
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108 I just googled the Higgs mechanism in connection, and that was proposed in 1964, which is about then too.

Proposed by Anderson in 1963. Nothing is ever named for the person who invented it first.

177 I occasionally have pangs of regret that I'm not doing science of one sort or another, and then realize that I'm just not cut out for field work or lab work.

There is a solution to that, you know....


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 7:59 PM
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Castration is not for everyone.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 8:02 PM
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168 as late as 1963 one of the scientists who first got it right on sea-floor striping was having his papers rejected.

Yet another reason why everyone should transition to the arxiv, so you don't have to put up with idiot journal editors impeding communication.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 8:02 PM
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I didn't say I have pangs of regret that I'm not doing a different sort of math which every 30 years or so interacts with the real world...


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 8:16 PM
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Sorry, that was me. At least I have a good excuse: new computer.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 8:17 PM
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Ouch! I make plenty of contact with the real world; everything I work on is getting ruled out very efficiently now....


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 8:19 PM
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246: But didn't you say that arxiv has a few categories for purportedly known crankism? Maybe you should take another look at some of those papers now.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 8:26 PM
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You should go look for a Higgs bosom. Everybody needs a bosom for a particle


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 8:28 PM
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251 to 249 and bad taste in general.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 8:29 PM
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250 cont'd, to 249: Actually, if what you're working on seems to be getting ruled out, maybe you should start writing some of those papers.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 8:31 PM
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I'm just teasing. But more seriously, physics isn't actually the sort of science that I ever feel pangs of regret about. I decided I'd rather do math than physics in 10th grade and haven't looked back. Whereas say not being an astrobiologist or a paleontologist is not a decision I ever consciously made, and so now I think "why didn't I do that?"


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 8:37 PM
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Which is to say, mathematician is definitely a local maximum for me. What I find tempting are other local maxima. If I were going to have a dozen careers I don't think I'd be a physicist in any of them, but I probably would try at least one evolutionary biology career.

I'd probably do math twice (the other time doing maybe geometric group theory), silicon valley once, and once I had savings to fall back on I'd try starting a puzzle company for one career. Not sure what else I'd try.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 8:42 PM
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Or maybe I'd do finance the first time in order to finance myself for the rest of my lives. The longer my life the more likely it would be worth it to sell out, retire, and live off the interest forever.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 8:49 PM
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Don't forget what happened to Lavoisier when you decide to make a bunch of money however so you can dedicate your life to science.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 8:55 PM
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On the other hand, Lavoisier is still known and all of the French scientists who people know and who weren't executed died of radium exposure.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 9:00 PM
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Except Pasteur.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 9:03 PM
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Of course, if you live for 1,200 years, eventually you have a job making these.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 9:10 PM
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260 is a bit disturbing if you like animals or have taste. I saw it on Regretsy.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 9:13 PM
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I've been thinking a lot about switching careers lately, or at least transitioning to a different subfield. Partly it's just idle daydreaming, partly it's mild dissatisfaction with my job, and partly it's an increasingly plausible worry that there will be no new experimental discovery and my current field will slowly wither and die. People with tenure will keep writing papers, but it doesn't seem like such a stretch that we could have another 30 years of nothing, and I don't want to stick around that long if so.

I'm not sure what's a plausible thing to transition into, though. Psychology and climate science are the things I semi-seriously considered back when I was 18 or so, but I had already basically decided on physics years before that. (Math I semi-seriously considered, again, at 21 or so, but it was always just a flirtation.) The lazy route would be to try condensed matter theory or biophysics or quantum computing or something else that kind-of-sort-of draws on skills I might already have.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 9:19 PM
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...or something else that kind-of-sort-of draws on skills I might already have.

That's how I've kept employed without having to make anything useful from squirrel skins.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 9:22 PM
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The lazy route would be to try condensed matter theory or biophysics or quantum computing

ZOMG! So lazy! Shame!


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 9:35 PM
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I had a Reuben and five drinks. I can't sleep because of the Reuben. Welcome to old.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 9:38 PM
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I kind of feel like if I were to change jobs at this point in my life, I should try to do something that I think has at least a little bit of social utility, not the sort of worthless purely curiosity-driven stuff I do now.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 9:41 PM
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You could always build weapons.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 9:41 PM
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260: Wow. That makes this one look downright classy by comparison.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 9:44 PM
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265: I have a zillion stitches and a chipped bone because I blended my finger. (Frealz.)
266: Kristen Bell scripts!


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 9:44 PM
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268: It's three bucks. You want art, you have to bring at least a 20.

269.1: Wow, how'd that happen? Hope you heal quickly.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 9:46 PM
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Wait. $3.00 is the shipping. They want $70 for the dead squirrel. Probably not a good buy.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 9:47 PM
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270: I AM STUPID AND THOUGHTLESS


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 9:50 PM
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Ouch. I don't think my hand will fit down that far in a blender. But we have a very old blender.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 9:51 PM
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266: Kristen Bell scripts!

Ooh, now you're talking.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 9:51 PM
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273: Immersion blender.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 9:54 PM
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Probably not a good buy.

The first time you hand a guest a beer shoved into one of those, you'll get a $73 reaction for sure.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 9:54 PM
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If you write her as a physicist of some sort you can make it a smooth career transition.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 9:54 PM
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265: Over the origin? I have stood up here before for my friend's Omahan great-uncle as the inventor.


Posted by: Mr. Blandings | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 9:55 PM
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278: And I have agreed with you on that before. Omaha is where my mom's people are from.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 10:01 PM
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Exactly. Those other people are liars; don't lose any sleep over it.


Posted by: Mr. Blandings | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 10:04 PM
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268: So do I need a replacement for this?


Posted by: Mr. Blandings | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 10:05 PM
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Goodnight other people.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 10:06 PM
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Have they figured out protein folding? I remember that being a big deal. Also, the physics professor I had the semester I decided not to study physics - no fault of his, the class was good enough - was working on something in that area. I think he's working in some affiliated way with some medical something something something. It's been a while since I looked up old profs and TAs* to see what happened.

*If the lists of graduates are to be believed, lots of TAs still did not have PhDs 4-6 years after I finished undergrad. But then I took mostly history classes after my sophomore year.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 10:10 PM
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See, I don't understand people who wouldn't want to live forever, or as long as possible, provided of course you're not spending the last forty-fifty years with alzheimers or whatever. What you got now is all you'll get, there's no life after death, just death, so might as well make the most of it for the longest possible time.

I don't just want to live to 120, I want to outlive the sun dying.


Posted by: Martin Wisse | Link to this comment | 08-17-11 11:24 PM
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87: The thing is that Wegener's theory of continental drift *couldn't possibly be right*.

Actually, the theory was right and fit, in that it did explain most or all of the facts that other theories (landbridges, sunken continents etc) had difficulty explaining, like distribution of fossils, geological layers undsoweiter. What lacked was the mechanism by which this drift happened, but that's not unique in science. The theory of evolution and passing on of traits was well established before we had a mechanism for how this worked.


Posted by: Martin Wisse | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 12:02 AM
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225: thanks! Don't worry, it got plenty of interest when I quoted it at my other blog.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 5:28 AM
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283: They have not, and as Alzheimers seems to be a protein folding problem, if Essear switches to biophysics he could help millions of people and get so filthy stinking rich that he could readily drop a couple million in the lap of the commenter who suggested it.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 6:08 AM
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Well, I hope he watches Rise of the Planet of the Apes first. There's more to think about than the money, essear.


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 6:51 AM
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There's more to think about than the money, essear

Do it for the apes essear.


Posted by: CJB | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 7:18 AM
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I want to outlive the sun dying.

OK, now that seems like it would really suck.



Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 7:22 AM
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If you want to live to be a hundred you are an ape and if everybody lives to be a hundred - we'll all be living in cages.


Posted by: Guido Nius | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 7:24 AM
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It would involve moving somewhere else, to avoid being on the Earth while it was being swallowed up and melted.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 7:24 AM
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The suburbs?


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 7:29 AM
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As for living longer, sorry to be a killjoy but it depends on the details so much that there's no point in having just one discussion about it. We'd need half a dozen threads, one for each variation.

Increased old age? I'll pass, and I'll bet most people would too, but I guess maybe I/we would think again when it was actually time to choose.

Increased middle age or youth for most people in developed countries, on the order of doubled total lifespan? Lots of interesting societal changes and different "normal" ages to do important things, but in the end people are still people. Sure, I'd go for it; I might finally make progress arguing with all the people who are wrong on the Internet.

Living for a thousand years or more or true immortality, worldwide, with reproduction at only replacement rates? It would be really cool but sooner or later we'd no longer be recognizable as people. Forget brain uploading, childhood's end would be the singularity beyond which we can't predict things. (Shout out to Clarke intentional.) Some other chimp (or for that matter, bird, for all we know) would eventually develop civilization and then we can watch Lord of the Rings from the Elves' point of view.

Living for a thousand years or more or true immortality, worldwide, with no innate changes to reproduction? Malthusian situations that would get very serious, very quickly.

202
There were a few heavy-snow winters in my DC-area childhood, but also quite a number of years where we only managed to eke out a few measly inches spread out over the winter months. Lately its been a lot snowier.

Funny about that. My second winter here in the DC area (2009-2010) was the snowmageddon or whatever they call it, with three different snowstorms that each shut things down completely, noteworthy even by Vermont standards although I'll always say I've seen worse. Because of my living situation I shoveled almost a whole block's sidewalk and walked six blocks to the bus station, only half of which had cleared sidewalks. After that my living situation changed and I spent this past winter just four blocks from a metro stop on a major road, in an apartment with a nice view. Snow would have been much less of a problem, it wouldn't have been my problem to deal with at all, and the view would have made it downright beautiful. So, of course, we got literally no snow at all.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 7:31 AM
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Eventually, the universe either goes crashing all back into itself or spreads out into cold nothingness. I think I read that at the dentists.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 7:31 AM
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295 was me.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 7:35 AM
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I mean, sure things aren't as exciting in the Oort Cloud, and commuting takes forever, but at least you don't have to worry as much about coronal mass ejections.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 7:37 AM
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It would be really cool but sooner or later we'd no longer be recognizable as people.

We aren't really recognisable as people - if your definition of "people" is "typical anatomically modern humans" - right now. We're not hunter-gatherers for a start.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 7:39 AM
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I've hunted and gathered.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 7:40 AM
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Not recently or anything.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 7:42 AM
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297: to be honest, I don't really worry about CMEs very much even now.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 7:45 AM
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Hunting and gathering isn't like fucking a goat, Moby.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 7:45 AM
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Duh. A goat is domesticated.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 7:48 AM
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Goat-fucking? It's not that ba-a-a-a-a-a-d.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 8:11 AM
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... but you hunt and gather just one time ...


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 8:15 AM
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295: Brooklyn is not expanding!


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 8:23 AM
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If whatever you are using to measure Brooklyn is expanding at the same rate, you wouldn't notice.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 8:32 AM
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Brookyln is the size of .012 Wales.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 8:41 AM
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285: What lacked was the mechanism by which this drift happened, but that's not unique in science. The theory of evolution and passing on of traits was well established before we had a mechanism for how this worked.

Yes, I suspect Wegener would have done better to have just foregone any attempts at the mechanism. There is genius in being willing to admit:

The laws governing inheritance are quite unknown; no one can say why the same peculiarity in different individuals of the same species, and in individuals of different species, is sometimes inherited and sometimes not so; why the child often reverts in certain characters to its grandfather or grandmother or other much more remote ancestor; why a peculiarity is often transmitted from one sex to both sexes, or to one sex alone, more commonly but not exclusively to the like sex.
Just before his ill-fated meteorological expedition Wegener did abandon his "plowing continents" and suggest that the proposed mechanism of Arthur Holmes should be explored fiurther. Holmes started developing his idea (illustrated here from 1944) in the '20s and it was pretty close to where things eventually got to (there was admittedly no real way to test it at the time, no one knew shit about the seafloor). But Holmes was a lone voice, brilliant people like Harold Jeffreys were dead set against. As late as 1959 Jeffreys wrote this prickish "you kids get off my lawn" dismissal of paleomagnetic evidence.
When I last did a magnetic experiment (about 1909) we were warned against careless handling of permanent magnets, and the magnetism was liable to change without much carelessness. In studying the magnetism of rocks the specimen has to be broken off with a geological hammer and then carried to the laboratory. It is supposed that in the process its magnetism does not change to any important extent, and though I have often asked how this comes to be the case I have never received any answer.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 8:44 AM
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309: Darwin had it easier because everyone already knew that traits are inherited somehow or another, so he didn't need to figure out a mechanism to make it seem plausible.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 8:53 AM
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309: In fairness to the prick, bashing things does often affect their magnetic properties.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 8:53 AM
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120: Just to be a pain in the ass - seafloor spreading is not the mechanism of plate techtonics.

Just to re-emphasize what togolosh says here, the spreading is just another manifestation of the underlying phenomenon, it's not like there is sufficient compressive strength in the oceanic crust to "push" the continents apart.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 8:54 AM
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311: Oh I'm sure there is some truth in it, it's more the invocation of personal experience from 50 years back that is of note. And Jeffreys was indeed a brilliant man who made significant contributions to several different field including Bayesian statistics.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 9:02 AM
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The oceanic crust is a quitter.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 9:02 AM
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The continental crust is thicker, sure. But no self-respecting plate wouldn't at least try to push.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 9:05 AM
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Evidently, Jeffreys had too biased a prior.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 9:13 AM
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284.--
From too much love of living,
From hope & fear set free,
We thank with great thanksgiving
Whatever gods may be
That no man lives forever
That dead men rise up never
That even the weariest river
Winds safe at last to sea.

I'm fairly happy now, my body certainly doesn't want to die, but very long life sounds risky. I wake up at 3 every week or two for an involuntary review of every mean, venal, cruel, lazy, self-exposing, self-defeating thing I've done; live too long & there would be no time between.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 9:15 AM
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Not many people know that Thomas Bayes, the Presbyterian minister who invented Bayesian statistics, attempted to convert to Catholicism and become a monk, desiring a life of quiet contemplation in which he could work on his mathematics in peace. But the head of the monastic order, a man steeped in anti-Calvinist bigotry, refused to believe that any Presbyterian could ever meet the intellectual and spiritual demands of the monastic life, and denied Bayes' application.

Bayes was rejected, wrongly, because his prior was biased.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 9:51 AM
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I'm going to smack you and then steal that.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 9:54 AM
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I think people are being unfair to all the scientists whose reaction was "that's physically impossible." Yes Darwin was missing the mechanism for genetics, but there were no arguments that it was impossible for such a mechanism to exist. (To the contrary, it was known that a mechanism for genetics had to exist.) The counterarguments against continental drift are quite strong. If you can't give any plausible answers to the main criticisms of your theory then you can't really be surprised that people don't adopt it.

Furthermore continental drift in itself is not really a fully formed theory. With plate tectonics you can figure out where the plates are. You can figure out what kind of boundary you have between plates, which explains why some places have larger earthquakes. You can predict whether you need to worry about your transatlantic cables breaking. You have much better ability to figure out plate configurations in the past. You can explain why the Hawaiian islands form a line with the active volcanoes at the front. etc. It's a really theory with strong predictive power. Continental drift is closer to just being a fact (x million years ago continents y and z were next to each other) than a theory.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 9:54 AM
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Admitting to a desire to live forever is like admitting a desire to have sex with Winona Ryder. You kind of look like a dick for no real benefit. Whatever. I want to live forever. Scientists, get on that shit.


Posted by: Lenny caution | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 10:08 AM
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It does seem that Holmes had the key idea (namely that the source of energy is the mantle). I'd be interested to know what the reaction was to his ideas. The main things you have to explain for continental drift are the source of the massive amounts of energy, and the source of the chaotic behavior. Weather in the mantle does a great job on both of those fronts. Even barring the full details it seems like Holmes's version has very strong responses to the main counterarguments. This puts it more like Darwin's theory in that it's merely missing a mechanism, rather than like earlier versions of continental drift where there's strong arguments that no such mechanism can exist.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 10:09 AM
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Was there a better explanation for the evidence he collected?


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 10:12 AM
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Whether or not there were any good explanations does not justify accepting the least worst option as truth. The fact of the matter is that no one actually knew what was going on in the 20s and that everyone did in the 70s. Yes some people happened to be right, and other people wrong, but it's not really fair to judge them solely based in that light. (I think I'm supposed to start calling people Whigs at this point in the argument...) If people were too sure of competing theories then they definitely deserve some criticism, but you can't blame people for not accepting a theory that has no response to the most obvious criticisms.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 10:17 AM
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Hell even in math where you're rigorously proving things, if you have a new argument you have to be prepared to respond to questions like "that argument can't possibly do X, because it would also prove Y and Z which are false" or "what's the new idea which allows you to avoid obstacle X in your argument" if you want anyone to actually believe your proof. You can't judge an idea just based on the positive evidence, you also need to be able to respond to the evidence against your theory.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 10:21 AM
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But there was pretty strong evidence for, as you call it, a fact of continental drift. That there wasn't an obvious mechanism shouldn't have meant rejection, unless there was another explanation.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 10:25 AM
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325: Yes, but don't you have to apply that same standard to the status quo theory (i.e., that continental drift isn't happening?) At which point, the status quo theory has the positive evidence that it's clearly possible, but all of that negative evidence about the coastlines/geological formations/fossils matching up on opposite sides of thousands of miles of ocean.

I don't know what a perfect geologist should have thought about continental drift before the mechanism was figured out, but I hope they would have rejected thousand-mile landbridges as silly.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 10:25 AM
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321: I want to live for Winona Ryder.


Posted by: OPINIONATED GENERATION X | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 10:26 AM
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Hell, they were even aware that the earth could move, albeit in a less directed motion.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 10:26 AM
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89: I tried to teach myself Access and got too frustrated to continue. I wanted to fiddle around with SAS and SPSS, but a student edition (even faking student status) costs around $500.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 10:32 AM
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Sure, I think anyone who was too confident in the land bridges theory deserves ridicule.

My point is just that it's not that we would have known plate tectonics 50 years earlier if only people would listen to the lone brilliant iconoclast who could see through the misguided orthodoxy of the time. Plate tectonics was not going to be developed until we had a better understanding of what was going on. As Holmes himself said of his ideas, they were "purely speculative" and "have no scientific value until they acquire support from independent evidence."


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 10:33 AM
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330 to 98 not 89.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 10:33 AM
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327: Certainly there was some excellent circumstantial evidence. Not being a 30's geologist I can't really judge how strong the evidence was relative to competing theories (like land bridges). But there wasn't much in the way of direct evidence. For example, Darwin combined circumstantial evidence (e.g. species distribution on islands) with direct evidence that small-scale descent with modification via selection can happen (in pigeon breeding). Continental drift was obviously a great idea that explained some otherwise confusing things, but there are lots of great ideas that turn out to be wrong.

I don't understand 329.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 10:39 AM
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330: Access does suck for most things, but simple forms allow you to stop people from making mistakes in the data in ways that you can't manage in Excel. SPSS is good to play around with, but SAS is very hard to learn.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 10:39 AM
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||

Anybody here from Ontario who knows stuff about McGuinty? I am tired of hearing how all-day Junior kindergarten is utterly unaffordable and that even Mike Harris would be an improvement, because McGuinty spends like crazy. And now Ontario is a have-not province which receives transfer payments.

I mostly just ask if anyone's read any good books, but you know I'd like to know more.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 10:40 AM
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We give Copernicus credit for showing that the Earth moves around the sun, even though there was no plausible physical mechanism at the time.


Posted by: Benquo | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 10:41 AM
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336: You can't see the continents moving within the span of a human lifetime.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 10:44 AM
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Maybe with an increased life span, I'd be able to master important life skills like networking for shy-ish intellectual-ish types.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 10:48 AM
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UPETGI is so clearly right here. When is Ttam going to produce his pop philosophy of science book, anyway? Each and every day we need it more and more.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 10:48 AM
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337: Totally false. The average rate of plate movment is on the order of centimeters/year. ConcepciĆ³n moved *ten feet* last year.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 10:49 AM
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340: With 1930s technology they could have measured the Atlantic getting wider?

ConcepciĆ³n moved *ten feet* last year.

I don't think anybody at any who has gone through an earthquake would have been shocked that the earth moved. That's not really an observation that would tend to support a theory of continental drift unless you noticed a bunch of quakes always moved things in the same direction.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 10:55 AM
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Young rapidly growing mountains are getting taller at roughly the same rate that your finger nails grow. That's totally macroscopic. It's just really hard to measure small movements of large bodies accurately.

Also, look at me and Halford agreeing!


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 10:55 AM
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341: But, of course, quakes do always move things in the same direction. This takes some time to gather enough measurements, but certainly not more than a lifetime of measurements.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 11:00 AM
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Also, look at me and Halford agreeing!

And me! There are lots of scientists in the past and present that I'm happy to mock, but I've got nothing but sympathy for the folks who couldn't wrap their minds around mobile continents before a mechanism was shown.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 11:00 AM
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I don't know about other parts of the world, but San Francisco went 80 years between big earthquakes.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 11:02 AM
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First of all, I'd expect that you can get data from much smaller earthquakes. Secondly, what the theory predicts is that each plate is moving in some specific way. So you can look along a whole fault and gather data from all the medium sized earthquakes along that fault and see if they move in the same direction.

Furthemore, for really big earthquakes next to mountain ranges the theory predicts that things should always move in the direction of the mountains and that the mountains should get taller. This prediction means you don't have to look at the same fault. The earthquake in Japan and the earthquake in Chile should both go towards the respective mountain ranges.

I don't know the details of what we can and can't measure, but we've only known about tectonics for a generation and nonetheless we have good estimates for the current rates of motion of the major plates. Ipso facto, observable in a lifetime.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 11:23 AM
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Er, 346.2 seems to be wrong. Anyway, IANAG.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 11:24 AM
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Bostoniangirl, do you want SAS & SPSS specifically, or to chew on data generally? You could do a lot with HTML forms & an open-source SQL database and a very little scripting.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 11:25 AM
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Oh right, the continental plate moves in the opposite direction of the mountains while the ocean plate moves in the direction of the mountains. So 346.2 is just backwards. Also for the purposes of 346.2 what you really want is to look just at faults which have had huge huge earthquakes (SF doesn't count) so that you know that they're a subduction fault.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 11:26 AM
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348: Or you could download R for free and not deal with SQL. That's probably the best.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 11:33 AM
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349: In other words, if you already knew what you were looking for, it would be really obvious. Assuming you didn't already know what you were looking for, I'm going to stick with my idea that the motion of the planets is more obvious that the motion of the continents.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 11:35 AM
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331: My point is just that it's not that we would have known plate tectonics 50 years earlier if only people would listen to the lone brilliant iconoclast who could see through the misguided orthodoxy of the time.

Not saying this and I do not think anyone is*. No time to address your other issues but of course it is more complicated than this but I can see you feel the need to cast this into some kind of reverse-Slate retro-orthodoxism is the new contrarian Panglossian context. And with Halford so enthusiastically joining in you should know you need to re-evaluate ...

Two quick points:
1) You are probably not understanding how primitive "all" the theories were, Holmes had previously been a proponent of Contractionism a view that mountains were "crinkles" in a contracting earth--but at least that had a sainted mechanism.

2) Sea floor spreading is NOT a mechanism. It is more data (and very good data, the key data) which is consistent with the plate tectonic theory which does certainly explain more phenomena than the early continental drift ones did so it is certainly more complete but still not "complete". The actual driving mechanisms are still not fully understood today although clearly bulk flow in the mantle is a part of it.

*But I do quibble with the big asterisk Wegener gets in the record books. He should have an asterisk but a small one.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 11:40 AM
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It's not obvious, you need GPS which we've only had recently. As usual, theoretical advances go hand-in-hand with better observational technology. (See sonar as mentioned in 132 for tectonics, or the telescope for heliocentrism.) All I'm saying is that it's observable within the span of a lifetime if you have the right equipment.

The problem with planetary motion is totally different. The issue is motion *relative to what*. For an earthquake that's not a problem (since the earthquake doesn't move the satelite), but for models of the solar system it's a big big problem.

I love that one of the key points Galileo makes in his first paper using a telescope is that the moons of Jupiter mean that Jupiter can't be literally embedded in a crystalline sphere because the moons would smash it.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 11:42 AM
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I'm joining in just to express agreement with PF here: "I've got nothing but sympathy for the folks who couldn't wrap their minds around mobile continents before a mechanism was shown."

Really, it's possible to imagine a world in which Wegener's ideas were accepted as mainstream science before sea floor spreading was understood, but generally speaking sitting around and pointing at scientists of the past going hahhahahahaha morons just misses the point of how science works. Not saying that this is what Stormcrow is doing exactly.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 11:46 AM
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344: but I've got nothing but sympathy for the folks who couldn't wrap their minds around mobile continents before a mechanism was shown.

Sure. People like Jeffreys and George Gaylord Simpson were giants who contributed greatly to science. Bit in this particular instance they were fucking wrong with no better evidence or support for their positions than Wegener and Holmes* who were basically fucking right had for theirs. An there are some interesting themes about "hard" and "soft" sciences and scientific orthodoxy and what evidence takes precedence and needs to be explained etc. that are illustrated in the saga.

*Within his area Holmes was pretty much on his own, but since he authored some of the otherwise most influential textbooks he got to include chapters on this. Although after Simpson in the 40s he pretty much backed away.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 11:46 AM
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354.last: Not what I am doing it all. needless to say I believe it is you and U...etc. who are not seeing how things like Earth Sciences have worked. There are times when there really is a failure of imagination.

Really must do work.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 11:50 AM
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There are times when there really is a failure of imagination.

Ah, I may have been misunderstanding your broader point. The above I agree with, absolutely.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 11:55 AM
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I don't know about other parts of the world, but San Francisco went 80 years between big earthquakes.

Lot more earthquake data than that. Not called the ring of fire for nothing.

http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/recenteqsus/


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 11:56 AM
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I'm arguing that if Wegener's ideas were adopted as proven mainstream science in the 20s that would have been a mistake on the part of the scientific establishment, even though he happened to be right.

It was mostly 285 that got me going again, I don't really disagree with most of what JP has said, except for 309.1. I do disagree with 309.1.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 12:01 PM
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Back when I lived on the Hayward fault it was fun to be able to go to that site and check "yup, there really was just a tiny earthquake very closeby."


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 12:03 PM
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adopted as proven mainstream science

Right, I now think both you and Stormcrow basically agree that what the episode proves is the need for (and the sociology-of-science-created lack of) epistemic humility in the absence of clear evidence, you're just coming at it from different directions.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 12:12 PM
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To U...'s point, certainly any Drift/tectonics theory would have been much more limited before the new data collecting techniques came about after WWII, as I said no one knew shit about the seafloor before that time.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 12:18 PM
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Adam Smith has a startling para in ToMS averring that natural scientists are miid and free of vanity & personal contention ( compared to moral philosophers). Oddly, he refers to biographies of Newton & others. Powerful belief, that.

I'd excerpt, but it's only on Kindle not PG (!!), and Kindle doesn't share highlights. Not that they're required to enable fair use, but it does seem foolishly market - shrinking.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 12:25 PM
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Comity!

One last point. Whatever the amount of credit Wegener deserves for his creativity and imagination, he would still deserve that credit even if he had turned out to be wrong (and there had been another reason why it *looked* like the continents used to be adjacent).

Which is to say, give Copurnicus his credit, but Ptolemy deserves a lot of credit too.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in." (9) | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 12:38 PM
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Ptolemy Theos Philopator? Or one of the other ones?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 12:57 PM
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Doesn't everyone have a favorite Ptolmey?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 1:14 PM
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366: No.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 1:15 PM
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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ptolemy
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Almagest


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 1:16 PM
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Never married Cleopatra.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 1:21 PM
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I did not realize there had been so damn many Ptolemys.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 1:21 PM
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That's why it's good to have a favorite one.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 1:24 PM
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Should I be trying to pronounce the "P" in Ptolemy?


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 1:31 PM
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You should probably consult your doctor first.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 1:36 PM
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Four out of five dentists recommend not pronouncing the "P" in "Ptolmey" to their patients who pronounce "Ptolmey."


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 1:43 PM
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I have wondered that about the Greek initial 'Pt'. The P had to have meant something phonetically, didn't it?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 1:45 PM
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Many of the Ptolemies deserve credit for MARRYING THEIR FULL SISTERS. Yuck.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 1:45 PM
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At least you wouldn't have to worry about whose family would pay for what.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 1:48 PM
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Come on now, you cant expect royal blood to mix with anything besides royal blood. Its simply not done.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 1:49 PM
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337: Yes, but the relevant discovery wasn't that the planets move. It was noticing the coincidence that the mean motion of the planets tracks the mean motion of the sun, and inferring - contrary to the dominant physical theories of the time, and without a feasible alternative - that the sun is still and the Earth and planets move around it.

Similarly, it's kind of an excessive coincidence that the continents' edges line up so well now if there weren't some physical cause.


Posted by: Benquo | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 1:49 PM
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Ptolemy Philadelphus was married to a completely unrelated woman, which should count for against the fact that he dumped her to marry a woman who was his full sister and former daughter-in-law.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 1:51 PM
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It was noticing the coincidence that the mean motion of the planets tracks the mean motion of the sun, and inferring

But, a single year of observation using only 15th century instruments could provide you with all the evidence you'd need.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 1:55 PM
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372, 375: As far as I know, it just means the Greeks loved their consonant clusters and diphthongs.

Perverts.


Posted by: Benquo | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 1:57 PM
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The lining up of continents isn't so great with the notable exception of South American and Africa. It's not at all obvious that the match in shape between SA and Africa means something, while the fact that all modern continents are antipodal to oceans is just a coincidence.

Similarly, the initial numerical evidence for Kepler's laws of planetary motion that we remember today (e.g. that planets move in ellipses) were not much stronger than the one that we forget (that the distances of the 6 planets from the sun are explained by sequentially inscribing and superscribing spheres in the 5 platonic solids).


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 1:57 PM
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Ptolemy Baltimorion was his own grandpa.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 1:58 PM
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381: Not enough to provide a plausible mechanism.

One look at a globe is enough to tell you the continents probably moved, but not enough to tell you how.


Posted by: Benquo | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 1:58 PM
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Bah, humbug. All this comity is annoying me. But at least I get to move toward disagreeing with Halford - a perspective I'm much more comfortable with.

The movement of the planets and the heredity of characteristics were clearly observable phenomena. The motion of the continents was not (until it was). The concept of mobile continents is pretty damn counterintuitive. As for failures of imagination, what could be more imaginative than land-bridges connecting the continents?

I think this is a post hoc rationalization that fails to be appropriately sympathetic to our forbears and their milieu. Jeffreys, Simpson et al represented the sensible orthodoxy that continents don't move around. If you're going to try to overturn an orthodoxy, you're going to run into problems.

I have a lot of sympathy for 1936 economists confronting Keynes, too - though it's a disgrace that many 2011 economists still haven't figured him out.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 1:59 PM
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383 is a fair point, and I don't have a strong opinion on whether we should build up Wegener or tear down Copernicus.


Posted by: Benquo | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 1:59 PM
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When I worked on an astrolabe project I wrote some code to 'precess' the data from the Almagest forward. In theory so we could date when an astrolabe was made [lots of medieval instrument makers just used Ptolemy's data with corrections]. Unfortunately, it worked brilliantly for a fraction of them, and not at all for the others. Ptolemy was pretty bad-ass, it has to be said.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 2:00 PM
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363: Theory of Moral Sentiments.


Posted by: Trapnel | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 2:01 PM
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The concept of mobile continents is pretty damn counterintuitive.

Exactly. It wasn't as if people were arguing that the planets didn't move. Some argued that Earth didn't move, of course, but the idea of big things moving in the sky wasn't new.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 2:02 PM
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Wow, that Arsinoe II was quite the woman!

Ptolemy Philadelphus was her 3rd husband & 2nd Ptolemy.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arsinoe_II_of_Egypt


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 2:03 PM
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Probably obvious, but 383 was me. (I'm experimenting with different browsers to try to see what maximizing battery life.)

If you've never looked at a globe and checked that antipodal points to continents land in oceans it's an amazing exercise. Australia lands almost perfectly in the middle of the North Atlantic. The south pole has a small continent, and the north pole has a small ocean. North America falls right into the Indian ocean. (The one major exception is China and Argentina.) But this really is just a coincidence, and at different times in the earth's history there've been more antipodal land points. (Though of course, near supercontinent times you won't have any antipodal land points. But we're far from a supercontinent phase now.)


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 2:07 PM
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I'm not sure that I understand exactly what's going on in the debate here, but it's definitely not the case that the evidence Copernicus had was obvious, or that his theory was widely accepted as soon as it was published -- it took about 150 years from his ideas to go to the world of "weird theory" to "generally accepted" and the Ptoelmaic system was highly developed and provided an explanation that, once you included the notion of the epicycles, "worked."

The Copernican idea was also definitely not "more intuitive" since from the perspective of someone looking up at the sky it seems much more obvious that planets and the sun are moving around you than you moving around the sun.

Copernicus was a genius but you also can't fault Ptolemy for coming up with a good working explanation or folks for wanting to stick with the original Ptolemaic system once Copernicus appeared. Which I think is what UPETGI is saying.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 2:14 PM
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MARRYING THEIR FULL SISTERS. Yuck.

Don't knock it 'til you try it, hater.


Posted by: Jaime Lannister | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 2:15 PM
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Too Many Ptolemys would be a great band name.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 2:15 PM
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394: I am now 90% of the way through the third book (started a week or so ago) so I found myself thinking in those terms at work etc. At one point above I nearly wrote a comment to the effect that rather than continue to debate this I was choosing individual combat and that my champion would be Ser Gregor Clegane. Broadswords at 7:00 PM tonight in the parking lot of Heinz Field; the tailgaters--whose antics I can currently savor through the window here--would love it.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 2:21 PM
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390: The Earth is not in the fucking sky. It's right here! You can touch it!

People who stand on moving objects have trouble keeping their balance - how do you imagine we'd keep our balance if the Earth were flying around the sun? How would birds keep up with the Earth while they're in the air? They'd have to go really fast!

None of these things are problems with the planets, because they might well be made of some totally different material and have a totally different nature from the sublunar objects we interact with day to day.

The idea that the Earth was just another object in the sky was a huge departure from common sense. It's hard to grasp that intuitively now, since we're told from childhood that we're made of sthe same stuff as the planets, that the Earth is a planet, etc. But planets were those little, floating lights in the sky. The Earth was a big heavy thing under us. How is it even possible to confuse the two?


Posted by: Benquo | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 2:21 PM
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393: I'm not saying Copernicus had less of an insight. I'm saying that his insight was, once somebody educated enough to understand things looked at it, very hard to refute in a way that continential drift wasn't. The lack of a mechanism wasn't a big deal because once you had the insight, there was a ton of (relatively) available evidence supporting it.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 2:22 PM
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376: You'd rather marry part of your sister?


Posted by: Benquo | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 2:23 PM
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397: That's why I've focused on the other planets. None of those objections apply. You can see that the some things in the sky move around other things in the sky without involving Earth at all.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 2:24 PM
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399: Well, parts.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 2:28 PM
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400: Right, but that was already known and accepted. Copernicus would not have been a big deal if he'd just said that the planets move. What wasn't understood, and seemed really implausible, was that this heavy stuff we stand on is actually a planet flying through the aether.

Or that this stable landmass we're standing on is actually a sliding plate. People knew that physical objects moved, but that didn't make it obvious that the continents could move.


Posted by: Benquo | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 2:28 PM
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It wasn't until Descartes and Kepler and Newton started thinking about truly universal laws of physics (applying to planets and earth alike) that Copernicus's theory became physically plausible.


Posted by: Benquo | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 2:30 PM
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403: But, Kepler didn't wait for a plausible physical mechanism before he was able to show the motion of the plants. The emperical evidence was much stronger.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 2:33 PM
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Come on people... Everyone knew that the planets moved since people knew that there were planets. That's the whole point of planets, the move relative to the "fixed stars." If they didn't move you wouldn't know that they were planets.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 2:36 PM
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Really, the obvious explanation is that the Earth used to be much smaller, and more mountainous.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 2:37 PM
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Planet literally means "wandering star." People have known that planets moved since at least 1500 BC. What they didn't know was that Earth was a planet (much as they didn't know that the Sun was a star).


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 2:39 PM
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383.1: But once you add in the corresponding geometry I think you have to accept the idea that they were once joined.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 2:40 PM
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For example, gravity was very well accepted for hundreds of years before anybody came up with a plausible mechanism because dropping shit is a very easy experiment to conduct. The emperical evidence was so strong nobody cared if there wasn't a theory.

On the other hand, the idea of not shitting in the drinking water was very slow to catch on until somebody figured out about germs because the evidence wasn't as clear. The evidence was there, of course, but it wasn't as obvious because some people got sick without drinking shitty water and some people who drank shitty water didn't get sick.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 2:41 PM
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409 was me.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 2:41 PM
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Planet literally means "wandering star."

Let's leave Joaquin Phoenix alone for now.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 2:44 PM
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geometry s/b geography


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 2:44 PM
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I was pretty intrigued by 408 until I saw 412.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 2:48 PM
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412: I don't understand what you're trying to say there... The location of the Niger river delta turns out not to be a coincidence (new faults tend to begin with a 3-way split, where two of them become the new fault line and the third one becomes a new valley), but this is a detail of tectonics and not the sort of thing you get just out of continental drift. That there are geological and paleontological matches is strong evidence (but that requires huge amounts of work to understand). To my knowledge ordinary geography doesn't provide strong evidence for or against.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 2:49 PM
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And Rick Perry is a moron. The empirical evidence is strong enough that I don't need to worry myself with a plausible causal mechansim.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 2:50 PM
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geography s/b geology


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 2:51 PM
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Are you sure you didn't mean geneology?


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 2:53 PM
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That one better work because next up is geomancy.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 2:54 PM
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In geologic time urple and I were tied.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 2:55 PM
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"In geologic time, we're all dead."


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 2:56 PM
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And Rick Perry is a moron. The empirical evidence is strong enough that I don't need to worry myself with a plausible causal mechansim.

If Perry thinks that schoolchildren are smart enough to figure out which of creationism and evolution is correct, why don't they ask a schoolchild which it is, and then just teach that one?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 3:20 PM
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I've been unfortunately too busy to comment at all the last two days, but let me say that this has been a great thread.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 3:34 PM
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Still too many Ptolemies:

Ptolemy Tompkins is an American writer, author of Paradise Fever: Dispatches from the Dawn of the New Age and a senior editor at Guideposts Magazine.... He is the son of best-selling occult writer Peter Tompkins, author of The Secret Life of Plants.

Q: Who would win a fight over whose childhood was more traumatic, Ptolemy Tompkins or Sappho Durrell?

A: Trick question. The answer is Septimus Waugh.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 3:38 PM
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I have not been at all impressed with Perry so far. His campaign hasn't been quite the train wreck that Gingrich's has been, but oh man has he not looked ready for primetime yet.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 3:42 PM
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My favorite Perry moment:

"Try as I may, Governor, I'm not going to wait that long," Perry chuckled. "Adios, mofo."


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 3:45 PM
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I don't have anything I want to work on now, but most of the people in econ I know use SAS and the medical researchers seem to use SPSS. Knowledge of one of those programs is frequently listed as a job requirement.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 4:09 PM
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421: Which child?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 4:10 PM
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426: In my experience, SAS is even more common than SPSS in medical research. I have to do a bit with SPSS, but only a bit.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 4:21 PM
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411 Let's leave Joaquin Phoenix Portishead alone for now.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 4:22 PM
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424: oh man has he not looked ready for primetime yet.

Seriously. From what I can tell, he and his people are banking on the assumption that what (seems, anyway) to play well in Texas will play well nationally, not just in terms of personality and swagger, but in terms of policy proposals. Maybe the idea is that his evangelism will trump the distastefulness of his policy prescriptions in the eyes of voters.

I keep wondering who his handlers are, but I haven't tried particularly hard -- i.e. at all -- to find out.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 4:32 PM
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Maybe they're just paving the way for Christie and his fat cat backers. He's so principled about spending that he vetoed a tunnel to somewhere.

The whole support for private development is also principled. As were the sweetheart corporate monitoring deals he used to hand out.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 4:55 PM
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428: You have tons if experience, and I have none. One of my friends learned on SPSS, so he uses that. I've seen job ads listing SPSS and ones listing SAS.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 5:10 PM
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From what I can tell, he and his people are banking on the assumption that what (seems, anyway) to play well in Texas will play well nationally, not just in terms of personality and swagger, but in terms of policy proposals.

Or maybe they're banking on a recent historical lesson that even borderline retarded govs of Texas can be elected president.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 5:18 PM
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As were the sweetheart corporate monitoring deals he used to hand out.

Who, Christie? Or Perry?

Christie says over and over again -- or his people do (which is kind of weird - why does he have people if he's not running?) -- that he's not running.

I keep thinking that all the close(r) looks at Perry's policies in Texas that are coming out around now are coming too early: people, average voters, are not noticing or reading any of this stuff at all, and unless these journalists intend to repeat their columns again and again for the next year, it's going to go unheard ultimately. Maybe the news will be picked up more broadly and nip his candidacy in the bud, which I assume is the intent, but cripe, as far as know, Fox News hasn't even gotten started about Perry yet. Pull out the close and wonky harsh criticism then.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 5:23 PM
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I keep thinking that all the close(r) looks at Perry's policies in Texas that are coming out around now are coming too early: people, average voters, are not noticing or reading any of this stuff at all

Not only that, average voters will never notice or read any of this stuff.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 5:24 PM
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Perry sure does make me sour-mouthed. Sorry.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 5:25 PM
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and unless these journalists intend to repeat their columns again and again for the next year

Fortunately, there's an entire field of competing candidates to repeat them.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 5:32 PM
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a recent historical lesson that even borderline retarded govs of Texas can be elected president

"If Rick Perry and George W. Bush had been born in the same family, W would have become known to friends as 'the smart one'."


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 5:34 PM
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The best article about Texas Miracle lots of charts and numbers and analysis. Perry may have nothing to do with it, but the "miracle"is real.

As you can see, Texas isn't just the fastest growing... it's growing over twice as fast as the second fastest state and three times as fast as the third. Given that Texas is (to borrow a technical term) f***ing huge, this growth is incredible.

People are flocking to Texas in massive numbers.

[Ed bob - like 750k-1m in the last two years. astonishing]

This is speculative, but it *seems* that people are moving to Texas looking for jobs rather than moving to Texas for a job they already have lined up. This would explain why Texas is adding jobs faster than any other state but still has a relatively high unemployment rate.

And it turns out that the opposite is true. Since the recession started hourly wages in Texas have increased at a 6th fastest pace in the nation.

As a side note, the only blue state that has faster growing wages is Hawaii. Just thought I'd get that jab in since so many people have been making snarky "Yeah, I could get a job in Texas is I wanted to flip burgers!" comments at me on Twitter.

Mike Konczal comments on the above


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 5:46 PM
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Y'all need to c'mon down.

At this rate Texas will add a half dozen reps in the next census while Cali and NY will lose, and Texas will own this fucking country.

We need lefties down here.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 5:49 PM
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383.2 Similarly, the initial numerical evidence for Kepler's laws of planetary motion that we remember today (e.g. that planets move in ellipses) were not much stronger than the one that we forget (that the distances of the 6 planets from the sun are explained by sequentially inscribing and superscribing spheres in the 5 platonic solids).

I love that one! That's the one that shows Kepler was a true theoretical physicist. Seriously, it was brilliant; pity it turned out to be wrong.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 6:08 PM
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It does such a great job explaining why there are exactly 6 planets!


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 6:15 PM
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437: Fortunately, there's an entire field of competing candidates to repeat them.

Here's the thing, though: I'm not sure the competing candidates will be willing to come out and say that eviscerating government regulations and cutting government spending radically is an awful idea that results in what Texas shows to be some of the highest levels of pollution, lowest levels of educational attainment, highest percentage of uninsured citizens, and on and on, that Texas represents.

Terrible grammar there. But the disconnect between what too many people think is a grand idea -- privatization and small government -- and the result of these awesome ideas is something I'm not sure the competing Republican candidates are willing to address.

Anyway, it's a hell of thing to find yourself rooting for Romney, but there it is. I'd like Perry's ideas, presented *seriously* on the national stage, to become a teaching moment, to tell the truth: here's just how unworkable that is.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 6:18 PM
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432: Learning is easier on SPSS.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 6:20 PM
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It's also great ammunition for arguments against at least two stupid but popular ideas among scientists: first, and on the decline, "this theory is so beautiful it must be true"; second, "to suggest that some measured property of our universe is just an accident of the world we live in and may not have a fundamental physical explanation is anti-scientific."


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 6:22 PM
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445 to 441,442


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 6:22 PM
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It's unfortunate that Obama can be pilloried for his association with Rev. Wright, but the fact that Bachmann belongs to a church that teaches that Catholics aren't Christians gets completely ignored.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 6:30 PM
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T Paw feels your pain.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 6:35 PM
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447: The religious folks Perry associates with aren't much either.

The linked piece in 438 is good - thanks.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 6:38 PM
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BG should learn R, just to be ahead of the curve.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 6:42 PM
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Speaking of learning statistics, does anybody know where I put my folder with my transcripts? I'm trying to take a class.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 6:48 PM
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Found it. I got a B in Physics, but an A in Calc.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 6:56 PM
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I took something called "ADV RDNG WRTN&SPKNG" which I'm recalling as "Advanced Riding (Western) and Spanking."


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 7:05 PM
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It's unfortunate that Obama can be pilloried for his association with Rev. Wright, but the fact that Bachmann belongs to a church that teaches that Catholics aren't Christians gets completely ignored.

Well... you could get some traction by pointing out that church's connection to terrifying Ugandans.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 7:12 PM
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These are college transcripts, or grad school? I took Philosophy of Language twice, the same course number, in grad school, which looks a little weird. Not that anybody would have a need to look at my transcripts now.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 7:16 PM
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I'm kind of pissed they're making me pay an application fee plus transcript fees to two schools. Fuckers.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 7:20 PM
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I thought you had an excessive complement of degrees already, Moby.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 7:22 PM
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I only have one Master's.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 7:39 PM
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I'm not sure if 407 is meant to agree or disagree with my argument that Copernicus's theory was physically implausible at the time. But it's factually correct.

My point is that "Earth is a planet" was a bold, implausible statement. Planets were things that were light and moved in the sky. The Earth was something that was heavy and stayed still beneath us.


Posted by: Benquo | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 7:45 PM
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458: loser.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 7:58 PM
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One of my alma maters (I don't know latin plurals) won't let you request a transcript online and the other has a broken website.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 8:02 PM
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Almae matres? I think, but it's been a while.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 8:10 PM
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I had to pay extra for "special processing" because one school I applied to required an extra signature over the envelope seal, which was not a standard part of the transcript production process.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 8:19 PM
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Well really it should be almarum matrarum in this context.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 8:28 PM
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383: The lining up of continents isn't so great with the notable exception of South American and Africa. It's not at all obvious that the match in shape between SA and Africa means something, while the fact that all modern continents are antipodal to oceans is just a coincidence.

Not sure if that is either pf or Uetc, but just to threaten our comity (already not accepted by pf) I will simply point out that for Wegener (who was himself stating from more speculative work by other geologists) the coastline fit was but one element. Simple observation of the fit of those two continents is what you got from Ortelius in the 16th century and Benjamin Franklin.

Wegener found that large-scale geological features on separated continents often matched very closely when the continents were brought together. For example, the Appalachian mountains of eastern North America matched with the Scottish Highlands, and the distinctive rock strata of the Karroo system of South Africa were identical to those of the Santa Catarina system in Brazil. Wegener also found that the fossils found in a certain place often indicated a climate utterly different from the climate of today: for example, fossils of tropical plants, such as ferns and cycads, are found today on the Arctic island of Spitsbergen., ... Wegener was not the first to suggest that the continents had once been connected, but he was the first to present extensive evidence from several fields.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 8:29 PM
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We've had more than enough on this, but my final minor point is that Wegener was doing science and rather seminal science at that*. And he is in fact well regarded for that within the geosciences, but seemingly more so than in popular culture.

*Admittedly he seems to not really have had the chops to pull it off himself nor the connections to get help. And per Uetc. he was a bit ahead of where the technology would allow tests of the structure of ocean floors and the underlying mechanisms**.

**Final, final point. There is not a scientific consensus on the actual contribution of different driving forces even today (there are problems with mantle convection alone), nor can we really make the measurements yet that would decide things--you might say we have a pre-WWII seafloor view of the mantle.

Plate tectonics is basically a kinematic phenomenon: Earth scientists agree upon the observation and deduction that the plates have moved one with respect to the other, and debate and find agreements on how and when. But still a major question remains on what the motor behind this movement is; the geodynamic mechanism, and here science diverges in different theories. ... Basically, the driving forces that are advocated at the moment, can be divided in three categories: mantle dynamics related, gravity related (mostly secondary forces), and Earth rotation related.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 8:31 PM
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The Earth doesn't rotate. Where do geologists get off on playing astronomer.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 8:34 PM
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467: Rotate on your mother.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 8:38 PM
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We can do Lord Kelvin and the age of the earth next.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 9:06 PM
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What Wegener did sounds like pretty good science to me. But I think that to really judge the people who didn't believe him, it would require a closer look at what the objections were and what the other theories were at the time. From reading this thread, it sounds like JP has done much more of that than anyone else, so I'm inclined to think you've got it right, JP.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 9:13 PM
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The Earth is over 250 million times older than Olivia d'Abo was when she appeared in Conan the Destroyer yet more of the Earth is covered.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 9:14 PM
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470: I undoubtedly come off as too harsh on the mainstream and I am not really qualified to be so--and there was a lot of other important geoscience shit going on during that time for which one did not need to have a theory on the evolution of the continents and oceans. More a comment on the whole process than the individuals. Almost every major geologic advance had some kind of intense infighting (plus other areas weighing in--early on the religious stuff absolutely stifled progress), plutonism vs. Neptunism vs. vulcanism; ice age vs. diluvial, age of earth (several episodes), uniformitarianism vs. catastrophism.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 9:26 PM
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465: Indeed, I didn't mean to impugn Wegener there, just Benquo in 379.last.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 08-18-11 9:34 PM
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If Perry thinks that schoolchildren are smart enough to figure out which of creationism and evolution is correct, why don't they ask a schoolchild which it is, and then just teach that one?

This is not only funny but true and I wish someone would ask Perry it.

Well really it should be almarum matrarum in this context.

In the context of an English sentence? You decline Latin words in order to fit their place in an English sentence? Do you say things like "I enjoyed reading this book, but I was disappointed that the author did not include an indicem?"

Actually, you probably do.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 08-19-11 1:24 AM
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- why does he have people if he's not running?

Because he's running like a maniac for 2016? What would you be doing if you were a Republican who could chew gum and scratch his own ass? (I don't approve of the bowdlerised version - doesn't sound like authentic LBJ.)


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 08-19-11 2:41 AM
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why does he have people if he's not running?

He's a sitting governor.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-19-11 5:17 AM
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My favorite part of 415 is Jon Huntsman jumping in to criticize that.

Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, another contender for the GOP presidential nomination, took to Twitter almost instantly, seeming to mock Perry for the creationism comment, as well as for his recent statements on climate change: "To be clear. I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy."

Brave of him to say that during the Republican primary. Mainly, though, I'm tickled at the idea of a rivalry between Huntsman and Perry. George W. Bush with authenticity vs. the Mormon Obama appointee! One would have the primary in a solid lock except for concerns about general election vulnerability, the other is as close to Obama as a Republican can get without spontaneously combusting! Utah representing the north of the country and Texas representing the east!


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 08-19-11 6:23 AM
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Until they extend life to 120 I am not catching up on this comment thread because that is how long it would take and I still want to do a few other things.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 08-19-11 8:32 AM
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Eyewitness to Lincoln's assassination interviewed on 50s TV


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 08-19-11 9:46 AM
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I think the key conceptual framework that led to the acceptance of plate tectonics was the understanding that the sea floor itself was moving, and the continents were pretty much just along for the ride. Wegener visualized the continents as the prime movers, plowing through a static sea floor, and the lack of a plausible mechanism with enough energy to power that kind of movement was a key stumbling block. Once the magnetic evidence gathered in the 50s was shown to be explainable by the idea that the sea floor was moving symmetrically away from the mid-Atlantic ridge, Wegener's evidence got re-evaluated in light of this new development, and a lot of people started filling in the details.


Posted by: Dave W. | Link to this comment | 08-23-11 2:28 PM
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In the context of an English sentence? You decline Latin words in order to fit their place in an English sentence?

I've done it before.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 08-23-11 2:35 PM
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