Re: The NSF under fire

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There's also been a lot of talk about fellow Republican and ex-scientist Andy Harris's seemingly encouraging NY Times editorial. His approach, which I think is a new one, is a "divide and conquer" strategy. Ride the "Science is underfunded" wave to get scientists on his side, and then explain that we could fund all this great science not by increasing the NIH and NSF budget, of course not, but by ceasing to fund useless science. As described here.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 10- 5-14 9:14 AM
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Christ, what an asshole.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 10- 5-14 9:24 AM
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The NIH promises a cure for cancer. Sexy! AHRQ is about death panels in the Republican mind.

But the AHRQ is so very important.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 10- 5-14 9:31 AM
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Germany and Denmark seem to be snatching up a lot of the people I know who are not getting jobs in the US. In my subfield, last year Mainz alone hired as many postdocs as Harvard, Princeton, and Stanford put together. You'd think even Republicans might be sensitive to some kind of national pride angle on maintaining US prominence in research.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10- 5-14 9:51 AM
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1: Part of that is problematic, but the part about the top-heavy age distribution sounds right to me. The largest grants that I'm aware of pay big summer salaries to older people who do very little research. If I could get a grant that large I'd be paying a young postdoc's salary with it. But I'm not even eligible to apply for any grants from the NSF that are large enough to pay a postdoc's salary; those are only available to senior people.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10- 5-14 10:09 AM
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Republicans have no interest in any national pride angle on anything. Even road, bridge and airport infrastructure is a waste of money.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 10- 5-14 10:10 AM
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If you read the second link in 1, the Harris editorial seems to be cover for just another round of GOP hobby horses, e.g., defund ObamaCare and eliminate social science.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 10- 5-14 10:11 AM
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6: Insert non-military, surely.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 10- 5-14 10:28 AM
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I remember back when it was William Proxmire (D-Wis) doing this, lo those many years ago. The "Golden Fleece Award."

The worst thing about it is that everyone who actually gets a grant (like the bicycle guy) has to come up with a story about how their grant will be immediately revv up the economy, create jobs, cure Ebola, and make everyone's teeth whiter. Hell, if it was going to do that, they'd be able to get money from VCs.

Research is not about always or even often about that. It's about "Hmm, I wonder why happens?"

TL;DR: 2.


Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 10- 5-14 4:32 PM
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s/b "... why that happens?"


Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 10- 5-14 4:33 PM
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I think "why happens?" is a great tagline for the Baconian spirit of inquiry.


Posted by: lourdes kayak | Link to this comment | 10- 5-14 8:05 PM
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9: the article mentions the Golden Goose Awards, which are a kind of "aha, you see, it turned out useful after all" setup.

Has everyone read "The Snowball Effect", by the way?


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 10- 6-14 1:23 AM
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So if it's not the chair and his committee who are going to do the oversight, then who is? Don't say "scientists."


Posted by: bjk | Link to this comment | 10- 6-14 3:20 AM
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Scientists.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 10- 6-14 3:22 AM
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If you had to come up with a broad stereotype of the sort of senator who would do stuff like this, it would indeed be a Texan Republican called "Lamar".

Though I note that, ironically, he's a scientist himself. A Christian Scientist.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 10- 6-14 3:36 AM
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Maybe it's time for a Veridical branch of government. Let the scientists review the politicians for a change. It's pretty clear who's doing the better job so far.


Posted by: Awl | Link to this comment | 10- 6-14 3:59 AM
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bank makes a solid point that it's super easy to grab some of that plentiful NSF funding for a goofy, ill-supported research program. We obviously shouldn't ignore how well-informed he is on that score.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10- 6-14 4:03 AM
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Bank? Oh well, beats the actual pseud.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10- 6-14 4:05 AM
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||

Meanwhile, the replication crisis in Psychology hits the Nobel prize. How long until we learn that the extensive research program into the nature of spatial representations in the brain is just p-hacking and spurious correlations?

|>


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10- 6-14 4:07 AM
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Maybe it's time for a Veridical branch of government.

Or a Veridian Dynamics branch. Then you'd get some really goofy research.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 10- 6-14 4:14 AM
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Speaking of scientists under fire, what exactly is the CDC supposed to have screwed up. I'm a bit out of the loop on this side of the Atlantic and Mediterranean, but as I understand it a man arrived in the country from Liberia and started displaying Ebola-like symptoms, he was immediately quarantined and the CDC identified, started tracking down, quarantining and testing everyone he'd been in contact with in country. Isn't that what they're supposed to do?


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 10- 6-14 5:29 AM
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I thought he was immediately quarantined, then somebody released him, then somebody else said "you did what?", then he was quarantined again.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 6-14 5:40 AM
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11. "Why happens ... because reasons!"


Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 10- 6-14 5:41 AM
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21: It's hard to tell from Marshall's article what exactly he's referring to. The hospital in Dallas indisputably screwed up -- the nurse took a travel history, found out the patient had recently been in West Africa, and the doctors allegedly never saw this info.

Because he was a tourist with no medical insurance, my understanding is that he was sent away from the hospital and told to go to a clinic.

I have seen one article claiming there was a "software glitch" that doesn't allow doctors to see a patient's travel history. I've seen another claiming that it was a communication error between nurse and doctors.

Either way, obviously the CDC is not in charge of a hospital in Dallas, so the screwup cannot be blamed on them.

I've also seen a number of fearmongering pieces from UNtrustworthy sources (Daily Mail, etc) claiming that the circle of people that the patient had contact with Dallas was not rapidly identified, and/or has not been been appropriately isolated. If that is indeed the case, then it's like that would be a CDC screw-up.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 10- 6-14 5:42 AM
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(As an aside, here in Philadelphia, home to the largest Liberian community in the country, people are doing self-quarantines when they arrive.)


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 10- 6-14 5:43 AM
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like s/b likely


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 10- 6-14 5:43 AM
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26: We thought you were trying to bring back Valley Girl.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 6-14 5:46 AM
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21: you are mostly right. The hospital in Dallas fucked up, though. They initially diagnosed him with a common viral infection, gave him antibiotics (huh?), and sent him home, where he had many more contacts while sick. His family called him an ambulance a couple of days later and spelled it out. That's not CDC's fault at all, but people aren't very good at distinguishing details like that. There are crazy folks who think that the CDC should quarantine all travellers from affected areas for the incubation period or take more extreme measures in quarantining his contacts rather than doing standard risk assessment. The craziest strain thinks Obama brought Ebola here on purpose as revenge on whitey. (I think? That kind of crazy is hard for me to parse.)


Posted by: ydnew | Link to this comment | 10- 6-14 5:46 AM
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Apparently, they're sending the latest American to come down with the disease to Omaha. It's really nice there this time of year, but I probably won't get to go until Thanksgiving.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 6-14 5:56 AM
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Fake the symptoms you want to be, Mobes.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 10- 6-14 6:02 AM
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It would be cheaper, but probably they wouldn't let me out to go to Lincoln.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 6-14 6:14 AM
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Either way, obviously the CDC is not in charge of a hospital in Dallas, so the screwup cannot be blamed on them.

Isn't it pretty to think so.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 10- 6-14 6:27 AM
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crazy folks who think that the CDC should quarantine all travellers from affected areas

I could introduce you to my perpetually panicked high school acquaintance (who carries a handgun 24-7 for no apparent reason) who believes that all of Africa should be quarantined, with nobody allowed to enter or leave the entire continent. ("They have resources enough to survive.")


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 10- 6-14 6:31 AM
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obviously the CDC is not in charge of a hospital in Dallas

Obviously not, since the World Government controls the CDC!


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 10- 6-14 6:41 AM
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who carries a handgun 24-7 for no apparent reason

To shoot the Ebola, duh.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10- 6-14 6:41 AM
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I keep telling myself that the crazy is no more crazy today than it was in the recent or distant past, and the difference is the internet, which delivers heaping portions of crazy to my doorstep every minute of every day. But then sometimes I can't help but think that we live in unusually nutso times, and that internet, serving as it does as an echo chamber for the crazy, is partly to blame. Then I look at some pictures of kittehs or manatees or kittehs riding manatees, and things get better.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 10- 6-14 6:44 AM
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The scary bit is what happens if people take their eyes off the flu.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 10- 6-14 6:46 AM
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34: now listen, if the NWO would just get out of Texas's business, those hospitals would have the freedom to treat uninsured, non-white foreigners.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10- 6-14 6:47 AM
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I should go get a shot for that tomorrow. It's free.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 6-14 6:47 AM
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Or at least co-pay-less.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 6-14 6:49 AM
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36: People riding around on kittehs-equipped powerboats search for manatees to photograph are the biggest threat to the species.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 6-14 6:58 AM
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I keep telling myself that the crazy is no more crazy today than it was in the recent or distant past, and the difference is the internet, which delivers heaping portions of crazy to my doorstep every minute of every day. But then sometimes I can't help but think that we live in unusually nutso times, and that internet, serving as it does as an echo chamber for the crazy, is partly to blame. Then I look at some pictures of kittehs or manatees or kittehs riding manatees, and things get better.

The Daily Show had a Fox News clip, and I know that Fox is Fox, but even so it was proper nutso. They had a purported expert on - I don't know if it was an actual expert or a "Fox News contributor" - and she was explaining that actually we're quite good in the US at controlling infectious diseases and Ebola is not the apocalypse. The Fox people were literally asking her, again and again: "Why can't you be more alarmist?" It was like they'd completely forgotten that "fear sells" is supposed to stay as subtext.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 10- 6-14 7:10 AM
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I think Fox is trying to use Ebola as a justification for various anti-immigrant stances and a moderate program of minefields on the border with Mexico.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 6-14 7:11 AM
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I keep comforting myself with the fact that the median age of the Fox News audience is close to 70. Also, Fox apparently had its worst ratings in 13 years this year.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 10- 6-14 7:14 AM
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42: Clearly Fox should have gone with this guy.

Is his med school one that has a lousy reputation? Every news article I've seen mentions where he went to school, and that's not normally part of such articles.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 10- 6-14 7:15 AM
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It's a perfectly reputable school. They're probably just trying to put in a local connection. He seems like a very interesting guy, IYKWIM.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 6-14 7:19 AM
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It's the Harvard of Georgie if Emory didn't exist.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 6-14 7:21 AM
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47 wasn't a very good joke, so I didn't bother to proofread it.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 6-14 7:22 AM
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I thought maybe Georgie was supposed to be an attempt to produce a countrified local's pronunciation.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10- 6-14 7:26 AM
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"Why happens ... because reasons!"

Is because.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10- 6-14 7:33 AM
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36: Things have always been crazy, probably precisely this crazy.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 10- 6-14 7:42 AM
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Rage. Just rage. Smith is the worst kind of Luddite.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 10- 6-14 7:49 AM
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"Why happens ... because reasons!"

Is because.

Wow.


Posted by: Tom Scudder | Link to this comment | 10- 6-14 7:54 AM
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Is his med school one that has a lousy reputation? Every news article I've seen mentions where he went to school, and that's not normally part of such articles.

It's the medical school that had the incident a couple years ago where a technician got drunk and left some monkeys unsupervised, and it also produced TWO of the extremist Republican congressmen in this year's Georgia senate primary, including Paul Broun who represents the med school's area (Augusta) despite his principled opposition to science and knowledge in general.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 10- 6-14 8:01 AM
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Heh. On my first reading of 54, I thought you were saying that two of the GOP candidates were produced by unsupervised monkeys.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 10- 6-14 8:05 AM
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Smith is the worst kind of Luddite.

It is probably a bad idea to put someone who believes prayer is a better cure than medicine in charge of your medical research budget.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 10- 6-14 8:07 AM
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How many current Republican congressman would survive a primary if they admitted that medicine is a better cure than prayer? 30%?


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 10- 6-14 8:08 AM
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55 was my reading too. "Well, you see, these monkeys got agitated after a while, and they started hooting and screeching at each other. And then a bit later they started jumping up and down and baring their teeth at each other. And then, well, they started flinging their shit around. And most of it just stayed inside the cage, but some of it made it through the gaps between the bars and landed up in the Georgia state senate house."


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 10- 6-14 8:09 AM
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The NIH is more the medical research budget than the NSF.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 6-14 8:09 AM
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57: the media, being kind, know not to ask them difficult questions like that.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 10- 6-14 8:10 AM
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I recall hearing an NIH official noting that M.D.s who go into congress tend to be some of the worst anti-science goons.

I'm not sure whether I should be surprised by this or not.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 10- 6-14 8:10 AM
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59 is a good point. I had forgotten there was a separate medical research effort. Who's in charge of that? Some lunatic shaman who thinks the moon god controls female fertility?


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 10- 6-14 8:11 AM
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62 - good guess, it is in fact possibly the only prominent biological scientist that I can remember who is ostentatiously Christian, though nobody thinks he's unqualified.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 10- 6-14 8:12 AM
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Who's in charge of that?

Some of the kindest, wisest, people on Earth.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 6-14 8:13 AM
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59: shhhh. Congress will hear you.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10- 6-14 8:26 AM
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61.1: To get a degree in medicine you must be relatively smart, very persistent, and really good at memorizing things. The upshot is that doctors tend to have an overinflated sense of their own smartness despite the fact that medical training does not require classes in critical thinking and the like. IME when doctors step outside their field of expertise they tend to have a sense of the rightness of their opinions that is disconnected from the amount of experience they have in the relevant field. This is a problem with a lot of highly trained professionals, but doctors seem to have it particularly badly.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 10- 6-14 8:28 AM
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Anyhow it seems like maybe the secret to getting NSF money right now is to spin your project as something that could potentially eventually be used to kill and/or imprison people. Plus, then if you miss out on NSF money you can pivot to IARPA.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10- 6-14 8:28 AM
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Also it seems like the doctors who go into politics tend to be doctors who have their own practices. In other words, small business owners.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 10- 6-14 8:30 AM
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To get a degree in medicine you must be relatively smart, very persistent, and really good at memorizing things.

It helps if you aren't _too_ smart, also. As all the memorising and shit is really fucking boring.*

* I had a load of medical students for flat-mates at one time.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10- 6-14 8:37 AM
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In other news, there is a surplus of biomedical PhDs. Wouldn't it be nice if there was some well-funded government program to put them to work on, I don't know, say, finding a cure for ebola?

Or, if not ebola, duck penises or some other type of basic research. The specific topics that scientists are studying is secondary to the imperative to maintain a robust infrastructure for supporting scientific research. If the current system is leaving highly trained minds sitting on the sidelines, that is a huge waste of human potential - and of the many dollars invested in their training.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 10- 6-14 8:44 AM
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59 is a good point. I had forgotten there was a separate medical research effort. Who's in charge of that? Some lunatic shaman who thinks the moon god controls female fertility?

Direct House oversight of the NIH seems to be by the Committee on Appropriations, Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services and Education subcommittee, which is chaired by Jack Kingston. He is, of course, a creationist.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 10- 6-14 8:48 AM
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I used to have a lot of respect for Dr. Ben Carson, a Marylander from humble beginnings, who did amazing things as a pediatric brain surgeon. Then he opened his mouth. Ugg. Stick to separating the heads of conjoined twins, dude.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 10- 6-14 8:48 AM
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The real answer is to get that 50% mortality rate up to 100% SC GOP of course.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 10- 6-14 8:54 AM
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If the current system is leaving probably something near a majority of highly trained minds sitting on the sidelines


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10- 6-14 8:58 AM
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70,74: It's been astonishing how evergreen the bogus "There's going to be shortage of scientists!" headlines have been. It's only extremely recently that anyone outside of academia has become aware of the huge oversupply and resulting problems.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 10- 6-14 9:32 AM
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Part of it is my fault, for doing the work of three people.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 6-14 9:33 AM
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It is things like this which reinforce my own kneejerk "partyism." Ratfuckers every one. Find something that annoys "liberals" and they're all over it. Black president and Nancy Pelosi believe in science, so science is bad. The actual agenda* of ensuring that extremely rich people make and keep more money is only tangentially linked to things like this, but as with their racist bilge, it keeps the rubes riled up and voting.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 10- 6-14 9:51 AM
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Thank you Captain Obvious ...

Anyway, semi-relevant Tom Tomorrow cartoon.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 10- 6-14 9:52 AM
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But remember "both sides do it," and "Obama is incompetent," and Chappaquiddick.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 10- 6-14 9:55 AM
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It's been astonishing how evergreen the bogus "There's going to be shortage of scientists!" headlines have been.

I think a lot of this is an outgrowth of "There needs to be more engineers and software developers, so we don't have to pay them as much. And lets add scientists and math people in there, because it makes a good acronym."


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 10- 6-14 10:09 AM
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There is a shortage of scientists and engineers, in the sense that we have tons of serious problems (e.g., multiple-drug-resistant bacteria, climate change, continuing lack of flying cars, etc.) that would be helped by more science and engineering.

Unfortunately, there's also an even more serious lack of political will to spend appropriate amounts of money on these problems.


Posted by: torrey pine | Link to this comment | 10- 6-14 7:09 PM
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I can do the work of three people, if two of them are wasting time on the internet.


Posted by: Kreskin | Link to this comment | 10- 6-14 7:27 PM
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Also, I'm slightly annoyed at how the Science writer spends most of the article pretending there must be some sober scientific motivation to Smith's investigation. "The scientific community is scratching its head over how Smith compiled his list of questionable grants"? That's because it's a political exercise, not a scientific one. The whole point of it is to assert that Congress has the power to intervene in a scientific peer-review process. And in fact they do have that power; the real question is whether they should be using it so frivolously.


Posted by: torrey pine | Link to this comment | 10- 6-14 7:37 PM
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A bunch of people are posting links to this Slate article about women who should win a Nobel Prize in Physics, and it's kind of amazing how its suggestions veer abruptly from totally reasonable to batshit crazy.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10- 6-14 8:28 PM
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I'm not really surprised. The level of difficulty in doing that right is high. I wouldn't expect someone who isn't a physicist to pull it off.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in." (9) | Link to this comment | 10- 6-14 8:44 PM
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Said the actress to the archbishop.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 6-14 8:50 PM
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I certainly can't tell which suggestions are crazy and which aren't.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in." (9) | Link to this comment | 10- 6-14 8:53 PM
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Ok, the fastest laser one seems obviously wrong. Though the article basically admits as much.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in." (9) | Link to this comment | 10- 6-14 8:56 PM
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The ones about theories with no experimental backing are the main thing that was bugging me, although faster lasers also don't seem like the sort of thing Nobels go to.

It would be completely awesome if Vera Rubin finally gets a prize.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10- 6-14 9:03 PM
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It wasn't clear to me what the article was saying about some of the unproven ones. Like the axion discussion straight out says "If an axion shows up." So the author seems somewhat aware that some of these people can't win yet.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in." (9) | Link to this comment | 10- 6-14 9:11 PM
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I thought lasers were all the same speed because Einstein.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 6-14 9:20 PM
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Oh wow, how did I not realize until now that Karl Rubin had a famous mother.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in." (9) | Link to this comment | 10- 6-14 9:22 PM
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