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Melville on Science vs. Creation Myth

From Melville's under-appreciated Mardi: On a quest for his missing love Yillah, an AWOL sailor...

Non-coding DNA Function... Surprising?

The existence of functional, non-protein-coding DNA is all too frequently portrayed as a great...

Yep, This Should Get You Fired

An Ohio 8th-grade creationist science teacher with a habit of branding crosses on his students'...

No, There Are No Alien Bar Codes In Our Genomes

Even for a physicist, this is bad: Larry Moran, in preparation for the appropriate dose of ridicule...

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Michael WhiteRSS Feed of this column.

Welcome to Adaptive Complexity, where I write about genomics, systems biology, evolution, and the connection between science and literature, government, and society.

I'm a biochemist

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... as depressing as that may be to hear. Some friends recently described their December trip to India, the first time they've visited in years. India's economy is on fire, unleashing some tremendous pent-up economic demand. What was striking, my friends related, was how strongly India's economic development is geared toward the future, towards not only catching up with wealthier, more developed nations, but also towards anticipating and meeting economic challenges that loom in the future. This is in stark contrast to the US, which seems, at best, focused on defending the status quo.
Jonah Lehrer in The New Yorker about the slipperiness of the scientific method:

"The Truth Wears Off: Is There Something Wrong With The Scientific Method?"
The test of replicability, as it’s known, is the foundation of modern research. Replicability is how the community enforces itself. It’s a safeguard for the creep of subjectivity. Most of the time, scientists know what results they want, and that can influence the results they get. The premise of replicability is that the scientific community can correct for these flaws.
With the big holidays just around the corner, thousands of folks are about to get their first taste of the TSA's new virtual strip search machines - X-ray body scanners. Privacy issues may be the main concern for most people, but the safety of these things has some people worried.
“What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate.”

The much-revered writers of the Golden Age of science fiction can be quite rough around the edges, even downright embarrassing on occasion. The writing is hurried, the plots of plot-driven books are disturbingly inconsistent, and the characters are primarily stock types and authorial mouthpieces. To top it off, many of these novels are ambitious, earnestly offered as novels of big ideas. These ideas are usually sympathetic (tolerance, freedom, racial equality, escape from religious tyranny), but generally reduced to platitudes expressed in long, somnolent sermons by the your standard pointy-headed philosopher-scientist.
I like Nicholas Wade, and think that his latest NY Times piece on basic research is worth reading. However, I take issue with his overly simplistic characterization of how research works:

Basic research, the attempt to understand the fundamental principles of science, is so risky, in fact, that only the federal government is willing to keep pouring money into it. It is a venture that produces far fewer hits than misses....
With virtual keyboards so common, it's should be easy for alternative, more efficient keyboard layouts to make headway, since, as we've all heard, the default QWERTY layout was designed to slow typists down. So why aren't more devices (or at least the iPhone) giving you options, like the Dvorak layout? From the Hartford Advocate:
If you consider all of the ways that technology has changed, even in the past four or five years, it seems strange that the majority of us continue to use something as outmoded and inefficiently designed as the QWERTY keyboard.