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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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Since we're frequently quoting, linking to, and commenting on someone else's copyrighted stuff, those of us who blog should have a strong interest in our copyright rights.

Ars Technica has a piece on overboard copyright clauses and a recent complaint to the FTC about them:

We hear and see the warnings whenever a football or baseball game is televised, whenever we read books, whenever we watch a movie. These are the sort of warnings that make claims like, "Any other use of this telecast or any pictures, descriptions, or accounts of the game without the NFL's consent is prohibited," despite the apparent wrongheadedness of the statement.
John Timmer comments on the problem of modern biomedical research and statistics: we can now measure so much more than our statistics can handle. In a typical genome-wide association study, you're testing so many hypotheses that the favored 0.05, 0.01, and 0.001 p-values from Stats 101 just don't cut it anymore.

"We're so good at medical studies that most of them are wrong:"
An impressive insight from someone who never tried to get qPCR to work:


Thus it is said:
The path into the light seems dark
the path forward seems to go back
the direct path seems long
true power seems weak
true purity seems tarnished
true steadfastness seems changeable
true clarity seems obscure


- Tao te Ching, transl. Stephen Mitchell




Read the feed:
Let me also say what I don't mean by final, underlying, laws of physics. I don't mean that other branches of physics are in danger of being replaced by some ultimate version of elementary particle physics. I think the example of thermodynamics is helpful here. We know an awful lot about water molecules today. Suppose that at some time in the future we came to know everything there is to know about water molecules, and that we had become so good at computing that we had computers that could follow the trajectory of every molecule in a glass of water.
Why did the Babylonians and the Greeks approach astronomy so differently? In my last post I quoted Toulmin and Goodfield from their history of dynamics and astronomy, The Fabric of the Heavens, where they argue that the Babylonians, because of their careful record keeping and math skills, could make excellent astronomical predictions, but they couldn't explain why those predictions worked. The Greeks on the other had were obsessed with explanation and theory, and were for a long time relatively bad at astronomical prediction.
Babylonian astronomy sounds a lot like some areas of omics/computational biology today:

Looking back at Babylonian astronomy from the twentieth century, one is struck by two things: the care with which the records were kept, and the mathematical brilliance of the predictive techniques. Eventually, science was to owe a great debt to the Babylonian astronomers, for speculative theories about the Heavens could, in the long run, be tested only by seeing how far they explained the observed motions of the heavenly bodies. The Babylonian material was to be fundamental