Monday, June 30, 2014

This is the #waronwomen?

Table A-1. Time spent in detailed primary activities and percent of the civilian population engaging in each detailed primary activity category, averages per day by sex, 2013 annual averages

The table at the link is used as evidence of the #waronwomen in an article in The Atlantic.

"Household activities" (including cooking, cleaning, maintainance, yard work, etc). Men do (on average) 1.34 hours per day and women do 2.19 hours. Or women do, on average, 51 minutes more "household activities" than men do.

There are two ways "work and related activities" are reported:

1) Work and related activities, average hours per day, "for the whole population." Men do (on average) 4.2 hours per day, women do 2.77 hours. Or men do 1.43 hours per day more than women do. Put another way, men spend about 50% more time working per day, on average, in the whole population, working and non-working, than women do.

2) Work and related activities, "average hours per day for persons who engaged in the activity." Men do 8.45 hours per day and women do 7.46 hours.  Or men do a full hour of work per day more than women do, when both are working.

On other words, women spend an extra hour a day on household activities and men spend an extra hour per day working.

The author of the article above then complains that women do twice as much "caring for others" than men do; the difference being about 20 minutes a day.

This is the #waronwomen?

Yet another pernicious paradigm.


Generally, on average, women spend more time volunteering that men do. Except that men who do volunteer spend about 30 minutes per day more time volunteering than women do.

Men watch more TV than women do, but also engage in "sports, exercise, and recreation" more than women do.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Article: Divorce Shocker: Most Marriages Do Make It

Article: Divorce Shocker: Most Marriages Do Make It

 This is based on a book. I saw a post of this somewhere a few weeks back, so the book has been out for a while now.

The commonly used statistic for divorce in the US is 50%; that is, 50% of all US marriages end in divorce. Turns out there was never any basis for this number. Nobody ever researched the actual rate of the divorce. The 50% statistic was derived from the increase in the divorce rate in the 1970's to 1980's and extrapolated.

Various quotes:
"First-time marriages: probably 20 to 25 percent have ended in divorce on average," Feldhahn revealed. "Now, okay, that's still too high, but it's a whole lot better than what people think it is."

[I]t's even lower among churchgoers, where a couple's chance of divorcing is more likely in the single digits or teens.

Feldhahn has more shocking research: four out of five marriages are happy. That number flies in the face of the popular belief that only about 30 percent of marriages are happy.
Some observations:
1) Herbert Stein's law paraphrased, no trend that can't continue, won't.
2) No trend lasts forever. (I could not find an attribution)
3) People like to believe bad news.
4) Some people love to spread bad news.
5) "There are three types of lies: Lies, d**n lies, and statistics." This has been attributed to various wits, wags, and writers.

Intelligence, creativity, and mental illness

Article: Secrets of the Creative Brain
A leading neuroscientist who has spent decades studying creativity shares her research on where genius comes from, whether it is dependent on high IQ—and why it is so often accompanied by mental illness.
This is a long article (it clocks in at 8000+ words).
And we examined a condition that we called random episodic silent thought, or REST: we asked subjects to lie quietly with their eyes closed, to relax, and to think about whatever came to mind. In essence, they would be engaged in “free association,” letting their minds wander. The acronym REST was intentionally ironic; we suspected that the association regions of the brain would actually be wildly active during this state.
And they were. These subconscious associations seem to be an "important component of creativity." I have heard this state also called a "creative revery."

[An example an association region: the prefrontal association complex is involved in planning actions and movement, as well as abstract thought. ]

Interesting thing: we generally says geniuses must be 140+. On the other hand, creativity seems to plateau after 120. It also seems to have components other than mere intelligence.

To be creative, it is important to be “smart enough." And, apparently, to have a family history of mood disorders.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Evolution, crime and genes

Article: Criminal offending as part of an alternative reproductive strategy: Investigating evolutionary hypotheses using Swedish total population data 
We linked data from nationwide total population registers in Sweden to test if criminality is associated with reproductive success.

Convicted criminal offenders had more children than individuals never convicted of a criminal offense.
There is an idea I have run across from time to time in the popular literature that human evolution has stopped due to civilization. It is more commonly held among the progressivist left and the social sciences than biology. It is one of those "pernicious paradigms" that need regularly to be "falsified."

This article helps do so.

There are two "types" of evolution: microevolution and macroevolution. Macroevolution refers to the emergence of new species. This is the one rejected by creationists and Bible-believing Christians, mostly because of the time required for this to occur exceeds the 6,000 year timeline derived from the Bible for the history of the earth.

On the other hand, microevolution refers to shifts in the frequency of genes in a population. One characteristic or trait becomes more common (red-hair among residents of the British Isles over the last 4000 years, for example) as another becomes less common.

In other words, Sweden is seeing a shift in the frequencies of genes related to criminal behavior. And microevolution is occurring. In the USA, in the 1930's, the progressivist left advocated various eugenic programs including "sterilization of the unfit" to deal with this "problem." 
Add enough gene shifts, or microevolution, to a population in one place compared to a population in another place and the result is a new species. That is, macroevolution occurs.

One outstanding example of microevolution is the gene which allows human adults to digest milk. This gene is relatively rare in the human race as a whole. It was also uncommon among the early European peoples. After dairy farming originated in the Middle East, milk became more common as a food item.

There is a "natural selection" advantage to being able to use milk (and milk products) as food when it is available in large amounts. Dairy farmers with the gene migrated into Europe and displaced the original inhabitants, or bred with them. The gene became common among European peoples. The gene frequency in humans in Europe shifted and microevolution occurred.

Side note: "displaced." Europeans should remember that their ancestors "displaced" the original inhabitants of their countries just like the European colonists "displaced" Native Americans. Migration and out-competing natives are also examples of evolution in action.

See also: Article:  Archaeology: The milk revolution

I did not have the terminology for this while I was still in high school, but I realized that humans were undergoing microevolution. It seemed obvious to me civilization itself had to be a selection pressure. That is, civilization itself would have to cause shifts in gene frequency.

In my case, I am extremely near-sighted. I can do very little without corrective lenses. (I just called my ophthalmologist for my annual exam). I would not have survived in any kind of "primitive" society. My father passed these genes on to me and I knew that would pass them on to any children I might have. (Blessedly, neither of my daughters are nearly as near-sighted as I am). Multiply that by millions.

Civilization removed the selection pressure against nearsightedness, therefore it should increase the gene frequencies of the gene(s) responsible.

Multiply that by thousands of genes and there has been a lot of microevolution going on since humans left Africa (if you believe in macroevolution and the "old earth.") Or since the emergence of civilization(s).

One of the pernicious paradigms common on the left and in academia is that race is a cultural construct having no basis in biology. And that there is no such thing as human races. That is, mostly among non-biologists. Biologists know better, even when they may not say so due to social pressure.

How many races are there, what are (or were) their exact distributions, and how much difference between them is there? These are all matters of dispute. Biologically, there is no dispute that they exist. (That is not to say that some biologists may dispute that; it is just that the evidence is overwhelming that human races do exist.)

The problem, as "The Bell Curve" controversy showed, is that the open discusion of some measures of differences between races cause enormous offense.

Side note: if the scientific discussion of a possible genetic component to intelligence offends you, you need to step back and ask yourself why.

One cannot both approach this idea scientifically and be offended. Skepticism towards the idea, by the way, is not the same as taking offense. And denial of the possibility is not science.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

STEM Stars

Article: 20 Celebrities Who Are Also STEM Stars
... [A] collection of musicians, actors, and comedians who have also racked up accomplishments in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).
List includes Dolph Lundgren (hoot!) and Donald Sutherland.

Bananas, Vitamin A, and Ignorance

Article: Scientists Ready to Test 'Super Banana' on Humans: Fruit could save lives through vitamin A
Vitamin A deficiency kills hundreds of thousands of children worldwide; hundreds of thousands more go blind, says a researcher.
A group of researchers have engineered a variety of bananas to produce precursors of vitamin A. Like golden rice, widespread use of this crop would help reduce vitamin A deficiency due to malnutrition in undeveloped countries.

So, help millions of children to grow up to be healthy, productive adults? Or oppose genetically modified crops and condemn them to death or blindness?

The article showed 3 comments of about 200 when I read the article. The third one said something irrelevant, but ended up with, "no thank you to GMO's." At least he was polite.

I decided to skim through the comments. I did not go through them all; they were too depressing. I am a science teacher and I am under no delusions about what students graduate from high school knowing about science. And about the half comments had some sort of stupidity/ignorance/willful blindness about the various scientific issues.

"Bananas have no fat!" "Autism is increasing because of science!" "If they are not getting vitamin A through their food it is because they aren't getting any food!" "Just what we need, more frankenfoods."

One commenter noted that bananas tend to be eaten raw and plantains tend to be cooked. The article talks about cooking the bananas. So did the researchers use bananas? Or plantains?

Both are same "plant". Some cultivars are specifically eaten raw and are called "desert bananas." Some cultivars are always cooked. Many are eaten both ways. And I have had cooked "desert bananas."

One person repeatedly cut and pasted the same rant as "replies" to other commenters. One point he made was, I think, that bananas cannot have vitamin A in them because they have no fat. However, all living things have fat in them, even if those fats/lipids are not nutritionally significant ("0%"). And bananas have some vitamin A already. The green leaves of spinach also have no nutritionally significant amounts of fats and lipids. On the other hand, they are high in fat-soluable chlorophyll and the same vitamin A precursors that have been added to banana. Which is why spinach is recognized as a good source of vitamin A.

Other commenters focused on the EEEEVVVVIIILLLL of companies, like Monsanto, turning a profit from GMO's. I have never been able to relate to the argument that profits are evil. As far as I have ever been able to determine it is just another "argument from envy." "You're rich; I hate you." Yawn.

I remember all too well the first gas crisis. The oil cartel, OPEC, cut production and raised prices. This cut supply. Because demand remained the same, oil prices soared. Gasoline prices followed suit. Oil companies' profits also soared (although not as much). Congress investigated, ready to attack EVIL oil companies for "obscene profits." What they found was relatively simple and easy to understand, even for grandstanding politicians. If 5% of a companies income is profit, then 5% of more income is more profit. They still make the same profit margin, but on more income. Therefore their profits go up. When I was relatively young, gas sold at $0.299 per gallon (or 29.9 cents). It is now pushing $4.00 per gallon in my area. I would expect the "obscene profits" of oil companies to be correspondingly larger.

At any rate, to get back to the main point: Help children or stop GMO's? Either I believe that each child is made in God's image, as I am, and I bring my ideology (and we all have an ideology) and my behavior in line with that belief. Or I believe that vast swaths of humanity are worthless, especially compared to me and the "tribe" that agrees with me.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

And the winner of Wikipedia's influence list is … an 18th century botanist. Hear hear

Article: And the winner of Wikipedia's influence list is … an 18th century botanist. Hear hear

I really admire Linnaeus; definitely a "personal hero." Binomial nomenclature isn't even obvious today as the answer to the question, "How do we name organisms in such a way that all scientists find useful?" And yet it was a simple, elegant, and powerful solution to the complicated naming schemes that pre-existed his.

His second, world-class accomplish was to invent the classification scheme, grouping like species together (Kingdom, phylum (or division for plants), class, etc.) The system was used successfully for over a century. Then Darwin came along and Linnaeus's groupings of "like species" became Darwin's "related species." "Like species" were alike because they were all related; that is, descended from a common ancestor. It was a powerful confirmation of Darwin's ideas. (And, yes, I am a Christian.)

As side notes: Google's algorithm has to be suspect. It misses both Jesus and Mohammed. Either one rates higher for "top influence." The previous version of the algorithm had Hitler, Madonna, and Michael Jackson on top. So it needs some work to reflect reality. Unless, of course, you define reality as a "21st century encyclopedia."

It is especially ironic because the word, "algorithm," is derived from an Arabic word, al-khuwarizmi, after an Islamic mathematician.

And the article gets his name wrong, calling him Carl Linnaeus. His original name was Karl von Linne. He gave himself a latinized, binomial name (just like he gave to plants), Carolus Linnaeus. I am not certain why Wikipedia gives his name as "Carl".

Monday, June 23, 2014

Mr. Obama discovers summer is hot; Panics

Summers used to be much hotter in the US
One year ago this week, President Barack Obama waited for a hot day in Washington and hurriedly held an outdoor speech, where he could perspire, engage in third rate acting,  and blame global warming.
Big problem. The raw data for temperatures in the US over the last 100+ years has been published on the internet (see article and related articles at the link above). That is, the real temperature record, not the "adjusted" data made up by various climate scientists including James Hansen, formerly of NASA.

The big news; the hottest temperatures recorded in the US occurred in the 1930's. Various people knew this. It has also been widely reported that the climate data "adjustments" have included adjusting the data down for the 1930's and adjusting the data up from the 1960-2000's.  Now the raw data is available to everyone.

Graph from article:

ScreenHunter_628 Jun. 23 07.02

Just a side note: I respect the president and the presidency. I refuse to countenance the use of bad science to push statist policies.

Hat tip: Ace of Spades

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Famine fear won't sway minds on GM crops

Article: Famine fear won't sway minds on GM crops

Do you want to feed people, prevent starvation, or help children get a good start in life? You support GMO (genetically modified organisms) crops. Science created them. They can supply extra nutrients like golden rice, or increase yield by variety of methods.

They have been studied for 50 years and only minor issues have been uncovered; none related to health or safety.

You can read the Wikipedia article above on golden rice. People actually oppose getting children needed vitamin A on the grounds of biodiversity.

The real question is do we treat humans as something special, divine in origin (that is, created by God), with a divine value and purpose? Or do we see humans as a blight on the environment?

Monday, June 16, 2014

The gates have fallen and the gatekeepers are panicking.

Article: When science gets it wrong: Let the light shine in

The article is about two recent discoveries that have been questioned: one about pluripotent stem cells that has since been withdrawn and the other one about a possible discovery of gravity waves in background radiation.

The title is wrong. The scientists may have gotten it wrong, but science got it right. Science was doing what it should be doing: making data and methods transparent and opening up the research to criticism. As the article highlights, "peer review" cannot catch all the problems. Only by attempting to duplicate the results by others can the authors' research be confirmed and science add to its considerable edifice of knowledge.

However, the real issue here is that the gates have fallen and the gatekeepers are panicking. With the advent of computers and the internet, everything the scientist does can be posted, and reviewed, by anyone. The gates are down. It is scary for people who are used to talking to like-minded researchers to have some "outsider" critique their research, methods, data, and conclusions.  Even their hypotheses might be subject to questioning. Generally, groups of scientists operate inside the paradigms of their individual fields.  Given the correct circumstances, and if you want to be insulting, you could call it group-think or a clique.

The subtext of the article (and openly discussed in the comments) is the global warming hypothesis. Top tier researchers like Michael Mann of the Pennsylvania State University, James Hanson formerly the head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and well-known climatologist, and the researchers at the University of East Anglia in the UK have routinely "adjusted" their raw data. [That is, in the case of the latter two, the actual temperature measurements made at actual weather stations around the world havr been adjusted. Reasons have never been given, nor methodology.] They have then refused to, or been unable to, release their raw data. They have also refused to release the computer models used to analyze the adjusted data. Data and/or methods that have been released have been analyzed and numerous issues have been found [see the Watts Up With That and Climate Audit websites].

The lack of transparency is telling. If their conclusions were actually justified by their research, they would be trumpeting their data and methods rather than hiding them.

The problem with the "top tier" is that they are trying to portray themselves both as dispassionate scientists going wherever their research leads and to be the gatekeepers to that research. They can no longer be both; and they are panicking.

Oddly enough, the same thing is happening in publishing and the current "panic" is being called "Amazon vs Hachette." The real issue is that traditional publishing (represented here by Hachette) is losing their gatekeeping function to the internet in general, and to and other forms of independent publishing in particular. Authors can now avoid the group-think of the big publishing houses and find success via other avenues. The publishing industry and their supporters are often on the left (follow this link and then follow some of the links on that site). The new authors are often on the right. This is a particularly pungent example.

In both cases, the gates have fallen and the gatekeepers are panicking.

UPDATE: More on gatekeeper panic: Mad Duck Publishing