Permalink
Sep 20, 2014
Bloviation

The debate about the reproducibility of science bubbles onward, with everyone agreeing that it's a problem but of course nobody with power to fix it doing anything about it.

Recently I've been thinking that science as we know it sits in a very unpleasant middle ground.

On the one hand, despite the propaganda institutional science is biased against replication. This holes it below the waterline, and any serious scientist (alas) must consider fixing this in their field their top priority or they are consenting to just spin their wheels forever. We do not work formally enough to produce good results, because merely reaching "Peer Approved Once" and getting published is provably not a solid foundation to build on.

If one is inclined to take offense to that, consider the fact that scientists are supposed to be building on the work of others. It's very simple math to see that even if a uniformly-distributed 95% of the papers published are perfectly correct, that 5% has a disproportional impact on the accuracy of a tower of knowledge; as the tower grows, the chances of any particular new result containing a false result in the set of results it is building on approaches 1 quickly.

Many scientific disciplines would be lucky to have a 95% accuracy rate.

On the other hand, scientists are also not allowed to just "fool around", by virtue of not being able to get funding for it. Even simple experiments must be submitted, approved, funded, etc, all involving processes a great deal more complicated than the simple little English words imply. As a second-order effect it becomes a waste of time to go through the process for a small experiment, making the small experiments even less likely to be conducted than you would initially think. And yet, historically, a lot of great stuff happened from very skilled, knowledgeable scientists just fooling around. In only a few fields can a scientist afford to fool around on their own time and money, mostly the mathematical ones.

The system both crushes away the rigor we're promised in the brochure, and also crushes away any chance of serendipity or discovery on the cheap. The miracle is when we get any science at all.


Permalink
Sep 19, 2014
Bloviation

Widespread angst about school quality is easy to fix... schools just need to look around and copy what's working out there in the real world.

Five Solids that you have to see to believe!

7 Places You Have To See Before You Die

This Woman's SHOCKING Actions Will Restore Your Faith In Humanity

See why this guy thinks he can make you dance to his tune

This one weird chemical will BLOW YOUR MIND!

Oh... uh... I may have gotten carried away on that last one. Maybe it should be, uh, covered differently....


Permalink
Sep 16, 2014

While Star Trek was ahead of its time in many ways, you could tell they never lived with the technology they hypothesized. For instance, there's no episode in which Wesley Crusher walks around with his PADD unlocked while cradling it on his chest, causing a Major Interstellar Diplomatic Incident when he accidentally ends up emailing pictures of his armpit to the Klingon High Council along with a text message consisting of "klxitijtjqtktkjjt", which is of course an ancient and dishonorable way of challenging the entire Council to a mandatory duel to the death.

Fortunately, all I managed to do with my accidentally unlocked phone today was start the stopwatch and bring up the texting screen without actually sending anything. But still, it's sorta scary just what socially-horrible things you can do from that touchscreen.


Permalink
Jul 27, 2014

And the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon,
Little boy blue and the man in the moon.
"When you coming home, dad?" "I'm home right now,
having some fun and how,
You know we're having fun and how!"


Go: More UNIX than UNIX
Permalink
Apr 29, 2014
Programming, Golang

Go comes in part from Rob Pike and Ken Thompson, both influential in early UNIX. Both Rob Pike and Ken Thompson also were influential in working on Plan 9, a followup to UNIX.

UNIX's ideal is that "everything is a file". In Go terminology, this is a declaration that everything should be accessible via a uniform interface, which the OS specially privileges. One of Plan 9's core reasons for existing is that UNIX didn't take this anywhere near as far as it could be taken, and it goes much further in making everything accessible as a file in a directory structure.

I'm skeptical of both of these approaches. Everything isn't a "file".

There's numerous "files" that require ioctls to correctly manipulate, which are arbitrary extensions outside of the file interface. On the flip side, there are all kinds of "files" that can't be seeked, such as sockets, or files that can't be closed, like UDP streams. Pretty much every element of the file interface is one that doesn't apply to some "file", somewhere.

The Procrustean approach to software engineering tends to have the same results as Procrustes himself did, gravely or even fatally wounding the code in question.

Read the rest...


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