Science vs Garlic

A local garlic farmer by the name of Lenny Levine has staved off the planned erection of an Eastlink radio tower, out of fears that its proximity to his garlic farm could cause issues with his crop. His evidence for this assertion? Well, he believes strongly that RF waves are a form of pollution.

Levine believes that microwave tower radiation is a pollution and she does not want to grow crops in those conditions. Saying that, “I think over a period of time it will change the DNA of the garlic because it shakes up the molecules.” He added that he moved in the rural town because he dreads pollution in the city.

He goes on to say:

“I view it with dread, fear and panic,” he said. “I don’t want to grow food under those conditions.”

Yeah, that’s right, Levine has a “gut feeling”, and that’s about all. This is tantamount to me having a strong belief that people should pay me tons of money on a daily basis, and expecting it to happen earnestly. Eastlink has obtained proper permissions, the landowners surrounding that area have signed onto the petition, and it would benefit all local internet / wifi users and help catapult the more rural areas near here into the present digital age. Yet, the Kings County council decided against this particular tower, the Chronicle Herald reporting the vote passing 8-1 against, siding with the farmer despite a dearth of evidence. The Chronicle Herald avoids mentioning what the CBC has noted though:

Kings County Warden Fred Whalen said he expects council’s decision will be overturned because the radiation from the internet tower is 60,000 times lower than the government’s accepted limits for organic farms.

The ultimate decision is in the hands of the government, and they regulate how much radiation is acceptable for a farm to be considered organic. It’s very likely the local council’s decision will be overturned as a result, and frankly, I couldn’t be happier.

Interestingly, according to the FCC (yes, I realize this is a US body, but it’s relevant):

At relatively low levels of exposure to RF radiation, i.e., levels lower than those that would produce significant heating; the evidence for production of harmful biological effects is ambiguous and unproven. Such effects, if they exist, have been referred to as “non-thermal” effects. A number of reports have appeared in the scientific literature describing the observation of a range of biological effects resulting from exposure to low-levels of RF energy. However, in most cases, further experimental research has been unable to reproduce these effects.

So there’s no scientific basis for any concern about mutant garlic. I wouldn’t be surprised if the radiation from the sun or from the cosmic background radiation left over from the Big Bang (the same stuff that produces the snow on your TV when it’s out of tune with a proper channel) was more of a threat. Ultimately, this is an exercise in conservatism due to fear of change. Such exercises sadden me, as I’m almost certain they will ultimately be our species’ downfall.

Blasphemy Day International!

Today, in case you weren’t aware, is Blasphemy Day. In the spirit of the campaign organized by the Center for Inquiry, and in solidarity with those folks that live in countries where rampant ideas have more rights than people (e.g.: Ireland, where a person can be put in jail for saying something insulting about an idea like “God”), I have the following to say, below the fold so those of you with tender sensibilities can opt out now.

Free_Expression_Campaign_Logo_EE

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The human condition

(Note from Jason: Jodi has an account here, and once in a while is inspired to write guest posts, but rarely gets them to the point where she’s comfortable publishing them. Tonight, she finished one. Hooray!)

I’ve been told that I should write; this is why I can’t.

When arguing in online debates, or just commenting on blogs, the message is too difficult to get out, simply because of the human condition. I see it in comments all the time and it intrigues me to no end. Usually it devolves into repetition — people can’t figure out any other possible way to get their message out there, so they just repeat the same thing, worded slightly differently. I do it all the time. I sit and think and type and delete and re-word until I get a headache from trying to find the perfect wording; some wording that surely, surely the other party must understand. It doesn’t even matter if they ever agree with the argument that I’m making, I’m just sure that I MUST have gotten my point across, must have gotten my message out there in plain view.

But that is rarely how it works. This is usually what keeps me from writing long comments or blog posts of my own. The message. I get part way through and I stop because I know that no matter what I say, no matter how eloquent my language, how precisely chosen my words, it wont matter one bit. A thousand different people will read my words and interpret a thousand different messages from it. Even those who know me well, who know my mannerisms and the way I speak, will get it wrong, at least somewhat. I would take a chance and suggest that even internet friends that agree often probably make incorrect assumptions about the other persons message at least 50% of the time.

You can’t think another person’s thoughts, you can’t be in their heads. All this is is just text to you, I can say I’m raving mad but it wont make you mad unless there is something in this wall of text that triggers an emotional response in your own brain. Trying to get my message across the internet, the pure, original message that I intended with my first thought, is near impossible. Once I type these words and hit send it’s entirely up to you.

Not that it’s a lot easier in person though, body language screws up a lot too.

Communication is highly inefficient.

Even more cheating at Youtube

I’ve discussed at greater depth in the past the lengths to which creationists will cheat at a meritocratous system like Youtube, including both vote-botting and abusing the DMCA to censor opposing viewpoints. I was going to embed a video here, as I’m subscribed to Thunderf00t’s Youtube channel, but Dan J beat me to the punch. So head on over and watch it there.

Thunderf00t takes a creationist video producer named HowTheWorldWorks to task for the obvious subscription number manipulation — how tons of accounts subscribe to his videos within a two-week window, each with a watched-video count of 0, and HTWW mysteriously hid his subscriber list after being found out. And it is epic.

Hey creationists, why can’t you play fair? Is it because your ideas are bankrupt and fringe, and you are honestly not nearly as popular as the science Youtubers? Because I suspect that to be the case. Play fair, guys. Jesus would!

IE 8 with Google Chrome plugin provides 10x performance boost

Microsoft, Google just drank your milkshake. Here you have a browser that’s been all but broken for ten years, you only started releasing again after Firefox showed you that the web browser could be done better. Your browser is a shoddy pile of ripped-off features and half-baked “new innovations”, and the Google built a rival toward their core competency — making something with no frills but tons of horsepower under the hood. And to prove it, the Google Code project released a beta of Chrome Frame, a plugin for IE 8 that embeds the Chrome browser (with its sandboxing features and super-fast Javascript and rendering engine) directly into the IE interface.

According to tests run by Computerworld , Internet Explorer 8 (IE8) was 9.6 times faster than IE8 on its own. Computerworld ran the SunSpider JavaScript benchmark suite three times each for IE8 with Chrome Frame, and IE8 without the plug-in, then averaged the scores.

And this plug-in apparently makes IE runs circles around your broken pile of hacks in its original state. It’s no wonder your response is to claim it makes IE less secure — because in your world, it’s only secure if you control the code and the patching mechanisms. In everyone else’s, it’s secure if you set up permissions correctly to begin with, such as how in Chrome, plugins can only operate within the context of Chrome itself, never gaining access to the system resources unless a programmer can somehow not only crack their way out of the sandbox, but then go on to compromise the system proper.

Yes, I know, IE 7 and 8 have a “protected mode” that it can run in, which does this same kind of sandboxing — but that only works under Vista and Windows 7. Google Chrome will run under XP and IE6 as well. As I just pushed through the IE8 patch throughout my work network, and the bulk of the complaints are about IE’s speed decreases (though I’ve disabled frippery like accelerators and the welcome wizard in an attempt to mitigate that somewhat), I’m strongly tempted to distribute Chrome and this Chrome Frame plugin as well. It’d not only diminish the speed complaints, it’d significantly increase the security of my XP-based environment.

Shepherd’s pie

Today’s been a great day so far, and I’m hoping to cap it off with one of my favorite meals, shepherd’s pie.

This is my first attempt at writing out a proper recipe for my old stand-by comfort food, which I usually do slightly differently every time as it’s generally a total mishmash of ingredients. This meal is great for substitutions — whatever you need to change, feel free to change, it’ll probably turn out just fine. The only thing I’m a stickler for, is the creamed corn and the Worcestershire sauce — they’re practically mandatory. Technically, this is a “cottage pie”, where we’re not using lamb or veal, but I don’t think anyone really cares that much about the misnomer here.

5-6 large potatoes
1lb ground beef
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce, 2tbsp soya sauce,
3 cloves garlic, minced (can substitute garlic powder to taste)
1 small white onion, chopped fine (optional)
1 can creamed corn
1-2 cups frozen / fresh mixed veggies of your choice
About 1/4 block of old cheddar cheese
Paprika
Parsley flakes

Peel, cut up and boil potatoes. Brown garlic if you have it, then ground beef with onion (I normally omit the onion as it doesn’t agree with Jodi’s stomach) and worcestershire, soya and garlic / garlic powder. Season with salt and pepper to taste as well, and let it all reduce so that it’s not quite so liquidy as it’ll be when you first put in the sauces. (No, I don’t have an exact idea how liquidy it SHOULD be, but it should be reduced somewhat, at least so it doesn’t seem like hamburger soup.) I occasionally use some Montreal Steak Spice, which is just a garlic-and-pepper-based spice mix.

Preheat oven to 375. Mash potatoes as you’d normally prepare for a side dish — I usually use butter, sour cream, garlic salt and cracked black pepper. Add parsley flakes to the mixture. It’s okay if the potatoes are a little lumpy after this, they’ll probably cook down to a nice whipped state in the oven later anyway. Get out an oven-safe casserole dish (I have a big glass stovetop pot that works well in the oven for this), cover the bottom with the ground beef mixture. Add a layer of the veggies, then cover as evenly as you can with the creamed corn, then the mashed potatoes. Top with a dusting of paprika and grated cheddar.

Bake in the oven at 375 for ~25-30 mins. Turn the oven on broil for about 5 mins or until the cheese is melted and starting to form a proper crust. Serve immediately, should serve 4 healthy eaters with some leftovers for lunch the next day.

I totally reserve the right to edit this later. Like I said, my first written recipe, I’m bound to have forgotten something.

RCimT: Godless LOLs

Some more godless LOLs to carry you through this day of piety toward imaginary creatures.

The Rapture was supposed to happen this past Monday, according to a crack Christian mathematician. Surprisingly, it didn’t.

Eddie Izzard did a great routine on the absurdity of the Great Flood story that’ll leave you in stitches. Especially when he tries to do his evil dog impression and ends up doing the same thing as his evil giraffe.

A comic about the intelligent design movement involving what doors are opened by the claim of “just a theory”.

Do you suffer from long short term memory loss? Jesus doesn’t remember.

In case you’ve never been there, check out The Brick Testament — a faithful retelling of the Bible using LEGO minifigs. And lots of blood tiles. LOTS of blood tiles.

Happy Sunday!

Nate Silver calls out Pollster on cooking polls

Pro-Republican company Strategic Vision, owners of the polling data firm Pollster, has long been suspected of fraudulently cooking polls to make its clients (the Republican party, primarily) look good. Nate Silver over at Five Thirty-Eight might have just put together sufficient mathematical proof via humans’ “gambler’s fallacy” to take them to task for it.

The specific evidence in question is as follows. I looked at all polling results reported by Strategic Vision LLC since the beginning of 2005; results from 2008 onward are available at their website; other polls were recovered through archive.org. This is a lot of data — well over 100 polls, each of which asked an average of about 15-20 questions.

For each question, I recorded the trailing digit for each candidate or line item. For instance, if Strategic Vision had Barack Obama beating John McCain 48-43 in a particular state, I’d record a tally in the 8 column and another in the 3 column. Or if they had voters opposing a particular policy 50-45, I’d record a tally in the 0 column (for 50) and another in the 5 column (for 45). I did not include “non-response responses” like “other” or “undecided”, nor did I include a tally for third-party candidates in races beteween the two major parties. I also excluded party primaries in which more than two candidates were listed, and approval questions for which more than two choices were provided.

[…]

This data is not random at all. For instance, the trailing digit was ‘8’ on 676 occasions, almost 60 percent more often than the 431 times that it was ‘1’. Over a sample of more than 5,000 data points, such an outcome occurring by chance alone would be an incredible fluke — millions to one against. Bad luck can essentially be ruled out as an explanation.

Pollster has also recently been reprimanded by the AAPOR for not disclosing their methodologies. And no wonder. How can you disclose your methodologies when they are very likely, “make up some numbers that look good for our clients and are close enough to reality that we can say it was just a sampling error?”

Strategic Vision is, of course, feigning ignorance and claiming dirty tricks, looking to crush Silver under the weight of legal recourses. They’re doing the same with AAPOR. Circle the wagons, Repubs.