Thursday Throughput: Great Debate Edition

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Michael Siegel

Michael Siegel is an astronomer living in Pennsylvania. He is on Twitter, blogs at his own site, and has written a novel.

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  1. Avatar Michael Cain
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    says:

    ThTh4: Last fall we visited the in-laws in rural Kansas. My BIL is a rarity: a successful family-scale farmer. He told me that there were two GIS-based functions that made him enough more productive to be worth buying, and that the rest were good ways to help you go broke. The first was simply the ability for the tractor to drive a straight line down the field. IIRC, what he said about that was basically, “You pay a lot more for something that can handle the turns at the end of the field as well as the straight line. But the end of the row is exactly the time when you don’t have anything else you need to be doing.” The other was soil care. From what he said, lots of farmers sample their soil in the winter in order to plan their treatments for the coming year. Most of them, he said, just average together all of the samples. He takes more samples, and puts them into a system that varies the application rates to fit the varying needs across a field. He’s building a side gig as a consultant on remediation. He says he hates telling people who come back to take a shot at working the family farm, “Here’s the sample numbers. Your dad was doing stupid stuff for a long time. It’s going to take you years to get the land back in shape to produce consistently.”Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck
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      says:

      it is amazing, when you think about it, that people could do enormously wrong things for such a long time and still produce enough food to feed people–and produce it so inexpensively and assuredly that modern distribution systems don’t even consider building storage facilities for it, because that costs more than throwing away whatever is unsold and buying more tomorrow…Report

      • Avatar Oscar Gordon
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        says:

        Nominally.

        Our system, for all it’s benefits, has dependencies that don’t allow it to weather shocks to those dependencies very well.Report

  2. Avatar Brandon Berg
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    says:

    It’s hard to believe something this obviously stupid would get such play. But .. that’s the Age of Humbug for you.

    Was that the one that started when language was invented?Report

  3. Avatar Oscar Gordon
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    says:

    ThTh4: Amazing, and largely untouchable by the owner thanks to IP contracts and such. You may own the hardware, but you aren’t allowed to service it.

    ThTh7: The concept is sound (a reusable launch vehicle), but the execution…Report

  4. Avatar DensityDuck
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    says:

    “The beauty of science is not that it always gets the right answers. It’s that we are constantly testing our theories to make sure they still work. ”

    except…that sometimes people claim The Science Is Settled, and that questioning it and testing it is being done in Bad Faith, a personal attack rather than a genuine scientific concern, and that distracting everyone from the clear truth is just going to make it harder to move forward.

    Like when people went around trying to tell Lysenko that evolution didn’t work the way Lamarck said it did. Why, even Charles Darwin himself believed that environmental stressors to an organism produced changes in subsequent generations! You are gonna sit here and tell me that you are smarter than Darwin? What are you, some kind of evolution denier? Now stop trying to tell us that our agricultural plans won’t work, we have a nation to feed here, and it’s time to use obviously true science backed up by evidence to drag these medieval peasants kicking and screaming into the twentieth century!Report

    • Avatar Michael Siegel
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      says:

      True enough. But there comes a point where you ave to accept that the science is right absent massive evidence and act accordingly. The theory of gravity is also just a theory. But I don’t recommend testing it by jumping out a window.Report

      • Avatar Oscar Gordon
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        says:

        Comes back to language.

        “The Science is Settled!” implies that questioning it foolish/wrong/etc because there are facts at hand!

        “The Science is Compelling” suggests that things are still open to question, but not casually so. You need to come to the table with compelling counter-evidence or pointed criticisms.Report

        • Avatar Urusigh
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          says:

          Excellent point. Likewise, whether someone typically uses “skeptic” to describe their debate partner as a compliment, a neutral descriptor, or a moral slur says a lot more about their own good/bad faith and actual devotion to the scientific method than that of the person they are applying it towards.We think in language, therefore imprecise language results in imprecision of thought and morally-laden language results in moral conclusions rather than scientific ones.Report

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