Thursday, January 25, 2007

Rule of Thumb About Science (From Abstract Nonsense)

This is a repost from Abstract Nonsense

A good rule of thumb about any scientific issue is that you’re not allowed to disagree with mainstream scientific opinion, unless you’ve studied the field in sufficient depth to have a serious, intelligent conversation with an expert. In case there are several competing views instead of one mainstream, you’re not allowed to strongly swing one way or another.

Of course, “not allowed” means “not allowed if you want to be rational.” You’re not allowed to believe in fringe scientific theories, however attractive they might be to your political ideology, just like you’re not allowed to believe in fairies or 9/11 conspiracy theories.

In particular:

1. No matter what your views on fat acceptance or body image are, you must accept that obesity is a major medical problem.

2. No matter what your views on smoking laws are, you must accept that first- and second-hand smoking both cause lung cancer.

3. No matter what your views on race and class are, you must accept that IQ is heritable and measures intelligence fairly decently. At the same time, you must accept that the authors of The Bell Curve have no idea what they’re talking about.

4. No matter what your views on gender roles are, you must accept that there’s a genetic or hormonal component, as well as a huge environmental one.

5. No matter what your views on physics are, you must accept that string theory is a sound scientific theory.

6. No matter what your views on the Kyoto Protocol are, you must accept that global warming is real and anthropogenic and will cause widespread ecological disruption if left unabated.

7. No matter what your views on environmental regulations are, you must accept that DDT is harmful to the environment and encourages resistance to spraying among mosquitos.

Many of the above propositions are the subject of some controversy, but there’s a clear dominant view. I don’t fault Peter Woit for concluding that string theory is unscientific; he’s an expert who knows enough about the theory to make an informed judgment. But to be rational, I shouldn’t side with him just by reading his book, unless I’m prepared to read heaps of mainstream material on string theory.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Day 6, The Following Takes Place Between 6am-10am

24: Day 6 has begun. Last Sunday and Monday the first 4 hours aired, and to my delight those same episodes were released on DVD on tuesday. Granted I had them recorded, but how could I pass up getting them in dvd quality. Also, you get 10 bucks off the complete season 6 when it comes out (or any of the seasons already released).

Spoiler Warning

Jack has been traded and released from the Chinese prison he was held in for nearly 2 years. A terrorist named Abu Fayed has demanded Jack's life in exchange for the location of the group responsible for an 11 week series of suicide bombings that have left over 900 Americans dead. The only problem is, this is a setup and Fayed is the guilty party. Realizing this, Jack escapes and helps the framed terrorist escape the US assault so that he may help them find Fayed.

After much tracking, hiding, and ass-kicking Jack and his new terrorist ally are too late, and Fayed's men are able to detonate a suit-case nuke in a suburban area outside of L.A. Intelligence then indicates that there are 4 more of these nukes out there somewhere.

These first four episodes so far have been the most tense of any season opener yet. You've got terrorist attacks that have already taken place, a damaged Jack Bauer, and a rookie president who doesn't know quite how to handle himself yet. If they keep up the quality of these episodes throughout the season, this looks to be the best yet. Go pick up that DVD.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Surgery on girl raises ethical questions - Yahoo! News

By LINDSEY TANNER, AP Medical Writer Fri Jan 5, 1:04 AM ET

CHICAGO - In a case fraught with ethical questions, the parents of a severely mentally and physically disabled child have stunted her growth to keep their little "pillow angel" a manageable and more portable size.

The bedridden 9-year-old girl had her uterus and breast tissue removed at a Seattle hospital and received large doses of hormones to halt her growth. She is now 4-foot-5; her parents say she would otherwise probably reach a normal 5-foot-6.

The case has captured attention nationwide and abroad via the Internet, with some decrying the parents' actions as perverse and akin to eugenics. Some ethicists question the parents' claim that the drastic treatment will benefit their daughter and allow them to continue caring for her at home.

University of Pennsylvania ethicist Art Caplan said the case is troubling and reflects "slippery slope" thinking among parents who believe "the way to deal with my kid with permanent behavioral problems is to put them into permanent childhood."

Right or wrong, the couple's decision highlights a dilemma thousands of parents face in struggling to care for severely disabled children as they grow up.

"This particular treatment, even if it's OK in this situation, and I think it probably is, is not a widespread solution and ignores the large social issues about caring for people with disabilities," Dr. Joel Frader, a medical ethicist at Chicago's Children's Memorial Hospital, said Thursday. "As a society, we do a pretty rotten job of helping caregivers provide what's necessary for these patients."

The case involves a girl identified only as Ashley on a blog her parents created after her doctors wrote about her treatment in October's Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. The journal did not disclose the parents' names or where they live; the couple do not identify themselves on their blog, either.

Shortly after birth, Ashley had feeding problems and showed severe developmental delays. Her doctors diagnosed static encephalopathy, which means severe brain damage. They do not know what caused it.

Her condition has left her in an infant state, unable to sit up, roll over, hold a toy or walk or talk. Her parents say she will never get better. She is alert, startles easily, and smiles, but does not maintain eye contact, according to her parents, who call the brown-haired little girl their "pillow angel."

She goes to school for disabled children, but her parents care for her at home and say they have been unable to find suitable outside help.

An editorial in the medical journal called "the Ashley treatment" ill-advised and questioned whether it will even work. But her parents say it has succeeded so far.

She had surgery in July 2004 and recently completed the hormone treatment. She weighs about 65 pounds, and is about 13 inches shorter and 50 pounds lighter than she would be as an adult, according to her parents' blog.

"Ashley's smaller and lighter size makes it more possible to include her in the typical family life and activities that provide her with needed comfort, closeness, security and love: meal time, car trips, touch, snuggles, etc.," her parents wrote.

Also, Ashley's parents say keeping her small will reduce the risk of bedsores and other conditions that can afflict bedridden patients. In addition, they say preventing her from going through puberty means she won't experience the discomfort of periods or grow breasts that might develop breast cancer, which runs in the family.

"Even though caring for Ashley involves hard and continual work, she is a blessing and not a burden," her parents say. Still, they write, "Unless you are living the experience ... you have no clue what it is like to be the bedridden child or their caregivers."

Caplan questioned how preventing normal growth could benefit the patient. Treatment that is not for a patient's direct benefit "only seems wrong to me," the ethicist said.

Dr. Douglas Diekema, an ethicist at Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center in Seattle, where Ashley was treated, said he met with the parents and became convinced they were motivated by love and the girl's best interests.

Diekema said he was mainly concerned with making sure the little girl would actually benefit and not suffer any harm from the treatment. She did not, and is doing well, he said.

"The more her parents can be touching her and caring for her ... and involving her in family activities, the better for her," he said. "The parents' argument was, `If she's smaller and lighter, we will be able to do that for a longer period of time.'"

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

2006 Movie List

Here is the list of movies with ratings of movies I saw for the first time in 2006. (ratings are 1-4 stars)

1. Fantastic Four (**)
2. Proof(***)
3. Elizebethtown (***)
4. Dune (***)
5. Grizzly Man (****)
6. Mirrormask (***)
7. Curious George (**)
8. In Her Shoes (**)
9. Firewall (***)
10. The Usual Suspects (****)
11. Cry Wolf (**)
12. The Exorcism of Emily Rose (***1/2)
13. Brokeback Mountain (****)
14. Wicker Park (**1/2)
15. Hollywood Homicide (**1/2)
16. The Weatherman (***1/2)
17. The War Within (***)
18. Junebug (***)
19. The Ice Harvest (***)
20. Capote (****)
21. V for Vendetta (***1/2)
22. Derailed (**1/2)
23. Howl's Moving Castle (***)
24. Cinderella Man (***)
25. Wolf Creak (***)
26. Hostel (**1/2)
27. Shop Girl (****)
28. Stay (***1/2)
29. Inside Man (***1/2)
30. Ultimate Avengers (*)
31. Duma (***)
32. Running Scared (***)
33. X-Men: The Last Stand (***)
34. American Wedding (**)
35. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang (***)
36. 16 Blocks(**)
37. Cars (***1/2)
38. The Descent (***)
39. Winter Passing (***)
40. Cache (****)
41. The Three Burials of Malqeaides Estrada (***)
42. Superman Returns (***1/2)
43. Lady in the Water (***)
44. Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (***)
45. Brick (***1/2)
45. Poseidon (**1/2)
46. Miami Vice (***1/2)
47. The Sentinel (***)
48. London (***)
49. The Proposition (***1/2)
50. Oldboy (****)
51. American Gun (***)
52. Ong-Bak (***)
53. The Illusionist (***1/2)
54. Look Up in the Sky!: The Amazing Story of Superman (**)
55. The Libertine (**1/2)
56. Thank You for Smoking (**1/2)
57. The Omen (2006) (***)
58. Zathura (***)
59. L.A. Confidential (***1/2)
60. The Departed (***1/2)
61. Mission Impossible:III (***)
62. The Prestige (***)
63. The Count of Monte Cristo (***)
64. Casino Royale (***1/2)
65. Match Point (***)
66. Rocky Balboa (***)
67. An Inconvenient Truth (****)
68. What the Bleep do We Know? (***)
69.A Scanner Darkly (***1/2)

70. Little Miss Sunshine (***1/2)