Archive for the ‘Science’ Category
SPACE: Scientists engaged in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) work under the assumption that there is, in fact, intelligent life out there to be found. A new analysis may crush their optimism.
To calculate the likelihood that they’ll make radio contact with extraterrestrials, SETI scientists use what’s known as the Drake Equation. Formulated in the 1960s by Frank Drake of the SETI Institute in California, it approximates the number of radio-transmitting civilizations in our galaxy at any one time by multiplying a string of factors: the number of stars, the fraction that have planets, the fraction of those that are habitable, the probability of life arising on such planets, its likelihood of becoming intelligent and so on.
The values of almost all these factors are highly speculative. Nonetheless, Drake and others have plugged in their best guesses, and estimate that there are about 10,000 tech-savvy civilizations in the galaxy currently sending signals our way — a number that has led some scientists to predict that we’ll detect alien signals within two decades.
Their optimism relies on one factor in particular: In the equation, the probability of life arising on suitably habitable planets (ones with water, rocky surfaces and atmospheres) is almost always taken to be 100 percent. As the reasoning goes, the same fundamental laws apply to the entire universe, and because those laws engendered the genesis of life on Earth — and relatively early in its history at that — they must readily spawn life elsewhere, too. As the Russian astrobiologist Andrei Finkelstein put it at a recent SETI press conference, “the genesis of life is as inevitable as the formation of atoms.”
But in a new paper published on arXiv.org, astrophysicist David Spiegel at Princeton University and physicist Edwin Turner at the University of Tokyo argue that this thinking is dead wrong. Using a statistical method called Bayesian reasoning, they argue that the life here on Earth could be common, or it could be extremely rare — there’s no reason to prefer one conclusion over the other. With their new analysis, Spiegel and Turner say they have erased the one Drake factor scientists felt confident about and replaced it with a question mark.
While it’s true that life arose quickly on Earth (within the planet’s first few hundred million years), the researchers point out that if it hadn’t done so, there wouldn’t have been enough time for intelligent life — humans — to have evolved. So, in effect, we’re biased. It took at least 3.5 billion years for intelligent life to evolve on Earth, and the only reason we’re able to contemplate the likelihood of life today is that its evolution happened to get started early. This requisite good luck is entirely independent of the actual probability of life emerging on a habitable planet.
“Although life began on this planet fairly soon after the Earth became habitable, this fact is consistent with … life being arbitrarily rare in the Universe,” the authors state. In the paper, they prove this statement mathematically.
Their result doesn’t mean we’re alone — only that there’s no reason to think otherwise. “[A] Bayesian enthusiast of extraterrestrial life should be significantly encouraged by the rapid appearance of life on the early Earth but cannot be highly confident on that basis,” the authors conclude. Our own existence implies very little about how many other times life has arisen.
Expect soon to see the gradual phasing out of July 4th celebrations. It will be done under the auspices of saving money.
CBS NEWS: A new study argues that July 4th celebrations may not be as innocent as they seem – at least from the democratic perspective.
According to the report, published by Harvard University, July 4th-themed festivities (defined by the study as fireworks, parades, political speeches, and barbecues) not only energize primarily Republicans, but also turn children into Republicans and increase GOP voter turnout.
Simply put: “Fourth of July celebrations in the United States shape the nation’s political landscape by forming beliefs and increasing participation, primarily in favor of the Republican Party,” says the report, which was written by Harvard Kennedy School Assistant Professor David Yanagizawa-Drott and Bocconi University Assistant Professor Andreas Madestam.
“The political right has been more successful in appropriating American patriotism and its symbols during the 20th century,” the authors write. “Survey evidence also confirms that Republicans consider themselves more patriotic than Democrats. According to this interpretation, there is a political congruence between the patriotism promoted on Fourth of July and the values associated with the Republican party.”
The study suggests that celebrating July 4 is, essentially, a lose-lose proposition for Democrats: Not only will they not likely gain any devotees from the festivities – they might actually lose some.
“There is no evidence of an increased likelihood of identifying as a Democrat, indicating that Fourth of July shifts preferences to the right rather than increasing political polarization,” the study continues.
Children, the authors posit, are particularly vulnerable to the implications of the (apparently) politically-loaded parades.
“Fourth of July celebrations in Republican dominated counties may thus be more politically biased events that socialize children into Republicans,” say Yanagizawa-Drott and Madestam.
“We were surprised to find that childhood experiences of Fourth July celebrations could have such persistent effects. The evidence suggests that important childhood events can have a permanent impact on political beliefs and behavior and that Fourth of July celebrations in the US affect the nation’s political landscape,” adds Yanagizawa-Drott.
Of course, not everyone will be particularly concerned with the possible political implications of July 4th celebrations. If you’re looking for a more patriotic experience, you might want to check out a parade in a particularly Republican-skewing part of town – according to the report, “Republican adults celebrate Fourth of July more intensively in the first place.”
FLASHBACK TO 2008: Obama makes big point of refusing to wear American flag lapel pin
A Single Exposure to the American Flag Shifts Support Toward Republicanism up to 8 Months Later: U of Chicago Study
Two-year study conducted by Dr. Travis J. Carter at the University of Chicago’s Center for Decision Research.
PSYCHOLOGICAL SCIENCE -ABSTRACT OF FINDINGS: A brief exposure to the American flag led to a shift toward Republican beliefs, attitudes, and voting behavior among both Republican and Democratic participants, despite their overwhelming belief that exposure to the flag would not influence their behavior. In Experiment 1, which was conducted online during the 2008 U.S. presidential election, a single exposure to an American flag resulted in a significant increase in participants’ Republican voting intentions, voting behavior, political beliefs, and implicit and explicit attitudes, with some effects lasting 8 months after the exposure to the prime. In Experiment 2, we replicated the findings more than a year into the current Democratic presidential term. These results constitute the first evidence that nonconscious priming effects from exposure to a national flag can bias the citizenry toward one political party and can have considerable durability.
FLASHBACK TO 2008: Obama makes big point of refusing to wear American flag lapel pin
DISCOVER: As a visitor to the USA, one sometimes gets the feeling that it’s hard to move or look around without seeing a flag. They are seemingly everywhere, an omnipresent reminder of national identity. But the star-spangled banner is more than a symbol; it can also influence minds in unexpected ways. Travis Carter from the University of Chicago has found that when people think about voting decisions, the mere sight of the American flag can subtly shift their political views… towards Republicanism. It’s an effect that holds in both Democrats and Republicans, it affects actual votes, and it lasts for at least 8 months.
In the run-up to the 2008 US presidential election, Carter recruited a group of around 200 volunteers and asked them about their political views. A month or so later, he split them into two groups that were comparable in terms of their political beliefs, voting intentions and other variables. Both groups rated how likely they were to vote for either the Democrat Barack Obama or the Republican John McCain on an online questionnaire. The questionnaires were identical except for one small detail – in the top left corner of the screen, one group saw a small American flag and the other saw nothing.
That tiny difference was enough to swing their voting preferences. Carter found that the volunteers who saw the tiny flag became more likely to vote for McCain than Obama (relative to their answers at the start of the experiment). They claimed to feel more positive towards the Republicans and even when Carter tested their unconscious atittudes, a small Republican bias still came through.
After the election, Carter contacted the volunteers again and asked them who they actually voted for. He found that those who saw the flag were less likely to have voted for Obama than those who didn’t (73% versus 84%). They were also more likely to think that the media were unduly harsh in their treatment of McCain. Remember that there were no differences in the political leanings of the two groups before one of them saw the flag-bearing questionnaire.
BEN’S ANALYSIS: So what does this mean?
It means we should all plant American flags squarely in our front yards, have American flag window decals, bumper stickers and American flag car magnets on our cars. Start wearing an American flag lapel pin, American flag tee-shirts, American flag hats and scarves, American flag clothing everywhere you go.
But, this study says much more about liberals and Democrats than it says about Republicans.
This study helps explain why liberals hate July 4th so much — a celebration of America’s birthday. Liberals just don’t like America very much and most people (even Democrats), at least subconsciously, know this . . . which is why they’re attitudes shift away from voting Democrat when they see the American flag staring them in the face.
It explains why liberals are trying so hard to ban the Pledge of Allegiance from the public schools. They just hate all this patriotism.
Now they’re going to hate the flag even more because of this study — which shows that just seeing the flag moves people (even Democrats) to thinking more like Republicans and even vote Republican.
So expect to see an even more massive, systematic, and concerted effort by liberals to ban the American flag from the schools, from public places, from sporting events, from polling booths. The American flag is going to become just like the cross and other Christian religious displays to the Left. In a few years, you’ll be hard pressed to find and American flag in any public place. In addition to banning religious expression and symbols from public places, the ACLU will now expand its mission to ban patriotic expression and symbols from public places . . . on the premise that the American flag is offensive to liberals.
Read also “Why Liberals Hate July 4th” >>>
DISCOVERY: Rightwing candidates are better looking than their leftwing counterparts,something they benefit from during elections, according to a study conducted by Swedish and Finnish economists.
“One possible explanation is that people who are seen or consider themselves beautiful tend to be more anti-egalitarian and rightwing,” Niclas Berggren, one of the three co-authors of the study, told AFP Wednesday.
The study compared election results from parliamentary and municipal elections held in Finland in 2003 and 2004 respectively with an online poll of non-Finns to determine how the 1,357 participating Finnish candidates ranked in terms of beauty.
More than 2,500 non-Finns were shown photographs of each candidate, with no indication of which side of the political spectrum they stood on, and were asked to rank them on a scale from one (very ugly) to five (very beautiful).
And then Here’s Dem Congressman Jerrold Nadler.
JACOB ARON-NEW SCIENTIST: A new cyberweapon could take down the entire internet – and there’s not much that current defences can do to stop it. So say Max Schuchard at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis and his colleagues, the masterminds who have created the digital ordnance. But thankfully they have no intention of destroying the net just yet. Instead, they are suggesting improvements to its defences.
Schuchard’s new attack pits the structure of the internet against itself. Hundreds of connection points in the net fall offline every minute, but we don’t notice because the net routes around them. It can do this because the smaller networks that make up the internet, known as autonomous systems, communicate with each other through routers. When a communication path changes, nearby routers inform their neighbours through a system known as the border gateway protocol (BGP). These routers inform other neighbours in turn, eventually spreading knowledge of the new path throughout the internet.
Weaponized STUXNET computer worm that disabled Iran’s nuclear program was joint U.S.-Israel project ordered by . . . Bush
NEW YORK TIMES: The Dimona complex in the Negev desert is famous as the heavily guarded heart of Israel’s never-acknowledged nuclear arms program, where neat rows of factories make atomic fuel for the arsenal.
Over the past two years, according to intelligence and military experts familiar with its operations, Dimona has taken on a new, equally secret role — as a critical testing ground in a joint American and Israeli effort to undermine Iran’s efforts to make a bomb of its own.
Behind Dimona’s barbed wire, the experts say, Israel has spun nuclear centrifuges virtually identical to Iran’s at Natanz, where Iranian scientists are struggling to enrich uranium. They say Dimona tested the effectiveness of the Stuxnet computer worm, a destructive program that appears to have wiped out roughly a fifth of Iran’s nuclear centrifuges and helped delay, though not destroy, Tehran’s ability to make its first nuclear arms.
ASSOCIATED PRESS: God’s mind was behind complex scientific theories such as the Big Bang, and Christians should reject the idea that the universe came into being by accident, Pope Benedict said on Thursday.
“The universe is not the result of chance, as some would want to make us believe,” Benedict said on the day Christians mark the Epiphany, the day the Bible says the three kings reached the site where Jesus was born by following a star.
“Contemplating it (the universe) we are invited to read something profound into it: the wisdom of the creator, the inexhaustible creativity of God,” he said in a sermon to some 10,000 people in St Peter’s Basilica on the feast day.
Liberals are making a lot of this government-funded “study”
U.K. TELEGRAPH: Scientists have found that people with conservative views have brains with largeramygdalas, almond shaped areas in the centre of the brain often associated with anxiety and emotions.
On the otherhand, they have a smaller anterior cingulate, an area at the front of the brain associated with courage and looking on the bright side of life.
The “exciting” correlation was found by scientists at University College London who scanned the brains of two members of parliament and a number of students.
They found that the size of the two areas of the brain directly related to the political views of the volunteers.
However as they were all adults it was hard to say whether their brains had been born that way or had developed through experience.
BEN SAYS: So, if this is true, why do liberals feel they need a “safety net” — i.e. a welfare state? Why are there so few liberal entrepreneurs? Why do liberals tend to gravitate toward more secure government and academic jobs?
Was Winston Churchill a liberal? How about Wyatt Earp? Or General George S. Patton? Or General Ulysses S. Grant? Or George Washington?
Do these people strike you as fearful, or anxious?
They don’t strike me as liberals.
When Patrick Henry told the British Empire “Give me liberty, or give me death,” does that sound like a fearful statement?
When you hear the phrase “better dead than Red,” does that sound like a sentiment rooted in fear?
You might not like that statement (if you’re a liberal). But it sure doesn’t sound fearful.
Now, there’s really nothing wrong with being fearful of the right things.
I fear God, for example. I worry about being on God’s side, not the other side.
If I saw a forest fire coming toward my house, I would fear that and get out.
I generally don’t fear things I can’t do anything about (like “climate change”).
I fear tyranny. I worry the government is getting too big and that liberty is about to be snuffed out.
Another word for “fear” (fear of real dangers rather than false ones) is “intelligence.”