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Apologies for going so long between posts.  I started a few, which I intend to publish soon, but I've been busy.  Last month, November, was National Novel Writing Month, and I'm glad to say I finished 50,000 words, though I didn't overshoot by as much as I did last year.  More on that in the offing...

Meanwhile, on the non-fiction front I've been busy putting together a book I intend to self-publish by the end of the month.  Why the deadline?  Well, it's a collection of heuristics and informed intuitions about how the body works from a biologist's perspective.  The theme is how to use a few simple ideas from biology to understand nutrition better.  Here's what Google Trends has to say about health-related searches over the past five years:
It looks like New Year's Eve is when the searches really start to pick up.  I've been sitting on some of these ideas - and some of the data I want to include in the book - for almost a year now and I really want t…

Thoughts on Elon Musk and Electric Cars

Elon Musk announced he's going to reveal his new Truck design this Thursday.  This is good timing, because it should still be interesting news when families get together on the Thanksgiving holiday.  I would hypothesize that Tesla truck orders/interest show both an initial bump, and a post thanksgiving bump, as families get together and talk over the holiday.  I'm interested, though I don't plan to buy one.  A truck just doesn't fit into my lifestyle.  Still, it's a new category for the company to get into, and if he meets the price points he's previously targeted he'll be solidly in the range of a lot of truck buyers.

It's always interesting to see press about Musk.  On the one hand, there are the tech and electric car enthusiasts who really want him to succeed.  On the other, there are the people who have a strange desire to see him as a villain who must fail.  I tried looking up his political views to figure out why some people hate him so much, but …

Conservation of Blame

I know I haven't posted much in a while, but it's the middle of NaNoWriMo so I've been busy writing other things.  I'm still 30,000 words from my goal (possibly more if it takes another 40-50 thousand to finish the book which is the real goal). Meanwhile, we're wanting to build out recruitment of an important clinical trial, so I'm going to keep today's post short.

There's a common intuition I think is usually wrong, and I want to spend a few minutes convincing you of this.  First, some context:  In many disciplines where we deal with finite systems and allocation of scarce resources we run into different types of 'conservation' laws.  This is especially true in physics, where all sorts of things are conserved like energy, charge, mass, etc.  Even probability is conserved at a quantum level!  I think there's a natural tendency to want to think in terms of conservation in other areas as well, and this intuition is not always wrong.  For examp…

A Model for Persuasive Conversations

I recently read an interesting blog post that basically posits many arguments center around competing unstated priorities as the only substantive subtext to whether we're 'for or against' specific policies. The author says we should focus on bringing out each participant's priorities so we can get to the bottom of the disagreement, and that focus on policy positions is a distraction.  I think this is sound advice.  Near the end of the post, he says, "The “I’m not against X” move doesn’t work. I’m not sure what does."  I'd like to argue for a model I've used in the past and found to be very effective at preventing argument and shifting opinion with people who might otherwise be prone to intransigence.

I often hear people lament that those who disagree with them "on the [Left/Right]" are simply incapable of accepting their sound arguments.  This lament has always reminded me of a certain demotivational poster: "The only consistent feature…

Defending Hypocrisy

If we're ever in a debate, please understand that accusations of hypocrisy don't resonate well with me.  Partly this is a function of my own history in this realm.  When I was in graduate school, my thesis adviser would occasionally rail against religious people because of their hypocrisy.  There is no point arguing or challenging the person who has power over your funding and whether you ever graduate with a PhD, so I let the barbs go without comment.  She knew I'm religious and was likely needling me, but she also just talks that way all the time because when you're in academia you can always opine about the Accepted Political Dogmas and if anyone disagrees with you it feels like it's in their best interest not to make it known.

Discourse on non-academic subjects in academia often looks like this: "Religious people are so dumb.  They all talk about the importance of marriage, but then look at all the religious people who get divorces!  So much for their beli…

Open Questions Meet Settled Science

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This is a direct follow-up to my last post.  In that post, I explicitly questioned Darwinian Evolution - to the extent that the first comment asked me about other articles that do the same.

I want to defend Darwin here and everything he got right, because I read a lot of articles from people who read what experts say and piggy-back on that to proclaim that Darwin's work is being "overturned" or similar war-of-ideas-and-Darwin-is-losing kind of language.  This is the wrong way to understand the scientific process of expanding beyond the clear limits of Darwin's theory.  But I suppose part of the reason people turn to it is because they don't understand the right way to understand this process.  I'm going to spend much of my time here working through that, partly by comparing Darwin's contributions to those of Newton's discovery of universal gravitation.
The Universe Before Newton When I was young, I always had a problem understanding why Newton got so …

Open Questions: The Origin of Life

In a previous post, I covered the claim that science proves there is no god.  This is one of the weaker arguments I hear when religion and science are discussed, because it's easy to disprove.  You simply have to challenge the claim, "How does science prove there is no God?  What experiments demonstrate this?"  However, in my experience most people who make this weak claim are actually thinking of a stronger atheistic claim, namely: "Science takes the place of religion.  It has now explained all the old gaps in our knowledge, and now we're just filling in the small gaps that remain."  In my last post, I talked about how the domains of science and religion don't generally overlap.  The popular conception is that science explains the how and religion explains the why of the world.  However, there is one major area of overlap for science and religion and that is creation, both of life and of the universe.  If science can explain the creation of the univers…