Tag Archives: science

Pointless, futile, useless, meaningless, ineffectual, mindless, absurd, wasteful, needlessly, aimless, senselessly, pointlessly competition in science

Only recently, I discovered a book of Mathias Binswanger on wasteful competition in science where he details (in German)

Die heutigen gesellschaftlichen Ideale kommen in abstrakten Begriffen wie „Effizienz“, „Exzellenz“, „Leistung“, „Markt“, „Wettbewerbsfähigkeit“, „Innovation“ oder „Wachstum“ zum Ausdruck und in unzähligen Wettbewerben versuchen wir uns gegenseitig mit diesen Idealen zu übertrumpfen. Immer noch effizienter, noch exzellenter, noch wettbewerbsfähiger und noch innovativer muss man werden, auch wenn man in Wirklichkeit gar nicht so genau weiß, warum und wozu. In unserer gründlich durchsäkularisierten Gesellschaft, sind diese Begriffe zu den letzten, nicht mehr zu hinterfragenden Werten geworden, denen zu dienen unser höchstes Ziel ist. Ein anständiger Bürger fragt nicht weiter, warum es immer mehr Wettbewerb oder mehr Wachstum braucht.

and a nice example

Während der Kolonialzeit hatten die Franzosen in Hanoi (Vietnam) mit einer Rattenplage zu kämpfen. Um deren Zahl zu reduzieren, beschlossen sie, den Bewohnern von Hanoi für jeden abgelieferten
Rattenpelz eine Prämie zu bezahlen. Das Resultat dieses künstlich inszenierten Wettbewerbs: Die Bewohner von Hanoi begannen damit, Ratten zu züchten, was die Rattenplage wesentlich verschlimmerte. Mit andern Worten: der messbare Indikator (Zahl der abgelieferten Rattenpelze) stand bald einmal in einer negativen Korrelation zur tatsächlich erwünschten Leistung (Reduzierung der Zahl der Ratten), was zu einem perversen Anreiz führte.

Infinite stupidity?

This is a new Edge conversation with Mark D Pagel.

A tiny number of ideas can go a long way, as we’ve seen. And the Internet makes that more and more likely. What’s happening is that we might, in fact, be at a time in our history where we’re being domesticated by these great big societal things, such as Facebook and the Internet. We’re being domesticated by them, because fewer and fewer and fewer of us have to be innovators to get by. Continue reading Infinite stupidity?

We are not suggesting that peer review is infallible

Nature medicine recently acknowledged our work as science bloggers by admitting

We are not suggesting, however, that peer review is infallible. Nonetheless, as editors, we hope that anyone accepting an invitation to review a manuscript considers that commitment as being of comparable importance to the other responsibilities of a busy researcher. And although we know that more pressing issues can take precedence over reviewing a manuscript, we still expect that the same level of integrity and objective, critical analysis will be applied to the assessment of the manuscript under review as is applied to the referee’s own work.

In German we say “blauäugig” which translates to “wonderful naive”. There are so many examples of non-integrity and non-objectivity of published research where the peer review failed to a large extent – many examples here and at other sites like retractionwatch or badscience. All these papers by Friedhelm Herrmann, Marion Brach and Roland Mertelsmann with the most recent examples by Carsten Carlberg (“It’s all her fault, and probably today is the worst day of her life when the world sees what she has done”“) and Silvia Bulfone Paus (“it was Elena and Vadim and the journal editors should have caught us“)

With the pervasiveness of the Internet, and the speed of communication it permits, commentary and criticism of research findings can occur almost immediately after their online publi­ cation. This medium should be actively embraced by the research community as a dynamic forum.

There is not even a trackback possibility for that Nature medicine editorial – the whole blogger’s laudatio thing reeks of hypocrisy.

Science – a belief system

I haven’t followed up most recent developments in philosophy and was therefore quite intrigued by a lecture of Hannes Leitgeb last week about “Reducing belief simpliciter to degrees of belief” – or should I say degrees of probability? Details about the lecture in my notes. While common sense would put belief more to the theology department, modern philosophers have a quite different position as he further explained me (and which are excellently summarized at plato.stanford.edu)

contemporary analytic philosophers of mind generally use the term “belief” to refer to the attitude we have, roughly, whenever we take something to be the case or regard it as true. To believe something, in this sense, needn’t involve actively reflecting on it: Of the vast number of things ordinary adults believe, only a few can be at the fore of the mind at any single time. Nor does the term “belief”, in standard philosophical usage, imply any uncertainty or any extended reflection about the matter in question (as it sometimes does in ordinary English usage). Many of the things we believe, in the relevant sense, are quite mundane: that we have heads, that it’s the 21st century, that a coffee mug is on the desk. Forming beliefs is thus one of the most basic and important features of the mind, and the concept of belief plays a crucial role in both philosophy of mind and epistemology.

Philosophers target a universal definition Continue reading Science – a belief system

Blogs aids creativity

Today at First Monday:

I am a blogging researcher: Motivations for blogging in a scholarly context
Sara Kjellberg
The number of scholarly blogs on the Web is increasing. In this article, a group of researchers are asked to describe the functions that their blogs serve for them as researchers. The results show that their blogging is motivated by the possibility to share knowledge, that the blog aids creativity, and that it provides a feeling of being connected in their work as researchers. Continue reading Blogs aids creativity

Coordinates of truth and hypothesis-generating research

An interesting piece published in Science finds that

The accuracy and predictability of a hypothesis depend on the validity of the inputs used to generate and test it. Because problems are typically complex and information regarding their solution is limited, the solution is more likely to be found if the information base is greater. This rationale is a driving force behind systems biology, which attempts to define biological complexity from a systemic perspective using information technology … High-profile journals publish systems biology studies, including the human genome sequence, but most papers focus on hypothesis-driven investigations.

The most remarkable point here is the fact that there are still more people who believe in an underlying truth. This reminds me to the philosopher Continue reading Coordinates of truth and hypothesis-generating research

Mission accomplished

… also for some people in the field the main paradigma in science. To cite Wikipedia

Bush’s assertion — and the sign itself — became controversial after guerilla warfare in Iraq increased during the Iraqi insurgency. The vast majority of casualties, among both coalition (approximately 98.3% as of October 2008) and Iraqi combatants, and among Iraqi civilians, have occurred after the speech. Due to this fact, “Mission Accomplished” is now a winged word for uncompleted operations with an unclear ending.

goodbye GB!

Déjà  vu extended

Given my interest in strange phenomena leading to science misperception I wonder why I didn’t find this site earlier as it tells you also everything about Déjà Vu, Déjà Vécu, Déjà Visité, L’esprit de l’Escalier (comeback when it is too late), Capgras delusion (replaced friend), Fregoli delusion (same person appears in different bodies) and prosopagnosia (unable to recognize faces also known as myopia…). Yea, yea.

If pigs could fly

is a book that I am currently reading. There is also a brief German/English account how this sentence came into life. What the hell did you expect when reading the title??

Something like “winners don’t punish”? A smart letter in this week’s Nature with the 3 options of Cooperation(C) – Defection (D) and Punishment (P)?

"nice people"
player 1: C C C C
player 2: C C C C top payoff!
"punish and perish"
player 1: C P P P P
player 2: C D D D D extremely bad!
"turning the other cheek"
player 1: C C C C C
player 2: D D C C C payoff still positive!

we should have known this earlier…


link to an earlier post here on “tit for tat”
link to “vengeance is ours” at Edge
link to “sermon on the mount”