Choice of Population and Mutation Frequencies

I read this article from Richard Dawkins as it seemed to be making a point about politics, language, and the way we think that I find really interesting. (I’ve had a post on language in science in draft for months!) However, what was most interesting was the insight I finally got into mutations in the population.

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Tectonic Speculation

Supercontinents are probably more common than dispersed continents over the last few billion years history. I wonder what human history would have looked like if we had evolved into our modern form on a single continent. Would that even be possible?

If it were, would nation states have formed as easily? What patterns of trade would have evolved? Would there still be naval powers, or would naval power be of little use? With no continents over the sea, how long would it take to develop the technology for ocean travel?

First Look at Coursera

I’ve just finished my first course on Coursera, Computing for Data Analysis. I enjoyed it, but I’m not sure it would work for everyone. Massive open online courses (MOOCs) are all the rage right now (Open CourseWare does something similar, and the Khan Academy also offers free online education), and I always want to learn more, so I was curious as to how I would find it.

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What Causes the Relative Inefficiency of the Public Sector?

Private organisations die when they run out of money. Public organisations don’t need to worry about running out of money directly. When considering their behaviour and efficiency, is there a more important difference between them? I suggest that any observed differences in efficiency may be due only to survivorship bias, rather than superior management.

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Fallacies By Example, Part One

Thanks to Andrew Orlowski at The Register, here is some Appeal to Consequences:

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/06/28/climate_survey_usa_uk_canada/

Brit global warming skeptics now outnumber believers

Nothing like a taste of climate policy to put you off

and

It would seem that the more people hear the arguments and study the policies, the less they like them.

These suggest that people will become skeptics on the question of whether global warming is true or false after reading about suggested policies for dealing with it. Look at the negative form of the Appeal to Consequences:

If P, then Q will occur.

Q is undesirable.

Therefore, P is false.

Orlowski is suggesting that people do not like suggested policies for dealing with global warming (“Q is undesirable”), and that therefore they become skeptics (“Therefore, P is false.”). Of course, it’s not possible to tell whether global warming is happening, or how it is caused, by looking at suggested policy responses to it.