Friday, October 26, 2012

Beer O’Clock: ?


Yes, it’s nearly that time. And since I’ll be heading off to Pukekohe to see Counties knock over Otago in the only game of rugby this weekend … I have no idea what I’ll be drinking. 

But hopefully it will taste like victory!

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Spring is here!

After scouring the whole North Island for signs of it over the last week, I can confirm that Spring is now here!

And despite the many doubters, I can report it is possible to celebrate Spring in Auckland. With trees!

To celebrate Auckland’s Spring, Patrick Reynolds has tracked down and photographed his favourite city trees. Like this one:

imagePhotograph by Patrick Reynolds

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Raw food is not real food

A diet consisting only of raw, uncooked food is one of many fad diets currently fashionable, one purporting to be healthy.

Sadly, for my many friends partaking of the fad,

eating a raw food diet is a recipe for disaster if you’re trying to boost your … brainpower. That’s because humans would have to spend more than 9 hours a day eating to get enough energy from unprocessed raw food alone to support our large brains.


N0, it really wasn’t about a YouTube video

Can we now get over the nonsense perpetrated by the media and the Obama Administration that the attack on the Benghazi Embassy, and the murder and desecration of Ambassador Chris Stevens, were the result of a random protest against an ill-made YouTube video?

Can we get over Vice President Biden’s assertion that the reason the Obama Administration spent weeks falsely blaming it on the video was "Because that was exactly what we were told by the intelligence community" ?

Because a flood of State Department emails released by Reuters makes clear that

within two hours of the attack, the State Department was aware that the jihadist group Ansar al-Sharia—declared by the State Department itself to be an al Qaeda affiliate—had claimed responsibility for the raid (or more appropriately, “razzia”).  These emails were disseminated by the State Department to sundry “redacted national security platforms,” such as the White House Situation room, the Pentagon, the FBI, the Director of National Intelligence and the State Department. An estimated 300-400 national security figures obtained these emails—including persons working directly below the administration’s leading national security, military and diplomatic officials—“in real time almost as the raid was playing out and concluding.”

Who are Ansar al-Sharia?

AL-QAEDA IN LIBYA: A PROFILE” was an August, 2012 report prepared by theCombating Terrorism Technical Support Office, a Pentagon program office under the aegis of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict.  The report emphasized how Al Qaeda Senior Leadership (AQSL), working via a large, powerful, and well-established jihadist infrastructure in Libya—including, prominently, Ansar al-Sharia—sought to capitalize on the US and NATO-supported insurrection which toppled the Libyan despot Qaddafi, and fulfill its goal of making Libya part of an eventual transnational caliphate.

So they can’t say they didn’t know why they did it.

The attack was nothing to do with a video.

The defence—or lack thereof—was everything to do with the US being blindsided by its refusal to learn from history, and from what it knew in advance about the strength and plans of Libyan jihadists.

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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Study Shows Studies Show Nothing [Updated]

Guest post by Nick Hubble of Money Morning Australia

If you’ve ever wondered how a study can show something that just can’t be true, or how studies can completely contradict each other, we’ve figured it out. With a little help of course. After today’s post, I hope you never believe another ‘study.’

Our heartfelt congratulations go out to a computer programme called Mathgen. A mathematics journal provisionally accepted its study for publication.

Wait, ‘its’ study?

Yes, that’s right. These days a computer programme can write an academic paper about mathematics. Then get published in academic journals like‘Advances in Pure Mathematics,’ as this one did.

And you thought those computer programs dominating the stock market were smart!

So what was the paper Mathgen wrote about? Here’s the abstract, which describes it:

‘Let ρ = A. Is it possible to extend isomorphisms? We show that D’ is stochastically orthogonal and trivially affine. In [10], the main result was the construction of p-Cardano, compactly Erdös, Weyl functions. This could shed important light on a conjecture of Conway-d’Alembert.’

If you’re confused, that’s sort of the idea.

Only a mathematics academic could decipher that abstract, because point of fact it’s completely meaningless—and intended to be so. You see, Mathgen creates papers by combining random nouns, verbs, numbers, symbols and the rest of it.  It spits out something that makes grammatical sense, not that you’d know it, but is completely devoid of any meaning.

The formatting is said to be nice, though.

Once the paper is randomly generated and submitted for the academic journal’s review, the academics safeguarding the gates of science and knowledge read the paper and figure it must mean something.

That’s how the paper gets past the peer review process. The same process that keeps climate change science squeaky clean, by the way. Here’s what the anonymous peer reviewer wrote about Mathgen’s bizarre creation:

For the abstract, I consider that the author can’t introduce the main idea and work of this topic specifically.

Maybe that’s because there is no main idea. No ideas at all, in fact.

Anyway, once the academics of the peer review process give the paper a once over and decide it’s fine to publish in their illustrious journal, the valuable and useful knowledge in the paper is disseminated around the academic world. That will probably never happen to Mathgen’s paper because the joke was exposed before the journal was finalised.

If all this makes you chuckle and shrug, consider that it’s the norm in academic publishing. A similar computer program managed to get an article about postmodernism published in a Duke University journal. And even when people run coherent scientific experiments (with real people) the results have a habit of being suspect too.

Many studies can’t seem to be replicated these days. Meaning, if you ran exactly the same experiment, you wouldn’t get results that confirm the study’s findings. According to one science journalist, 47 of the top 53 most important cancer studies can’t be replicated. They might be completely wrong, and yet we base modern research on the assumption they are right.

To be clear, for any sceptics, the Mathgen paper is a true ‘gotcha’ moment. It wasn’t about the fact that a paper can be written by a clever computer program. It wasn’t about anything. It was complete gibberish. But it did show the fact that academic journals are … academic. Let’s hope nobody reads them.

Unfortunately, finance and economics journals actually do get mentioned in the real world. In fact, their conclusions often determine public policy. Politicians hurl studies at each other proving their opinion.

Luckily for economists, it’s very difficult to disprove an economics study. You never know the ‘counterfactual’ — what would have happened. But if maths and science are corrupted, you’d think economics is corrupted twice over.

So the next time you read ‘a study has shown,’ you can disregard the end of the sentence.

Nick Hubble
Editor Money Morning Australia

This post first appeared at Money Morning Australia

UPDATE:  The author of the bogus paper blogs the story here.  And compares this to

Alan Sokal’s 1996 hoax, in which Sokal, a physicist, got the cultural studies journal Social Text to accept a parody article which identified physics and physical reality as a social construct.

#RoadTrip - And finally...

So where now then?


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

#RoadTrip - Where am I now?

And would't you like to be here too?

#RoadTrip - Where am I this afternoon?

Maybe you haven't seen it from this point of view?


#RoadTrip - where am I *this* time?

Now, this might be more confusing?


#RoadTrip - Let's make this one easy...

#RoadTrip - Where this time, campers?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

#RoadTrip - sunset over which mountains?

The snow might be a clue. Or not.

#RoadTrip : And where am I now?

NB: Obvious answers like "in the pooh" should be avoided.



I bet you won't guess this one...


Monday, October 22, 2012

#RoadTrip : So where am I now?

This one should be easy...

Sunday, October 21, 2012

#RoadTrip : Now where?

So where am I now, gentlefolk?