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jeff(fake)


jeff(fake)

Scientist of Fortune
Location: Edinburgh

Total posts: 1189
Posted:Hi all,

In my time on HOP I've seen the topic of science pop up again and again. However, it is invariable in a defensive position, coming under fire from all sides. I'd like this to be a thread in which to celebrate science, rather than deride it.

Science is a major target for people whos beliefs clash with many of the established facts in science, since if science is right it means that they are wrong. I'm sure people aware of what happens when you try to have a conversation about politic or religion with someone whose views differ from your own. As soon as the question of 'why?' arises most people become threatened and defensive, as if you are attacking them personally. Science is the process of continuously asking 'why?' and this I believe is why so many people attack it so vigourously.

It has become popular to say that since science hasn't been completly accurate in the past that everything we know today should be disregarded and that all statements about the world should be given equal respect. I'm aware that philosophically we cannot say with 100% certainty that anything is 'true', however I don't believe that since there is a tiny chance that something may be wrong that it follows instantly that it is wrong. Every day of our lives the sun has risen each morning(unless you've been in the arctic circle wink ). There no garentee that the sun did this in the past or will do so tomorrow but the vast bulk of evidence suggests that it will and I have no problem in saying that the sun will rise tomorrow.

It is likely that certain parts of science are incomplete or inaccurate but it is very unlikely that major parts are completely wrong. I know many of you have beliefs which rest on parts of science being wrong, but I am afraid to say that it is you who are almost certainly wrong.

Lastly I'd like to adderess the notion that science is subjective and if someone believe is something then this will change the outcome of and experiment. Whilst this is an interesting concept it doesn't explain how two labs carrying out independent experiments and opposite ends of the globe with no prior beliefs about the outcome produce similar results. It also misses the rather undesputeable fact that a mass of m travelling at a velocity of v smacking into a white scientist has much the same effect when it smacks into a Chinese acupunctureist or an African tribes man who has had no experience with what is called 'western science'.

Sorry if my thread is a bit hard to follow but I'm not very good at writting essays. redface

All those who believe in psychokineseis please raise my hand... biggrin


According to Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle of Quantum Dynamics, we may already be making love right now...

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nearly_all_gone
SILVER Member since Aug 2004

nearly_all_gone

Pooh-Bah
Location: Southampton, United Kingdom

Total posts: 1626
Posted:Science is great, to be sure, and it basically creates everything positive about the modern world. Unfortunately it also created all the negative stuff too, so I can see why it is a target. I'm not sure I agree that people with other beliefs are "almost certainly wrong" whereas science is largely right, however. In 20,000 years we won't be observing the same scientific rules and formulae, we'll have come up with something new and more universal. And 20,000 years later the same will be true.

Science is nearly right, probably as near as anything will ever get, but I don't think it ever will be 100%. That's why it will continue to evolve. Human science, at least, because human science always has a fallible human element.

The fact that science shifts and evolves is what makes it so interesting! Yay science biggrin


What a wonderful miracle if only we could look through each other's eyes for an instant.
Thoreau

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jeff(fake)


jeff(fake)

Scientist of Fortune
Location: Edinburgh

Total posts: 1189
Posted:Ah, exactly what I believe! Newton's laws of motion for example have since been found to be a special case of the laws of relativity. It doesn't mean that Newton was wrong, just incomplete in energy states that scientist of that age could never have imagined.

According to Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle of Quantum Dynamics, we may already be making love right now...

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vanize
SILVER Member since Aug 2001

vanize

Carpal \'Tunnel
Location: Austin, Texas, USA

Total posts: 3899
Posted:These things shall be: a loftier race
Than e'er the world hath known shall rise,
With flame of freedom in their souls,
And light of science in their eyes.

(John Addington Symonds)


-v-

Wiederstand ist Zwecklos!

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vanize
SILVER Member since Aug 2001

vanize

Carpal \'Tunnel
Location: Austin, Texas, USA

Total posts: 3899
Posted:"when a view denounced by scientists as false is, nevertheless, popular with the general public, the mere fact of the popularity is strong evidence in favor of its worthlessness."

(isaac asimov)


-v-

Wiederstand ist Zwecklos!

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coleman
SILVER Member since Aug 2002

coleman

big and good and broken
Location: lunn dunn, yoo kay, United Kin...

Total posts: 7330
Posted:where's that ed209 when you need him? smile





a good friend sent me this quote the other day:



"All science is either physics or stamp collecting."

Ernest Rutherford (1871 - 1937)



twas one of my favourites at uni as i was given it at the start of my atomic physics course and have been using it to piss off chemists ever since ubbangel

the person that sent me it was a chemist though so i got pre-empted pretty good there.

still, its pretty true isn't it?





i personally believe that science is nothing without philosophy.

but equally, i think that without science, philosophy is free to move towards the realm of the purely speculative.

where the two cross is one of the most intellectually stimulating places one can go smile







a question i often ponder is whether the human brain is actually capable of 'working out' the rules of the universe or if we are ultimately limited to approximations that we as humans can comprehend the theory behind.



add to this the limits of physical measurement and the problems we face with quantum uncertainty and it is very easy to become overwhelmed by the futility of it all wink



little bit of discussion on it over here if you don't catch my drift.



to put my mind at rest and get to sleep at night, i usually conclude that even if we are limited, the fact that we even try to crack the code of our experience, despite the possibility that we might not even be capable of it, is a testament to our innate curiousity as human beings.



plus i got a tv and tv's are good and science made that - so we can't complain really can we? wink





cole. x



good science vs. bad science.



"Youre not going to get away with this. Its not cool to be weird. - ted maul


"i see you at 'dis cafe.
i come to 'dis cafe quite a lot myself.
they do porridge."
- tim westwood

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spiralx


spiralx

veteran
Location: London, UK

Total posts: 1376
Posted:I think a lot of people here seem to be confusing science as "What scientists do". Which is sort of true, but confuses the fact that science is mainly about formulating ideas and being skeptical about whether or not they are true i.e. demanding the highest standard of proof we can get, much of which is about removing fallible human factors, hence repeatability, double-blind experiments etc. etc.

But yes, yay for science. Down with relativism and pseudo-science.


"Moo," said the happy cow.

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ed209


ed209

Ed: geek, staffer, past participle
Location: London, UK

Total posts: 122
Posted:Written by: coleman

where's that ed209 when you need him? smile




Ello. *appears in a puff of peer-reviewed, statistically-significant logic*

God, this thread is going to keep me busy for a while.

Written by: nearly_all_gone

Science is great, to be sure, and it basically creates everything positive about the modern world. Unfortunately it also created all the negative stuff too, so I can see why it is a target.




For a start, I don't really believe that is true. A lot of technology has been misused certainly, but one could argue that even greater devastation has been wrought in the name of religion (I am NOT having a dig at religion here), or by people seeking to exploit other people's religious views to amass their own ends. Science itself is not inherently positive or negative. For the majority of people, it's used to understand the workings of the world on a deeper level. I for one believe that that's one of the greatest things that someone can do.

Written by: nearly_all_gone

Science is nearly right, probably as near as anything will ever get, but I don't think it ever will be 100%. That's why it will continue to evolve.




Quite. In the same way that Darwin's evolutionary theories have been mostly confirmed, but several specifics have been tweaked. But I think that certainly on a larger level, we've got a pretty solid framework at the moment.

Written by: coleman

i believe that science is nothing without philosophy.

but equally, i think that without science, philosophy easily moves towards the realm of the purely speculative.

where the two cross is one of the most intellectually stimulating places one can go




Someone once said to me that science is wonderful at telling you the whys and hows etc. But it tells you nothing about how you should live your life. And I sort of agree with that. Without philosophy, science becomes hollow and empty. Without science, philosophy has no grounding. Basically, once we know why we're here and how we work, we should probably try and figure out what to do next.

Also, one of the reasons I love science is that I think it can be really beautiful - just because I know how birds evolved, or the mechanics of a wing doesn't stop me from watching a flying bird and going 'Ooooo' (unless it's a London pigeon in which case I go 'B*****d') And science can imply philosophy. Take evolution - I posted something similar on another thread but basically, if you consider (a) the probabilities that the exact combination of genes that produced you came about, (b) the probabilities that your parents came together to unite those genes anyway, and (c) the number of generations since the dawn of time that this process had to occur, the probability that we exist at all in the way that we do is about zero. So, we're pretty lucky to be here and should be grateful for it. Also, it's nice to think that we're all made up of the stuff of stars. But I'm rambling now...

Written by: spiralx

science is mainly about formulating ideas and being skeptical about whether or not they are true




I so agree with this. Almost more important than the science itself is the scientific method. If schools teach anything to kids, I wish it would be that - the need for rigour, controls etc. I'm currently doing a lot of epidemiology-based stuff and my god, if I never hear another argument along the lines of 'I knew some bloke wot smoked all his life and never got lung cancer so I don't believe it', it'll be too soon.


And yes, yay for science. To science
beerchug

And a stream of consciousness list to end off:
Things I love about science:
That exciting, geeky, feeling when you read something really cool and new. Or that smug, satisfying feeling when you read something that suddenly explains a lot about things going on around you
Seeing other people have that feeling (the dinosaurs bit in any natural history museum is a great place to start).
Successfully explaining science to people who were previously disinterested. Anything that does this, big shout out to New Scientist
David Attenborough - who started it all for me as a kid. Richard Dawkins, who gave it an extra push before uni.

Things that bug me about science:
Inaccurate media reporting censored Especially about publicly-relevant issues.
The crap career structure, hours and pay for researchers.
Scientists in the field who've developed egos with their own gravity and climate. Or who don't think it's worthwhile telling non-scientists about their results.
The GCSE/A-level biology syllabus - screw how the heart works, where's the evolution/genetics/cloning/good

Oh and everyone's quotes so far are brilliant. Love that psychokinesis line.


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Icer
SILVER Member since Apr 2005

Icer

just a shadow of my former self...
Location: Christchurch, New Zealand

Total posts: 205
Posted:big ups for science. not a heck of alot more i can say, ed209 pretty much covered everything.
as for being 100% right, science never will be, but it doesnt try to be. thats why we have alpha (cant find the greek font) levels and null hypothesiseses, and things like precision and accuracy (which are different). i love science. the clear staements and conclusions give such closure its so satisfying.
ive got two degree one in science (a double in zoology and ecology- big big ups to David Attenborough!!!) and an arts in anthropology. now i love anthropology, it questions EVERYTHING, and i mean EVERYTHING, which is part of wot drew me to it, but it never answers ANYTHING, which for me is a real pain the arse (excuse the french). i now do anth full time and dont really do any science and i miss it...i really really do...

and a last note to those ppl who think experiments can be affected by ppls expectations- thats why it is stressed not to make any a priori assumptions and to remove any and all confounding factors within an experiment. i dont think expectations change the result, simply the way in which you interpret those results, that is where all the problems start in my book.
once again, big ups to science and david attenborough!!


It took a while, but once their numbers dropped from 50 down to 8, the other dwarves started to suspect Hungry.

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ed209


ed209

Ed: geek, staffer, past participle
Location: London, UK

Total posts: 122
Posted:Written by: Icer


i dont think expectations change the result, simply the way in which you interpret those results, that is where all the problems start in my book.







Yeah and all science really is is working out the best possible interpretation of the evidence at the given time in the hope that this will eventually lead to the closest possible approximation of what's really going on. meditate



Or maybe science is about blowing s**t up...ubblol

http://www.theodoregray.com/PeriodicTable/Stories/011.2/




E



Oh and David Attenborough - I hope that when I turn 70+, I'm still hiking through jungle and having 20 somethings saying big up to me smile


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mcp
PLATINUM Member since May 2003

mcp

Flying Water Muppet
Location: Edin-borrow., United Kingdom

Total posts: 5276
Posted:Written by: coleman

"Youre not going to get away with this. Its not cool to be weird. - ted maul



bugger

it was going sooo well up till that point.


"the now legendary" - Kaskade
"the still legendary" - Kaskade

I spunked in my friend's aquarium and the fish ate it. I love all fish. Especially the pink ones. They are my bitches. - Anon.

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Pyrolific
BRONZE Member since Jan 2001

Returning to a unique state of Equilibrium
Location: Adelaide, South Australia

Total posts: 3289
Posted:ok I'll bite smile

So are we drawing a distinction between scientific method and scientific applications? cuz i reckon scientific method basically comes from philosophers anyhow, and modern scientific application has mostly harmed the way the whole world lives. I'm not suggesting science application is more harmful than religion (although modern technology made it easier for millions to die in recent wars). TV, microwaves and computers and general unsustainable consumerism dont actually impress me heaps. Neither do new diabetes drugs. Modern science application seems to invent and create many of the problems it so boastfully solves.

Sure sure - science is going to save the world - I'm just wondering how much more 'progress' we can take? Science supporters are great at suggesting that ethics should be a part of science but it so rarely is, and ethical scientists seem to be massively derrided by the vast majority of their colleagues who just cant help but maintain their elevated social perspective. when Science starts serving the people and not the hip pockets of multinational corporates to the detriment of everyone involved perhaps we might have some real ethical science, but I dont think its going to happen in our lifetime, and theres still a lot of suffering and damage to do.

for sure there are some outstanding scientists fighting the good battle and these people should be massively applauded - but they arent in the majority.

And yeah - I recognise the irony in posting this kind of anti modern science sentiment on the internet smile


--
Help! My personality got stuck in this signature machine and I cant get it out!

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ed209


ed209

Ed: geek, staffer, past participle
Location: London, UK

Total posts: 122
Posted:But one of the major 'applications' of science is discovering how the world works - I think a surprising amount of research is blue-sky and that's the stuff I'm mainly interested in. That's the way in which science can serve the people.

I agree that some scientists are unethical, but I would argue that these people are in the minority. This being said, there does seem to be a hell of a lot of back-stabbing in the scientific community fuelled by large egos and a constant need to get decent publications. Maybe this is part of the problem. I remember reading someone saying that part of the problem with science is if you do research you do it on the back of thousands of other researchers before you. You don't have to discover things for yourself initially so you take less responsibility for your future discoveries or the direction that your work goes in. The counter-analogy is the martial artist who has to learn all his skills from scratch but in doing so, learns enough humility to stop himself from beating up random people on the street.

Actually, I think I just cited Jurassic Park *hangs head in shame*.


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spiralx


spiralx

veteran
Location: London, UK

Total posts: 1376
Posted:Written by: Pyrolific

ok I'll bite smile

So are we drawing a distinction between scientific method and scientific applications? cuz i reckon scientific method basically comes from philosophers anyhow,


Well science was called "natural philosophy" in Newton's time. But it's the application of the scientific method i.e. experimentation that then differentiated it from pure philosophy.

Written by: Pyrolific
and modern scientific application has mostly harmed the way the whole world lives. I'm not suggesting science application is more harmful than religion (although modern technology made it easier for millions to die in recent wars). TV, microwaves and computers and general unsustainable consumerism dont actually impress me heaps. Neither do new diabetes drugs. Modern science application seems to invent and create many of the problems it so boastfully solves.


You're talking about technology here...

Written by: Pyrolific
Sure sure - science is going to save the world - I'm just wondering how much more 'progress' we can take? Science supporters are great at suggesting that ethics should be a part of science but it so rarely is, and ethical scientists seem to be massively derrided by the vast majority of their colleagues who just cant help but maintain their elevated social perspective. when Science starts serving the people and not the hip pockets of multinational corporates to the detriment of everyone involved perhaps we might have some real ethical science, but I dont think its going to happen in our lifetime, and theres still a lot of suffering and damage to do.

for sure there are some outstanding scientists fighting the good battle and these people should be massively applauded - but they arent in the majority.

And yeah - I recognise the irony in posting this kind of anti modern science sentiment on the internet smile


Again you're talking about technology which is basically applied science. And I think you're overstating the problem based on a few small examples - what corporation does research into superstrings benefit?


"Moo," said the happy cow.

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Bumfro


Bumfro

Its a bum with an afro...
Location: Newcastle NSW

Total posts: 223
Posted:Go team science!

Racism is a weapon of mass destruction

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Eera
BRONZE Member since May 2003

old hand
Location: In a test pit, Mackay, Austral...

Total posts: 1107
Posted:In his book River out of Eden, Richard Dawkins makes a point about someone who is saying that science is merely a modern religion, and no more or less valid than other relgion. He makes a wonderful quote, which I can't remember verbatim, but nontheless goes along the lines of "An African tribesman, with a firm belief that the moon is a calabash hung just out of arms reach, will never stand on it."

Personally, I don't think that ANYONE who is on this board, or any other, using computers and electricity, indeed who lives in the modern world, uses a conventional oven, utilises any metal or plastic, basically who goes about their day-to-day lives, can wholeheartedly say that science is a bad thing.

BTW, there is a huge shortage of young scientists coming into the vast majority of fields now (I think the only exception is biology). There's a perception that it's too hard, too little pay and too uncool (OK, the pay thing might be right), so we end up with universities bulging with Sanskrit and English Lit students, while industry dies a slow death around us.


There is a slight possibility that I am not actually right all of the time.

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ed209


ed209

Ed: geek, staffer, past participle
Location: London, UK

Total posts: 122
Posted:Eera, I love that quote! Has anyone read Dawkin's latest (Ancestor's Tale I think?) and is it any good?

And the shortage of young scientists - I think partially it's a fault with perceptions, motivating kids etc., but a huge part of the problem lies with keeping people in science. The drop out rate after the PhD level is enormous, for many reasons - poor career structure, overly competitive environment leading to pressures to work late etc. I know I couldn't deal with the 12-hr, 7-day weeks which were expected of me. That may have just been my lab but I know that certainly in many biology fields, it's the norm.

This may partly be because university science doesnt' really teach you anything about what research is like. It's a sorry state of affairs that when it's so hard to get people to go into science, the current systems make it even harder to keep them in it.


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Eera
BRONZE Member since May 2003

old hand
Location: In a test pit, Mackay, Austral...

Total posts: 1107
Posted:I understand exactly where you're coming from, ed (can I call you that? we're friends, right?)

Of the people doing PhDs in geology when I was doing mine, one now works as a Patents Clerk, one is a computer programmer, one runs a bar in Ibiza, one works in PR for Marks and Spencer, and one mans a help-desk, only two of us got work in a vaguely related field, and both of us moved to Australia to do so. Basically, PhDs make you unemployable, something else they don't tell you.

But the rot stretched so much further than research; any form of engineering can't get people, industrial chemistry is starving, mines are desperate for people who can tell coal from basalt (and I know of one mine that employs someone who can't, simply because no-one else is around). When my boyfriend started his apprenticeship as a diesel fitter he had to prove how much he wanted it, and what he already knew, nowadays a typical interview goes:
"Why do you want to do this apprenticeship?"
"Can't think of anything else."
"welcome aboard."

Hopefully this vogue for offering A-levels in Macrame and other such stuff will soon pass and we'll get people willing to make the effort back in. Your last sentence is absolutely spot on.

Ironically, I've been waiting to use that quote for ages, and now the opportunity comes up I can't remember it. Most Dawkins is great (it's a pity Gould died as it was fun seeing them have spats). The only one I didn't really like was The Blind Watchmaker, probably because he tried to fit too much information into a page and my brain couldn't cope. I'm good at science, me.


There is a slight possibility that I am not actually right all of the time.

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Pyrolific
BRONZE Member since Jan 2001

Returning to a unique state of Equilibrium
Location: Adelaide, South Australia

Total posts: 3289
Posted:yep - modern scientific applications - high technology etc. I think the scientific method is aweome and super great and something the human race can be proud of...but its an information product, directly from the mind. It can be taught with a minimum of wasted resources and has massive benefits to any society that understands it.

A few examples? I'm a little out of my depth here, but Im guessing and I hope someone will correct me if Im wrong, but arent the biggest industries in terms of research investment, Defense (bombs, killing and other useless ways of destroying our planet) Pharmaceuticals (mostly drugs that dont work very well to help us cope with living the 'modern' western life) Food companies (Monsanto et al). I dont think Superstrings rates very highly in terms of the number of scientists or the amount of spending. I disagree that the majortiy of science spending is blue sky - but it would be lovely if I'm wrong.

The Luna landing was just a big pissing contest with no real benefit in human terms. What a waste of resources. why spend all that money on walking on the moon when there is so much suffering in the world that could be stopped by spending it on humanitarian needs? Yeah ok, sorry Sci Fi Fans (Im one too!) thats not very romantic, but really, where are our priorities?


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Help! My personality got stuck in this signature machine and I cant get it out!

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vanize
SILVER Member since Aug 2001

vanize

Carpal \'Tunnel
Location: Austin, Texas, USA

Total posts: 3899
Posted:Ph.D drop out rate? well, tell you what, as I approach the end of my 3 year of postdoctoral work, I`m REAL close to going to do something else more worthwhile in terms of enjoying my life as well....

-v-

Wiederstand ist Zwecklos!

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spritie
SILVER Member since Sep 2001

spritie

Pooh-Bah
Location: Galveston, TX, USA

Total posts: 2014
Posted:Written by: Eera

Basically, PhDs make you unemployable, something else they don't tell you.




hmmm...I'm guessing things might be a tad different in the UK than in the states at the moment. Around here, everyone I know with a PhD in my field (statistics) had a job by the time they defended doing something related to what they wanted. I finished mine 3 years ago, and am now a faculty member at a Medical School. I recently talked with someone still at the place I got my PhD from, and he said all the other people that have graduated since I did have found jobs that they are enjoying, and didn't have a problem finding them.

So, maybe it's the fields that people are in that they had a hard time locating something, or after putting all that work to get the darn thing finished, they discovered they hated that area and opted for something completely different to calm their nerves (I'll admit, getting one isn't exactly a piece of cake).


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Gelfling
BRONZE Member since Jul 2004

Gelfling

Watcher of 80s cartoons
Location: Chepstow & Bristol, United Kin...

Total posts: 665
Posted:Science is great!!! bounce

However, science is too academic - in other words science has a history of positivist understanding. Therefore, scientists have had a tendency to seek understanding into the way in which the Universe and Life came about, work at present. The upshot of this is that the work that science does is left to engineers, politicians and others to format into useable devices. Due to the nature of all animals, humans have used science to take short cuts (all animals try to conserve energy as much as possible, which is why obesity is so prevalent in Western cultures). Consequently, science has rarely been used in the most sustainable way. Scientists have got to take more responsibility for the resulting products of their work and society has got to stop being so short sighted!

As a teacher of science I try approach science from a critical point of view with the hope that my students will evaluate the way in which they use science as much as possible.


>What do you think about the state of the Earth?
>I'm optimistic.
>So why do you look so sad?
>I'm not sure that my optimism is justified.

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Stainless Munchkin


Stainless Munchkin

Master of the Munchkins


Total posts: 246
Posted:i have to say i am a fan of science, im good at all three major sciences, and for my A-levels i am doing 3 sciences and maths. im hoping to have a career in maths. However the one thing i dont like is how science is constantly used for pessimistic ideas, this causes cancer, and that causes cancer, how many things dont cause cancer is what we should ask, because it would be a much shorter list. I prefered it when i was younger and i could eat what i wanted because i didnt know that everything is bad for me in some way, shape or form!

Are you that clever that you smile forever? biggrin

What's from the Earth is of the greatest worth

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spritie
SILVER Member since Sep 2001

spritie

Pooh-Bah
Location: Galveston, TX, USA

Total posts: 2014
Posted:The mainstream science that you hear about in the news and such (like the what causes cancer you mentioned and what not to eat stuff) isn't what a good majority of the practicing scientists are looking at. That is what the "news" finds interesting and think they can make a decent story about. Most of the stuff scientists are looking at on a daily basis, the majority of people would find either dull or too difficult to understand. There are plenty of scientists looking at the root causes of diseases and how to avoid them. Some are looking at what diseases do to the human body on a chemical level and the differences between a person with a disease and a healthy individual.

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ed209


ed209

Ed: geek, staffer, past participle
Location: London, UK

Total posts: 122
Posted:Written by: Eera

I understand exactly where you're coming from, ed (can I call you that? we're friends, right?)




I'd actually prefer that biggrin

Written by: Eera

Hopefully this vogue for offering A-levels in Macrame and other such stuff will soon pass



ubblol ubblol ubblol

Eera - What exatly do you go as a geological engineer? My curiosity if piqued. And actually, I don't think PhDs make you completely unemployable, it's just not very useful for anything other than direct research work. For anyone wanting to branch out, it's far less valued than direct work experience, which is a problem I found.

Written by: spritie

So, maybe it's the fields that people are in that they had a hard time locating something, or after putting all that work to get the darn thing finished, they discovered they hated that area and opted for something completely different to calm their nerves (I'll admit, getting one isn't exactly a piece of cake).




Also true. And I do hear that it's a better situation in the States - hence the brain drain towards the West (kinda like Lord of the Rings ubblol)

Written by: gelfling

Scientists have got to take more responsibility for the resulting products of their work and society has got to stop being so short sighted!

As a teacher of science I try approach science from a critical point of view with the hope that my students will evaluate the way in which they use science as much as possible.



I really agree with this - interesting commentary in last week's New Scientist said something very similar in relation to stopping nanotech becoming the next GM farce.

And gelfling, as a teacher of science, I salute you. More of you please!
beerchug ubbtickled

Written by: stainless munchkin

i dont like is how science is constantly used for pessimistic ideas, this causes cancer, and that causes cancer, how many things dont cause cancer is what we should ask, because it would be a much shorter list. I prefered it when i was younger and i could eat what i wanted because i didnt know that everything is bad for me in some way, shape or form!



Hi munchkin. I'm one of those people you're talking about! Sorry you feel that way. But please don't get confused between the work that scientists do and how it's reported in the media. Honestly, only a very few things have been proven to cause or reduce the risk of cancer. But epidemiology relies on having lots of excellent studies, whereas papers often report a single bad study leading to panic and public distrust.

I know sometimes that cancer scientists seem like killjoys but it's important that they send the correct messages out - and unfortunate that sometimes these messages aren't what we like to hear. But don't shoot the messenger! When half of all of cancers could be prevented (that's about 100,000 people in the UK alone every year), surely you would agree that this is an important thing to be talking about? And if that's what the research shows, then that's what scientists have to tell people.

And for the record, noone's forcing anyone to make lifestyle changes. But at the very least, it is important to inform people of the risks so that they can make their own choices. Knowledge is power right?

For you or anyone reading this who wants more information on how lifestyle factors relate to cancer risk, based on the current evidence, have a look at http://info.cancerresearchuk.org/healthyliving
The information is presented (hopefully) in a friendly, encouraging way. Check out the individual sections on the left-hand nav for more info on specific topics, and for those with a more scientific bent, have a look at the How do we know? section for a more literature-based review.

And in particular, there's a new page on how to deal with media reports on cancer risks, and how to separate fact from fiction for yourself. Maybe this would address some of your complaints, munchkin? http://info.cancerresearchuk.org/healthyliving/whodowebelieve/?a=5441
br>Hope that's useful.


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NYC


NYC

NYC
Location: NYC, NY, USA

Total posts: 9232
Posted:I wrote a nice response... but then I realized I don't really feel like playing.

Kind of freeing actually. biggrin

Off to play in reality.


Well, shall we go?
Yes, let's go.
[They do not move.]

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spritie
SILVER Member since Sep 2001

spritie

Pooh-Bah
Location: Galveston, TX, USA

Total posts: 2014
Posted:Gelfing, part of the reason the results of science is left up to politicans, engineers, etc. to figure out how to deal with is that most of the academic research dollars come directly from the government (at least this is how it works in the states). Most faculty members at a university are required to have some of their salary come from grant money. The amount varies from uni to uni, but in many cases it needs to be at least 50% by your third year of employment at that uni. This grant money is also used to pay the employees of the research lab as well as obtain the necessary equipment to perform the research.

Now, the government doesn't just fund anything. They set forth what types of grants they want to see and what sorts of things they want researchers to investigate. Then, committees of researchers get together to decide who should get the money. Once the money is distributed, the government keeps close tabs on how you are using it. You have quarterly progress reports that need to be sent to the granting institution. If you fail to make significant progress in the appropriate area, your funding can be completely cut. This is every researchers worst nightmare, so they try hard to avoid it. Thus, they must be actively involved in research that the government thinks is worthwhile. They can usually get away with using a small portion of their grant funds for something that personally interests them, but it must use the same equipment/material as what their grant funding is for.

I know my salary comes from several different government agencies...a tobacoo settlement, the national institute for helath, the national heart, lung, and blood institute, and the natioinal institute for allergy and infectious disease. Thus, while I can do some of my own research, the majority of what I can do research on is established by the government since I'd really like to continue earning money at my present position.


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Gelfling
BRONZE Member since Jul 2004

Gelfling

Watcher of 80s cartoons
Location: Chepstow & Bristol, United Kin...

Total posts: 665
Posted:Its sort of like that here Spritie. However, we have a lot more freedom in certain disciplines. When I was working for the Centre of Ecology and Hydrology we turned down a contract from Monsanto as we did not want the indicative association. From my limited experience I'd hypothesise that the situation in the UK is more balanced than that of the States. For example, due to environmental research it is compulsory for all cars to have catalytic converters (to reduce air pollutants) and fuel efficiency is highly prized.

>What do you think about the state of the Earth?
>I'm optimistic.
>So why do you look so sad?
>I'm not sure that my optimism is justified.

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Doc Lightning
GOLD Member since May 2001

Doc Lightning

HOP Mad Doctor
Location: San Francisco, CA, USA

Total posts: 13920
Posted:A lot of people trash science by saying "well scientists used to think that the Earth was flat" or "scientists used to think that disease was caused by evil humors" or "doctors once ridiculed hand-washing as a way of reducing disease transmission."

But the argument is rubbish because it's not about science. Science is an approach to investigating reality. Form a theory, figure out a way to test it definitively, do so, and test the results.

SCIENTISTS can think many things, but science does not. It wasn't science that gave us a flat earth or ridiculed hand-washing, it was people. Because science is done by people the interpretation of science is always subject to error.

But just because way back in a day when medicine was nothing like it is now and scientific medicine ("Evidence-based medicine") was unheard-of people did dumb things doesn't mean that the entire field is invalid today.

Once the modern scientific method was developed, we advanced, for better or for worse. But we've discovered and used phenomena that the ancients never even dreamed of. I can only imagine what's coming next.


-Mike )'(
Certified Mad Doctor and HoP High Priest of Nutella

"A buckuht 'n a hooze!" -Valura

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Eera
BRONZE Member since May 2003

old hand
Location: In a test pit, Mackay, Austral...

Total posts: 1107
Posted:Written by:
What exatly do you go as a geological engineer



It's the dirt end of civil engineering; if someone want to design or install anything that goes in, or on the ground, we tell them how hard/reactive/rubbish the soil or rock is, and what has to be take into account with foundation depths, type, yadda yadda. I'm doing a fair bit of mine work right now; they're putting in a ventilation shaft for a longwall operation, and they need to know how faulted is the rock, where the major gas pockets are etc, which necessitates me being there with a tape measure and a roll of cling film for a couple of weeks, watching men in orange shirts drill holes.

Good clean fun, except on the minesite where it's a bit coal-y.

Written by:
I don't think PhDs make you completely unemployable, it's just not very useful for anything other than direct research work.



I should have quailified this a bit more. You're right, and this is my experience too; for direct research, you need a PhD and you'll get no-where without one, but in the big wide world you're regarded as being way too specialised, plus generally industry has to give a loading for higher qualifications, which they are loath to do without you having experience. Several people I know have actually not admitted to having a PhD on their job applications, saying they spent four years as a research assistant or something.

It used to be the case of get PhD, do a post doc, become a lecturer. Nowadays with so many departments closing down you can pretty much guarantee that there's a massive amount of unemployed people with research records after the same jobs.

On the other hand I am so happy to hear a few success stories here; the experiences of my friends was making me really bitter and cynical about the whole higher research thing, I'm truly glad it's worked out for at least a few of you.


There is a slight possibility that I am not actually right all of the time.

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vanize
SILVER Member since Aug 2001

vanize

Carpal \'Tunnel
Location: Austin, Texas, USA

Total posts: 3899
Posted:Actually Ph.Ds make you very employable, and also open lots of doors to things like work visas all over the world and such. And if some employer worries about you being over qualified, you just pull out a strong "I am SOOO sick of doing reseach" speech, and generally they will see you are serious about doing something besides research.

-v-

Wiederstand ist Zwecklos!

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