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Sunday, January 26, 2020

Nobel retractions

Nobel Prize
Stolen entire from Peter Attia
Frances Arnold, a chemical engineer at Caltech, was awarded the 2018 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Arnold received the Nobel Prize for the directed evolution of enzymes, a method used in protein engineering to mimic (and speed up) the process of natural selection to manipulate, identify, and design proteins that have broad implications and can be used for a variety of applications. Her seminal  paper , which first demonstrated this method, was published in 1993 and was a culmination of work at Caltech which started in the late 1980s, 30 years prior to receiving the Nobel Prize. 

On January 2nd, Arnold made headlines again after announcing on Twitter that she and her co-authors  retracted  a  paper  that was published in the prestigious journal  Science  in May of 2019, 7 months after winning the Nobel Prize. “For my first work-related tweet of 2020, I am totally bummed to announce that we have retracted last year's paper on enzymatic synthesis of beta-lactams,” she  wrote . “The work has not been reproducible.”

Retracting a published scientific article means the author(s) made a mistake and the article shouldn’t have been published. Some people may be thinking,  Geez, I bet the Nobel Committee wishes they can take that Prize back and give it to someone who doesn’t make these kinds of mistakes.

But think again. If I were part of the committee, I’d be saying the exact opposite:  Thank god we picked such a credible recipient of highest honor in the field!  Making mistakes and being wrong is part of the process in science. The problem is when you make mistakes and you either don’t know you’re making mistakes or you don’t admit mistakes once you realize them or when they have been pointed out. While the irony isn’t lost on me that Arnold’s mistake was due to  admittedly  being distracted by “all the Nobel Prize hoopla,” she later realized the error in her lab and was proactive in reporting it. Bad work slipping through the cracks is not a good thing, but Arnold’s admission and retraction is the right thing to do, and hopefully inspires others to report errors. (This particular case may be a coauthor’s scientific misconduct rather than an honest mistake. Fooling yourself and being wrong is a natural phenomenon in science. Fooling others and acting in a way that willfully compromises the integrity of scientific research is not.)

Even the best scientists make mistakes. Arnold is not the first Nobel Laureate to retract a paper. There are  several others  who issued retractions. The best scientists are the best scientists in large part because of their openness to admit and share all of the errors they’re discovering along the way. Open failure is a path to progress. The merit of a scientist is not perfection, it’s the integrity you display when confronted with errors. Arnold herself may have put it better in a follow-up  Tweet  to her retraction announcement: “My motto, shared for 29 years with my three children:  ‘I'm not perfect, but I'm good enough.’ Works for me. Seems to work for a lot of us.”

Keep this in mind, please, when you consume scientific information. Unlike politics, where changing your mind or admitting mistakes is tantamount to career suicide—a sign of weakness—in science, it’s actually a sign of integrity and high-level thinking. Keep the retractions coming.

- Peter
There have been a couple of times in the last few years when I thought I had solved a difficult problem. It wasn't just a thought, it was a feeling that I really had found a solution. It turned out, days or weeks later, that I hadn't, but for a while there I was convinced that I had found the answer.

Where did this feeling come from? I don't know, but I suspect it was the same feeling I got when I solved a math problem in school. We started with addition, worked our way through basic arithmetic, algegra, geometry and eventually calculus. When I had solved a problem, I knew I had found the answer.

However, difficulties will arise when you feel you have the correct answer, but your answer is actually wrong. I hate it when that happens.

One of the problems I thought I had solved was the Eternity II puzzle. Another was a design for a vastly more efficient steam engine. There may have been others, but those are the only ones that I recall at the moment.

Via Iaman

A website of untranslatable words

Untranslateable
I enjoy browsing this website of 500+ words that don’t translate, because I’m always intrigued by the concepts I had no idea existed, like “qarrtsiluni,” a North Alaskan Inupiatun word for sitting in the darkness, waiting for inspiration to strike you, or “ razbliuto,” a Russian word to describe the feeling for someone you used to love but no longer do, or “vellichor,” which I think may be made up but is a much needed word to address “the strange wistfulness of used bookstores.” It’s weird how once I learn a word for something I was hardly aware of before that I can instantly recall feeling it in the past. I would like to know the word for that. — CD
Untranslatable uses Eunoia for their name, the same as Stu Savory. I expect an epic flame war to erupt any decade now.

Via Cool Tools


Friday, January 24, 2020

Weapon of the Year

Bernie Solo and his Zombie Apocalypse Weapon Prop
Paging through Feedly and this image pops up. What the heck is that thing? It looks cool. And dangerous. Follow the link and I find this video:


ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE WEAPON CHALLENGE PROP // HOME DEFENSE // CORDLESS TOOL // HARBOR FREIGHT POWERED !

So it's not a real weapon, at least not any more than zombies are. Yes, it is horribly dangerous. You wouldn't want to leave it where, well, anybody could get a hold of it. The thing is liable to kill anyone who touches it.

The techniques he uses to make it are the interesting part. He has created this machine out of an amalgamation of tools and fittings commonly available at your local retail store  and a bunch of custom made parts that are created using digital technology. The metal parts are all cut out of sheet steel by a laser cutter house, and all the plastic parts are made using 3D-printing.

I do wonder how much time this project consumed.


Quote of the Day

Ivory Tower by OfTheDunes
Banning weapons is the most white privilege idea ever. Rich liberals scoffing at the idea that a person might need to defend their own life is a tower so ivory you can't look at it in direct sunlight. It's the personal safety equivalent of "just have the maid do it." - Caleb Howe

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Adding Time

Google can do all kinds of tricks from the search bar. It can convert most any kind of measurement to any other, like acres to square meters or liters to acre-feet. It can handle almost any kind of mathematical expression, like 2+2 or 975.035^0.5 (the caret (^) means raise to a power, a power of 0.5 means take the square root). It even has a timer function. Simply enter timer.

But it won't add time. Looking back over the 8 videos about the Hitachi excavator I wondered how much time I had spent. Being a numbers kind of guy, I could add them up myself, but I thought I would give Google's Spreadsheet a try.  Type the times in a text editor, one time per line, copy them, open a spreadsheet and paste and the numbers should all appear in a column. That part worked fine for me. If it doesn't for you it's probably because you forgot to sacrifice a potato to the gods of the copybook headings.

I tried adding the times using the sum function, but it didn't work. Digging around a bit I found that times can be formatted in a number of ways, and one of those is Duration. However, when I format the numbers that way, it turns my minutes and seconds into hours and minutes. Divide all my times by 60, store the results in an adjacent column, apply the sum function to that column, and presto: 1:18:40.

Actually, I could have just applied the sum function to the original times, it would work just as well. You just need to drop the :00 off the end to get 78:40.

You could type the numbers directly into the spreadsheet, but I like to use the text editor. I can use a small window for the text editor, put it in front of the browser window and I can usually position the text editor window somewhere that it doesn't obscure the stuff I want to copy. The spreadsheet had all kinds of headings and borders and stuff, so a minimum size window is still pretty big.


Excavator Resurrection


Abandoned Excavator left in woods for 16 years- Will it start ??

I'm not quite sure what the attraction here is, but I watched all eight videos in the playlist. Possibly because it looks a lot like my life 40 years ago.

Via The Feral Irishman