Video of the day

I’ve never even been on a sufboard, but I sure do love watching people surf 30-foot waves.  Now this is putting drones to good use.  (Watch at Vimeo for HD, of course)

Experts versus Republicans redux

Nice follow-up post from Bill Ayers.  I saw headlines about the “300 physicists,” but I didn’t realize it was nuclear energy/weapons experts (of course you are likely a physicist if that’s you, but that would be a much more accurate description).  Ayers explains:

Now a group of physicists has sent a very public letter to the White House with a very similar message. These aren’t just any physicists – they include Richard Garwin, one of the inventors of the hydrogen bomb, as well as Frank von Hippel, Freeman Dyson, and some 26 others. Some of these guys have Nobel prizes; several of them have had Q-clearances to work on nuclear weapons. One of them ran the Los Alamos weapons lab for over a decade. Important note: if you don’t know who any of these people are, you should probably go read their bios before expressing further opinions about nuclear arms control.

In short, of the people who have the technical know how to really understand the deal; they support the deal.  Neither you, nor I, nor Mike Huckabee, nor Lindsey Graham have this kind of expertise.  These nuclear experts are the type of people we should be listening to.  Nobody expects that people should know everything or have expertise in a broad array of fields.  But it is not unreasonable to expect that we should listen to subject-matter experts on important policy questions, rather than talking heads and politicians seeking personal political gain.

I don’t deny for a second that we could not see the converse of this where motivated reasoning causes Democrats to eschew science and expertise, but we do have an asymmetry in our politics where Republicans keep denying science and experts on major policy issues and Democrats do not (GMO is not a major policy issue, nor is the asymmetry nearly as strong as you’d think).

Love Bill’s conclusion:

I don’t expect any of the people running for the GOP nomination to pay any attention to this, of course. But it gives the rest of us a chance to demonstrate which side of the real divide are we on. Do we stand with science, evidence, reasoned argument, and the hope that these tools can help us come to a common understanding of the world? Or do we stand with the tribalists who divide through fear, reject the common search for truth, and adopt the language of science only when it suits their purposes? Politicians always reason backwards from the answer they want. But we only make progress as individuals, in communities, and as a species when we reason forward from ideas and evidence to conclusions and when we are willing to adjust in the face of new evidence. [emphasis mine] Some among us have a lot of practice in doing so. We should listen to them and heed their advice.

Short version, you really need to ask yourself why you are listening to Charles Krauthammer instead of people who, you know, understand nuclear power and weapons enrichment.

How Carly Fiorina won the JV debate

I didn’t watch it (and chances are neither did you).  But I know she “won.”  How do I know?  Pretty much all the punditocracy said so.  You know who else is good at listening to the punditocracy?  Republican voters who closely follow politics.  I saw a headline on the TV at the gym today about a poll result showing Fiorina “winning” the early debate. I immediately thought of how absurd this is as there’s got to be an incredibly small number of potential voters who actually watched this.  So, I went on-line to check out who was actually polled:

Among Republican and Republican-leaning voters who watched either of the debates or followed coverage of the debates in the news [emphasis mine], Carly Fiorina emerged as the clear winner.
A-ha.  Well it’s easy to decide somebody “won” a debate when that’s what all the talking heads are telling you.  Silly as all this is, though, it does prove something important about debates… what is important is not what happens on the debate stage, but what the media thinks is important about the debate.  Sure, they are related, but not at all the same thing.  The winner of a debate is almost invariably the person the media thinks did the best job (in some cases, that is shaped by early, likely unreliable polls).  So, this is not about any type of ideological bias, but, a great example of how the media actually can play a very powerful role in shaping political perceptions.

Coca cola vs. science

Wow, so this is disturbing.  If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my past few years of reading so much about diet and nutrition (and from my own personal experiences) is that is way easier to modify calories in than calories out.  Of course, Americans on average are way too sedentary and need more exercise, but apparently Coke has been funding a non-profit to argue that this is the key to America’s obesity problem, not our over-consumption of food, especially food with added sugars.  Basically, they want to argue, exercise more and drink Coke.  Of course, the answer is (of course) exercise more and (of course!) don’t drink Coke.  As for what the scientific near-consensus on the matter says:

Most public health experts say that energy balance is an important concept, because weight gain for most people is about calories in vs. calories out. But the experts say research makes it clear that one side of the equation has a far greater effect.

While people can lose weight in several ways, many studies suggest that those who keep it off for good consume fewer calories. Growingevidence also suggests that maintaining weight loss is easier when people limit their intake of high glycemic foods such as sugary drinks and other refined carbohydrates, which sharply raise blood sugar.

Physical activity is important and certainly helps, experts say. But studies show that exercise increases appetite, causing people to consume more calories. Exercise also expends far fewer calories than most people think. A 12-ounce can of Coca-Cola, for example, contains 140 calories and roughly 10 teaspoons of sugar. “It takes three miles of walking to offset that one can of Coke,” Dr. Popkin said…

“Adding exercise to a diet program helps,” said Dr. Anne McTiernan, the lead author of the study and a researcher at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle. “But for weight loss, you’re going to get much more impact with diet changes.”

But much like the research on sugary drinks, studies of physical activity funded by the beverage industry tend to reach conclusions that differ from the findings of studies by independent scientists.

Pretty shameful.  And it’s sad to think that some people will listen to them and then wonder why they are not actually losing any weight.

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