Archive for Nassim Taleb

Stick to Physics

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, Organic agriculture, Sustainable farming with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 2, 2014 by rgwallace

xjrf95-neil-degrasse-tyson-cosmos-gif-gbfaThe stranger promises to return. They both know they’ll never see each other again. Alone now, and before he puts out the lamp, [Jorge Luis Borges’s] Paracelsus scoops up the ashes and utters a single word in a low voice. And in his hands the rose springs back to life.Roberto Bolaño (2004)

Neil deGrasse Tyson has parlayed his sudden Cosmos fame into succinct and biting critiques of anti-intellectualisms of a variety of stars and stripes.

On creationist notions of the age of the universe,

If the universe were only 6,500 years old, how could we see the light from anything more distant than the Crab Nebula? We couldn’t. There wouldn’t have been enough time for the light to get to Earth from anywhere farther away than 6,500 light years in any direction. That’s just enough time for light to travel a tiny portion of our Milky Way galaxy.

On climate denialism,

Abe Lincoln would turn in his grave if he knew that his descendants, his political descendants — if I remember correctly, Abe Lincoln was Republican — were cherry-picking scientific results. I don’t know what he would say. I’m pretty sure he’d be disappointed.

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Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, Revolution with tags , , , , , , , on April 10, 2014 by rgwallace

Big Data 2Data are good and why, as Neil deGrasse Tyson has been reminding us, logical empiricism is an acid that–eventually–eats through many a research question.

But I’m beginning to understand the extent to which Big Data, while capturing subtle correlations, suffers from a variety of overhead, not the least our era’s penchant for more information and less understanding.

There is, as Gary Marcus and Ernest Davis described earlier this week, the difference between pattern and process (and science and statistics) and whether said correlations are anything more than stochastic.

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The X-Men

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, Influenza with tags , , , , , , , , on January 31, 2014 by rgwallace

X-Men Darwin 2The organism becomes a Chinese nest of boxes of qualities, and there is now seen to be no necessity for explaining change as change…Biology can then proceed to its real task, that of discovering the determined, material sequence of qualities, in each step of which organism and environment are involved as warp and woof. –Christopher Caudwell (1936/1986)

My views are mutating. I’m beginning to think that when evolutionary biologists characterize the source of variation on which natural selection operates as ‘random’ it is an attempt to impose on biologies the syllogism underlying Darwin’s ingenuous contribution: 1) heritible variation, 2) with effects on reproductive success, 3) produces natural selection.

Mutations, however, are routinely gamma-distributed across a genetic sequence; that is their mutation rates vary across sites and do so in particular directions (e.g., by transitions or transversions) and in domain-specific ways.

Take hemagglutinin, the influenza glycoprotein, characterized by a hypervariable head resistant to antibody memory surrounding a conserved core used to key the virus into target cells. Ostensibly selection operates in favor of surface hypervariability at the level of the phenotype. But we might ask whether it does so in such a way that imprints upon the mutation process itself.

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