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Biweekly links for 12/07/2009

by Michael Nielsen on December 7, 2009
  • Networks, Crowds, and Markets: A Book by David Easley and Jon Kleinberg
  • Continuous Partial Attention – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  • Is Google Making Us Stupid? – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    • The Wikipedia article on Nicholas Carr’s well-known article. Something I find fascinating is how good the Wikipedia article is – maybe Google is making us stupid, but Wikipedia certainly isn’t.
  • Chromoscope
    • Chromoscope is amazing – view the Milky Way at many different wavelengths.
  • Jared Diamond: Will Big Business Save the Earth?
    • Interesting article by Diamond. Not quantitatively convincing, of course – it’s an NYT op-ed – but does challenge much conventional wisdom in the green movement.
  • Fact-Checkers and Certified Public Logicians Boing Boing
    • “I have wondered for years, as magazines, newspapers, and other news organizations have been hemorrhaging money and employees, why someone hasn’t gone into the contract fact-checking business. Like, it could be an extension of Snopes.com. There’s a huge redundancy in every publication having their own research desks, so they could lay off all of their fact-checkers and then outsource the job to the new, independent company that the best of them then all go to work for. Meanwhile, the company could also be hired by anyone else. Then, when the public sees the “Fact-Checked by MiniTrue (SM)” seal on someone’s independent blog, they know the information there has the same credibility as the big boys.”
  • Less Wrong: Parapsychology: the control group for science
    • I don’t buy this – parapsychologists who consistently get negative results (“still no telepathy”) are thrown out of the tribe – but it’s intriguing nonetheless: “Imagine if, way back at the start of the scientific enterprise, someone had said, “What we really need is a control group for science – people who will behave exactly like scientists, doing experiments, publishing journals, and so on, but whose field of study is completely empty: one in which the null hypothesis is always true.

      “That way, we’ll be able to gauge the effect of publication bias, experimental error, misuse of statistics, data fraud, and so on, which will help us understand how serious such problems are in the real scientific literature.”

      Isn’t that a great idea?

      By an accident of historical chance, we actually have exactly such a control group, namely parapsychologists: people who study extra-sensory perception, telepathy, precognition, and so on.”

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3 Comments
  1. Matthew permalink

    parapsychologists who consistently get negative results (”still no telepathy”) are thrown out of the tribe

    Please show some evidence for this. Really. This is on the level of “sneaky jews” “stupid blondes” and other such bigotry.

    Also, the most of assertions posted in that article on LW such as “parapsychologists don’t publish negative results” and “careful studies don’t have positive results” with absolutely no evidence or citation to back it up are quite incorrect.

    Anyone who pontificates about parapsychology without being familiar with the research — is making a very bad showing of their intellectual integrity and the quality of their opinions. “Less Wrong” my left foot. . .

    [MN: Most of your comment concerns the linked blog, and you’re welcome to take your concerns up with them. I will comment on your first sentence. My comment was hastily written: what I know suggests that people who consistently get negative results don’t usually call themselves parapsychologists to begin with. Admittedly, I’ve had limited exposure to the field – in 1994 I read a handful of parapsychology papers in detail, and scanned several dozen more. The best of them had obvious and major procedural holes. I was not tempted to read more – life is short, and there are more interesting ways to spend one’s time.]

  2. Ben Wieland permalink

    I recommend Susan Blackmore’s account of being a parapsychologist who got negative results. She was not “thrown out” (until she started writing articles like this), but there was some social pressure (“there was something in me that suppressed the true spiritual nature of other people”).

    http://www.susanblackmore.co.uk/Articles/si87.html

  3. Allan Crossman permalink

    Also, the most of assertions posted in that article on LW such as “parapsychologists don’t publish negative results” and “careful studies don’t have positive results”

    Neither of those statements is to be found in the article.

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