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Corante Blogs examine, through the eyes of leading observers, analysts, thinkers, and doers, critical themes and memes in technology, business, law, science, and culture.

The Press Will Be Outsourced Before Stopped

Vin Crosbie, on the challenges, financial and otherwise, that newspaper publishers are facing: "The real problem, Mr. Newspaperman, isn't that your content isn't online or isn't online with multimedia. It's your content. Specifically, it's what you report, which stories you publish, and how you publish them to people, who, by the way, have very different individual interests. The problem is the content you're giving them, stupid; not the platform its on."
by Vin Crosbie in Rebuilding Media

Travels In Numerica Deserta

There's a problem in the drug industry that people have recognized for some years, but we're not that much closer to dealing with it than we were then. We keep coming up with these technologies and techniques which seem as if they might be able to help us with some of our nastiest problems - I'm talking about genomics in all its guises, and metabolic profiling, and naturally the various high-throughput screening platforms, and others. But whether these are helping or not (and opinions sure do vary), one thing that they all have in common is that they generate enormous heaps of data.
by Derek Lowe in In the Pipeline

Disrobing the Emperor: The online “user experience” isn't much of one

Now that the Web labor market is saturated and Web design a static profession, it's not surprising that 'user experience' designers and researchers who've spent their careers online are looking for new worlds to conquer. Some are returning to the “old media” as directors and producers. More are now doing offline consulting (service experience design, social policy design, exhibition design, and so on) under the 'user experience' aegis. They argue that the lessons they've learned on the Web can be applied to phenomena in the physical and social worlds. But there are enormous differences...
by Bob Jacobson in Total Experience

Second Life: What are the real numbers?

Clay Shirky, in deconstructing Second Life hype: "Second Life is heading towards two million users. Except it isn’t, really... I suspect Second Life is largely a 'Try Me' virus, where reports of a strange and wonderful new thing draw the masses to log in and try it, but whose ability to retain anything but a fraction of those users is limited. The pattern of a Try Me virus is a rapid spread of first time users, most of whom drop out quickly, with most of the dropouts becoming immune to later use."
by Clay Shirky in Many-to-Many

The democratisation of everything

Over the last few years we've seen old barriers to creativity coming down, one after the other. New technologies and services makes it trivial to publish text, whether by blog or by print-on-demand. Digital photography has democratised a previously expensive hobby. And we're seeing the barriers to movie-making crumble, with affordable high-quality cameras and video hosting provided by YouTube or Google Video and their ilk... Music making has long been easy for anyone to engage in, but technology has made high-quality recording possible without specialised equipment, and the internet has revolutionised distribution, drastically disintermediating the music industry... What's left? Software maybe? Or maybe not."
by Suw Charman in Strange Attractor

RNA Interference: Film at Eleven

Derek Lowe on the news that the Nobel Prize for medicine has gone to Craig Mello and Andrew Fire for their breakthrough work: "RNA interference is probably going to have a long climb before it starts curing many diseases, because many of those problems are even tougher than usual in its case. That doesn't take away from the discovery, though, any more than the complications of off-target effects take away from it when you talk about RNAi's research uses in cell culture. The fact that RNA interference is trickier than it first looked, in vivo or in vitro, is only to be expected. What breakthrough isn't?"
by Derek Lowe in In the Pipeline

PVP and the Honorable Enemy

Andrew Phelps: "Recently my WoW guild has been having a bit of a debate on the merits of Player-vs.-Player (PvP) within Azeroth. My personal opinion on this is that PvP has its merits, and can be incredible fun, but the system within WoW is horridly, horribly broken. It takes into account the concept of the battle, but battle without consequence, without emotive context, and most importantly, without honor..."

From later in the piece: "When I talk about this with people (thus far anyway) I typically get one of two responses, either 'yeah, right on!' or 'hey, it’s war, and war isn’t honorable – grow the hell up'. There is a lot to be said for that argument – but the problem is that war in the real historical world has very different constraints that are utterly absent from fantasized worlds..."
by Andrew Phelps in Got Game

Rats Rule, Right?

Derek Lowe: "So, you're developing a drug candidate. You've settled on what looks like a good compound - it has the activity you want in your mouse model of the disease, it's not too hard to make, and it's not toxic. Everything looks fine. Except. . .one slight problem. Although the compound has good blood levels in the mouse and in the dog, in rats it's terrible. For some reason, it just doesn't get up there. Probably some foul metabolic pathway peculiar to rats (whose innards are adapted, after all, for dealing with every kind of garbage that comes along). So, is this a problem?.."
by Derek Lowe in In the Pipeline

Really BAD customer experience at Albertsons Market

Bob Jacobson, on shopping at his local Albertsons supermarket where he had "one of the worst customer experiences" of his life: "Say what you will about the Safeway chain or the Birkenstock billionaires who charge through the roof for Whole Foods' organic fare, they know how to create shopping environments that create a more pleasurable experience, at its best (as at Whole Foods) quite enjoyable. Even the warehouses like Costco and its smaller counterpart, Smart & Final, do just fine: they have no pretentions, but neither do they dump virtual garbage on the consumer merely to create another trivial revenue stream, all for the sake of promotions in the marketing department..."
by Strange Attractor in Total Experience

The Guardian's "Comment is Free"

Kevin Anderson: "First off, I want to say that I really admire the ambition of the Guardian Unlimited’s Comment is Free. It is one of the boldest statements made by any media company that participation needs to be central to a radical revamp of traditional content strategies... It is, therfore, not hugely surprising to find that Comment is Free is having a few teething troubles..."
by Kevin Anderson in strange
In the Pipeline: Don't miss Derek Lowe's excellent commentary on drug discovery and the pharma industry in general at In the Pipeline

The Loom

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January 10, 2006

They Just Keep Piling On

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Posted by Carl Zimmer

Governor Ernie Fletcher of Kentucky uses his State of the Commonwealth speech last night to plug intelligent design:

As I close, let me recognize Kentucky’s veterans. You have served to protect our liberty and the freedom that spurs our quality of life in this nation. Please know that this administration is committed to supporting you.

And where does this freedom come from that many have died to protect?

Our founding fathers recognized that we were endowed with this right by our creator.

So I ask, what is wrong with teaching “intelligent design” in our schools. Under KERA, our school districts have that freedom and I encourage them to do so.

This is not a question about faith or religion. It’s about self-evident truth.

Did you know that the Declaration of Independence was a biology textbook?

I'm going to create a new tag for these little entries. I hope I won't be adding too many more entries to it, but I won't be surprised if I do. [Update: See under "Our Dear Leaders Speak"]

(Hat tip: Ars Technica)

Comments (15) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Evolution | Our Dear Leaders Speak


1. Scott Belyea on January 10, 2006 08:15 PM writes...

"This is not a question about faith or religion. It’s about self-evident truth."

Words fail me. Sad ...


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2. Scott Belyea on January 10, 2006 08:15 PM writes...

"This is not a question about faith or religion. It's about self-evident truth."

Words fail me. Sad ...


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3. Jokermage on January 10, 2006 10:18 PM writes...

"Our founding fathers recognized that we were endowed with this right by our creator."

I wonder if anyone has explained Deism to this guy, since many of those founding fathers were Deists.

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4. Walter on January 10, 2006 10:43 PM writes...

Maybe I'm falling behind, but when did this become an issue in Kentucky? And why this pitch during a state of the state address? This interview with the AP the following day isn't too encouraging either:

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5. JB "The Middleman" on January 10, 2006 11:05 PM writes...

Just in - we have a "Dover" situation developing here in California. The dateline of this story is Fresno, CA but the little town of LeBec is actually closer to L.A., about 70 miles north of the city on what is known as The Grapevine - the highway that leads to the San Joaquin Valley. Apparently the I.D. was introduced in a "philosphy" class, though it sounds like the class was created specifically to promote I.D.

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6. Mike on January 11, 2006 01:11 AM writes...

Creationist bill in Oklahoma

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7. KevinM on January 11, 2006 01:43 AM writes...

I fear biologists are the first to experience "the end of insight".

From the annual question "What is the most dangerous idea?" :


The human brain and its products are incapable of understanding the truths about the universe


The world may fundamentally be inexplicable


The End of Insight

“When the End of Insight comes, the nature of explanation in science will change forever. We'll be stuck in an age of authoritarianism, except it'll no longer be coming from politics or religious dogma, but from science itself.�

Personally, what I think is going on is that science is rubbing up against a fundamental human characteristic - innumeracy. I spend part of my time in a nonscientific endeavor dependent on numeracy. Sniping. Telling the difference between 400 and 800 yards is difficult without "cheats". Telling the difference between 2.4 km and 3.6 km is impossible for a human. It's all cheat at that point. You're reading it from a machine which you must put your total faith in. When we delve into issues in which illions or illionths are the unit of measure, well human common sense fails us.

So how do we communicate the truth to those whose common sense can't comprehend what we tell them?

Answers??... Anyone?.. Bueller?

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8. Mark Frank on January 11, 2006 04:17 AM writes...

I just discovered The Loom. What an asset. Well written, sane and full of genuine, interesting information.

Re #5 above. If you take the quotes off the word philosophy then it doesn't seem so bad. ID is a very suitable subject for a philosophy of science class. It raises some important questions about the nature of science. It just shouldn't be in biology as an alternative to neo-darwinism. In fact in some flavours of ID are compatible with ND. Darwin avoided saying anything about how life began except a few informal comments in a letter.

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9. Mark Paris on January 11, 2006 10:08 AM writes...

"This is not a question about faith or religion. It’s about self-evident truth."

It's actually about politics. This governor, as most in the South, knows his political base, and he knows they love to have their lack of education celebrated as wisdom.

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10. jray on January 11, 2006 10:57 AM writes...

Ernie is educated in the sciences. A graduate of a college of engineering, a medical degree, a former air force pilot. Similar to but greater achieving than Rick (the Tex Gov), who also openly promotes ID. It seems either that no amount of education can open one's mind to scientific evidence and the scientific method of analysis. It is either that or Mark Paris is correct.

This is, however, an attack on science, sometimes from proclaimed scientists themselves. It seems to be a religious backlash as to past politics or a religious reaction to that which scientists are actually discovering. Albeit, it seems perilous on several fronts. Given that the majority of the public is absolutely mathematically and scientifically illiterate, the public can be convinced of anything. LeBec is just a small but sad sample of what appears on the horizon.

Forgive any spelling and grammar; I did this on the fly.

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11. linguist on January 11, 2006 01:20 PM writes...

KevinM, I think that you are onto something very important. I also read through the "most dangerous ideas" article (excellent!) and I have long been pondering the idea that it's possible science will NEVER fully explain certain things (such as origins...of the universe, of language, etc.) because science is a human mental construct. Anyway, thanks for your post, you helped me clarify my thinking on this topic.

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12. Mark Paris on January 11, 2006 05:00 PM writes...

I read the first few of the "most dangerous idea" entries. There may be some nuggets in there, but I think it's mostly "experts" looking through the lenses of their professions and prejudices at subjects they know little about.

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13. Paul on January 12, 2006 09:01 AM writes...

Another reason to be glad I left the Bluegrass State 21 years ago.

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14. jackd on January 12, 2006 12:17 PM writes...

"Ernie is educated in the sciences. A graduate of a college of engineering, a medical degree, a former air force pilot. "

Sadly, the experience of the newsgroup over the last fifteen years has shown that all three environments are pretty fertile grounds for breeding creationists. Engineering and medicine are rich in the application of scientific knowledge, but not in the processes that lead to obtaining that knowledge - the processes of science itself. And neither area spends much time on the disciplines where evolution and deep time are most evident, such as geology or developmental biology.

Folks have hypothesized that engineers are accustomed to thinking about how things are made, and are thus more receptive to viewing the universe and all that's in it as "made" things. Medical doctors are often the equivalent of automobile mechanics (not to disparage either occupation) in that they mainly deal with diagnosing and repairing malfunctions in physical systems.

Finally, the US Air Force Academy has long been a hotbed of evangelical Christianity. Devout pilots are a pretty well-known phenomenon.

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15. Sara Rosenbaum on January 27, 2006 12:09 AM writes...

I'm not going to comment on the politics, but as a writer I'm impressed at the rhetorical loop-de-loops employed here.

Contrast and compare:

"You got trouble Folks! Right here in River City. Trouble with a Capital T, and that rhymes with P, and that stands for pool."

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