David Chapman Profile picture
Jul 10, 2018 3 tweets 2 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter
If you want to find out how science works, you have to watch scientists doing it. (Not make plausible stuff up and rationalizing it.)

Learning an embodied know-how skill: getting the right amount of alcohol on the Q-tip used to clean a microscopy sample.

You can also go into the lab and try doing science yourself. It’s not as easy as it looks!

When I developed robotics and analysis software for chemists and biologists, I insisted on doing some wet experiments myself, to get a *felt sense* of what their needs were.
Statistician @betanalpha, consulting for malaria vaccine development project, dissected salivary glands of mosquitos under a microscope and counted the parasites, to make sure he understood what the data he was analyzing meant. #respect

h/t Matt Simpson


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More from @Meaningness

Oct 3, 2018
1️⃣ Five years ago, I suggested systematically Sokaling all peer-reviewed journals. To “Sokal” is, hereby, to attempt to publish clearly bogus papers to illustrate the brokenness of the academic publication process.

2️⃣ Today @HPluckrose, @ConceptualJames & @peterboghossian reported on the first multiple-Sokaling. They were successful in publishing nonsense in top-ranked journals (which comes as no surprise, but is great to have verified).

3️⃣ I had in mind a more ambitious project. Pointing out that “grievance studies” fields are mostly nonsense is shooting fish in a barrel. We know that, for instance, “cognitive neuroscience” is also largely bollocks: biorxiv.org/content/early/…
Read 18 tweets
Sep 28, 2018
20th century “Buddhism” was largely based on Theosophy—a 19th century European pop-spiritual movement.

A major muddler was Edward Conze, whose history @Jayarava reveals here. Important for anyone who thinks they understand Prajñaparamita—or should.

I read Conze’s Sanskrit “translations” as a teenager. They were exciting because they made so much sense.

Which—of course they did! They expounded familiar Western ideas in Buddhist drag.

Only much later, reading Tibetan commentaries, did I understand Conze’s fabrications.
Tibetan understandings of Prajñaparamita draw on late Indian commentaries; there’s a dozen strata of accumulated reinterpretations.

None is any more “authentic” than any other; Conze is no worse than (say) Tsongkhapa.

But you can’t understand the texts without the history.
Read 6 tweets
Sep 20, 2018
1️⃣ Computer science recycles key philosophical terms with similar but different meanings. This causes systematic patterns of confusion for CS people thinking about philosophy.

2️⃣ “Representation” and “reference” are other major trouble sources. In CS, each is a relationship between perfectly crisp software things; elsewhere, at least one end of the relationship is nebulous, in the world.

BCS discusses in this:
3️⃣ Mathematical logic was invented to eliminate all nebulosity; it conclusively failed. But computers are logic made flesh; as a consolation prize, we got the whole contemporary world out of logicism’s failure.

Gregory Chaitin’s delightful explanation: arxiv.org/html/nlin/0004…
Read 5 tweets
Aug 20, 2018
Very roughly how many water molecules would you guess there are in a single cell? Within a couple of orders of magnitude?

I got it quite wrong.
I guessed off-hand “a billion” which I think was just my brain’s way of saying “wow, a really big number!”

But it’s WAY too small.
There’s a bunch of different numbers you can find on the web. Some of them are definitely way off. But there’s a wide range of values that seem reasonable (to me) because cells vary in size over several orders of magnitude.
Read 10 tweets
Aug 18, 2018
A somewhat personal note about this. Some years ago I read that vitamin MK-4 supplements reduce osteoporosis fractures by 89%—an astonishing effect—and did some reading to see it was believable and if I & family should be taking. My notes from then below.
As soon as I read that Sato’s frauds were in the area of osteoporosis, I thought “oh god, that probably explains THAT” and googled before reading on. Why yes indeed. And then later in the article, this:
My area of professional expertise is about as far from osteoporosis as you can get, but the 89% number stuck out as incredible. Point is, most major scientific frauds are obvious to many people, including those with no special knowledge, for many years. But what can you do?
Read 5 tweets
Aug 13, 2018
My boss—a biologist—told me to buy Oracle.
Me: What is Oracle, exactly?
Boss: It’s a database.
Me: Why do we want it?
Boss: We have data. We have to put it in a database.
Me: I don’t think so.
Boss: Our data is important. Don’t argue, just go buy it. It should cost $10,000.

I drive to Oracle HQ and ask to talk to someone who can tell me what it is.

Sales guy: So, how much of it do you want?
Me: What is it?
S: It’s Oracle. Everyone has to have it.
Me: But what does it do?
S, irritated: Look, how much do you want to buy?

Me: How much does what configuration cost? What do the different versions do?
Sales: You don’t seem to understand. Go ask your boss how much he wants.
Me: OK, so what would I get for $10,000?
Sales: Great! We’ll send you an invoice.


Read 6 tweets

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