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About Peter

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  • Birthday 05/17/1959

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  • Gender: Male
  • Location: Up from Pluck the Crow Point

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Peter's Activity

  1. Peter added a blog entry in Nature is not a Book   

    A Journey to the Centre of Enquiry
    “ It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances. The true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible ” ― Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray Continuing my archaeology of the present, I headed out of Geddes Quadrangle toward Small’s Wynd where, closely encroached by other structures stood…

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  2. Peter added a post in a topic "Does Fascism lurk around the corner for the US?"   

    Not sure why you posted that as an attachment rather than straight to the forum, but I'd comment that your final sentence there itself probably encapsulates the real threat to democracy.
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  3. Peter added a blog entry in Nature is not a Book   

    The Race for Better Science
    Tt is no doubt a good thing that we hear of scientific fraud, academic plagiarism and medical malpractice in the name of research, but we would do well to remember that these are just sophisticated names for age-old theft and assault. Can we really hope for better science if we can't hope for better people?

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  4. Peter added a blog entry in Nature is not a Book   

    Jet d’Eau
    Falling unannounced into the city and armed only with a map from a hundred years ago, I set off, hoping to find in the city’s physical form clues to the origins of my own preferences and limitations. At the head of the rose angle, on stone plinths still bearing the stumps of railings long since…

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  5. Peter added a post in a topic Richard Dawkins, asshole   

    It's Dawkins' accent that annoys me.
    I'm right with him in his insistence that genes rather than species or groups are the focus of natural selection. I agree that god is a delusion (where would we be without all our little delusions to keep us from going mad? I have many of my own, no doubt, but belief in god just happens not to be one of them). But really... how can you take seriously a man who speaks in such plummy oxonian tones?
    In the same vein, he was stupid enough to let some hack interview him and lure him into admitting he's a "cultural anglican" who "loves" choral evensong and church bells. Fair enough. But it's no more profound than knowing that Myrtle Gummidge from down the street likes the Apprentice and Strictly Come Dancing. Why should anyone care?
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  6. Peter added a post in a topic Sunrise at Plum Beach Brooklyn   

    The second to last one gets my vote. It makes the most of the geometric relation of the bridge, the sandbar and the sun. I think sunrise/sunset pics that don't get over the "gorgeous" colors are just boring.
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  7. Peter added a post in a topic History   

    One reason someone might want to learn history would be a dissatisfaction with the present state of human affairs. If the past is different from the present, then the future can be too. Similarly, if you're dissatisfied with nature, you might want to study science. While you may not be able to defy nature, science can at least tell you what limits are really set by nature and what are only contingent on your present circumstances - nuclear reactors don't defy the laws of nature, but they were still inconceivable 100 years ago. It could be said that dissatisfaction is the engine of history and of science since someone completely satisfied with their lot would feel little inclination to change things or to torment themselves with endless wondering about how or why things came to be so or what might be instead.

    One question that arises from the above (assuming we still have an appetite for tormenting ourselves with such questions), is whether there can be a state of human affairs where no dissatisfactions of this kind arise: a condition in which science has reached perfection and history comes to an end. If we feel uneasy with that idea (perhaps only because what is equilibrium to one person is not necessarily equilibrium to another), then perhaps we should ask what value does the study of history bring beyond that of entertaining us with stories?
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  8. Peter added a post in a topic History   

    "Upgrades your Bullshit Detector to version 2.0 when people start talking about controversial politics" 'kin A!
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  9. Peter added a blog entry in Nature is not a Book   

    Increasingly, our culture will have to be built around maintaining elderly people whose prospects of returning to independent good health or of ever being economically productive is essentially nil. What then will be the core value of our culture?

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  10. Peter added a blog entry in Nature is not a Book   

    Not Sure What the Goal Is?
    I’m leery about the whole idea of “science communication”. While science communicators generally present themselves as educators, a lot of science communication is at least as much concerned with fostering favourable public attitudes to the quite particular private interests of professional scientists who want more funding for certain types of research, of political organisations who…

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  11. Peter added a post in a topic Philosophy: its influence or influences   

    If that's the case, one might wonder how philosophy ever got a reputation for being anything more than a crock of shit. Maybe it's good shit that smells even shittier than all the other bad shit. Or maybe philosophers are the people who, when they talk shit, REALLY talk shit.

    And then there's trolling. Surely we have to recognise that Socrates was one of the greatest forum trollers of all time. 2500 years later, the threads are still running and Socrates himself is long, long gone.

    How the gods must be laughing at us.
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  12. Peter added a post in a topic A Shameless Worship of Heroes   

    Surely this dilemma (if that's what it is) only persists if you think that greatness is objective. I prefer a subjective view of greatness: if experiencing the work keeps alive in me a belief that I may one day still achieve something great, then the work is great to me. The personal characteristics of the artist/author only matter to the extent that they affect that. And of course any possibility of greatness from me us just as subjective. If I thought nazism was great but found that reading Heidegger did not inspire belief that I could go on to greater heights of nazism, then of course I would have no further use for his books even if all I hear from others is that he was the greatest c20 philosopher.
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  13. Peter added a post in a topic A decade of TGL   

    I've only been here for about half the life of TGL and have never been a prolific contributor, but I'd like to record my thanks to the many people here who've helped me learn something - whether they knew it or not. Particular mention to Paul, of course, for staying with his ten-year mission, to Scotty for keeping the dilithium furnaces stoked, and other members of the crew including Michael, davidm and that mysterious heretic character. Here's to many more years of high quality (even if only low volume) discussion.
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  14. Peter added a post in a topic The Concept of Decline of the West   

    Re your comparison of history with "the sciences" - isn't science itself a set of historical accounts of observations made and rationalizations therefrom (theories)? Of course, the theories work. Or if they don't, we replace them with new ones. But when we say the theories work, we mean we have technologies that work and whose working is explained by scientific theory. The theory gives us confidence to try out untested variations on technology; confidence coming from the fact that the theory says the variations will work. If they do work, we tell ourselves that the theory is correct and if they don't, we look around for a new theory. Either way, it's technology that works (or not). Scientific theory is the "myth" that drives us to try out one type of imaginable innovation rather than another. In that sense, scientific theories are what drives history.
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  15. Peter added a blog entry in Nature is not a Book   

    Peer Review “Randomness” – A Case for Deliberation
    I’ve been reading about the NIPS Experiment. Calm down at the back there. NIPS stands for Neural Information Processing Systems. It’s all very serious and you can read about the experiment [url=""]here[/url] and [url=""]here[/url].
    In essence, the experiment aimed to examine the process by which papers are accepted or rejected by peer review committees for conference presentation. Obviously, it’s all to do with scientific quality and the scientific community is built around a common understanding of what that means. Or is it?
    The NIPS experimenters split their panel of conference peer reviewers into two committees. Most of the papers went to one committee or the other for review, but 10% of them (166 papers) were reviewed by both committees without the members knowing which papers they were. It was then possible to see how similar the two committees were in their evaluation of those papers. A full write-up of the results is still to come, apparently, but [url=""]Eric Price has revealed the essence[/url].
    The committees disagreed in their evaluation of 43 of the 166 papers. Naïvely, you might think that’s not too bad. They disagreed on 25.9% of cases, so they must have agreed on 74.1%. However, Eric Price points out that the committees were tasked with a 22.5% acceptance rate which means that the number of disagreements was larger than the number of acceptances each committee was expected to make. This means that most (more than half) of the papers accepted by either committee were rejected by the other.
    Price considers a theoretical model which treats the peer review process as a combination of “certain” and “random” components. He assumes that there will be some papers that every reviewer agrees should be accepted (acceptance is certain) and some that everyone agrees should be rejected (rejection is certain). For the rest, Price’s model assumes that committee members make their decision by (metaphorically at least) flipping a coin. This is the random component and the level of randomness in peer review is the proportion of papers that get this treatment. The divergence in reviewing committees’ decisions seen in the NIPS experiment imply that there is quite a lot of this coin-flipping randomness in peer review; perhaps more than most people thought.
    Is this “randomness” in reviewers assessments a cause for concern? Price points out that “consistency is not the only goal” and, indeed, it can arise for reasons that are not necessarily welcome. For instance, unanimously accepted papers may simply be feeling the benefit of appearing under the name of well-connected authors that reviewers favour for reputational reasons. Conversely, papers that reviewers unanimously reject may just be suffering the penalty of pursuing unfashionable research topics that reviewers see as a drain on funding for more popular topics. It may well be that it is precisely in the “random middle” – between the certain acceptances and certain rejections – that we see peer review at its best.
    But how can it be any good if it’s random? The truth is, it’s pretty implausible that it really [i]is[/i] random. I don’t see much reason to believe that peer reviewers actually flip coins and as [url=""]humans are not good random number generators[/url], it seems unlikely that conceptual flipping of imaginary coins would produce genuinely random results. What really goes on in this middle zone is not random at all. Rather, it’s a process of deliberation where each reviewer considers a variety of factors and makes a decision on the basis of balancing those factors. Even having made the decision, the reviewer probably still feels a fair degree of uncertainty as to whether it was the right one.
    Because reviewers are usually allowed to decide for themselves which factors to consider in their deliberations, there is a good deal of variation between reviewers as what factors they consider. Putting it more formally, the [i]weight[/i] they give to each factor is not prescribed. What’s more, there’s no guarantee that even individual reviewers will attach the same weight every time: the same reviewer could reach different conclusions about the same a paper considered under different circumstances.
    In short, the degree of “randomness” seen in the NIPS experiment undermines one of the cornerstone assumptions of the peer review process – that reviewers share a coherent common notion of what qualities to value in a paper. Instead, it suggests that the criteria that reviewers use in practise are quite divergent. If this is the case, it is hard to see how peer review could possibly be “fair”. Certainly, steps such as making reviewers comments and identities open to authors would seem to miss the point. What is more in order is a dialogue over the criteria used to evaluate research in the first place and whether traditional peer review has any useful role to play in this. [img][/img]

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