Who Will Safeguard the Data?

secure data

The most basic estimations and predictions all count on accurate data as the start point. People routinely use information generated by research to make decisions of all kinds. Heck, some even use it to advise other people. It’s assumed that researchers are experts in their fields, so should know what they’re talking about. But how do we know for sure that they’re using data, methodology, validation and interpretive tools properly?

As each specialty grows, interpretation of data increasingly leaves those outside the area of expertise struggling to understand. No matter which niche you or I are in, there’s little choice but to make more and more use of explanations from specialists – or people who report in their stead. Building in the protections needed to make sure the information is solid, beginning from the raw data stage through to the final interpretation, is a process who’s time has come. read more

Wind Power and Global Warming: Do the Numbers Add Up?

global warming

Science Daily has announced that “Large-scale US wind power would cause warming that would take roughly a century to offset”. The headline introduces a review of a new study done by David W Keith, an engineering and public policy professor at Harvard University, and Lee Miller, first author, also at Harvard U. They state that supplying 0.5 terawatts of wind generated power (the States’ current electric consumption in total) would raise U.S. land surface temperatures .024 degrees by the 21st century. Compared to warming estimates for conventionally generated electricity, this isn’t much. But the authors say it’s 10 times what could be expected from solar power. read more

Enough Fracking Lies

Several new studies have been completed, checking possible links between methane gas in well water and nearby hydraulic fracturing operations. But pro-fracking interests have high-jacked this preliminary research to flog it as proof that fracking poses no risk to groundwater.

And what about surface pollution caused by fracturing operations? This issue is simply swept under the carpet without a mention.

An article on June 11 in the Columbus Dispatch, cites a University of Cincinnati study, but seriously inflates the significance of the findings. A quick read of the original research shows the testing was done on one hundred and eighty samples from twenty-four private water wells. Most of the private wells are located in one county in Ohio. read more

Artificial Intelligence Has Common Sense

man vs machine

The aggrandizing of artificial intelligence appears to have a firm hold these days. Maybe you didn’t read Issac Azimov’s “I, Robot” series of books. I thoroughly enjoyed them as a kid. If you missed out, central to the stories were key rules that boil down to intelligent machines always putting human safety and rights first. It was plain to me this common sense rule wasn’t fiction – and that it applied to humans just as much to robots. But stories aside,  just what is it about AI that prompts so much huzzah? Is it the signal that something’s been over-looked? read more

Consumers Lack Cognitive Apparatus? The Need for Rational Research

responsible science

I didn’t make this one up…

Critical thinking skills and human rights awareness are needed more than ever in research. My review is rather old, but some proponents of behavioral economics are still kicking the consumer square – and with renewed energy.

This article by Professor Dilip Soman and Melanie Kim, MBA, research associate at the Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto Ontario Canada was recently reprinted in revised form in the Toronto Globe and Mail. (Link to the revision is given at the end of the post.) Prof Soman is also appointed by the Privy Council Office in the Canadian Federal Government as a Senior Policy Advisor at the Innovation Hub in Ottawa. read more

Solar and Wind Energy Aren’t About Cheap – They’re About Saving the Environment

solar and wind rock

It’s been obvious for decades that depending on conventional power must end. Nuclear generation is no exception. This article in Forbes Magazine – If Solar And Wind Are So Cheap, Why Are They Making Electricity So Expensive? by Michael Shellenberger – leaves critically important information out in the cold. The most glaring omission is his failure to disclose his advocacy on behalf of nuclear power.

The True Costs of Energy

The author’s speculation about pricing in the conventional and fledgling alternative energy sectors amount to nothing more than distractions – red herrings. Context matters. Not long ago, the alternative route was prohibitively expensive. Only recently have costs dropped to a point where the investment can be seen to pay out in the long run. Cheaper today, yes – but still not cheap. read more

The Educational System is Not A War Zone

human rights
. Teacher tenure is believed by some to protect the worst teachers. This is apparently sufficient justification for fighting to eliminate it. And I do appreciate the author passing on the news, but do google it. There are many other articles discussing  the woes in the educational field.

Tenure certainly isn’t the only target.

A study mentioned in the same report, claims that one year of exposure to the worst teaching could cost a class full of kids 1.4 million dollars in adult income.

The research is based on English and Math scores compared to tax earnings.

A very interesting study, and a lot of water has gone under the bridge since it’s debut. But Mr Chetty’s conclusion is still generating oodles of controversy, so I include it:

Reward high value teachers and fire low value ones. read more

Compassion is the Main Course


Definition of compassion:  sympathetic consciousness of  others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.

  –Merriam Webster

Is it a case of needing a bunch of new words and  definitions? The dictionary doesn’t help out much. The  compassion word is found attached to a dizzying array of meanings.

I read and hear it tossed around plenty, most often with no offer of help with the chef’s interpretation. Left to flounder, I usually skip even trying to figure it out – especially when mentioned in this kind of statement:

So-and-so lacks compassion.

My mind processes these words into, Blah, blah, blah. To make sense of it, I’ve created a meal out of my own ingredients. I’ll  throw in sympathy and empathy for a more examples of words with confusing, contradicting, and conflicting meanings. Here are my versions: read more

Unhacking Radical Change

unhacking radical change

It’s assumed that radical changes are needed to live within the resource boundaries of the planet. This idea reminds me of the saying attributed to Albert Einstein – “We can’t solve problems with the same thinking that led to them.”

Is the Idea of Radical Change a Show-stopper?

It’s not rocket science. Each of us need clean air, water, food and shelter. There’s nothing extreme about human needs – they simply need to be met. These days, the opportunity to be educated – to learn – is commonly thought of as need, as well. This is fine, as long as we don’t trap the idea of education into the confines of “educational system”. There are so many ways to learn outside of this venue, it almost goes without saying that no matter how much conventional education a person has, it’s just for starters. It’s what we figure out from this point forward that counts. read more

NAFTA and Property Rights – Canadians Ripped Off

Fair Rules

The Investor State Dispute Settlement Provision – Chapter Eleven of NAFTA – has long been in dispute itself. And for very good reason.

Businesses from many other countries own land in Canada for commercial purposes. NAFTA rules allow these owners to sue for compensation should regulatory changes prevent them from using their property as they intend. If government introduces legislation that interferes with or stops development, these landowners can – and do – sue Canadian tax-payers for huge amounts of money. read more

Intelligence In Waiting – Clearing the Way

Human Intelligence

As people devote more and more intelligence to specialties, how do the general “all-around” smarts come out at the end of the day? With the bulk of the effort concentrated on such thin slices of reality, the time – or energy – to gain and maintain awareness and competence in other areas can’t help but fall behind.

There are attempts to reduce the isolation. Universities are combining specialties to combat the silo effect, but it’s unlikely the net result will be enough to balance things out. read more

The Other Side Of Mind – New Frontiers


Nature provides, but how it all comes about is still one of life’s biggest mysteries. And mind is a concept of widely – and frequently wildly – differing interpretations. Where nature and mind meet, we find the burning question – how do we evolve awareness and thinking?

Few answers, but would it be a surprise to find that improving on accurate understanding of reality is at least on the agenda? If survival and reproduction are basic biological imperatives, then mastery of figuring out what’s really going on would be a huge contributor to ensuring we continue as a species into the future. read more

Gender Equality is the Tip of the Iceberg

End Discrimination

The pay equity gap has resisted change for forty years – along with other even more serious consequences of discrimination – everywhere you care to look. Sexism is blamed again and again, but the problem seems impossible to resolve. The saying, ” Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results isn’t rational, ” comes to mind. What also comes to mind is that isms – you know, ageism, sexism, racism … – have been accepted as causes of unfair practices and attitudes. read more

Science That Will Keep You Up Nights


The news on research quality could be better. According to The Natural Selection of Bad Science, a new paper by Paul E Smaldino and Richard McElreath, Department of Cognitive Science , University of California/Max Planck Institute:

Poor use of methods in scientific research persist, in part, because of incentives that favor it. The most prolific publishers are the most successful, but the quality of work suffers. The professors note that replication helps, but state that “change must happen at the institutional level if there is to be any improvement.” 

Another Possible Factor — Asleep at the Wheel? The Insomnia Study

Over-catergorization — of the sort that amounts to pre-judgement — is a frequent find if you’re looking for mind-sets that undermine the purpose of science.

But here’s a recent example of miss-categorizing altogether.

Thanks to the contribution of 23andMe customers, who’ve allowed the results of their personal genetic tests to be used for genetic studies, researchers had access to data from 1,331,010 people, to do what they are calling a genome — wide study of insomnia. read more

Over-Categorization is for the Birds


You’ve seen the signs: Women’s Parking Only. The biggest complaint is it’s discriminatory. And yes, we get the point. But we might miss this one: over-categorization – taking it way too far – which often distracts from much more important information. In this case, the laws intended to protect people from harm need to be enforced. Creating special parking to control crime doesn’t work. It’s the equivalent of putting a band-aid on a broken leg. And along with the distraction over-categorizing leads to, we have another source – over-generalization. read more

Self Esteem – In Other Words?

Well, the dictionary doesn’t help much:

Self Esteem:

1: A confidence and satisfaction in oneself

2: Self conceit

I hear the most about low self esteem – those who don’t think themselves good enough. Good enough doesn’t tell us much either. I can’t imagine trying to assess my own self esteem this way, but I’ve heard and read of it plainly intended as something meaningful – as something I should be able to interpret and use a standard. But good enough compared to what or who? And what do comparisons have to do with it? read more

The Powerlessness of Persuasion


I was reading an older post by Steve Neuman on Salon describing his wonderment of the endless reach of rhetoric and the influence it has on what people assume is for real.  As he points out, it’s nothing new. Rhetoric has been around for a couple of thousand years. But that he wishes it was something obsolete comes through loud and clear.

Persuasion is everywhere. But like advice, it’s not to be ladled out unless it’s asked for. And even if requested, there are limits. read more

The Ig Nobels 2017 – A Didgeridoo for You, Too

Sleep Apnoea

Who’d of thunk it? Researchers have been awarded the Ig Nobel Peace Prize (Switzerland, Canada, The Netherlands, USA) for results that are the first to show that. The aim was to determine if this training could reduce daytime sleepiness in those with sleep-apnoea and snoring related difficulties and was accomplished by playing a didgeridoo for at least twenty minutes on at least five days per week.

Want to check out more of the 2017 Ig Nobel Awards?

All’s Well that Ends Well – An End to the Fairy Story

It’s a lot of fun to play with. It brings out the artist in most everyone. It’s healthy to have some boundary-less time to just imagine, even without silly putty. All kinds of ideas arise, some that would even work out in the real world of means, ends, and universal laws. But not all the artistic output is for real – although the con artists, the BS artists and the woefully miss-labeled creative accountants of the world would have us believe otherwise.

But this isn’t silly putty:

And neither are peeps: read more

Seeds for Sustainability – And Space Travel

This 2007 UN study – Organic Agriculture and Food Security In Africa – provides the details of initiatives to train smallholders of several African countries in organic food production methods beginning in 1995. Using simple techniques and locally available biological inputs, the majority of the mini-farms increased yields to oversupply, allowing sales of surplus. Some crops hit yields high enough to garner export sales.
These successful farmers have been encouraged to share their updated expertise with fellow farmers to keep the ball rolling. Freedom from the cost of pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers floated the boat during the transition, and the soil amendments and management changes brought quick improvements. read more

Of Walls, Mars, Climate Change


Climate variability is widely demonstrated in the geological record. There’s no particular reason to suppose that variability won’t continue. There’s not much static in nature – even the rocks morph eventually. Science, at this time, is not capable of predicting with any certainty how the climate will shift around. Humans, as always, have to deal with unexpected change.

The question of whether pollution contributes to climatic change or not is a red herring. The climate change issue has been polarized into yet another you’re either for us or agin’ us feud. This completely misses the point – and most of the information that needs examining in between the two extremes. We need to understand what’s going on with our environment, and shutting out data just because it comes from the other side, is devoid of critical awareness. We all need every scrap of input and all the answers we can get! read more

Brain Science – What Does Behavioral Economics Have to Do With It?

behavioral economics

“Carnegie Mellon University is marrying the so-called dismal science to brain science to launch a new undergraduate major in behavioral economics.
The university will establish the nation’s first bachelor’s degree in behavioral economics, policy and organizations this spring.

Since when does behaviorism stand in for neurology? And is economics all that scientific in itself? Some days saying what’s meant doesn’t count for much…I tried to leave a comment, no go. Maybe you’ll have better luck. read more

Never Mind the Mindset – Open Up for Innovation


Free Dictionary – 

Mindset: A fixed mental attitude or disposition that predetermines a person’s responses to and interpretations of situations. 2. An inclination or a habit.”

Sorry, I just couldn’t resist. With the increasing and repetitious appearance of the mindset word almost everywhere I read these days, it just got away from me, honest. I mean, there’s success mindset, and positive mindset, and gorilla mindset, and growth mindset, and abundance mindset … and the list keeps growing… read more

Psychometric Tests – Is It Time to Test The Testers?


I happened to land on a workplace testing company’s site the other day, and there was an Inductive Reasoning Test offered to try for free. Having nothing better to do at that moment, I clicked the button.

The test and a brief description of what to do appeared. I was totally confused. The instructions said to pick the next pattern in the series. Below were several boxes, each with 4 symbols, each box with either a different pattern of symbols, some with symbols other boxes didn’t have … you’ve seen this kind of set-up many times. Thing is, I was expecting a verbal test. But I went along with it. read more

Data Use Mystery–Are iOS Updates Related to Unexplained Higher Mobile Data Charges?

A little off topic today, but a recent (and ongoing) experience has prompted me to send out an alert to Apple users – and possibly other operating system users.

Here’s the Skinny

I’ve had my iPhone 4s phone since 2012 and never updated the software due to the size of the downloads – I live rural, with no alternative but to rely on mobile data almost exclusively. Updating is just too expensive.
I’ve never made any special effort to restrict settings. iCloud services, Google Maps, mail, Find My Phone and the like have always been left on. Windows Updater and virus software updates have always been set to automatic on my laptop, but until I updated the phone to iOS 7.1.2, (taking advantage of free wi-fi at the library), I had no difficulty staying inside of a reasonable data use limit. read more

The Planet – Earth is the Real Technological Wonder

Human invention is played up, and even sensationalized, far and wide. Fascination with the latest breakthroughs  keeps the media, science, and the public at large, in constant scan mode.  The latest and greatest gets top billing.  Even fear of the geek-label fails to deter. The minds of young and old alike flow into the technological groove. Encourage that race – better, faster, and above all, first! 

But few become attracted, much less attached, to improving understanding of the absolute essentials – air, water, soil. You would think that a deep and expansive knowledge of the planet would be the educational gold standard, given our ever-so-obvious dependence. But this idea is a heck of a long way from becoming any kind of a benchmark. read more

Goals – You Come First

There are a lot of ways to reach a goal, but the gold standard is full engagement. The closer the goal is oriented to what really matters to you, the higher the likelihood of achievement – and happiness.

Engagement is generally understood well enough when it comes to relationships. The involved couple – just getting to know each other – haven’t  committed. The engaged pair, on the other hand, have decided to make it permanent.

Outside of relationships, the distinction is often muddled. You can be deeply involved with the movie, book, sporting event, emergency room visit, speech, deadline, etc., but obviously there isn’t any commitment beyond enjoying, or enduring the experience of the moment. Yet, this involvement, the immersed state  –  is routinely misidentified as engagement. Immersion has little lasting power and details fade quickly.  The general emotions are what come to mind, but soon, even these disappear. Occasionally, what’s experienced may return too vividly, but this comes of reliving, or re-hashing, rather than understanding and moving forward. And understanding and moving forward are what engagement is all about. read more

Depression is a Symptom – Keep Looking for the Answers

Depressive Symptoms

There’s an incredible array of conflicting information on the subject of depression – and the situation isn’t helping anyone.

Treating symptoms is an expensive, ineffective, and sometimes dangerous, waste of time. No one would think putting a band-aid on a broken leg is an appropriate treatment. Yet in the real world, the equivalent happens – and not just to folks with depressive symptoms. It’s likely happened to you, and most of the people you know, at one time or another. Treating symptoms without looking further for causes happens far too much. read more

Climate Variability – Is it BioMethane Dome Time?


Carbon, carbon, carbon –  no end of talk about carbon dioxide and the greenhouse effect. Not much talk about methane, although there’s enormous quantities out-gassing from wetlands, water bodies, volcanoes, etc., – and it’s much more heat trapping than carbon dioxide.

But now there’s a new rumor – Arctic melting is releasing huge amounts of methane and a few have gone as far as to claim it a near term extinction triggering event – due to lack of oxygen that allegedly will result from the excess methane. read more

Black or White? – There’s a Lot More Than Two Possibilities for Sustainable Food Production


Louise O Fresco’s credentials are what initially caught my attention. As the former Assistant Director-General of the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization, I assumed she would have constructive ideas to contribute. Not to mention she’s also the President of Wageningen University and Research Centre in The Netherlands.

But soon into the read, it was clear something was really out of whack. A theory was referred to, but never materialized. Visions of trattorias and green ribbons, do not a theory make. I don’t know what it’s like in  the Netherlands but I know, here in Canada, that any green house tomato I’ve ever eaten was a pale imitation of the ones I’ve either grown myself or bought from neighboring growers. I don’t have access to any nutritional studies, but since what’s in a tomato depends on the soil it’s grown in and it’s genetics, this wouldn’t be enough information anyway. read more

Science and Democracy – Muzzle Free

“And here we come to the crux of the matter. Muzzling represents an erosion of the principle of free speech and impoverishes the public debate. We can’t hope to make sound decisions on complex problems like climate change without input from those who know the most about it — the scientists. But instead, we have a federal government silencing scientists in a scurrilous “attempt to guarantee public ignorance,” as the New York Times .”

Re-quoted from is an associate professor in the Department of Physics and Atmospheric Science at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He is on the advisory board of Evidence for Democracy.
Scientific censorship has stopped in Canada, but it appears to have just begun south of the border. The state of the polar icecap, in particular, and the research regarding it needs to be kept free of political interference – world climate information doesn’t belong to any one country and the Canadian debacle stands as a clear warning to the rest of the world – it’s happened once, it can happen again: read more

How to Free Creative Thinking


Each of us have our own unique thinking combinations.The contradictory information I find on the subject of creative thinking may come of the highly individual nature of creativity. Another point to consider is the messiness that centers around the artistic and the creative. While it’s common to find them combined, they aren’t one and the same.

Artistic thinking and expression share impressions and evoke experiences. With the exception of story-telling and imagining – fiction and fantasizing – the artistic involves complex combinations of physical, spatial, visual and/or musical skills. Art may represent reality in form, or completely ignore the boundaries of reality all together. To imagine outside of the boundaries of what our senses can take in – or what has yet to be imagined – needs the artistic. To understand and define the newly discovered boundaries, needs the creative. read more

Kids Needs Come First

The old school authoritarian standard gave way to less autocratic child rearing ideas, but these days the impression is of a widespread permissive opposite extreme. The conclusion that excessive entitlement is caused by this alleged change is frequently jumped to. That abusive treatment is also strongly associated with exaggerated ideas of entitlement seems to have slipped under the rug, along with many other suspected causes – and let’s not forget the exceptions. Not every child winds up too stuck on themselves, regardless of upbringing. read more

Mindfulness – A Confidence Creator

Imagine a class full of rambunctious, giggling, squabbling, squirming six year olds, and think about how much fun you could have attempting to talk all of them into listening to you. Where would you start? If you aren’t a teacher, work in daycare or don’t come from a large family, you might be tempted to end the fantasy prematurely.

Then again, you might be  acquainted with mindfulness practice. And if you’re lucky, the kids are too. Then you can simply ask the class to be mindful and calm. In a short couple of minutes, your request for them to please listen would be taken up by all, immediately. read more

Take Back the Internet


It does look nice and neat, the bulleted or numbered list, but I fail to see the radical effect claimed by many of the – How to Write Killer Content – articles found all over the ‘net these days. Similar to button-pushing headlines, I read again and again how “attention is riveted” by such things.

The eye is drawn, that much is true. And the appearance is orderly, neat and tidy – attractive, appealing, even. But I’m looking for information, answers to questions, directions, explanations, or new angles to consider. Pretty, fluffy content pieces are the last thing I want to wade through. Block format or indented, with jazzy headings or not, uses lists or doesn’t, with or without info graphics – none of this matters to me. It’s about how much pertinent, useful, and/or though-provoking, information is found on the page, isn’t it? read more

Science – Is It About Faith?

There’s not much that can be proved without a doubt, scientifically or otherwise. Science relies on what is most likely, somewhat likely, and not very likely, in general, along with what can’t be considered in a general way. Our language shifts all over the place and I long ago learned to leave out words like faith, believe, and to avoid using right/wrong, true, etc. The words have a limiting effect, leading to full stops where it would be far better to explore beyond. And where there is disagreement at these full stops, defensiveness, or even outright combativeness takes over if discussion continues. The point is missed – and isn’t the point of understanding to find it? Having faith in science makes even less sense to me than having faith in a belief system. Science is a system of inquiry and discovery, not of belief. read more