On Talent in Sports and Science
I think we’re far too quick to declare math and science aptitude to be innate talents, skills that only a tiny minority of people are capable of acquiring. This is certainly flattering to the vanity of science nerds, but I’m not entirely convinced that it’s accurate.
Filed under things that I believe in very strongly. 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration, haha.
Space is pretty.
I feel like I ranted about this one time.
Oh, no, I linked that angry but hilarious Maddox post. Yeah, that’s it.
You're not a nerd, geeks aren't sexy and you don't "fucking love" science.
(Warning: this is a link to “the best page in the universe”, i.e. Maddox’s website. He was an internet celebrity before internet celebrities existed, and writes humorous and deliberately inflammatory rants on various subjects. If you’re easily offended by stuff, I suggest you stay away from his site in general.)
So I don’t agree with some of the details of his rant (which, given that his site is for entertainment, may be satirical/hyperbolic anyway), but I do agree with the larger point that he was trying to make. In response to the criticism “Are you trying to say that if I don’t do science, I don’t love science?”, he said:
[…] the crux of the author’s argument is that people who claim to “fucking love science” don’t. What they actually “fucking love” is photographs of space, memes, web comics and pictures of Neil deGrasse Tyson. The spirit of his original status update was to call people to act on their supposed passion, rather than to idly click links all day. I should know, I’m the author. Liking a meme about rock, paper and scissors doesn’t raise your awareness of science, and posting misinformation like the IFLS page does is doing a disservice to people actively curious about science. Acting on that curiosity can be as simple as reading a book or installing software that utilizes your idle CPU time towards scientific research (http://boinc.berkeley.edu/). I’m not suggesting that everyone has to become a scientist, but saying you “fucking love” something should carry some weight.
With this statement, at least, I can agree whole-heartedly. It bothers me how “science” on the internet has become a thing that people discuss hyperbolically, without much understanding and largely for shock value, as though it’s magic. In essence, it’s just a new form of mysticism, only this mysticism has a thin veneer of legitimacy about it, because someone somewhere out there understands how it works.
What a dead fish can teach you about neuroscience and statistics
The methodology is straightforward. You take your subject and slide them into an fMRI machine, a humongous sleek, white ring, like a donut designed by Apple. Then you show the subject images of people engaging in social activities — shopping, talking, eating dinner. You flash 48 different photos in front of your subject’s eyes, and ask them to figure out what emotions the people in the photos were probably feeling. All in all, it’s a pretty basic neuroscience/psychology experiment. With one catch. The “subject” is a mature Atlantic salmon.
And it is dead.
Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) is a powerful tool that allows us to capture incredible amounts of information about what happens in our brains. It’s relatively new — neuroscientists began using fMRI in the early 1990s — and it produces colorful images that help bring numbers to life for the general public.
All of those things are strengths for fMRI. Unfortunately, they’re also all weaknesses. New tools vastly expand our understanding of the human body … but they also mean that we have to develop new standards so that different studies using the same tool can actually be compared to one another. Images of the human brain help make science more understandable … but they can also be incredibly misleading when the public doesn’t have a good idea of what the pictures show. Amassing vast quantities of information is great … but it also makes it easy to end up with false positives — coincidences of chance that look like something a lot more important.
Enter the dead salmon.
A fascinating interview that cleared up some misconceptions I had about fMRI.