Posts by Bart Janssen

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  • Hard News: Science: it's complicated, in reply to Rich Lock,

    Comedy, it's complicated.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3487 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: How much speech does it take?, in reply to Russell Brown,

    That’s an inane discussion …

    At least our inane discussions are about important things … like coffee

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3487 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Science: it's complicated, in reply to Rich Lock,

    magnates: how do they work?

    They're magnates because they don't work.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3487 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: How much speech does it take?,

    The events in Norway have brought me to tears several times this week. It's hard to view any of it without getting some sense of the terror the teenagers on that island must have experienced.

    Unlike like many here I don't believe free speech is a right. I believe it is a privilege earned and maintained by hard work. When the folk on Kiwiblog speak the way they do, it is hard to imagine much of a difference between their voices and the voice of someone shouting "fire" in a crowded theatre. When your speech does demonstrable harm is there any way you can claim a "right" to such speech?

    But suppressing such speech doesn't do any good either. So we are left with watching scum like Kris K spew their evil into the town square.

    And that brings tears to my eyes as well.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3487 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Science: it's complicated, in reply to Sacha,

    I wonder what our nation’s woeful private sector contribution to research and development does for science’s perceived value?

    And for the relationship between that value and the funding of particular work. The current government is more explicitly focusing on applied research – or in other words, what business thinks is valuable rather than what scientists might choose to pursue. Government and business decision-makers seem like relevant audiences to consider as well as the general public.

    /hobby horse
    I find policy makers difficult beasts to deal with. They have assumptions so vastly different from my own world view. For them the only value of science is economic gain and they are only interested in the most cost effective way to achieve that gain.

    Sadly that has led to funding of science that is predicted to lead to economic gain and over 20 years that has only resulted in lower quality science being funded (because it had higher perceived economic benefit). Sadly it has turned out that trying to guess which science directly leads to economic gain is ... er ... difficult.

    This isn't a result that is new, many countries have tried to "pick winners" and failed. In the end the only successful funding strategy has been to fund based on quality of science. Somehow by funding purely on quality you end up with greater economic gains.

    In some senses because the bureaucrats are not excited by high quality science, because they don't see the beauty in an elegant experiment, because nobody has managed to excite them about the science, they have defaulted to simply managing the dollars. That hasn't been a good thing.
    /dismount

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3487 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Science: it's complicated, in reply to Lucy Stewart,

    the number of students who show up with the idea that they don’t like writing, so they’d like to do science is kind of terrifying

    I totally agree Lucy. Now when I talk to school-kids who come through our institute one of the things I emphasize is how important English is to their ability progress in science.

    But having good skills at English still won't necessarily help with communicating science to anyone other than another scientist, in your field.

    The problem is that most fields in science use a language that is almost unique. Even when English words are used their meaning is different from field to field. I liked the idea of appreciating science the way you appreciate art but the problem is in this case the art is in another language. Think of it as a great piece of literature written in Arabic. If someone shows it to you and says "wow this is amazing" you look at the scribbling and nod and smile. If you want to appreciate the art you'll need to learn another language first - or you could watch the rugby.

    It's even more difficult than simply the language. In any field the cutting edge stuff - the really exciting cool stuff - is built on a foundation of assumed knowledge. It's like trying to explain why Jonah Lomu's try was so cool to someone who has no clue about the rules of the game.

    "Why didn't he just around the Englishmen?"
    "Because he would have gone out"
    "Out? Oh and why was he carrying that funny shaped ball anyway?...."

    Yes the rock stars are often not the best scientists in their field, but they combine good scientific skills with skills that allow them to explain a game no-one knows the rules of, in a language no-one understands. They may have flaws but they deserve credit for doing someone that I know from experience is very hard.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3487 posts Report Reply

  • Southerly: Things to be Grateful For: A…, in reply to Emma Hart,

    My partner is now adamant we need to buy a plunger and an egg-whisk.

    Emma! Must you bring your sex life into every thread?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3487 posts Report Reply

  • Southerly: Things to be Grateful For: A…, in reply to Steve Barnes,

    we’re going to go out and build a snow-dalek

    Fnahh, “Exothermiate”

    Jolisa G already contributed "Exsnowminaaaaate!"

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3487 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: The scandal that keeps on giving, in reply to Russell Brown,

    I'm sure he just forgot about being shown the e-mail, you know that e-mail that made the 700000 pound payment necessary, it's the kind of e-mail that could slip anyones mind.

    Daddy they're being mean to me ...

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3487 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: The scandal that keeps on giving,

    So telling the truth is a "strategy" - how ... quaint

    James Murdoch told the committee that his advisers had urged him to adopt a strategy of telling the truth when he spoke to the committee.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2011/jul/21/james-murdoch-select-committee-evidence

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3487 posts Report Reply

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