Becoming a Science Hedgehog

Posted on 26th May 2010 by Ryan Somma in Science Etcetera

In his book The Hedgehog, the Fox, and the Magister’s Pox, Stephen J. Gould talks about scientists falling into two categories, foxes and hedgehogs. I wrote the following summarizing Gould’s metaphor:

There are two kinds of inquisitive minds, Hedgehogs and Foxes. In nature, Foxes rely on a wide range of crafty strategies to avoid prey. Hedgehogs rely on one tried and true defense, rolling up into a ball and baring their quills. Intellectually, Foxes dart from topic to topic, surveying a wide range of ideas across a broad spectrum of research fields. Bill Nye, Science Guy and other science popularizers are good examples of the fox scientist. Hedgehogs hunker down into one topic and research thoroughly. Your typical graduate student working on their thesis is a hedgehog.

For its first four years, I used this blog as a sounding board for articulating what I thought about politics, philosophy, and science. For the last three years, ideonexus has been a fox science blog, darting from subject to subject in the realm of empirical observations and journaling what I learned in all of them. For awhile now, my intellectual interests have been gravitating to computer science, as have my non-link blog posts. When I come home, I want to write programming code and read essays and articles about information technology. So the daily links have become a distraction, a minor one, but one that takes a little time from my being a hedgehog computer scientist.

In finding the stories that most interest me, I had to give up on RSS readers because there was too much noise in the way they homogenize data, so I visited lots of my favorite news sites daily. Here are the links to my favorite and useful science web sites. I’ll keep visiting them for relaxation, and I hope you’ll support them too:

The Best Science News Sites

ABC (Australia) Science
Air & Space Magazine
Ars Technica
BBC SciTech News
Cosmos News
Discover
Discovery News
Edge
Economist Science
LiveScience
National Geographic News
National Public Radio (US)
Natural History Magazine
New York Times Science
New Yorker Science
Popular Mechanics
Popular Science
R&D Magazine
Scientific American
Seed Magazine
Science News
Smithsonian
USA Today Science
US News & World Report Science
Wired News

The Best Science Blogs

Chet Raymo
Rationally Speaking
Schrodinger’s Kitten
The Technium

Good Science News (with a Caveat)

The caveat is that some of these sites publish press releases uncritically, have a strong philosophical or political bias, or demand a subscription to read their articles (look for the NYTimes to make this list next year).

EurekAlert!
Futurity
h+
Mother Jones Environment
New Scientist
PhysOrg
Ripley’s Believe It or Not!
Science Daily
Slashdot Science
Space.com

Hewlett Packard Product Support Angst

Posted on 5th April 2008 by Ryan Somma in Science Etcetera - Tags:

I wrote this post several weeks ago, but witheld posting it until there was a conclusion:

I’m going to rationalize this post as being related to information technology, and therefore something I can legitimately blog. I simply don’t have any other recourse for the incredible frustrations I am feeling towards HP’s Product support for the hell they have put me through in time and money wasted.

Time Line of Events:

2007-11-19

I purchased one Compaq Presario F700 Notebook PC F732NR DT. This AMD 64 X2 with 2048 memory. It runs Windows Vista slower than than my 433mhz OLPC Laptop, but I am basically happy with it:

Ryan Buys a Laptop
Ryan Buys a Laptop

2007-12-22

Laptop dies. Just dead. Deader than a doornail. I call HP and their tech support walks me through giving the laptop life support. No. It’s just dead. They mail me a box to send them the laptop in, since it’s covered by a warranty. I put it in the mail, and then I then wait.

2008-01-16

HP Service and Repair Center calls to tell me that the reason my laptop is broken is because I spilt something on it and I can either pay them $800 to clean it or they will let me buy two-years worth of insurance for $260. It is true that I spilt some coffee on the laptop, but that was the first week I owned it, so I wasn’t satisfied that this was the problem. Why would the laptop continue running more than a month after the accident? Oh well, they were nice enough to let me buy insurance after the accident, so good for them:

Ryan Buys Insurance
Ryan Buys Insurance

2008-01-25

HP calls to tell me my laptop’s in the mail. Yay!

2008-01-26

A note on the door from Fed Ex, tried to deliver laptop, you weren’t home. I call Fed Ex. Can they drop it off in the afternoon? No. Where can I pick it up? At a location an hour and a half away. No thank you.

I call HP. Can you send it UPS or USPS? Sorry, no speaky english, please hold. Can you send it UPS or USPS? Sorry, no speaky english, please hold. Can you send it UPS or USPS? Sorry, no speaky english, please hold. Can you send it UPS or USPS? I speak english, but I can’t help you. Can we have someone call you back? Sure.

2008-01-28 through 2008-02-26

HP calls, Says they’ll send it USPS. I get another note on the door from Fed Ex. Call HP. What happened? Turns out they can’t send it anything but Fed Ex. Send it to my mom’s house. Okay.

Get a call from HP. Why did the laptop get returned? Because you’re supposed to send it to my mom’s house. What’s her address? I told the last guy, can’t you get it from him? No. Okay.

No laptop. Call HP. Where’s my laptop? The service center hasn’t mailed it. Why not? We don’t know, can we call you back?

No phone call. Call HP. Where’s my laptop? The service center hasn’t mailed it. Why not? We don’t know, can we call you back?

No phone call. Call HP. Where’s my laptop? The service center hasn’t mailed it. Why not? We don’t know, can we call you back? No. I don’t think you’re going to call me back. You haven’t called me back the last 4-5 times you said you would. HP tech gets infuriated, “How dare you say I won’t call you back? After keeping you on hold working on this for half an hour!” Okay. Okay. Calm down. Call me back tommorrow.

No phone call. Call HP with the intention of screaming, “WHERE THE #$%@ IS MY #@$%ING LAPTOP YOU &%$#ING @#$%S!!!” Instead I stay polite. May I speak to your manager? No, we are the managers. I explain my last two months of grief. They put me on hold for 30 minutes. The laptop is in the mail, we promise.

These are the calls I could find from my cell phone bill. The 3 total hours on the phone with HP put me way over my limit, incurring penalty charges of $0.45 a minute. This list does not include all the calls made from my work phone or my mother’s phone:

Date/Time Minutes Charges
01/25/2008 4:22PM 2 0.00
01/26/2008 12:28PM 5 0.00
01/28/2008 7:05PM 4 0.00
01/28/2008 7:10PM 31 0.00
02/06/2008 5:23PM 7 $3.15
02/06/2008 5:31PM 12 $5.40
02/07/2008 3:24PM 18 $8.10
02/08/2008 2:15PM 4 $1.80
02/08/2008 3:35PM 5 $2.25
02/16/2008 11:59AM 3 0.00
02/16/2008 12:02PM 10 0.00
02/21/2008 5:19PM 34 $15.30
02/22/2008 1:55PM 1 0.45
02/26/2008 5:29PM 37 16.65
  173 Minutes $51.30 Charges

2008-03-03

Mom calls. Laptop has arrived. Yay!!!

2008-03-09

Visiting my mom for the weekend and get to see my laptop. I open the box, plug it in, and…

IT’S STILL DEAD.

It should be noted that I was asked my name, e-mail, phone number, and how would I like HP to contact me EVERY SINGLE TIME someone answered the phone (A lot of effort to get contact information from a company that NEVER CALLED ME BACK). There was a Dilbert comic about why companies do this: to shatter any illusions you may have that they know anything about information technology.

I’m not quite up to Sour Swinger’s list of laptop issues (See also here and here), since I’ve only got one issue, but I think I’m setting a record for frustrations trying to get my one issue fixed.

If I believed in that supersition called “God,” I would totally think I was being punished for buying Windows Vista, instead of going with a Dell Linux Laptop like my conscious told me I should.

UPDATE 20080402: After speaking to HP’s Case Manager, and letting them see the endless grief I was put through. They agreed to send me a brand new, upgraded laptop and refund my insurance money. The new laptop is a significant upgrade, and I am placated; however, Windows Vista still sucks (Clicks on IE, Vista responds, “It looks like IE is attempting run. Should Windows allow it?” Grrrrr…).

Clarifying the Science Behind Global Cooling

Posted on 26th March 2008 by Ryan Somma in Science Etcetera - Tags: ,

It is easy to lie with statistics; it is easier to lie without them.” – Frederick Mosteller

Global Cooling Trend Close Up of Last Decade

Global Cooling Trend
Close-Up of Last Decade

Yesterday I posted this image of what climatologists are claiming is evidence of warming in the last decade, and explained how it actually shows a cooling trend; however, it has come to my attention that the methodology I used, while completely legitimate in a completely fallacious sense, did violate the scientific principle of Occam’s Razor, which states that the simplest explanation is the most likely.

The problem with this graph is that there are way too many dots on it, making it too complex. A much simpler graph, with fewer dots, would clear things up and show how the world has actually cooled in the last decade.

 

Global Cooling Trend Simplified Close Up of Last Decade

Global Cooling Trend Simplified
Close-Up of Last Decade Simplified

See? Isn’t that cleaner? Easier to understand? Occam’s Razor baby. That’s right. This is what those Global Warming cooks don’t want you to see. How about we apply this principle to the whole last century of temperature data?

Global Cooling Trend Simplified Close Up of Last Decade

Global Cooling Trend over the Last Century

Warming Versus Cooling

Warming
Versus
Cooling

Where’s your warming now Al Gore? Huh? As we can see from this graph, most of this century has been on a cooling trend. Take all those shaded parts that I’ve so helpfully shaded and all the non-shaded parts that I’ve so helpfully not shaded and put them on a statistical bar graph thing like you see in power point, and look what you get. You get this pic over here to the right, with the red cooling bar being much much bigger, like three times much much bigger than the warming bar.

How can anyone look at this concrete visual data and not see Global Warming’s a crock?

Here’s more on Dr. Marohasy’s global cooling assertions.