Monthly Archives: June 2014

Avoiding “Sagan Syndrome.”

Nathan Taylor, Why Astronomers and Journalists should pay heed to Biologists about ET.

Years ago I wrote something that mentioned similar issues: Extraterrestrial Intelligence: A skeptical view. This was long before the Kepler space probe. However, Taylor seems to be saying the fundamentals of the issue have not changed.

As Taylor points out, there is an ad hominem issue here. Frank Tipler, who was a forceful advocate of the no-ETs view in the early and mid 1980s, subsequently became a “crackpot” (Taylor’s word, but I agree completely). However, this does not invalidate Tipler’s earlier work.

Taylor also points out that for practical (creating life) purposes, the universe is still very young. Star formation will continue for a long time, a necessary condition for life. ETs may yet turn up, but you will need to be very patient.

How the NRA and pro-gun Americans abuse Australian crime stats

Faking waves, by way of AstroKatie


So what is the reality? Homicide and suicide rates have declined in Australia since the 1990s. Deaths results from firearms have plunged even more dramatically. In Australia, mass shootings similar to Port Arthur,
Hoddle Street and Strathfield have not occurred for over a decade.

Is this the result of the gun laws introduced by the Howard government? While some (particularly gun advocates) dispute their impact, several studies conclude the laws have made a difference .

Claims that Australian gun laws have increased crime are pure spin and deception. They say more about American partisan politics than about the reality in Australia.

Making good decisions in a hurry

Sometimes, particularly on television, decision making is presented as a choice between careful analysis and “going with the gut.” On television, of course, the gut always wins. However, in the real world this is a false dichotomy. We often, particularly in a crisis, do neither. Instead we use “heuristics.”

Heuristics enable us to make fast, highly (but not perfectly) accurate, decisions without taking too much time and searching for information. Heuristics allow us to focus on only a few pieces of information and ignore the rest.

See Miracles Happen — The Simple Heuristic That Saved 150 Lives

“Experts … often search for less information than novices do.”