[Baelin] Scrapbook

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The player scrapbooks forum is literally a place for writers to warm-up, brainstorm, keep little scraps of notes, or just post things to encourage themselves and each other. Each player can feel free to create their own thread - one per account - and use them accordingly.

[Baelin] Scrapbook

Postby Baelin Holt on December 10th, 2015, 1:37 am

Head's up warning: I tend to come off as an asshole online. Call me out on it, no worries!

There’s three things I really love that’ll be the overarching theme of this scrapbook. One is learning new things. The second is learning that things I thought were facts aren’t true. Did you know that you’re unlikely to actually eat a spider in your sleep? The “people eat eight spiders in their sleep a year” fact is only a myth. See this article and this one too. The third is when I learn that things I took for granted are actually open questions. Did you know that we don’t actually know how a bike maintains stability? Check out Ruina’s page on bicycle stability for more information. That’s exciting, right!? And it deserves to be mentioned and talked about! This is how science happens, guys. Saying something works this way, then finding out that’s wrong, then saying well-actually-we-think-it’s-this-way, then finding out that’s also wrong, and so on and so forth.

Which brings me to the rules of this scrapbook!

Do post:
  • Cool things you learned and want to share.
  • Things you know (and can back up with sources) and want to share with people.
  • Things that you thought you knew but then learned differently.
  • Discussion about things posted here (be sure to follow the “Always” section below). You can post anecdotal evidence for the sake of discussion, but make sure to identify it as such. Don’t turn it into an argument if it’s anecdotal, just leave it as a discussion point.
  • Posts such as “that’s cool” or “what do you think of this?” are all welcome! It would get pretty boring without them. Not every post has to be blog-worthy, this is only a scrapbook after all!
Always:
  • Put sources! You learned it from somewhere, please do share a link for it. If you learned it from word of mouth then find a reliable source before you share it here. Word of mouth is a good place to start but never a reliable source by itself. If you source an article and it makes claims without any mention of sources or evidence either, then that’s still an unreliable source.
  • Take nothing for granted! Question what people tell you, even if they’re trustworthy or an expert in their field. Question what’s in this scrapbook, it could be wrong! Misinformation isn’t always malicious and can sometimes be hard to spot.
  • Be careful of the assumptions you make and be willing to rethink them.
  • Be on the lookout for other people’s assumptions. They can often be different than yours and trying to find a common ground when you’re operating on different assumptions can be difficult or even impossible.
  • Arguments must be factual.

What to avoid when making an argument :
You generally will have a factual argument when you avoid basing your argument on opinion or anecdotal evidence.
  • Anecdotal evidence: Sure, it may be a fact that your cat likes tuna, but that isn’t enough to make an argument that cats like tuna. To say cats like tuna requires a statistically significant sample size of cats that like tuna. Your cat could just be an outlier. Your friend’s cat also likes tuna? Great. But there’s millions of cats in the world and you’re still only looking at two of them. Anecdotal evidence, while often interesting, is not statistically significant enough to make an argument.
  • Opinion: So you think Obama is a good/bad president? Good for you. Is Obama a good/bad president? Your opinion has nothing to do with that. You could look at national GDP, the country’s debt, unemployment, productivity of legislation, foreign relations, effectiveness of military actions, etc and make an argument one way or the other based on those numbers and statistics. You could even look at stats of what different groups of people think of him (remember sample sizes!). But your opinion alone isn’t enough to support any legitimate argument.
  • Bad manners: No one wants to hear “everything you’re doing is wrong” or “you’re just being stupid.” Try to be polite if you disagree with someone/something. Bad manners have the tendency to make the person you’re addressing get defensive which is exactly what you don’t want to happen if you want a decent discussion.
Don’t just blindly trust stats or scientific results (reiterating because it’s important) :
  • Statistics: While statistics are a powerful tool, they can be manipulated. If a stat surprises you, you should definitely question it and dig a little deeper. How was the analysis done? What was the sample size? Who/what was sampled? Did the sampling gloss over something important or make a bad assumption? Statistics are collected by people and people make mistakes. Never blindly trust statistical results, it’s a recipe for being manipulated.
  • Scientific results: Researchers have to interpret their results. Oftentimes they do a good job at this. And oftentimes they don’t. There’s plenty of places where researchers can mess up their interpretation. Maybe they made a bad assumption at the start of their study and did all their work based off of that bad assumption. Or maybe something weird happened during an experiment and skewed their results. Or maybe they’re seeing significance in things that are just noise. It’s usually not malicious or done on purpose, but it can be dangerous.
Big pet peeve, please try to avoid :
The phrase “scientists discovered.” It’s misleading. Science is about making theories and then finding validation for them or disproving them. If you get enough validation, you can say the theory is accepted and treat it like fact/truth for a while. Right up until someone comes along and disproves it like in the bicycle example. When someone says “scientists discovered,” they’re typically talking about the validation part of that process. It’s definitely not the be-all-end-all people seem to think it is.

Actual discoveries are experimental anomalies. They happen when you’re doing an experiment and you get really weird results. They don’t make for good news, however, until waaaay after the fact. After people have made theories to explain what could have happened to produce those weird results and after they’ve done validation to “prove” one or more of the theories. Then you can call it a “discovery.” And guess what? Several years down the line after that “discovery” someone may disprove the theory and you’re back to scratching your head.

So if you hear someone say “scientists discovered,” be aware that what they’re actually saying is “scientists have this explanation for this thing and so far the explanation is holding ground.”
Be warned that I'm terrible at avoiding anecdotal evidence. Please do call me out on it.

Everyone got all that? Excellent! Posting: Engage!
Last edited by Baelin Holt on November 25th, 2017, 7:30 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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[Baelin] Ignorance is far from bliss

Postby Baelin Holt on December 10th, 2015, 1:38 am

I’ll start! Did you know a $125 million Mars orbiter was lost because of a unit conversion error? A contractor used English units when making the orbiter's thrusters and those didn’t get converted into metric, which was what NASA was using for everything else. So this orbiter travelled all the way to Mars, turned on its thrusters like a good little orbiter when it got close, and then subsequently shot way closer to the planet then it was supposed to. It went 100km farther than they had planned, which was 25km (15mi) below the level the orbiter could function at. I got those numbers from a CNN article. And then that was that, no more mission. An unrecoverable mission failure. You can check out this NASA report too.
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[Baelin] Ignorance is far from bliss

Postby Ruari Darkwind on December 10th, 2015, 3:08 pm

By English units, do you mean Imperial?

Edit: I got confused when you called them English. ><
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[Baelin] Ignorance is far from bliss

Postby Baelin Holt on December 11th, 2015, 2:32 pm

Yep! Sorry for that, I'm used to hearing them called English units.

Did you know there's only three countries in the world that use English/Imperial units? The US, Liberia, and Burma. That's it. Here's a map.

It's frustrating that the US hasn't switched, I convert between the two unit systems daily and memorize two numbers for design features. Can't just know that you have a 1mm through hole, you also need to know it's about 0.0395in so you can work with both drill bits (English) and port seals (metric). It's stupid. Hell, my flow data isn't even in the same system. Flow rate is nanoliters and pressure is psi.

But switching can be tricky too. Air Canada made a big blunder in '83 while they were switching. They thought their fuel was in pounds, but the plane had switched to kilograms. So they loaded up with as much fuel as they needed, took off, and then halfway through the flight ran out of fuel. They did make a really amazing landing though. Only injuries were some minor cuts. Here's a NY Times article on it.
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[Baelin] Ignorance is far from bliss

Postby Astator on December 11th, 2015, 2:45 pm

I am so glad my job doesn't require measures in those fashions. It is all strictly pixels. =D

Heh anyone, speaking of the US switching over things. Did you know that there was a discussion at one point about the US getting rid of the Penny? That's right! That shiny copper-ish coin bearing the ugly mug of our sixtennth president was on the chopping block: Poor Abe Coin, apparently Canada and other nations have done it... But well, us Americans... We be stubborn. It still hasn't left, this Huffington Post article said it was suppose to go poof in 2015, it's almost the end of 2015 and it is still floating around.

This is an article that floats somewhere between those two articles above, but it goes into some detail as to what the price to make a penny is and tries to get people to realize that the price of products isn't based on the monetary value they are listed, but market-based competition (Supply and Demand): Go away Penny!

I give them to my daughter, it would be sad to see something my two year old loves to put into her piggy bank just disappear. I don't think it will hurt the economy anymore than it already is if the penny vanished, but I doubt it will do any better without it either. (this is just my opinion)
Last edited by Astator on December 11th, 2015, 2:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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[Baelin] Ignorance is far from bliss

Postby Ruari Darkwind on December 11th, 2015, 2:48 pm

I get oddly proud when Canada is mentioned, being Canadian and all. It's like poofing out my feathers and preening them or something, if I were a bird.

Does the thing really say kilograms? I'm tickled by that. xD Silly paper, that's not a fluid unit.
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[Baelin] Ignorance is far from bliss

Postby Baelin Holt on December 13th, 2015, 7:08 pm

Gotta be careful about titles, they like to sensationalize them. The article actually says:
An administration official told The Huffington Post that "no conclusions have been made and we are doing research in FY 2015."
The article doesn't actually talk about the US Mint making a decision one way or the other, all it talks about is the fact that they're researching the costs and benefits of the coin. The penny's not going away anytime soon. This Wall Street Journal talks about nickles too. Apparently they're also a good deal more expensive than their actual coin, but nickles seem to be used way more than pennies so it looks like they're more useful.

I agree with you that I don't think it'll hurt the economy to stop producing it. I do think it'll help as an incremental gain. In 2014 it looks like the US Mint made 7 billion pennies at 1.7 cents a penny. So they spent $11.9 million cents ($119,000) on something worth only $7 million cents ($70,000) in the market for a production loss of $4.9 million cents ($49,000). See this figure from WSJ and this WSJ article for more information.

From a business standpoint, I have to cringe at that lost. But from a political standpoint, getting rid of the penny is going to have to be passed by Congress. And getting something passed through Congress is always a headache and a half.
Redacted :
Seriously, watch C-SPAN sometime. (Edit: anecdotal stuff ahoy, be warned!) Last time I watched it they were literally one second away from getting a bill passed, then the democrats pulled some stupid bullshit and the bill got put to the side again. This was literally a no-brainer bill to pass. You can check out the bill here. All it really does is update a bill passed in 2002 that requires reporting from Homeland Security. After 13 years some of the positions in the original bill don't exist anymore and some new ones have come about and the current bill being used doesn't reflect that. You can see the play-by-play of the bill here. That 3:07pm time point on 12/8 was bullshit and had nothing to do with actually reconsidering the bill.

Edit: I was wrong! HR 3859 did get passed! When watching it looked like the dems pulled a motion to adjourn right before the bill passed, but looks like it was just a moment too slow and it did indeed get through! You can see that here. Maybe there's hope after all?
Last edited by Baelin Holt on July 3rd, 2017, 1:09 am, edited 1 time in total.
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[Baelin] Ignorance is far from bliss

Postby Baelin Holt on February 16th, 2016, 4:59 am

Here's a great demo to help conceptualize gravity!

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[Baelin] Ignorance is far from bliss

Postby Baelin Holt on March 26th, 2016, 8:39 pm

An infographic on how a car engine works. This can take a while to load, but it's definitely worth it. Enjoy!

How a car engine works.
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[Baelin] Ignorance is far from bliss

Postby Baelin Holt on April 19th, 2016, 9:28 pm

I had no idea this sport existed! Tandem surfing.

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