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Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

## The Cost of Introversion

Ask any good psychologist or neuroscientist to explain the contrast between introversion and extroversion, and you’re likely to be told something akin to this: Introverts expend energy in social interaction and recharge by having solitary downtime, while extroverts recharge by being social and lose energy when left alone or with little to do.

But what is this “energy”? Sure, it’s easy enough to intuit. Clearly, extroverts are always so outgoing, very talkative, and need to be with other people. They excel at group situations and meeting new people, and become antsy and frustrated when left alone for any length of time. Introverts, on the other hand, function much better in one-on-one situations or with small groups of people they know, and tend to dislike smalltalk when it’s just to “network” with new people. In addition, introverts love having solitude for periods of time to recharge their internal batteries.

This analogy of charging/expending energy, while a bit oversimplified, is an accurate one. So then, why are large social situations so “costly” to an introvert? And why can they still “recharge” even when in large groups of close friends/family?

Let’s take a step back from this for a moment and look at how we interact in this society. We all wear our proverbial masks every time we step into the real world: hiding the reality of who we are and letting everyone see only the selves we wish to show.

As an introvert myself, I’ve come to theory that this “energy” cost in social situations is merely the necessity to ourselves of maintaining these masks. As we wear the masks and keep our internal filters and censors active, we expend more and more of our mental energy.

At least for me, this is why I “recharge” by spending lots of times with my close friends: Even though I’m being very social and involving myself with other people, it is with friends to whom I’d trust unfalteringly. I don’t have to keep any of my internal filters going or some such. I can just be me. I don’t have to hide who or what I am.

My theory isn’t very good at explaining the other side of this analogy, though. If this is the case, then why do extroverts lose energy by being alone and recharge by being so social and active? This is already beyond my understanding, and something I’d be mildly interested in researching further…But that’s a topic for another day!

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October 5th, 2012 1 comment

I’ve come to use LaTeX extensively for typesetting my Mathematics homework. It just makes things so beautiful. And like the XHTML/CSS split, it really does encourage strong separation of content from presentation. One of the things I first hated about it though, is that I grew quickly tired of using \left and \right with brackets, parentheses, or anything that needed to be automatically be sized to its content.

And, as any good engineering student might, I sought to encourage my own laziness by finding a clever shortcut. After a few minutes of searching Google, I came across the DeclarePairedDelimiter command in the mathtools package. Its usage is fairly self-explanatory, as I’ll let the following demonstrate.

\usepackage{mathtools}

Then you can create your own paired delimiters with the DeclarePairedDelimiter command:

\DeclarePairedDelimiter{\abs}{\lvert}{\rvert} \DeclarePairedDelimiter{\norm}{\lVert}{\rVert} \DeclarePairedDelimiter{\innerproduct}{\langle}{\rangle}

Finally, you can use these new commands in math mode to more easily group your expression. (Append an asterisk to make LaTeX automatically insert the necessary \left and \right commands when you need the delimiters to resize according to their content.)

If $$a \lt 0$$ and $$b \gt 0$$, then $$\abs{a} = -a$$, and so $$\abs*{\frac{a}{b}} = -\frac{a}{b}$$.
The norm of a vector $$v$$, denoted $$\norm{v}$$, is defined by $$\norm{v} = \sqrt{\innerproduct{v,v}}$$.

As a nice bonus, it increases readability of the LaTeX source tremendously, since it gives those grouped expressions some semantic name rather than just being a bunch of formatting. For instance with the above delimiters, \left\lvert \frac{a}{b} \right\rvert is more to type, and a lot less obviously an absolute value, than the simpler \abs*{\frac{a}{b}}.

Happy hacking!

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## An Open Letter to Ken Ham (And: Thank You, Bill Nye)

(I don’t normally post rants like this, but every so often I come upon something so frustrating to refrain from doing otherwise. Apologies for the tone.)

This is an open letter to Mr. Ken Ham, and a response to his YouTube video, “Ken Ham Responds to Bill Nye ‘The Humanist Guy’“, since comments are disabled there. Time indices with the quotations are approximate, and mark the end of that quotation in the aforementioned video.

Mr. Ham:

Before I even respond to the video content itself, I want to address one tiny issue: Comments are not enabled on your video. Why would this be? I believe that this is due to the fact that you KNOW in your heart that what you’re saying is neither sensible nor rational; and you simply want to prevent people from flaming you or posting any form of rebuttal to you as a reply. Well, thank goodness people like me have websites where we can post just about anything we want (within legal limits, of course). And here is my rebuttal to you, good sir: YOU ARE AN IMBECILE. Now, let’s examine the content of your video, and I’ll explain to you why I feel this way.

“In fact, Bill Nye doesn’t really understand science.” (0:57, 2:39, 2:42)

Things like this are stated multiple times throughout your video. And I must admit, I am a bit speechless. I don’t even know where to properly begin responding to that. Let me get this straight, then: Someone who doesn’t understand science could earn a Bachelor of Science degree (emphasis mine) from a private, well-reputed, and highly-accredited Ivy-League university? Someone who doesn’t understand science can develop a hydraulic pressure resonance supressor that’s still used in 747s today? Someone who doesn’t understand science can host his own TV show specifically teaching science to a young audience? Someone who doesn’t understand science can make a sundial that also helps with camera color calibration for the Mars probes? Look at Bill Nye’s record through academia and his professional career. OF COURSE that man understands science. He is a scientist. He lives it every day!

“I mean, Bill Nye himself actually is not a scientist. He studied mechanical engineering […]” (1:23)

Well, let’s see here. According to a Google Definition search, the word “scientist” means “A person who is studying or has expert knowledge of one or more of the natural or physical sciences.” So, let’s see if this applies to Bill Nye…is mechanical engineering a natural or physical science? Well, in fact, yes. ME is in essence the science of physical processes and how to apply them for benefits in technology. And does he have expert knowledge of it? Well…he has a Bachelor’s degree from Cornell,  three Honorary Doctorate degrees from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Goucher College, and Johns Hopkins, many years of hands-on experience working for Boeing and as an aeronautics consultant, multiple scientific patents,  and has one of his inventions on the Mars rovers and another in most 747s still in use today (Source). I’d say that qualifies him quite well as an expert. So yeah, he’s an expert in the physical sciences. So, he is a scientist, by your own words. You’re 0-for-2 so far Mr. Ham.

“Bill Nye has an agenda […] to teach them they are the result of evolutionary processes; that they came from slime over millions of years.” (0:53)

“You can divide science into historical science that’s talking about the past, or observational science. That’s the science that builds our technology.” (1:07)

All science is “observational science.” This whole “historical science” talk is nonsense. Bill Nye is a scientist; and science is inherently observational. Science tries to learn and impart knowledge of the truths of the universe; and how do we do this? Through the scientific method, with painstaking attention to detail in reasoning and evidence. We observe what happens in nature and try to understand every tiny piece of the how and the why. And with the multitude of evidence we have for it — fossils, genealogy, tracing disease patterns, microbial growth, etc. — the theory of evolution is quite a sound one. (If you want proper historical science, try a field like paleontology or archaeology.) You’re 0-for-4 so far…

“I mean, the word ‘science’ means ‘knowledge.'” (0:58)

And Mr. Ham scores a point! Oh good. So you are in fact able to produce some iota of reason from that hole in your face.

“He says if you deny evolution to children, they’re going to have problems, because we need engineers. Well wait a minute. Engineering…and evolution? What has evolution got to do with engineering?” (1:19)

I’ll see your irrationality and raise you a “lolwut?”

The problem with denying children evolution is that in so doing, you’re denying them the very concepts of how to think critically. Of how to properly infer knowledge from some data. Of how to support that knowledge with further tests and experiments. Without these critical thinking skills, any attempt at studying engineering will fail before it can even begin. (Heck, I’d wager good money that most of the entire point of engineering is about finding clever solutions to problems in various related fields, like electronics, aerospace, fluid dynamics, architecture, etc.)

“I hope he did not apply any of his evolutionary principles to any of Boeing’s airplanes.” (1:32)

Well, in fact, he did. Not evolutionary processes. But sound technical and scientific principles. And with those he helped develop a hydraulic pressure resonance suppressor for the 747, still in use today.

“I’ll tell you what is real abuse, what is inappropriate for children: When you take generations of kids and you teach them that they’re just animals; [that] there’s no God; you’re a result of millions of years of evolutionary processes.” (2:12)

Call it abuse if you want, but I’ll repeat what I wrote above: Science is about finding and teaching the truths of our universe. Nothing more.

So you then proceed to acknowledge that we can observe and measure radioactivity while at the same time mentioning that bones and fossils aren’t found with photos or timestamps, so we couldn’t know how old they are. But of course, that same radiation-based technology couldn’t, you know, tell us how old those fossils are! (Le’ *gasp*!)

“He doesn’t teach children how to think critically.” (3:06)

Do you actually believe this? Seriously? A scientist who devotes his LIFE to educating the future generations of scientists…doesn’t teach them to think clearly? Are you really this daft?

“If evolution is true, I mean, it’d be so obvious to the kids that it’s true; but it’s not.” (3:29)

Apparently you are that daft! So, let me get this straight…according to you, stuff that’s true is obvious to school children? Hmm…let’s try this. The square of the length of the hypotenuse of a triangle is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides after subtracting twice the product of those two side lengths by the cosine of the acute angle between them. (This is the law of cosines, straight from trigonometry.) This is absolutely true; but is it obvious to children? Heck no. In fact, it’s barely clear to the math students when they first see it.

Okay, maybe you’re not so much a fan of mathematics so let’s try another one – this time from the realm of chemistry. The rate of diffusion or effusion of a gas is inversely proportional to the square root of its molecular mass. This is Graham’s Law, straight from a high school or college chemistry course. Again, this has been experimentally shown to be true; but is it obvious to children? Minus a few child prodigies here and there, I’d say this is definitely not an obvious result to kids.

“You have to do what Bill Nye the Humanist Guy wants. You have to protect them from hearing anything about creation. You totally indoctrinate them. You brainwash them. You don’t teach them to think critically at all.” (3:50)

Indoctrination. Brainwashing. Those are some pretty good terms for teaching creationism.

“Isn’t it interesting how Christians are not frightened to teach their children about evolution?” (4:10)

Apparently you’re trying to make them so. And if not, why even have this argument at all?

“[…] and see why you don’t want Bill Nye ‘the Humanist Guy'” teaching your children.” (4:36)

God-willing, I’d love to have Bill Nye teach my kids science. When I was a boy, he was one of a few who really helped inspire in me a deep appreciation for mathematics and sciences, and I would come home from school eager to see another episode of Bill Nye the Science Guy on PBS. (Even nowadays, I try to catch episodes of Bill Nye’s Solving for X when I can. Sure, they’re usually topics I already know quite well, but he covers them in such neat ways, and has very clever and humorous demonstrations to show them.)

So, in closing, I’d like to repeat my opening remark: Mr. Ken Ham, you are an imbecile. It’s people like you that are holding back our society. Holding back our scientific progress. Stop with your lies and stop spreading FUD about things of which you know seemingly so little. Please disconnect your computers entirely from the internet, and make it a better place in so doing.

I would also like to end this open letter by extending a personal debt of gratitude to Bill Nye. If you are reading this, Mr. Nye, thank you for all that you’ve done for science. And thank you for standing up to religious weirdos like Mr. Ham over here. *thumbs up*

Respectfully yours,

Peter Gordon

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