Phil Scadden

Senior Scientist at GNS Science (New Zealand equivalent of USGS more or less). Programmer, modeller, dabbling in physics, geology, geophysics. Back-roomer and like it that way.


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A Reason to Expect Republics to Perform Better than Absolute Monarchies in the Long-Term

I think you should be looking more at question of dilution of power. Concentrating power is hands of a one or handful of people makes the system very dependent on the person holding that power. I would propose republics/nominal monarchies with head of state only having reserve powers, are more stable and produce better government than hands-on head-of-states. 

Just because a country has been under a monarchy for a very long time, doesnt mean that it was "stable". Look for "dynastic change" in the line. Often rather violent, but one way to get rid of a bad/unpopular ruler. Republics makes it easier to dump the head of state without violence so that is improvement.

I value the diluted power of parlimentary democracies, with the select committees and multiple reading of bills, but I would struggle to find empirical data to support that. How do you define "politcal performance" or "leader competence" in measurable ways? How do you evaluate the quality of political decisions? How a country performs economically or militarily is dependent of a myriad of factors (including luck), many outside the control of the government. Governments will claim credit for whatever went well, and drop shoulders on anything that didnt - how do you objectivity assess those claims?  Eg how much of the USA current position due to good governance or how much due to being a resource-rich country colonised at time when industrial revolution was able to exploit those resources?

Would you like me to debug your math?

I had similar thought, but then most of the languages I use don't support matrix operations directly in the language anyway. Great believer in "tried and true" numerical analysis libraries though.

A systematic error that lead to a bad policy response to COVID-19

One more primary failure: Containment.
Thesis: Preventing travel (get the planes out of the air) from infected areas would contain the virus. Individual countries (including China), showed that virus could be controlled eliminated, if infections were not imported.

Antithesis: It costs too much, kills the tourist/travel industry; I want to travel; Restrictions on freedom are evil..

Well once it took hold, the restrictions happened anyway. Doing it early would dramatically reduced cost. If the symptoms had been as alarming as say Ebola, then I think early action would have been easier. "Coronavirus = cold" was all too common - maybe it should have been called SARS immediately? 

What are the gears of gluten sensitivity?

If you google "what can legally be called a sourdough bread", then I think you might see that this can be a problem. 

But anyway, I think we can safely say that sourdough is probably a good way to test whether the issues are really gluten sensitivity, (because it certainly has some), or with other components of wheat.

 Also, see This is surely producing a bread with a rather different chemistry to more traditional processes.

What are the gears of gluten sensitivity?

ok, ferment does degrade gluten but very slowly. Once the levels of lactic acid build up sufficiently, then the acid hits the gluten, but that is rather longer than 12hour. If the gluten is destroyed, then so is your dough structure - it loses the ability to trap air and steam. People struggling with ordinary bread but able to eat sourdough I think is rather common.  Based on Monash publications, I would say the highly fermentable fructans in wheat are converted to easier to digest forms (mannitols??). Pretty testable for an individual. If you struggle with high fructan foods (wheat, onions, garlic) but happy with high mannitol foods, (sweet potatoes, mushrooms, melon), then I would predict you will be ok with sourdough (assuming my memory of what fructans convert to during ferment is correct). Sourdoughs with lots of low fructan flours such as oat and spelt should be even better.

As to adding flour later, then I was told by a baker that what is sold as white-flour sourdough breads can be made commercially by taking starter, maybe added to flour/water and partly  fermented, but then add bakers yeast and rest of flour and process from there "normally". The process is much faster, more mechanised and,  importantly, predictable - ie cheaper. The ferment still gives a sourdough "tang" to the product to keep customer happy.

My son went to a bakery in a holiday town to get sourdough loaf for his IBS sister and quizzed baker on their process to ensure he was getting real thing. She offered him a job immediately (not that he wanted one).

What are the gears of gluten sensitivity?

From my daughters journey with IBS, I'd be looking at whether it is "gluten" or other components of flour. One thing to try is whether your body tolerates sour dough bread (eliminate other sources of flour). And that is a real sour dough - fermented at least 12 hours with no post-ferment flour added. There are "cheats" way to make "sour dough", giving it sour dough flavour without the long ferment. Why? Well Monash uni in Oz has published a lot of research around FODMAP components in diet. The ferment process alters a lot of carbohydrate components (but not gluten) making them more digestible. Might help. If it does, then consider whether issues  might improved by altering gut biota.

If you look this up, you will quickly run into their low FODMAP diet. I would be extremely wary of using long term, especially if you have any family history of autoimmune disease (eg and especially rheumatoid or psoriatic arthritis).

Core Pathways of Aging

Comment on "paper x" to my mind is the usual vehicle for complaining about faulty methods and poor statistical analysis. Since journals that accept comments tend to give a right of reply, review can be pretty light.

I would agree though that commenting on flaws like this is not as satisfying (mostly) as proper paper where an alternative hypothesis is promoted and opponents flaws lightly commented on. It is still a lot of work to comment and not a lot of point unless driving new science other than ego-tripping.

However, my original point remains - I don't think researchers are remotely shy about criticizing the work of their peers.

Core Pathways of Aging

This was a fascinating post, but I found a surprising statement in the introduction:

 "who are shy about telling us when their peers’ work is completely wrong."

This runs deeply against my experience. I would say writing a paper gleefully proving your peers wrong is second only to  writing a paper with an important new discovery in terms of academic satisfaction. In the middle of one controversy a colleague claimed (or maybe quoted) "Every paper published is a shot fired in a war". 

This is obviously running counter to your experience and I wonder how you came to that conclusion? Are we talking about well-cited papers that are "completely wrong" - or just that newer papers have effectively replaced them in the corpus.

What's your peace plan?

I suspect that is asking too much of the religiously zealous. A Buddist country with oversight of an internationalised quarter seems more likely to fly.

After reading Amos Elon's "Jerusalem - City of Mirror" (good book for anyone wondering why this is so hard), I thought the best we could hope for would be a meteor strike cratering the whole of the temple mount for starters. 

To understand the danger, think of the geopolitical implications of 4th temple nutters blowing up everything in the Al-Aqsa compound ( a serious proposition).

What's your peace plan?

Perhaps I am too cynical here, but the first step towards a peace plan has to be desire for peace. It seems to me that Netanyahu needs arab aggression to stay in power (and stay out of jail), while Hamas needs Israeli aggression to retain support for violent resistance. Until that changes, well good luck. There is an old comment about the prayer for the "Peace of Jerusalem" by Meron Benverish, "You can have peace or you can have Jerusalem." I dont see that changing in my lifetime.

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