Monthly Archives: December 2007

Give Scienceblogs a Hand with Languages

ScienceBlogs recently branched out and opened up a German-language edition of ScienceBlogs in cooperation with a German media firm. Over at the in-house
blog Page 3.14, our blogging goddess, Ginny, is asking for help with what languages readers think SB should assimilate next. Do us a favor, and drop over to Page 3.14, and fill out the poll. Thanks!

Sal Strikes Again! Fourier Transforms and Advanced Creation Science

Astute readers will remember a couple of encounters I had with Sal Cordova from Uncommon Descent a few months ago (here, in the comments, and here). Not too long after that, Sal made a fairly big deal about the fact that he was returning to grad school, and had to stop blogging at UD because the dastardly darwinists would damage his academic prospects if he continued. He played the standard creationist-martyr role, poor guy, persecuted by
all the horrible non-believers. Naturally, it didn’t last long. He’s got his own blog now, called “Young Cosmos”, where he writes his usually pathetic quote-mining, plus what he calls “Advanced creation science”. Naturally, advanced creation science involves doing very, very bad math. In fact, so far, he’s doing the worst math – which, as you’ll of course recall, is no math. To be specific, he’s spouting off about math, without actually doing any.

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Groups and Symmetry

In the last post, I talked about what symmetry means. A symmetry is an immunity to some kind of transformation. But I left the idea of transformation informal and intuitive. In this post, I’m going
to move towards formalizing it.

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Friday Recipe: Beef Chili

I recently started eating beef again, after 18 years of abstaining. Last weekend, I made a big batch of Chili using beef, and it was fantastic. So I thought that was a good excuse to give you my chili recipe.

This is real chili. Up here in NY, usually when you see chili, it’s ghastly stuff. Usually made from ground meat, insane amounts of cumin, and tomatoes, and very, very little actual chili pepper at all. In this recipe, the chili pepper is the main flavor: the entire recipe is based on my favorite chili pepper, the ancho chili. Anchos aren’t
particularly spicy as chilis go; they’re pretty mild, but they have a lovely
flavour. If you want to make it spicier, you can add some minced jalapenos (or if you want it really spicy, a habanero) at the same time that the meat is added back in to cooked vegetables. Don’t overdo it: chili should be spicy, but not so spicy that you can’t taste anything but the heat.

I used hanger steak for it. I’d recommend a similar cut of beef – that is, a cut that’s
sort of tough and a bit fatty. In a dish like this, where it’s going to cook for a long time,
you don’t need to use a tender cut of meat, and in general, the tougher pieces of meat actually
have more flavor. So if it’s going to be cooked for a long time, which will make the meat turn
tender from cooking, you’re much better off with one of the tough cuts.

There are a couple of unusual ingredients. Avacado leaves are used as a spice in some mexican dishes. They’ve got a lovely aroma and flavor, quite unlike anything else that I’ve discovered. Epazote is
a central american herb, vaguely remniscient of oregano, but really quite unique. Achiote is
a spice with a very mild nutty flavor, and an intense red color. And finally, cinnamon – not an unusual
spice, but unusual to use in a dish like chili. Just a pinch of it is used, but it has an amazing
influence on the flavor of the dish.


  • 1 lb hanger steak, cut into cubes.
  • 2 large dried ancho chilis.
  • 2 cups stock.
  • 1/2 cup tequila.
  • One onion, diced.
  • One carrot, diced.
  • One tablespoon coriander seed.
  • One tablespoon black peppercorn.
  • One tablespoon cumin seed.
  • 1/2 teaspoon avocado leaves.
  • 1/2 teaspoon epazote.
  • 1/2 teaspoon achiote.
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon.
  • Salt
  • 1 heaping teaspoon flour.
  • 1 teaspoon tomato paste.
  • 1 can beans, drained.


  1. Break open the dried chilis, and remove the stems and seeds.
  2. Put the chilis into a small saucepot, and add enough stock to cover them. Turn on
    the heat, and simmer until the chilis are soft.
  3. Put the chilis and stock into a blender, puree, and then put through a sieve.
  4. Heat a pot on medium-high heat. Put in all of the spices, and let them toast until they
    turn fragrant. Then remove them from the heat, and grind them in a mortar and pestle until
    they’re a fine powder. (You can also use a mini food processor, but I find that that leaves things
    a bit gritty.)
  5. Season the beef with some salt. Add oil to the hot pot, and put in the meat, and stir-fry
    on medium-high heat until well-browned. Remove from the pot, and drain off any excess fat.
  6. Lower the heat to medium, put the onions and carrots into the pot, and cook them until they’re
  7. Re-add the beef, and salt to taste. Then add the ground spices, stir, and cook for a few minutes.
  8. Sprinkle the flour over the meat and vegetables, and add the tomato paste. Stir in, and let it
    start to brown. You should get a bit of stuff starting to stick to the bottom of the pan.
  9. Add the tequila, stir around, using it to loosen the stuff stuck to the bottom. When it’s mostly
    evaporated, add the pureed chilis, and the rest of the stock. Once again, use the liquid to stir up
    anything stuck to the bottom of the pot.
  10. Lower the heat to a simmer. Add the beans. Add salt to taste.
  11. Taste for spices; depending on your chilis and your tequila, you might need a bit of sugar
    if it’s sour. You also might want to add some group chili powder if the chili flavor isn’t
    stron enough; some cayenne if it’s not spicy enough, etc.
  12. Simmer for at least 1 hour. Add stock as necessary if it gets too dry. You want to simmer until the meat is almost falling apart.

Serve it with some fresh chopped cilantro, grated cheddar cheese, and bread.

Newton? Einstein? Morons!

Isaac Newton was a total nutjob. Did you know that he tried to pop his own eyeball out with a knitting needle as a part of an experiment? That he nearly blinded himself staring into the sun? That he was an avid alchemist?

Why do we pay so much respect to a person who was clearly mentally IMBALANCED? Why would anyone take such a total lunatic seriously? It can’t be because of science – his science was a sloppy mess that he had a hard time explaining to anyone else.

The only reason we look on him as such a figure of respect is because we’re told to. Scientists and mathematicians are fascinated by this figure of lunacy, and placed him on a pedestal. The rest of us accept what they tell us because they’re scientists, right? They know who was really smart. But is that good science? Or is it just insane hero worship?

The way to tell is to look at the science. Newton’s science was a mess – a hodge-podge of never-before-seen mathematics, mixed with sloppy experiments performed between his alchemical studies.

Look at Newton’s so-called “law of universal gravitation”. It ASSUMES that the LAWS OF MATHEMATICS can accurately describe the LAWS OF NATURE, and that the LAWS OF NATURE are the same everywhere. I won’t go into detail about it, but it should be clear that anyone who actually takes the time to think about it that the whole “law of gravity” is full of basic flaws in both the assumptions and the methodology used to devise this so-called law.

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What is Symmetry?


As I said in the last post, in group theory, you strip things down to a simple collection of values and one operation, with four required properties. The result is a simple structure, which completely captures the concept of symmetry. But mathematically, what is symmetry? And how can something as simple and abstract as a group have anything to do with it?

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From Sets to Groups: Deep Meaning in Simple Constructs

The point of set theory isn’t just to sit around and twiddle our thumbs about
the various definitions we can heap together. It’s to create a basis on which we
can build and study interesting things. A great example of that is something
called a group. Once we’ve built up sets enough to be able to understand a set of values and an operator, we’re able to build an amazing deep and interesting construction, called a group.

Back when I started this blog, one of the first topics that I
wrote about was group theory. I was just looking back over that
series of posts, and frankly, they sort of stink. I’ve leaned a lot about
how to write for a blog in the time since then, and so I’d like to go back
and rewrite it. I’ve never reposted any of the group theory material, so
it should also be new to most readers.

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IP: Real or Bogus?

There’s been some talk among the sciencebloggers about the idea of intellectual property, and Bora over at “A Blog Around the Clock” asked me to convert
my thoughts into a post. It’s a serious topic, which is worth giving some deep consideration, and it’s
something that I’ve given a lot of thought to. Back when I was at IBM, I worked on some projects that were
internal and confidential, and also spent several years working on open-source. I’ve got two software
patents to my name. I didn’t do any of that lightly; I spent a lot of time thinking through the morality
of what I was doing, and I’ve been careful to stick with what I think is right.

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