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Fear Not The Science

Originally appeared on

   What is Science? Many associate it with an eccentric villain, a misguided asocial misfit, or an unknown sinister lab profaning nature to our ultimate demise. Most associate it with the unknown, which they project their fears upon. The latter sentiment has been true from the earliest days of the Scientific Method. In highly religious climates, those preaching logic and evidence were often treated as heretics, with every effort to defame them employed to disastrous end. Others see Science as another religion, just trying to preach another set of beliefs, but those perceptions are misconceptions. Science is not a maniac perverting some immaculate nature to twisted, unintended, evil ends. Science is not a dogma or mythology. Science is not technology, though it surely fuels it. Heck, Science isn’t really even its own body of knowledge. Science is a method. Science is a verb. Science is a way to test and discover. Science is a way to determine. Science is the means to the end. Science is the way to approach learning and answering questions which, when done correctly, leaves bias and preconception behind. Science is how the universe is learning about itself.

Have I explained it horribly? Here’s a flow chart for the visually-inclined!

Have I explained it horribly? Here’s a flow chart for the visually-inclined!

In a nutshell, the Scientific Method is a process which, logically, answers a question. It was designed (and refined) to provide an objective means to do that. Science begins with a question. The question is examined and refined to be very specific. Preliminary research and evidence gathering commences and, from that, a hypothesis is born. The hypothesis, next, must be tested and it must be done with objective rigor to control for potential result-skewing variables. (This is where the phrase ‘controlled double blind study‘ comes from. Fun times!)

Once all testing is done and data has been collected, the researcher(s) will analyze the data and report the results. If the study was conclusive, a conclusion will be drawn. Did it confirm or smash the hypothesis? Did it show the hypothesis needed more refining? If the question wasn’t answered or the hypothesis was not confirmed, it’s back to the drawing board! With the results, a new hypothesis can be developed and we go ahead again from there. Wash, rinse, repeat. Do we have a seemingly correct idea yet? Great!

The paper then goes before peer review for publication. If it passes that scrutiny, congratulations! You’ve been published! The peer review doesn’t end there. The hypothesis and every aspect of the study then is dropped in the global sea of the scientific community to be pecked at, picked apart, and run through the proverbial ringer. Other researchers will attempt to reproduce the results. Other aspects of the hypothesis will be examined. The process never ends!

Humans are incredibly fallible. We’re terribly unbalanced, emotional, biased, lazy, and utterly flawed beasts of burden. We’re embarrassingly prone to botch objectivity, which is why the edicts of logic, skepticism, and rigors of science are so vitally important. Unfortunately, despite these, badly executed science slips through the cracks. Usually, the wider scientific community will pick up on it and point it out. It is important for anyone who cares about issues, which science plays a role, to be educated in the basics and to know what to look for.

Don’t be afraid of Science. Science is learning. Science is discovery. Science is illumination and wonder all wrapped into one. Science is beauty.

Recommended reading:
What is Science?
The Definition of Science: What is Science?
10 Scientific Ideas That Scientists Wish You Would Stop Misusing

Open Science: Mobile Device Unlocking Response From White House

This article originally appeared on

As anyone who signed the petition and checks their email now knows, the White House has issues a response to the petition to place the mobile device unlocking exception back on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. I just received the following email in response:

date: Mon, Mar 4, 2013 at 4:54 PM
subject: Petition Response: It’s Time to Legalize Cell Phone Unlocking
It’s Time to Legalize Cell Phone Unlocking
By R. David Edelman, Senior Advisor for Internet, Innovation, & Privacy

Thank you for sharing your views on cell phone unlocking with us through your petition on our We the People platform. Last week the White House brought together experts from across government who work on telecommunications, technology, and copyright policy, and we’re pleased to offer our response.

The White House agrees with the 114,000+ of you who believe that consumers should be able to unlock their cell phones without risking criminal or other penalties. In fact, we believe the same principle should also apply to tablets, which are increasingly similar to smart phones. And if you have paid for your mobile device, and aren’t bound by a service agreement or other obligation, you should be able to use it on another network. It’s common sense, crucial for protecting consumer choice, and important for ensuring we continue to have the vibrant, competitive wireless market that delivers innovative products and solid service to meet consumers’ needs.

This is particularly important for secondhand or other mobile devices that you might buy or receive as a gift, and want to activate on the wireless network that meets your needs — even if it isn’t the one on which the device was first activated. All consumers deserve that flexibility.

The White House’s position detailed in this response builds on some critical thinking done by the President’s chief advisory Agency on these matters: the Department of Commerce‘s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). For more context and information on the technical aspects of the issue, you can review the NTIA’s letter to the Library of Congress‘ Register of Copyrights (.pdf), voicing strong support for maintaining the previous exception to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) for cell phone carrier unlocking.

Contrary to the NTIA’s recommendation, the Librarian of Congress ruled that phones purchased after January of this year would no longer be exempted from the DMCA. The law gives the Librarian the authority to establish or eliminate exceptions — and we respect that process. But it is also worth noting the statement the Library of Congress released today on the broader public policy concerns of the issue. Clearly the White House and Library of Congress agree that the DMCA exception process is a rigid and imperfect fit for this telecommunications issue, and we want to ensure this particular challenge for mobile competition is solved.

So where do we go from here?

The Obama Administration would support a range of approaches to addressing this issue, including narrow legislative fixes in the telecommunications space that make it clear: neither criminal law nor technological locks should prevent consumers from switching carriers when they are no longer bound by a service agreement or other obligation.

We also believe the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), with its responsibility for promoting mobile competition and innovation, has an important role to play here. FCC Chairman Genachowski today voiced his concern about mobile phone unlocking (.pdf), and to complement his efforts, NTIA will be formally engaging with the FCC as it addresses this urgent issue.

Finally, we would encourage mobile providers to consider what steps they as businesses can take to ensure that their customers can fully reap the benefits and features they expect when purchasing their devices.

We look forward to continuing to work with Congress, the wireless and mobile phone industries, and most importantly you — the everyday consumers who stand to benefit from this greater flexibility — to ensure our laws keep pace with changing technology, protect the economic competitiveness that has led to such innovation in this space, and offer consumers the flexibility and freedoms they deserve.

Your move, Library of Congress…

Open Science: Don’t Let The Crows Unionize

   Researchers at Utrecht University recently published a paper in PLoS One demonstrating the behaviors of crows and ravens when faced with reward inequity.


Open Science: Mobile Unlocking DMCA Exemption Petition Passes 100k

   All eyes are on the White House now as a WeThePeople petition on requesting the Library of Congress reverse the previous decision on rendering cell phone unlocking illegal has surpassed the 100,000 signature threshold for a response.


Open Science: The Sky Is Falling!

   The Russian meteorite is all the rage on the Internet right now. This was one of the most spectacular (and well captured!) events in some time, and the largest impact since the Tunguska Event of 1908.


Open Science: Coastal City Slickers Beware!

   New Scientist has recently published a map of populated areas which will eventually be under water as sea levels rise inside of a century. Sea levels are on the rise, but due to a variety of factors, they aren’t rising evenly. Tropical levels are 10-20% more than other regions, for example.


Open Science: HIViva la Resistance!

   Recently published in the journal Molecular Therapy, Stanford University School of Medicine researchers have managed to insert HIV resistance into T-cells, potentially making a promising step in the battle against the virus through gene therapy.


Lez Get Open Science

      Hello, dear readers! I was recently brought on as the science columnist at LezGetReal, giving my insight into science and technology news (at least) on the weekly. Pop on over and give my column, Open Science, a read!

Open Science: Storm Bugs

   A study recently published in PLoS One really gets to the core of a thunderstorm: the microbial life within hailstones. Using ultra-high resolution mass spectrometry, researchers discovered nearly 3000 compounds and their molecular formulae. According to the molecular fingerprints, the origin was weighted toward soil-born dissolved organic matter, however the bacterial communities were skewed toward plant surface origin.


A Humorous And Relatively Antagonistic Conversation With A Religious Nut (Part 2)

   The conversation continued. Again, a separate, personal discussion pertaining to a third party has been stripped from this text and the nut’s last name has been removed. (Would you believe he works with Pre-K children? Disturbing!) Otherwise, the text is whole and unmolested.