Online scientific discourse is broken and it can be fixed

Has science taken a wrong turn? If so, what corrections are needed? Chronicles of scientific misbehavior. The role of heretic-pioneers and forbidden questions in the sciences. Is peer review working? The perverse "consensus of leading scientists." Good public relations versus good science.

Moderators: MGmirkin, bboyer

Re: Online scientific discourse is broken and it can be fixe

Unread postby pln2bz » Mon Dec 16, 2013 12:19 pm

Your arbitrary dichotomies of worldview, model, proposition, conceptual, etc., are incoherent, ignore implicit hierarchy errors, (while extolling some as superordinate), and little attempt is made to give instances that would help others differentiate them. (Even upon explicit request in the form of questions)

If all the categories of knowledge are conceptually expressed, then how can the "higher levels" ( such as the alleged separate category of world views) not involve, consist of, and depend on, the validity of ones concepts?


Plasmatic, I get the sense that you might be making a mistake when you fashion the problem of creating a website which can improve scientific discourse in the tangled, longstanding debates of epistemology. Many of these debates will turn out to not have any actual solution, but that does not mean that we cannot improve scientific discourse online.

The point of separating out the various "levels" of scientific discourse is most fundamentally a recognition that people naturally take different perspectives, based upon their intent, when thinking about science. If, for example, a person wants to pick apart a press release, then they would necessarily need to be talking at the worldview level of discourse, because the intent is to try to narrow the field of competing worldviews. There exists inherent value to the Electric Universe and other unconventional models to having a level of discourse which pre-supposes that there are competing worldviews in science. Imposing this structure upon the dialogue can have a long-term impact upon the way in which people think about science, because it directly confronts the widespread perception that there are no competing worldviews in science (aka scientism).

If, instead, a person is trying to focus on the answering of a particular focus question, then they are engaging science at the propositional level of discourse. Yes, worldviews are still involved. And so are models and concepts. Each of the layers interacts with the others. But, notice that we care about different things on the worldview and propositional layers: At the worldview layer, we are approaching engagement with others from the mindset of a particular worldview, and we are oftentimes forced to look to philosophy of science in an attempt to adjudicate arguments which may, in truth, have no firm answer. At the propositional layer, by contrast, people would be asking open-ended questions, and the intent should be to consider the answers which are provided by all worldviews. It's a very important distinction which is not made in conventional scientific discourse -- the consequence being that conventional thinkers simply look to their own worldviews when they should be broadening their scope (like at the inferential step).

Notice my process: There is a problem observed in the process for how people think, and having the added functionality of layers of discourse permits the possibility of creating "levers" to shift the discourse back into the right direction using the values embedded into the site's infrastructure (as opposed to the far more laborious process of one-on-one, case-by-case moderation).

So, why should we bother with separating the layers of discourse? Because the different layers exhibit different systems of sometimes competing sets of values. At the propositional level, we should value an open-minded consideration of all worldviews. At the worldview level, where we are comparing and contrasting models which originate from competing worldviews, our goal should be to try to constrain the possibilities by valuing models which can be argued to better fit the observations.

If you think carefully about what it takes to facilitate good debate and to ask good questions, you should observe that in practice the two sets of values can interfere with one another: Asking good questions is not possible without an open mind and values oriented towards creative problem-solving, whereas contemplating worldviews is more of a critical process which is more oriented towards attention to detail.

Now, if you look at the way in which the old Bad Astronomy and Universe Today site (now renamed to CosmoQuest) dealt with the Electric Universe, you'll see what happens when these two sets of values are left to conflict: The creative aspects of problem-solving are basically critiqued away, until the creatives eventually realize that the experts there are simply destroying all competing ideas. Eventually, the "explorers" simply leave that community in search of a more hospitable environment; but notice what this does: It splits the "experts" from the creatives. A more effective community is one which is based upon both cooperation and competition. The BAUTForum made the mistake of only valuing competition between ideas. This naturally kills off innovative ideas, which always necessarily start out as a very delicate process of imagining possibilities. The ecosystem which supports dialogue exerts an inordinate influence upon whether or not the adjacent possibility turns into a scientific model. As site designers, we should be asking: Was the site designed to support that activity?

Some would argue that the Thunderbolts forum makes the exact opposite mistake -- of not being sufficiently critical of itself, and eventually, we should talk about this. I suspect that this concern can indeed be addressed, but the place to do that would be at the model level of discourse, where we can value the processes and techniques inherent to modeling instruction, design of experiments, statistical analyses, and so on. Either way, my suggestion is that the general solution to both problems involves identifying the underlying processes involved in practicing good scientific discourse, and creating weakly-interacting communications channels which strive to improve those processes. And the reason I argue this is because I feel that this notion that we can just put a creative and an expert into a room and let them duke it out, without first establishing that each persona comes at science from a valued position, has already been tried before. I would argue that we know how that ends up, at this point.
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Re: Online scientific discourse is broken and it can be fixe

Unread postby pln2bz » Tue Dec 17, 2013 11:55 am

There is a Process for Creating Websites,
And It is Called Design Thinking


I'm btw way off script at this point, but perhaps the script should have dealt with this much earlier on (?) …

I don't know if you guys have noticed, but there's a lot of confusion out there in the public about how to do innovation. This will not be a thorough examination of the subject, but is instead simply intended as a pointer towards the large body of knowledge which already exists on this subject.

I'm going to excerpt a page from the book, Brand-Driven Innovation: Strategies for Development and Design, by Erik Roscam Abbing:

Design thinking helps you to be creative while facing constraints, by encouraging paradoxes to be used as inspiration – rather than being seen as an intrinsic limitation.

Wicked problems and how to solve them

In his book, The Designful Company: How to build a culture of nonstop innovation (2009), Marty Neumeier talks about today’s problems as ‘wicked problems’. Neumeier lists ten of these problems as a result of a 2008 Neutron/Stanford survey amongst 1500 top executives. The executives were asked to identify those problems they found the hardest to deal with, as well as the most persistent and complex to solve. Neumeier concluded that the top ten such problems are necessarily ill defined, because they inevitably change while you’re working on them. In essence, they amount to problems that can’t be solved in a traditional, rational or binary way, such as: ‘How do I combine long-term vision with short-term success? How do I predict the returns on innovative concepts? How do I combine profitability with social responsibility?’

Such problems can be compared to design problems, which are also ill defined and need creative, lateral thinking to be used in order for them to be solved. Neumeier goes on to demonstrate that dealing with ‘wicked problems’ in a design-led manner will yield much better results than dealing with them purely in a ‘business school manner’. Roger L. Martin arrives at a similar conclusion (albeit less explicitly so) in his book The Opposable Mind: How successful leaders win through integrative thinking (2007), by demonstrating that successful entrepreneurs tend not to treat problems as dilemmas. Martin asserts that successful leaders don’t look for ‘either-or’ solutions, but rather for ‘and-and’ solutions; he then describes a process that can be used to arrive at insights useful for resolving dilemmas, a third option that closely resembles the way in which designers think. Design is the process of resolving paradoxes by finding new approaches, and in Managing as Designing (2004), Richard Boland Jr and Fred Collopy go as far as to suggest that managers should learn to behave more like designers. By observing the way in which the world-renowned architect, Frank Gehry works, thinks, solves problems and works in teams, Boland and Collopy go on to distil thinking patterns and processes that are applied intuitively by designers but that can, in turn, be learned by managers.

A consensus has emerged that design thinking can resolve those ‘wicked problems’ that Neumeier claims managers face nowadays. But how exactly? What do designers do that is so relevant? What is ‘design thinking’? Ultimately, design thinking is an umbrella term for a way of thinking that is ‘structurally creative’ and can be said to combine both business thinking and creative thinking. Design thinkers have the ability to switch at will between left-brain, structured, rational, analytical thinking and right-brain, creative, emotional, holistic thinking. They are not limited to one mode of thought, but can instead choose their mode of thinking to match the situation at hand. Th ey will, for example, analyse a given problem in a very structured way, then generate many out-of-the-box ideas in a very intuitive and creative mode, before then judging and selecting ideas with a rational and structured approach once again.

Design thinkers also deal with problems in a special way: they know that to learn to understand and redefine a problem is part of the process of solving it. They will play around with the problem and look at it from different sides, without jumping to conclusions or trying to ‘decide’ their way out of the problem. They know that in order to solve the problem they need to really understand the essence of the problem. They also have the tendency to see possible solutions as prototypes. They will visualise a solution, quickly test it in their head, and either discard it or use it as input for a new iteration of ideation. But they also use these cycles of ideation, prototyping and testing to redefine the problem at hand. In other words, they don’t think of a problem as something static and well defined. For design thinkers, a problem is seen rather as something that grows and becomes more defined with each iterative cycle of analysis, ideation, prototyping, testing and evaluation. Often this leads to a new understanding of the problem, which in turn leads to very creative solutions. Or it leads to new opportunities by identifying inspiring ‘problems’ that no one saw before. This is why design thinkers are so well equipped to deal with Marty Neumeiers’ ‘wicked problems’ and turn Roger L. Martin’s ‘either-or’ dilemmas into ‘and-and’ solutions.


Notice that we can use the same process as a basis for generating ideas for the scientific social network, but also as the basis for site features directed at the elaboration of hypotheses into models. And-and thinking is simply another way of saying that there is a right and wrong time to rule ideas out. This should be readily apparent to those who have observed the Bad Astronomy and Universe Today forum or Tom Bridgman's website. Creating distinct "bins" for ideation (asking questions and launching investigations) and critiquing is one rational way to deal with the interaction of these two important processes. But, what I'd like to stress is that -- as the article suggests -- we can likely come up with other ideas. I am merely proposing this as a prototype idea. It may or may not survive the test of time.

This ideation process is incredibly important, and what I'd like to stress is that it takes practice to get good at it. And not only that, but for those who toy with it, you'll also notice that it is knowledge-dependent. Your ability to come up with ideas for a scientific social network will probably be better than your ability to come up with ideas for other different topics which you are less fluent in. A select few people in the world have learned how to streamline this creative process for multiple subjects. They are, needless to say, very rich people, and you already know some of their names (Richard Branson, Ellon Musk, Sebastian Thrun, Steve Jobs, etc).

Nobody Can Afford to Be Liked By Everybody,
So Companies Make Specific Decisions About Who They are Targeting


So, notice that the article distinguishes between executives dealing with wicked problems and designers facing ill-defined problems which demand creative, lateral thinking. I'll be getting to this eventually, but increasingly, these two worlds are melting together. The CEO is slowly morphing into a DEO, and the designers are increasingly being referred to as business partners. The reason this is happening is because emotion is involved in everything that we do, and design influences that emotion in more ways than we are conscious of. While we here are incredibly focused upon the utility of the scientific social network, it's important that people realize that there is always the possibility that somebody else will simply copy these ideas, and simply run over this particular solution with one that is better branded. So, there is a need to not just be first, but to also get it all right from the start. And a huge aspect of this "all" is a deep fluency in the array of target audiences which the site might be useful for.

The site design should ultimately be a response to the consideration of the whole problem: The observed failures of online discourse; the identification of the target audiences (including which of the options offer the most promising return on investment); the exact language which those target audiences use to talk about science; the numerous tasks which those users tend to do in the course of their routine, and their needs and wants which pertain to those tasks (both articulated and inarticulated); as well as the unique selling proposition (the USP) that this site will offer which nobody else does. The point is that this solution will be different in some way than what is already out there. How will that be communicated to the target audience?

Now, the point of picking the target audience is not to ignore other targets. It's simply a way of carving out a niche from the market which this brand can "own". In this particular case, there are in fact many very diverse target audiences which could be served by a scientific social network:

  1. The layperson science enthusiast who is interested in science and skeptical of conventional theory; this is somebody who might leave comments on press releases related to the EU, or somebody who has possibly attempted to discuss the EU with friends or family;
  2. The professional specialist scientist who may not publicly support the EU, but who nevertheless sees value to it, and wishes for it to be elaborated further;
  3. The educator who wishes to see meaningful science education reform, and who is open to the application of unconventional approaches, if they can be shown to work.
  4. The investor who is looking for the next big thing, but who possibly remains unconvinced of how the Electric Universe hypothesis can be deployed for the purpose of generating new or better products;
  5. The high school or undergraduate student who wants to learn to become a critical thinker in the scientific domain, but doesn't know how;
  6. The grad student who is looking for hot topics in science to investigate;
  7. Reporters and investigative journalists who are struggling to understand what the Electric Universe actually is;
  8. The parent who wants to give their child an edge compared to the other students, so that they can get into the private school or undergraduate program of their choice.
  9. Against-the-mainstream theorists who might be affiliated with the NPA, and who might even possess their own -- possibly competing, possibly compatible -- theories;
  10. The open source programmer who is looking for an interesting open source project to work on, and who might not know a whole lot about the Electric Universe thus far;
  11. The layperson science enthusiast who is familiar with conventional science, but who has never heard of the Electric Universe, and who nevertheless thinks of themselves as an open-minded person (even if they have never, to date, been exposed to an against-the-mainstream theory which impressed them).
  12. The Silicon Valley programmer who closely follows conventional theory from mainstream media sources, and who understands enough about electronics or computers to follow carefully-stated lines of argumentation about electricity and magnetism, but who is not at all practiced in questioning the materials they have picked up (critical thinking skills).

In the event that all of these very different aspects of the site can be properly nailed, then the target audience which is specifically served will -- not all that surprisingly, perhaps -- develop an emotional reaction to the brand itself. This is the level at which companies are competing with one another today. The amount of research which goes into this is really quite enormous, and the cognitive challenge of getting it right, and on the first try, is so alluring that many graduates of Harvard today are choosing to go into consumer product innovation jobs rather than industries where they would make orders of magnitude more money.

Solving these problems cannot be done by sitting at a computer. A person has to actually get out into the world and immerse themselves into their target audience(s). They have to know exactly what they need to know about that target audience, and they need to methodically compile this information. There is a sort of adventurous aspect to this process, and a sense that the solution which is arrived at is only limited by our own internal limitations.

Regardless of the actual type of end product which creatives are working towards -- be it a commercial, a print ad, or in our case a website design -- the ultimate goal is the creation of a document called the design brief. In some instances, people will spend budgets of many millions of dollars on many years of research, just to create this oftentimes short document. It may only be one page long if it's a tv commercial, or -- more likely for a website -- it will be closer to 20 or 30 pages.

Interestingly, the design brief (it's sometimes called a creative or brand brief, btw) is not actually taught to people in design school. This is a profound statement by itself. Think about everything that Jeff Schmidt has said about how our educational system encourages the creation of professionals who service large institutions, and within that context, think about the fact that not even designers are taught in our current university system how to create a design brief.

What I'd like to suggest is that if you look at the poll numbers, people are very rapidly souring on the brand of the corporation due to the rise of inequality. Those trends are not likely to change, and what will predictably happen is that more and more people will, over time, become focused upon how to create their own small companies. The information that I'm giving you here is very important -- not just for the creation of a scientific social network, but more generally, to become successful in this crazy world which is transforming around us.

It's vital that people who are interested in designing any website understand what a design brief is, and what goes into them. We'll be covering this soon.
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Re: Online scientific discourse is broken and it can be fixe

Unread postby pln2bz » Wed Dec 18, 2013 3:14 pm

Reddit's Process for Problem-Solving its /r/science Forum
Reveals they Have Much Bigger Problems than "Denialists"


There are a handful of articles circulating about reddit's decision to shut down climate change debate. The link above points to one such article which suggests that reddit possesses a vision about scientific discourse which other news-related entities should consider copying. There are many specific things which we could say about these articles, but since my desire is to teach people how to design a better scientific social network, I want to use reddit's decision as an opportunity to demonstrate another example of how to come up with ideas for site design.

An artist is a person who creates a work from the perspective of their own worldview. A designer is somebody who will, by contrast, adopt whatever worldview is necessary if it can be demonstrated to solve a particular problem. The same distinction can arguably be applied to the practice of programmers, teachers, and -- one presumes -- scientists.

If you read these articles written about Reddit's decision, it becomes clear that their target audience is the professional scientist ...

"Given that our users are mainly academics …"


… and ...

"The end result was a disservice to science and to rational exploration, not to mention the scholarly audience we are proud to have cultivated."


Accordingly, in order to suit that target, Reddit perceives their role in scientific discourse as a fundamentally passive one:

When 97 percent of climate scientists agree that man is changing the climate, we would hope the comments would at least acknowledge if not reflect such widespread consensus.


Due to their decision to focus upon professional scientists, their vision for scientific discourse is necessarily very traditional: It's a one-way medium for communication which expects few surprises which might deviate from scientific consensus, and involves placing faith within peer review as an effective process for judging all scientific claims.

Now, if you look at that list of potential target audiences I just posted, you can see that professional scientists are simply one of many target audiences that a scientific social network might target (albeit a powerfully vocal one …). What I would suggest is that to be an effective site designer, we have to become good at reading these articles from the perspective of the different target audiences. If you get into this habit, and can manage to even figure out ways of fact-checking your hypotheses by becoming knowledgeable about how to perform user interviews, then what you will observe is that each audience will tend to exhibit a unique response.

If you read these articles about reddit's decision, you'll also observe a number of reasons to believe that they offer to discount the climate change debate, which involve adjectives such as "rude" and "uninformed"; the opposite of "reasoned", "civil" and "thoughtful"; "aggressive behaviors"; etc. We can surmise that these are the keywords, the language, which they gathered from their target audience. What they are doing is suggesting that reddit's set of values for scientific discourse is aligned with this language.

So, we can see how they've converged here. We can see their rationale and even their vision for scientific discourse. Now, at this point of their decision to censor the debate, this is the exact point at which we should be striving to diverge. What other solutions could we propose which might stem from a superior vision for scientific discourse? And does there exist a unique selling proposition (USP), based upon our own reasons to believe, which could convince reddit users that the reddit brand is inferior to our own?

Many ideas might come to mind …

  • What other issues will reddit censor in the future? Do we trust them to make these decisions for us?
  • They did not solve the problem of distinguishing pseudoscience from critical thinking; they simply threw away both, together. They basically gave up.
  • Reddit's decision makes them vulnerable to all past criticisms related to peer review.
  • They suggest that the decision was an either-or decision between debate and meaningful learning
    "Instead of (almost comically) paranoid and delusional conspiracy theories, we have knowledgeable users explaining complicated concepts to non-scientists who are simply interested in understanding the research."

    Isn't it their own lack of imagination which forces the choice?
  • They seem to simply gloss over the long-term consequences that censorship can have upon critical and creative thought.

These are not refined messages. They are meant to be simply seeds for further thinking and questioning. But, when we diverge, we don't just stick to the domain which comes with the problem. The reason why design thinking emphasizes and-and thinking is that it is at this moment where we should contemplate other slightly-related domains.

The Idea of Post-Ranking

One of the topics that I follow is search engine optimization (SEO). Simply put, it's the system which Google and other search engines use to rank search results. What's important to realize is that SEO exhibits a rather large set of values about websites, the details of which Google does not explicitly state. But, researchers and practitioners are nevertheless able to reverse-engineer these values. What I would suggest is that, in a very general sense, this current problem which reddit is trying to solve is not incredibly different from Google's solution of ranking webpages.

The philosophy of SEO is that although anybody can create whatever website they wish, if their desire is to actually get a free top spot in Google's search result listings, then there are certain expectations for the structure and nature of the content. Google's SEO values things like inbound linking, which is used to indicate relevancy (How many other people are linking to your page?). A knowledge mapping site could decide to do the same sort of thing for its discourse.

SEO favors a particular structure for sites which helps the search engine to understand what the site is about. Making a scientific case also tends to exhibit patterns. In the slightly-unrelated consumer product world, the product packaging designer has about 3-5 seconds to make their case to the consumer to buy that item. This might be a useful model for conceptualizing a system for post-ranking: Perhaps the system should rank higher posts which clearly and concisely offer (1) a unique "selling" proposition (USP) and (2) the reasons to believe. Can a person understand in 3-5 seconds what the rebuttal is about?

If the system runs into trouble analyzing particularly complex aspects of the dialogue, the users can always be asked to rate these finer points. Did the rebuttal actually respond to the previous point it was trying to rebut? That's a far more imaginative and useful solution than the systems of thumbs up & down which tend to dominate user feedback today.

Over time, far more sophisticated features can be integrated into this analysis. I'l be covering one very promising technology called topic modeling in due time.

This is clearly a rough sketch of a concept. The intent here is to show how site vision, brand, target audience, the unique selling proposition, the reasons to believe, user interviewing, and a process for innovation which includes creating a broad knowledge of related domains, must all come together for effective site design.
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Re: Online scientific discourse is broken and it can be fixe

Unread postby pln2bz » Wed Dec 18, 2013 11:51 pm

Let's Meta-Cognate on This for a Moment

Image


I realize that discussing abstract corporate constructs like vision and values probably do not directly hit on the topics which inspire fervent interest here on this forum. But, I'd also like to emphasize that one of the greatest achievements a person can ask for in this modern world is to align one's work with their personal beliefs. Brands are incredibly important because they represent the modern organization's personality, and once you guys get a better feel for the design brief, you'll come to see that the point of specifying all of these constructs is to get everybody working in a streamlined fashion towards the same objectives (whatever they may be). People who, for whatever reason, find themselves doing work which is not aligned with their own personal values will inevitably and predictably run into issues. The opportunity to align one's personal and work personalities is a special opportunity which not everybody experiences in their lives.

We probably all feel dissatisfied or unsettled with the fact that progress in science is something which must be paid for. We prefer to talk about the elements and ideas of science without having to think about the financial infrastructure which must support it. But, the reason why I've started this thread is because I suspect that there are people amongst the EU crowd who -- once informed of the true nature of the challenge -- will come to realize that this small community here is probably the only group in the world which has the proper perspective and the proper potential motivation to rebuild (and rebrand) the way that people of the future should be talking about science.

This occasionally suggested idea that we can or should just sit around and wait for conventional scientists to "die off" is a total rejection of our own potential to create and participate in a new vision for the future of our own making. Scientific discourse is plainly broken, and it's clear to me at this point that the processes we have idealized as integral to science are not supported by the existing communication structures. These problems create a limit to the potential of Science itself, which will in turn ultimately limit our own personal abilities to understand our place in the universe during our limited visit here.

To the extent that we are averse to thinking about constructs like vision and values, we might want to contemplate that there are possible implications for the future of the world. Probably many people got to this point in this thread by sheer curiosity -- a desire to understand the universe and our role in it -- but what does it mean when the psychological forces which drove us to this point are not the same set of forces which drive people to actually do stuff of importance with what they've (we've) learned? These are very deep questions for me, personally. It's these sorts of questions which drive me beyond my zone of comfortability.
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Re: Online scientific discourse is broken and it can be fixe

Unread postby pln2bz » Fri Dec 20, 2013 11:26 am

Bottom-Up vs Top-Down Thinking

When working on any large project, there is always an implicit direction. You are in one place in the project, and you are working towards another place. The thing about these larger projects is that they tend to be so large that they necessarily involve a very large skill set. If you want to see this in action, set Vimeo to couch mode and flip through the videos until you hit one that has all of the elements that you would associate with a professional production. Did it evoke an intense emotion in you? Did it have a deep message that you connected with, or did you feel for a moment that you understood somebody else's worldview?

Now, look at the credits. A well-produced 5-minute production on Vimeo that has all of the elements can easily involve the interaction of 20 - 30 specialists. If we were to visualize the structure of this team, it would vaguely resemble a fan that starts with just one or two people at the top making the big-picture decisions about what this production will be about, and a hierarchy of some sort which spreads down and outwards.

Think about what most people do when they conceptualize engaging a large project like this. I've done the same thing … We tend to think, "If I can just learn how to code or get good at the Adobe tools, then I'm one step closer." And, in fact, the universities generally encourage us to think this way.

But, notice that there is an implicit direction in this. We are starting from the bottom of this wide organizational fan structure, and thinking that we can work our way up the structure to the top.

It's a mistake. That knowledge about programming and graphic design that we pick up is indeed useful because it helps us to do innovation in those domains, talk to those specialists and do design work involving those elements, but it's not the way that people actually learn how to do large creative projects -- be they websites, videos or advertisements, etc. The two guys who started Google are actually lousy programmers. Did anybody notice or care?

When you switch your perspective from the bottom looking up the hierarchy, to the top looking down, it changes the way you think about creative content and messaging, and its production. Advertisements, company logos and press releases are opportunities to engage that group's underlying purpose: What is that company trying to convey? What is the long-term vision that this ad fits into, and what is the role that this ad plays in convincing others to align to that vision?

Now, take it one step further: If I was starting from that vision, and I wanted to push the people viewing that content into that direction of thinking, then how would I direct this team of creatives? What sort of information would I have to give them in order for them to do that project? This is the mindset from which a design brief will emerge.

If you read the newspapers, you'll get the sense that the biggest problem today in our society pertains to income inequality. I would argue that income inequality is not the root of the problem. Income inequality is a symptom of the bottom-up mindset. The universities actually encourage it, because that's what industry wants. As Jeff Schmidt noted in Disciplined Minds, bottom-up thinkers implicitly realize their dependency upon upper management, and management generally encourages this because it neutralizes the threat inherent in that person to their own managerial position.

What I would like to suggest is that the newspapers are simply harvesting clicks with their portrayal of the income inequality problem. People will click on that keyword because it appeals to their sense that their problems are created by other people. What I'm suggesting is that we are our own barriers to our own success. It's our mindset which is the problem. Learn how to change your mindset, and you can do whatever it is you can envision. It's then just a process of getting organized, disciplined and keeping yourself excited about the future you're crafting for yourself.

You Are Not Your User

If our hope is to change the way that people think about science, we have to first switch our perspective to top-down. That will involve getting a basic fluency in a small number of these abstract corporate terms. We don't have to spend a lot of time doing this. This stuff can be picked up pretty quickly. The far harder part will turn out to be this process of validating our hypotheses about what site to design. What is that target audience, the vision, the need and want states? The only way to do that is through a process of interviewing the target audiences.

What generally happens with bottom-up thinkers who are engaging a big project like this is that they perceive that they are the typical audience, and they design for themselves, from the perspective of their own worldview. A select few people who do this are actually geniuses, actually have some special insight, or perhaps they actually are their target audience, and they get away with it. But, have you ever wondered why one-hit wonders cannot generate a second hit? It's because they stumbled upon a good solution to some user want or need, but they never actually learned a process which would permit them to repeat this over and over again.

Back up and look at the situation which advocates of the Electric Universe face today: Our group is in possession of unique insights about how science actually works. Many people despair that it's not immediately obvious what can practically be done with insights that are astrophysical or cosmological in nature. How can we turn these insights into action? It all seems too abstract, too distant from our regular lives, to do anything "terrestrial" with that knowledge.

Well, I would argue that this is not necessarily the case. With that knowledge, we can identify mistakes which are happening right now in how people learn about and think about science. That's very important to the disciplines of science education and communication. With that knowledge, we can identify better questions in science which are more likely to be relevant to future observations. It also becomes apparent that there is too much emphasis today upon debunking online pseudoscience, and far too little emphasis upon rooting out the less observable problem of dogma which is embedded into our scientific institutions. These are all critical insights which can feed into our attempts to create a vision that can be used to direct our creative efforts in a top-down manner.

But, notice that we are not the target audience. There may be some teachers, grad students or even scientists amongst us, but in a general sense, those groups all have their own unique norms, attitudes, languages and values (etc). So, when we come at this problem with the mindset that we are designing for ourselves, our fate is actually pre-determined. We are creating a work of art (or, perhaps we are actually practicing some form of science …), and let's be clear: It may very well turn out to be a tremendous work which -- if we get lucky -- might nevertheless hit the jackpot. But, it's more like playing the lottery than problem-solving.

If our desire is to turn our insight about science into an action, then what we need to do is strive to become explicit about who we might try to influence. What are our options? For each of these groups, we then have to cultivate an awareness of how these people think right now. From there, we use our insight to imagine a possible future for this group. Our vision then is the "personality" (the brand) which is designed to influence that person into changing their mindset. The site design then becomes a decision about what groups to target, based upon these options. This process is cyclical, it's emergent (in other words, we permit new discoveries to alter our process), and the process involves feedbacks which are meant to reduce our chances of failure.

Should we try to convince parents that their children will get ahead by using our site? What if we created a space which is directed at helping graduate students to make decisions about their career, which dissertation to pursue, how to play politics to win, how to write papers that actually get published, etc? Or, should we focus upon helping the public to understand how to read a complex scientific paper?

There are many, many directions we could go in. But, the key is to think in terms of target audiences ...

You Are Not Your User

Socrates said, “Know thyself.”

I say, “Know thy users.”

And guess what? They don’t think like you do. You know your product inside and out. You knew it when it was just a few sketches on a napkin. You have been using it in every form and iteration it has been through in its entire life-cycle. Your actions, decisions and preferences have been imprinted into every aspect of your product.

However, many of your users are coming to your site or using your product for the very first time. Many of them have a goal in mind and are using your product because they believe it will help them achieve that goal. And others are cautiously poking around, a little unsure due to previous experiences that left them confused and dissatisfied.

"Knowing how people will use something is essential."—Donald Norman

It is essential because it is a paradigm that you do not share. It is essential because it forces you to be objective and make decisions based on what the user needs and not a subjective preference. It is also essential because it can reveal fundamental flaws in the users assumptions and give you the insight to create something that both delights and engages the user.

Luckily, there are many research techniques you can employ to gain a better understanding of your users and their behavior. Any combination of these techniques will help you get started:

  • User interviews - guided conversations with existing or potential users to help you understand their preferences and attitudes
  • Contextual inquiry - combining direct user observation with an interview that takes place in the users environment in order to better understand their work environment, the problems they are trying to solve and other related preferences
  • Surveys - a clear set of questions distributed to a wide audience in order to gather results that can help validate existing data and personas
  • Card sorting - a grouping task for individuals or small groups used to establish common patters and identify areas of confusion
  • Usability testing - the process of performing a series of specific tests on a site or product to reveal potential usability problems and identify solutions to address them.

Take the time to understand your user. It will decrease the risk of creating an an unfavorable experience and give you an opportunity to turn them into your greatest advocate.
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Re: Online scientific discourse is broken and it can be fixe

Unread postby pln2bz » Sun Dec 22, 2013 3:24 pm

Interviews Help Us To Transform Insight Into Hypotheses About Our Target Audience,
And Our Vision for a Better Future for Them


From the Huffington Post today ...

"[O]nly 36 percent of Americans reported having "a lot" of trust that information they get from scientists is accurate and reliable. Fifty-one percent said they trust that information only a little, and another 6 percent said they don't trust it at all … Science journalists fared even worse in the poll. Only 12 percent of respondents said they had a lot of trust in journalists to get the facts right in their stories about scientific studies."


Part of what interests me about the knowledge mapping & scientific discourse problems is that they seem to affect so many things that are trending in the world today. And I occasionally get the sense that there might exist a core set of site features which could service a wide range of weakly related domains. That might be the case, but we wouldn't have a good idea until we asked a lot of questions of all of our site user groups. If we were designing a field guide to prepare ourselves for an upcoming user interview -- which is how people typically prepare for these interviews -- we would want to spend a lot of time brainstorming on the actual questions we're going to ask them.

The questions which I would personally be interested in asking somebody, in this instance, might center around how a person reasons through a complex scientific article which they might not fully understand. If they fail to refer to authority or expert opinion in their answers, I would probably go out of my way to specifically ask them about their relationship with expertise. In this sort of situation -- to elicit a real-world response -- it might make the most sense to actually present them with a complex scientific press release to read through. If our thinking was that our site might focus upon helping people to read scientific papers, for instance, we could closely study the processes people use to learn from reading scientific papers. But, also notice that they must have an interest in actually understanding the paper's content. So, if an interviewer was attentive to the fact that people might have more interest in some scientific topics than others, he might email them a question about which these are, before deciding on what to bring to the interview.

Another interesting idea might be to present site users with information about peer review. What happens when people who rely upon expert opinions are presented with information that undermines that authority? How do they react? In each situation we encounter within the interview, we have questions which we want to know the answer to, and based upon those questions, we generate questions to ask the site users. We do not simply ask them the questions that are on our minds. We craft our questions carefully so that the process is scientific.

Notice that once we get into this mode of interviewing site users in order to identify patterns in thought which can guide us towards an optimal site design, we are solving the problem on its own terms. We are not imposing our own answer upon the problem. We certainly have our own worldview -- we have to because our role here involves a research aspect to it, so we need something to formulate questions from -- but our objective in this case is to learn how our hypothetical site users might respond to certain ideas before we actually spend money to create a particular site design.

I have my own hypothesis, based upon my own experiences online as well as what I've read in the constructivist literature, that most people rely upon a rather small set of extremely simple mental models to reason through complex scientific models. The point of interviewing people one-on-one is not necessarily to try to validate that particular hypothesis. We don't want to go into the situation with our own personal worldview firmly grounding all of our questions. We should indeed use that worldview to design our set of questions, but the larger point of interviewing is to create space for the user to take our hypotheses into new promising directions. We have to check our worldviews at the door, and strive to not impose the answers which support our preferred answers upon the data.

When I go online and talk to people about the Electric Universe, it's readily apparent that confusion about the Electric Universe is quite common. I often get the sense that the people who are speaking up on these forums are largely incapable of questioning the knowledge they've learned. If that is indeed the case, then this limitation might ultimately stunt their cognitive and even career development. If they are unable to progress past it towards a growth-oriented mindset where exposure to alternative worldviews is part of their routine problem-solving process, then I potentially have a vision for them which can help them to become more successful in life. That's because the ability to understand other people and perspectives is at the heart of inspiring people towards some sort of change in belief or action.

The point here is not for me to impose upon you my own beliefs about what questions you might ask. What I'm trying to do is to show that the research you do into topics which are only peripherally related to the Electric Universe can turn out to be very important for this process of coming up with hypotheses about site users. To the extent that we have cultivated a wide breadth of knowledge on topics like science education research, knowledge visualization, argument mapping, concept mapping, and so on, that knowledge will basically determine the sophistication of our initial hypotheses about what site to design. But, ultimately, if we've got a good process in place for getting at answers through our own active research, then the user interviews can potentially guide us towards better hypotheses which are far more likely to succeed for specific niches of people. Our book knowledge turns out to be only half of the story here for site design. We must also get out into the world and connect with our users, if we want to have a chance at being welcomed into their community.

This can honestly be a difficult change to make in how we think. I still struggle myself. When I think about these problems which I see in how people talk about science online, I have to use my own personal perspective to determine that there is a problem, to begin with. But, what I'm trying to say is that this is simply an insight which might or might not generalize to a broader audience. It is not an idea which can necessarily sustain itself as a business idea. The only way to make that determination is to apply the principles of science towards collecting data about site users. And this probably surprises some people, but the design brief is the culmination of all of the work which has gone into understanding these audiences.

The Electric Universe Offers Us a Framework Based Upon this Notion of Interdisciplinary Synthesis for Doing Innovation

I know it's all very foreign at first, but I honestly think that the more that people strive to think in these terms about these problems, the more connections you'll start to identify between all of these different domains. The insights we've gained about the possible origins of the archetypes can in theory support our attempts to do storytelling as marketers.

And I suspect that the more that people think about brands, the more they'll notice that the very notion ties into epistemology. Brands have traits which seem to liken them to concepts, and the unique selling proposition is basically just a proposition using the site user's own sense for concepts which invites them to take some action. We can actually change our perception of the meaning of a computer or a picture of a computer by changing the brand name on it from Sony to WalMart. Our expectations about that computer change in the process. So, it seems that this notion of typicality with respect to concepts within categories is present in this construct of brand.

The more that people try to think top-down about any project like this, I also suspect the more people will learn about the role of emotion in everything we do, think and learn. This is a very important topic for me, personally, for I can plainly see that -- by themselves -- structural diagrams of concepts, propositions and models lack the emotion of storytelling and branding. But, I also see reasons to believe from science education research that students benefit from adding structure to the knowledge when the complexity reaches a certain threshold. So, I wonder if emotion can be added to visualizations such that the combination is more powerful than the individual components?. To get a better sense of the role that emotion plays in storytelling and marketing, I would recommend checking out Frank Luntz's YouTube lecture, "Words That Work: It's Not What You Say, It's What People Hear".

"It's powerful. It's about human nature. Why don't you all in the business community talk that way? Why don't you relate to people that way? Anyone who knows me knows I'm totally on your side, and I want you to succeed. And it is so frustrating to me that today … people have less faith and trust in corporations than ever before. More hostility towards CEO's than ever before … Every time I come and speak to you -- now, this is the sixth time I've been here -- every time I come, it's actually worse than the time before. And I guess I must be doing a bad job of it, because it doesn't seem to get any better … We've done about 1,500 ads, and I'm only showing you the best seven of the ones that we have tested. And this has all been done within the last 12 months. This one also relates in a human and a personal level … Because it's not just what you see. It's how you make people feel. And the most important language of all? It isn't what you say that matters. It's what people hear. It isn't what you show them. It's what they remember. I want you to take all of your communications and put it back on your audience rather than on you."


This observation that we should consider communicating with people from their current basis of understanding is a theme which we will also see pop up frequently in constructivist science education theory proposed by David Ausubel, Joseph Novak and Paulo Friere. And I suspect that if we keep an eye out for similarities, we might run into a number of principles related to learning which appear to span the two distinct domains of learning science and selling products.
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Re: Online scientific discourse is broken and it can be fixe

Unread postby pln2bz » Sun Dec 22, 2013 11:48 pm

This is Why People Interview Users Before Launching a Product

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This is How You Avoid a Potential Catastrophe

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(These are slides from "User Research, Quick'n Dirty" from Google Ventures' Startup Lab Workshop, which explains how to do user interviewing on a budget using tools such as Google Hangouts and Google Forms, with Craigslist as a source for screening potential interviewees.)
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Re: Online scientific discourse is broken and it can be fixe

Unread postby pln2bz » Mon Dec 23, 2013 2:03 pm

Notice that I've been talking about brands using language which is not particularly relevant to the Thunderbolts forum. Now, we will follow Paulo Friere's advice and switch to language that is …

These words, which Freire called GENERATIVE WORDS, have power to generate other words for the learners. The most important criterion for the choice of a word by the team is that it must have the capacity to confront the social, cultural, and political reality in which the people live. The word must suggest and mean something important for the people. The word must provide both mental and emotional stimulation for the learners.


This idea that generative words are important is another reason why we must target audiences, and we'll see the topic re-emerge when we switch to talking about David Ausubel's theory of assimilation.

Branding for a Catastrophic Worldview

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(Excerpts from the First Couple of Chapters from The Hero and the Outlaw: Building Extraordinary Brands Through the Power of Archetypes)

Jung to some extent took the opposite approach to that of the behaviorists, that is, he did not observe people from the outside, did not ask how we behave, how we greet one another, how we mate, how we take care of our young. Instead, he studied what we feel and what we fantasize while we are doing those things. For Jung, archetypes are not only elementary ideas, but just as much elementary feelings, elementary fantasies, elementary visions.
—Marie-Louise Von Franz, Psyche and Matter


If we are to identify and effectively leverage the essential elements, or “immutables,” of our brands, we must become fluent in the visual and verbal language of archetypes.

The creators of great brands have intuited this simple truth. For example, superstars in the film and entertainment industry, and the agents who manage them, understand that their continued popularity does not hinge simply on the quality or success of the films they make or the visibility they attain. Rather, it depends on creating, nourishing, and continuously reinterpreting a unique and compelling identity or “meaning.”

[…]

These identities are not only consistent—they are compelling.

[…]

News stories that really grip public attention always have an archetypal quality, Richard observes. “When the next big story breaks, we’ll all be caught again,” he says, because each story that so mysteriously grabs us is some version of “Once upon a time . . .”—a mythic tale acted out in real life.

[…]

Products grab—and keep—our attention for the same reason: They embody an archetype. For example, throughout the ages, cleansing rituals have signified more than physical cleanliness: They also symbolize the removal of sin or shame, bestowing rectification and worthiness upon the person who has performed the ritual. Ivory soap has drawn from this well. Ivory is not just about getting clean; it is about renewal, purity, and innocence. Over the years, Ivory has changed the details of its ad campaigns, updated the cultural references they employ, and diversified the ages and cultures of the bathers they depict. Nevertheless, the central message of the ads—their meaning—has remained deeply symbolic and constant. Ivory succeeds because its brand meaning is consistent with the deep essence of cleansing.

Brands that capture the essential meaning of their category—and communicate that message in subtle and refined ways—dominate the market

[…]

Advertising has always used archetypal imagery to market products

[…]

Meaning as a Brand Asset

Understanding and leveraging archetypal meaning, once an interesting “bonus” to effective marketing, is now a prerequisite. Why?

There was a time when successfully creating, building, and marketing brands required neither endless inspiration nor endless capital. Demand exceeded supply, and markets were uncluttered. In the main, products were physically different from each other, and brands were built on those differences.

Such was the case, for ages and ages, in the marketing, or selling, world. But once competition reached a certain threshold, every business—whether a multinational cola company or a neighborhood dry cleaner—encountered a new challenge. No matter how effective the company’s manufacturing and distribution systems, or how state of the art its dry-cleaning processes, its competitors could imitate or duplicate them. In this circumstance, businesses found that they had only two broad strategic routes to go: reduce their prices or imbue their products with meaning.

Clearly, the creation and management of meaning was the more desirable option.


Ironically, though, as critical as meaning has become, no system has been developed until now for understanding or managing the meaning of brands—be they products, services, companies, or causes. We have had manufacturing systems for producing products, message development systems for creating candidates’ platforms, and business systems for marketing goods, but no system for managing what had become a brand’s most leverageable asset.

Why not? Partly because the need to manage meaning was a relatively new phenomenon. If you were the only soft drink in town (as you might be in, say, Hangzhou, China), you could market your product on the basis of its features and benefits. And if you were the only dry cleaner in the neighborhood, you could market your store on the merits of its convenience, environmentally sound packaging, and effective cleaning.

However, in increasingly crowded and highly competitive categories, the cases in which brand differentiation could be based on discernible product differences became rare or nonexistent. And even if a corporation was successful in creating a legitimate product-based point of difference, it was quickly imitated and duplicated by competitors.

As early as 1983, Paul Hawken identified a profound change in the relative importance of product “mass” versus product “meaning” that required a corresponding shift in our business model. Soon after, Wall Street made a comparable discovery, whereupon whole corporations were acquired simply to obtain their powerhouse brands—even though other brands offered virtually identical products. Something new was happening. Hundreds of millions of dollars were being spent to purchase certain brands because they possessed a trait or property that was not fully understood and that caught the purchasers totally off guard.

The truth was that these brands had become phenomenally valuable not only because of their innovative features or benefits, but also because these properties had been translated into powerful meanings. They were worth millions of dollars because they had gained a kind of meaning that was universal, larger than life, iconic.

Whether the new managers understood it consciously or not, they had become the stewards of archetypal brands. The meanings these brands hold are like primal assets that must be managed as carefully as financial investments. And most companies have not been prepared to do so, because, quite simply, no system was available to guide them.

Levi’s, once a strong and clear Explorer brand, drifted from Outlaw to Hero, back to Explorer, then to Regular Guy or Gal, then to Jester—and sometimes presented a patchwork quilt of archetypal identities all at once, reflective of the confused management of both the parent and the subbrands (501, Five Pocket, Wide Leg). The company’s market share declined accordingly.

Nike, one of the great Hero brands of all times, became cliche´d and self-conscious in that role and publicly demonstrated a loss of confidence, changing advertising agencies and brand managers—when the real solution was to tap more deeply and surely into the Hero’s Journey, a never-ending source of inspiration for the Hero archetype.

These companies had some of the most sophisticated and talented marketing professionals at their helms; nevertheless, they lost their way. The result was chaos, similar to what would happen if CFOs tried to manage money by making everything up as they went along, without any system of financial management or accounting.


[…]

The meaning of a brand is its most precious and irreplaceable asset. Whether you’re selling a soft drink or a presidential candidate, what your brand means to people will be every bit as important as its function—if not more so—because it is meaning that tells us “this one feels right” or “this one’s for me.” Meaning speaks to the feeling or intuitive side of the public; it creates an emotional affinity, allowing the more rational arguments to be heard.

North Star Marketing

Marketing without a system for managing meaning is analogous to ancient navigators trying to find port in treacherous seas on a starless night. What they need is an enduring and reliable compass—a fixed place that illuminates both where they are and where they must go. For marketers, the theory of archetypes can act as this compass.

We have written The Hero and the Outlaw to communicate the first system—ever—for the management of meaning. And like many sound ideas, it borrows from very ancient and eternal ones.

Imprints, hardwired into our psyches, influence the characters we love in art, literature, the great religions of the world, and contemporary films. Plato called these imprints “elemental forms” and saw them as the idea structures that formed a template for material reality. Psychiatrist C. G. Jung called them “archetypes.”

In the marketing world, we have had no comparable concept or vocabulary. Yet brands are, in truth, among the most vibrant contemporary expressions of these deep and abiding patterns. Whether through conscious intent or fortunate accident, brands—be they candidates, superstars, products, or companies—achieve deep and enduring differentiation and relevance by embodying timeless archetypal meaning. In fact, the most successful brands always have done so.

This phenomenon is not about “borrowing” meaning in an ephemeral advertising campaign, but rather becoming a consistent and enduring expression of meaning
—essentially becoming a brand icon. Powerhouse products have done so: Nike, Coke, Ralph Lauren, Marlboro, Disney, and Ivory, to name a few. So have films—Star Wars, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, and Gone with the Wind—and personalities—Lady Di, Jackie O, Joe DiMaggio, and John Wayne. Brands that have achieved this status, accidentally or as a result of fabulously gifted instinct, have captured and held the imagination of the public. And, if they are wise, their marketers have stayed the course simply because what their brands have come to represent resonates with the public so well and so consistently.

But reliance on genius goes only so far and lasts only so long. Sooner or later, brands suffer from the fact that there has been no science related to the development and management of meaning. When business as usual takes over, there is no compass to guide the inevitable choices or decision points that determine a brand’s fate: How to keep pace with the times without losing the brand’s essence? How to survive fierce competitive assaults? How to appeal to multiple segments—perhaps numerous cultures—without violating the brand’s “core” meaning? How to market responsibly and in a way that does not exert a negative influence on the customer or the times?

In the absence of such a science or compass, irreplaceable and invaluable repositories of goodwill—brand meanings—are squandered.

This book addresses the critical need, and the tremendous opportunity, to create, preserve, protect, and nurture brand meaning by leveraging its deep archetypal roots.

We do this first by dignifying the process of managing meaning. Today, even in the most sophisticated companies, this most critical of processes is left to chance, to the whim of an art director and copywriter, or to the serendipity of casual brainstorming: “Should we be friendly and accessible, or aloof and alluring?”

Developing the most critical element of what our brand represents too often is a careless or frivolous process. Thus, it is no wonder that marketing teams keep reinventing the brand and, in doing so, dilute or destroy its meaning.


We have written this book to share our experience developing and utilizing the first systematic approach to meaning management. Our collaboration began with the awareness that archetypal psychology could provide a more substantive source for the science of creating effective advertising. What we found was a far deeper truth: Archetypal psychology helps us understand the intrinsic meaning of product categories and consequently helps marketers create enduring brand identities that establish market dominance, evoke and deliver meaning to customers, and inspire customer loyalty—all, potentially, in socially responsible ways.

These are not simply pie-in-the-sky ideas. Carol Pearson has spent 30 years developing a sound, reliable psychological framework that integrates concepts from Jungian and other psychological systems and applying them to leadership and organizational development as well as marketing. Margaret Mark has equivalent experience applying deep human insights and constructs to marketing with clients, first at Young & Rubicam and now at her own company. As a result, we are confident that the approaches described for you in these pages consistently have produced results without negative side effects. Our system already has affected the marketing approaches of leading brands in the financial services business, the soft-drink, apparel, and snack categories, television programming, cause marketing, and many other industries and has defined or redefined organizations' brand identities in both the for-profit and not-for-profit sectors.

[…]


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The Missing Link: Archetypes and Customer Motivation

Archetypes provide the missing link between customer motivation and product sales. Virtually all marketers know that they need to understand human motivations. Until now, however, no scientific method has been available that would allow them to link the deepest motivations of consumers with product meaning. The missing link is an understanding of archetypes. An archetypal product identity speaks directly to the deep psychic imprint within the consumer, sparking a sense of recognition and of meaning.

Archetypal images signal the fulfillment of basic human desires and motivations and release deep emotions and yearnings. Why do you suppose our hearts leap up, our throats choke, or we begin to cry at certain moments? An Olympic athlete winning a gold medal (Hero); an elderly African-American man in the audience instinctively rising when his grandson’s name is called to receive his college diploma (commercial for the United Negro College Fund—triumph of the Regular Guy); a mother being handed her newborn for the first time ( Johnson & Johnson spot): Each of these ads draws from the same well.

One psychological explanation for such responses is that either we are unconsciously reliving critical moments in our own lives (for example, the separation scene at the end of E.T. calls up our own experiences of loss) or we are anticipating them. These archetypal images and scenes call people to fulfill their basic human needs and motivations (in the previous examples, freedom and identity, achievement, and intimacy, respectively). In an ideal world, the product serves a mediating function between a need and its fulfillment.


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A System That Integrates Motivational and Archetypal Theory

In brief, motivational theory can be condensed into a focus on four major human drives positioned along two axes: Belonging/People versus Independence/Self-Actualization, and Stability/Control versus Risk/Mastery. (See Figures 1.2 and 1.3.)

In everyday human terms, this means that most of us want very much to be liked and to belong to a group. At the same time, we also want to be individuals and go our own way. Both of these desires are deep and profound human urges, yet they pull us in opposite directions. The desire to belong makes us want to please others and conform, at least to some degree. The desire to individuate causes us to spend time alone and make decisions or act in ways that those close to us may not understand.

Similarly, most people have a deep need for security and stability. Such desires are fulfilled by routine, comfort, and staying with the tried and true.
We are responding to them when we buy insurance, stay in a jobfor the pension plan, or religiously take our vitamins. Yet, however much people want safety, most also are energized by their ambition and the desire to exert mastery. If we want the exhilaration of accomplishment, we must take risks. So, motivated by the wish to leave a thumbprint on the world, we take a controversial stand, start a business, or try other new and risky ventures.

Life requires constant negotiation along these poles. When we sacrifice one end of one of these continua to the other end, there is a tendency in the psyche to seek balance. That’s one of the reasons some people experience midlife crises; they have gotten out of balance, and some part of them that has been suppressed for too long seeks expression.


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Interdisciplinary synthesis, folks. Design thinking at its finest. Love it or hate it, either way it creates substantial food for thought, and perhaps something more interesting to think about next time I'm driving down the highway looking at billboards …

My hypothesis on this would be that EU advocates would tend to find this article on branding more interesting than my past attempts to describe it, and the reason for that would be because I'm anchoring to a pre-existing concept within your knowledge base. For those who are stimulated by learning something new, the observation of a pattern which connects two perceptually distinct domains -- marketing and mythology -- would tend to generate an emotional bump which helps to encode the synthesis.

For those who are deeply engaged on this, you're probably noticing that there are perhaps important implications for how we might talk to graduate students here.
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Re: Online scientific discourse is broken and it can be fixe

Unread postby pln2bz » Mon Dec 23, 2013 10:03 pm

Another attempt to draw the design process inherent to Design Thinking -- this time captured from a video produced by Stanford's Center for Professional Development:

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Re: Online scientific discourse is broken and it can be fixe

Unread postby pln2bz » Mon Dec 23, 2013 10:50 pm

Using the Advertising Concept of Recency to Mediate Interest in the EU with Philosophy

These design thinking ideas are obviously not new ideas. The terms have simply changed ...

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Or this one …

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Now, in advertising, there is this principle called recency theory:

"Recency theory refers to the belief that advertisements and promotions are most effective when they air immediately prior to the time of decision, and that the influence of ad exposure diminishes with time."


Something that I wonder about is if I was to create a questionnaire screener which specifically selected for interviews people who exhibit enormous concern about the threat of pseudoscience, could I nevertheless influence those interviewees to consider learning about the Electric Universe by presenting them with mental models (like above) suggested by historical thinkers which suggest a design thinking philosophy just before asking them to consider an EU claim?

My hypothesis is that we we can improve scientific discourse by introducing libraries of such mental models (Pinterest would do the trick!) for use during rebuttals, and visually prioritizing the display of critique which invokes these mental models at the worldview level in order to encourage their use. Then, the community of thinkers would rate the degree of fit (as well as aspects like originality, etc) between the section of text highlighted for rebuttal, and the mental model used to rebut it.

The point would be to re-introduce philosophy and history back into our everyday discussions of science. The idea seems to me simple, to the point, and overlooked. People would then learn much of philosophy through the use of this website. Even people who prefer to think of science in terms of authority can come to appreciate this idea, as it involves authority, but note that it is shifts the focus to short philosophical mental models. So, if a system can be devised using these mental models, it has the potential to bridge the person who is currently dependent in their scientific thinking upon authority for evaluating claims (the socialized mindset) to the use of philosophical guides which can accommodate multiple models and even worldviews (self-authoring and self-transforming mindsets).

This is a quick snapshot of how we need to be trying to engage this project: Formulate a hypothesis, based upon our wide breadth of investigation, and try to design interviews which can act as feedback for whether or not we are on the right track.
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Re: Online scientific discourse is broken and it can be fixe

Unread postby pln2bz » Tue Dec 24, 2013 1:44 pm

Why Would I Waste My Time Learning How to Do Interviews? … I Don't Even Like Doing Small Talk ...

The shift might be imperceptible to many people who do not live in the San Francisco Bay Area, but our economy is gradually transforming into a knowledge-based economy. There is basically a tidal front of sorts which is centered in Silicon Valley and is just now hitting San Francisco. Massive double-decker shuttles transfer workers at enormous cost twice per day between San Francisco and the San Jose area, and wherever they go, the rental rates shoot up at a rate of $500 per year. But, San Francisco is basically a peninsula, so this spreading wave will probably eventually jump the bay and spread throughout the neighboring Oakland and Marin County areas next. But these areas are already highly populated, and those roads and rental rates will in turn buckle under the load. At some point, this wave will start jumping from city to city.

But, what is it that is spreading?

Part of what is spreading is the cultural realization that, "Hey, I'm going to get fired in my 50's by this company X I'm working for no matter what I do, but I hopefully have another 40+ years of life in me. What am I going to do?" It's a huge cultural shift from the traditional American Dream to a financial survival mindset which will predictably come to haunt these same corporations, as it will inevitably drive disruptive competitors at them (They're going to learn, one way or another, that people don't stop thinking in their 50's ...). People can continue to generally ignore this trend for now (and the signs are clear that the denial has already begun), but at some point, the transformation of the American Dream into a cultural question mark will very possibly come to define our generation (I am 38 myself). The topic is eventually going to go mainstream.

The good news is that the answer to this big cultural question doesn't have to be depressing. We can alternatively just decide that we have to learn how to design things -- products or services -- which people will want to buy. We implicitly realize that the tools and knowledge to do so actually surround us; we just need to know what knowledge tools and processes to focus upon in order to enable us to be independently employed. We must learn how to use the tools of the knowledge economy to direct our long-term planning, short-term decision-making and immediate focus for improvement. We have to learn how to multi-task without feeling frantic, and we have to make informed business decisions in our lives once we realize that we can no longer simply ignore the big question at the end of our lives. And the reason we need to do this is to reduce the risk inherent to this process of constant change, which if you haven't noticed, has been increasing in pace. We want to manage that risk so that we can glide into a planned, envisioned future of our own making which is aligned with our own personal values.

We live in crazy times. We increasingly need knowledge to succeed. And the information we need to know actually surrounds us. We just can't clearly see it without intentionally eliciting it, as we are basically IN it. This is why I think it's important to talk a little bit more about this idea of interviewing people. And what I'd like to suggest, going into this, is that you need not adopt all of this structure each time that you do an actual interview. You just need to be aware of when you are cutting corners. As an example, if I had the fortune to just accidentally run into somebody who is especially concerned about this threat of pseudoscience, while at a Christmas party or at a bar or something, why not surreptitiously slip into my "interview mode" for a few minutes to capture some answers to some key questions which I currently have on my mind? Knowing how to do formal interviews will equip you with the knowledge you need to know in order to seize the moment and capture the information when you notice that you happen to be right next to it, more-or-less as a market researcher would.

If our need for this information is particularly pressing, knowing how to do interviews can also equip us for intentionally diving into a target-rich environment with a clever plan of action. In my particular instance, I've noticed, for instance, that people who hang out on Slashdot are particularly allergic to the Electric Universe. This suggests that I could simply go to one of the many high-tech conferences or meetups in the Bay Area, and if I learn to speak their language, I can arrive at the information I need to know without having to spend thousands of dollars.

So, you can surely see where this is going ...

How to Use Craigslist and Free Google Tools to Do Qualitative Discovery Interviewing On the Cheap

(coming up)
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Re: Online scientific discourse is broken and it can be fixe

Unread postby pln2bz » Thu Dec 26, 2013 6:59 pm

(I'm learning with you guys on certain aspects of this, and this particular investigation has really got me thinking in a fresh direction. But, I'm having to do a bit more reading than normal on all of the dangers associated with traditional interviewing. Effectively eliciting peoples' motivations for their decision-making processes is turning out to be a promising direction for further research, for I'm starting to notice that the patterns generally observed by market researchers to be associated with how people buy products are in some key regards really quite similar to observations I've previously made while prodding people on the EU in order to clarify how they evaluate new scientific ideas. There are some surprising patterns here which if they could be demonstrated, would validate my premise that people tend to defer to simplistic, non-scientific mental models to evaluate new ideas in science. Of course, the key phrase there is "if they could be demonstrated". And that's what I'm focused on finding out right now.

Check back in another few days, and I'll dump what I have …)
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Re: Online scientific discourse is broken and it can be fixe

Unread postby Zyxzevn » Fri Dec 27, 2013 6:31 pm

New ideas are usually held back in science.
With the introduction of quarks they used the phrase "three quarks for muster mark"
(James Joyce)
I think they also used references to the Marx brothers to make their presentation
funny and only in the end it became clear that it was actually serious.

For me the EU presentations get more impact with a entertaining content. Like the mentioning
of the budgets needed to test these theories, compared to the other theories.
I also like the videos with the beautiful pictures compared with real world electric phenomena.
They are often so similar.
EU seemed far off reality on first glance though, which stopped me from looking in it.
Maybe it can use a single sentence that describes it clearly.
"Electric Universe. Bringing Electric forces back in the research and understanding of the Universe."
In one sentence it is clear that it is a real physical thing, not something mystical.
And not exceptional, because of course electric forces are in the universe.
Probably you have better ideas?
More ** from zyxzevn at: Paradigm change and C@
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Re: Online scientific discourse is broken and it can be fixe

Unread postby pln2bz » Fri Dec 27, 2013 10:51 pm

Hi, Zyzzevn. I'm not quite sure that I have better ideas, but I do try to generate a lot of them to choose from. Some things work a lot better than others. For instance, I used to spend a few moments each day combing through physorg psychology press releases, and I would save the articles which seemed to be relevant to a scientific social network. I would say that was very helpful.

Something else which has definitely proven to be incredibly instructive is trying to make the case for the EU online to random strangers. I am perpetually surprised at how much more I learn from noticing mistakes in the arguments of others I am pitching to, than in my own postings. A person might actually be able to make a reasonable argument (?) that censorship -- as we've now seen at reddit, Popular Science and TED -- which fails to even leave behind some sort of prototype dialog for that particular mistake or informational exchange removes the opportunity for the site designer to teach something important to the site's user. I have to generally triple-check all of my own postings, and I try to do so from the perspective of my audience when I am reading back through, in order to gauge whether or not I'm being consistent myself. Meta-cognition is the word that is usually ascribed to thinking about your thinking. Engaging people on the subject of the EU online will surprise many people in terms of its meta-cognitive learning opportunities. This is why I frequently refer to this as an exercise in learning about yourself. You are "arguing" with others, but in fact, many of the most important things you learn are about the types of mistakes which people generally make when they argue.

If you take the time to be thoughtful, careful with your posts, and deeply interactive with the person you're engaging, it is possible to elicit useful information that relates to scientific social networking. What I am learning, which I will get to shortly, is that it is helpful if the topic of discussion does not directly relate to a scientific social network. This will be a bit of a digression, but it could also be instructive. The following conversation occurred at the Watts Up With That Blog with (the there-infamous) Leif Svalgaard on the topic of the solar wind's relation to the interplanetary electric field. You might want to skim in the beginning, if it seems too long. The meat is at the end ...

(Italics are used to differentiate text that is being replied to, whereas bold is added by myself to draw attention to specific comments which I am actually focused upon as relevant to my own area of research)

Leif Svalgaard says:
December 26, 2013 at 6:53 am
Bob Weber says:
December 26, 2013 at 4:42 am
We can’t say there’s electric currents flowing in space and then turn around and say the universe and the solar system is not electrical in nature. We can’t have it both ways.
Yes we can. The paper gives the misleading impression that there is an intrinsic electric field in the solar wind, pointing in a certain direction. This is not the case. There is no such field. The so-called ‘interplanetary electric field [IEF]‘ is generated by the interaction between the magnetised, neutral, fast moving, strongly conducting solar wind plasma streaming past the [nearly] stationary magnetic field of the earth. A short description of the process can be found here: http://www.leif.org/research/suipr699.pdf If the Earth’s magnetic field were to point in the opposite direction [it does as times], the IEF would also point in the opposite direction. The IEF seen in the reference frame of the Earth is different from the IEF that would be seen in another frame, it is not a property of the solar wind and is not present in a frame moving with the solar wind.

[…]

lsvalgaard says:
December 26, 2013 at 7:39 am
Bob Weber says:
December 26, 2013 at 7:35 am
Leif I appreciate your point. When the solar wind charge particles (mostly protons and electrons) interact with the magnetosphere, do they not behave according to electric and magnetic laws?
Of course they do, but those laws dictate that the IEF is generated locally of a result of that interaction. The solar wind [and the Universe in general] do not support intrinsic electric fields according to those same laws.

[…]

Bob Weber says:
December 26, 2013 at 7:56 am
The electric weather I’m talking about happens here on earth as result of that interaction. Why do we call it the global electric circuit in the first place? Just so I’m clear on this, please explain if you haven’t already, how those solar particles accelerate from the sun to the edge of heliosphere and beyond. What forces are at play there? Why don’t they slow down and stop somewhere sooner?

[…]

lsvalgaard says:
December 26, 2013 at 8:08 am
Bob Weber says:
December 26, 2013 at 7:40 am
Leif, further, if the solar wind were electrically neutral, what forces are at play that guide them into the poles?
It is electrically neutral. If it were not it could never leave the Sun. Suppose the solar wind was positively charged, then as it continuously leave the Sun, the Sun would be left with an increasing negative charge [as the positive ones depart]. The electrical attraction between the negative sun and the positive wind would in short order attract the solar wind back to the Sun.

Bob Weber says:
December 26, 2013 at 7:56 am
how those solar particles accelerate from the sun to the edge of heliosphere and beyond. What forces are at play there? Why don’t they slow down and stop somewhere sooner?
The solar wind is accelerated to supersonic speed because of gravity weakening with distance. Same principle as in a deLaval rocket nozzle http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/De_Laval_nozzle

[…]

lsvalgaard says:
December 26, 2013 at 10:01 am
Bob Weber says:
December 26, 2013 at 9:50 am
Leif what solar structure(s) comprise the deLaval rocket nozzle analog you mentioned? Is the sun positively or negatively charged wrt the heliosphere?
The solar wind escapes because it is HOT [the combustion chamber of the rocket engine]. Gravity, of course, impedes the escape [try to throw a ball upwards], that is the narrowing of the throat. As gravity weakens the altitude, the throat expands [as in the rocket engine http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Viking_5C_rocketengine.jpg and the escaping gases speed up to supersonic speeds.
The sun is not significantly charged with respect to the heliosphere.

[…]

lsvalgaard says:
December 26, 2013 at 10:33 am
Bob Weber says:
December 26, 2013 at 10:21 am
I’m not convinced yet that gravity is as all-powerful as many have said, and that’s no knock on you.
In the end, gravity is the root cause of everything, even electric and magnetic fields. To get an electric field you need to separate positive and negative charges. Since the negative charges [electrons] are much lighter that the heavier protons, gravity can separate the two and create a [weak] electric field, which if the charges are free to move in turn creates an electrical current which has an magnetic field. This process actually does work weakly on the Sun [the Pannekoek-Rosseland polarization electric field] but is not enough to create the solar wind acceleration we observe. Gravity nicely does that via the deLaval mechanism. The IEF is purely a local effect created when the solar wind hits the Earth’s magnetic field: positive charges are deflected one way around the Earth, and negative charges are deflected the other way. The resulting electric current neutralizes/closes by flowing through the ionosphere giving rise to aurorae and associated magnetic disturbances. Reality is a lot more complicated than this, but the gross features are well described by this simplified view.

[…]

lsvalgaard says:
December 26, 2013 at 10:37 am
ferdberple says:
December 26, 2013 at 10:32 am
When one considers however that earth’s magnetic field is not internally generated
There is no need to ‘consider’ such a scenario [for many reasons] as already Gauss showed us [in the 1830s] that observations demonstrate that the field is internally generated. His conclusions have been verified many times since.

[…]

Chris Reeve says:
December 26, 2013 at 11:04 am
What might be useful is to have Leif read the history for Hannes Alfven and MHD which has been written by David Talbott for Edge Magazine, and ask him where within this broader historical context, either Talbott or Alfven should have determined that there is no question to be asked here? The real problem, it seems to some of us, is that the university system continues to present this apparent half-century controversy as a series of conclusive claims rather than a set of assumptions with a question mark at its end. Why would students be primed to think they know the answer on such a fundamental set of questions? The risk inherent to assuming the wrong answer here seems too great to just accept the assumption, for many of us …

From http://www.scientificexploration.org/edgescience/edgescience_09.pdf



The underlying idea was that space could have been magnetized in primordial times or in early stages of stellar and galactic evolution, all under the control of higher-order kinetics and gravitational dynamics. All large scale events in space could still be explained in terms of disconnected islands, and it would only be necessary to look inside the “islands” to discover localized electromagnetic events—no larger electric currents or circuitry required. In this view, popularly held today, we live in a “magnetic universe” (the title of several recent books and articles), but not an electric universe. The point was stated bluntly by the eminent solar physicist Eugene Parker, “ … No significant electric field can arise in the frame of reference of the moving plasma.”

But the critical turn in this story, the part almost never told within the community of astronomers and astrophysicists, is that Alfvén came to realize he had been mistaken. Ironically—and to his credit—Alfvén used the occasion of his acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize to plead with scientists to ignore his earlier work. Magnetic fields, he said, are only part of the story. The electric currents that create magnetic fields must not be overlooked, and attempts to model space plasma in the absence of electric currents will set astronomy and astrophysics on a course toward crisis, he said.

In accord with Alvén’s observations, American physicist, professor Alex Dessler, former editor of the journal Geophysical Research Letters, notes that he himself had originally fallen in with an academic crowd that believed electric fields could not exist in the highly conducting plasma of space. “My degree of shock and surprise in finding Alfvén right and his critics wrong can hardly be described.”

In retrospect, it seems clear that Alfvén considered his early theoretical assumption of frozen-in magnetic fields to be his greatest mistake, a mistake perpetuated first and foremost by mathematicians attracted to Alfvén’s magnetohydrodynamic equations. Alfvén came to recognize that real plasma behavior is too “complicated and awkward” for the tastes of mathematicians. It is a subject “not at all suited for mathematically elegant theories.” It requires hands-on attention to plasma dynamics in the laboratory. Sadly, he said, the plasma universe became “the playground of theoreticians who have never seen a plasma in a laboratory. Many of them still believe in formulae which we know from laboratory experiments to be wrong.”

Again and again Alfvén reiterated the point: the underlying assumptions of cosmologists today “are developed with the most sophisticated mathematical methods and it is only the plasma itself which does not ‘understand’ how beautiful the theories are and absolutely refuses to obey them.”



Also, people might want to check out the paper titled “Possible reasons for underestimating Joule heating in global models: E-field variability, spatial resolution and vertical velocity”.

But, if I can make a suggestion as an outsider looking in, maybe Leif would consider releasing the Electric Universe hostage so that people can have permission to question cosmological assumptions here … ? I recall running [into] him shutting the same conversation down a couple of years ago. We are all entitled to our own worldviews and assumptions, but does science permit us to impose those assumptions upon each other?

[…]

DirkH says:
December 26, 2013 at 11:06 am
lsvalgaard says:
December 26, 2013 at 10:33 am
In the end, gravity is the root cause of everything, even electric and magnetic fields.

Gravity even causes the protective hypothesis of Dark Matter, because it needs it to keep the Gravity-only cosmology alive for the time being.

[…]

lsvalgaard says:
December 26, 2013 at 11:06 am
DirkH says:
December 26, 2013 at 11:00 am
By L. Svalgaards argument BTW there cannot be charge separation in space. That’s funny; Earth must be a very special place then because we observe charge separation all the time.
Earth is, indeed, a very special place, namely one where the air where we live and breathe is not ionized to any significant degree. In such environments [insulators] charge separation can and do occur. 99.99..% of the baryon Universe is not like that, so we are very special. Of course, that is not funny at all, we could not live if that was not so, so we are ‘victims’ of a selection effect.

[…]

lsvalgaard says:
December 26, 2013 at 11:10 am
DirkH says:
December 26, 2013 at 11:06 am
Gravity even causes the protective hypothesis of Dark Matter, because it needs it to keep the Gravity-only cosmology alive for the time being.
Gravitational effects are observational evidence for their existence. Dark Matter is an observational fact, not yet understood theoretical, but observations trump theory, don’t you think?

[…]

lsvalgaard says:
December 26, 2013 at 11:32 am
Lars P. says:
December 26, 2013 at 11:26 am
as the particles get kinetic energy in the sun and the electrons are 1000+ easier then heavy ions, does this cause more electrons to escape the suns’ gravity in comparison to ions and thus creating a local electrical charge at the suns surface?
It does [initially], it is called the Pannekoek-Rosseland Polarization Electric Field, but it is very small and doesn’t really play a significant role in anything and carries in it its own limiting factor: if electrons escape, the Sun is left a little more positive, but then that extra positive charge attracts electrons trying to escape, so the imbalance soon comes to a halt and does not build up any further.

[…]

lsvalgaard says:
December 26, 2013 at 11:56 am

[…]

Chris Reeve says:
December 26, 2013 at 11:04 am
What might be useful is to have Leif read the history for Hannes Alfven
Hannes was a personal friend of mine and I know very well his views on things, thank you much.

we live in a “magnetic universe” (the title of several recent books and articles), but not an electric universe. The point was stated bluntly by the eminent solar physicist Eugene Parker, “…No significant electric field can arise in the frame of reference of the moving plasma.”
You got that one right. Hannes Alfven stressed that very same point.

Sadly, he said, the plasma universe became “the playground of theoreticians who have never seen a plasma in a laboratory.”
Indeed, that is true, simply because we cannot recreate the conditions of a cosmic plasma [especially its low density and large dimensions] in the laboratory. Luckily, we can observe such plasmas in space.

But, if I can make a suggestion as an outsider looking in, maybe Leif would consider releasing the Electric Universe hostage so that people can have permission to question cosmological assumptions here … ?
To question assumptions you need to know something about the conditions, situations, observations, and physics involved. Without that, such questioning is vacuous and you better retreat to a learning mode.

[…]

lsvalgaard says:
December 26, 2013 at 1:05 pm
vukcevic says:
December 26, 2013 at 12:56 pm
the AGW sedated academia is reluctant to step out of its comfort zone and is scared even of an unknown’s shadow.
AGW has absolutely nothing to do with the science of the Sun and Geomagnetism. Pseudo-science is indeed scary whenever it rears its ugly head. The purveyors of such are providing a deplorable shadowy disservice.

[…]

Chris Reeve says:
December 26, 2013 at 2:15 pm
Re: “To question assumptions you need to know something about the conditions, situations, observations, and physics involved.

It seems that Alfven spent a good part of his lifetime trying to walk back a mistake he claims to have made early on in his career. His life story looks to actually be an incredibly introspective and thought-provoking story of an expert who had to muster the courage to publicly question his own prior expertise, and admit on the most public stage possible that he had made a mistake which others then copied. The lesson is not only deeply profound, but also seems to have been lost on today’s scientific culture — and it seems we don’t have to guess why, for the story is not even told to physics students today.

In marketing terms, this is called “priming” the customer. The physics students are simply being primed to accept MHD through selective recounting of Alfven’s story. But, in truth, this is less about science and more about humans playing games with one another. For, once the story is told, then one has to imagine that it VERY MUCH impacts a typical person’s views of MHD.

If he was truly a close friend of yours, then can you not see that he might be just a little bit upset — if he was here to comment — that his life story and repeated efforts over many years to correct the record are consistently left out of the modern “scientific journalism” on the subject of cosmic plasmas? Is it not incomprehensible to anybody else that David Talbott seems to be one of the few people who today recounts Alfven’s life story, as if it actually matters? Why do modern scientists treat the story of MHD’s inception as though it is irrelevant to our beliefs about MHD? Once the story is actually told, it becomes self-evidently important — and even vital context for those who might be having doubts about a universe that we are told is only 5% baryonic matter.

[…]

lsvalgaard says:
December 26, 2013 at 2:32 pm
Chris Reeve says:
December 26, 2013 at 2:15 pm
Why do modern scientists treat the story of MHD’s inception as though it is irrelevant to our beliefs about MHD?
What Alfven was railing about was the belief that MHD was universally applicable. Today we know it is not. If it were, nothing interesting would ever happen. Almost all interesting phenomena are caused by electric currents which result from a breakdown of MHD when you press plasmas with oppositely directed magnetic fields together. This is universally accepted by modern scientists [so Alfven is vindicated on that detail]. You are barking up a non-existing tree.

[…]

Chris Reeve says:
December 26, 2013 at 2:34 pm
Re: “Pseudo-science is indeed scary whenever it rears its ugly head. The purveyors of such are providing a deplorable shadowy disservice.

People generally fear anything which is different — and this applies to scientific models too — but be aware that this fear originates within your subconscious. It’s not the product of rational thought; it’s the result of a simplistic process of pre-conscious pattern-matching — the sort of thought that keeps lizards alive for long enough to procreate.

In fact, scientists do not “fear” theories. And you know this, actually, for if I first engaged your rational mind by directly asking you which you fear the most — the threat you can see or the one you cannot — you would definitively answer the one you cannot see. So, when you tell us all that pseudoscience is the threat which we should be paying attention to, realize that you’re not giving your rational mind the opportunity to assert that, in fact, dogma is the far more serious threat to science, of the two, for the obvious reason that it is invisible and asserted by authority.

[…]

lsvalgaard says:
December 26, 2013 at 2:36 pm
vukcevic says:
December 26, 2013 at 2:22 pm
Where is pseudo-science in there and why do you think that is scary?
Pseudo-science comes in when one dresses up unfounded speculation as fact and is scary because in this day and age it is important that the populace at large is educated about real science and not be fed a never-ending stream of nonsense.

[…]

lsvalgaard says:
December 26, 2013 at 2:43 pm
Chris Reeve says:
December 26, 2013 at 2:34 pm
In fact, scientists do not “fear” theories. And you know this, actually, for if I first engaged your rational mind by directly asking you which you fear the most — the threat you can see or the one you cannot — you would definitively answer the one you cannot see.
Quite the contrary. Scientists welcome what we cannot see. We call them ‘discoveries’ and all scientists dream of making such. The more, the better. The worst fear is that we stagnate and no new trails into the unknown are blazed. The difference between science and pseudo-science is how you blaze a trail into the unknown. About the skepticism and caution with which you proceed and how you integrate a new path into existing knowledge and build on it.

[…]

Chris Reeve says:
December 26, 2013 at 3:27 pm
Re: “The difference between science and pseudo-science is how you blaze a trail into the unknown. About the skepticism and caution with which you proceed and how you integrate a new path into existing knowledge and build on it.

Okay, but the problem for this argument is that IEEE never stopped publishing peer review on this topic of electrical cosmology.

Even the discipline of physics education research (like Eric Mazur of Harvard) has for a couple of decades now struggled to get through to university physics professors sufficient to explain to them that their teaching techniques are failing to have much impact upon students’ Aristotelian preconceptions. If the academic physicists won’t even listen to THAT, then I think it’s safe to say that they are simply not in the business of listening at all to anybody they’d prefer to ignore.

And on this point … “and how you integrate a new path into existing knowledge and build on it.” …

From Don Scott’s The Electric Sky, page 12:

“When mathematicians (and geometry students) `derive a proof,’ they are developing a sequence of logical steps that leads to a final statement that is consistent with the first statement in the derivation. As an example, if we accept the basic definitions, axioms and postulates of Euclid’s geometry, we can `prove’ that `lines parallel with another line are parallel to each other.’ But this is not a proof of the existence of any real-world physical mechanism — it is an exercise in the logical manipulation of a set of basic mathematical axioms. Such manipulations are completely internal to mathematics and remain disassociated from the real world unless and until such an association is demonstrated by observation and experiment.

“In the deductive method, one starts with a presumed law of nature — an obviously correct (accepted) generalization about the way things work — and deduces (works out, derives) its logical consequences.

“A hypothesis arrived at via this deductive method is promoted to the status of being a theory when and if a large enough body of experts accepts it. This is an application of the Socratic method, also sometimes called the `dialectic method.’ Socrates (469-399 B.C.) believed that truth was discovered through intense conversations with other informed people. In this method, a vote of the experts determines when and if a theory is correct. Once such a theory has been accepted, it is not easily rejected in light of conflicting evidence. It is, however, often modified — made more complicated. When over time a theory becomes officially accepted, the essence of the matter has been settled and fixed. Modifications to the fine points of the theory can then be proposed and debated, but the backbone structure of the theory is set. That framework has already been firmly established.

“An inherent flaw lurking in this method is: What if your `obviously correct,’ basic, starting-point presumption is wrong?”

[…]

lsvalgaard says:
December 26, 2013 at 3:32 pm
Chris Reeve says:
December 26, 2013 at 3:27 pm
“An inherent flaw lurking in this method is: What if your `obviously correct,’ basic, starting-point presumption is wrong?”
In real science we establish ‘correctness’ by the capacity for quantitative prediction or calculation of effects. EU has never done a single one, so does not qualify as science. Simple as that. Most people should be able to fathom that.


At this point, I am thinking back to his suggestion that, "The worst fear is that we stagnate and no new trails into the unknown are blazed." Is he projecting a personal concern onto the endeavor of science itself, and does this fear of stagnating stem from his own personal misconception of science as nothing more than a process of improving accuracy?

[…]

Chris Reeve says:
December 26, 2013 at 10:59 pm
Re: “I would also sit with rapt attention if EU had any explanations for anything, but they do not

“Professionals generally avoid the risk inherent in real critical thinking and cannot properly be called critical thinkers. They are simply ideologically disciplined thinkers. Real critical thinking means uncovering and questioning social, political and moral assumptions; applying and refining a personally developed worldview; and calling for action that advances a personally created agenda. An approach that backs away from any of these three components lacks the critical spirit … Ideologically disciplined thinkers, especially the more gung-ho ones, often give the appearance of being critical thinkers as they go around deftly applying the official ideology and confidently reporting their judgments. The fact that professionals are usually more well-informed than nonprofessionals contributes to the illusion that they are critical thinkers.” (p41, Disciplined Minds, Jeff Schmidt)

“Because they internalize both the paradigms and their employers’ priorities and values, scientists, at least in their own eyes, are completely nonpartisan in their work: They don’t “get political.” They don’t think about, let alone challenge, the ideology built into their techniques. Contrary to popular images of scientists as challengers of established beliefs (like Galileo or Einstein), the vast majority of scientists never seek to test their paradigms and do not participate in paradigm disputes. They don’t waste their employers’ coin by getting caught up in efforts to overthrow existing worldviews or to establish new ones. Instead, they tend to treat the accepted models of reality as reality itself.” (p82)

From a Jeff Schmidt interview at http://www.julesnyquist.com/articles/article/1430100/16489.htm

“MR: When you first thought of writing this book, you were in graduate school, right?

JS: Yes, that’s right. I got interested [in the] topic when I was going to professional training myself, getting a PhD in physics at the University of California, Irvine. It seemed like the best of my fellow graduate students were either dropping out or being kicked out. And by ‘best,’ those were the most concerned about other people and seemed less self-centered, less narrowly-focused, most friendly people … they seemed to be handicapped in the competition. They seemed to be at a disadvantage not only because their attention was divided, but because their concerns about big picture issues like justice and the social role of the profession and so on, caused them to stop and think and question, whereas their unquestioning gung-ho classmates just plowed right through with nothing to hold them back. As I mentioned, there’s about a 50% drop-out rate for students entering University programs in all fields; and what I found was that this weeding out is not politically neutral. To put it bluntly, the programs favor ass-kissers.”

Does any of this sound familiar?

“At the end of the week the entire physics faculty gathers in a closed meeting to decide the fate of the students. Strange as it may seem, in most physics departments a student’s score on the test is only one factor in the faculty’s decision as to whether or not that student has passed the test. Students are not usually told their scores: this gives faculty members the option of deciding that a student has failed the test even if that student has outscored someone they are going to pass. In arriving at their personal opinions on whether to pass or fail a student, individual faculty members consider anything and everything carried away from informal discussions with the student and with others around the department.

A faculty member who talks informally with a student in the hallway or at the weekly after-colloquium reception inevitably comes away with a feeling about whether or not that student ‘thinks like a physicist.’ The student’s political outlook can easily make a difference in the faculty member’s assessment. For example, in the usual informal discussion of an issue in the news, the student who rails against technical incompetence and confines his thoughts to the search for technical solutions within the given political framework builds a much more credible image as a professional physicist than does the student who emphasizes the need to alter the political framework as part of the solution. Indeed, the latter approach falls outside the work assignments given to professional physicists in industry and academe and so represents thinking unlike a physicist’s.” (p134)

The question which the public never seems to quite ask is what the meaning of scientific consensus is when students who might disagree with it are simply purged from the programs?

[…]

lsvalgaard says:
December 26, 2013 at 11:03 pm
Chris Reeve says:
December 26, 2013 at 10:59 pm
Real critical thinking means uncovering and questioning social, political and moral assumptions;
None of which are relevant for science.


Image


[…]

lsvalgaard says:
December 27, 2013 at 5:26 am
Tiburon says:
December 27, 2013 at 1:02 am
Science is not ‘an end unto itself’ – in my opinion. It is an exploration of the mystery of our existence wherein the ‘scientist’ has responsibility to represent, via his talent and skill in the ‘scientific method’, the interests and curiosity of collective humanity. To me, this cannot proceed without the individual scientist integrating his social, political and moral assumptions within the course of his research, especially as we advance in our abilities to self-immolate. These aspects of ‘humanity’ are integral to what it means to be a scientist, the responsibility unavoidable.

I most strongly disagree. We all have the same responsibilities as individuals, but science itself should – must – proceed without regard to social, political, or moral assumptions, otherwise these become limits and borders.

[…]

lsvalgaard says:
December 27, 2013 at 7:42 am
David Ball says:
December 27, 2013 at 7:34 am
Dogma is as “dangerous” as pseudo-science. Those who engage in either do not believe that is what they are doing. IMHO, dogmatic entrenchment has done more harm, than “pseudo-science”.
How do you define ‘dogma’? I know hundreds of scientists personally, and have never encountered one who was ‘dogmatic’ [in my view of what that means]. I have met many who are wrong, mistaken, pig-headed, mendacious, egotistical, etc [the list of human foibles is long], but ‘dogmatic’? Never.

[…]

Chris Reeve says:
December 27, 2013 at 11:07 am
Re: “Real critical thinking means uncovering and questioning social, political and moral assumptions;
None of which are relevant for science.


It’s perhaps not surprising that things like values lose their appeal when mathematics becomes the only way to judge ideas in science. Mathematics values accuracy. Critical and creative thinking are thrown away because they quite obviously fail to service accuracy. This is the same approach to science that was on display at the Bad Astronomy and Universe Today (BAUT) forum. It’s the perfect system for killing innovation in science, and it’s lack of any philosophical complexity makes it palatable to middle schoolers. This worldview might have been a solution to problems which you faced when you were growing up, but today, critical and creative problem-solving are becoming the more pressing need.

Hopefully I am not the first to tell you this, but your description of science is not a vision for the future of science which the larger public will ever accept. You’ve honestly taken the specialist physicist training too far for most people to relate to. Just as a philosopher cannot understand science by only studying philosophy, neither can a physicist come to understand how he taints his own inferences and observations without cultivating the broadest education available to him. The unfortunate fact that many people don’t learn until it’s too late is that the choices we make about what to ignore tend to largely determine the conclusions we arrive at — as well as how useful they are in the real world.

And just to be clear, this desire which artificially motivates you (and many others) to reduce the number of cosmological options to choose from is a fundamental observation in psychology which relates to both how people buy things they are unfamiliar with and how people choose scientific models they are unfamiliar with. There is in truth no pressing need to reduce our cosmological options. This is your subconscious simply exerting pressure on you to reduce the number of choices to have to learn about, because it takes effort to learn about them.

One more thing: There is no philosophical sense whatsoever to pursuing an ad hoc approach to the conventional models to the point where you are left with only 5% baryonic matter, while simultaneously refusing to investigate whether cosmic plasma might simply behave as the laboratory plasma — in that both exhibit E-fields, a minute electrical resistance, pinches, Birkeland Currents, and so on. The argument that you and others like Tom Bridgman put forth for the public takes advantage of the fact that the public doesn’t generally understand what a plasma is, how they are modeled, and how these models differ from what we see in the laboratory. The BAUT way is to position this as not even something which people should investigate, as if the idea that cosmic plasmas and laboratory plasmas might operate on the basis of the same principles is just a completely preposterous idea.

Which aspect of the scientific methodology convinced you to invite others to refuse to question assumptions? The Jeff Schmidt quotes are critical for the public’s attempts to understand where this worldview comes from, insofar as they demonstrate that these are cultural cues which are being taught today at all of our universities in order to create workers who have assignable curiosity. Large organizations need thinkers who can work within an assigned context, so universities train physicists to refuse to question the social, political and moral assumptions that go into their work. If it was any other way, scientific and technological progress would tend to be marked by upheaval.

Leif, scientists (in theory at least) opt for forced induction — we try all possibilities, with the consequence that many will knowingly turn out to be failures — rather than free induction, what animals do, because it’s a faster way to arrive at the answer. But, the history of science appears to be littered with obstructionists who very plainly seem to be allergic to the rate of change which this worldview naturally leads to. Leif, if you love science as much as you claim to, then realize that part of the implication of science is that it leads to rapid change, and that this necessarily means that many of our most cherished ideas will inevitably fail to lead anywhere. If you’ve never asked yourself that question about Dark Matter — as seems to be the case — then you’re not engaging the subject of science at the level that most of the people around you already are.

Re: “How do you define ‘dogma’? I know hundreds of scientists personally, and have never encountered one who was ‘dogmatic’ [in my view of what that means]. I have met many who are wrong, mistaken, pig-headed, mendacious, egotistical, etc [the list of human foibles is long], but ‘dogmatic’? Never."

The very point of the danger of dogma is that it tends to be invisible to our rational minds.

[…]

lsvalgaard says:
December 27, 2013 at 11:22 am
Chris Reeve says:
December 27, 2013 at 11:07 am
It’s perhaps not surprising that things like values lose their appeal when mathematics becomes the only way to judge ideas in science. Mathematics values accuracy. Critical and creative thinking are thrown away because they quite obviously fail to service accuracy.
This is totally wrong. The only real judge in science is whether observations agree with theory [and especially with predictions made with such]. Science is the embodiment of the utmost critical thinking and progress depends on creative thinking [constrained by the reality of observations].

But, the history of science appears to be littered with obstructionists who very plainly seem to be allergic to the rate of change which this worldview naturally leads to. Leif, if you love science as much as you claim to, then realize that part of the implication of science is that it leads to rapid change, and that this necessarily means that many of our most cherished ideas will inevitably fail to lead anywhere.
Any scientist worth his salt wants to change the prevailing worldview, and all realize that beneath our most cherished theories lies yet another layer of ‘truth’ waiting to be discovered. Where you go wrong is to assume that “our most cherished ideas will inevitably fail to lead anywhere”. On the contrary, we proceed to the deeper layers from the bedrock of the current ones.

danger of dogma is that it tends to be invisible to our rational minds
It is obviously clearly visible to those who accuse others of being dogmatic, so you are not quite consistent here.
As I said before, you can only criticize that of which you have sufficient knowledge.

[…]

Chris Reeve says:
December 27, 2013 at 12:55 pm
Re: “The only real judge in science is whether observations agree with theory [and especially with predictions made with such]. Science is the embodiment of the utmost critical thinking and progress depends on creative thinking [constrained by the reality of observations].

Ah, so what you’re saying is that you view the scientific method as just one single process with just one set of values. And yet, in making that determination, you’ve ignored the fact that asking questions and developing models exhibit two competing sets of values. When we ask questions — if our interest is to ask good ones — then we must go out of our way to value creative and critical thinking, and we must relax our immediate need for accuracy in order to come up with new promising ideas. Your approach to science tends to value the process of elaborating models, which values a fit between observations and theory (accuracy). But what you’re still struggling to grasp is that your decision to view the scientific method as just one single process is biasing your entire approach to science towards the elaboration of existing models. You perceive that a choice must be made — between being “scientific” and not — and this perception that there is only one process at play in the scientific methodology then undermines your ability to to ask good questions. By mistaking these two very different processes — one fundamentally intended to diverge and the other to converge — as if they should exhibit the same set of values, you’ve created the very problem which you then must solve: A lack of innovation and creative solutions.

If you had simply spent some time away from your intense focus upon science itself, you might read about the process of innovation. Talk to a designer you might run into about how they do innovation. What they will tell you is that they switch between these two distinct processes of divergence and convergence. This cycling back and forth between these two very different states of thinking is absolutely fundamental to the process of originating and elaborating new ideas. Science is not somehow unique in this regard. It follows the same patterns of innovation we see everywhere else.

Here’s a thought: Have you considered that ALL models go through a stage of infancy where they are vulnerable to arguments that they have not been elaborated? What makes the Electric Universe model unique? Are you picking on it simply because it’s a new idea?

Re: “Where you go wrong is to assume that “our most cherished ideas will inevitably fail to lead anywhere”. On the contrary, we proceed to the deeper layers from the bedrock of the current ones.

But, then you seem to be simply ignoring the instances which don’t make your case — like aether, spontaneous generation, and a very lengthy list of ideas which have simply been abandoned over time.

Are you aware that parallax only works to 1% the diameter of the Milky Way? All distances beyond that are inferred based upon the theory itself. Does it really make any sense to ascribe the same level of certainty to cosmology as it does to our more terrestrial endeavors? Have you ever, for instance, contemplated how exactly a person might disprove the notion of a black hole? Each time that new features are observed, they are simply integrated into the theory. Do such problems ever invite you to question the underlying science itself?

[…]

lsvalgaard says:
December 27, 2013 at 1:28 pm
Chris Reeve says:
December 27, 2013 at 12:55 pm
When we ask questions — if our interest is to ask good ones — then we must go out of our way to value creative and critical thinking, and we must relax our immediate need for accuracy in order to come up with new promising ideas.
Not at all. We ask questions to improve the accuracy, so we must sharpen the need for accuracy from the outset.

you’ve created the very problem which you then must solve: A lack of innovation and creative solutions.
Again, not at all. Science is not innovation. Mother Nature sets strict limits within which we must stay. Einstein once said it clearly when he wondered whether God had any choice in fashioning his Creation.

This cycling back and forth between these two very different states of thinking is absolutely fundamental to the process of originating and elaborating new ideas.
Again, not at all. New ideas are with very few exceptions born out of discrepancies between new data and old ideas or of new data without old ideas explaining them

Here’s a thought: Have you considered that ALL models go through a stage of infancy where they are vulnerable to arguments that they have not been elaborated?
No, a new model is by definition better than the old one from the very beginning. That is why it was made.

What makes the Electric Universe model unique? Are you picking on it simply because it’s a new idea?
What makes it different [not unique, there are other bad stuff out there, e.g. Creationism] is that it never has made any quantitative predictions and is in blatant disagreement with observations.

But, then you seem to be simply ignoring the instances which don’t make your case — like aether, spontaneous generation, and a very lengthy list of ideas which have simply been abandoned over time.
These ideas were steps on the way to where we are now. Without them we would be nowhere.


Hey, fair enough on that one!

Are you aware that parallax only works to 1% the diameter of the Milky Way? All distances beyond that are inferred based upon the theory itself. Does it really make any sense to ascribe the same level of certainty to cosmology as it does to our more terrestrial endeavors?
But nobody does that. Each step on the ‘distance ladders’ is carefully connected and calibrated to the previous steps. And everywhere we look we see the same laws of nature operating.

Have you ever, for instance, contemplated how exactly a person might disprove the notion of a black hole? Each time that new features are observed, they are simply integrated into the theory.
I don’t think you have any idea about this. The theory does not allow any old arbitrary feature. One potential problem that is unresolved is the lack of reconciliation with Quantum Mechanics. But both General Relativity and QM have survived all our clever tricks of finding flaws.

Do such problems ever invite you to question the underlying science itself?
To question the underlying science one must first KNOW the underlying science. And scientists are constantly examining and questioning the ‘accepted’ paradigm in the hope of finding that it breaks down. Everybody wants to prove Einstein wrong.


When he says "KNOW", he is clearly referring to mathematical knowing. In other words, he seems to not believe that conceptual knowing is sufficient for actual comprehension of a theory.

[…]

Tiburon says:
December 27, 2013 at 6:22 pm
Chris Reeve says: – …
Chris: – An epistemological tour de force, pretty well everything you’ve written here at the thread’s end. I admire your elegant description of the ‘cycling’ of scientific research between divergence and convergence to advance theoretical understandings, much akin to Thomas Kuhn’s thought in this area. And no, one does NOT need to be an ‘expert knower’ of any particular science to participate in this process; it is in fact often the very obstacle that prevents such advance, the history of science being rife with examples.

Sorry Dr Svalgaard – I’ll appoint myself an ‘independent arbiter’ and pronounce that it’s clear Chris has a background and rigour of thought that outclasses your self-analysis of what constitutes the process of scientific advancement. This is in no way any comment on your skills in your own discipline, elucidating and refining existing paradigm.
There’s an old expression, “does the fish know it is in water?” The very arguments you bring forward to support your position clearly evidence, to the neutral observer, the very thought processes and bias towards status quo of which Chris tries to warn against, as being little conducive to scientific breakthrough.

[…]

lsvalgaard says:
December 27, 2013 at 6:55 pm
Tiburon says:
December 27, 2013 at 6:22 pm
I admire your elegant description of the ‘cycling’ of scientific research between divergence and convergence to advance theoretical understandings
No matter how elegant, it is nevertheless dead wrong. Might I ask how many scientific discoveries either one of you have ever made? I have made some, and know the process in-and-out. To make a discovery you do not first lose the accuracy and adopt a ‘woolly’ stance. On the contrary, you sharpen and focus the view to drive up the accuracy.


We almost have enough information at this point to turn Leif into a site persona for "extremely skeptical professional scientist".

This isn't the first educational interview I've had online. I learn about how people deal with incomplete knowledge from talking to people about the EU online all of the time. What has really surprised me, however, is that these patterns of behavior which interfere with scientific thinking appear to (for me unexpectedly) correlate with the ways in which people shop for products they might be unfamiliar with. And I need to talk about this when I get a chance. I've learned some things which I should make explicit next chance I get, because it seems that there are some very human tendencies which a scientific social network might consider going out of its way to specifically devalue.

And whereas I was formerly of the opinion that it might be worthwhile to simply ask people how they found out about the Electric Universe, in an attempt to look for patterns, now I'm seeing that although market researchers do indeed ask these types of questions -- and it is actually rather common in the Consumer Packaged Goods industry -- it's not clear that it actually generates good data. Over 80% of all new product launches fail.
pln2bz
 
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Re: Online scientific discourse is broken and it can be fixe

Unread postby pln2bz » Sat Dec 28, 2013 12:01 am

But, worse yet, people don't appear to actually have direct access to why they might have picked one particular product over another. We cannot just ask people to recall what led them to decide to pay attention to something, for people are prone to post-rationalizing decisions which oftentimes lack rational explanations.

Either way, an interesting focus question to ask would be: Given a limited knowledge about the options, do people use a similar, overly-simple set of mental models for evaluating both the consumer product and scientific theory problems? If so, that would be a great lead, because there is obviously already a mountain of pre-existing literature on why people buy things. This has obviously already been heavily studied. From what I'm seeing so far, the two problems seem to be treated similarly ...
pln2bz
 
Posts: 248
Joined: Sun Mar 16, 2008 8:20 pm

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