Reacting to the imminent recession

As the US economy lurches towards recession, the WSJ came up with an appropriately pessimistic survey piece: Economists React: ‘Looking for a Bunker to Hide in’. This attracted various comments, including the following gem:

Gosh, I knew that $300 tax rebate Bush gave me six years ago couldn’t fuel the economy forever, but I was hoping it would at least last through his term so we could blame the Democrats for the recession. Darn it!
Comment by James – January 4, 2008 at 3:54 pm

Huckabee's supporters won't be disappointed, then

Seems like an odd way to pick a candidate… According to the Seattle Times:

Only 4 percent of [Huckabee’s] backers said they wanted a contender with experience, and 2 percent said they were looking for a Republican who can win the White House in November.

Of course the whole Iowa caucus system is a complete nonsense: a throw-back to deeply corrupt 18th and 19th century political practices. To my mind, it has only one virtue: on the Democrat side, it hints at the benefits of a more equitable voting system, such as STV. But even that small idea is drowned out by the cash registers. Hitch points this out (adopting his best Mencken tone); everybody else seems to give it a pass because they’re caught up in the theatre…

Goldstein on Popper on falsifiability

In her contribution to The Edge, Rebecca Goldstein takes on the Popperian idea that scientific thinking inevitably involves falsifiability, and the false (but seductive) inferences that can follow:

Finally, I’ve come to think that identifying scientificality with falsifiability lets certain non-scientific theories off the hook, by saying that we should try to find good reasons to believe whether a theory is true or false only when that theory is called “science.” It allows believers to protect their pet theories by saying that they can’t be, and shouldn’t be, subject to falsification, just because they’re clearly not scientific theories. Take the theory that there’s an omnipotent, omniscient, beneficent God. It may not be a scientific hypothesis, but it seems to me to be eminently falsifiable; in fact, it seems to have been amply falsified.   But because falsifiability is seen as demarcating the scientific, and since theism is so clearly not scientific, believers in religious ideologies get a free pass. The same is true for many political ideologies. The parity between scientific and nonscientific ideas is concealed by thinking that there’s a simple test that distinguishes science from nonscience, and that that test is falsifiability.

"What have you changed your mind about?"

Every year, John Brockman and the folks at The Edge pose a big question. Their Annual Question for 2008 is a classic:

When thinking changes your mind, that’s philosophy.
When God changes your mind, that’s faith.
When facts change your mind, that’s science.

Science is based on evidence. What happens when the data change? How have scientific findings or arguments changed your mind?”

I’m going to have to think a bit before giving my own answer, but I can’t wait to read the responses from everyone from (alphabetically) Allan Alda to Richard Wrangham. If I have one concern, it is that there may be too many contributions this year. I’d prefer quality over quantity. We’ll see.
UPDATE: Having read them all (so far – there are new writings and corrections, arriving all the time), I have to say that there are some excellent pieces, together with a fair number that shouldn’t really have made the cut. Some writers – especially “Edge newbies” – don’t really address the question. Never mind. Over at Cosmic Variance, Sean Carroll has put together a good summary of the more interesting offerings.

Happy New Year '08 Seattle

Yesterday eveningFireworks from the Space Needle. I made my way to Jon and Laura’s party, up on Capitol Hill, and there was good conversation accompanied by copious libations. Just before midnight we took glasses and a couple of bottles of champagne up on to the roof of their apartment block. I should have brought a decent camera and tripod, but I had to make do with my iPhone to capture the skyline and the fireworks on the Space Needle. Pictures here.
And yes, the fireworks stopped after a few seconds due to “a computer glitch”. ((There’s widespread speculation about the operating system involved…)) We headed back down to the apartment, and watched the delayed – and manually controlled – display from indoors. The Quantum Pontiff has a great picture of the fireworks on his blog.

New Years iPhone bug

As I was heading out to a New Years party this evening, I checked the time on my iPhone. Here’s what I saw:
iPhone clock bug
(Click to see full-size.)
The local time in Seattle was 8:45 PM on December 31, 2007. In London and Mumbai it was already January 1, 2008… or it should have been!

Tommy has a sister!

I just heard from Massachusetts: my daughter, Katherine, has had a baby girl. More details anon. (Meanwhile here are some pictures of Tommy and a – very pregnant – Katherine!)
UPDATE: Victoria Elizabeth (“Torri“) Gallagher, 9 lbs. 8oz. Mother and baby doing fine. Here’s the first photograph, from Mark’s cellphone:
First photo, from Mark’s cellphone
Mark’s posted some more pictures, here.