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Andrew Witt
Works at Polyscience
Attended University of Wisconsin Madison
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Andrew Witt

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+Jef Oliver I take it you have a stack of these?
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BREAKING: Map of continental United States contains an elf making chicken in a frying pan. http://boingboing.net/2015/01/23/the-map-of-the-continental-uni.html
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VERY NICE PAMMY! Thanks. Hope you folks had a nice Christmas together.
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Humility

Yesterday’s post about the big bang and cosmic origins struck a few nerves.  Responses ranged from vulgar insults to dismissals of the post as “just a theory.”  But more subtle were the criticisms that declared the post lacked humility.  Scientific knowledge is never perfect, and to claim the validity of the big bang is to go too far.  When communicating to the general public scientists should never say “we know”, only that “we might know.” Scientists should show more humility.

Such criticism fails to recognize that the power of science is its humility.  In fact, the scientific process is based on the assumption that individual scientists won’t easily show humility on their own, so it is imposed upon them. There are three basic tenets of scientific research: it must be based upon verifiable data, it must be done publicly, and it must be open to criticism.

Most people view scientific evidence as repeatable experiments that can be done in the lab.  For this reason the findings of evolution or cosmology are often countered with “you weren’t there.”  But verifiable data is much broader than simply lab experiments.  It is a process of gathering data that clearly documents when, where and how the data was gathered.  If you gather observational data, the burden is on you to document its origin.  If you use data gathered by others, you must clearly cite your sources.

Once you have your observational results or theoretical work, the next step is to present it publicly.  This could be a conference, a preprint archive, a book, or submission to a research journal.  A scientific discovery is meaningless if it isn’t disseminated.  Publication provides a record of the work, so it can’t be tossed down the memory hole.  Make a significant discovery, and the record is there.  Make a foolish claim, and that’s there too.  It’s the latter possibility that strikes fear into scientists everywhere, because  publishing your work isn’t sufficient.  When you make your research public your colleagues now have a chance to pull the work apart and see if it really says what you think it says.  It gets subjected to peer review.

Peer review can be the most frustrating and most humiliating aspect of scientific research.  That’s why it’s considered the gold standard of science.  Having research published in a peer-reviewed journal means that the work has been examined by other experts in your field, and has been found clear and without obvious error.  It doesn’t mean its perfect, but it does mean the work has been held to a high standard and survived.  This is why when I write about new scientific work I focus on peer reviewed articles.  When I write about work that hasn’t been peer reviewed, I clearly say so.

Of course even after conducting your research, organizing your results, checking it with friendly colleagues, presenting it publicly and submitting it to peer review, you still aren’t done.  You’re never done, because at any time someone can critically review your work again.  If you have a great theory and your predictions don’t support new findings, we look for something better.  No matter how famous, or how many awards you may have, anyone can be toppled by new scientific discovery.

That’s the deal.  Keep pushing back against ideas.  Keep working to develop better theories.  Always, always keep in mind that your theories might just be wrong.

What survives is an understanding of the universe that it robust.  It is a confluence of evidence that supports a deep theoretical framework.  It is knowledge humbly gathered, and put forward with humility.  Through a process that recognizes human fallibility.  It is humanity’s best understanding of what is real and true about the cosmos.

This is why I present ideas like the big bang with the claim that we know.  We Know.  We know because thousands of individuals have devoted their lives to understanding the universe.  Devoted their lives to getting it right.  Relying on a process that forces us to be humble, and forces us to defend our ideas over and over.

In my posts I always strive to present our best understanding of the universe in a way that is clear and meaningful.  That’s why I try to limit moderation of the comments.  It is a kind of peer review.  I write about science to the best of my ability, and everyone is free to criticize it.  I’ve made mistakes in my posts and been called on them.  I’ve been praised and thanked for making things clear.  I’ve also been called a liar. A fool. Prideful. Deceitful. Ignorant. Arrogant.

Fair enough.  That’s the deal.

Image:  Excerpt from da Vinci's notebooks.
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DULUTH, GA—Debuting yet another arrangement of the classic song Wednesday night, singer-guitarist Eric Clapton reportedly treated a sold-out crowd at the Gwinnett Center to an even slower, somehow mellower acoustic version of his original 1971 hit ...
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Andrew Witt

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FORT LAUDERDALE, FL—Smiling as their children played among the mounds of gray, icy slop, local parents told reporters Tuesday that a dirty slush machine had successfully provided their families with a small taste of winter in Florida.
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The Democrats deserved to lose tonight, but not for the reasons Republicans might think. It is typical for the opposition party to pick up seats in a midterm, especially in this case since many of the seats that were up for grabs were seats obtained by Democrats in traditionally red districts during the 2008 wave.  But even controlling for that, they still deserved to lose. Why?

Because Democrats do not stand up for democratic policies (few do unapologetically, like Elizabeth Warren). The Republicans are not shy about promoting their policies, even extremist versions of it. They run absolute nut-cases all the time for office. More than that, through constant repetition of unanswered attacks, Democrats essentially allowed the GOP message to be adopted as truth, and then simply distanced themselves from those policies.
 
So, no Democrat stood up for the record of the last 6 years. They didn't attempt to stand up for the ACA. They wouldn't even admit they voted for Obama. This kind of back peddling spinelessness isn't going to be rewarded by voters you want to turn out.

6 years ago when these Democratic Senators took office, things were much worse. Unemployment was in double digits. GDP was falling. Gas prices were high. Homes were being foreclosed. 

Now we have better economic growth than most OECD nations, our deficit is the smallest it's been since 2008, unemployment is below 6%, the stock market is doing well, gas prices have fallen significantly, and millions of Americans now have health insurance and no longer fear pre-existing conditions.

About the only nagging indicators are labor force participation rate and wages -- which mute people 'feeling' the recovery.

If you want to sell people on an ideology, you've got to believe it, and unapologetically promote it. When Tea Partyists talk about dismantling the government, they don't hold back, they don't equivocate.

If you want a vibrant two party system, in which there is a battle of ideas, and compromise, both sides need to stand up for their ideas. Over the past decades, the Democrats have essentially been acting like Reagan Republicans of the 80s, presenting a more moderate and muted form of what is essentially, a 'right' platform, meanwhile, the GOP has run even further to the right just to differentiate themselves. We have a Congress now of center-right RINO Republicans -- called Democrats --, and extreme-right conservatives.

If you're going lose, at least go down fighting for what you believe. Perhaps Democrats believe if they all started talking like Elizabeth Warren, they'd lose more elections. Maybe they would, but maybe the public would start to absorb some of the ideas, and progress would be made, just like it was made on civil rights or gay marriage. 

As soon as the Democrats accepted Republican messaging on policies, and decided to backpedal and concentrate on hyping the base over issues like "war on women, they folded any chance they had of beating the usual midterm odds.
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LOWELL, MA—Saying he feels the need every now and again to vary his repertoire, Seaport Data Systems junior account manager Brandon Herbert, an individual who already spends much of his workday breathing and chewing loudly, told reporters Monday tha...
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Downworthy: Chrome plugin to convert hyperbolic viral mill headlines into sarcastic reality. http://buff.ly/1ga6VS9
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People
Have him in circles
96 people
Jeff Vanzella's profile photo
Jeff Schneider's profile photo
Brian McDonald's profile photo
Malik Sajjad's profile photo
Mitchell Witt's profile photo
Chris Crooks's profile photo
Scott Morgan's profile photo
Jennifer Witt's profile photo
Thiên Kim Phúc's profile photo
Work
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Engineer
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  • Polyscience
    2013 - present
  • Thermal Care
    Engineer, 2013
  • Grainger Global Sourcing
  • Applied Web Systems (div of Thermal Care)
  • TRESU Royse
  • Wisconsin Center for Applied Microelectronics
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You have found the correct Andrew.
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  • University of Wisconsin Madison
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