Archive for the ‘Inconsequential blabber’ Category

Writing in the scientific journal Bioscience, 15,364 scientists from 184 countries have issued a “warning to humanity” and present a radical agenda to protect planet Earth. We, the billions of people believing in human exceptionalism, categorically reject this agenda and issue in return a stark warning to planet Earth. No amount of facts showing that planet Earth is in a dire state will have us changing our mindset. We do not care about planet Earth. We care about our next devices and their latest cool features. We want more stuff.

The authors of this warning ignore the obvious facts that the era of poets marveling at the diversity of flower or insect species is over and that the real-world wildlife has now become obsolete. We simply take our smartphones to overlay customized virtual creatures on our surrounding environment and dispose them when new trends dictate. There is no longer a need to preserve filthy and dangerous wildlife that moreover lives in places where Amazon does not deliver. More iPhone are sold per day than there are lions, tigers, elephants and gorillas on the planet: this should alert the signatories to what really matters, were they not ideologically biased against human progress.

Those scientists argue that we are approaching many of the planet limits. We refuse to accept any kind of limits: growth must indefinitely prevail unrestricted. We officially summon planet Earth to abandon its intransigent attitude and accept the inevitable: an extension of its biological and physical limits. Should planet Earth stick with its hard line ideological stance, it needs to be aware that mankind will never compromise and that we will seek a second planet. The universe is like our ambition: limitless.

The new economy of nature, whereby ecosystem services such as pollination are monetarily valued, should not be understood as another dogmatic way of protecting planet Earth. It is instead an invitation to producers and shareholders to conquer new markets by outcompeting nature with better services at a cheaper price for consumers. Ecosystems must fight for their survival like any other business. Protecting nature even more would give it an undue competitive advantage against our industries. If our agricultural practices endanger bees pollinating crops, we do not need to change these practices. Instead we let bees disappear and replace them by AI powered micro drones – which do not sting and create many jobs.

Those scientists obvious ideological aim is to inspire discussions on broader questions relevant to overconsumption, overpopulation and how our institutions can meet the challenge of reducing human pressure on planet Earth. We find this unacceptable and call on the signatories of to join us on the side of winners against planet Earth, and hence to symbolically withdraw their signatures by not engaging in any of the research suggested in the warning to humanity. Fellow scientists, ask not what more you can do for planet Earth, ask what more planet Earth can do for you. Both left and right politicians are already united in this truly bipartisan issue that beautifully transcends the political divide: worshipping growth and denying that we depend on our environment.

We therefore strongly oppose the agenda accompanying the second warning to humanity and will not tolerate any obstacle against our way of life –be it tree-huggers or trees themselves. At the first Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, the 41st U.S. President claimed “our way of life is not up for negotiation”. Today, speaking in the name of billions of people, we proudly claim to all be U.S. presidents. Planet Earth better be warned.

Guillaume Chapron1,  Harold Levrel2,  Yves Meinard3 &  Franck Courchamp4

A (satirical) response to the “Warning of scientists to humanity” by Ripple et al., 2017 (here), published in Trends in Ecology and Evolution (here). The French version is here.

 

1 Grimsö Wildlife Research Station, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.

2 AgroParisTech, CNRS.

3 Université Paris-Dauphine.

4 CNRS, Université Paris-Saclay.

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Dans la revue scientifique Bioscience, 15 364 scientifiques de 184 pays ont publié un « avertissement à l’humanité » et présentent un programme radical pour protéger la planète Terre. Nous, les milliards de personnes qui croyons en l’exceptionnalisme humain, rejetons catégoriquement ce programme et émettons en retour un avertissement sévère à la planète Terre. Aucun fait montrant que la planète Terre est dans un état désastreux ne nous fera changer d’état d’esprit. Nous ne nous soucions pas de la planète Terre. Nous nous soucions de nos prochains gadgets et de leurs toutes dernières fonctionnalités. Nous voulons consommer plus.

Les auteurs de cet avertissement à l’humanité ignorent que l’ère des poètes s’émerveillant de la diversité des espèces de fleurs ou d’insectes est terminée et que la faune du monde réel est maintenant devenue obsolète. Nous prenons simplement nos smartphones pour superposer des créatures virtuelles personnalisées sur notre environnement et les supprimons lorsque de nouvelles tendances l’exigent. Il n’y a plus besoin de préserver la faune hirsute et dangereuse qui vit par ailleurs dans des endroits où Amazon ne livre pas. Plus d’iPhone sont vendus par jour qu’il n’y a de lions, de tigres, d’éléphants et de gorilles sur la planète : cela devrait alerter les signataires sur ce qui compte vraiment, s’ils n’étaient pas idéologiquement biaisés contre le progrès humain.

Ces scientifiques affirment que nous approchons de nombreuses limites de la planète. Nous refusons toute sorte de limites : la croissance doit prévaloir indéfiniment sans restriction. Nous invitons officiellement la planète Terre à abandonner son attitude intransigeante et à accepter l’inévitable : une extension de ses limites biologiques et physiques. Si la planète Terre reste ancrée sur sa position dogmatique, elle doit être consciente que l’humanité ne fera jamais de compromis et que nous chercherons une seconde planète. L’univers est à l’image de notre ambition : sans limites.

La nouvelle économie de la nature, par laquelle les services écosystémiques comme la pollinisation sont évalués sur le plan monétaire, ne doit pas être comprise comme un autre moyen idéologique de protéger la planète Terre. Il s’agit au contraire d’une invitation aux industriels et aux actionnaires à conquérir de nouveaux marchés en gagnant contre la nature avec de meilleurs services et à un prix moins élevé pour les consommateurs. Les écosystèmes doivent se battre pour leur survie comme toute autre entreprise. Protéger la nature encore plus lui donnerait un avantage concurrentiel indu contre nos industries. Si nos pratiques agricoles mettent en danger la pollinisation des cultures, nous n’avons pas besoin de changer ces pratiques. Laissons les abeilles disparaître et remplaçons-les par des micro-drones contrôlés par intelligence artificielle : eux ne piquent pas et créent des emplois.

L’objectif idéologique évident de ces scientifiques est d’inspirer des discussions sur des questions plus larges concernant la surconsommation, la surpopulation et la manière dont nos institutions peuvent relever le défi de réduire la pression humaine sur la planète Terre. Nous trouvons cela inacceptable et appelons les signataires à nous rejoindre du côté des gagnants contre la planète Terre, et à retirer symboliquement leurs signatures en ne s’engageant dans aucune des recherches suggérées dans cet avertissement à l’humanité. Chers collègues, ne demandez pas ce que vous pouvez faire de plus pour la planète Terre, demandez ce que la planète Terre peut faire de plus pour vous. Les politiciens de gauche et de droite sont déjà unis dans cette question vraiment bipartisane qui transcende magnifiquement la division politique : adorer la croissance et nier que nous dépendons de notre environnement.

Nous nous opposons donc fermement au programme idéologique accompagnant le deuxième avertissement à l’humanité et nous ne tolérerons aucun obstacle contre notre mode de vie. Lors du premier Sommet de la Terre à Rio de Janeiro en 1992, le 41ème Président des Etats-Unis a déclaré que « notre mode de vie n’est pas ouvert à la négociation ». Aujourd’hui, au nom de milliards de personnes, nous revendiquons fièrement d’être tous des présidents des États-Unis. La planète Terre est avertie.

 

Guillaume Chapron1,  Harold Levrel2,  Yves Meinard3 &  Franck Courchamp4

Une réponse (satyrique) au “Warning of scientists to humanity” par Ripple et al., 2017 (ici), publiée dans Trends in Ecology and Evolution (ici). The English version is here.

 

1 Grimsö Wildlife Research Station, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.

2 AgroParisTech, CNRS.

3 Université Paris-Dauphine.

4 CNRS, Université Paris-Saclay.

I’ve heard so many times the saying that curiosity killed the cat. In French we say that quality is a naughty defect (generally to kids, in order to discourage it). That’s utter-bullshit, pardon my English. Curiosity saved men. It’s because we’re curious that we founds ways to compensate our tiny constitution, our ridiculous speed, our feeble health and so on. And it’s because we’re curious that we invented a special job: researcher. People devoted for the sole purpose of satisfying the curiosity of the society, and/or their own.

In return, the very minimum that these researchers can do, it tell the results of their investigations. Otherwise, that’s a bit unfair, no? It’s called staying in the Ivory Tower, the tower where intellectuals selfishly do their work, while staying disconnected from the society. We get paid by the society to find stuff, and we don’t tell what we find? Apart from fueling the lunatic nature of conspiracy theorists, who think every researcher in the world participate covertly to global machinations, this is just failing to do the full spectrum of our very responsibility as researchers. Every researcher should do popularization work, be it public conferences, press interviews, books or documentaries or just press release and let the journalists communicate for them. That’s the fair thing to do, and that’s also a very good exercise to be able to explain complicated concepts, and ultimately also to get more people interested in our discipline.

With that in mind, I’ve been popularizing quite a lot, since my very early carrier. I’ve written a piece about my thesis research during my first year of PhD, against the advice not to do so of my supervisor, who thought – like almost everybody else at the time – that popularization was the realm of bad scientists: those who where not sufficiently strong in research to stay with their peers went to shine with the public, pretending to be smarter than their colleagues knew them to be. Now I’ve written more, from articles to books, initiated several documentaries, participated in several others, given conferences in front of many different audiences, including about every age of school children, and interviews to radio, tv channels and written press. And apart from one or two exceptions, every single one has been a great experience.

In some countries, like my own, the public tends to think that researchers are at best immature society parasites who work on useless questions just because they can. In others, like the USA, they tend to have a better reputation, sometimes up to selfless saviors of the society. Regardless of the general view of our profession, communicating with the public is profitable for the public, is profitable for us and is profitable for our profession.

Of course, when  I say communicate to the public, don’t go telling them all everything. We want to keep all our global conspiracies safely concealed, otherwise our secret plot to take over all the governments of Earth might be delayed…

Communication

Today, we wondered: why here? Why Paris?
It’s because you, the moron hidden thousands of kilometers away, well concealed while you send empty heads blow themselves up in your place, you know that here, we are everything you hate
.
You know that within a few minutes, all doors will open in Paris for everyone to find refuge
.

You
know that firemen, police officers, soldiers, nurses and doctors will rush in to save lives while risking their own.

You know that, the next day, everyone will mass in hospitals to give their blood.
You know that the very evening, candles will be lit by the thousands at our windows.
You know that we will continue to welcome the refugees that you abuse in your own country.
You know that Virginie will explain as much as she can that you are not a believer but just a despicable ignorant.
You know that Miko will draw to show that you do not understand anything about the Koran and that youre its greatest traitor.
You know that the Place de la République will be filled the following day by people who will express their support, in spite of the repeated requests of the authorities not to remain there.
You know that gatherings, forbidden now, will happen spontaneously despite everything.
You know that the highlight of the day will be a musician and his piano, playing a song about peace.
You know all this.
And you can’t stand it.

So, you write us that we should be afraid of you, that it is only the beginning, that you are the strongest. While being well hidden, safe and far from all this

But I will tell you a something, bastard: you lost.
Before even starting, you had lost.
We are better than you.
You may well hit us like a madman, send your clueless minions to blow themselves up in the midst of our parties, we will prevail.
You may well write to us, tell us that we must be afraid, follow your orders, we will prevail.
You may well take away friends, family, colleagues, neighbors, we will prevail.
Even sad and stunned by all these victims, we will prevail.
We are not afraid of you.
We are millions not afraid.

Jean-Claude, Francine, Christine and Alain have never been afraid of you.
Us, we are not afraid of you.
And
Chloé, Clément, Pierre, Guillaume, Léo, Noa and Yoann will never be afraid of you.

And that also, you know.
And that is why you hit here.
France is your worst enemy.
Count on us: this will not change.

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Vincent Hulin, Paris, 14/11/15. Free translation.

Since biblical times, I’ve thought that one of the only things that perhaps could tip the balance in favor of the environment would be to have religious people on our side. When you think of it, they are numerous, they are organized and when they have divine directive, they take it rather seriously.

It seems that God, in Its great wisdom, has led the first men to believe that Nature was theirs to do whatever they wanted with, and that the only role of animals on Earth was to be at the disposal of Men, and that Men had to fight and win over Nature and this type of bullshit. Or so they wrote in the Bible. No wonder then that Christians don’t give a damn about the environment. Or at least, not enough to matter.

I don’t know enough of the other mainstream religions, but I doubt they also preach biodiversity and ecosystem conservation as one of their main messages (anyways, I’m not an expert but I reckon the main message of all three major religions is « don’t kill your neighbor » and their followers still seem to be struggling with it, so never mind the « don’t mess up your planet »).

And there I was thinking all this, quite pessimistically, and it seems God heard me and thought « Oh Franck, you may be a bit megalomaniac, but you gave Me a good idea, I’ll talk to some of My representatives ». Because next thing I knew, Pope Francis spoke (and wrote) a very clear and very explicit message about protecting biodiversity, mitigating climate change, and stuff in his Encyclal Letter: Laudato Si’. You can find it here. As explained in a nice analysis here, this makes him a powerful ally for conservation. And God knows we need all the allies we can find.

Its seems that the Dalai Lama also said things that go in this direction (but he also said some very sexist things recently, so he’s not my best buddy anymore; yet, Buddhists should listen to that environment thing), which means that we can expect some other major leaders of some other major religions to express themselves on the same lines, since God just asked them (or reminded them, because, hey, if God wanted to kill the planet, He’d just order a downpour and be done with it). And I’m pretty sure God doesn’t want us to mess up with His creation, even if He spent only 7 days doing it and has been a couch potato ever since. .

So now, if you ever were in doubt about how to spend your zealous energy, making converts, making money, or protecting biodiversity, now you know. God wants you to protect biodiversity. And so do I. He’s on my side. You don’t stand a chance. Obey and pray that our divine wrath is curtate and our clemency all-encompassing.

god

You want personal? I give you personal. My year in California; it will be the year of many things, but it will definitely be the year of trying triathlon. Of tri-ing.
I started with an experience in the three sports amounting to only a poor 8 months of running. No swimming (ever, I didn’t even know how to). No biking (ever, I didn’t even have a bike). No idea whatsoever of what a transition is, or why three sports in a row is so much more difficult than the mere sum of the three.

That was a big challenge, but I was there for the challenge. Otherwise I wouldn’t have picked the university team that was (and remained) the USA champions (UCLA Triathlon). An amazing team that awed me and inspired me, but that also made me feel ridiculously slow, fat, old and generally unfit. Because triathlon is everything but easy. Oh, yes, I have sweated, I have bled, I have ached and moaned. I have discovered what it means to be so oxygen deprived that even clutching the pool side I couldn’t catch up my breath and was slowly drifting into both asphyxiation and panic. I have seen people faint and collapse around me during races and wondered whether I was next. I now know what it’s like to see white spots while swimming, to feel lost in the ocean, to feel unable to climb further up a slope, to run for hours on giant blisters, to keep going even as darkness pulls around, to puke on the side of the road or to stay awake all night long with a body full of hormones and pains after a race.

I have lost sleep; I have lost weight; I have lost toenails; I have lost pride; but I have never lost focus nor courage. I never gave up, even when the rest of the team was so effortlessly losing me in swims, in rides and in runs. Even when my highest achievements were dwarfed by the lowest of theirs. I have found determination, I have found strength in my microscopic progresses. I have found sound advice and kind encouragement. I have found a coach, and mentor and a team.

And I have found pleasure. I have found pleasure in progressively feeling stronger, faster, tougher, more enduring. And I have found pleasure in fighting my fears, in overcoming my limitations, in pushing my limits, in never, ever giving up. I found pleasure in stringing races, in running in Death Valley, in biking with Marines, in passing so many racers in the ocean. I come back to France having now run 7 half-marathons, three marathons and four triathlons, many in difficult conditions. I was pleased to finish within the first 20% racers at my last semi-marathon, which was one week after my last triathlon, itself 5 days after my last marathon. My overall feeling is that although I have never been skilled, I have pushed myself, and never failed.

So, this is supposed to be a blog somehow related to scientific research?! WTF? Ok, here’s the message. First, research is relatively easy; even a PhD is relatively easy. Believe me. There are much harder endeavors, stop complaining if you are. Second, whatever your goals, you can reach them if you put your mind into it. Nothing is out of your reach. If you don’t push away your limits, you’ll remain limited. Third, hard work, tenacity, courage and strength of will can go a long way towards compensating lack of skills or other disadvantages in our academic world (such as being young, being a woman or being a non-English speaker). Last, even difficult, painful, long endeavors can provide pleasure, sometimes just because you managed to overcome the obstacles you once believed to be insuperable.

Now, that’s done; Note to self: second step, give this text to my PhD just before I give them some additional, hard work.

funnyt_08

 

The Dunning–Kruger effect. No, it’s not yet another episode of the hilarious “Big Bang Theory” show. It’s a real, serious scientific thing.

As a kid, I’ve always wondered whether people who are really dumb have a way know that they are really dumb. If they lack the intellectual faculties to spot intellectual faculties, then they are stuck in a loophole that is way worst than anything the devious French administration could ever invent. No? Yes, the answer is yes.

According to the mighty Wikipedia, the Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias whereby unskilled individuals mistakenly assess their ability to be much higher than is accurate. This bias is attributed to a metacognitive inability of the unskilled to recognize their ineptitude. Conversely, highly skilled individuals tend to underestimate their relative competence, erroneously assuming that tasks which are easy for them are also easy for others. As David Dunning and Justin Kruger of Cornell University conclude: “The miscalibration of the incompetent stems from an error about the self, whereas the miscalibration of the highly competent stems from an error about others.” End quote.

Or, as Franck Courchamp of Paris Sud University concludes: “Geniuses are too aware of the possibilities not to focus on their own limitswhile dumbs are too dumb to get that they are dumb”. That’s quite related to the “impostor syndrome” that I discussed earlier here.

The good news is, if you thought you were not that smart, you are probably underestimating yourself, and are much smarter than you feel. The bad news is, now that you know you may be smart, you should start wondering whether you’re not “miscalibrating” a bit. You stupid.

Intelligence