The other other Harvard scandal

Several of you are familiar with the bestiality controversy surrounding Marc Hauser, over in faux-Cambridge.

Less reported by the media is the embarrassing revelation, now viral on over 100,000 Youtubes, that Harvard has been using video games, spliced with scenes from the more recent installments of the Star Wars franchise, to teach its students subatomic biology. See the offending video here, leaked by the Swedish watchdog organization Ardalan Biology:

This shameful behavior is indicative of the increasingly hot water in which subatomic scientists find themselves drowning. Believing in non-observational objects is one thing; believing in video games and Star Wars is another.

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17 thoughts on “The other other Harvard scandal

  1. While I agree with you on Mark Hauser, I can’t see what you’re saying about the video. What do you mean, subatomic biology? The video is only showing the various organelles of the cell, such as the Golgi apparatus at 3:49, and at smallest the proteins that do work in the cell. These things should be unfathomably HUGE compared to subatomic particles, let alone atoms. Do learn basic scientific vocabulary before calling yourself “a perpetual student of the sciences and mathematics”.

    There’s nothing offensive here; it’s just a video helping students to visualize how proteins and organelles interact to do work in the cell. Nor is there any recognizable footage of Star Wars anywhere in this movie.

    Ardalan Biology is not a watchdog organization. It’s a channel on Youtube, and I’d like to know how you got the idea that it’s Swedish.

    I’m hoping that this blog is just an elaborate parody, but as far as I can see, it isn’t.

  2. Be careful what you say, Jason. Every time I’ve posted something about this site being a parody or a humor site, the comment has been deleted.

    Apparently, it is a humor site, but NS wants to keep that a secret.

  3. Dear Jason,

    AngelPlume likes to discredit me, accusing me of deleting comments, suggesting that I am “joking” just because I counter the mainstream, and so on. But let’s keep having a serious discussion. (After all what, exactly, would be the “parody”?)

    To answer your question, the fact that they are from Sweden does not validate my other claims. Did I say that? You challenged the Sweden point, so I responded!

    NS

  4. Okay, so I missed the word ‘Sweden’ tucked away in a corner somewhere. But what about your other claims? How did you come to think that:

    a) this event is even a “scandal” and “embarrassing revelation” in the first place;

    b) this “scandal” is viral;

    c) this “scandal” involves video games, when they are really just animated clips;

    d) these animated clips are “spliced with scenes from the more recent installments of the Star Wars franchise” even though you can see there is clearly nothing of the sort if you just watch this video clip;

    e) these animated clips are teaching “subatomic biology”, when it’s clearly showing how proteins and organelles (NOT subatomic particles) in a white blood cell enable it to do its job;

    f) Ardalan Biology is a watchdog organization, when all it is is someone’s YouTube channel; and

    g) making these educational video clips (on cell biology, not “subatomic biology”) constitutes “shameful behavior”?

    I’d really like to know how you came up with your statements. Clearly, “believing in non-observational objects (even though you can observe cell organelles and proteins) is one thing; believing in video games and Star Wars is another.”

  5. Jason C,

    You are becoming a little bit of a nuisance to me – I have established my view in my post, and you ask me to defend in comments? I will do so.

    One thing I must say – thank you for laying out your remarks with letters. Other of my interlocutors, like Mrs. Angelplume, get mixed up due to their poor organizational habits. I’ll address your aforementioned points as they progress.

    (a) You may be right that it’s not a scandal technically, as I myself am the muckraker. Presumably, I have started the scandal; hopefully others will pick it up. Maybe eventually we can bust the bubble that is Harvard.

    (b) It is obviously viral, as the views of the video, publicly on the Internet, increase daily. The definition of viral.

    (c) What is the difference between video games and animated clips?

    (d) Um, if you watch closely, some of the scenes look like galaxies from at least one of the films. But I’m not enough of a crazy person to go find the examples. The evidence is there for those who care to look.

    (e) I think you’re confusing what Harvard says it is doing with what Harvard is actually doing. Every degree mill on the planet says they are teaching legitimate science. So mere assertions of pedagogical intent don’t constitute evidence. That’s an elementary truism of scientific method.

    (f) Watchdog organizations can’t have Youtube accounts? What is this new technological chauvinism? What do you call this:
    http://www.youtube.com/user/HumanRightsWatch
    I call it “QUED,” for me.

    (g) Making these “educational” clips does constitute shameful behavior, as I hope I’ve demonstrated to your satisfaction. But from your tone I gather that you’ll be back, refusing to listen even to reasoned answers as I have given.

    I’d add, by the way, that if “you can observe cell organelles and proteins,” then why does Harvard feel the need to manufacture video games to illustrate? It’s a bit reminiscent of Colon Powell at the United Nations with his computer generated images, don’t you think?

    Hope this helps,
    NS

  6. Mrs. Angelplume? You still deny my identity?

    I accuse you of deleting my comments?
    You deny that you made them disappear?

    You think you can lie to my face with impunity?
    I thought you were idiotic, apparently you’re maliciously evil.

    Perhaps there’s no possibility of redemption for you after all.

  7. Excuse me, Ms. Plume (ugh feminists),

    Why are you asking me questions about your own comments? Was I talking to you about that? I don’t understand your comment?

    Lying to your face? What comment of mine in this thread are you responding to right now? You are crazy?

    Cheers,
    NS

  8. We’ve had this discussion before about my gender. If you follow my name-link back to my profile, you’ll see that I’m a female cat (Angelina), and a male human (Angies Papa). If you follow the WordPress link on that page, you’ll even find a picture of us. Why you perpetuate this “housewife” lie about me is beyond me, though your misogynistic attitude probably means you think it’s an insult of some kind.

    And you’re the one who implied that my claim of having comments deleted was false. I know for a fact that several have been, particularly ones that implied this site must be some sort of humorous parody, so by denying it you are lying to my face… or at least as close as one can get to that with someone like you who hides behind anonymity.

    Perhaps the biggest lie is your continual assertions of wanting a “serious discussion” with people, wile doing nothing more than spouting nonsence or insulting them with absurdities.

  9. Angel,

    Okay, you’re a cat and a human? Whatever, your comments have gone beyond un-serious. I’m going to keep responding to them, but I just wanted to say that I’ve given up.

    On the comment thing, I just don’t have any idea what you are referring to, or why you are talking about this. Do you have any contributions to the topic at hand?

    There are oodles of comments on this blog that try to discredit me by saying I am some kind of joke. They are all over the place. How can you claim I delete them? Ugh.

    With stalkers like you, it can become clear why I must remain anonymous. And in any case I’m on Facebook and stuff and I have a blog, so how much more public can one get?

    If you think I spout nonsense, then fine. But address the arguments, not other things like whether or not you are a cat, whether or not I am a joke in blog form … etc.

    Cheers,
    NS

  10. a) I don’t understand: there’s absolutely nothing scandalous about making an original, educational video clip. Nor is there anything remotely controversial about this material, unless you count biology and science itself as a scandal, which I gather you do. If you explained yourself, I haven’t caught it, so explain CLEARLY to me WHY you think it is a scandal.

    b) Viral among biologists and enthusiasts like me, maybe. But people with interests outside of biology, for the most part, have not even noticed this. Compared to, say, lewd photos of celebrities or humorous home videos of dogs or cats, this is certainly mundane. And millions of people access Google everyday, but you wouldn’t call Google, of all things, viral.

    c) Lots and lots and lots of differences. You should consider asking a normal person that. One big difference: you don’t play video games on Youtube.

    d) I’m not a Star Wars nerd, but the “galaxies” you refer to most certainly don’t look like galaxies from any of the movies, let alone in real life. You’re probably referring to the Golgi apparatus at 3:50, which distributes vacuoles full of proteins to other parts of the cell, sort of like a post office would. I do see how ribosomes docking at ER pores (3:22) might look like how ships might dock on a mothership, but I defy you to find a spacecraft in Star Wars remotely resembling a ribosome.

    e) You’re completely avoiding my question. It’s true that what you say you’re doing isn’t what you may actually be doing; look at college admissions. But my question is how you came up with “subatomic biology” for this video when it clearly isn’t dealing with subatomic particles? Again, these are proteins and organelles in a cell that are multiple orders of magnitude larger than the most massive subatomic particle.

    f) Yes, I know they can have Youtube channels. But this is some anonymous Swede’s Youtube channel, not the channel of any organization. Google “Ardalan Biology” yourself and find a watchdog organization for me with that name. The evidence is there for those who care to look.
    I call it QUED, for me.

    g) See a).

    My reply to your question about observing cell proteins and organelles:

    First of all, this isn’t a video game. Please keep that straight, and please go find out how video games and video clips are different.

    Secondly, observing proteins and organelles is different from watching them interact in a live cell. Proteins can be observed with electron microscopes, X-ray diffraction, and simple experiments with a protein and some reactants. Organelles can be seen under light and electron microscopes. However, you can’t actually see how these components work together in a living cell, and how the cell uses them to accomplish work, such as changing shape, in this case. The animation shows how the proteins work together to get the cell’s job done. Seeing a motor protein’s X-ray diffraction pattern won’t tell you how it transports vacuoles to and from the Golgi apparatus, but a video set to music will. It’s like handling the parts of a toolbox vs. seeing how the parts of the toolbox help in the construction of a house. You have the cell components, but how do they work together? That’s what this clip is for.

  11. Looks like I’m not the only one who thinks you spout nonsense, NS.

    Jason, a couple of tips I’ve had to learn the hard way:

    1) Anything NS can’t see with his naked eyes, without leaving his apartment, will be classified as invisible and/or nonexistent. And he never performs experiments of any kind.

    2) NS has trouble understanding the meanings of words, especially when they refer to something “invisible.” Since “microscopic” and “subatomic” are both too small for him to see, he probably considers them to be equivalent.

    3) NS re-defines ordinary words for his own use. Always check his glossary of terms to see if he’s using such words before objecting to his choice of terminology.

    4) NS is not very discriminating, and labels things with the first thing that pops in his head. For example, video games and animated clips both put moving pictures onto a computer screen, so he apparently considers them to be equivalent.

    5) Most important, his main objective seems to be generating confusion rather than spreading enlightenment, apparently for his own amusement. So don’t expect a straight answer from him. Ever.

  12. Jason,

    I’m afraid it seems that we have come to a bit of an impasse, where our disagreements may be fundamental. On many of the issues you (re)raise, I have explained myself to the best of my ability, which is enormous. I will say a few things in closing:

    (a) The idea that there are not video games on Youtube is ridiculous, just ridiculous. I give you a major e.g.:

    (b) Subatomic just is the level below the basic building block of whatever ontology is under discussion. Atomic comes from the Latin, atomus, which has a hypothetical connotation, coming from the mythical Greek concept of to cut, i.e. temnein, which can be conjugated into atomos. Notice that biology comes from the Greek, bios, which means more or less “living organism,” from the Latin root of the English word vivacious Notice that things we can see (chipmunks, elephants, leaf-cutter ants, babies, fungi, hamsters, etc.) are accurately connoted by these terms. From this argument we can see that my usage is correct, or at least certainly more correct than your own.

    (c) All kinds of links come up when I search for Ardalan Biology and the word watchdog on Google, so it can’t be too hard for you to find this out. I’ll leave it at that. I don’t get paid to do your research!

    (d) Your intellectual gerrymandering at the end is revealing. You say we can perceive certain objects, yet because of an alleged observer effect, we cannot perceive the processes of the objects. I need not point out the absurdity here.

    Thank you for your thoughtful engagement, despite our differences, and best wishes for the holiday season, please enjoy the snow on my blog,
    NS

  13. Angel,

    The harassment under which you (a woman? a cat?) are putting me is becoming unbearable. Why can’t you spend more time with your various selves? Ugh, multiplied by several.

    You vomit, “Looks like I’m not the only one who thinks you spout nonsense, NS.”
    I retort: Jason has thoughtfully engaged me. You have done no such thing! If he thought it was nonsense, how could he engage me? See for details Ludwig Wittgenstein’s path-breaking argument about the impossibility of a “private language.”

    You vomit further, “Anything NS can’t see with his naked eyes, without leaving his apartment, will be classified as invisible and/or nonexistent. And he never performs experiments of any kind.”
    I retort: There are all kinds of things I can’t see that I believe in, e.g. love, e.g. China, e.g. my ancestors. So can we be done with this silly canard, promoted throughout the Internet, to discredit me?

    You vomit further, “NS has trouble understanding the meanings of words, especially when they refer to something ‘invisible.’ Since ‘microscopic’ and ‘subatomic’ are both too small for him to see, he probably considers them to be equivalent.”
    I retort: Um, only someone paying zero attention to anything could interpret me in this hideous fashion. Fortunately, Jason has not made these idiotic mistakes.

    Having no more bodily fluid, you dry heave, “NS re-defines ordinary words for his own use. Always check his glossary of terms to see if he’s using such words before objecting to his choice of terminology.”
    I retort: You are correct that my glossary is useful, and sometimes good-humored, but in general it is for people, like Todd Trimble, who are not attentive enough to remember what I have said. In other words, nothing beats reading and remembering the essays themselves.

    You dry heave further, “NS is not very discriminating, and labels things with the first thing that pops in his head. For example, video games and animated clips both put moving pictures onto a computer screen, so he apparently considers them to be equivalent.”
    I retort: Clearly this is false. My posts are not the first things that pop into my head? Um, how could you even know this? Ugh.

    You clean off the toilet, “Most important, his main objective seems to be generating confusion rather than spreading enlightenment, apparently for his own amusement. So don’t expect a straight answer from him. Ever.”
    I retort: This is quite Orwellian. The person who tries to fix scientific obfuscation of reality… this person is who you say generates confusion. Not an original strategy, I should say!

    Please stop pestering me!,
    NS

  14. a) The link you provide does show a video game, but it’s only a sort of ‘screenshot’ of the video game. The fundamental difference of a video game from simply a video is that the user actively engages in what’s going on on the screen instead of sitting and watching passively. I’m sure that if you try to control the purple spaceship in the video, you won’t be able to, because it’s just a video clip that can’t receive external input.

    b) “Atomic” comes from the Greek, not Latin, ‘atomos’, which does come from ‘a’, a Greek prefix similar to our negative ‘un’, and ‘temnein’, ‘to cut’. ‘Atomos’ itself thus means ‘uncuttable’, and refers to the philosophical, not mythical, idea of Leucippus and Democritus that all objects have a basic, indivisible unit. However, in the 20th century, physicists discovered that atoms, the uncuttable particles, were themselves composed of other particles. This is where the suffix ‘sub-‘, coming from the Latin for ‘below’, is involved: The particles were at a lower level than even atoms themselves, so they came to be known as ‘subatomic’.

    c) Of course, there must be hundreds of watchdog organizations with websites, in addition to millions more websites referring to those websites. However, if you Google ‘Ardalan Biology’, the only relevant link you will come up with is someone’s obscure Youtube channel, followed by the mention of ‘Ardalan Biology’ by this blog, one among millions. The next hundred thousand links feature only the sites of obscure professors, dentists, and just ordinary people who happened to be named Ardalan, and who have no connection to fictitious watchdog organizations.

    d) Let me use an analogy. Suppose that you find a power tool lying about somewhere at a construction site (a drill, a jackhammer, etc.), and you didn’t know how it was used. You can pick it up and tell immediately the tool’s color, shape, and weight. You can even take sample fragments of this tool and determine its composition (how much metal, which combination of metals, etc.). It tells you much about that tool itself, but it can’t go very far in explaining how that tool is used in the construction process. If someone were to explain verbally or in writing how to operate the machine and how its properties help the tool do its specific job at the construction site, it might help, but a visual or demonstration of a worker using that tool helps the most. That’s why DIY guides are filled with diagrams.

    Similarly, observing a cell component’s shape and structure tells us about the component itself, but is rather limited in what it tells us about its role in the cell. To understand the cell *as a whole*, it’s much easier to visualize what is happening in a video clip than to read a dull textbook or listen to a boring lecture.

    Thank you for your time and the awesome snow,

    Jason

  15. Pingback: Scientists fail to accurately measure imaginary objects | Science and Math Defeated

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