Maarten

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Everything posted by Maarten

  1. Assessment and investigation of risks

    A different question I am trying to figure out is whether it is appropriate to put a monetary value on human life, in order to be able to make cost/benefit analyses that tell you which action to take with a company. This seems like a gross violation of Objectivist principles as far as I can tell, because you cannot simply say that it's okay to do something, because it would be cheaper if some people die and sue you rather than take extra precautions. I think this theory with cost benefit analyses for everything is called Utilitarianism, is that correct? I tried arguing against it in my discussion groups but I do not think I convinced anyone that it was bad, most people there seemed to think that it was the only possible way to handle this, and they weren't very convinced by my alternative. I am inclined to say that it's always wrong to knowingly kill someone, no matter how profitable it will be, but I am not sure how to properly weigh the costs and benefits when you know there is a certain risk something can go wrong with your product. The suggestion I made was that instead of putting a value on a human life, a company should instead focus on how much a certain accident or mistake would harm them through loss of reputation, and weigh that against the cost of extra safety measures. I think this is a much better approach, but I am willing to hear additional suggestions.
  2. Assessment and investigation of risks

    Thanks for the reactions, everyone. It has helped me to further refine my thoughts on this subject. I would like to bring up a different, but related question now. To what extent is a person responsible for consequences they did not foresee? I can split this further into two essentially different questions, namely: 1) To what extent is a person responsible for consequences that they could not have foreseen? Man is not omniscient, and I am inclined to think it is wrong to hold someone responsible for things they could not have known would happen, but that does seem to create an area where essentially no one can be blamed for what happens. That could be proper, though... 2) To what extent is a person responsible for consequences that they could have reasonably foreseen? (for example when the information is available but the person or company in question simply didn't put in enough effort to locate it before acting) I think the answers to these two questions are very different, and it is mainly the border between the two where it gets fuzzy. You would probably have to start using something like "what a person reasonably could have known" as a standard, but that doesn't seem very objective to me...
  3. Assessment and investigation of risks

    The second, mainly. Although even for the first scenario I do not think you should be able to force someone to answer your question, any more than I can expect an answer when I ask a potential friend a personal question that affects our relationship. I think the "industry standard" is a good standard to use here. What would be the proper way to determine this, though? If a certain industry would not have standards at a certain point in time, would that also be a valid way to handle this? I can imagine this could occur in a completely new industry, where there are simply no precedents to follow in regard to safety measures and functionality, for example. I assume that even if there is an "industry standard" it should only be applied retroactively, rather than pre-emptively? In other words, if something goes wrong we can do something about the responsible company (using the courts), but until that time there are no governmental agencies involved in the process?
  4. Assessment and investigation of risks

    Let's take for example genetically modified wheat, that is engineered to contain extra vitamins. Obviously it takes quite a lot of research in order to succesfully implement something like this, but just how much safe testing should a company do before they can put it on the market? There could be various side effects because of the genetic modification in the product, but it is practically impossible to test for all the things that could change. I am inclined to say that you should be able to sell this product even without doing any testing regarding possible hazards, and leave it up to the customer to decide if he is willing to try a new product about which there aren't many details known. In your example with the bicycles the company is claiming that they are safe, implicitly anyway. If they would just sell bikes without saying anything about how good the bikes are and someone wants to buy one anyway, I do not think the company can be held responsible if the bike decides to break down. The customer should have asked some obvious questions about the product before buying it; if the company told falsehoods to answer these questions they are obviously wrong, and if they refuse to answer something (because they do not know, or don't want to tell) then a reasonable customer should think twice before buying it. In the end it comes down to whether customers take responsbility for their own actions; as long as there is no dishonesty involved (because the seller is lying about certain things which make it impossible for you to act on your own judgement) they should use their best judgment to tell whether or not they want to take the risks inherent in unknown products. The problem is mainly that it's pretty much impossible to prove that a product is completely safe, and that's what is most commonly expected of companies these days. As long as all parties involved do not misrepresent reality I do not think there should be any restraints on when you are allowed to sell and buy a certain product, for normal products anyway (excluding nuclear weapons and stuff like that for now ).
  5. "Drawing the line" among a list of choices

    Previous Thread
  6. GRE success

    I agree that this would be a problem. I think they do focus a lot of attention on this, though, on my courses. Like we will discuss important principles you need to look at in metabolic networks, and different ways you can go about to tackle problems you can encounter when changing something. Thankfully they aren't very fixated on teaching concrete ways of doing something, it's much more principled than that in most classes. Once a teacher has explained why you should do something then I think it is possible to apply this knowledge to different situations, but perhaps this is not as common in these types of programs...
  7. Of Mice and Men

    I converted it now, but it looks like the version I had on my computer wasn't the final one Lemme fix that
  8. GRE success

    I did take the computer based test, but the practice tests I had (which were also computer based) were a little different. I bought this online preparation guide and I think that did help a lot for studying. I agree, I love knowing words but I don't really see the point in learning the 5th synonym of word X It seems that for most things there are several commonly used terms and then you have one or two really obscure terms that no one ever uses but that still linger around in the dictionary anyway. I don't know of course which words I got wrong, because some of the unknown words I might have been able to guess. I know during practice there was more variation in my verbal scores because it depended a lot on which specific words they would ask; sometimes I knew almost all of the words and other times they only asked really obscure ones I think for all the things they look at my grades are least impressive. I am quite confident that my research experience and letters of recommendation will make it more likely to get in somewhere, and so will my GRE probably, but the problem I have with my grades is that: 1) we use a completely different system so right now I have no clue what they would look like after conversion, and 2) I used to have pretty severe motivation problems for a while and that only started changing about 9 months ago, so part of the grades I have in my list aren't stellar. In the last months I've almost exclusively gotten very good grades but it can be difficult to compensate for almost 2 years of average grades in such a short time. Also there were a few very difficult courses where I got a 70% on the exam, which ended up being one of the highest, if not the highest grade anyone got for that course. Over here most professors don't base the grades on how the students perform, so sometimes everyone ends up getting bad grades, and I believe this is different in some parts of the U.S., at least, where they use a more relative grading method that just looks at how well you did compared to the average in the class. I don't really know if that is very widespread, though, so at this point I'll just have to see how it all works out
  9. GRE success

    Well, my undergrad major did have a broad basis. I've taken a few physics and chemistry classes and quite a lot of biochemistry and more theoretical courses over the last three years or so. Also many courses I am taking now and that I have taken in the past focus on the more quantitative aspects of biotechnology; there's quite a lot of calculations involved there even though the mathematics underlying that field isn't very difficult. So I think I have a pretty good theoretical basis at the moment; I certainly have no problem following my master's classes right now. But there may be a difference there between the way it is taught here in the Netherlands and how it's taught in the U.S. ...
  10. Of Mice and Men

    Yeah, because of the pictures it's almost 4mb in size, so I can't PM it. If you PM me your email address I'll send it to you
  11. Of Mice and Men

    It's quite long, though (around 20 pages or so I believe), and the report is in large part based on images taken with the MRI scanner. I don't think the forum interface would be ideal to do that. Did you mean that I could just post the whole thing in a seperate topic there, or did you mean something else?
  12. GRE success

    Yes, I believe the verbal part is quite difficult. In practice tests that I did I could go down to almost 700 before it said I was anything less than 99th percentile, so I think it is quite rare for people to score high 600s/700s. The interesting thing is that I actually didn't really have to study much for the test. Most people I have spoken to said it took months of preparation, yet I think I didn't spend more than about 15 hours or so preparing it. What saved a huge amount of time for me was that I already knew many words from my love of reading english books. If you need to almost start from scratch there it would take ages to memorize most of the dictionary The quantitative part was rather easy as far as the math goes, although the real test was more difficult than the practice ones I did; it still went really well though (I probably got 1 question wrong out of 28 with my score). So in conclusion I think I can say that even though I didn't spend much time specifically preparing for the GRE, the time I spent over the years on self-study and reading made this largely unnecessary
  13. Of Mice and Men

    Speaking of mice, I did my Bachelor Research Project on using MRI to study mice with Alzheimer's disease. It was a really cool project, and I got to work with the fancy machines they have at our university and I even improved one of the measurement protocols while I was there If anyone is interested in seeing the report I wrote on that, I can locate it and PM it to you. It's written in a style similar to scientific publications, although I doubt mine would actually get published at this point I think I have some more learning to do before that time will arrive. But I'm quite proud of my work there and if anyone wants to see the result I can show it to you. I had to write it using technical language, though, so it may be hard to follow if you are not very familiar in the field. Anyway, let me know if you are interested in this.
  14. GRE success

    Coincidentally, I don't understand why I am required to take both the TOEFL and the GRE. You'd think that anyone who gets a good grade on the verbal part of the GRE can understand english I still have to schedule that one, but as it doesn't require much, if any, preparation on my part I can do it next week for example if I wanted to. Most of my deadlines for the fall of 2007 (when I would like to start my Master's) are in the spring of 2007, except for WSU which wants the application done by december 15. But that shouldn't be a problem either, I think.
  15. GRE success

    My major will be biotechnology, which is basically what I am doing now and also the field of my Bachelor. I started my master's degree here a few weeks earlier, mainly so that I do not get delayed much if this doesn't work out for some reason. As for schools, there aren't *that* many schools that offer biotech, relatively speaking. I had to give some schools to the test center so they knew where to send my scores, and I picked WSU (at Pullman), TAMU, UTSA and SFASU (last three are in Texas, first in Washington). I have to look through my list of other schools I initially selected to see if I want to try any of those as well. I emailed most of the departments with some specific questions but most haven't replied, so I am not 100% sure in those cases if it is possible to apply there (seeing how my B.Sc. is only three years and some schools require a 4 year Bachelor).
  16. Happy birthday, both of you
  17. Conflict with My Convictions

    One thing I can think of is to ask some of the other teachers how the school looks on a teacher giving their own viewpoints along with the lecture material. If they tell you that it's a very common procedure and not much is done against it, or perhaps it's even encouraged (because they want to stimulate critical thinking or whatever) then that would give you more leeway in this area... One other thing I can think of is to put some of the focus of the classes on looking at the evidence for various statements in the books they read. Try to get the students interested in following the logical chain connecting the conclusions to the evidence presented (if any), that way the brighter ones will be able to spot the fallacies themselves and you will not be teaching nonsense anymore, at least not directly. Additionally I think that you would be showing them a very important skill that they can use for the rest of their lives, so it would not hurt the students to get more experience in following chains of reasoning to see if the evidence is sufficient for the concluding statements.
  18. Happy Birthday to egochick

    Happy birthday!
  19. Improved personal hygiene

    But isn't the table a little misleading then? If it lists meat as having a high acidity, but meat actually does not cause any problems then shouldn't it be classified as neutral? One would assume that a negative value there means that your body gets more acidic, but in this case that doesn't seem to be true...
  20. And the previous definition wouldn't be false, as it still designates certain things that are true about man. It's just not workable as a definition anymore. In a similar way one could define the first human you see as "a moving thing". That would be true, and it would remain true even when you know everything you know now, because humans ARE moving things. But in order to be able to differentiate the concept you need to change the definition to reflect your increasing knowledge. Sorry about the wrong quote earlier
  21. Improved personal hygiene

    Hmm, raisins look like a really good option for reducing your acid load. They've got the most negative value in the whole table and you can generally eat a lot of them because they're yummy 4 ounces of raisins will counteract almost 12 ounces of meat, for example. And I doubt it will be a problem if you occasionally eat too much food containing bases given that our average consumption is quite acidic. I wonder what the effects of a continuously basic diet are... Not sure if it is something to worry about but I wonder what the effects on your body are if you go too much to the other side of the balance.
  22. Improved personal hygiene

    From the above link: It says here that the largest store of glutamine (which neutralises acids) is in skeletal muscle. But I think that would mean that when you eat red meat (which is mainly muscle) then you should also be getting a lot of this amino-acid. Perhaps the other components of the meat outweigh this component making the net balance from eating meat negative? It's a little confusing to me.. I assume that it's mainly due to organic acids being present in the meat that apparently outweigh the amount of this amino-acid that is present.
  23. Definition of "organism"

    I think you may need to look into what broken units are. If a particular person doesn't have a rational faculty anymore due to an accident that destroyed certain parts of their brain, that does not suddenly make them not-human. I would agree that if a certain species lacked several of the characteristics that you would need to either change the definition or exclude them from it, but for individual units of a certain concept I do not think it's necessary to have all of the aspects contained in the concept.
  24. Black Hole Factory

    That second article is funny
  25. Ah, yeah, I see what you mean. Would you agree, though, that it's definately a good thing to know what you want your romantic partner to be like in most essential aspects? I think taking a more active approach here and trying to find out exactly what you are looking for in a woman is a very good thing to do; at least, it fits my general approach to things in life much better. Before you can judge whether someone is the best person possible for you you need to know what to look for. It may not give a good impression to discuss your particular list with the woman you are dating, I have not really considered this a lot at this point. I do not think that the process of pursuing your romantic partner is very different in essence from acting to gain other things that are of value to you. For all my other value-gaining actions it is extremely important to have a good idea of what I actually want to achieve and how that will further my life, and I think that especially in the situation we are discussing this should also hold true.