Field of Science

Hunch.com answers "No" to the Question: Should I believe in God?

Hunch, the newest brainchild of Flickr co-founder Caterina Fake, "is a decision-making site, customized for you. Which means Hunch gets to know you, then asks you 10 questions about a topic (usually fewer!), and provides a result -- a Hunch, if you will. It gives you results it wouldn't give other people."

Hunch marries a decision tree model with machine learning algorithm which gets smarter. The resulting intelligence can make better decisions customized for you.

One of Hunch's early beta testers created the Super Question, "Should I believe in God?" The question caught on with a large number of Hunch's power users and has become a focal point of fierce debate within the closed beta. It turns out that no matter who asked Hunch if they should believe in God, Hunch's answer was always "No," even in cases where the power user's Christian faith was known to Hunch.

Christians within the closed community were quick to note this error to Hunch's developers, but instead of adjusting Hunch's intelligence to affirm a user's faith, the error was classified as user generated. This classification resulted in an uproar within the power user community and a particularly vocal group beta testers had their accounts suspended.

According to a source, not only have Hunch's developers refused to make modifications that bypass or alter Hunch's algorithmic intelligence, but they are preparing to use Hunch's complete rejection of "God" to market Hunch as a super intelligence with the tagline, Why pray for guidance when you can just ask Hunch?

Caterina Fake did not respond to our request for an interview and despite repeated attempts, we have yet to receive in invitation to join Hunch.

The Evolution of Field of Science: Circa Late March 2009 - Signs of Life Era

The occasional series marking significant changes in the state of affairs around these here parts.

What's special about now? Well, as of last weekend, Field of Science has successfully assimilated its second otherwise preexisting (read: formerly of blogspot) established science blogger.

PLEKTIXSecond, you say? When was the first? Well, the FIRST (future bragging rights) to leap was Ben Allen who brought his blog PLEKTIX over to FOS back on February 25, 2009. Being the first, there was a lot that could have gone wrong--you'd think--but a month has passed and Ben is still with us. I think he might even be happy to be here. So say hello to Ben if you haven't already. And while you're over there, maybe ask him for some stocks picks. He's a natural when it comes to spotting future potential.

Genomics, Evolution, and PseudoscienceThe SECOND mad scientist to dive in is Steven Salzberg who added his blog Genomics, Evolution, and Pseudoscience to Field of Science this past Sunday. You'll find Steven's blog in the header quick links under "GenoEvoPseudo", and its new url is http://genome.fieldofscience.com/.

I also want to welcome both Ben's and Steven's constant readers. I hope you find the new surroundings complimentary to Ben's and Steven's blogs.

Reddit Field of Science

Edit: This project has moved to its reddit url: http://www.reddit.com/r/FoS/

If you're wondering what I do all day (like I sometimes do), I'm often tinkering under the hood of Field of Science. More often than not it's stuff that doesn't amount to much, or stuff that no one but me is likely to notice or care about. Yesterday, however, my tinkering resulted in something that is worth sharing if only because it will give you some insight into how I think and how I see FOS as constantly evolving.

I forget how exactly, but I ended up on reddit. You'll no doubt recognize their little alien mascot. Reddit, it turns out, allows you to create your own reddit and host it on your own domain. What for? Worry about that later. What's important is it can be done, so under the hood I go. Fast forward a few hours and... fos.fieldofscience.com. Not perfect--reddit runs its ads and I still need to customize the look a bit--but functionally (once you figure out what to do with it), reddit-dot-field-of-science works like a charm.

So back to the what for? The way I see it, a community bookmarking/rating/commenting tool (which is what reddit is) could be a great way for a science tribe to collaborate and enrich itself. But it's a bit too soon for that. Our science tribe is not big enough (yet). Nevertheless, Field of Reddit is a good example of the types of projects I naturally gravitate toward (when left to my own devices). It also gives you some insight into how I imagine Field of Science. FOS is not a static website with preset round and square holes that you either fit into or you don't. Rather, FOS is an amorphous, evolving, fluid collection of tools and experiments and projects and ideas... In other words, FOS exists to serve its tribe, and what it is at any given moment is a reflection of the collective and individual needs of its tribe. So when I say FOS is evolving, I really mean it. My role is that of occasional catalyst and constant enabler.

Anyway, back to the nuts and bolts. A quick outline and some instructions before I can put this on the back burner.
I've set reddit fieldofscience as Restricted (anyone can view, but only contributors can submit links) for now. If you want to become a contributor, register per the instructions below and send me your reddit username.

1. Register.


2. Create your account.


3. Install the bookmarklets.


4. Be sure to select the subreddit FoS when submitting new links.

ScienceBlogs Head Scratcher

ScienceBlogs newest addition did the strangest thing today. Eruptions migrated all his old posts from his beautiful WordPress blog over to his ScienceBlog Archives:
I've finished migrating my archives of the ol' Wordpress Eruptions (since May 2008), so if you're looking for more information, try clicking "Archives" at the top of the page and wander through there. I will be updating the archives with category linked for each volcano, but that might take a while to retrofit. Enjoy!
Curious what "migrating" meant, I went to Erik's old blog and my jaw dropped at what I found. Apparently migrate meant deleting all your posts on your original blog and republish them on the back pages of your new blog. But when you delete those posts from their original location you throw away all those hard earned links and not unsubstantial search engine mojo in the process. And for what, an archive that no one will ever read?

Eruptions.wordpress.com went from a virtual neon signpost that would send a regular stream of new readers to Erik's ScienceBlog for years to come, to a virtual black hole.

The Kepler Mission

Kepler lifts off tonight at 10:48 pm EST. Everything you could possibly want to know about it can be found at Kepler.NASA.gov. The basic idea behind Kepler is that it will look at that » same spot of Milky Way (Cygnus Region) for the next 3 years, taking an observation every half hour. If any of the stars in its field of vision dime during that time as a result of exoplanets crossing between the star and Kepler, they'll use those measurements to determine the size of the planet and its distance from the star it orbits. Using that data they can possibly discover extrasolar earth-size planets in the Goldilocks Zone.

Another consideration to keep in mind is that for Kepler to find a planet, the planet has to be orbiting its star along the axis of Kepler's observation. If not, the planet will never transit its sun from our field of view.

Personally, I'm a huge fan of space-based telescopes. Worth far more than the weight of their delivery vesicles in gold as far as I'm concerned.

To date, we have discovered over 300 extra-solar planets, but they've all been of the massive gas giant type due to the limitations of the instruments used to find them. Kepler changes that.