User talk:Dratman

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Will Beback 19:38, 15 October 2006 (UTC)

Good catch![edit]

Thanks for your fix to “Marginalism”!SlamDiego←T 03:12, 2 July 2008 (UTC)

PTSD - removal of "post-traumatic stress syndrome"[edit]

This action looks impulsive to me. It's a member of a list of historical references, and actually is probably correct - was likely the precursor of the current "posttraumatic stress disorder". Regrettably, the original author of this sentence provided no citation, and I have none as well. So, I have to consider it unresolved, and more importantly unsupported at present. else I'd revert. Tom Cloyd (talk) 04:41, 24 March 2010 (UTC)

Paul Simon[edit]

Actually, the first words in that article were and are the subject's full name. Restating it in the second paragraph is a slight improvement, but it was no problem the way it was. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 02:15, 18 December 2010 (UTC)

Sorry, I should have written my comment more circumspectly, something like this: Beginning a first substantive paragraph with the pronoun "he" sounds somehow indefinite Dratman (talk) 03:10, 20 December 2010 (UTC)

Notification: changes to "Mark my edits as minor by default" preference[edit]

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Species boundaries[edit]

Hi, I noticed your change to the Species article with the edit summary "Species boundaries do not actually change as a result of increased scientific knowledge, but our understanding of them may be revised". The change itself seems neutral to me, but I would question your explanation if it might lead to you making changes elsewhere. Your summary seems to imply that species boundaries exist 'out there' and all that happens is that our understanding of where they are changes. A key part of our current understanding of the concept of 'species' is that there are no necessarily sharp boundaries, particularly during the process of speciation. To a large extent, therefore, species boundaries are just arbitrary divisions constructed by biologists, so it's accurate to say that species boundaries change with increased knowledge. Peter coxhead (talk) 07:02, 30 May 2011 (UTC)

Thank you for your thoughtful and illuminating comment. I was actually thinking about that question of species boundaries "out there" or "in here" (gesturing toward head) when I wrote the edit summary. I think it is a subtle dichotomy.
Of course you are perfectly right that there are no species designations out in the world. In fact there are only individual organisms. No, wait, there are only individual cells. Oh, sorry, there are only individual molecules.
You see the problem I am struggling with? There really sort of is 'something' out in the world. In the case of species, suppose a nascent species, isolated somehow over time, becomes a robust species. Here I am speaking solely of events out in the world. Something really did happen. Interbreeding, prevented over time at first by isolation, became impossible because of, say, changes to the chromosomes.
Our descriptions should be able to distinguish between actual changes such as I have just described and changes which take place only in our human-created nomenclature. I was trying to make that distinction.
I would appreciate your further comments. Dratman (talk) 15:02, 30 May 2011 (UTC)
I think it's similar to what philosophers sometimes call the 'heap paradox'. If you don't know it, it runs like this. Suppose there's a small pile of sand, definitely not large enough to be called a 'heap of sand' (as least in my dialect of English). I have a machine which adds sand to it, grain by grain. After a day, the pile is 6 ft (2 metres) high, and I'm happy to call it a 'heap'. But when did it become a heap? It's very tempting to say that at any point it either was a heap or it wasn't a heap. But this is wrong. There are piles of sand which are definitely not 'heaps' and there are piles of sand which definitely are 'heaps', but in between these clear extremes, the concept of a 'heap' is not precise.
The same seems to me to apply to species. After sufficient time has elapsed, two populations with the same last common ancestor may be clearly two different species (consistent morphological differences, don't interbreed in the wild, can't interbreed under artificial conditions, etc.). Two populations which have only recently diverged may be clearly the same species (no consistent morphological differences, interbreed in the wild where they meet, etc.) In between these extremes, it's an arbitrary decision as to whether two populations are two species, two subspecies, two varieties, etc. There's no precise line 'out there': it's a continuum.
There are two errors which can be made in 'heap paradox' situations. The first is to insist that something either is an 'X' or it isn't, so there must be a firm dividing line. The second is to say that because there isn't a firm dividing line, then the concept of an 'X' doesn't make sense. Both are errors.
Now species are different from heaps in this way. Because we need to label organisms in order to study them, we sometimes have to decide whether or not a population is a distinct species; we can't just evade the question as we can with a pile of sand. So I would say that while the concept of distinct species is fine, we have to accept that in some real cases the dividing line is arbitrary, while in others it clearly is not.
What sometimes happens is that evidence comes along which clarifies the decision. The Common Pipistrelle in Europe is a good example. It used to be thought to be one species; then machines capable of discriminating ultrasound became available and it was discovered that there were actually two. Peter coxhead (talk) 18:15, 30 May 2011 (UTC)
Your point about the heap paradox is particularly relevant. While writing the edit summary we have been discussing, I noticed I was thinking like a mathematician, and I was questioning in my mind whether or not that style of thinking would be appropriate for an article about biology. A mathematician has no problem calling even one single grain of sand a "heap." In fact, it's even worse than that. A mathematician would say that NO grains of sand is a heap, "the empty heap."
It is an odd fact that mathematicians tend to think of their totally made-up, absolutely unreal structures as somehow existing, if not "out in the world," at least outside of themselves. That is a kind of convention of thought, one which seems to make mathematical work easier to face. In fact, it seems that some of the very best mathematicians, those with the most powerful minds, are the ones most likely to say that numbers exist just as much as solid objects do.
Yes, I find it interesting too. I've argued with mathematicians about this. Number theorists certainly seem to think this way: prime numbers, for example, are seen as 'out there' to be discovered. As for heaps, it depends on your field. There are non-Aristotelian logics which handle not(heap(X)) & not(not(heap(X)) being true... Fuzzy logic is not only for biologists! Peter coxhead (talk) 21:36, 31 May 2011 (UTC)

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Inverses are unique[edit]

Re: your edit to Function composition. I first edited Inverse function to reflect what I inferred from your edit (that inverses are not always unique), and then realised that we were probably wrong and the definition that has stood for the last 5 years(!) at Inverse function is probably correct. That says that inverses, when they exist, are always unique. In view of that (claimed) fact, there is no problem (and certainly no definedness problem) with applying an inverse function first, and an invertible function always commutes with its inverse. It's possible that you may be using the word "inverse" to mean what other people use the word "quasi-inverse" to mean. It's also possible that when I first learned this material in school twenty years ago, the word "inverse" was used in this not-necessarily-unique sense (my memory is not clear on this point).--greenrd (talk) 08:34, 11 July 2011 (UTC)

Thank you for your point and for your message. My objection to the original text was only that it seemed to imply that every function has an inverse.That is very far from true. For example, the function f(x) = x^2 does not have an inverse function, because for every "output" value, say 9, there could be two possible "input" values, either 3 or - 3. Perhaps my edit was hasty and insufficiently explained.Dratman (talk) 09:11, 12 July 2011 (UTC)

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Talkback[edit]

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