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on Tuesday, October 18th, 2011 at 9:49 am by Radley Balko
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Regarding the timing problem in the OPERA experiment: the article you link to describes a preprint someone put out, one of many. To say that this particular one is the “explanation” is silly. Moreover this particular preprint tries to make standard relativistic corrections, so it’s unlikely to have found the error.
I read Katherine Mangu-Ward’s piece and most of it was simplistic non-sense. For starters, I don’t know where she lives but where I am, in the poorer places there are about 20 fast-food places for every one run-down , dirty supermarket. And that one market uses about 1% of its space to sell irradiated, gassed produce. Also, she completely ignores the “fast” in fast food. Is she that stupid to not consider time of preparation into the cost of food? How much lost wages does cooking rice and beans (her version of “let them eat cake”) cost? Not to mention the trip to the grocery store with kids after a long day?
Besides, I’d like to see her research on a calorie per dollar comparison. If find it hard to believe that you can get the same amount of calories of fresh food than you can at McDonald’s for the same price.
Some of her points are valid, but they are overshadowed by her obnoxious, elitist attitude towards the working class which permeates this piece.
More likely the neutrino guys just screwed up their measurements. Science guys today are all about fame, more correctly infamy but science guys are somewhat ignorant. While relativity may play a role, GPS is certainly NOT a good measure. GPS signals constantly vary in order to “fool” for governments, etc. Our government tweaks out signal system regularly in order to make GPS less accurate. There folks should have done some actual measurements using laser metering systems.
And they should keep their mouths shut until someone else somewhere else duplicates the work. Replicates on the same system using the same measuring methodology will never catch the error.
el toro, your objections are just as presumptive as you accuse Mangu-Ward of being. You do not ‘lose wages’ by preparing your own meals. You lose leisure time, which has a much reduced value per time. Nobody ever says “Oh, I can’t work those hours because I have to cook dinner.” If people *choose* not to spend that time cooking or preparing food, then that’s a choice in their free time. But it has nothing to do with how much that time ‘costs’.
Second I’ve never seen a supermarket with “1%” of the space given over to produce. I’d have believed you at 10%, but that’s what a lot of supermarkets have, and is perfectly adequate. Also, if these markets are as sketchy as you describe, then you’d certainly want irradiated food, no? And it’s not just about ‘fresh produce.’ It’s about healthy food, which can be frozen, and even canned, which smaller markets have no problem with.
Third, you can pump up calories really quick per dollar if you want. That’s not the point. If you want to out-calorie McDonalds, then just put more barbecue sauce (typically very calorie dense) on something. That’s really cheap. What it’s really about is making more healthy and nutritious meals, which you can do very cheaply, whether you want to go with grains like rice and bread, starches like potatos, or even proteins.
The bottom line is that people don’t choose to. Whether it’s because they’re not confident in their cooking skills, they don’t want to spend the time doing it, or they just like the taste of prepared food better, they make the choice. It’s not some conspiracy about cost or opportunity.
Leon Wolfeson |
October 18th, 2011 at 11:38 am
@4 – So why can politicians claim it’s protection, then?
Highway, I never tried to pass my observations off as fact like she did. And no matter how much it’s inconvenient to your biases, there is a time cost. You don’t think people have second jobs, a short lunch break, gas expense?
As to your second point, well, I’m not sure what your point is. Drive around low income areas and see for yourself.
Third, it is about the calories. A certain amount of calories are needed to survive. Ever eat just vegetables all day? You keep getting hungry and you eat more.
Who said anything about a conspiracy? That shows where your biases are. When I was just out of college, I ate horribly because I had limited money, time and transportation. As I became better off, I ate much better. I spent more of my time learning about nutrition, more of my money on better food, and I had more time to prepare and eat it. That’s not a conspiracy, but there are factors that promote this system.
Funny how the article mentions nothing about the government subsidy of corn (and high fructose corn syrup), though.
@fwb. That is not how science works. The authors published a refereed paper in which they acknowledged that their result was probably due to an uncorrected systematic uncertainty but one they could not find. So they released it to the community which appears to have found the problem. Progress.
I had a colleague who used GPS to measure timing signals from the Crab Pulsar to 1 microsec resolution. He gave a talk on how to do this, which includes needing to take into account the light travel time from the receiver to the computer recording the data. My recollection was not that the government messes about with data but that they do not release the full precision for civilian use. At any rate I think the problem in this case was adjusting for multiple frames of reference under special relativity rather than a time measurement problem.
Regarding the insult levy, does flipping the bird count? Also, F-U would be allowed I think. Its not a comparison to something so it isn’t libel or slander. Just a statement. Just profanity? Weird and too vague to pass I bet.
el toro, it’s *not* about calories per dollar, like you tried to argue in your first post. If it were, then it would be best to go drink the cheapest store brand soda you can find. Plus, aren’t we all talking about people who obviously do have enough money to afford fast food (which is relatively more expensive dollar-wise) enough to get overweight? The argument that was refuted was that bad-for-you foods are cheaper, and that’s not the case.
When people have leisure (not leisureLY) time to eat, they make a choice. That might be an opportunity ‘cost’, but it has nothing to do with whether they’re poor or not. If they spent half an hour making dinner instead of spending half an hour going out to get it, how is the ‘cost’ different?
When you were younger and stupider, you ate poorly not because you couldn’t afford to eat better. It’s because you CHOSE to. Do you really do anything different now than you *could* have before? Maybe you choose more premium ingredients, maybe you spend more time cooking fancier foods. But you *know* more now.
Someone’s confirmation biases are definitely showing, but I don’t think it’s mine.
@2nd of 3 – I know it would affect the price, but I don’t know if it would be significant. I was only meaning to say that the article ridicules laws that would discourage consumer action, yet never mentions something like the Farm Bill that benefits a lot of junk food producers. My whole point is that this is a complex issues and not simply that overweight people are lazy.
My other point, and this is my observation, is that processed food is much easier and cheaper to obtain the necessary calories for survival than whole foods. And I believe that because I’ve lived it and continue to live it. Stocking my fridge with vegetables (that go bad quickly), packing my lunch, cooking from scratch after a day at work, all take a good part of my time. Yes, I chose doing it this way, but I can afford to – with my time and money.
Except the people at CERN and OPERA already accounted for the relativity aspect of the GPS. This wasn’t merely a one off. This was something they spent months poring over and retesting(15,000 times to be exact). The idea that it’s something as simple as them forgetting to take the relativity of the GPS sats into account is rather insulting.
4 days since that article came out in the MIT tech review and it’s still the only remotely scientific source saying that the problem is solved. All other sources point back to it. When this all started the guys at OPERA stated that they had taken into account all relativistic effects. The idea that they missed something as comparatively simple as the proper reference frame of the satellites in question is rather silly.
OH, I’ve got it now. I was apparently misinformed:
Highway’s experiences =/= the real world
el toro’s experiences == the real world
What I know is that what ‘healthy food’ was didn’t originate with you. The knowledge existed and was disseminated long before you were around. I would find it hard to believe that *anyone* growing up in the last 50 years wouldn’t know anything about the relative nutritional value of the foodstuffs that are available.
Also, it’s more your completely disingenuous reading of Mangu-Ward’s point that even gets us to this discussion. The point in the article was that labeling and putting calorie and other nutritional information on menus does not lead to healthier choices on the part of consumers.
Highway – I’ve stated that my points were based on my observation. I have no idea what your points are. You seem a bit on edge and touchy though. I’m sorry to be the one to break your illusion of a simplistic, black and white world.
1. Mangu-Ward portrayed herself as an “expert” yet proceeded to “bust” myths with little to no facts or evidence.
2. I pointed out several times that in my observations, she simplified the issue.
3. You, Highway, said that I “ate poorly not because you couldn’t afford to eat better. It’s because you CHOSE to” without knowing my situation.
4. You, Highway said “But you *know* more now. “, while later you said “I would find it hard to believe that *anyone* growing up in the last 50 years wouldn’t know anything about the relative nutritional value of the foodstuffs that are available. ”
Her main point is not about labeling, it’s that unhealthy people are lazy, and companies role in the situation is non-existent. She and you also never mention that many studies have shown a relationship between obesity and education and income which contradicts, or at least questions, much of her myth busting.
Her point “People need more information about what they eat” which you quoted the title to, *is* about labeling, if you’d read the argument.
It’s hard to argue against rules that give consumers more information. Perhaps for that reason, proposals to require restaurants to jam calorie, fat and other nutrition statistics onto already crowded signs and menus pop up over and over — most recently as part of the health-care reform law — despite the fact that virtually all major fast-food chains already provide such information on handouts and online.
Knowing that a chocolate shake at Shake Shack has 740 calories doesn’t stop me — or the first lady— from ordering one occasionally. We’re not alone: Studies consistently find that menu labeling doesn’t result in healthier choices. A recent study from Ghent University in Belgium found that labels made no difference in the consumption patterns of students there, backing up a 2009 New York University study that found no improvement in poor New Yorkers’ eating habits after the introduction of mandatory menu labeling in the Big Apple.
“@2nd of 3 – I know it would affect the price, but I don’t know if it would be significant. I was only meaning to say that the article ridicules laws that would discourage consumer action, yet never mentions something like the Farm Bill that benefits a lot of junk food producers. My whole point is that this is a complex issues and not simply that overweight people are lazy.”
I agree with you, I’m just looking for some good info is all. There is a reason article on the topic I found, but it still doesn’t have much in the way of calculations for how individual food prices would be affected. Maybe it’s not easy to calculate.
“Studies consistently find that menu labeling doesn’t result in healthier choices. A recent study from Ghent University in Belgium found that labels made no difference in the consumption patterns of students there, backing up a 2009 New York University study that found no improvement in poor New Yorkers’ eating habits after the introduction of mandatory menu labeling in the Big Apple.”
Why would the study look for changes in behavior among groups (the poor and students) who probably rarely eat at sit down restaurants, and therefore rarely see a menu? I wouldn’t really expect much difference with those groups. What about higher income brackets? Did their behavior change?
With all due respect Radley, what article were you reading? A friend and colleague’s? And in my opinion, when she is writing in a national publication with a tag line that says “aiming to dismantle myths, clarify common misconceptions” that would be putting yourself in somewhat of an expert position. Maybe expert is a little strong, but I think my point is valid.
Radley, lets look at her “numerous studies and evidence”:
Myth 1: Study: “Access to grocers doesn’t improve diets, study finds” She uses this to dismiss the fact that access to markets doesn’t improve your eating. What she doesn’t say is that the same report said the main factors to unhealthy eating were income and proximity to fast-food restaurant (which also contradicts her 5th myth).
Myth 2: no study or evidence given. Why not? I found quite a few that contradicted her including this: “The ability to recognise the food adverts significantly correlated with the amount of food eaten after exposure to them.” Apparently it didn’t fit her opinions.
Myth 3: An un-named USDA comparing weight (not calories). I easily found contradicting studies (that I could name) including a University of Washington study that found “Calorie for calorie, junk foods not only cost less than fruits and vegetables, but junk food prices also are less likely to rise as a result of inflation.”
Myth 4: This was probably her best point and she cited two recent studies. I easily found a Tufts study, though that correlated the information usefulness with education.
Myth5: An un-named study with no stats. I easily found contradicting evidence.
And this was just 15 minutes of googling. She had hours and is a professional. Radley, you can protect her (or your ideology) all you want. In fact, I agree with about 1/2 of her piece. I just think she had an agenda and approached the piece with the result already in hand.
The finding that energy-dense foods are not only the least expensive, but also most resistant to inflation, may help explain why the highest rates of obesity continue to be observed among groups of limited economic means. The sharp price increase for the low-energy-density foods suggests that economic factors may pose a barrier to the adoption of more healthful diets and so limit the impact of dietary guidance.
“However, the fact that food groups with the more favorable nutrient profiles were also associated with higher energy costs suggests that the present structure of food prices may be a barrier to the adoption of food-based dietary guidelines, at least by low-income households.”
“Negative binomial regression models predicting the number of fast food meals per week show strong relationships between fast food consumption and prices of fast food and soda that varied by gender and race/ethnicity. We found relatively stronger association between food prices and fast food intake for males and relatively greater price sensitivity for soda versus burgers. In the group with strongest associations (black males), a 20% increase in the price of soda was associated with a decrease of 0.25 visits to a fast food restaurant per week.”
“Significant differences in mean nutrient intake of total calories, total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, dietary fiber, and sugars were observed between food label users and non-users with label users reporting healthier nutrient consumption. The greatest differences observed were for total calories and fat and for use of specific nutrient information on the food label.”
Journal of the American Dietetic Association, Volume 110, Issue 8 (August 2010)
The law would make it illegal to insult (as well as threaten, assault, humiliate, interfer with and generally muck about with) people who audit/check Victorian gambling machines while in the course of their job. The law was written to ensure that anyone in the industry, from the minister down, would be protected as they checked the machines. I can’t see the minister getting down to the coal face, as it were.
So, it’s not all politicians, it’s not all the time and it’s not really a story.