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9 years ago
This Week in Science

by DarkSyde

Sat Aug 15, 2009 at 07:34:03 AM PDT

Playing around the with this impact calculator yields some sobering estimates of what even a smallish asteroid or meteor strike could do. A 200 meter space rock hitting at 40 k/s would produce the explosive equivalent of 2400 megatons, about 160,000 times the "Little Boy" that was dropped on Hiroshima. If it hit land the final crater would be over 3 miles wide. From twenty miles away, the fireball would be close to 100 times brighter than the sun, many structures would be damaged or destroyed by the initial blast, 6.8 magnitude quake, and the three-foot flaming boulders that would rain down about a minute later. That's why a small group of dedicated astronomers spend their lives cataloging NEOs, so that they can warn people ahead of time, or maybe give us the option of nudging it safely away while it's still a long ways off. There's just one problem with that:

Congress ordered NASA in 2005 to find and track 90 percent of the large asteroids near Earth by 2020, but did not set aside the necessary funds required to do the job, according to a report released Wednesday by the National Academy of Sciences. Without that funding, NASA will not be able to build the new facilities and telescopes required to track potentially threatening asteroids down to the size of about 460 feet (140 meters) across, according to the interim report.

  • Speaking of, they have a terrific illustrated survey of the ten most interesting exosolar planets. My favorite so far is The Old Geezer, which doesn't look a year over 10 billion.
  • Whether it's science education, womens health, or civil rights, if you're interested in keeping abreast of one of the country's most active fronts in the culture wars, make Texas Freedom Network a daily stop.
  • If you've ever thought that cheerful morning people and those who can function on less sleep than the rest of us are genetic mutants, you're right.
  • Say hello to Ana, this season’s first named storm in the Atlantic. Right behind her is system 90L, which could be a tropical storm already, and long range models now indicate there is a chance it could reach hurricane strength by in a few days.

9 years ago
This Week in Science

by DarkSyde

Sat Aug 08, 2009 at 08:02:03 AM PDT

Marine biologists and other wildlife experts using data on reproductive rates and estimates of existing, breeding age sea critters have implemented a new conservation system along the US gulf coast to preserve rapidily declining fisheries. Once determined, the total sustainable haul for a given species is subdivided into "Catch Shares" which can be bought, sold, or traded by commercial fishermen:

"By allowing fishermen to decide their own schedules, they can more effectively match production with market demand, avoid unsafe weather conditions, and reduce the amount of other seafood inadvertently caught called bycatch. That’s good for business, good for fisherman, and good for the environment." -- Heather Paffe, Gulf and Southeast Oceans Program Director for Environmental Defense Fund.

  • A dwarf 'hyperactive' galaxy in the early universe may hold big clues for how modern galaxies evolved. More on galaxies and video of the impending galactic catastrophe awaiting us here. Closer to home, Kepler detects its first exosolar planet, and it's one freaky alien hellhole.
  • Eric Johnson has written a wonderful article touching on the role of science in public policy starting with Carl Sagan's unanswered question, "What are conservatives conserving?"
  • Doomsday Postponed: End-o-the-world nutters and high energy physicists alike may be disappointed to hear that the Large Hadron Collider won't be ramped up to full cosmos destroying power until 2012 (Which, as several comments below note, coincides with the Mayan calender doomsday date).
  • The blogosphere gets to decide what lucky science blogger gets to go on an all expense paid adventure of a lifetime to Antarctica. More tomorrow. Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, a fifty-year government study of three benchmark glaciers in the Pacific Northwest concludes the northern cryosphere is in the midst of a massive meltdown.
  • The House Committee on Science is considering a bill seeking to "identify and understand social and behavioral factors that influence energy consumption and acceptance and adoption rates of new energy technologies ..."

Lastly, seconds ago, Sonia Sotoymayor took the oath to become an acting Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court. She will become fully invested in a special session later this year, but begin her duties right away!

9 years ago
The Amazing Crow

Aesop's fable? This one turns out to be true - Science, News - The Independent

One of Aesop's fables describing a thirsty crow which was able to drink from a half-full pitcher after raising the water level by adding pebbles may have had a basis in real life.

Scientists have found that rooks – a member of the crow family – were able to figure out how to raise the water level in a laboratory container by dropping stones inside to retrieve a tasty worm floating on the surface.

Four different rooks, called Cook, Fry, Connelly and Monroe, quickly discovered that they could raise the water level in a transparent container by adding stones, just like the mythical crow in the fable, which illustrates the virtue of ingenuity and how necessity is the mother of invention.

(tip to pedantsareus)

9 years ago
This Week in Science

by DarkSyde

Sat Jul 18, 2009 at 07:30:03 AM PDT

All conservatives are not created equal on matters of science. In fact, some conservatives aren't even conservatives, as my revealing interview on science and policy with Instapundit's Glenn Reynolds illustrates. His answers will surprise you and disappoint some conservatives:

I don't think you find a lot of Young Earth Creationists among libertarians, and hardly any among the libertarian transhumanists that make up my political flavor. In fact, I wrote a piece a while back that incorporated some (then) cutting-edge evolutionary biology.  

  • It's full out brawl between the Atheist's Front of Judea and the Judean Atheist's Front! I'm not sure what a non believer is supposed to do, but I hate the Romans, a lot. Fortunately, Dr. Sean Carroll weighs in with a delightfully written post on What Questions Can Science Answer?
  • Move over Mr. Inhofe, you have serious competition for reigning beltway ignoramus on climate change from the House:

    Last year’s global average temperature was the 10th warmest since 1850, eight of the past 10 years, and 13 of the last 14, are among the warmest on record. So naturally, Blaine Luetkemeyer, a Republican member of Congress has concluded: "We are undergoing a period of worldwide cooling."

  • Guys, hate to tell you, but new evidence suggests our precious, manly Y-chromosome is rapidly shriveling away and disappearing like the head of a frightened turtle. Lots more genomics here on Mem's weekly round up.
  • In a typical editorial defending Bush's indefensible stem cell policy, this author glibly states that embryonic stem cells are obsolete. The evidence: Dr. Bernadine Healy, a cardiologist who served Reagan and both Bush's, said so in U.S. News & World Report, and fetal stem cells stupidly injected into a kid's skull by unqualified Russian quacks -- no doubt for a lucrative fee -- produced a benign tumor.

9 years ago
Arizona Republican State Senator Sylvia Allen Says Earth Is 6,000 Years Old.   video 
Arizona's Republican State Senator Sylvia Allen voices support for opening up uranium mining in the state. Sen Allen responds to statements by environmentalists by assuring them that the "Earth is 6,000 years old..." Twice.
9 years ago

  • Public Praises Science; Scientists Fault Public, Media: Section 4: Scientists, Politics and Religion - Pew Research Center for the People & the Press
    Most scientists identify as Democrats (55%), while 32% identify as independents and just 6% say they are Republicans.
    Religious belief among scientists varies somewhat by sex, age and scientific specialty. Younger scientists are substantially more likely than their older counterparts to say they believe in God. In addition, more chemists than those in other specialties say they believe in God. More men (44%) than women (36%) say they believe neither in God nor a higher power; belief in God is comparable for men and women scientists, but more women than men profess belief in a different supreme being or higher power.
9 years ago
Watching Whales Watching Us 
In a Baja lagoon, something is going on between whales and marine biologists. Is it interspecies communication?

9 years ago
Survey Shows Gap Between Scientists and the Public

On the whole, scientists believe American research leads the world, but only 17 percent of the public agree, a new survey has found.

9 years ago

9 years ago
9 years ago
The Baloney Detection Kit   video 
With a sea of information coming at us from all directions, how do we sift out the misinformation and bogus claims, and get to the truth? Michael Shermer of Skeptic Magazine lays out a "Baloney Detection Kit," ten questions we should ask when.....
9 years ago
Science and Religion are Not Compatible | Cosmic Variance | Discover MagazineJerry Coyne, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Chicago, has recently published a book called Why Evolution is True, and started up a blog of the same name. He’s come out swinging in the science/religion debates, taking a hard line against “accomodationism” — the rhetorical strategy on the part of some pro-science people and organizations to paper over conflicts between science and religion so that religious believers can be more comfortable accepting the truth of evolution and other scientific ideas. Chris Mooney and others have taken up the other side, while Russell Blackford and others have supported Coyne, and since electrons are free there have been an awful lot of blog posts.
9 years ago
  • Fighting back against Templeton « Why Evolution Is True
    Standing behind much of the accommodationism in America is the John Templeton Foundation. This organization is loaded to the gunwales with cash, thanks to the investing activities of the late John Templeton, and it regularly uses its ample coffers to lure scientists into discussing “the big questions” in support of its aim to unify science and faith. (n.b.: whenever you hear the words “bigger questions” or “deeper questions” in this debate, rest assured that they really mean “unanswerable questions” or even “meaningless questions.” And you can also be sure that the answer to these big, deep questions involves religion.) Templeton likes having big-name scientists and secular academics on its panels and in its published discussions, for their presence lends an air of versimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing enterprise.

    Some of us have begun fighting back, refusing to participate in Templeton’s ventures or to lend our name to their discussions.

  • Cosmic Variance on | Cosmic Variance | Discover Magazine

    tip go Patrick

9 years ago

Pharyngula: A review of Stephen Jay Gould and the Politics of Evolution.

9 years ago

Incertus takes aim at "probably the dumbest thing you'll read all day."

9 years ago
  • More on Mooney and accommodationism (with a note on Rosenhouse) « Why Evolution Is True
    Over at EvolutionBlog, Jason Rosenhouse has again taken on Chris Mooney’s critique of accommodationism. Jason has done such a good job that I have little to add. However, lest Mooney accuse me of hiding behind Rosenhouse, or of avoiding debate, let me briefly respond.

    Mooney’s latest beef is that I have somehow confused methodological naturalism (the use of naturalistic techniques in investigating questions about the world) with philosophical naturalism (the view that there is nothing beyond nature). Because of my supposed confusion, says Mooney, my claim that religion and science are incompatible is flatly wrong.

9 years ago

Daniel Dennett - The Genius of Charles Darwin

Richard Dawkins interviews Dan Dennett for "The Genius of Charles Darwin", the Channel 4 UK TV program which won British Broadcasting Awards' "Best Documentary Series" of 2008. Buy the full 3-DV...

9 years ago

* Fascinating item from Peter Dizikes about the "growing blue state-red state gap" surrounding stem-cell research.

9 years ago
This Week in Science

by DarkSyde Sat May 09, 2009 at 07:37:40 AM PDT

Another dismal report on the current and projected state of climate change. This one noting we're more than halfway to putting a cool trillion new tons of carbon into the atmosphere which could translate into an additional 2° C or more in average global temperature. Convert that to Fahrenheit and adjust for polar amplification and you get about five to ten degrees of warming for more northerly regions, meaning ...

"The bottom line? Dangerous change, even loosely defined, is going to be hard to avoid," writes Gavin Schmidt of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Science and David Archer, a geoscientist at the University of Chicago, in an accompanying commentary in Nature. "Unless emissions begin to decline very soon, severe disruption to the climate system will entail expensive adaptation measures and may eventually require cleaning up the mess by actively removing CO2 from the atmosphere."

Here's an idea for newspapers struggling to regain their credibility after getting it hammered to %#&!*% over the last eight years: how about we just completely disregard the consensus of actual climate researchers, empirical data, and the last two elections, and instead present the polished propaganda of industry friendly carnival barkers without a shred of scientific training or journalistic integrity as if it were an equally well supported scientific view?

The New York Times exposes an internal document (PDF) from the Global Climate Coalition, a group funded by the oil and auto industries, that shows that their own scientists were confirming the reality of human-caused global warming and the effects of greenhouse gasses as early as 15 years ago even while publicly trying to dispute that reality.

9 years ago

So then this means he is not a shill for the corporatocracy?

9 years ago
Obama Passes a Major Test But Most of the Class Doesn't Notice 
The test took the form of an arcane government regulation called EPA-420-F-09-024, which might help explain why Barack Obama passed a science test and most of the class didn't notice. And as is too often the case, the Americans who did notice graded Obama
9 years ago

GOOD TIME FOR A SCIENCE SPEECH.... Coincidentally, President Obama was scheduled to deliver a speech at the National Academy of Sciences this morning anyway. Given the headlines, the timing worked out nicely.

President Obama said on Monday that the growing number of cases of swine flu in the United States and abroad was "not a cause for alarm," but he sought to assure Americans that the government was taking precautions to prepare for the prospect of a global health pandemic.

"We are closely monitoring the emerging cases of swine flu in the United States," Mr. Obama said, speaking at the National Academy of Sciences. "This is obviously the cause for concern and requires a heightened state of alert, but it's not a cause for alarm." [...]

Mr. Obama said the swine flu outbreak underscored the need for a larger investment in scientific research in the United States. He said science should not be seen as a luxury, but rather as a key element of the nation's security.

"Science is more essential for our prosperity, our security, our health, our environment and our quality of life than it has ever been before," Mr. Obama said. "If there was ever a day that reminded us of our shared stake in science and research, it is today."

Quite right. In fact, Obama was able to put the current concerns in the larger context, and make a very compelling case for a renewed and robust investment in scientific research. Alex Koppelman reported:

The solution Obama has in mind is an unprecedented level of investment in the sciences -- more, even, than the country spent during the Space Race. "A half century ago, this nation made a commitment to lead the world in scientific and technological innovation... That was the high water mark of America's investment in research and development. Since then our investments have steadily declined as a share of our national income -- our GDP. As a result, other countries are now beginning to pull ahead in the pursuit of this generation's great discoveries," he said.

"I believe it is not in our American character to follow -- but to lead. And it is time for us to lead once again. I am here today to set this goal: we will devote more than three percent of our GDP to research and development... This represents the largest commitment to scientific research and innovation in American history."

It's possible my expectations were decimated by the Bush years, but I can't think of a modern president who speaks as often and as enthusiastically about science as Obama. Given the circumstances, it's extremely encouraging.

—Steve Benen 11:10 AM Permalink   | Comments (17)

Science (2)
9 years ago

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