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9 years ago

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Science (2)

9 years ago
Creationists are liars, part MCLXVII

Sometimes I get requests for assistance with creationists. Usually, it's because some unwarrantedly confident ignoramus has been lying his butt off. Here's a perfect example:

I have a quick question concerning an encounter I had with a man last night who claimed he was a scientist (although, foolishly, I didn't ask him what field).

He made the claim that the majority of biologist do not "believe" in evolution. (He also pulled out the standard canards of "no macro biology" and "evolution requires faith"; I'm not wasting my time or your with this.) He claimed he has a "list" of all the biologist who "disbelieve" in evolution. and the many books he has read show this to be true.

I know this false. I told him so, but really didn't want to get into this. He claimed the media made it seem as if biologists accepted evolution.

I cannot for the life me understand exactly where he is coming from. Do you know anything about some "list" circulating apologists of biologist who supposedly don't accept the theory of evolution. I know a few do, but isn't the scientific consensus something on the lines of 95%?

I'm curious if you've heard similar claims before and what you make of them. Next time I see this made I would like to be able to simply, flatly explain to him that he is wrong. (When a "scientist" tells me that evolution is random chance, my BS meter goes off like you wouldn't believe. But since I'm not a scientist, he can try to claim some sort of argument from authority over me, and I don't want to be hypocrite and claim my own argument from authority.)

Of course I've heard of this list: it's the infamous Discovery Institute list of "scientists who dissent from Darwinism", parodied by the Project Steve list, and which contains a few hundred names, many of whom are not scientists — the list leans towards dentists and engineers and such. It is a tiny number of people…if the majority of scientists rejected evolution, it would be rather easy to get tremendous numbers of names signed on, don't you think?

Even easier, though, pick a biology department, any department anywhere. Go in and ask the faculty what they think of evolution. You'll discover impressive unanimity — virtually 100% of every department will tell you that evolution is true and useful. You will find an occasional exception, though: the Lehigh University biology department comes to mind, and even there, they post a disclaimer stating that Michael Behe is the sole dissenter who rejects their unequivocal support of evolutionary theory.

My correspondent's mysterious "scientist" was that extremely common phenomenon among creationists, the guy who has no evidence and relies on blustering falsehoods, a complete fraud.

Speaking of creationist liars…how about Casey Luskin? The primary reason so many biologists accept evolution is that it simply works: it's a useful theoretical tool that guides research successfully, and helps scientists get work done and published. If the ID crowd actually had a model that helped us understand the world better, we'd be flocking to it. In an email debate, a fellow named Rhiggs engaged Luskin on just this topic, asking for sources to positive evidence and experiments backing design. Luskin tosses out the usual creationist handwaving, and attempts to hijack the work of legitimate, non-creationist scientists as supporting ID…but completely fails to produce any of that primary research literature that Rhiggs is asking for.

There are quite lengthy exchanges going on there, with Luskin always evading the main point (I could have said this was a futile effort: Luskin is no scientist, and his ignorance is legendary). Finally, though, he gives an excuse:

I assure you that I don't ignore arguments. You don't know me and I am not that kind of person. In fact, I've been traveling a lot for work lately, but in the last week over the course of 2 long plane flights I've managed to find time to work on replying to you. I'm nearly done with the reply and I hope to finish it on another flight I have later this week. FYI, my reply is already over 5000 words, and it begins by saying, "Greetings after an undesired delay on my part. I appreciate the time you took in your extensive reply. Because you put in so much time, you deserve a reply. I apologize that it took a while to reply--I've been busy a lot over the past couple weeks, including much traveling, and in fact I'm finally getting some free time now that I'm on a flight." Thanks again--I hope you will hear from me soon.

"Soon" is 13 months ago. Maybe I'll have to post reminders to him on Paul Nelson Day — this is becoming expected behavior from that gang of propagandists.

Posted by PZ Myers at 3:49 PM

9 years ago

THOSE BIASED SMITHSONIAN SCIENTISTS.... The Washington Post had an interesting piece the other day on creationist groups visiting the Smithsonian, ostensibly to see what they're up against. The piece highlighted a field trip with students from Jerry Falwell's college.

Every winter, David DeWitt takes his biology class to the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, but for a purpose far different from that of other professors.

DeWitt brings his Advanced Creation Studies class (CRST 390, Origins) up from Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., hoping to strengthen his students' belief in a biblical view of natural history, even in the lion's den of evolution.

His yearly visit to the Smithsonian is part of a wider movement by creationists to confront Darwinism in some of its most redoubtable secular strongholds. As scientists celebrate the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin's birth, his doubters are taking themselves on Genesis-based tours of natural history museums, aquariums, geologic sites and even dinosaur parks.

"There's nothing balanced here. It's completely, 100 percent evolution-based," said DeWitt, a professor of biology.

Imagine that. The National Museum of Natural History is limited, exclusive, to natural history. The nerve.

Indeed, the dreaded Accuracy Scourge is common throughout the Smithsonian Institution. At the National Air and Space Museum, it's completely, 100% based on the notion that planets in our galaxy orbit the sun. You won't find one word about the geocentric model. At the National Museum of American History, museum officials insist on presenting history as it actually happened. At the National Portrait Gallery, they insist on showing portraits.

It's outrageous.

—Steve Benen 9:15 AM Permalink   | Comments (34)

10 years ago

WHAT STEM-CELL RESEARCH ISN'T.... With President Obama's decision today to reverse Bush-era restrictions on stem-cell research, it was easy to predict some of the conservative complaints. The Family Research Council, for example, said the White House policy will allow "cloning." The FRC, as is too often the case, isn't telling the truth.

That, however, is one of the more predictable and routine lies. Leave it to Glenn Beck to turn the nob to 11. Ryan Powers reports on the Fox News personality's "analysis" of the president's policy. Beck told his audience today:

"So here you have Barack Obama going in and spending the money on embryonic stem cell research, and then some, fundamentally changing -- remember, those great progressive doctors are the ones who brought us Eugenics. It was the progressive movement and it science. Let's put science truly in her place. If evolution is right, why don't we just help out evolution? That was the idea. And sane people agreed with it!

"And it was from America. Progressive movement in America. Eugenics. In case you don't know what Eugenics led us to: the Final Solution. A master race! A perfect person.... The stuff that we are facing is absolutely frightening. So I guess I have to put my name on yes, I hope Barack Obama fails. But I just want his policies to fail; I want America to wake up."

The poor man is clearly deranged. It's kind of sad, really.

For what it's worth, this isn't a partisan issue. Obama's position has been endorsed by Republican lawmakers, Republican governors, and Nancy Reagan.

The right can have Glenn Beck.

—Steve Benen 4:10 PM Permalinks | Comments (2)

10 years ago
Is John Conyers Shilling for Special Interests?

Co-founder of Change Congress; Assoc. Prof. of Genetics, Genomics and Development

Conyers is leading a proposal to forbid the government from requiring scientists who receive taxpayer funds for medical research to publish their findings openly on the Internet.

Read Post | Comments
10 years ago
Washington Post Crashed-and-Burned Watch

Mark Kleiman writes to the Washington Post ombudsman:

The Reality-Based Community: Letter to the Washington Post:

Dear Mr. Alexander:

Your response to queries about George Will's misrepresentations both of scientific fact and of how those facts have been reported by scientists, published on the Web, has left me, and many other long-time admirers of the Post, dumbfounded and dismayed.

Will was, simply, wrong, and dishonestly so. The source he cited reported that total ocean ice has remained more or less stable, but that Northern Hemisphere ice, predicted by global-warming models to shrink, has done so, while Southern Hemisphere ice, about which the models make ambiguous predictions, has grown. Thus Will's claim that the sea-ice figures support his what-me-worry optimism was grossly, obviously, and inexcusably wrong.

Fine. That's what George Will does for a living: offer sermons to comfort the comfortable. And there's at least a reasonable case for the Post printing his nonsense as the reflection of an important point of view.

But when you, on behalf of what used to be a respected newspaper, endorse his dishonesty, there's something seriously, seriously wrong. There are still honest and competent reporters writing for the Post, but if any article in the paper is to be believed it will now have to be on the basis of the reporter's known integrity and skill, not on the fact of its publication in a newspaper that not only publishes palpable falsehood but then justifies doing so.

I doubt that Katherine Graham would have approved.


Mark Kleiman
Professor of Public Policy

| Permalink | Comments (0)

10 years ago
Astronomy Picture of the Day 2009 February 14 : IC 1805: The Heart Nebula 
Sprawling across almost 200 light-years, emission nebula IC 1805 is a mix of glowing interstellar gas and dark dust clouds. Derived from its Valentine's-Day-approved shape, its nickname is the Heart Nebula.
10 years ago

The Poor Man: Nominee for the Gregg Easterbrook Award for Excellence in Science Punditry

10 years ago

Drexel Dems: Lazy, transparent, propaganda.  Obama's announcement of his science team signals a change in government's attitude towards "the integrity of the scientific process."

10 years ago
Astronomy Picture of the Day : 2008 November 04: The Double Ring Galaxies of Arp 147 From Hubble
How could a galaxy become shaped like a ring? Even more strange: how could two? The rim of the blue galaxy pictured on the right shows an immense ring-like structure 30,000 light years in diameter composed of newly formed, extremely bright, massive stars
10 years ago
Astronomy Picture of the Day : 2008 November 03: A Spectacular Rayed Crater on Mercury
Pictured, a particularly spectacular rayed crater spanning approximately 80 kilometers was imaged by MESSENGER during last month's flyby from about 20,000 kilometers up. The rays prevalence is a mystery because space weathering effects such as dust ...
10 years ago
Astronomy Picture Of The Day : 2008 November 02: Spicules: Jets on the Sun
Imagine a pipe as wide as a state and as long as half the Earth. Now imagine that this pipe is filled with hot gas moving 50,000 kilometers per hour. Further imagine that this pipe is not made of metal but a transparent magnetic field.
10 years ago
Astronomy Picture Of The Day : 2008 November 01: A Spectre in the Eastern Veil
Menacing flying forms and garish colors are a mark of the Halloween season. They also stand out in this cosmic close-up of the eastern Veil Nebula. The Veil Nebula itself is a large supernova remnant, the expanding debris cloud from the death explosion
10 years ago
Astronomy Picture Of The Day : 2008 October 31: A Witch By Starlight
By starlight this eerie visage shines in the dark, a crooked profile evoking its popular name, the Witch Head Nebula. In fact, this entrancing telescopic portrait gives the impression the witch has fixed her gaze on Orion's bright supergiant star Rigel.
10 years ago
Let us look to the sky on Halloween night and enjoy the beauty.
10 years ago
Astronomy Picture of the Day : 2008 October 30: Haunting the Cepheus Flare
Spooky shapes seem to haunt this starry expanse, drifting through the night in the royal constellation Cepheus. Of course, the shapes are cosmic dust clouds faintly visible in dimly reflected starlight.
10 years ago
Astronomy Picture of the Day : 2008 October 29: Mirach's Ghost
Mirach's Ghost isn't really that scary. In fact, Mirach's Ghost is just a faint, fuzzy galaxy, well known to astronomers, that happens to be seen nearly along the line-of-sight to Mirach, a bright star.
10 years ago
A Return to Reason
And an end to faith-based science
10 years ago

The Pump Handle: Why the right wing attacks science

10 years ago
News Analysis: Next on Agenda Is Clinton’s Role

Barack Obama now faces the task of repairing relations with Hillary Rodham Clinton and deciding whether to offer her a spot on his ticket.

10 years ago
Editorial: The Science of Denial

The Bush administration’s strategy for bending science to its political ends has resulted in seven lost years in this country’s fight against global warming.

10 years ago

Platypus proves even odder than scientists thought 08 May 2008 The duck-billed platypus has finally given up its evolutionary secrets. The creature, considered one of the strangest mammals in the world, has become the latest to have its genetic code sequenced, revealing it to be a bizarre mix of mammal, bird and reptile, with very complex sexuality. While humans have two sex chromosomes, the X and Y, the platypus has 10, with five of each kind.

10 years ago

no intelligence in its purity can ever holds two states of intellect or it is a pychotic formation/manefestation...double every single molecule in our known existence... left/right...up/down...postitve/negative...physical/mental...blahbla...

so on this theory of evolution...

do you mean evolution in the sense of set design or choice design?

...concerning intellect needs a physical drive/body/aparition...and intelligence is high/highest mind/ which counterparts are set to evolution and which to creation?

remember we are talking about dynamic, precise and pure intelligent design...there can only be one answer....logically!

so where does the rest accumulate from? in mere evolution? 

science hasnt looked in depth at any mental/mind/conscience/emotion  aspects since jung/fraud has never captured sanity in a test tube or really cured emotion in a its only conclusion of totality is partially based on unknown percentages of true wholeness...the mere physical!

10 years ago
Scientist at Work | Francisco J. Ayala: Roving Defender of Evolution, and of Room for God

Francisco J. Ayala has expressed surprise at how many Americans believe the theory of evolution is contrary to belief in God.

10 years ago

Are you Gork?

Slide from this talk.

Survey questions:

1) Could you be Gork the robot? (Do you split into different branches after observing the outcome of, e.g., a Stern-Gerlach measurement?)

2) If not, why? e.g,

I have a soul and Gork doesn't

Decoherence solved all that! See previous post.

I don't believe that quantum computers will work as designed, e.g., sufficiently large algorithms or subsystems will lead to real (truly irreversible) collapse. Macroscopic superpositions larger than whatever was done in the lab last week are impossible.

QM is only an algorithm for computing probabilities -- there is no reality to the quantum state or wavefunction or description of what is happening inside a quantum computer.

Stop bothering me -- I only care about real stuff like the Higgs mass / SUSY-breaking scale / string Landscape / mechanism for high-Tc / LIBOR spread / how to generate alpha.

Labels: many worlds, physics, quantum computers, quantum mechanics

10 years ago

Feynman and Everett

A couple of years ago I gave a talk at the Institute for Quantum Information at Caltech about the origin of probability -- i.e., the Born rule -- in many worlds ("no collapse") quantum mechanics. It is often claimed that the Born rule is a consequence of many worlds -- that it can be derived from, and is a prediction of, the no collapse assumption. However, this is only true in a particular limit of infinite numbers of degrees of freedom -- it is problematic when only a finite number of degrees of freedom are considered.

After the talk I had a long conversation with John Preskill about many worlds, and he pointed out to me that both Feynman and Gell-Mann were strong advocates: they would go so far as to browbeat visitors on the topic. In fact, both claimed to have invented the idea independently of Everett.

Today I noticed a fascinating paper on the arXiv posted by H.D. Zeh, one of the developers of the theory of decoherence:

Feynman's quantum theory

H. D. Zeh

(Submitted on 21 Apr 2008)

A historically important but little known debate regarding the necessity and meaning of macroscopic superpositions, in particular those containing different gravitational fields, is discussed from a modern perspective.

The discussion analyzed by Zeh, concerning whether the gravitational field need be quantized, took place at a relativity meeting at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill in 1957. Feynman presents a thought experiment in which a macroscopic mass (source for the gravitational field) is placed in a superposition state. One of the central points is necessarily whether the wavefunction describing the macroscopic system must collapse, and if so exactly when. The discussion sheds some light on Feynman's (early) thoughts on many worlds and his exposure to Everett's ideas, which apparently occurred even before their publication (see below).

Nowadays no one doubts that large and complex systems can be placed in superposition states. This capability is at the heart of quantum computing. Nevertheless, few have thought through the implications for the necessity of the "collapse" of the wavefunction describing, e.g., our universe as a whole. I often hear statements like "decoherence solved the problem of wavefunction collapse". I believe that Zeh would agree with me that decoherence is merely the mechanism by which the different Everett worlds lose contact with each other! (And, clearly, this was already understood by Everett to some degree.) Incidentally, if you read the whole paper you can see how confused people -- including Feynman -- were about the nature of irreversibility, and the difference between effective (statistical) irreversibility and true (quantum) irreversibility.

Zeh: Quantum gravity, which was the subject of the discussion, appears here only as a secondary consequence of the assumed absence of a collapse, while the first one is that "interference" (superpositions) must always be maintained. ... Because of Feynman's last sentence it is remarkable that neither John Wheeler... [read the whole thing at one of the links below] 

Previous posts on many worlds quantum mechanics.

Labels: feynman, hugh everett, many worlds, physics, quantum mechanics

10 years ago
Basics: Noble Eagles, Nasty Pigeons, Biased Humans

Biobigotry is the persistent and often irrational desire to be surrounded only by those species of which one approves.

10 years ago
The widespread belief that "bad Cholesterol" ( LDL cholesterol) is a major factor driving heart disease -- and that cholesterol-lowering drugs like Lipitor and Crestor can protect us against fatal heart attacks -- is turning out to be a theory filled with holes. These drugs, which are called "statins," are the most widely prescribed pills in the history of human medicine. In 2007 worldwide sales totaled $33 billion. They are particularly popular in the U.S., where 18 million Americans take them. We thought we knew how they worked. But last month, when Merck/Schering Plough finally released the dismal results of a clinical trial of Zetia, a cholesterol-lowering drug prescribed to about 1 million people, the medical world was stunned. Dr. Steven E. Nissen, chairman of cardiology at the Cleveland Clinic called the findings "shocking." It turns out that while Zetia does lower cholesterol levels, the study failed to show any measurable medical benefit. This announcement caused both doctors and the mainstream media to take a second look at the received wisdom that "bad cholesterol" plays a major role in causing cardiac disease. A Business Week cover story asked the forbidden question, "Do Cholesterol Drugs Do Any Good?"
Posted Apr 9, 2008 09:51 AM PST

American science in the 21st Century seems to be little more than selling you fixes for problems that never existed in the first place.
Bad Move, Good Response, But There's Still A GOP War On Science
11 years ago

The Republican War on Science is established fact. Chronicled by Chris Mooney, exemplified by the global warming denial attacks on James Hansen, and including stem cell research attacks, placement of political minders at fed agencies... the list goes on and on.

Here's a new wrinkle to the story, but at least this one has a happy ending. From Wired:

U.S. Funded Health Search Engine Blocks 'Abortion'

A U.S. government-funded medical information site that bills itself as the world's largest database on reproductive health has quietly begun to block searches on the word "abortion," concealing nearly 25,000 search results.

Called Popline, the search site is run by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Maryland. It's funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, the federal office in charge of providing foreign aid, including health care funding, to developing nations.

The massive database indexes a broad range of reproductive health literature, including titles like "Previous abortion and the risk of low birth weight and preterm births," and "Abortion in the United States: Incidence and access to services, 2005."

But on Thursday, a search on "abortion" was producing only the message "No records found by latest query."

Stephen Goldstein, a spokesman for Johns Hopkins, said he wasn't aware of the censorship, and couldn't immediately comment.

The good news? Once this came to the Dean's attention, the censorship was reversed, and within a day.

Statement Regarding POPLINE Database

I was informed this morning that the word "abortion" was blocked as a search term in the POPLINE family planning database administered by the Bloomberg School’s Center for Communication Programs. POPLINE provides evidence-based information on reproductive health and family planning and is the world’s largest database on these issues.

USAID, which funds POPLINE, found two items in the database related to abortion that did not fit POPLINE criteria. The agency then made an inquiry to POPLINE administrators. Following this inquiry, the POPLINE administrators at the Center for Communication Programs made the decision to restrict abortion as a search term.

I could not disagree more strongly with this decision, and I have directed that the POPLINE administrators restore "abortion" as a search term immediately. I will also launch an inquiry to determine why this change occurred.

The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health is dedicated to the advancement and dissemination of knowledge and not its restriction.


Michael J. Klag, MD, MPH
Dean, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

A Hopkins spokesperson I contacted had little to add beyond the statement but affirmed the incident would lead to an inquiry (it's not clear whether they'll be a follow-up statement when the inquiry concludes).

Using POPLINE and searching HIV and condoms this afternoon (so I could educate John McCain) got me 4723 hits.

This was an important enough issue to post a statement about, and it's an important enough issue to follow up with another statement once the inquiry is concluded. Bloomberg School of Public Health has a great reputation, and kudos to them for correcting the mistake so quickly, even as we have to point out it was a mistake that should never have been made. USAID has no business censoring legitimate research, and inquiries at the congressional level regarding USAID's actions would be most appropriate as well.

When you go to the polls next November, forget about this nonsense about whether your candidate did or did not win the Democratic primary, and remember what it means to have a Republican in the White House. It means the war on science will continue, to the detriment of public health professionals and others who are supposed to be wearing the white hats.

Update [2008-4-4 18:55:38 by DemFromCT]:: more from Wired (h/t count)

Sandra Jordan, director of communications in USAID's office of population and reproductive health, could not identify the documents that prompted her office's complaint, but said the publications were one-sided in favor of abortion rights.

"We are part of the Bush administration, so we have to make sure that all parts of the story are told," says Jordan. "The administration's policy is definitely anti-abortion, and the administration does not see abortion as a part of family planning policy."

Jordan says that the Johns Hopkins database administrators blocked the word  "abortion" on their own, and had misunderstood USAID's request.

What were the two articles, why were they removed and were they put back?

11 years ago
Regenerating Severed Limbs

So using a powder manufactured from pig bladders this fella allegedly regenerated his severed fingertip, nail and all. I can never help but ask: who was the first person who thought this was a good idea?

"Quick, put the pig bladder powder on it."
"... why do you have pig bladder powder?"

Imagine if back the 80s, if they'd cut cocaine with this stuff ...

To paraphrase Warren -- you already live in the future. Catch up.

(h/t BoingBoing)

11 years ago
World Renowned Nature Photographer Franz Lanting Journeys to the Origins of Planet Earth

An incredible presentation on the beginnings of life, in story and photography
11 years ago

Astronomy Picture of the Day - 2008 March 02: Comet Hale Bopp Over Val Parola Pass

Explanation: Comet Hale-Bopp, the Great Comet of 1997, became much brighter than any surrounding stars. It was seen even over bright city lights. Away from city lights, however, it put on quite a spectacular show. Here Comet Hale-Bopp was photographed above Val Parola Pass in the Dolomite mountains surrounding Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy. Comet Hale-Bopp's blue ion tail, consisting of ions from the comet's nucleus, is pushed out by the solar wind. The white dust tail is composed of larger particles of dust from the nucleus driven by the pressure of sunlight, that orbit behind the comet. Observations showed that Comet Hale-Bopp's nucleus spins about once every 12 hours.

Tomorrow's picture: shrinking mars
11 years ago

Astronomy Picture of the Day - 2008 March 01: Mauna Kea Shadow

Explanation: Just opposite the setting Sun, the already-eclipsed Moon rose over the Hawaiian Islands on February 20. A view near the 14,000 foot peak of volcanic Mauna Kea on the Big Island, a popular spot for astronomers, offered this remarkable play of shadows and sunlight. With snowy cinder cones in the foreground, the Moon lies within the shadow cast by the mountain -- a shadow extending across a lower cloud deck and on through Earth's dense atmosphere. As the lunar eclipse is drawing to a close, the curved shadow of the limb of planet Earth itself can also be traced across the Moon's surface, some 400,000 kilometers away.

Tomorrow's picture: comet mountain
11 years ago

Astronomy Picture of the Day - 2008 February 29: Twelve Lunar Eclipses

Twelve Lunar Eclipses
Credit & Copyright: Tunç Tezel


Explanation: Welcome to the extra day in the Gregorian Calendar's leap year 2008! To celebrate, consider this grid of lunar eclipse pictures - starting in leap year 1996 and ending with February's eclipse - with the date in numerical year/month/day format beneath each image. Mostly based on visibility from a site in Turkey, the 3x4 matrix includes 11 of the 13 total lunar eclipses during that period, and fills out the grid with the partial lunar eclipse of September 2006. Still, as the pictures are at the same scale, they illustrate a noticeable variation in the apparent size of the eclipsed Moon caused by the real change in Earth-Moon distance around the Moon's elliptical orbit. The total phases are also seen to differ in color and darkness. Those effects are due to changes in cloud cover and dust content in the atmosphere reddening and refracting sunlight into Earth's shadow. Of course, the next chance to add a total lunar eclipse to this grid will come at the very end of the decade.

Tomorrow's picture: Hotel Mauna Kea
11 years ago

Astronomy Picture of the Day - 2008 February 28: ISS: Sunlight to Shadow

ISS: Sunlight to Shadow
Credit & Copyright: Till Credner,

Explanation: Orbiting 400,000 kilometers above the Earth, the Moon slid into Earth's shadow to begin last week's total lunar eclipse. Of course the International Space Station (IS slides into Earth's shadow every 90 minutes, the time it takes it to complete one orbit at an altitude of about 400 kilometers. Recorded near sunset on February 7, looking toward the north, this composite of 70 exposures shows the trail of the ISS (with gaps between exposures) as it moved left to right over the city of Tübingen in southern Germany. Beginning in sunlight on the left, the ISS vanishes as it enters Earth's shadow at the far right, above the northeastern horizon. As seen from Tübingen, the passage took about 4 minutes. Clicking on the image will download a time-lapse animation (mpg file) based on the individual exposures that includes a plane flying along the horizon.

Tomorrow's picture: bonus day
11 years ago

Astronomy Picture of the Day - 2008 February 26 - Mysterious Acid Haze on Venus

Mysterious Acid Haze on Venus
Credit: ESA/MPS, Katlenburg-Lindau, Germany

Explanation: Why did an acidic haze spread across Venus? The unusual clouds were discovered last July by ESA's robotic Venus Express spacecraft currently orbiting Venus. The bright and smooth haze was found by Venus Express to be rich in sulfuric acid, created when an unknown process lifted water vapor and sulphur dioxide from lower levels into Venus' upper atmosphere. There, sunlight broke these molecules apart and some of them recombined into the volatile sulfuric acid. Over the course of just a few days last July, the smooth acidic clouds spread from the South Pole of Venus across half the planet. The above false-color picture of Venus was taken last July 23rd in ultraviolet light, and shows the unusual haze as relatively smooth regions across the image bottom. The cause of the dark streaks in the clouds is also not yet understood and is being researched.

Tomorrow's picture: eagle stars
11 years ago

Astronomy Picture of the Day - 2008 February 25 - Dawn of the Large Hadron Collider

Dawn of the Large Hadron Collider
Credit & Copyright: Maximilien Brice, CERN

Explanation: Why do objects have mass? To help find out, Europe's CERN has built the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the most powerful particle accelerator yet created by humans. This May, the LHC is scheduled to start smashing protons into each other with unprecedented impact speeds. The LHC will explore the leading explanation that mass arises from ordinary particles slogging through an otherwise invisible but pervasive field of virtual Higgs particles. Were high energy colliding particles to create real Higgs bosons, the Higgs mechanism for mass creation may be bolstered. LHC will also look for micro black holes, magnetic monopoles, and explore the possibility that every type of fundamental particle we know about has a nearly invisible supersymmetric counterpart. The LHC@Home project will allow anyone with a home computer to help LHC scientists search archived LHC data for these strange beasts. Pictured above, a person stands in front of the huge ATLAS detector, one of six detectors being attached to the LHC.

Tomorrow's picture: sulfuric venus

11 years ago

Astronomy Picture of the Day - 2008 February 24 - NGC 4676: When Mice Collide

Explanation: These two mighty galaxies are pulling each other apart. Known as " The Mice" because they have such long tails, each spiral galaxy has likely already passed through the other. They will probably collide again and again until they coalesce. The long tails are created by the relative difference between gravitational pulls on the near and far parts of each galaxy. Because the distances are so large, the cosmic interaction takes place in slow motion -- over hundreds of millions of years. NGC 4676 lies about 300 million light-years away toward the constellation of Bernice's Hair (Coma Berenices) and are likely members of the Coma Cluster of Galaxies. The above picture was taken with the Hubble Space Telescope's Advanced Camera for Surveys which is more sensitive and images a larger field than previous Hubble cameras. The camera's increased sensitivity has imaged, serendipitously, galaxies far in the distance scattered about the frame.

Tomorrow's picture: when hadrons collide

11 years ago

Astronomy Picture of the Day - 2008 February 23 - Stereo Space Station

Explanation: Get out your red-blue glasses and float next to the International Space Station (IS, planet Earth's largest artificial moon. This fun stereo view was constructed from parts of two separate images (S122-E-009880, S122-E-009893) and an additional background recorded as the shuttle orbiter Atlantis undocked from the ISS on February 18. Atlantis and the ISS were traveling over 7,500 meters per second at an altitude of about 350 kilometers. The shiny, 7 meter long module extending from the station at the lower right is ESA's Columbus Laboratory, delivered by Atlantis and installed by spacewalking astronauts. After a successful 13 day mission to the ISS, Atlantis landed at Kennedy Space Center on Wednesday.

Tomorrow's picture: Sunday's child

11 years ago

Astronomy Picture of the Day - 2008 February 22 - Eclipsed Moonlight

Moon watchers blessed with clear skies over the Americas, Europe, Africa and western Asia enjoyed a total lunar eclipse this week. Catching eclipsed moonlight, astroimager Jerry Lodriguss offers this view of the inspiring celestial event with the shadowed Moon accompanied by wandering planet Saturn at the left, and bright Regulus, alpha star of the constellation Leo, above. The engaging composite picture was made by combining a filtered, telephoto image of the Moon and surrounding starfield with a telescopic exposure. The combination dramatizes the reddened moonlight while clearly showing the variation of brightness and color in Earth's not-so-dark shadow across the lunar surface.

11 years ago
Astronomy Picture of the Day - 2008 February 21 - Orion's Horsehead Nebula

The Horsehead Nebula is one of the most famous nebulae on the sky. It is visible as the dark indentation to the red emission nebula seen just below and left of center in the this photograph. The brightest star on the left is located in the belt of the familiar constellation Orion. The horse-head feature is dark because it is really an opaque dust cloud that lies in front of the bright red emission nebula. Like clouds in Earth's atmosphere, this cosmic cloud has assumed a recognizable shape by chance. After many thousands of years, the internal motions of the cloud will alter its appearance. The emission nebula's red color is caused by electrons recombining with protons to form hydrogen atoms. Also visible in the picture are blue reflection nebulae that preferentially reflect the blue light from nearby stars.
11 years ago
Doomed from the start

Category: Religion

Oxford University is getting $4 million from — who else? — the Templeton Foundation to study "why mankind embraces god". I hope that what I'm seeing is mere journalistic sloppy truncation, but knowing the Templeton Foundation and the usual crap I read from theologians, I fear that this does reflect their starting premise:

He [Roger Trigg, director of the program] said anthropological and philosophical research suggests that faith in God is a universal human impulse found in most cultures around the world, even though it has been waning in Britain and western Europe.

"One implication that comes from this is that religion is the default position, and atheism is perhaps more in need of explanation," he said.

"Universal human impulse," my left butt cheek. There are a lot of us who find ourselves quite content once we've shed religious indoctrination, and feel not one iota of desire to participate in supernatural foolishness. We happen to be human; there hasn't been a wave of X-Man-style mutations sweeping the globe, transforming a subset of the human race into trans-human beings with the super-power of being able to see through lies. "Faith in God" is also a peculiarly Abrahamic view of religion — I'm surprised that any anthropologists behind this scheme haven't been jumping up and down, trying to explain that there are many cultures in this world other than the Islamo-Judea-Christian axis of monotheistic intolerance, and the concept of a domineering paternalistic sky daddy is not universal.

There are human universals. We are curious or concerned about the world around us; we look for causal explanations for events; we like explanatory narratives that link sequences of events together; we tend to anthropomorphize and project our motivations and our expectation of agency on objects in our environment. That's human nature, and religion isn't at all intrinsic to it. Far from being the default, religion is a pathologic parasite that rides along on those human desires by promoting the illusion of agency as an all-encompassing explanation for everything, and by providing a framework for story-telling. Basically, it's a nice collection of lies that makes for a self-serving story — it's the original Mary Sue. Religion is like badly written fan fiction (in the case of the Abrahamic religions, in the fantasy/horror genre), and is no more an intrinsic component of human nature than is Star Trek slash, although it certainly is a warped reflection of human tendencies.

Maybe someone ought to stop and think that any universal explanation of human nature must include both theists and atheists, rather than treating the latter as a mere exception to be disregarded. Maybe they ought to notice that one good reason for rising godlessness is that entirely secular explanations succeed in providing a satisfying causal narrative, and have the added virtue that they're actually true. Science works, quite unlike prayer.

Starting with the assumption that "religion," that chaotic potpourri of diverse false starts in comprehending the universe, is a natural element of humanity and that it is the default position, whatever that is, was probably a necessary bit of pandering to milk money out of that blithely ideological promoter of happy lies called the Templeton Foundation, but it sounds to me like a proposal to build a research program on a false foundation. Maybe they'll surprise me (and horrify Templeton), but I don't expect anything but useless noise from such a proposal.

Maybe they should just give me the $4 million. It would help me get this damn book done.

11 years ago
15 misconceptions about evolution

Category: Evolution

Take a look at this excellent list of evolution misconceptions. The entries are very brief, but mostly correct and very common: in particular, #12, "Natural selection involves organisms 'trying' to adapt" is one of the most common mistakes in creationist thinking — they completely miss one of the most important insights that Darwin had.

But I have to nitpick a little bit. #6, "The theory is flawed," gives the wrong answer — it basically tries to argue that the theory of evolution is not flawed. Of course it is! If it were perfect and complete we'd be done with it, and it wouldn't be a particularly active field of research. The "flaws" that creationists typically bring up aren't flaws in the theory at all, but flaws in the creationists' understanding of the science, but let's be careful to avoid giving the impression of perfection.

#15 is also a pet peeve: "Evolution is a theory about the origin of life" is presented as false. It is not. I know many people like to recite the mantra that "abiogenesis is not evolution," but it's a cop-out. Evolution is about a plurality of natural mechanisms that generate diversity. It includes molecular biases towards certain solutions and chance events that set up potential change as well as selection that refines existing variation. Abiogenesis research proposes similar principles that led to early chemical evolution. Tossing that work into a special-case ghetto that exempts you from explaining it is cheating, and ignores the fact that life is chemistry. That creationists don't understand that either is not a reason for us to avoid it.

#13, "Evolution means that life changed 'by chance'," also ducks the issue more than it should. As it says, natural selection is not random — but there's more to evolution than natural selection. It's a bit like ducking the question by redefining the terms. Much of our makeup is entirely by accident, and evolution is a story of filtered accidents. Creationists don't like that — one of their central assumptions is that everything is purposeful — but don't pander to their beliefs. Go for the gusto and ask them what their god was thinking when he loaded up your genome with the molecular equivalent of styrofoam packing peanuts, or when he 'accidentally' scrambled the sequence of our enzyme for synthesizing vitamin C.

Two tales of whale evolution
11 years ago

Two tales of whale evolution

Category: Creationism

A reader sent me two links to video clips. The contrast is fascinating.

Here's the first. It's a nice illustration of the evidence behind our understanding of the evolution of whales, all in 7 minutes.

(continued below)

(continued from above) Now watch a creationist explain whale evolution.
11 years ago

Ouch. He complains that those wicked scientists are trying to turn the bible into a great big joke…but I think this clown does an even better job of that. Try counting the misconceptions — he goes on and on with this story about an animal crawling out of the primordial ooze onto the land and not liking it, and then wishing it could go back into the ocean, where it sucks in its hindlimbs and turns into a whale…and then he calls that story stupid and ridiculous. Guess what: it is! Of course, this ignorant nitwit is the person who made up the story, and it has nothing at all to do with what the evidence actually says.

This is what we have to deal with: morons who think their caricatures are evidence, and this bozo is probably voting for school board members based on how closely they approximate his level of idiocy.

11 years ago
Evolution To Be Taught As Scientific ‘Theory’ In Florida Because Of Right-Wing Campaign

Today, Florida’s Board of Education voted 4-3 to change standards for teaching science in Florida’s public schools. The Miami Herald reports:

For the first time ever, evolution is to be taught clearly and explicitly in Florida classrooms now that the Florida Board of Education Tuesday approved a batch of new science standards that says the ”E” word.

But there’s a catch: Evolution will be taught as “the Scientific Theory of Evolution.”

Previously, Florida’s science standards referred to evolution as “biological changes over time.” The shift to evolution was widely embraced by Florida’s scientists, school teachers, and university professors.

Yet a successful lobbying campaign by a coalition of conservative groups, such as the Christian Coalition of Florida and the Florida Family Policy Council, managed to convince the board to insert the caveat. They said they were “vigorously opposed” to the evolution language because it “clashes with their religious convictions or their personal beliefs that evolution has not been proved.”

Unfortunately, however, the right’s tactics seemed to be mostly driven by ignorance. At a public hearing, one Florida Panhandle resident held up two oranges and mockingly said that “after reading all the material” on evolution, he has a “conviction” that one of the oranges “is the first cousin of somebody’s pet cat” and the other, “the parent of somebody’s pet dog.” Watch it:

Years of evolution-less education have biased Florida residents. A recent St. Petersburg Times poll of Florida residents found that “only 22 percent want public schools to teach an evolution-only curriculum, while 50 percent want only faith-based theories such as creationism or intelligent design.” A 2005 national review gave Florida’s science standards a failing grade because of its “superficiality of the treatment of evolutionary biology.”

Filed under: Science, Radical Right

Posted by Ben February 19, 2008 5:30 pm

11 years ago

Astronomy Picture of the Day - 2008 February 20 - Moon Slide Slim

No special filters - or even a telescope - are required to enjoy a leisurely lunar eclipse. In fact, watched from all over the night side of planet Earth, these regular celestial performances have entertained many casual skygazers. Still, this eye-catching picture of a lunar eclipse may look unfamiliar. To make it, astroimager Stefan Seip set his camera on a tripod and locked the shutter open during the total lunar eclipse of March 3, 2007. The resulting image records the trail of the Moon (and narrower trails of stars) sliding through the night. Reddish hues common during the total phase of a lunar eclipse, are evident along the darker, slimmer portion of the Moon trail. At least part of tonight's lunar eclipse will be visible in clear skies over the Americas, Europe, Africa and western Asia. The eclipse lasts over three hours from start to finish, with about 50 minutes of totality. Tonight's eclipse is the last total lunar eclipse until December of 2010.

Lunar eclipse: Times | Webcast | Photo Tips
Tomorrow's picture: horsehead

11 years ago
Astronomy Picture of the Day - 2008 February 19 - Columbus Laboratory Installed on Space Station

The International Space Station (IS has been equipped with a powerful new scientific laboratory.
11 years ago

Watch the Total Lunar Eclipse the night of Feb. 20/21.

11 years ago
Where Do The Presidential Candidates Stand on Issues of Science?

See news, links, and commentary on the candidates and their positions on science, at the Care2 Election Blog. While you're there, take a minute to let me know which candidate you think will be best on science.
11 years ago
Support Science Debate 2008: Take Action Now

As a concerned activist, you have an important role to play in calling on all presidential candidates to defend science from political interference. The Union of Concerned Scientists invite you to urge the candidates to participate in a science debate.
11 years ago
Astronomy Picture of the Day - 2008 February 16 - Large Binocular Telescope

With moonlight on the horizon, a starry sky and the northern Milky Way provide the background for this dramatic view of the World at Night.
11 years ago



Junk Columnists

This is a pleasure to read. Recently, Charles Krauthammer wrote an aggressively vapid column claiming that the recent breakthrough in stem cell research, which allows scientists to trick skin cells into acting like embryonic stem cells, vindicates the restrictions President Bush placed in the way of stem cell research. He called attention to the work of James A. Thomson, the researcher who was both the first scientist to create embryonic stem cells and was also the key researcher on the new breakthrough. Today, Thomson and Alan Leshner respond, explaining that his conclusions are flawed and that he doesn't understand the basic science.

If only it were so easy on foreign policy ...

--Josh Marshall

11 years ago

“Some government scientists” charge “that officials at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History” ordered last-minute changes to an exhibit on the Arctic to add “scientific uncertainty” about climate change because of “global-warming skeptics in the Bush administration.”

11 years ago

ceratotherium takes on the Jesus-horse cavalry and spurs some great commentary in I explain evolution: Part 4.

11 years ago

Majority of GOP doubt evolution: poll
More in US accept creationism than evolution, per new Gallup poll.

Comment - Links

12 years ago
The inevitable attack on science

In 1999, as the nation was still coming to grips with the tragedy at Columbine High School, then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) took to the floor to identify what he saw as the real culprit: science classes. “Our school systems teach the children that they are nothing but glorified apes who are evolutionized [sic] out of some primordial soup,” DeLay said. Young people learn modern biology, DeLay said, which in turn makes them feel insignificant, which in turn leads to violence.

This was, of course, one of the more loathsome comments made by one of Congress's more despicable people, but after yesterday’s shootings at Virginia Tech, it was only a matter of time before someone who shares DeLay’s worldview stepped up to assess yesterday’s tragedy the same way.

Enter Ken Ham, a leading creationist activist, who leads an outfit called Answers in Genesis.

“We live in an era when public high schools and colleges have all but banned God from science classes. In these classrooms, students are taught that the whole universe, including plants and animals — and humans — arose by natural processes. Naturalism (in essence, atheism) has become the religion of the day and has become the foundation of the education system (and Western culture as a whole). The more such a philosophy permeates the culture, the more we would expect to see a sense of purposelessness and hopelessness that pervades people’s thinking. In fact, the more a culture allows the killing of the unborn, the more we will see people treating life in general as ‘cheap.’”

Ham, it’s worth noting, wrote this yesterday. He couldn’t even wait 24 hours before connecting the massacre and biology classes.

12 years ago
The Hill publishes ‘hate science.’

John Aravosis details how The Hill (and several leading cultural conservative groups) have published the work of David Cameron, who heads an organization labeled a “hate group” by the respected Southern Poverty Law Center. Some of what Cameron espouses:

He told the 1985 Conservative Political Action Committee conference that “extermination of homosexuals” might be needed in the next three to four years. He has advocated tattooing AIDS patients in the face, and banishment to a former leper colony for any patient who resisted. He has called for gay bars to be closed and gays to be registered with the government.

Much more HERE4:11 pm | Comment (42)

12 years ago

Ann Coulter Taken Apart By a Swedish Mathematician:

Just damned brilliant. In "The Coulter Hoax: How Ann Coulter Exposed the Intelligent Design Movement," Peter Olofsson tears off Coulter's legs and beats her to death with them.

12 years ago
Science vs. God, Redux
12 years ago

Eye on Science

Are Darwinists Afraid to Debate?

The scientists who have refused to show up at an SMU conference on Intelligent Design aren't afraid to debate the IDers; they're just afraid to give them even a shred of credibility by appearing in the same room.

12 years ago
Report Faults Interior Appointee - Washingtonpost.Com 
A Bush appointee in the Interior has been altering and changing field reports to undermine imperiled species protection and passing secrets to private interest looking to change policy.
12 years ago
Denying the Global Warming Denier

Mike Stark of CallingAllWingnuts has done it again.  This time, he's taking on "professional global warming denier"  Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

"Mr. Ebell, I'm sorry, but I feel like I walked in on you in bed with my wife and you just spent the last two hours asking me if I was going to believe me or my lying eyes." The crowd (and remember, this was a Federalist Society event) chortled.

"I mean, heat waves killed hundreds or thousands in Europe and Chicago. Coral reefs are dying off. Bark beetles are devastating forests they've never been found in before because the temperatures were to cold to sustain them. I don't have to go through it all, you've heard it all before… data point after data point after data point says global warming is a problem."

"Further, Exxon-Mobil recently admitted to spending $16 million dollars to cloud the science - to propagandize against global warming. And your firm, the supposedly non-partisan Competitive Enterprise Institute was one of the greatest recipients."

"Which leads me to my next point - your claim of non-partisanship. I've heard Senator Inhofe, Richard Pombo, Tom delay when he was there and many others mis-state the science, often while quoting your organization. But I'm looking at your web-page right now, and I see story after story that supposedly debunks Al Gore. Why haven't you ever had anything bad to say about a Republican? Because to a simple guy like me, well, when I look at the big picture, it looks as if you folks care less about the truth than you do about furthering a pro-business agenda."

Go read the whole exchange at CallingAllWingnuts.  I especially like Mike's analysis of arguing with someone that has no credibility. 

12 years ago

'In my more than three decades in government, I have never seen anything approaching the degree to which information flow from scientists to the public has been screened and controlled as it has now.' US fudging of climate science - details revealed 20 Mar 2007 The Bush administration has again been charged with interfering with federal climate science, in order to underplay the significance of global warming. In a continuing investigation, the US House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held its second hearing on the issue on Monday. Documents "appear to portray a systematic White House effort to minimise the significance of climate change", said a memo released by the committee.

12 years ago
Bush Appointees Watered Down Greenhouse Science
this is the type of governmental interference science has had to suffer under the current administration
12 years ago
Scientist Accuses White House of 'Nazi' Tactics
A government scientist, under sharp questioning by a federal panel for his outspoken views on global warming, stood by his view today that the Bush administration's information policies smacked of Nazi Germany. (what happened to freedom of information?)
12 years ago
Carnivalia, and an open thread

Category: Carnivals

Here are a few carnival announcements, but otherwise talk about whatever comes to mind.

And remember, on Monday Encephalon will be posted here—so send me links to neuro-related articles.

The Tangled Bank

The Tangled Bank will be at Living the Scientific Life on Wednesday—send those links to me or

On Evolution
12 years ago

We have much Proof of Evolution...


And also Proof fo Deevolution...



On Global Mechanics
12 years ago

CO2 = One Carbon and two Oxygen Atoms.

The amount of heat that CO2 traps is PROPORTIONAL to the NUMBER of CO2 atoms in the atmosphere AND the NUMBER of CARBON atoms exposed to sunlight on the surface of the earth. .

With CO2, the Oxygen Atom is not a problem. Infra-red light passes through O2 atoms like through glass ( Silicon ), but the CARBON ATOM is a problem. It absorbs Infra-red wavelengths (what Humans and Atoms call ''HEAT'').

Leaves (plants) reflect 70-90 % of the Infra-red that hits them back into space.

Dirt (organic) Absorbs 70-90% of the Infra-red that hits it.

Carbon Atoms Absorb 99% of the infra-red that hit them.

Tar (including asphalt and roofing Tile) absorbs 70-90% of the Infra-Red that hits it.

When you Google satalite images of your own town, you can estimate how much Infra-Red is being ABSORBED due to Human alteration of YOUR TOWN.

Air samples will reveal how many Carbon Atoms have been ejected into our atmosphere collecting heat both from the sun and the earth and trapping it HERE.

What part of this suggests that WARMING has not occured, and is not occuring, due to OUR DEEDS.

How many carbon particles do CATTLE eject into the atmosphere ?

How many acres of land do COWS make into parking lots and roads ?

How much ANCIENT BIO-COAL and ANCIENT BIO-FUEL do cows burn ?

I live HERE :

My Home

The Heat from the sun STAYS HERE.

When we took IR photos of my property from a helicopter, we were amazed to find that the leaves showing pure white (Blazing Hot). They were reflecting the heat of the sun. The reflected heat was so great that it was as if we had pointed our camera at the sun. We could only use the IR camera at night because it was blinded by the reflected heat from the trees and grasses.

But where the ground was bare the earth was nearly black in infra-red, like the asphalt of the roads. The bare ground absorbed the sun's heat.

My Home Infra-Red

What Next ?

After summing up all the factors, Clouds COOL the Earth and, for now, are keeping us alive by reflecting more, and more, of the Suns Heat and spreading the Heat around the globe as Rain.

For clouds to Rain requires COLD AIR ( which is in shorter supply these days)

At some point, as we approach the capacity of the Air to hold water, the oceans will rise.

At some point, as we approach the capacity of the Air to hold water, all rains will be FLOODS, as the RARE Cold Air hits our water burdened Air overhead.

Eventually the Poles will be as useless as we have been.
...''And the meek shall inherit the earth''. .


12 years ago

If you are an existing or prospective member of Scientists and Engineers for America, you need to also join the other version. It costs nothing, but they can’t list you as a member without consent. Here are just a couple of new, exciting projects in the works:

SEA has developed a system through which elected officials' positions on these and other important science policy issues can be easily tracked and presented. SEA's Wiki-Science Project combines the community aspects of Wikipedia with the easy-to-use features of a flash map.

SEA's Campaign Education and Training Program ... promotes effective and accurate science, technology, engineering, and math curricula by educating scientists about how to get involved in the political process; particularly in how to run for positions on school boards across the country.

  • The Spitzer Space Telescope obtained practical spectra from two exo-solar planets. While you’re there, check out this exquisite image of the Helix Nebula.

  • Why did stock prices correct last week? More sellers than buyers of course (rimshot)! But I bet this isn’t helping ....

  • For the record, I did first learn of the Conservapedia from Ed Brayton. But he had my respect at 'hello.'

  • While presidential candidate George W. Bush promised mandatory restrictions on greenhouse gases, as president Bush has delivered only "voluntary guidelines."  How is that working out?

    The Bush administration estimates that emissions by the United States of gases that contribute to global warming will grow nearly as fast through the next decade as they did the previous decade, according to a long-delayed report being completed for the United Nations.

Tags: open thread (all tags)

View Comments | 80 comments

12 years ago
The Evangelical War on Science

evolutionbanner.jpg  I just got finished watching Alexandra Pelosi's Friends of God documentary on HBO and was taken aback at what has become an increasing trend among American christianists. This particular part on evangelicals and evolution (and what they teach their children about the science of evolution) was very disturbing. The "secular progressive" War on Christmas has nothing on the evangelical War on Science.

video_wmv Download (5978) | Play (2641) 

Glenn Greenwald has a post on evangelical religious beliefs that ties in nicely:

[…]But beyond that, one does not need to go searching for isolated British Muslim doctors in order to find examples of the lives of children being endangered due to the religious beliefs of adults. Merck, among other pharmaceutical companies, developed a highly effective vaccine against the human papilloma virus (HPV) — by far the leading cause of cervical cancer in women — but an entire American political movement called "social conservatism" has been desperately trying to prevent its widespread approval — or at least persuade parents not to have their daughters vaccinated — because HPV is a sexually transmitted disease and they therefore believe that a vaccine will be seen as an endorsement of premartal sex.. Read more…

12 years ago
Grand Canyon Employees 'Advised' to Explain Creationism to Public!!  
THE Grand Canyon was formed a few thousand years ago by Noah's flood, and not a few million years ago by geological forces, right? So says a glossy book still on sale in Grand Canyon National Park, despite scientists' protests.
12 years ago

Coturnix cordially invites any and all science geeks to a Science Blogging Conference!

The North Carolina Science Blogging Conference, Saturday, January 20, 2007. This is a free, open and public event for scientists, educators, students, journalists, bloggers and anyone interested in discussing science communication, education and literacy on the Web.

  • The Union of Concerned Scientists allege that oil giant Exxon-Mobil has adopted the PR tactics of Big Tobacco to seed the public discourse with manufactured doubt over human induced climate change.

  • Backreaction explains that when it comes to spectrometers for estimating the mass of the elusive neutrino, size does matter!

Tags: open thread (all tags)

12 years ago

False Advertising

by tristero

Jonathan Wells, the Moonie from the Discovery Institute who is one of their principle shills for "inteliigent design" creationism - and, incidentally, a man who actually believes that the earth is about 6,000 years old, tops - has released a book with a title so misleading it amounts to blatantly false advertising. As the delicious multi-part series at The Panda's Thumb makes quite clear, it should be titled "The Thoroughly Incorrect Guide to Darwinism [sic] and Intelligent Design."

Check it out.

And by the way, those of you who object to my calling Wells a Moonie and referring to him in an obviously contemptuous fashion, perhaps you should remember that Wells is the stupid sonuvabitch who once compared biologist Ken Miller to the Hitler's propagandist Heinrich Himmler, thus simultaneously exhibiting the gutter level at which his department at Discovery operates, his historical ignorance and the sheer sloppiness of his "scholarship."

12 years ago

ANKOSS' NASA cowards and American decadence reflects on the announced launch of the Space Shuttle in July - despite objections of two top NASA officials - and asks if cowardice and corruption are so widespread in our populace that we can no longer expect people to do the decent thing.

12 years ago

The Seed Science Blog domain has had a spiffy face lift and an influx of new talent. I'll be mentioning a few of the recent arrivals over the next few weeks starting today:

  • Carl Zimmer has joined the gang with The Loom. In my opinion Carl is the best contemporary evo and bio science writer--and let me qualify this analytically--in the universe.

  • My old friend John Wilkins has arrived on the scene waxing poetically about evolution and the methodology therein at Evolving Thoughts.

  • John better watch out for the new philosophy of science blogstar, the delightful Karmen at ChaoticUtopia. I met her at YK. She has a lot of energy--or possibly a concealed cappuccino IV.

  • And the staff of Effect Measure is now available to discuss everything from flesh eating bacteria, to how to live through a flu pandemic.

This is an open science thread. What's cooking in your incubator?

12 years ago

El Cabrero's The science of evil, part I is the first essay of a two-part series examining the social science definition and findings on evil.

12 years ago

Hekebolos is back - with spiders! This is science you can really sink your chelicerae into: as is always the case with this diarist, expect great informative writing, profuse illustrations, and fascinating insights into the world of our friends, the Arachida. If you thought you knew a lot about blood-sucking spiders, just wait until you've read: Science Spider Friday: The Vampire Jumping Spider! (Unitary Moonbat)

12 years ago

The web has known for a long time.

But the government owns the media.


an inconvenient truth

And of course.....

SNL: If Al Gore were President

"Saturday Night Live," opened their show tonight with Al Gore addressing the nation.

                                                      Video-WMP Video-QT

Where to go
12 years ago

Hawking is a brilliant person. The climate is out of control and getting worse. We tend to think of Katrina and Atlantic hurricanes, but the pacific has also been experiencing and unusually high number of incredibly powerful storms. We have seen abnormally active seismic activity that has resulted in tremendous loss of human life. Buckaroo Bush seems hell bent on getting us into more and more wars. The new push to start up the nuclear bomb production line may start another arms race. Some will call his statements ridiculous, but I am more inclined to call them realistic.

If we start colonies elsewhere, it would be comforting to think that the designers would have enough sense to move us from all of the silliness that has characterized the human race. Killing one another and destroying the planet that gives us sustenance can hardly be called sane. Can we do a better job out there than we have done here?

We need some cosmic guidance. The way of the EGO, the glorification of greed (enshrined by our current government), us vs. them instead of we has got to go. We need to grow up and develop some perspective. It has been said that this world is a learning ground. Souls are here to mature and ultimately graduate to something better. Does that mean more physical possessions or does that mean valuing none physical entities like peace, joy and love?

Is the universe that we need to colonize out there in space or in the inner space deep within our own being? Might it even be that if the earth were to pass away, we would find ourselves in a better place? A place that is closer to the loving arms of our Creator. 

Edwin 2Trees

12 years ago
Hawkings Statement
In a prophetic statement, Hawkings says we probably need to make it off our current chunk of rock into permanently self-sustaining settlements within the next century if mankind's going to survive. Personally, I find it very disturbing that we can't keep earth itself self-sustaining.

World-renowned scientist Stephen Hawking said the survival of the human race depends on its ability to find new homes elsewhere in the universe. The British astrophysicist said in a press conference in Hong Kong that humans could have a permanent base on the Moon in 20 years and a colony on Mars in the next 40 years, adding "We won't find anywhere as nice as Earth unless we go to another solar system." "It is important for the human race to spread out into space for the survival of the species," Hawking emphasized and added "Life on Earth is at the ever-increasing risk of being wiped out by a disaster, such as sudden global warming, nuclear war or a genetically engineered virus." Hawking, who is wheelchair-bound, can use only one hand and communicates with the help of a computer because he suffers from an incurable neurological disorder called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. He concluded by saying if humans can avoid killing themselves in the next 100 years, they should establish space settlements that can continue without support from Earth.
12 years ago
Science swirling down the drain

Category: PoliticsScience

Lots of stuff about the intersection of science and politics in the US today—here are three things to read over breakfast.

  • Bruce Sterling suggests that American science is experiencing creeping Lysenkoism, and reports that "the Bush administration has systematically manipulated scientific inquiry into climate change, forest management, lead and mercury contamination, and a host of other issues." He predicts a rather grim end for our science and science policy.

    Before long, the damage will spread beyond our borders. International scientific bodies will treat American scientists as pariahs. This process has already begun in bioethics, meteorology, agriculture, nuclear science, and medicine, but doubts will spread to "American science" generally.

    It's not a happy piece. Read it anyway.

  • Chris Mooney is surprised at the longevity of the critiques of Republican "science": he says that "a similar pattern--ignore experts, favor ideologues--has been followed by the administration on any number of other science issues, ranging from global warming to the morning after pill," and seems most impressed by the fact that these problems are being pointed out, over and over again. Where Sterling sees looming disaster, though, Mooney sees some hope: not everyone is blind to what the Bushites are doing, and science policy is becoming an important issue.

    But now I realize something more: These questions are proof positive that those who are worried about the politics of science nurture their concern within a much broader context. These Americans are thinking: As science goes, so goes the nation. On some level, the science community has always known that. What's new is that now, we have a heck of a lot of company.

    Now we just have to get all that company motivated to campaign and vote.

  • Darksyde discusses a bill to protect scientific whistleblowers, people who come forward to politicized, ideological tampering with the science coming out of our premier federal research institutions, like NOAA. As he says, "Once again, the GOP preferred to ignore reality and opt for wishful thinking": it was killed by the Republicans. The author of the bill, Rep. Brad Miller, (D-North Carolina), was online responding to comments, if you'd like to hear straight from the source.

    I think Mooney is right, that the public can see the damage being done to our reputation and the erosion of America's science and engineering skill set, but there's the obstacle—as long as the Republicans are in power, we're not going to be able to slow the destruction.

12 years ago

As George Will casts doubt on the human origin of global warming, and federal funding for climate science is 'on the cutting board,' "inconsistent information policies" are blamed for "the intentional or unintentional suppression or distortion of research findings" in science.

13 years ago

The political uses the Bush administration has found for "sound science" are rediscovered in a Knight Ridder article, but a Daily Kos poster disputes the claim that no one is sure what the term means.

13 years ago

DeweyCounts' Using "Science" To Usher in The Conservative State looks at the gradual corporatization of public schools and the various methods used to cast doubt on science.

13 years ago

SOS over Iraqi scientists By Ahmed Janabi 10 Apr 2006 "Since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, an alarming number of the country's leading academics have been killed. A human rights organisation puts the number at about a thousand and has a documented list of 105 cases. These professors, it says, were not random casualties - they were assassinated."

13 years ago
Nobel Laureate decries science censorship

Nobel Laureate Eric Kandel spoke out against politically motivated censorship in science in an interview for the New York Academy of Sciences' online magazine, Science in the City.

Noting that it's "a terrible time for science" in the U.S., Nobel Laureate Eric Kandel has compared the effects of government science policy to the Eisenhower-McCarthy era, when scientists were persecuted for their political beliefs.

Kandel's remarks came during an interview with Science & the City, the webzine of the New York Academy of Sciences, about his new memoir, In Search of Memory: The Emergence of a New Science of Mind (Norton, March 2006).

"There's very little funding, there's political censorship about what one does and how one speaks about it," he said. "I think the scientific community is extremely concerned about the future of this country given the restrictions on science at the moment." [Medical News Today]

Kandel won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2000 for his work on signal transduction in the nervous system.

13 years ago

THE REPUBLICAN WAR ON SCIENCE, CONT'D....From the Los Angeles Times this morning:

Following four years of study, senior EPA scientists came to an alarming conclusion....

I hardly need to tell you how this story turns out, do I? We all know how the Bush administration feels about senior EPA scientists and their pansy ass whining about carcinogens and birth defects.

My favorite quote comes from Raymond DuBois, the Defense Department fellow who accidentally admitted why the Pentagon and the White House were fighting the EPA's conclusions about a chemical called TCE: "If you go down two or three levels in EPA, you have an awful lot of people that came onboard during the Clinton administration, to be perfectly blunt about it...."

Click the link if you've already had your coffee this morning. Otherwise you might want to skip it.

Kevin Drum 12:26 PM Permalink

13 years ago
Working With Stem Cells Takes A Lot Of B*lls
by pessimist

The stem cell debate is about to take on a new character, for the reason the debate exists at all may be completely obliterated:

Cell find may cut use of human embryos
By Roger Highfield, Science Editor

Scientists are already investigating the use of stem cells from early human embryos for a wide range of treatments because they are able to multiply endlessly and to recreate all 200 basic cell types in the body.

This would avoid the technical and ethical difficulties associated with generating stem cells from human embryos, which has been bitterly opposed by the pro-life movement.

So what is this wonder cure? This marvelous new development?

Mice cells, stem cells share similarities: scientists

Professor Gerd Hasenfuss and his colleagues said in a report published online by the journal Nature they isolated the sperm-producing stem cells from mice testes. The cells, which they call multi-potent adult germline stem cells (maGSCs), acted like embryonic stem cells under certain conditions.
When the researchers injected the cells into early embryos, they found the cells contributed to the development of different organs.

Detouring back to the first linked article:

[T]he testis cells are remarkably flexible: capable of forming all three "germ layers" - the basic three cellular layers, ectoderm, endoderm, and mesoderm - from which the body's organs and tissues develop.

They show another crucial property of embryonic stem cells: when injected into mice that lack an immune system, the cells grow into teratomas, tumours formed of a blend of all different types.

And, when the cells were blended with those of an early mouse embryo, they were found to contribute to many tissues, such as heart, brain and spleen, in the mice that were born.

Prof Hasenfuss, Dr Kaomei Guan and colleagues propose that these cells, which may be extracted from men using a simple testicular biopsy, could provide an alternative source of stem cells for growing brain or heart cells to treat a male patient that would not trigger any immune reaction.

Returning to the second linked article:

Dr Stephen Minger, a stem cell biologist at King's College in London, describes the findings as "pretty amazing" but says more research is needed. "We would need to replicate this in humans, just because it works in a mouse doesn't necessarily mean it will also work in people," he said. If it is possible to isolate the cells in humans and show that they work, it would give scientists another source of stem cells for research.

And that just might be the last straw for the opposition to stem cell research.

Now - if we could only do something about the rising costs of medical care, ...

pessimist :: 10:05 AM

13 years ago

Category: EvolutionFossilsOrganisms


We haven't had enough fossil penguins here, so let me rectify that deficiency. Below the fold you'll find a reconstruction of Waimanu, a 61-62 million year old penguin that was discovered in New Zealand.

Oh, and Carl Zimmer has posted a photo of the bird with its skin and feathers on.

13 years ago
The attack on Global Warming


"60 Minutes" aired a piece last night that is "must see" TV. (Full story here)

DarkSyde at Kos:

NASA climate scientist Jim Hansen again blasted the Bush-Cheney White House, saying that Climate Change is 'real', and that human activity is the most likely cause

          Video-WMP  Video-QT

The Left Coaster: James Hansen is the country's premier Global Climate change scientist. Since the 1970s he has been at the forefront of the studying global climate change and has provided his expert opinion to every administration since then. Dr. Hansen believes that the world is in serious trouble -- so much trouble that he refuses to remain silent even when the Bush administration orders him to be on"

Update: Rep. Brad Miller: "If you know of other instances of censoring, intimidating, blacklisting or whatever, e-mail my legislative assistance, Heather Parsons, at

13 years ago
Propagating secularist creation myths:.
Scientists said yesterday they have found the best evidence yet supporting the theory that about 13.7 billion years ago, the universe suddenly expanded from the size of a marble to the size of the cosmos in less than a trillionth of a second.

And not a word of balance from the other side, as if the sincere faith of millions of Americans in a Christian God didn't matter at all to the Post's editors.

I just hate it when the media reports carefully vetted scientific data as fact and not as just one of many valid points of view. I'm not asking for them to ignore the opinions of these so-called scientists, but they really should report the fact there's a lot of controversy about whether this kind of evidence is valid. LIke, were you there, huh, Mr. Hotshot Washington Post? As if this ludicrous nonsense - a marble blows up like a baloon to become the entire universe in a trillionth of a second - is more plausible than Genesis? Give me a break!

Have some scepticism, people!
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Science and Bu$h's WAR ON SCIENCE
13 years ago
No Nerds

More on the nation-weakening folly of the Bush Administration’s relentless drive to erode America’s scientific pre-eminence, by measures such as keeping foreign graduate students out of this country. Now, the Weakener-in-Chief’s war on science and scientists has reached the point where prominent scholars from other countries can’t get a visa to come here temporarily for conferences:

A leading world science body denounced tougher U.S. visa policies on Thursday after its Indian-born president said he failed to get permission to enter the country on charges he was hiding information that could be used for chemical weapons.

Professor Goverdhan Mehta, 62, an internationally recognized organic chemist, invited to a conference by the University of Florida, has denied the charges and said he was rejected because he could not recall details of research he did 40 years ago. …

Mehta, a former head of the Indian Institute of Science who has taught in the United States, Britain, France, Germany and Japan, said the [U.S.] consulate accused him of hiding information that could possibly be used for chemical weapons when he could not give details of his doctoral thesis.

“I did my Ph.D 40 years ago,” he told the Deccan Herald in Bangalore, the southern Indian high-tech center where he lives. “I told them I did not remember the topic. Science has progressed and changed completely since then.”

Forty years. Sounds about right. Wasn’t that the age of the barrels of supposed WMD that Bush and Rove were creaming over for a couple of news cycles back in the days when the WMD hunt in Iraq was still on?


Posted by Wayne Uff at 10:03 PM | Permalink | Weakening America
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