New Mexicans for Science and Reason




Posted December 19th, 2008

A Dinosaur with a Toilet Mouth?

Yahoo/Reuters reports on Dec. 12th that "A peculiar amphibian that was clad in bony armor prowled warm lakes 210 million years ago, catching fish and other tasty snacks with one of the most unusual bites in the history of life on Earth. The creature called Gerrothorax pulcherrimus, which lived alongside some of the early dinosaurs, opened its mouth not by dropping its lower jaw, as other vertebrate animals do. Instead, it lifted back the top of its head in a way that looked a lot like lifting the lid of a toilet seat. 'It's weird. It's the ugliest animal in the world,' Harvard University's Farish Jenkins, one of the scientists who describe the mechanics of its bite in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, said in a telephone interview on Friday. ..."


The Latest Face of Creationism in the Classroom...

The entire December 2008 issue of Scientific American is devoted to the topic of evolution. One of the articles is by Glenn Branch and Eugenie C. Scott of the National Center for Science Education (, who say that "Creationists who want religious ideas taught as scientific fact in public schools continue to adapt to courtroom defeats by hiding their true aims under ever changing guises ... The enactment of the Louisiana Science Education Act, and the prospect of similar legislation in the future, confirms Darwin’s assessment of the power of steady misrepresentation. But because the passage of such antievolution bills ultimately results from politics rather than science, it will not be the progress of science that ensures their failure to endure. Rather it will take the efforts of citizens who are willing to take a stand and defend the uncompromised teaching of evolution. ..."


CFI, the Blog...

On Tuesday, December 16, 2008, the Center for Inquiry launched its front-page blog, "Free Thinking." Check it out!




Check out "Civilian Nuclear Energy" by Dr. Marshall Berman; this web page is chock full of supporting information from Dr. Berman's recent talk on nuclear power, presented to the New Mexicans for Science and Reason at their December 3, 2008 meeting. The post also includes a Dec. 17th Addendum on "Comments on a recent US Senate Briefing by Dr. Mark Z. Jacobson."



This new article by P.S. Braterman discusses the ongoing controversy between Storkism and Uterine Development Theory(UDT).


Posted December 12th, 2008

EPA's Johnson: No 'Clean-cut Division' between Religion and Science; Bush "Just a simple President"...

ThinkProgress reported on Dec. 8th that "The Wonk Room’s Brad Johnson notes that, when questioned by reporters, [EPA administrator] Stephen Johnson admitted he does not see a “clean-cut division” between the two: 'It's not a clean-cut division. If you have studied at all creationism vs. evolution, there's theistic or God-controlled evolution and there's variations on all those themes.' ..."

The report also mentions that "In an interview with ABC’s Nightline that will air tonight, President Bush expresses a similar sentiment as Stephen Johnson: ... 'I think evolution can -- you're getting me way out of my lane here. I'm just a simple president. But it's, I think that God created the earth, created the world; I think the creation of the world is so mysterious it requires something as large as an almighty and I don't think it's incompatible with the scientific proof that there is evolution.' ...


NASA Transition Consumed by Friction Upon Entry Into Obama Administration...

The Orlando Sentinel reports on Dec. 10th that "NASA administrator Mike Griffin is not cooperating with President-elect Barack Obama's transition team, is obstructing its efforts to get information and has told its leader that she is 'not qualified' to judge his rocket program, the Orlando Sentinel has learned. In a heated 40-minute conversation last week with Lori Garver, a former NASA associate administrator who heads the space transition team, a red-faced Griffin demanded to speak directly to Obama, according to witnesses. In addition, Griffin is scripting NASA employees and civilian contractors on what they can tell the transition team and has warned aerospace executives not to criticize the agency’s moon program, sources said. Griffin's resistance is part of a no-holds-barred effort to preserve the Constellation program, the delayed and over-budget moon rocket that is his signature project. ... ..."


Nobel-winning Physicist Nominated for Energy Secretary...

USA Today reports on Dec. 10th that "President-elect Barack Obama plans to tap a Nobel Prize-winning physicist and three former Clinton administration officials to lead his environment-and-energy policy team, the Associated Press reported Wednesday. The wire service said the picks [include]: • Steve Chu, director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and 1997 Nobel Prize winner for physics, as his Energy secretary. ..."


Posted December 5th, 2008

A New Look at Earth, when IT was New...

The New York Times reports on Dec. 1st that "The first 700 million years of Earth’s 4.5-billion-year existence are known as the Hadean period, after Hades, or, to shed the ancient Greek name, Hell. That name seemed to fit with the common perception that the young Earth was a hot, dry, desolate landscape interspersed with seas of magma and inhospitable for life. Even if some organism had somehow popped into existence, the old story went, surely it would soon have been extinguished in the firestorm of one of the giant meteorites that slammed into the Earth when the young solar system was still crowded with debris. Scars on the surface of the Moon record a hail of impacts during what is called the Late Heavy Bombardment. The Earth would have received an even more intense bombardment, and the common thinking until recently was that life could not have emerged on Earth until the bombardment eased about 3.85 billion years ago. Norman H. Sleep, a professor of geophysics at Stanford, recalled that in 1986 he submitted a paper that calculated the probability of life surviving one of the giant, early impacts. It was summarily rejected because a reviewer said that obviously nothing could have lived then. That is no longer thought to be true. 'We thought we knew something we didn’t,' said T. Mark Harrison, a professor of geochemistry at the University of California, Los Angeles. In hindsight the evidence was just not there. And new evidence has suggested a new view of the early Earth. Over the last decade, the mineralogical analysis of small hardy crystals known as zircons embedded in old Australian rocks has painted a picture of the Hadean period 'completely inconsistent with this myth we made up,' Dr. Harrison said. Geologists now almost universally agree that by 4.2 billion years ago, the Earth was a pretty placid place, with both land and oceans. Instead of hellishly hot, it may have frozen over. Because the young Sun put out 30 percent less energy than it does today, temperatures on Earth might have been cold enough for parts of the surface to have been covered by expanses of ice. ..."


Back To Reality for Science?

Olivia Judson of the New York Times, in a Dec. 2nd "Wild Side" commentary titled "Back to Reality," says " President-elect Obama already has a long to-do list. But here’s another item for it: to restore science in government. The most notable characteristic of the Bush administration’s science policy has been the repeated distortion and suppression of scientific evidence in order to fit ideological preferences about how the world should be, rather than how it is. In his disturbing book “Undermining Science: Suppression and Distortion in the Bush Administration,” the journalist Seth Shulman describes case after case of intimidation of scientists in government posts, the suppression of scientific evidence and the perpetuation of misinformation. The fields affected range from climate change to public health. Although some incidents are small in and of themselves, the cumulative effect is horrifying. Shulman also catalogs a long list of established government scientists who, during the course of the Bush administration, resigned their posts in despair. The distortion and suppression of science is dangerous, and not just because it means that public money gets wasted on programs, like abstinence-only sex “education” schemes, that do not work. It is dangerous because it is an assault on science itself, a method of thought and inquiry on which our modern civilization is based and which has been hugely successful as a way of acquiring knowledge that lets us transform our lives and the world around us. In many respects science has been the dominant force — for good and ill — that has transformed human lives over the past two centuries. ..."

... The rubbishing of science is far more serious than any particular decision over whether to fund research into stem cells, the sexual behavior of fruit flies or the quarks and quirks of particle physics. Undoing the damage of the past eight years may take another eight. But it must be done. We are probably one of the last generations that will be able to use our knowledge and methods to guide human civilization to a sustainable future. This is our time.


Next NASA Mars Mission Rescheduled for 2011...

JPL announced on Dec. 4th that "NASA's Mars Science Laboratory will launch two years later than previously planned, in the fall of 2011. The mission will send a next-generation rover with unprecedented research tools to study the early environmental history of Mars. A launch date of October 2009 no longer is feasible because of testing and hardware challenges that must be addressed to ensure mission success. The window for a 2009 launch ends in late October. The relative positions of Earth and Mars are favorable for flights to Mars only a few weeks every two years. The next launch opportunity after 2009 is in 2011. 'We will not lessen our standards for testing the mission's complex flight systems, so we are choosing the more responsible option of changing the launch date,' said Doug McCuistion, director of the Mars Exploration Program at NASA Headquarters in Washington. ..."


There will be No Debate on the Age of the Earth...

D. Russell Humphreys and I (Dave Thomas) were all set to debate the age of the Earth (How Old Is The Earth: 6000 Years Or 4.5 Billion Years?) on Sunday, December 7th, 2008, 9:00 AM at the First Unitarian Church of Albuquerque, but Dr. Humphreys had to cancel at the last minute, as he is presently moving out of New Mexico. There will be no Debate, alas, but I will be giving a talk anyway, on scientific determination of the earth's age. Come on down! It's at 9:00 AM Sunday, at the First Unitarian Church, on Carlisle at Comanche NE; the talk is in the Social Room on the west side of the church area.

Posted November 28th, 2008

Spectacular Transitional Turtle Fossil...

PZ Myers reports on Panda's Thumb that "...this is an interesting beast. It’s a 220 million year old fossil from China of an animal that is distinctly turtle-like. ... Notice in the skull: it’s got teeth, not just a beak like modern turtles. The back is also odd, for a turtle. The ribs are flattened and broadened, but…no shell! It’s a turtle without a shell! Flip it over. There’s another specimen, and we can look down on its ventral side, and there it is — a plastron, or the belly armor. So, what we have here is a long-legged, toothed reptile with an elongate body, and it also has a plastron like a turtle, and hints in the bony structure of the spine of the carapace-to-be. It also fits perfectly with the embryology: modern turtles form the plastron first, and the carapace second. This is a beautiful transitional form. I’d love to have some swimming in the streams near me. And here’s a reconstruction of what they would have looked like, way back in the Triassic. ..."


Does this mean creationists have egg all over their faces? Of course. Not that it will change any minds, but, for the record, here's the creationist view of transitional turtles, courtesy of Answers in Genesis:
The biblical account of Creation in Genesis 1—animals created to reproduce after their kinds—would mean that turtles should be instantly recognizable as turtles, with the shell and other unique features fully formed from the start,7 and no series of ‘pre-turtle ancestors’ should be found. It is obvious that the fossil record of turtles gives powerful support to biblical Creation, and stands opposed to the idea of evolution.


Probability, Statistics, Evolution, and Intelligent Design (Not)...

Peter Olofsson takes a critical look at the mathematics of the Intelligent Design movement, especially as espoused by William Dembski and Michael Behe. As with many encounters of "Fantasy Science" and real science, the results are pretty gory. Read up on all the bloodshed at Talk Reason (Posted Nov. 24th)


Posted November 21st, 2008

Body of Copernicus Found...

Monica Scislowska and report from Warsaw, Poland that "Researchers said Thursday they have identified the remains of Nicolaus Copernicus by comparing DNA from a skeleton and hair retrieved from one of the 16th-century astronomer's books. The findings could put an end to centuries of speculation about the exact resting spot of Copernicus, a priest and astronomer whose theories identified the Sun, not the Earth, as the center of the universe. ... Swedish genetics expert Marie Allen analyzed DNA from a vertebrae, a tooth and femur bone and matched and compared it to that taken from two hairs retrieved from a book that the 16th-century Polish astronomer owned, which is kept at a library of Sweden's Uppsala University where Allen works. 'We collected four hairs and two of them are from the same individual as the bones,' Allen said. ..."


Matter = Vacuum Fluctuations, Confirmed...

New Scientist reports on Nov. 20th that "Matter is built on flaky foundations. Physicists have now confirmed that the apparently substantial stuff is actually no more than fluctuations in the quantum vacuum. The researchers simulated the frantic activity that goes on inside protons and neutrons. These particles provide almost all the mass of ordinary matter. Each proton (or neutron) is made of three quarks - but the individual masses of these quarks only add up to about 1% of the proton's mass. So what accounts for the rest of it? Theory says it is created by the force that binds quarks together, called the strong nuclear force. In quantum terms, the strong force is carried by a field of virtual particles called gluons, randomly popping into existence and disappearing again. The energy of these vacuum fluctuations has to be included in the total mass of the proton and neutron. But it has taken decades to work out the actual numbers. The strong force is described by the equations of quantum chromodynamics, or QCD, which are too difficult to solve in most cases. So physicists have developed a method called lattice QCD, which models smooth space and time as a grid of separate points. This pixellated approach allows the complexities of the strong force to be simulated approximately by computer. ..."


It's Official: Creationists Rawson, Komadina Ousted...

The Albuquerque Journal reports on Nov. 17th on the "... general election contests in which three Republican senators were ousted: GOP Whip Leonard Lee Rawson of Las Cruces, Steve Komadina of Corrales and Diane Snyder of Albuquerque. ... ..."


Watch Johnson and Berman Debate IDers on TV5...

On Sep 14, 2007, NMSR stalwarts Kim Johnson and Marshall Berman appeared on KNME's "In Focus" with David Alire Garcia and Gene Grant, discussing "Intelligent Design" with ID supporters Joe Renick and Mike Edenburn. Get some backgound on past and future legislative assaults on science education by watching the show On Line! The ID discussion starts at 13 minutes into the video.


Texas Battle Heats Up...

The Star-Telegram reports on Nov. 20th that "Texas became the latest stage for the debate about evolution and creationism Wednesday, as more than 80 witnesses trooped before the State Board of Education to weigh in on proposed changes in the public school science curriculum. With few exceptions, the speakers — scientists, teachers, clergy and grassroots activists — took the side of evolution, saying they feared that the proposed changes will open the door to the teaching of creationism or intelligent design. Board Chairman Don McLeroy said the lopsided turnout was part of an orchestrated campaign and flatly dismissed the notion that the board is intent on sabotaging the teaching of evolution in public schools, which would defy the U.S. Supreme Court. 'This is all being ginned up by the evolution side,' McLeroy, of College Station, said in an interview during a break. 'I’m a creationist, but I'm not going to put creationism in the schools.' ... The board is not expected to vote on the issue until next year, possibly in January. ..."


Brit Science Minister Claims Extrasensory Powers...

The Daily Mail reports this week that "The Government's new science minister has raised eyebrows after he says he believes he has a 'sixth sense' to predict the future, it was revealed today. Lord Drayson said he was one of the humans with a 'capability' that experts did not fully understand. Although the peer does not claim his powers of foresight are paranormal, the comments may raise a few eyebrows among the community he represents. Extra-sensory abilities are not commonly accepted to exist by scientists. In an interview with The Sunday Times, Lord Drayson said: 'In my life there have been some things I have known, and I don't know why. 'I think there is a lot we don't understand about human capability.' ..."


Posted November 14th, 2008

Five Years to a "Mini Nuclear Power Plant"? reports on Nov. 10th that "Hyperion, an energy company based out of New Mexico, has licensed technology from the U.S. government that will allow it to build miniature nuclear power plants capable of powering up to 20,000 homes for six to seven years without refueling. The company hopes to produce its first commercially available generator in five years at a cost of $25 million with hopes of selling them to small communities. These small-scale power plants (roughly the size of a tool-shed) are encased in concrete, contain no moving parts, and are designed to be buried underground. The company claims these safety features, in addition to using lower grade uranium (which will be difficult, if not impossible, to refine into weapons grade material), mean the reactors can be deployed in developing nations and U.S. neighborhoods at minimal risk to health and nuclear proliferation. We think it might be underestimating the tenacity of those who would seek nuclear material for a weapon. Since the technology is based on 50-year-old designs used in university research labs across the country, Hyperion expects it will face minimal opposition from local populations and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which will review the company's application next year. ..."


Phoenix Spacecraft: R.I.P. ... reported on Nov. 11th that "The Phoenix spacecraft appears to have finally passed away, although not before accomplishing its main NASA missions around exploring the terrain and weather conditions of the so-called 'Red Planet.' On Monday, managers of the NASA spacecraft announced they are suspending any operations related to the vehicle until next spring, given that they haven't received any transmissions from it for a week. The death of the Phoenix wasn't unexpected, since the Martian winter had set in and the Phoenix's solar panels had started to generate less energy. Still, NASA managers had hoped to eek out a few more weeks of performance from the craft. ..."


And Spirit is in Trouble on Mars...

The Los Angeles Times reports on Nov. 12th "NASA's Mars rover Spirit imperiled by dust storms The craft is dangerously low on power because of dust covering its solar arrays. News of the problem comes a day after NASA declared an end to the Phoenix polar mission. Massive Martian dust storms are threatening the survival of NASA's Spirit rover, which has been exploring Mars for almost five years but is dangerously low on power. ..."


There is good news, however, from New Mexico's Spirit Connection, team member Larry Crumpler, on Thursday afternoon (Nov. 13th):

Thursday, November 13 2008 01:29 pm Spirit sol 1729, 18:28 Mars local time We received telemetry from Spirit, Odyssey pass 47293 at the time expected for master sequence control. Another MERA hat trick. Spirit never entered low power fault mode nor uploss timer fault mode. ...
We are "GO" for nominal solar conjunction planning.
Larry Crumpler
Science Team Member/LTP NASA Mars Exploration Rovers
Science Team Member NASA Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter/HiRISE

Extra-Solar Planetary Sensation...

USA Today reported on Nov. 13th "Astronomers reported Thursday that they have the first snapshot of another solar system — one with three planets larger than Jupiter — orbiting a nearby star. Circling the star HR 8799, the three planets 'are a scaled-up version of our own solar system,' says study leader Christian Marois of the National Research Council Canada. A large star about 128 light years away (a light year is about 6 trillion miles), HR 8799 resides in the constellation Pegasus, according to the online report released Thursday by the journal, Science. 'This is the first image of a multi-planet solar system,' says Marois, who headed a U.S.-Canadian team that sifted light measurements from the star in 2004 and 2006 to photograph the planets in infrared light. 'Here we are actually seeing the light, temperature and size of these planets.' ..."


Posted November 7th, 2008

Election to Claim Two NM Creationists?

As of press time, NM legislators Leonard Lee Rawson and Steve Komadina both were trailing in very close races in the Nov. 4th election. Rawson once waved a stuffed monkey in the Roundhouse, saying “This isn’t my uncle.” Komadina sponsored an ill-fated anti-evolution bill in the 2007 session.


World's First Nano President Elect...

Nanowerk News reports on Nov. 4th that "University of Michigan professor John Hart has made faces of Barack Obama using nanotechnology, specifically carbon nanotubes, and imaged them using a scanning electron microscope. Each face consists of millions of vertically-aligned carbon nanotubes, grown by a high temperature chemical reaction. ..."


Texas Science Standards Reviewed...

The Discovery Institute announced on Nov. 6th that "In October, members of the Texas State Board of Education nominated a review panel of six experts to give critical feedback on the revised TEKS for science. The panel included scientists and scholars with a diversity of views on Darwinian evolution. As a public service, we are posting here all six expert reviews so you can read them for yourself:


Posted November 2nd, 2008

Unprecedented Endorsement... from Nature?!?!

One of the world's top science journals has, for the first time ever, endorsed a candidate in a U.S. presidential race. In Nature 455, 1149 (30 October 2008), the editors write "The values of scientific enquiry, rather than any particular policy positions on science, suggest a preference for one US presidential candidate over the other. The election of a US president almost always seems like a crossroads, but the choice to be made on 4 November feels unusual, and daunting, in its national and global significance. Science and the research enterprise offer powerful tools for addressing key challenges that face America and the world, and it is heartening that both John McCain and Barack Obama have had thoughtful things to say about them. ... On a range of topics, science included, Obama has surrounded himself with a wider and more able cadre of advisers than McCain. This is not a panacea. Some of the policies Obama supports — continued subsidies for corn ethanol, for example — seem misguided. The advice of experts is all the more valuable when it is diverse: 'groupthink' is a problem in any job. Obama seems to understands this. ... The Oval Office is not a debating chamber, nor is it a faculty club. As anyone in academia will know, a thoughtful and professorial air is not in itself a recommendation for executive power. But a commitment to seeking good advice and taking seriously the findings of disinterested enquiry seems an attractive attribute for a chief executive. It certainly matters more than any specific pledge to fund some particular agency or initiative at a certain level — pledges of a sort now largely rendered moot by the unpredictable flux of the economy. This journal does not have a vote, and does not claim any particular standing from which to instruct those who do. But if it did, it would cast its vote for Barack Obama. ..."


Ohio Cross-Branding Teacher Was Teaching Young-Earth Creation...

In chilling testimony from the Ohio hearings on a science teacher accused of branding students with the Christian cross, Richard B. Hoppe writes on Panda's Thumb "James [Hoeffgen] is a Mt. Vernon High School student who had Freshwater as his teacher in 8th grade science in 2004-2005. James testified that Freshwater spent a lot of time on evolution in his class. Under questioning, he said that Freshwater used a creationist video by Kent Hovind, who Freshwater introduced as 'a renowned scientist.' James said that Freshwater told his class that carbon dating is unreliable, that the earth might only be a few thousand years old, and that dinosaurs may have lived at the same time as cave men. ... Millstone [David Millstone, the Board of Education’s attorney] asked James if he reached any conclusion, then or later, about what Freshwater was doing in his teaching of evolution. James replied that his parents were upset about Freshwater’s use of Survival of the Fakest, about Freshwater’s claims of the inaccuracy of carbon dating, about the Hovind video, and about the notion that dinosaurs and humans were on earth together. Millstone asked James what he concluded from Freshwater’s teaching. James replied with an anecdote. He said his sister had found a rock and was going to take it to a teacher to see if she could find out how old it is. James said he told his sister to not bother, 'Science can’t be trusted. Science can't teach us anything.' ..."

That last sentence is apparently the "Real" moral of Creationism. Scary, indeed!


Palin pranked by 'Sarkozy'...

NMSR appreciates a good prank, and found this one to be of interest: "Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin has been taken in by a prank call from a Canadian comedian posing as French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Marc Antoine Audette invited her to hunt baby seals by helicopter, and told her she could make a good president. But she told him she would have to wait eight years. ..."



Posted October 24th, 2008

Playing Fair with Fossils...Again...

In the online edition of Nature (15 October 2008, Nature 455, 858-860, 2008), Rex Dalton writes in "Palaeontology: School of rock" that " ... in New Mexico, leaders of the Pueblo of Jemez community charge that a scientist from a state museum tricked them into getting access to the reservation, but didn't train a Native American student as they expected in return. In 2004, tribe member Kevin Madalena agreed to help Spencer Lucas, both at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science in Albuquerque, get access to the Jemez reservation to collect geological samples. But Madalena says that Lucas gave him very little instruction, cutting him out of the possibility of co-authoring the resulting article. Lucas, who has been criticized before for the way he deals with students, says that he is surprised to hear of the criticism. But for the young Madalena, the real lost opportunity was for his tribe and its resources. 'It is imperative to educate native communities and non-natives about the importance of guarding palaeontological resources,' he says. ..."


Radford and Smith Explain the KiMo Ghost ...

The October 23rd-29th edition of the Weekly Alibi has an article titled "The Definitive KiMo Ghost The KiMo ghost mystery has never been truly investigated—until now," by Benjamin Radford and Mike Smith. If you missed the Oct. 15th NMSR meeting, here's your chance to catch up! The authors state that "At first glance, the evidence that Bobby Darnall haunts the KiMo Theatre seems impressive. Eyewitnesses saw unexplained, seemingly paranormal poltergeist phenomena during the ruined Christmas production (and later plays); ghost experts confirmed the existence of something supernatural at the KiMo, complete with 'anomalous' photos. But one dictum of skeptical investigation is, 'The devil is in the details.' In this case, the ghost is in the details—or isn't. The disastrous Christmas Carol production is key to understanding the KiMo ghost story, for several reasons. It is the first time Bobby Darnall's ghost was linked to mysterious occurrences at the KiMo. Perhaps more importantly, it is something tangible, something that can be verified. Most of the 'evidence' for ghosts consists of odd feelings, ambiguous photos and occasional sightings—things that can't really be examined or tested. But the unexplained exploding lights, mysterious falls and objects moving on their own—witnessed by thousands of people on several occasions—is much closer to hard evidence. Something—whether Bobby’s ghost or some other mysterious force—supernaturally ruined the production of A Christmas Carol on Christmas Day, 1974. Or did it? ..."


NCSE Rolls Out Updated Website...

The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) is an invaluable resource fro tracking those wacky creationists worldwide. If you want the latest news from Texas, or an antidote to the "Expelled" film travesty, or 'most anything about the evolving creation/evolution battle, check it out!


Posted October 10th, 2008

Adler planetarium head to McCain: "Sky machine not an overhead projector..."

Andrew Herrmann of the Sun Times reports on Oct. 8th that " The president of the Adler Planetarium lifted a black cloth off a familiar schoolroom device Wednesday and declared, 'That’s an overhead projector.' Behind Paul H. Knappenberger Jr. was an automobile-sized machine. That, he said, is a 'planetarium projection system.' The overhead, 'you can probably get for $10 or so on eBay,' said Knappenberger. But to replace the Adler's sky machine, which creates stars on a domed ceiling, would cost $3 million to $5 million. Knappenberger felt obligated to distinguish the two after Sen. John McCain, during Tuesday night's presidential candidate debate, criticized Obama for trying to win federal support for a new star device, calling it a '$3 million overhead projector' and dismissing it as a 'pork barrel earmark.' Knappenberger said the mention put the Adler 'in front of the American public as having been frivolous or foolish in asking for $3 million for an overhead projector.' 'I just wanted to clarify that is not the case,' he said. ..."


Amazing Find:One Species, One Ecosystem...

ABC News reports on Oct. 10th that " A bug discovered deep in a goldmine and nicknamed 'the bold traveller' has got astrobiologists buzzing with excitement. Its unique ability to live in complete isolation of any other living species suggests it could be the key to life on other planets. A community of the bacteria Candidatus Desulforudis audaxviator has been discovered 2.8 kilometres beneath the surface of the Earth in fluid-filled cracks of the Mponeng goldmine in South Africa. Its 60°C home is completely isolated from the rest of the world, and devoid of light and oxygen. Dylan Chivian of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, California, studied the genes found in samples of the fluid to identify the organisms living within it, expecting to find a mix of species. Instead, he found that 99.9% of the DNA belonged to one bacterium, a new species. The remaining DNA was contamination from the mine and the laboratory. 'The fact that the community contains only one species stands one of the basic tenets of microbial ecology on its head,' says Carl Pilcher, director of the NASA Astrobiology Institute, who was not involved in Chivian's DNA analysis but whose team made the initial discovery that there were microbes living in this particular fissure two years ago. Evolutionary biologist E. O. Wilson says the discovery is so important he will at once begin to mention it in his lectures on biodiversity. ..."


Posted October 3rd, 2008

Texas Scientists Warn Against Creationism in School Standards...

My SanAntonio News reported on Oct. 1st that "A coalition of Texas scientists warned the State Board of Education on Tuesday not to inject politics or religion into new science guidelines for public schools. ... 'We should teach students 21st-century science — not some watered-down version with phony arguments that nonscientists disingenuously call "weaknesses,"' said Sahotra Sarkar, another professor of integrative biology at the UT-Austin. “Calling 'intelligent design' arguments a weakness of evolution is like calling alchemy a weakness of chemistry, or astrology a weakness of astronomy.' ..."


Sarah Palin on Dinos and Man...

Stephen Braun, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer writes on Sept. 28th "Soon after Sarah Palin was elected mayor of the foothill town of Wasilla, Alaska, she startled a local music teacher by insisting in casual conversation that men and dinosaurs coexisted on an Earth created 6,000 years ago -- about 65 million years after scientists say most dinosaurs became extinct -- the teacher said. ..."


New Find Bolsters Dino-Bird Link...

FOX News reports on Oct. 1st that "A huge carnivorous dinosaur that lived about 85 million years ago had a breathing system much like that of today's birds, a new analysis of fossils reveals, reinforcing the evolutionary link between dinos and modern birds. The finding sheds light on the transition between theropods (a group of two-legged carnivorous dinosaurs) and the emergence of birds. Scientists think birds evolved from a group of theropods called maniraptors, some 150 million years ago during the Jurassic period, which lasted from about 206 million to 144 million years ago. 'It's another piece of evidence that's piling onto the list of things that link birds with dinosaurs,'' said researcher Jeffrey Wilson, a paleontologist at the University of Michigan. ..."


Posted September 26th, 2008

Rabbi Letter Backs Evolution...

Robert Mitchum of the Chicago Tribune writes on Sept. 19th that "For Rabbi Gary Gerson of the Oak Park Temple B'nai Abraham Zion, evolution does not oppose religious belief but strengthens it. 'If anything, it all the more underscores the magnificence of creation as the expression of some highest order,' Gerson said. 'We as Jews every day praise God for the times and seasons and the order of being, and that perhaps is the greatest miracle of all. This is not caprice. There is a natural order to things.' Seeing evidence of the divine in the theories of Charles Darwin meant that Gerson did not hesitate to sign an open letter drafted by a suburban Chicago rabbi this summer supporting the teaching of evolution in public schools. The two-paragraph letter, written by Rabbi David Oler of Congregation Beth Or in Deerfield, has attracted 235 signatures since its completion in July, with Jewish leaders from across the United States supporting its cause. The effort, Oler said, spun off from the Clergy Letter Project, launched in 2004 by Michael Zimmerman, now the dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Butler University in Indianapolis. Zimmerman asked Christian clergy to draft an open letter, since signed by 11,000 religious leaders, supporting the public teaching of evolution and emphasizing that religion does not have to be an enemy of science. ..."


"Explore Evolution" 'DEMANDS' Stupidity...

John Timmer of Ars Technica has reviewed "Explore Evolution," and writes "But the book doesn't only promote stupidity, it demands it. In every way except its use of the actual term, this is a creationist book, but its authors are expecting that legislators and the courts will be too stupid to notice that, or to remember that the Supreme Court has declared teaching creationism an unconstitutional imposition of religion. As laws similar to Louisiana's resurface in other states next year, we can only hope that legislators choose not to live down to the low expectations of EE's authors. ..."


New Texas Standards Nix Creationism - But What Will the Board Say?

The Texarkana Gazette reported on Sept. 25th that "A proposal for curriculum standards for science courses in Texas would remove language requiring students be taught the 'strengths and weaknesses' of all scientific theories, wording which some say has been used to undermine the theory of evolution. Proposals released Tuesday from review committees of teachers and academics would also put up roadblocks for teachers who want to discuss creationism or 'intelligent design' in biology classes when covering the subject of evolution. The biology review committee proposed language that states supernatural and religious-based concepts such as creationism have no place in science classes. The standards are subject to approval by the state Board of Education, where a majority of members have said they are in favor of retaining the current mandate to cover both strengths and weaknesses of major scientific theories, notably evolution. The issue comes before the board early next year. A close vote is expected. Standards adopted by the board will remain in place for the next decade. ..."


Canada Claims World's Oldest Rock...

Kenneth Chang of the New York Times reports on Sept. 25th that "A swath of bedrock in northern Quebec may be the oldest known piece of the earth’s crust. In an article appearing in Friday’s issue of the journal Science, scientists report that portions of that bedrock are 4.28 billion years old, formed when the earth was less than 300 million years old. "These rocks paint this picture of an early earth that looked pretty much like the modern earth," said Richard W. Carlson of the Carnegie Institution of Washington and one of the authors of the paper. Other scientists are intrigued, but not yet entirely convinced that the rocks are quite that old. "There is a certain amount of healthy skepticism that needs to play a role here," said Stephen J. Mojzsis, a professor of geological sciences at the University of Colorado. Dr. Mojzsis said the new research was well done, but that he thought these were younger sedimentary rocks, pressed together out of the remnants of earlier rocks that were indeed 4.28 billion years old. "I hope that I’m wrong," Dr. Mojzsis said. "If that happens, I believe there will be a land rush by geologists to northern Quebec." ..."


Posted September 19th, 2008

Church Issues Web Apology to Darwin...

The Columbus Dispatch, via Religion News service, reports on Sept. 19th that "About 126 years after Charles Darwin's death, the Church of England has gone into 21st-century cyberspace to issue an official apology to the naturalist for its own 19th-century "misunderstanding" over his theory of evolution. Darwin's thesis that all life evolved over millions of years was published in 1859 in his book, On The Origin of Species, and almost instantly triggered controversy that still continues. His antagonists, including the Church of England, vilified him for questioning their own creationist convictions that the universe and all its parts were solely the work of God perhaps around 6000 B.C. and certainly no earlier than 10,000 years ago. But in a new section of the Church of England's Web site, the Rev. Malcolm Brown, director of missions and public affairs, addressed Darwin and conceded that the church "owes you an apology for misunderstanding you, by getting our first reaction wrong." That reaction, Brown added, resulted in "encouraging others to misunderstand you still." ..."


Vatican Evolution Congress Just Says "NO" to Creationism, Intelligent design...

Catholic News Service reposrts on Sept. 16th that "Speakers invited to attend a Vatican-sponsored congress on the evolution debate will not include proponents of creationism and intelligent design, organizers said. The Pontifical Council for Culture, Rome's Pontifical Gregorian University and the University of Notre Dame in Indiana are organizing an international conference in Rome March 3-7 as one of a series of events marking the 150th anniversary of the publication of Charles Darwin's "The Origin of Species." Jesuit Father Marc Leclerc, a philosophy professor at the Gregorian, told Catholic News Service Sept. 16 that organizers 'wanted to create a conference that was strictly scientific' and that discussed rational philosophy and theology along with the latest scientific discoveries. He said arguments 'that cannot be critically defined as being science, or philosophy or theology did not seem feasible to include in a dialogue at this level and, therefore, for this reason we did not think to invite' supporters of creationism and intelligent design. ..."


LHC Marks First Glitch...

Scientific American reports on Sept. 19th "Did the group spearheading the world's biggest physics experiment just not want to spoil the party? Within hours of its launch, the Large Hadron Collider malfunctioned, its operator has admitted — a week after powerful particle accelerator was turned on, the Associated Press is reporting. A 30-ton transformer that cools part of the particle smasher broke on Sept. 11 after scientists sent a counter-clockwise beam around the 17-mile tunnel beneath the Swiss-French border, raising temperatures in the ring to 4.5 Kelvin (-451.57 Fahrenheit). The first, clockwise beam had been sent around the tunnel the day before, when the LHC was turned on. The European Organization for Nuclear Research has replaced the transformer and cooled the underground ring back down to near zero on the Kelvin scale, its optimal temperature for research, according to AP. " The LHC is on course for [its] first collisions in a matter of weeks," CERN said in a statement. ... ..."


The myth of the 1970s global cooling scientific consensus...

Thomas C. Peterson, William M. Connolley, and John Fleck published an article in the September 2008 journal of the American Meteorological Society, arguing that "There was no scientific consensus in the 1970s that the Earth was headed into an imminent ice age. Indeed, the possibility of anthropogenic warming dominated the peer-reviewed literature even then. ..."


Posted September 12th, 2008

Cern scientists' rap is YouTube hit... reports on Sept. 12th that "Scientists at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) project at Cern have recorded a rap song to celebrate the start of their experiments. The video explains the LHC's functions to a background beat and features white coated scientist dancing in the collision chamber. It has become a hit on YouTube, logging over 2.5 million hits in under two weeks. The lyric includes the lines:

The video was shot by Kate MacAlpine (rap name 'Alpinekat') who is a trainee at Cern. ..."


Cosmic crash reveals Dark Matter...

The BBC reports on August 30th "Striking evidence has been found for the enigmatic "stuff" called dark matter which makes up 23% of the Universe, yet is invisible to our eyes. The results come from astronomical observations of a titanic collision between two clusters of galaxies 5.7 billion light-years away. Astronomers detected the dark matter because it separated from the normal matter during the cosmic smash-up. The research team are to publish their findings in the Astrophysical Journal. They used the Hubble and Chandra space telescopes to study the object MACSJ0025.4-1222 - formed after an incredibly energetic collision between two large galaxy clusters. Each of these large clusters contains about a quadrillion times the mass of our Sun. A technique known as gravitational lensing was used to map the dark matter with Hubble. ..."


Posted August 22nd, 2008

National Geographic teams with 'Spore' Game on "How to Build a Better Being"...

PRNewswire reports on Aug. 21st "In the newest creation from Electronic Arts Inc. (EA) and video game pioneer and 'The Sims' mastermind Will Wright, Spore(TM) enables players to design a virtual galaxy of new life, such as a one-eyed web-footed creature with a snout, and then control their species' evolution. But how much real-world science is behind this groundbreaking new game? And what genetic connections do people share with a universe of strange organisms? On Tuesday, Sept. 9, at 10:00 p.m. ET/PT, National Geographic Channel (NGC) presents the premiere of How to Build a Better Being, the companion documentary to the highly anticipated new video game Spore, which will be released nationally on Sunday, Sept. 7. The show, which is also included in the limited run of the collectable 'Spore Galactic Edition,' joins Wright and leading scientists in exploring the genetic information we share with all animals -- even creatures we could never have envisioned. ..."


'Bigfoot' Carcass a HOAX? Say It Ain't So...

Fox News reports on Aug. 21st that "Bigfoot hoaxers Rick Dyer and Matthew Whitton are back in the limelight — and they're blaming Tom Biscardi, the California promoter who trotted them out for a nationally televised press conference last Friday. Back home in Georgia after their brief moment in the big time, Dyer and Whitton told two Atlanta TV stations Wednesday that the entire affair was a 'joke' that got out of hand.'I just wanted to put out some good news,' Dyer told Joanna Massee of WGCL-TV. 'People are upset with the war and stuff — what's so bad about Bigfoot? Nobody got hurt.'The men admitted they bought the Sasquatch suit over the Internet, and showed WSB-TV's Mark Winne a Web page at TheHorrorDome.Com selling it.'It got into something much bigger than it was supposed to be,' Whitton told Winne. 'It started off as just some YouTube videos and a Web site. ... We're all about having fun.'Two people definitely aren't smiling. One is Clayton County Police Chief Jeffrey Turner, who fired Whitton from his job as a police officer Tuesday after the hoax came to light.'A defense attorney could put him on the stand and say, 'You lied about this — how do we know you're not lying now?'' Turner told 'A police officer needs credibility and honor. ... The other unhappy party is Biscardi, who accuses Dyer and Whitton of running off with the $50,000 advance he gave them a week ago. According to an employee of his Searching for Bigfoot company, Biscardi plans to sue. ..."


Posted August 16th, 2008

Physicist's Quantum-'Uncollapse' Hypothesis Verified?...

Science Daily reports on August 8th that "In 2006, Andrew Jordan, professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Rochester, together with Alexander Korotkov at the University of California, Riverside, spelled out how to exploit a quantum quirk to accomplish a feat long thought impossible, and now a research team at the University of California at Santa Barbara has tested the theory, proving it correct. ..."


Texas Lawsuit Stumbles On...

The "Sensuous Curmudgeon" blog has a good review of the lawsuit filed by Christina Comer, fired by the Texas Education Agency for e-mailing colleagues about an upcoming talk on "Intelligent Design/Creationism." The Curmudgeon writes on August 15th "It’s been a while since she filed her suit, but now, from The Texas Observer we learn: Latest in the TEA Monkey Trial. ... That’s incredibly sloppy journalism. The TEA and Scott didn’t 'answer.' They filed this 31-page Motion to Dismiss (it’s a pdf file). It’s even labeled as such on the first page. An 'answer' is a whole different thing. ..."


Victory in California creationism case ...

The NCSE reported on August 12th "The defendants in Association of Christian Schools International et al. v. Roman Stearns et al. have prevailed. The case, originally filed in federal court in Los Angeles on August 25, 2005, centered on the University of California system's policies and statements relevant to evaluating the qualifications of applicants for admission. The plaintiffs -- the Association of Christian Schools International, the Calvary Chapel Christian School in Murrieta, California, and a handful of students at the school -- charged that the university system violated the constitutional rights of applicants from Christian schools whose high school coursework is deemed inadequate preparation for college; they objected to the university system's policy of rejecting high school biology courses that use textbooks published by Bob Jones University Press and A Beka Books as "inconsistent with the viewpoints and knowledge generally accepted in the scientific community." ..."


Posted August 8th, 2008

Shasta, CA Board Investigates "Chemtrails"...

Ryan Sabalow at reports on August 5th that "A conspiracy theory that says government agencies are using jets to dump poisonous heavy metals into the atmosphere moves today from the realm of late-night talk radio call-in shows to the Shasta County supervisors chambers. The Shasta County Board of Supervisors, acting as the Air Pollution Control Board, will hear at its 1:30 p.m. meeting a presentation by Dane Wigington and others about "heavy metal contamination" -- referred to by some as the "chemtrails" conspiracy. Wigington, a 46-year-old renewable energy consultant from Bella Vista, like a growing number of conspiracy theorists, thinks a government cabal is using jets to dump metals into the atmosphere to combat global warming -- or for other, more nefarious purposes. ..."


Flat Earthers Hanging On...

The BBC reported in early August that "In the 21st Century, the term 'flat-earther' is used to describe someone who is spectacularly - and seemingly wilfully - ignorant. But there is a group of people who claim they believe the planet really is flat. Are they really out there or is it all an elaborate prank? Nasa is celebrating its 50th birthday with much fanfare and pictures of past glories. But in half a century of extraordinary images of space, one stands out. On 24 December 1968, the crew of the Apollo 8 mission took a photo now known as Earthrise. To many, this beautiful blue sphere viewed from the moon's orbit is a perfect visual summary of why it is right to strive to go into space. Not to everybody though. There are people who say they think this image is fake - part of a worldwide conspiracy by space agencies, governments and scientists. Welcome to the world of the flat-earther. ..."


Posted August 1st, 2008

New 'Evidence' of Humans Living with Dinosaurs?

The Mineral Wells Index reported on a supposed "Man-Track" of dinosaur-era vintage on July 27th, in a piece titled "Rock-solid proof? A discovery by a former Mineral Wells resident might hold proof man and dinosaur walked the Earth together," by David May. May writes "A slab of North Texas limestone is on track to rock the world, with its two imbedded footprints poised to make a huge impression in scientific and religious circles. The estimated 140-pound stone was recovered in July 2000 from the bank of a creek that feeds the Paluxy River near Glen Rose, Texas, located about 53 miles south of Fort Worth. The find was made just outside Dinosaur Valley State Park, a popular destination for tourists known for its well-preserved dinosaur tracks and other fossils. The limestone contains two distinct prints – one of a human footprint and one belonging to a dinosaur. The significance of the cement- hard fossil is that it shows the dinosaur print partially over and intersecting the human print. In other words, the stone’s impressions indicate that the human stepped first, the dinosaur second. ... Finding scholars and experts on evolution, paleontology or creationism to speak about the discovery proved difficult. Some who were contacted said they didn’t want to comment on the prints without a personal inspection or without review of data from scientific tests. However, Dr. Phillip Murry, a vertebrate paleontology instructor in the Geoscience department of Tarleton State University at Stephenville, Texas, stated in his response to an interview request: “There has never been a proven association of dinosaur (prints) with human footprints.” ..."

Of course, that chances that the find is genuine are about as good as those for Saddam Hussein accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, in person. Mays could have said the discovery was "said to hold proof that man and dinosaur walked the Earth together," or "alleged" to do the same, but he used the word "might" by mistake. Folks, this is what we call a Media Fumble.


The History Channel 'Evolves'...

Over the next few weeks, the History Channel is showing a fascinating series called "Evolve." Here is the synopsis of the first episode, titled "Eyes": "They are one of evolution's most useful and prevalent inventions. Ninety five percent of living species are equipped with eyes and they exist in many different forms. Learn how the ancestors of jellyfish may have been the first to evolve light-sensitive cells. Discover how dinosaur's evolved eyes that helped them become successful hunters. Finally, learn how primates evolved unique adaptations to their eyes that allowed them to better exploit their new habitat, and how the ability to see colors helped them find food. ..."

While there were a few minor bio-gaffes, for the most part the show was excellent. There was no hand-wringing over offending creationists; instead, the show stayed right on the science. It pointed out that eyes have evolved from scratch numerous times in the animal kingdom, but also that just a few ancient genes were involved in these separate processes. The explanation of why predators need eyes with overlapping coverage toward the front - to better locate hapless prey - was done well. Conversely, the eyes of rabbits, which are almost on opposite sides of the head, serve to give that creature 360-degree vision, a sure benefit for avoiding predators. And finally, humans look forward also, but probably not for predation, but rather navigating in the tree limbs. A good explanation for why primates needed color vision was given, also: the primates' ability to see shades of red helped them find the red-orange nutritious young leaves in the tree canopy, thus avoiding wasting time on mature, green, and hard-to-digest leaves in the trees.

"Eyes" will be repeated, and other episodes are on their way, including "Guts" and "Jaws." (check local schedules for air times):

Tuesday, August 05: Guts, Eyes
Tuesday, August 06: Guts, Eyes
Tuesday, August 10: Eyes, Guts
Monday, August 11: Guts
Tuesday, August 12: Jaws
Wednesday, August 13:Jaws

After being depressed by the History Channel's apparent obsession with woo-woo topics like UFOs and Bigfoot, the new 'Evolve' series is an encouraging sign. Kudos, History Channel!


Blogosphere Reaction:

Posted July 27th, 2008

Humans Evolving Faster: Study...

US News & World Report said on July 24th that "If you judge the progress of humanity by Homer Simpson, Paris Hilton, and Girls Gone Wild videos, you might conclude that our evolution has stalled—or even shifted into reverse. Not so, scientists say. Humans are evolving faster than ever before, picking up new genetic traits and talents that may help us survive a turbulent future. ... the human genome has been scrambling to adapt to a rapidly changing world—11,000 years ago, nobody farmed, nobody milked domesticated animals, and nobody lived in a city. People with a mutation that aided survival were more likely to thrive, reproduce, and pass that mutation along to offspring. For example, the capacity to digest lactose, the sugar in milk, has become common only over the past 3,000 years. Now, about 95 percent of the people in northern Germany have the mutation, which also popped up independently among the Masai in Africa and the Lapps in Finland. ..."


But Dinosaurs Were In A Rut...

Science Daily reported on July 24th that "It has long been debated whether dinosaurs were part of the ‘Terrestrial Revolution’ that occurred some 100 million years ago during the Cretaceous when birds, mammals, flowering plants, insects and reptiles all underwent a rapid expansion. An international study, led by the University of Bristol, shows that during their last 50 million years of existence, dinosaurs were not expanding as actively as had been previously thought and that the apparent explosion of dinosaur diversity may be largely explained by sampling bias. ... The new study uses statistical techniques to distinguish unusually high rates of diversification from normal rates. The results show that all the bursts of diversification happened in the first fifty million years of the evolution of dinosaurs. Later expansions were not distinguishable from normal rates. This suggests dinosaurs did not take advantage of the new food supplies available during the Cretaceous Terrestrial Revolution – such as flowering plants, lizards, snakes, birds and mammals. ..."


Black hole breakthrough...

The Press Association reported on July 24th that "Scientists from Queen's University are one step closer to revealing the secrets of the cosmos following a major study of x-rays in space. It was revealed that astronomers at the Belfast university have made a potentially ground-breaking discovery regarding the link between the death of stars and the birth of black holes. Dr Stefano Valenti from Queen's Astrophysics Research Centre (ARC) said the team had found a new type of supernova which could be the missing link in understanding what happens after a star explodes. He said: "While studying a supernova in a spiral galaxy 90 million light years away, a Nasa satellite witnessed a very rare five-minute burst of x-rays, the like of which had never been recorded before. "This was from another location in the same galaxy which turned out to be a new supernova, now known as Supernova 2008D or SN2008D. "We co-ordinated an observational campaign to track SN2008D and began to piece together the data collected over one month, along with computer modelling, to understand the story of this explosion and the origin of the rare x-ray burst." As well as shedding light on the production of black holes the discovery also aids understanding of how the chemical elements which surround us are created. ..."


Posted July 11th, 2008

'Design' Falters on Flounders...

National Geographic reports on July 9th that "The discovery of a missing link in the evolution of bizarre flatfishes—each of which has both eyes on the same side of its head—could give intelligent design advocates a sinking feeling. CT scans of 50-million-year-old fossils have revealed an intermediate species between primitive flatfishes (with eyes on both sides of their heads) and the modern, lopsided versions, which include sole, flounder, and halibut. So the change happened gradually, in a way consistent with evolution via natural selection—not suddenly, as researchers once had little choice but to believe, the authors of the new study say. ... More than 500 species of flatfishes now live in fresh and salt water. They range in size from four inches to seven feet and can weigh up to 720 pounds (327 kilograms). Though known for their odd eye arrangement, no flatfish start life that way. Each is born symmetrical, with one eye on each side of its skull. As a flatfish develops from a larva to a juvenile, one eye migrates up and over the top of the head, coming to rest in its adult position on the opposite side of the skull. The change leaves the young fish baffled, and they swim at bizarre angles until they adapt, said evolutionary biologist Richard Palmer of the University of Alberta in Canada. Palmer added that the new work is 'a fantastic paper' that helps resolve a mystery 'that's bedeviled evolutionary biologists for more than a century. 'It's really been a major, major puzzle to evolutionary biologists.' ..."


Genetic Link to Autism Found...

The Boston Globe reports on July 10th that "Researchers from Boston have discovered six new genes implicated in autism. The genes normally make new brain connections needed for learning, but their absence or silence apparently places them among many mutations that lead to the devastating disorder, which is marked by trouble with communication and social interaction. Writing in tomorrow's issue of Science, Dr. Christopher Walsh (left) of Children's Hospital Boston and his co-authors say in some of the genetic mutations they found, the genes were present but the on/off switches they controlled were broken. 'People think of genetic diseases as immutable and untreatable,' Walsh said in an interview. 'Studies like ours and others give more hope we might not need to replace genes one by one, but find other ways of activating the genes that might be silent.' ..."


Posted July 3rd, 2008

Ex-science director Chris Comer sues Texas agency over creationism-related firing...

USA Today reorts on July 3rd that "A former science curriculum director for the Texas Education Agency has filed a federal lawsuit alleging she was illegally fired for forwarding an e-mail about a speaker who was critical of teaching a controversial alternative to evolution. Christina Comer, who lost her job at the TEA last year, said in the suit filed Wednesday against the TEA and Education Commissioner Robert Scott that she was terminated for defying an unconstitutional policy that required employees to be neutral on the subject of creationism — the biblical interpretation of the origin of human life. The e-mail, which was intercepted by a state education leader, was about a speaker coming to Austin who had critical views of creationism and the teaching of intelligent design. The federal courts have ruled that teaching creationism as science in public schools is illegal under the U.S. Constitution's provision preventing government establishment or endorsement of religious beliefs. "The agency's 'neutrality' policy has the purpose or effect of endorsing religion, and thus violates the Establishment Clause," the lawsuit said. ..."


Posted June 27th, 2008

Bad News, LA - Jindal Hops on Creationist Bandwagon...

Bill Barrow of the (New Orleans) Times Picayune has the bad news: "Gov. Bobby Jindal attracted national attention and strongly worded advice about how he should deal with the Louisiana Science Education Act. Jindal ignored those calling for a veto and this week signed the law that will allow local school boards to approve supplemental materials for public school science classes as they discuss evolution, cloning and global warming. ... ..."

Panda's Thumb has more:


NCSE notes "… bill supporter David Tate, a member of the Livingston Parish School Board, told the New Orleans Times-Picayune (April 18, 2008), “I believe that both sides – the creationism side and the evolution side – should be presented and let students decide what they believe,” adding that the bill is needed because “teachers are scared to talk about” creationism. ..."


Ventastega Rules...

PZ Myers has the scoop on a stunning transitional fossil in a June 27 Panda's Thumb post: " The paleontologists are going too far. This is getting ridiculous. They keep digging up these collections of bones that illuminate tetrapod origins, and they keep making finer and finer distinctions. On one earlier side we have a bunch of tetrapod-like fish — Tiktaalik and Panderichthys, for instance — and on the later side we have fish-like tetrapods, such as Acanthostega and Ichthyostega. Now they're talking about shades of fishiness or tetrapodiness within those groups! You'd almost think they were documenting a pattern of gradual evolutionary change. The latest addition is a description of Ventastega curonica, a creature that falls within the domain of the fish-like tetrapods, but is a bit fishier than other forms, so it actually bridges the gap between something like Tiktaalik and Acanthostega. We look forward to the imminent discovery of yet more fossils that bridge the gap between Ventastega and Tiktaalik, and between Ventastega and Acanthostega, and all the intermediates between them. ... ..."


Posted June 13th, 2008

Game Chips Help Computer To Set Speed Record...

John Fleck of the Albuquerque Journal reports on June 10th that "A team from IBM and Los Alamos has wired together what amounts to thousands of PlayStation video game chips to create the world's fastest supercomputer. But they won't be playing Grand Theft Auto. The machine— capable of a million billion calculations per second— is headed to Los Alamos National Laboratory, where it will be used for nuclear weapons simulations. The machine, dubbed Roadrunner, set a world speed record May 26. Some tweaks to the PlayStation 3 game chip will allow Los Alamos scientists to simulate the detailed physics of nuclear weapon blasts in ways never before possible, officials said Monday in announcing the achievement. The computer uses the game chip to leapfrog ahead in the never-ending race for faster computers, using a fundamentally different approach to get the speeds necessary for complex simulations needed for nuclear weapons and other cutting-edge science. ..."


Study Finds St. John's Wort Makes a Fine Placebo...

The Seattle Times reported on June 10th that "St. John's wort works no better than a dummy pill in treating attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children, according to a new study by Seattle-area researchers. Though it was a small trial, the findings dampen hope for a leading herbal alternative to the potentially dangerous stimulants that are typically prescribed for the condition. In the study, led by Bastyr University in Kenmore, 54 Seattle-area children, ages 6 to 17, were randomly given either rice protein placebo pills or St. John's wort for eight weeks. All the children showed only very mild improvements in hyperactivity and inattentiveness. In fact, the dummy-pill group reported slightly better results, although that could have been just chance. The findings were published Tuesday in the respected Journal of the American Medical Association. The trial was the first to pit St. John's wort against a placebo in children and adolescents with attention disorders. ..."


NY Times on 'The Cons of Creationism'...

From a June 7th New York Times editorial: "The Texas State Board of Education is again considering a science curriculum that teaches the 'strengths and weaknesses' of evolution, setting an example that several other states are likely to follow. This is code for teaching creationism. It has the advantage of sounding more balanced than teaching 'intelligent design,' which the courts have consistently banned from science classrooms. It has the disadvantage of being nonsense. ... If the creationist view prevails in Texas, students interested in learning how science really works and what scientists really understand about life will first have to overcome the handicap of their own education. Scientists are always probing the strengths and weakness of their hypotheses. That is the very nature of the enterprise. But evolution is no longer a hypothesis. It is a theory rigorously supported by abundant evidence. The weaknesses that creationists hope to teach as a way of refuting evolution are themselves antiquated, long since filed away as solved. The religious faith underlying creationism has a place, in church and social studies courses. Science belongs in science classrooms. ..."


Meanwhile, "Academic Freedom" Bill Sails On in Louisiana...

Americans United announced on June 11th that "The Louisiana House of Representatives today approved a measure that opens the door to teaching creationism in public schools, an action that is likely to spark litigation, says Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Approved by a 94-3 vote, the so-called 'Science Education Act' (SB 733) allows public school teachers to use 'supplemental materials' when discussing evolution. Americans United and other groups contend that those 'supplemental materials' are likely to be anti-evolution books, DVDs and other items produced by fundamentalist Christian ministries. The measure is being pushed by the Louisiana Family Forum, the Discovery Institute and other Religious Right forces. ... The measure now returns to the state Senate, which has already approved a previous version of the bill. ..."


SELU Professor of philosophy Barbara Forrest is helping start a science group to oppse this and other measures:

And Kansas Creationist Demands tbat 'Evolutionists' be Barred from Voting...

In the July/August issue of the newsletter of The Creation Science Association for Mid-America, president Tom Willis writes "Should Evolutionists Be Allowed to Vote?"

We're not making this up! Check it out:

Posted June 7th, 2008

Has the Key to All Optical Illusions Been Discovered? reports on June 2nd that "Humans can see into the future, says a cognitive scientist. It's nothing like the alleged predictive powers of Nostradamus, but we do get a glimpse of events one-tenth of a second before they occur. And the mechanism behind that can also explain why we are tricked by optical illusions. Researcher Mark Changizi of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York says it starts with a neural lag that most everyone experiences while awake. When light hits your retina, about one-tenth of a second goes by before the brain translates the signal into a visual perception of the world. Scientists already knew about the lag, yet they have debated over exactly how we compensate, with one school of thought proposing our motor system somehow modifies our movements to offset the delay. Changizi now says it's our visual system that has evolved to compensate for neural delays, generating images of what will occur one-tenth of a second into the future. That foresight keeps our view of the world in the present. It gives you enough heads up to catch a fly ball (instead of getting socked in the face) and maneuver smoothly through a crowd. His research on this topic is detailed in the May/June issue of the journal Cognitive Science, That same seer ability can explain a range of optical illusions, Changizi found. "Illusions occur when our brains attempt to perceive the future, and those perceptions don't match reality," Changizi said. Here's how the foresight theory could explain the most common visual illusions - geometric illusions that involve shapes: Something called the Hering illusion, for instance, looks like bike spokes around a central point, with vertical lines on either side of this central, so-called vanishing point. The illusion tricks us into thinking we are moving forward, and thus, switches on our future-seeing abilities. Since we aren't actually moving and the figure is static, we misperceive the straight lines as curved ones. ..."


Hot and Cold Running Climates...

The National Science Foundation announced on May 28th that "An abrupt release of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, from ice sheets that extended to Earth's low latitudes some 635 million years ago caused a dramatic shift in climate, scientists funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) report in this week's issue of the journal Nature. The shift triggered events that resulted in global warming and an ending of the last 'snowball' ice age. The researchers believe that the methane was released gradually at first and then very quickly from clathrates--methane ice that forms and stabilizes beneath ice sheets. When the ice sheets became unstable, they collapsed, releasing pressure on the clathrates. The clathrates then began to de-gas. 'Our findings document an abrupt and catastrophic global warming that led from a very cold, seemingly stable climate state to a very warm, also stable, climate state--with no pause in between,' said geologist Martin Kennedy of the University of California at Riverside (UCR), who led the research team. 'What we now need to know is the sensitivity of the trigger' ..."


Posted May 26th, 2008

Camera On Mars Orbiter Snaps Phoenix During Landing...

The Phoenix Mars Mission announced on May 26th that "A telescopic camera in orbit around Mars caught a view of NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander suspended from its parachute during the lander's successful arrival at Mars Sunday evening, May 25. The image from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter marks the first time ever one spacecraft has photographed another one in the act of landing on Mars. Meanwhile, scientists pored over initial images from Phoenix, the first ever taken from the surface of Mars' polar regions. Phoenix returned information that it was in good health after its first night on Mars, and the Phoenix team sent the spacecraft its to-do list for the day. ..."


Mixed Ruling Closes Museum Ethics Probe...

John Fleck of the Albuquerque Journal reported on May 24th that " An independent scientific body offered a mixed ruling Friday on scientific ethics charges against researchers at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, acknowledging some problems but concluding that there is not enough evidence to resolve the most serious allegation. The Society of Vertebrate Paleontology committee aimed its sharpest criticism at the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs, saying the department failed to conduct a proper investigation into the allegations against the state-paid scientists. A group of researchers last year charged that scientists at the Museum of Natural History pilfered their ideas on several occasions, using the museum's in-house publications to claim credit for the work. The charges have caused a furor in international scientific circles, with some arguing that they have tarnished the reputation of the museum. Acting museum director Spencer Lucas, the leader of the group of scientists charged with the ethical lapses, did not respond to a request for comment Friday. Also this week, University of New Mexico officials acknowledged that Lucas' unpaid faculty affiliation with the university was not being renewed. ..."


More Coverage: Aetogate,

Posted May 17th, 2008

Creationism in ... Maine?!?

Foster's Daily Democrat of Dover, NH reports on May 11th that "A Somerset County school district is being urged by one of its members to drop evolution from its high school science curriculums on grounds that it is an unprovable theory that should not be taught as fact. "You can't show, observe or prove (evolution)," said Matthew Linkletter of Athens, a director of School Administrative District 59 who maintains that neither evolution nor creationism belongs in a science curriculum. A spokesman for the state Department of Education disagrees, saying that evolution is based on proven science and its teaching in science classes is mandated by the Maine Learning Results program. ..."


Vatican is "OK" With Aliens Out There...

Reuters UK reports on May 14th that "The Vatican's chief astronomer says there is no conflict between believing in God and in the possibility of 'extraterrestrial brothers' perhaps more evolved than humans. 'In my opinion this possibility (of life on other planets) exists,' said Rev. Jose Gabriel Funes, a 45-year-old Jesuit priest who is head of the Vatican Observatory and a scientific adviser to Pope Benedict. 'How can we exclude that life has developed elsewhere,' he told the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano in an interview in its Tuesday-Wednesday edition, explaining that the large number of galaxies with their own planets made this possible. Asked if he was referring to beings similar to humans or even more evolved than humans, he said: 'Certainly, in a universe this big you can't exclude this hypothesis.' ..."

Posted May 10th, 2008

Platypus Puzzlements Abound in Media...

PZ Myers sets the record straight in his May 10th Panda's Thumb post: "I have to vent some frustration with the popular press coverage of an important scientific event this week, the publication of a draft of the platypus genome. Over and over again, the newspaper lead is that the platypus is 'weird' or 'odd' or worse, they imply that the animal is a chimera — 'the egg-laying critter is a genetic potpourri — part bird, part reptile and part lactating mammal.' No, no, no, a thousand times no; this is the wrong message. The platypus is not part bird, as birds are an independent and (directly) unrelated lineage; you can say it is part reptile, but that is because it is a member of a great reptilian clade that includes prototherians, marsupials, birds, lizards and snakes, dinosaurs, and us eutherian mammals. We can say with equal justification that we are part reptile, too. What's interesting about the platypus is that it belongs to a lineage that separated from ours approximately 166 million years ago, deep in the Mesozoic, and it has independently lost different elements of our last common ancestor, and by comparing bits, we can get a clearer picture of what the Jurassic mammals were like, and what we contemporary mammals have gained and lost genetically over the course of evolution. ..."


Alabama Creationism Bills Dies, Natural Causes...

The Associated Press reported on May 7th that "Hundreds of bills have died in the Alabama Legislature because time ran out. ... Some of them would have ... Protected teachers from being fired for giving personal opinion while teaching controversial subjects like evolution. ..."


"Harun Yahya" sentenced to prison...

Reuters reports on May 9th that "Controversial Turkish Islamic author Adnan Oktar was sentenced to three years in prison on Friday for creating an illegal organization for personal gain, state-run Anatolian news agency said. ... Oktar, born in 1956, is the driving force behind a richly funded movement based in Turkey that champions creationism, the belief that God literally created the world in six days as told in the Bible and the Koran. Istanbul-based Oktar, who writes under the pen name Harun Yahya, has created waves in the past few years by sending out thousands of unsolicited texts advocating Islamic creationism to schools in several European countries. ..."


The Snow on Mecury is Made of Iron...

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign announced on May 7th that "New scientific evidence suggests that deep inside the planet Mercury, iron 'snow' forms and falls toward the center of the planet, much like snowflakes form in Earth’s atmosphere and fall to the ground. The movement of this iron snow could be responsible for Mercury’s mysterious magnetic field, say researchers from the University of Illinois and Case Western Reserve University. In a paper published in the April issue of the journal Geophysical Research Letters, the scientists describe laboratory measurements and models that mimic conditions believed to exist within Mercury’s core. ..."


Posted May 2nd, 2008

Stein: Science Equals Gas Chambers...

Sandwalk notes that "John Derbyshire has just posted an excerpt from an interview with Paul Crouch Jr. on the Trinity Broadcasting Network. Stein's views need to be widely known. Here's what he said ...
Stein: When we just saw that man, I think it was Mr. Myers [i.e. biologist P.Z. Myers], talking about how great scientists were, I was thinking to myself the last time any of my relatives saw scientists telling them what to do they were telling them to go to the showers to get gassed … that was horrifying beyond words, and that’s where science — in my opinion, this is just an opinion — that’s where science leads you.
Crouch: That’s right.
Stein: …Love of God and compassion and empathy leads you to a very glorious place, and science leads you to killing people.
Crouch: Good word, good word.

There you have it. Just amazing. Luddites, to the ramparts!


Witchcraft Giving People the 'Willies'...

Reuters reports on April 23rd that "(Reuters) - Police in Congo have arrested 13 suspected sorcerers accused of using black magic to steal or shrink men's penises after a wave of panic and attempted lynchings triggered by the alleged witchcraft. Reports of so-called penis snatching are not uncommon in West Africa, where belief in traditional religions and witchcraft remains widespread, and where ritual killings to obtain blood or body parts still occur. ... Purported victims, 14 of whom were also detained by police, claimed that sorcerers simply touched them to make their genitals shrink or disappear, in what some residents said was an attempt to extort cash with the promise of a cure. ..."


Squid has Natural "Cloaking"...

National Geographic reports on May 1st that "A colossal squid being defrosted this week in New Zealand is yielding 'astonishing' new discoveries. For starters, the giant species has the world's biggest eyes, as well as light-emitting organs that may serve as cloaking devices, scientists say.... As the 1,091-pound (495-kilogram) female gradually unfolded yesterday, she revealed her two 10.6-inch (27-centimeter) eyes, stunning a team of international experts in a lab at Te Papa Tongarewa, New Zealand's national museum. 'They are clearly the largest eyes ever recorded from any animal,' said biologist Dan-Eric Nilsson, of the University of Lund in Sweden. 'About the size of a soccer ball.' ..."


Congress Votes Up "Genetic Discrimination Bill"...

The AP reports on May 1st that "Congress sent President Bush a bill Thursday forbidding employers and insurance companies from using genetic tests showing people are at risk of developing cancer, heart disease or other ailments to reject their job applications, promotions or health care coverage, or in setting premiums. Bush was expected soon to sign the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, which lawmakers and advocates called "the first major civil rights act of the 21st century." Federal law already bans discrimination by race and gender. "Your skin color, your gender, all of those are part of your DNA," said Francis Collins, head of the National Human Genome Research Institute. "Shouldn't the rest of your DNA also fall under that protective umbrella?" ..."


Posted April 26th, 2008

Dramatic Lizard Evolution...

National Geographic News reported on April 21st that "Italian wall lizards introduced to a tiny island off the coast of Croatia are evolving in ways that would normally take millions of years to play out, new research shows. In just a few decades the 5-inch-long (13-centimeter-long) lizards have developed a completely new gut structure, larger heads, and a harder bite, researchers say. In 1971, scientists transplanted five adult pairs of the reptiles from their original island home in Pod Kopiste to the tiny neighboring island of Pod Mrcaru, both in the south Adriatic Sea. Genetic testing on the Pod Mrcaru lizards confirmed that the modern population of more than 5,000 Italian wall lizards are all descendants of the original ten lizards left behind in the 1970s. ..."


High Mileage Devices - Where's the BEEF?

From a letter sent by NMSR's Dave Thomas, to a New Mexico dealer of the HAFC "Hydrogen Assist Fuel Cell" technology, sent Tuesday April 8th: Hello. I'm Dave Thomas, president of a local science/skeptics group here in New Mexico. ... I'm writing because Eric Krieg has told me that you may be interested in getting an independent test of your outfit's purported 50% boosts in mileage with a $1000 Dennis Lee HAFC (Hydro-Assist Fuel Cell) kit. I would be interested in discussing such a test with you. Ideally, I think it should include starting with getting a fill-up (more than half a tank) at a given service station, topping it off there, then taking the vehicle out for a run of 100 miles or so, then returning to the same filling station and topping it off at the same pump (so as to get a decent measure of gasoline used). The resultant gallons used and mileage should allow for an easy calculation of miles per gallon. I've a mechanic friend, Rooster, who I would like to come along for the ride. He is quite interested in mileage-boosting technologies, and learning about driving techniques for same. I'm hoping that Rooster or I could be at the wheel during all/part of the test, if possible. Getting a test by an independent science group could go a long way toward getting your claims some good publicity, if the performance is indeed as advertised. Let me know if/how you want to proceed. Where is your facility located? Regards, Dave Thomas ..."

The response? THERE HAS BEEN NO RESPONSE. Perhaps the "test" was too difficult?


A New Independent Newspaper in NM...

The New Mexico Independent is run by David Alire Garcia, Trip Jennings, and is published on the Web. Check it out!


In Darwin's Back Yard...

Cornelia Dean of the NY Times reports on April 25th that "In 1860, while studying primroses in the garden of Down House, his home in Kent, England, Charles Darwin noticed something odd about their blooms. While all the flowers had both male and female parts --- anthers and pistils --- in some the anthers were prominent and in others the pistils were longer. So he experimented in his home laboratory and greenhouses, cross-pollinating some plants with their anatomical opposites. The results were striking. 'He determined that if they cross-pollinate, they produce more seed and more vigorous seedlings,' said Margaret Falk, a horticulturalist and associate vice president at the New York Botanical Garden. The variation is evolution's way of increasing cross-pollination, she said. Now the Botanical Garden is replicating this work, and more of Darwin's Down House experiments, in a stunning, multipart exhibition called 'Darwin's Garden: An Evolutionary Adventure.' In all, the tour is 33 stops, spread throughout about half of the garden's 250 acres. ..."


"Set Ben Straight" Contest...

The NCSE's "Expelled Exposed" site has a contest, open until April 28th ONLY, titled "Set Ben Straight." Its purpose is to collect the most outrageous science flubs and misstatements made by Ben Stein during the marketing for the "Expelled" movie. An example, by yours truly, in the section titled "On what evolution explains": Ben Stein says … Darwinism explains so little. It doesn’t explain how life began. It doesn’t explain how gravity works to keep the planets in their orbits. It doesn’t explain how thermodynamics works. It doesn’t explain how physics or the laws of motion work. – interview on Pat Robertson’s 700 Club, March 17, 2008 ..."

Dave Thomas answers "Chemistry doesn’t explain how gravity works, or the laws of motion, so chemistry is wrong too. Physics doesn’t explain why Paris Hilton is still popular, so it must be wrong also."


Posted April 18th, 2008

Question for the Pope...

Perhaps someone will ask the Pontiff the following during his trip to the United States: Why is Venezuela's capybara, called the "world's largest rodent," classified by the Vatican as a FISH? I'm not making this up! A 2005 report in the New York Sun notes that "Though it's hard to imagine eating a boiled, oversize rat, salted capybara is considered a delicacy in Venezuela, where thousands this week are enjoying the meat of the rodent during Holy Week. Centuries ago, the Vatican ruled that these furry cousins of rats and mice native to South America's plains qualify as fish - paving the way for capybara feasts during Lent, when red meat is prohibited. ..."


Candidate Speaks on Evolution...

The York Daily Record, chronicler of the Dover, PA "Intelligent Design" trial, asked this of candidate Barack Obama during a recent visit to Pennsylvania: "York County was recently in the news for a lawsuit involving the teaching of intelligent design. What's your attitude regarding the teaching of evolution in public schools?"

Obama's answer: "I'm a Christian, and I believe in parents being able to provide children with religious instruction without interference from the state. But I also believe our schools are there to teach worldly knowledge and science. I believe in evolution, and I believe there's a difference between science and faith. That doesn't make faith any less important than science. It just means they're two different things. And I think it's a mistake to try to cloud the teaching of science with theories that frankly don't hold up to scientific inquiry." ..."


Myths and Misconceptions about Evolution EXPOSED...

The April 16th edition of New Scientist has a major new article titled "Evolution: 24 myths and misconceptions." The article notes that "Evolution is as firmly established a scientific fact as the roundness of the Earth. And yet despite an ever-growing mountain of evidence, most people around the world are not taught the truth about evolution, if they are taught about it at all. Even in the UK, the birthplace of Darwin with an educated and increasingly secular population, one recent poll suggests less than half the population accepts evolution. ... So here is New Scientist's guide to some of the most common myths and misconceptions about evolution ..."


Darwin's Writings On Line...

In the original handwriting, no less! It's courtesy of the University of Cambridge, and is called "The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online ."

Besides books, it contains letters and notes as well. Want to see the first diagram of the Tree of Life? Here's your chance!


Expelled Exposed...

For the quick cartoon review of Ben Stein's propagandistic film, "Expelled," check out my post on the Panda's Thumb: "Ben Stein’s Career goes Down the Toilet ..."

Check out the revealing Freudian Slip that made it into the Expelled "Leader's DVD" there, too!


For general information on the falsehoods in the movie, check out NCSE's detailed informational site:

Cosmic Carnival: SUNDAY, APRIL 20th, Noon-6PM!

Cosmic Carnival is coming! Sunday, April 20th, 2008. Noon to 6:00 PM, Old Town Albuquerque, New Mexico (just off the Plaza). Cosmic Carnival is a free family Science Festival to celebrate National Astronomy Day and Fiesta de Albuquerque Cosmic Carnival is sponsored by Science and science education organizations through out New Mexico, who offer public friendly information, demos, activities, and materials to promote science and their organization. In partnership with the 2008 City of Albuquerque's Fiestas de Albuquerque celebration, Cosmic Carnival features lots of hands-on activities and demos, safe telescope observing of the Sun, astronomy and science exhibitors from all over New Mexico, educational give-aways, and free raffles with great prizes. More Info:

It's Free, and Open to the Public. Exhibitors include Albuquerque Rocket Society, Anderson- Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum, Balloon Explorium, Explora!, NASA JPL Solar System Ambassador Program, National Atomic Museum, National Solar Observatory, New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science, New Mexico Science Writers Association, NOAA (National Weather Service), Rio Grande Astronomical Society, Sandia National Laboratories, The Albuquerque Astronomical Society, Magdalena Ridge Observatory (MRO) Institute, Very Large Array (NRAO), and New Mexicans for Science and Reason


Posted April 11th, 2008

The Ex-Mayor Strikes Back...

Cue the Darth Vader theme. The Albuquerque Journal reports on April 10th that "Former Rio Rancho Mayor Kevin Jackson has broken months of silence with a stinging counterattack against employees, former employees and board members of a nonprofit that sued him. Jackson claims 15 people associated with Family Lifeline Inc. collaborated to falsely imprison him in his office, conspired to cause him harm, interfered with his business relationships, refused him access to his personal property and made slanderous remarks about him to the media. Family Lifeline sued Jackson in Sandoval County's 13th Judicial District Court in January claiming he used at least $25,000 of federal grant money he secured for the nonprofit for personal purposes. Jackson's response, filed last week by Albuquerque attorney David A. Standridge, denies the allegations and makes a counterclaim. Jackson is asking for a jury trial and seeking punitive damages, court costs, attorney fees and other relief as the court deems proper.... ..."


More on Kevin Jackson:

UFO Plan Crashes in NM Desert...

The Journal/AP reported on April 10th that "For now, plans for a proposed UFO-themed amusement park in Roswell have been sucked into a black hole. The project is going nowhere after state officials withdrew a $245,000 legislative appropriation intended for initial planning, saying that the outlay would have violated New Mexico's anti-donation clause. Under state law, New Mexico cannot donate to private individuals or entities. The money had been designated for Roswell city government. But because city officials never intended to run the park, the state Department of Finance and Administration determined the appropriation was illegal. ..."


Plagiarism Scandal Engulfs "Expelled"...

The Panda's Thumb, in an April 11th post titled "David Bolinsky: 'Expelled' ripped off Harvard's 'Inner Life of the Cell' animation", quotes Bolinsky: To the anti-ID community which is giving XVIVO support in our ideological battle against the microcephalic apostates of “Intelligent Design”: XVIVO created The Inner Life of the Cell for Harvard, through fourteen months of painstaking examination of how a myriad of systems, functional structures and proteins in a cell, could be depicted in a sweeping panoramic style of animation, reminiscent of cinema, that fundamentally raised the bar on the visualization of molecular and cellular biology for undergraduate students. ... Given the vast number of structures to be removed, and given the structures remaining “on camera”, whose positioning and relationships, both aesthetic and functional, needed to remain true to the function and beauty of molecular biology, it is inconceivable, mathematically, that the animator hired by EXPELLED’s producers, independently and randomly came up with the same identical actin filament mesh XVIVO depicted in one scene, which had never before been rendered anywhere in 3D! ... Once we uncover the EXPELLED animation dollar trail, and bring it to light, we will have even more fun. The sublimely ridiculous claim that EXPELLED uses completely original animation, in light of copying our work so closely that a budget was reserved to pay for an infringement suit by Harvard, is delicious! Why should I try to take you guys down when you are doing such a splendid job yourselves? For free! So go ahead and release your movie. Just keep track of how many tickets you sell. We may just find that data valuable, too. David Bolinsky ..."


NMSR Profiled in Alb. Journal...

From science reporter John Fleck's April 7th article about NMSR: "'Lake Monsters I Have Known' sounds like the setup for a bad horror movie or an even worse children's book. One thing it might not sound like is science. But without science, Ben Radford explained at a recent meeting of New Mexicans for Science and Reason, the stories of the Loch Ness monster and her kin spin out of control in a hurry. Monthly meetings of NMSR, as the organization is known by its members and friends, are the sorts of places you can go to learn about the truly strange— UFOs and lake monsters, to take two examples— but also the scientifically serious. Curious about the latest scientific findings on the extinction of the dinosaurs? The dawn of rationalism in ancient Greece? The science behind vaccination? The evolution of political values? Or do you just like good magic tricks? You'll get that at NMSR as well. ... NMSR began in May 1990, the brainchild of Ken Frazier, an Albuquerque resident who is the editor of Skeptical Inquirer magazine. The national organization that publishes the magazine was trying to create local skeptic groups. Frazier sent invitations to all the magazine's Albuquerque-area subscribers. ... The organization's goal, Frazier said, was "to encourage critical thinking." [Dave] Thomas explained the difference between science and the sort of pseudoscience frequently debunked by the group this way: Science, he said, looks at all of the available evidence and tries to come up with some sort of overarching explanation that explains it all. Scientists call them "theories," but when they use the word, they mean a well-established idea: the theory of relativity, the theory of quantum mechanics, the theory of continental drift, the theory of evolution. Pseudoscience does the opposite. 'They start out with a belief and then they cherry-pick the data to find little nuggets that support that belief,' he said. ..."


Posted April 4th, 2008

Ken Miller in Live Webcast, 6PM MDT Friday, April 4th...

On April 4, 2008 at 7:00 pm CDT (GMT - April 5, 2008 at 12:00 midnight), Dr. Kenneth R. Miller, a professor of biology at Brown University, will give a talk entitled God, Darwin, and Design: Lessons from the Dover Monkey Trial. Miller was a lead witness in the Dover, Pennsylvania “intelligent design” case that began in September 2005, and which has been front-page news since it started. The talk is sponsored by the The University of Texas at Austin, which is also web-casting the event, live. The public is invited to participate in the Live Webcast of the lecture, April 4, 2008 at 7:00 pm CT (click here for times all over the world). The webcasts are very high quality, and viewers can submit questions to the speaker through our website, and hear the speaker answer several online questions in real time. The webcasting software we use requires viewers to download a small plugin, but it is very simple and quick to install.


Science Blogger Served Subpoena...

Kathleen Seidel, who blogs at on Autistic Spectrum Resources & Advocacy, comments on and cites news reports on the alleged link between autism and mercury-based vaccines (thimerosal). In this regard, she has been served a subpoena in the case of Rev. Lisa Sykes and Seth Sykes’ $20,000,000 personal injury lawsuit, Sykes v. Bayer (Case No. 3:07-CV-660, Eastern District of Virginia, Richmond Division).

Read Kathleen's report. It's chilling.


New Creo Bill in Louisiana...

James Gill of the Times-Picayune (New Orleans, LA), in a March 30th commentary titled "Creationist attack evolves once again," writes "The creationists are with us again, determined in the upcoming legislative session to make the whole of Louisiana like Ouachita Parish. Lord, have mercy upon us. Creationism is the myth that dare not speak its name these days. Spurned by the U.S. Supreme Court, it came creeping back under the alias of Intelligent Design, but was soon rebuffed again. Now it has painted on a new face and emerged on the arm of state Sen. Ben Nevers, D-Bogalusa, who is pushing what he humorously terms the "The Louisiana Academic Freedom Act" in the upcoming session. Nevers has filed Senate Bill 561 with the spurious premise that evolution is a matter of serious scientific debate and that both sides are entitled to a hearing. A lot of people have fallen for that line, including Gov. Bobby Jindal, although, of course, scientists, save a few stray zealots, regard the evidence for evolution as overwhelming. Nevers' concept of academic freedom requires that 'any writing, document, record or other content' on the subject be allowed in science class. It is a license for crackpots. ... ..."


Flying Spaghetti Monster, the Courthouse Statue...

In the March 24th Crossville Chronicle (Tennessee), Gary Nelson writes "Among the county's historic directional sign post, farm equipment and gazebo stand several monuments and expressions of free speech. The displays include an Iraq and Afghanistan Soldier's Memorial, Statue of Liberty, chainsaw-carved monkeys and bears, Jesus carrying a cross, and the most recent display added — a Flying Spaghetti Monster. Several onlookers and tourists have stopped to take pictures of the sculptures. The Flying Spaghetti Monster is the latest display to a slew of others that have been erected on the lawn over the past year. Several marches and demonstrations have also taken place on the courthouse grounds. ..."


"Pseudoscientist" Stabbed in Santa Fe...

Tom Sharpe of the Santa Fe New Mexican reports on April 3rd that "An Englishman speaking on 'thought transference' during an international conference at La Fonda on Wednesday was stabbed in the leg by a Japanese man who seemed upset by his remarks, witnesses said. Rupert Sheldrake of London was sitting up and alert as medics took him on a gurney to an ambulance outside Santa Fe's historic hotel at the southeast corner of the Plaza. Asked if he was OK, Sheldrake smiled and responded, 'I hope so.' Hirano Kazuki, 33, of Yokohama, Japan, spent Wednesday night in jail after he was arrested on charges of aggravated battery and assault with intent to commit a violent felony. He provided no resistance as officers led him in handcuffs from the hotel. Hirano had been attending the 10th International Conference on Science and Consciousness. Other attendees said he had been acting oddly. They said he confronted Sheldrake earlier this week, telling him he heard voices and saw demons. Another featured speaker at the conference told the man he was 'full of negative energy' and counseled him to 'calm down,' said Evan Mecham, an attendee from Broomfield, Colo. .. Many people attending the conference appeared shaken by the incident and declined to comment. A man who helped subdue Hirano would only say, 'The creator will take care of the rest of it.' Attendees gathered for a prayer session before leaving La Fonda on Wednesday afternoon. ..."


Learn more from Sheldrake's website, which discusses his book "Dogs that Know When Their Owners are Coming Home, and Other Unexplained Powers of Animals (1999) ..."


Posted March 28th, 2008

Earliest Known Recording of Sound Recovered from 1860...

The New York Times reports on March 27 that "For more than a century, since he captured the spoken words 'Mary had a little lamb' on a sheet of tinfoil, Thomas Edison has been considered the father of recorded sound. But researchers say they have unearthed a recording of the human voice, made by a little-known Frenchman, that predates Edison’s invention of the phonograph by nearly two decades. The 10-second recording of a singer crooning the folk song 'Au Clair de la Lune' was discovered earlier this month in an archive in Paris by a group of American audio historians. It was made, the researchers say, on April 9, 1860, on a phonautograph, a machine designed to record sounds visually, not to play them back. But the phonautograph recording, or phonautogram, was made playable — converted from squiggles on paper to sound — by scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, Calif. ..."


Florida Modifies "Academic Freedom" Bill ...

The Miami Herald reports on March 26th that "A bill to ensure teachers can scientifically criticize evolution was made less controversial Wednesday when it was re-written to all but bar the controversial theory of Intelligent Design in science classrooms. Originally, the bill encouraged teachers to present the 'full range' of 'scientific information' about evolution, but it didn't define what that information is. And that lead to the real possibility that teachers could profess the Intelligent Design, which a 2005 federal court banned from Pennsylvania science classrooms because it was a religious theory in that it posits an intelligent cause -- God to most adherents -- designed biological organisms. To quell critics who thought that she was trying to sneak religion in the classroom, Sen. Ronda Storms, a Valrico Republican, decided to define scientific information as 'germane current facts, data, and peer-reviewed research specific to the topic of chemical and biological evolution as prescribed in Florida's Science Standards.' Storms said the standards are too 'dogmatic' and could unfairly lead to penalties of teachers and students who question evolution. ..."


So, this will keep Florida safe from all the non-peer-reviewed, non-germane facts and data put forth by the minions of Intelligent Design. Florida's kids will only get the peer-reviewed, germane facts and data put forth by the minions of Intelligent Design.

Memo to Florida: Creationists don't "Compromise." Ever.

"Expelled" gets Buzz, But To What Effect?

I've a March 26th blog titled "Like 'Expelled,' 'Left Behind: Eternal Forces' had Net Buzz - So, Why did it TANK?" A snippet: "While Disco’s Robert Crowther is crowing 'Ben Stein’s New Film Expelled No. 1 in Blogosphere', he should ponder the fly in the ointment: not all buzz is Good buzz. In particular, he should consider what “buzz” has done for the video game based on LaHaye’s “Left Behind” series, “Left Behind: Eternal Forces.” While the video game garnered lots of attention on the Net, a lot of it was bad - quite like the attention 'Expelled' earned this week in regard to the Expulsion of PZ. Did 'Left Behind: Eternal Forces' get a boost from negative attention? Quite the contrary - it Tanked. It Fizzled. It Bombed. The game’s makers are now forced to simply give it away, free. ..."


Today, the producers of "Expelled" had a by-invitation-only gabfest conference call. Trouble is, they invited the entire crew of the Panda's Thumb blog, which includes P.Z. Myers, Reed Cartwright, and others, including myself. From Reed's report: "Today we sat in on a conference call with the Expelled frauds. PZ has his story up, and others will probably follow. However, some people, including the producers of Expelled, have already taken to accuse us of crashing their call, much like the lies about PZ crashing the Expelled screening. This is false. We got an explicit invitation yesterday from Expelled‘s media relations firm to participate ..."


Posted March 22nd, 2008

Wacky Aztec UFO Fest for a "Good Cause"...

Sue Vorenberg, finding post-Trib life at the Santa Fe New Mexican, writes on March 20th "Even Katee McClure, organizer for The Aztec UFO Symposium, admits her event can be sort of 'wacky' at times. McClure, vice president for the Friends of the Aztec Public Library, says she's undecided in the debate over whether an alleged UFO crashed in Aztec in March 1948. But that doesn't really matter, she said. What matters is that the event brings in much-needed funds for the Aztec Public Library, and is a forum for discussion on both sides of the issue. ...Dave Thomas, president of New Mexicans for Science and Reason, isn't planning to attend the event, but in the past he's attended and discussed the swindle that led to the Aztec UFO story, he said. In his investigation, Thomas found that two con men, Silas M. Newton and Leo A. GeBauer, came up with the story as a way to sell the "doodlebug," a device that could supposedly locate oil or gold. "Before they got into UFOs, they would try to get people to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in their gadgets, which they said could detect oil," Thomas said. "Although actually it appears they would pump oil into a well at night so they could impress investors into thinking their gadget found it in a search the following morning." When the two con men heard of the alleged Roswell UFO incident in 1947, they decided to fabricate their own crash in Aztec as a means to sell their gadgets — by claiming that they were made using alien technology developed by government scientists, Thomas said. ...'In 1952, in fact, the two were convicted of fraud,' Thomas said. 'And that certainly should have been the end of all this, but it has continued.' Of course, the UFO-loving crowd often argues that Thomas' story was fabricated by the government to cover up a real incident, and that's the part McClure says she finds interesting. ..."


Evolution Geared for Increasing Complexity?

Science Daily reports on March 18th "Researchers have found evidence which suggests that evolution drives animals to become increasingly more complex. Looking back through the last 550 million years of the fossil catalogue to the present day, the team investigated the different evolutionary branches of the crustacean family tree. They were seeking examples along the tree where animals evolved that were simpler than their ancestors. Instead they found organisms with increasingly more complex structures and features, suggesting that there is some mechanism driving change in this direction. ... 'Sooner or later, however, you reach a level of complexity where it’s possible to go backwards and become simpler again. 'What’s astonishing is that hardly any crustaceans have taken this backwards route. Instead, almost all branches have evolved in the same direction, becoming more complex in parallel. 'This is the nearest thing to a pervasive evolutionary rule that’s been found.' ..."


Myers EXPELLED from "Expelled," But Dawkins Gets In...

Cornelia Dean of the New York Times reports on March 21st that " Two evolutionary biologists — P. Z. Myers of the University of Minnesota, Morris, and Richard Dawkins of Oxford — tried to go to the movies at the Mall of America in Minneapolis Thursday evening. Dr. Dawkins got in. Dr. Myers did not. On those facts, everybody agrees. After that, things break down. The movie the two scientists wanted to see was 'Expelled,' whose online trailer asserts that people in academia who see evidence of supernatural intelligence in biological processes — an idea called “intelligent design” — have unfairly lost their jobs, been denied tenure or suffered other penalties as part of a scientific conspiracy to keep God out of the nation’s laboratories and classrooms. Dr. Myers asserts that he was unfairly barred from the film, in which both he and Dr. Dawkins appear, and that Dr. Dawkins would have been, too, if people running the screening had realized who he was — a world leader in the field of evolutionary biology. But Walt Ruloff, a partner in Premise Media, the film’s producer, said the screening was one of a series the producers have organized for the film, which opens April 18, in hopes of building favorable word-of-mouth among people likely to be sympathetic to its message. People like Dr. Myers and Dr. Dawkins would not have been invited, he said. Mark Mathis, a producer of the film who attended the screening, said that 'of course' he had recognized Dr. Dawkins, but allowed him to attend because 'he has handled himself fairly honorably, he is a guest in our country and I had to presume he had flown a long way to see the film.' Actually, Dr. Myers and Dr. Dawkins said in interviews that they had long planned to be in Minneapolis this week to attend a convention of atheists. Dr. Dawkins, an vocal critic of religion, is on the convention program. ..."


Myers himself has blogged on March 21st that "The New York Times has weighed in, and they contacted the producers of Expelled…and what do you know, they're still scrambling to find a credible story. They haven't succeeded yet. ... So basically it's a baseless implication that I would be a troublemaker, and the arrogant and absurd assumption that Dawkins flew to Minneapolis from Oxford to see their preview of the movie. Lying is just a reflex for them at this point. He also claims that he made Dawkins 'shrink' in the Q&A, which is total nonsense. Mathis is a shrill and frightened man when he's confronted ... ..."


Posted March 14th, 2008

Ben Stein endorsed as "Einstein" by Ken Ham's Answers in Genesis...

Mark Looy of AiG-U.S. writes on March 13, 2008 "Two of the better-known challengers of the evolutionary belief system met in Nashville, Tennessee, on Tuesday to discuss ways that the upcoming movie Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed can have a major impact on the creation/evolution debate. Expelled is hosted by the brilliant Ben Stein, actor/economist/lawyer/presidential speechwriter/science observer—a 21st-century Einsteinian figure. While his film arrives at American movie theaters on the weekend of April 18, Mr. Stein came to Nashville for a special preview showing of Expelled for several hundred attendees at the annual convention of the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB). ... Before Tuesday’s film preview, Mr. Stein spent 15 minutes chatting with AiG-U.S. President Ken Ham, who informed Mr. Stein that he had seen a director’s cut of Expelled last month at AiG’s Creation Museum. Ben told Ken that he was aware of the 'wonderful' facility near Cincinnati and hoped to visit one day ..."


More Small Human Fossils Discovered in Palau...

National Geographic Magazine reports on March 10th that "Thousands of human bones belonging to numerous individuals have been discovered in the Pacific island nation of Palau. Some of the bones are ancient and indicate inhabitants of particularly small size, scientists announced today. ... The smaller, older bones represent people who were 3 to 4 feet (94 to 120 centimeters) tall and weighed between 70 and 90 pounds (32 and 41 kilograms), according to the paper. The diminutive people were similar in size to the so-called hobbit discovered in National Geographic Society-supported excavations on the Indonesian island of Flores in 2003. Scientists classified the hobbit as a separate human species, Homo floresiensis. According to Berger, the estimated brain size of the early Palauans is about twice the size of the hobbit brain. ..."


Amber reveals Dinosaur-Era Feathers...

National Geographic News reports on March 11th that "Seven dino-era feathers found perfectly preserved in amber in western France highlight a crucial stage in feather evolution, scientists report. The hundred-million-year-old plumage has features of both feather-like fibers found with some two-legged dinosaurs known as theropods and of modern bird feathers, the researchers said. This means the fossils could fill a key gap in the puzzle of how dinosaurs gave rise to birds, according to a team led by Vincent Perrichot of the Museum f|r Naturkunde-Berlin in Germany. The find provides a clear example "of the passage between primitive filamentous down and a modern feather," said team member Didier Niraudeau of the University of Rennes in France. The study team isn't sure yet whether the feathers belonged to a dino or a bird. ..."


UNM Awards Genie Scott with Honorary Doctorate of Science...

On March 13th, Dave Thomas reports on Panda's Thumb that "John Geissman, Professor and Chair of the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at the University of New Mexico (UNM) issued this Press Release formally this week: 'On Friday, 15 February, 2008, the University of New Mexico Board of Regents voted unanimously to approve the recommendation forwarded by the UNM Honorary Degree Committee and the Faculty Senate Graduate Committee that Dr. Eugenie Scott, Executive Director of the National Center for Science Education, be awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Science from UNM. The nomination, spearheaded by Professor John Geissman, now Chair of Earth and Planetary Sciences, was enthusiastically endorsed by the faculty from Earth and Planetary Sciences, Biology, and Anthropology.' ..."


Posted March 7th, 2008

Creo Legislation Surfaces in Florida...

The New York Times editorialized on March 6th that "Has Florida come to its senses over the teaching of evolution? Sound science appears to be winning the latest round, but the struggle isn’t over. ... The compromise was to insert the phrase 'scientific theory of' before the word evolution as a sop to opponents who contend that evolution is just a theory, not a fact. But it looks to us like the scientists got the better of the argument. School officials inserted the same 'scientific theory of' before every other major scientific consensus. The document now refers, for example, to 'the scientific theory of cells,' the 'scientific theory of atoms,' and the 'scientific theory of electromagnetism.' Although some supporters of teaching evolution grouse that the standards were watered down, they actually look more airtight with the revisions. The standards make it clear that a 'scientific theory' is well supported by evidence, not a mere claim, and that evolution is no different in this respect than many other widely accepted 'theories.' Some anti-evolutionists are now pushing Florida’s Legislature to step in and allow the teaching of alternative explanations of biological origins. The alternatives that they have in mind would almost certainly not be deemed 'scientific' and would have no legitimate place in science classes. ..."


The Discovery Institute weas quick to protest, however, claiming that "The Academic Freedom Act introduced in Florida’s Senate reads in part:
'An act relating to teaching chemical and biological evolution; ... providing public school teachers with a right to present scientific information relevant to the full range of views on biological and chemical origins; prohibiting a teacher from being discriminated against for presenting such information; prohibiting students from being penalized for subscribing to a particular position on evolution; clarifying that the act does not require any change in state curriculum standards or promote any religious position; ...'
Nowhere does this bill call for allowing any alternative theories to be introduced into the classroom. Neither does it say that teachers should be protected in order to safely be able to present alternatives. Articles stating otherwise are flatly false.


Now I'm puzzled. I thought "Intelligent Design" was supposed to be "scientific." BUT, if "scientific information relevant to the full range of views on biological and chemical origins" does NOT include "alternatives" like "Intelligent Design," perhaps ID is NOT "scientific" after all! Kudos to the NY Times (and other media) for seeing right through the Discovery Institute's latest "Bait and Switch" tactic.

NASA Missions to Outer Planets threatened by Plutonium Shortage... reports on March 6th/7th that "NASA is facing the prospect of trying to explore deep space without the aid of the long-lasting nuclear batteries it has relied upon for decades to send spacecraft to destinations where sunlight is in short supply. NASA Administrator Mike Griffin told a House Appropriations subcommittee March 5 that the U.S. inventory of plutonium-238 - the radioactive material essential for building long-lasting batteries known to the experts as radioisotope power systems - is running out quickly. 'Looking ahead, plutonium is in short supply,' Griffin told lawmakers during the first of two days of hearings on the U.S. space agency's 2009 budget request. ... 'In the future, in some future year not too far from now, we will have used the last U.S. kilogram of plutonium-238,' Griffin said. 'And if we want more plutonium-238 we will have to buy it from Russia.' ... But even the Russian supply might not last for much longer. ..."


NM Academy of Science Weighs In on Fossil Dispute...

The New Mexico Academy of Science published this statement in the March 5th Albuquerque Journal: "A recent article in the journal 'Nature' details a dispute among paleontologists regarding the discovery and naming rights of an armor-plated, ancient reptile. The allegations of plagiarism and usurping of naming rights are extremely serious and involve a small number of researchers associated with the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science. The case has received international attention, has been covered on the front page of the Journal and is the subject of numerous blogs. Therefore, it is imperative that the facts and circumstances leading to the allegations be reviewed by an independent, unbiased authority, as well as by subject experts. Due process is needed so that both sides may receive a fair review. The board members of the New Mexico Academy of Science fully support the thorough review of the case that is currently being spearheaded by the Ethics Education Committee of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, as well as reconsideration of the case by Stuart Ashman, secretary of the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs. ANGELA WANDINGER-NESS President, New Mexico Academy of Science ..."

Between the drafting of this letter and its publication, the Ashman panel heard from Dr. Lucas, but not from any of the scientists claiming problems, before deciding that nothing wrong had happened. The May 6th Albuquerque Journal editorialized that "Lucas is poorly served by a process so one-sided that it does nothing to clear the cloud above the solid reputation he has achieved. ..."


Did Government Pay Out in Vaccine=Autism Case?

Mike Stobbe and Marilynn Marchione of the AP report on March 7th that "For those convinced that vaccines can cause autism, the sad case of a Georgia girl, daughter of a doctor and lawyer, seems like clear-cut evidence. The government has agreed to pay the girl's family for injury caused by vaccines. But it turns out it's not that simple — and maybe not even a first. The 9-year-old girl, Hannah Poling, had an underlying condition that may have been worsened, triggering her autism-like symptoms. Her parents believe it was the five simultaneous vaccines she got as a toddler in one day eight years ago that did it. Government scientists say something like a fever or infection could have set off the problem — but they didn't rule out the vaccines either. This week, government officials said they have agreed to pay the Polings from a federal fund that compensates people injured by vaccines. The amount is not yet determined. While parents and advocates for autistic children say the case is a landmark legal precedent that signals the government is finally conceding potential autism-related risks from childhood vaccines, government officials are saying it's nothing of the kind. 'This does not represent anything other than a very special situation,' said Dr. Julie Gerberding, head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. ..."


Posted February 29th, 2008

William F. Buckley Jr., Dies...

The San Jose Mercury News reports on Feb. 29th, in an article titled "William F. Buckley Jr., the last true conservative," that In a parliamentary democracy President Bush would have had to step down. ... Like no other personality, Buckley pulled together the disparate strands of the conservative movement to endow it with panache, self-confidence and a sense of being on the cutting edge. An avid sailor, a writer of numerous spy novels and the host of the first of the political talk shows, 'Firing Line,' Buckley quickly became a celebrity who made conservatism respectable. ..."


Buckley, along with Phillip Johnson, Michael Behe, and David Berlinski, argued in favor of the proposition "Resolved: The Evolutionists Should Acknowledge Creation" in the December 4th, 1997 "Firing Line Creation-Evolution Debate." Arguing against the resolution were Kenneth Miller, Michael Ruse, Eugenie Scott, and Barry Lynn.



Arctic 'Doomsday' Seed Vault Opened...

The AP reports on Feb. 26th that "Norway opened a frozen 'doomsday' vault Tuesday deep within an Arctic mountain where millions of seeds will be stored to safeguard against wars or natural disasters wiping out food crops around the globe. Biblical references repeatedly cropped up as guests at the opening ceremony carried the first seed deposits into the vault in the remote Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard. 'This is a frozen Garden of Eden,' European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said ..."


"Gay" Quake Rattles Israel?

Ynet News reported on Feb. 10th that "The recent earthquake that was felt across Israel was the result of the 'homosexual activity practiced in the country,' Knesset Member Shlomo Benizri said Wednesday. During a special Knesset session on Israel's preparedness for the possibility of another earthquake hitting the region, the Shas member said 'the Gemara refers to earthquakes as disasters, but you are searching only for the practical solutions how to prevent and repair. But I know of another way to prevent earthquakes; the Gemara mentions a number of causes of earthquakes, one of which is homosexuality, which the Knesset legitimizes,' Benizri said. ..."


Are Bacteria the Ultimate Cloud Seeds?

Montana State University announced on Feb. 29th that "A Montana State University professor and his colleagues have found evidence suggesting that airborne bacteria are globally distributed in the atmosphere and may play a large role in the cycle of precipitation. The research of David Sands, MSU professor of plant sciences and plant pathology, along with his colleagues Christine Foreman, an MSU professor of land resources and environmental sciences, Brent Christner from Louisiana State University and Cindy Morris, will be published today in the journal 'Science.' These research findings could potentially supply knowledge that could help reduce drought from Montana to Africa, Sands said. ..."


Posted February 22nd, 2008

Finally, "Evolution" Gets Into Florida Standards... reports on Feb. 20th that " The Florida Board of Education officially upheld evolution yesterday. The board didn't quite mean to do that, of course. In a 4-3 vote, the Board accepted a proposed curriculum that replaced all references to evolution with the phrase "the scientific theory of evolution." In so doing, the board inadvertently made evolution central to public school science education, and also, almost incidentally, mandated education on just what constitutes a "scientific theory." Until now, Florida's schools weren't required to teach evolution. The old curriculum guidelines didn't even mention it by name. That state education officials would approve the new standards was not a foregone conclusion. ..."


And Boy, is the Discovery Institute P.O.'d...

Casey Luskin of the Discovery Institute opined on Feb. 19th, in a piece titled "Florida State Board Tricked into Meaningless 'Compromise' to Retain Dogmatism and call Evolution 'Scientific Theory'," that " Today the Florida State Board of Education voted 4-3 to adopt science standards that call evolution “the fundamental concept underlying all of biology.” While it is good that students will learn about evolution, these standards will make for bad science education because they elevate Darwin’s theory to a dogma that cannot be questioned. Even worse, some board members thought that they could rectify the dogmatic tone of the standards by calling evolution a "scientific theory." Some news articles are even calling this a "compromise." Those board members were tricked into a false compromise: inserting the word 'scientific theory' before the word 'evolution' is a meaningless and impotent change that will do absolutely nothing to actually inform students about the scientific problems with evolution. ..."


DNA Supports "Out of Africa" Hypothesis...

The San Francisco Chronicle reports on Feb. 22nd that "Separate teams of researchers from Stanford and the University of Michigan have found convincing evidence locked inside the human genome that much of the world today is populated by descendants of a small band of migrants who left Africa for the Middle East some 100,000 years ago. The tale told by DNA - the chain of chemicals that carries information in our genes - was uncovered by new machines that can rapidly scan for subtle differences in the genetic makeup of people living in far-flung parts of the globe. Earlier genetic studies and paleontologic evidence supported the "Out of Africa" theory of global colonization. The latest genome studies are, by far, the largest and most conclusive on that topic to date. 'There is lots and lots of confirmation that the Middle East was the gateway for migration out of Africa,' said Richard Myers, chairman of the department of genetics at the Stanford University School of Medicine and senior author of a study appearing in today's issue of the journal Science. ..."


Posted February 15th, 2008

Tiny Pterodactyl Found in China...

The AP reports on Feb. 12th that "As pterodactyls go it was small, toothless and had unexpectedly curved toes - yet scientists are welcoming their new find as another piece in the puzzle of ancient life. 'We have this really amazing creature, sparrow sized, which lived essentially in the trees, showing us a very new, very interesting side of the evolutionary history of those animals,' said Alexander W. A. Kellner of the National Museum of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. 'We would never have thought of it,' Kellner said in a telephone interview. The find, by researchers led by Xiaolin Wang of the Chinese Academy of Science, is reported in this week's online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. ..."


The Physics of Coltrane...

Kenneth Chang of the New York Times writes on Feb. 12th about "The Physics of Coltrane's Technique: How Pros Hit the High Notes. Comparing saxophone sounds from an amateur, a pro and a giant ..." Check out the on-line sound clips! [Spock]Fascinating...[/Spock]
Hat Tip: Belshaw


Happy Valentine's Day!

It's a day late, but check out these cool geeky Valentines:


And check out these gorillas - doing it HUMAN-Style!


NMSR Profiled in THE ALIBI...

Check out the WEEKLY ALIBI's full-page Expose on NMSR: "Keeping the Faith - In Science ..."


And don't forget to VOTE!


Marshall Berman's Feb. 13th Darwin Day Talk "The 'Intelligently Designed' Attack on Science and Society" is ON-LINE!


Posted February 8th, 2008

ID Prof's Tenure Appeal is Denied...

The Iowa State Daily reported on Feb. 7th that "Guillermo Gonzalez was denied his tenure appeal Thursday morning after the Iowa Board of Regents met in a closed session. Accompanied by his wife, Joan, and a group of supporters, Gonzalez listened as Board of Regents President David Miles affirmed the decision previously made by ISU President Gregory Geoffroy. The board's decision was the last step within the University's jurisdiction for Gonzalez's appeal and further action, if taken, must be within the Iowa courts. Following the decision, John McCarroll, executive director of university relations, said 'this decision was the result of thorough, complete evaluation by President Geoffroy and the university. The president gave the appeal two careful considerations - the first being the initial decision, and the second being the appeal,' he said. 'The board's vote affirms the legal process and the belief maintained by President Geoffroy. He felt Guillermo Gonzalez was not successfully qualified to be granted tenure.' Gonzalez appealed to the Iowa Board of Regents to reverse the president's decision, made in the spring of 2007. He and his attorney met in a press conference following the decision. 'This is a coverup of a coverup,' said Chuck Hurley, Gonzalez's attorney. "The whole thing was procedurally unjust, and the effectiveness of the Board of Regents is in serious question.' ..."


Some Good News in Florida...

Ron Matus, state education reporter of reports on Feb. 5th that "A second Board of Education member has come out in favor of the state's proposed new science standards, adding to the intrigue two weeks before the BOE vote on Feb. 19. 'I'm in support of the standards in the way they have been proposed,' Akshay Desai of St. Petersburg told The Gradebook. 'I do support evolution. There's not a question about that at all.' The current tally for the 7-member board now stands at two in favor, two appearing to lean against and three either undecided or unwilling to say. ..."


MMR Vaccine CLEARED of Links to Autism...

AFP reports on Feb. 5th that "A new study published on Tuesday dealt a fresh blow to accusations that a triple vaccine against measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) is linked to autism. The investigation by British doctors comes nearly 10 years to the day since a paper, appearing in The Lancet, unleashed a health scare that prompted many parents to refuse the MMR jab for their children. That paper has since been debunked by several other studies and was finally retracted by 10 of its 13 authors in 2004. The new study is based on antibody tests on blood samples taken from 240 children aged between 10 and 12 in southern England. It looked at 98 children with autism, and two comparison groups -- 52 children with special educational needs but no autism, and 90 children who were developing normally. All of the children had been given the MMR vaccination, but not all had been given the two scheduled doses. The researchers looked at three paths that have been suggested as the various links between MMR vaccine and autism -- evidence of persistent measles infection; an abnormal immune response; and an inflammatory bowel disorder called enterocolitis. They found no association at all. ..."


More on Dino Naming Fracas at NM Museum...

An update on last week's story Dinosaur Publishing Controversy Focused on New Mexico": NMSR offered Dr. Lucas the opportunity to comment on the allegations in detail. His reply was only that the story is "beneath criticism."

John Fleck reported on the story in the Sunday Journal (Feb. 3rd), writing "An argument over ancient Northern New Mexico fossils has led to charges that the acting director of the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science violated scientific ethics. A group of scientists charged in a complaint last year that Spencer Lucas snatched away naming rights to a newly discovered ancient alligator-like creature from a young graduate student at Northern Arizona who had made the key discoveries. The complaint against Lucas, a paleontologist, was submitted to the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs, which runs the Natural History Museum. Lucas, in an interview Friday, denied the charges, and Stuart Ashman, state Secretary of Cultural Affairs, said a department inquiry concluded they were without merit. But John Geissman, chairman of the University of New Mexico's Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, wrote to the complaining scientists last August that, based on the evidence they provided, their 'suggestions of unethical behavior on the part of Dr. Lucas appear to be well-founded.' ... ..."

Source: (subscription)

In a report published in the Journal on Feb. 8th, John Fleck writes "Faced with growing criticism nationally, the head of New Mexico's Department of Cultural Affairs on Thursday acknowledged the state's response to scientific ethics complaints against the head of the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science has been insufficient. Stuart Ashman said he is considering a new review into allegations against acting Museum Director Spencer Lucas in the face of a growing controversy that included: # The Society of Vertebrate Paleontology— the professional organization for those who study fossils— said this week that its ethics committee is undertaking a formal investigation. ... Kevin Padian, a world-renowned paleontologist at the University of California, Berkeley, said New Mexico state officials owe the scientists involved a more thorough explanation than a two-word statement that the charges are 'without merit.' 'This is not good for our field. It's not good for the museum,' Padian said in a telephone interview. Padian was careful to note that he does not know whether Lucas's critics are correct. Padian and Lucas attended graduate school together and have known each other for 30 years, he noted. But he said that, in fairness to all the scientists involved, the issue deserves a more public airing. 'I must admit there are some things I don't understand about this affair, and it makes the present stonewalling inexplicable to me, as it is worrisome to many graduate students and younger workers,' Padian wrote in an online posting outlining his views. ... Padian called the lack of any sort of formal accounting of the state's inquiries into the charges 'puzzling.' 'It's not the sort of thing that you expect from a public institution,' he said. Ashman said he is considering asking the museum board's executive committee to convene again to look into the case and create a more formal record of its review. Padian offered praise for the Museum of Natural History. 'It's got a very strong program of research and public education,' he said. That is why, he said, a more open inquiry is so important. 'There's a cloud out there now,' Padian said. 'The cloud is over the museum.' ... ..."



Posted February 1st, 2008

"Expelled" gets Panned in Orlando...

The Orlando Sentinel commented on Feb. 1st about the tactics being used to promote Ben Stein's upcoming new ID Martyr Movie. "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. It's a rabble-rouser of a doc that uses all manner of loaded images, loaded rhetoric, few if any facts and mockery of hand-picked 'weirdo' scientists to attack the those who, Stein claims, are stifling the Religious Right's efforts to inject intelligent design into science courses, science curricula and the national debate. He was showing the movie to what he and the producers hoped would be a friendly, receptive audience of conservative Christian ministers at a conference at the Northland mega-church next to the dog track up in Longwood. They're marking this movie, which they had said, earlier, they'd open in Feb. (now April) the same way they pitched The Passion of the Christ and The Chronicles of Narnia, said Paul Lauer of Motive Entertainment, who introduced Stein. In other words, a stealth campaign, out of the public eye, preaching to the choir to get the word out about the movie without anyone who isn't a true believer passing a discouraging judgment on it. ..."


Beatles' "Across the Universe" Is Being Sent "Across the Universe"...

UPI reports on Feb. 1st that "U.S. space officials said The Beatles song 'Across the Universe' will be blasted directly into deep space next week. The tune will be beamed over NASA's Deep Space Network at 7 p.m. EST on Feb. 4. to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the day The Beatles recorded the song, as well as the 50th anniversary of the founding of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the agency said in a release. The transmission is being aimed at the North Star, Polaris, 431 light years away from Earth. ... 'Amazing! Well done, NASA!'' former Beatle Paul McCartney said in a message to the space agency. 'Send my love to the aliens. All the best, Paul.' 'I see that this is the beginning of the new age in which we will communicate with billions of planets across the universe,'' [Yoko] Ono said in a statement. ..."


Get Ready for Graphene...

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reports on Jan. 30th about an exciting new research breakthrough. "The new research has implications for a range of developments from solar cells to bionic ears. Australian researchers have discovered a cheap and simple way to make sheets of carbon just one atom thick - a finding that has implications for a range of developments from solar cells to bionic ears. The sheets, known as graphene, normally stack together to make the kind of graphite used in pencils. But Professor Gordon Wallace from the University of Wollongong says that when separated, graphene sheets have extraordinary electronic, thermal and mechanical characteristics. ..."


GM Onions: No More Tears...

AFP reports on Feb. 1st that "Scientists in New Zealand and Japan have created a 'tear-free' onion using biotechnology to switch off the gene behind the enzyme that makes us cry, one of the leading researchers said Friday. The discovery could signal an end to one of cooking's eternal puzzles: why does cutting up a simple onion sting the eyes and trigger teardrops? The research institute in New Zealand, Crop and Food, used gene-silencing technology to make the breakthrough which it hopes could lead to a prototype onion hitting the market in a decade's time. Colin Eady, the institute's senior scientist, said the project started in 2002 after Japanese scientists located the gene responsible for producing the agent behind the tears. ..."


Dinosaur Publishing Controversy Focused on New Mexico...

Rex Dalton at Nature reports on a name-calling dispute over aetosaurs on Jan. 30th. Dalton writes "An ethics row has broken out among palaeontologists over the naming of aetosaurs, a type of ancient armoured reptile. Doctoral students in the United States and Poland are accusing scientists at the Albuquerque-based New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science (NMMNHS) of publishing articles that allegedly pilfered their research. The allegations concern three articles published in the NMMNHS Bulletin by the museum's interim director Spencer Lucas, former director Adrian Hunt and their co-authors. The disputed articles name and describe different aetosaurs, and detail how the 220-million-year-old reptiles are related to crocodiles and dinosaurs. In one instance, Lucas, Hunt and Justin Spielmann, the museum's geoscience collections manager, are accused of rushing to publish a new name for an aetosaur (Rioarribasuchus) when they allegedly knew that palaeontologist William Parker of the Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona was soon to publish an article naming the species (as Heliocanthus). ..."



Homeopathy - Quack Medicine. A Special Report by Harry M. Murphy


"Beyond Earthquake Lights: Progress in Seismo-EM" by Alberto Enriquez


Posted January 25th, 2008

Shubin's "Tiktaalik" Book a "Creationist’s Nightmare"...

Lizzy Ratner of the New York Observer reviewed Neil Shubin's book "Your Inner Fish" on January 18 She writes "When the renowned paleontologist Neil Shubin announced in 2006 that he’d discovered an ancient fossil with an uncanny resemblance to a 'missing link' between fish and land-dwellers, creationists responded with all the fury of pissed off-apes. Jumping, hooting and thumping their chests, they denounced the discovery as secular 'propaganda' and trashed Dr. Shubin’s creature, named Tiktaalik, as nothing more than a desperate, pro-evolution publicity stunt. ..."


Cooking Up an Entire Genome in the Lab...

Maggie Fox (Reuters) reports on Jan. 24th that "Researchers have assembled the entire genome of a living organism — a bacterium — in what they hope is an important step to creating artificial life. The bug, Mycoplasma genitalium, has the smallest known genome of any truly living organism, with 485 working genes. Viruses are smaller, but they are not considered completely alive as they cannot replicate by themselves. Bacteria can and do, and the team at the non-profit J. Craig Venter Institute in Maryland has been working for years to try to build M. genitalium from scratch. "We consider this the second in significant steps of a three-step process in our attempts to make the first synthetic organism," Craig Venter, founder of the institute, told a telephone briefing. 'This entire process started with four bottles of chemicals.'..."


Video Takes On ID's Cambrian "Bait and Switch"...

For years, Intelligent Design Creationist Jonathan Wells has gone around saying "... according to the fossil record all the major types of animals appeared abruptly about 550 million years ago. ... This 'Cambrian explosion' of living things contradicts the branching-tree pattern predicted by Darwin's theory. ..."

We at NMSR called him on this way back in 1999, writing "But his 'types' of animals don't include amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals, which all came into being hundreds of millions of years after the Cambrian explosion with extant fossil records showing common descent. ..."

Wells responded to NMSR, writing "Regarding the Cambrian explosion: It's true that in my Melvindale op-ed piece I wrote that 'all the major types of animals' arose in the Cambrian, by which I meant the major animal phyla. There is no substantial controversy over this among paleontologists. I used 'major types' instead of 'phyla' because of the audience I was addressing, but this usage is not unique among science writers. As you correctly point out, the various classes of vertebrates arose later; but the chordate phylum is represented in the Cambrian fauna. ..."


Years later, Wells, now adorned with a beard, is STILL making the same "Bait and Switch" claims in his Discovery Institute videos. But a Brit Youtube devotee has responded, and has nailed Wells a good one on this very topic. It's worth the seven minutes to check it out.


Hat Tip: Dorid, The Radula

DI Still Touting Misleading "Dissent From Darwin" List...

The Discovery Institute's Robert Crowther writes on January 23, 2008 that "Every so often the Darwinists get all riled up about the Scientific Dissent From Darwin list, which lists over 700 PhD scientists who publicly affirm: 'We are skeptical of the claims for the ability of random mutations and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian Theory should be encouraged.'..."

However, some of the affiliations of List Signers are quite inaccurate, even years after a mistake was reported. A case in point is NM's own Rebecca Keller, formerly at UNM. Keller is currently (2008) listed as: Rebecca Keller, Research Professor, Department of Chemistry University of New Mexico.

I was suspicious of this way back in October of 2001, and wrote her about it then. She replied that she was not a "Research Professor," but instead a "Research Assistant Professor" (an unpaid, untenured position). In another letter to her, I said "... It appears the Discovery Institute's page at isn't exactly right when they refer to you as a 'research professor' rather than a 'research assistant professor,'' but I suspect that that mistake might be theirs rather than yours. ... I will leave it to you to inform the DI folks of their minor error. ..."

Seven years later, not only did Keller never get the "Magisterium" (e.g. the Discovery Institute) to correct their error - she is no longer at UNM in ANY capacity. Just go to the UNM Directory at, and search on Keller. Rebecca Keller is not one of the 18 people at UNM with Keller in their names, but her husband, David Keller, is still there. Short Version: former UNM Chem. dept. "research assistant professor" was wrongly listed as a 'research professor' on the DI's List, and the mistake persists to the present day, at which time Keller is not even at UNM at all. ...



Researchers outsmart quantum physics? The Low Noise Laser... reports on Jan. 25th that "Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics and Leibniz University of Hanover have produced a laser beam of especially high quality. In doing so, they have achieved a new world record in the control of photons by precisely placing the photons in a specific order. This results in a reduction in the quantum mechanical intensity fluctuations, known as photon noise, of 90 percent. Using this extremely quiet light in gravitational wave detectors can drastically increase their sensitivity. This so-called squeezed light can also be used in quantum key distribution, where a message is encrypted using a key whose security is guaranteed by quantum mechanics. ..." ...


Posted January 18th, 2008

ID Resolutions Bombarding FL School Boards - do they have a Common Ancestor?

Florida Citizens for Science on Jan. 16th writes "Where did those anti-evolution resolutions come from? A lengthy article in the Florida Baptist Witness doesn’t come right out and say it, but the source of the anti-evolution resolutions seems to be: 'Kendall [Kim Kendall, a leading activist opposing the standards and a member of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville] agreed with the idea of academic freedom in the classroom, she told the Witness in a later e-mail. ... Kendall said the president overseeing the school districts plans to send a copy of the resolution to further awareness in other districts and provide a template for them to use should they choose to do so.' Acknowledging that other districts may not follow suit, Kendall said she urges residents of other counties to encourage their school boards to form their own resolutions. ..."


See Also:

Vast Cloud Of Antimatter Traced To Binary Stars...

ScienceDaily reports on Jan. 10 "Four years of observations from the European Space Agency’s Integral (INTErnational Gamma-Ray Astrophysics Laboratory) satellite may have cleared up one of the most vexing mysteries in our Milky Way: the origin of a giant cloud of antimatter surrounding the galactic center. Integral found that the cloud extends farther on the western side of the galactic center than it does on the eastern side. This imbalance matches the distribution of a population of binary star systems that contain black holes or neutron stars, strongly suggesting that these binaries are churning out at least half of the antimatter, and perhaps all of it. ..."

Hat Tip: Teddy Kring

Barbara Forrest on Texas Ed. Agency and "Neutrality that Isn't" ...

Barbara Forrest writes on Jan 14 at that "There are times when 'neutrality' isn’t neutral, when a desire to appear unbiased betrays a bias. The Texas Education Agency’s reluctance to appear biased in favor of evolution and against intelligent design (ID) creationism is one of those times. ..."


City of ABQ Caught Fudging "Green Claims"...

John Fleck of the Albuquerque Journal writes on Jan. 13th that "It is a claim every Albuquerque resident who cares about global warming could be proud of: Since 1990, city residents have cut their greenhouse gas emissions by 6 percent. It is also untrue. The claim was contained in a report that was until recently featured prominently on the city's AlbuquerqueGreen Web site. As the nation's emissions of global warming-causing pollutants is on the rise, ours are going down, the report claimed. But the report vastly overstated the city's greenhouse gas reductions. City officials acknowledged the problem and removed the report from a city Web site after the Journal requested supporting data. It is not an isolated case. A Journal review shows the claims of greenhouse gas reductions and other "sustainability" successes made by the city are often exaggerated, misleading or wrong." ...

Source: (subscription)

He's BAAACK... Dennis Lee's UCSA Pimping "9x Mileage" Device in Newsweek...

UCSA takes out FULL-PAGE Ad in Newsweek (Jan. 14th, 2008). While the ad makes no mention of Dennis Lee or UCSA, the web site DOES! The device was tested at "OUR Research Facility". Where is the Independent test? Where's the BEEF?


Inquisition at JPL?

Tim Rutten of the Los Angeles Times writes on Jan. 16th that "The government shouldn't be prying into the personal lives of its scientists. ... For the last four years, two robot rovers operated from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Canada Flintridge have been moving across the surface of Mars, taking photographs and collecting information. It's an epic event in the history of exploration, one of many for which JPL's 7,000 civilian scientists and engineers are responsible - when they're not fending off the U.S. government's attempts to conduct an intimidating and probably illegal inquisition into the intimate details of their lives. ..."


CU Biology Dep't Stalker E-mails He'll "Back Off"...

Colorado Daily reports on Jan. 16th that "CU officials served a formal notice last month to a man who has allegedly sent more than a dozen death threats to CU-Boulder's biology faculty. CU's notice told the man to not contact the faculty any more and says CU will start civil proceedings against him if he does. The letter, sent Dec. 6, was addressed to Menacher 'Michael' Korn, a 49-year-old Christian-baptized Israeli national who allegedly threatened and defamed CU's biology faculty for teaching evolution. Korn replied to the email saying 'i have read your letter and understand its terms. i appreciate your warning, and i will heed it even as i am saddened by the refusal of the CU faculty to conduct open and honest discourse on this matter.' Korn's response neither admitted nor denied that he'd written a rash of death threats." ...


Expelled: Gaming the Movie Ratings...

In a blog titled "Flunked, Not Expelled: Gaming the Movie Ratings," Wesley Elsberry writes on Jan. 16th about Ben Stein's upcoming ID movie, "Expelled," noting that " ,..Apparently, these folks are running scared that their project will be little more than one step up from 'direct to video' projects, and are coordinating mass attendance of students and their parents from literalist-Christian schools. They are providing what amounts to a kickback to school administrators for movie ticket stubs from attendees who go to the 'Expelled' movie during its first two weeks in the local theater. Notice that the ticket stubs become worth $10 each to participating schools at the maximum on their scale, a value that is likely higher than the actual ticket price. We knew before that antievolutionists fell into the 'more money than sense' category, but this provides abundant confirmation that someone is very, very worried about reception of this film, and is willing to pay a premium to artificially drive up ticket sales. And note the specific recommendations given to schools for this kickback drive: 'Q: What’s the best way to get our school families to come out to the movies? A: In speaking with Christian Schools, we’ve found that hosting a school-wide "mandatory" field trip is the best way to maximize your school’s earning potential.' ..." ...


Answers in Genesis and Ken Ham Hoppin' Mad over UNM Grand Canyon Project...

Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis complains on Jan. 9th about "Evolutionists are becoming more aggressive as more and more people are educated in creation apologetics (e.g., through the Creation Museum and AiG). A recent news release tells of a $2.1 million grant to even further indoctrinate the 5 million visitors a year at the Grand Canyon. The news release states: 'An interpretive walking timeline trail that focuses on Grand Canyon vistas and rocks is being created with the help of scientists at the University of New Mexico, the National Park Service and a $2.1 million grant from the National Science Foundation. This ‘Trail of Time’ will help visitors explore, ponder and understand the magnitude of geologic time and its stories encoded by Grand Canyon rock layers and landscapes. Professors Karl Karlstrom and Laura Crossey in the Earth and Planetary Sciences Department in the College of Arts and Sciences are working on the planning and installation of the exhibit along the South rim of the Grand Canyon. The trail would be the world’s largest geo-science education exhibit at one of the world’s grandest geologic landscapes.' ... The evolutionary establishment are certainly worried—just makes me more zealous than ever to expand the Creation Museum and disseminate creation/gospel/worldview information more widely than ever. Thanks for stopping by and thanks for praying. ..."


See Also:

Posted January 11th, 2008

Creationists STILL Feuding...

Last year, a feud erupted between the Australian-based Creation Ministires International (CMI) and its American offspring, Answers in Genesis (AiG). While it was reported that the two factions had settled arguments about AiG's alleged theft of the Creation magazine title and membership, it appears the Rift is back on.


Christian Science Monitor on "Your Beliefs vs. the Facts" ...

Thomas Martin of the Christian Science Monitor writes on Jan. 3rd "... the phenomenon of "evidence blindness" is hardly restricted to inexperienced students, or even to ideological segments of the general population. To varying degrees, it can be found across the spectrum, including some very striking examples in the realm of professional science itself. As noted last year in Seed magazine, leading disciplinary practitioners who feel threatened by unorthodox new findings will sometimes band together to suppress such information, with the explicit intention of blocking its appearance in scientific journals. ..." ...


Huckster Huckabee and Dodging Evolution...

Inside Higher Ed reports on Jan. 11th that " ...professors need to take a closer look at Huckabee’s record on the teaching of evolution in the public schools — an issue that is not specific to higher education, but that ultimately can have a major impact on science education policy and the nature of intellectual debate in the United States. During Huckabee’s tenure as Governor, evolution education in Arkansas languished in an environment of general hostility and insufficiency." ...


Genetic Links to Autism...

ABC News reports on Jan. 9th that "Children with a rare chromosome abnormality may be 100 times more likely to develop autism, says a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine today. A team of researchers says it has found a genetic anomaly on one chromosome that makes up the DNA of human beings. For years, it's been a mystery. The number of children with autism was growing, but researchers could not understand why. Some parents and advocates suspected the cause was chemical. They wondered if there might be a link between autism and mercury, which was used for years as a preservative in childhood vaccines. But a study published this past Monday says no. Autism rates in the state of California continued to increase for children between the ages of 3 to 12, even after mercury was removed from most childhood shots in 2001. The study was published in the journal Archives of General Psychiatry. ..."


Trouble Brewing in Florida - 12 Counties Infected with ID Virus...

Florida Citizens for Science reports on Jan. 10th that a Miami Herald opinion piece says that "Oscar Howard Jr., superintendent of Taylor County’s School District, and Danny Lundy, vice chairman of the School Board, spoke in accents from that other Florida. 'We're opposed to teaching evolution as a fact,'' Howard said, adding that his School Board and 11 others have passed resolutions against the imposition of evolution in the school curriculum."...


Posted January 4th, 2008


It's time once again for NMSR's Annual Awards, for 2007 ...


New January Puzzle ...

Test your brains on NMSR's Puzzle of the Month for January: "The Flower and the Lake" ...


NMSR's JANUARY 2008 Newsletter is On-Line ...

Check out the January 2008 NMSR Reports!


Wonder Quest January Column...

Check out April Holladay's Wonder Quest column for January 2008: "Vacuum - where nothing weighs something" ... (This is the ON-LINE column, and is NOT the same as the Newsletter Column!)


See Also Hot News of the Week, or News Summaries for 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001 or 2000.


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