NEWS FROM EARLIER IN THE YEAR 2010
by Dave Thomas : nmsrdaveATswcp.com (Help fight SPAM! Please replace the AT with an @ . NOTE - ALSO, PLEASE USE A DESCRIPTIVE SUBJECT LINE! E-MAILS WITH NO SUBJECT LINE, OR ONLY A ONE-WORD SUBJECT LINE, WILL BE AUTOMATICALLY DELETED AS SPAM!)
Posted December 10th, 2010
It's Ba-a-a-a-ack! The Bible Code III! ...
Michael Drosnin's third book in the Bible Code series, called the Bible Code III: Saving the World, was released this week, accompanied by a full-page ad in the NY Times on Dec. 8th, 2010. Drosnin has kindly placed an excerpt from his new book on the internet:
I applied the "Bible Code" technique to this excerpt (a mere 3,861 characters, for 818 words), and found these AMAZING secret messages: "The Bible Code is a Vain Hoax", "The Bible Code is Megalo-Mania".
Do these codes mean anything? Of course not! They just serve to show how easily hidden messages can be produced in any text, not just the Torah. I searched for MEGALO-MANIA because I suspect that Bible Code III will be just more of Drosnin's megalomania that was so overdone in Bible Code II. The man really thinks he's the one individual who can save the World!
Ben Radford discusses this on Live Science: http://www.livescience.com/strangenews/bible-code-messages-nuke-warnings-101208.html
More at the James Randi Educational Foundation Forum: http://forums.randi.org/showthread.php?t=194260
See these new puzzles in Colour: http://www.nmsr.org/biblecod.htm
Biology textbooks approved in Louisiana...
The National Center for Science Education reports on Dec. 9th " At its December 9, 2010, meeting, the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted 8-2 to approve high school biology textbooks, despite the ongoing complaints of creationists objecting to their treatment of evolution. As NCSE previously reported, a decision on the textbooks, expected initially in October 2010, was deferred by the board, which sought a recommendation from its Textbook/Media/Library Advisory Council. On November 12, 2010, the council voted 8-4 to recommend the textbooks. Then, on December 7, 2010, a committee of the board voted 6-1 to move forward with the purchase, 'over the objection of a crowd of people who wanted books that at least mention creationism or intelligent design or say that evolution is not a fact,' according to the Lafayette Daily Advertiser (December 7, 2010). ..."
"CLIMATEGATE II": Wegman and Plagiarism ...
The American Independent reports on Dec. 9th that " George Mason University continues to scrutinize charges of plagiarism against a 2006 congressional panel commissioned by U.S. Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), then-chair of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, that questioned scientific evidence of climate change. But paleoclimatology researcher Michael Mann said the authors of 'Ad Hoc Committee Report on the 'Hockey Stick' Global Climate Reconstruction,' commonly known as the Wegman report, could soon face more serious allegations, including of political bias and misleading Congress. The Wegman report, written by a three-member panel including George Mason University (GMU) statistics professor Edward Wegman, criticized Mann’s work in reconstructing temperature records and his extensive connections to other scientists in his field. In a parallel assessment, the National Research Council (NRC) largely substantiated Mann’s work. 'My understanding is that plagiarism is the least of the problems with the report, it was just the easiest to document,' wrote Mann in an e-mail. He said there is 'solid evidence' that the Wegman report was highly influenced by Barton’s office. Mann cited an independent analysis done by an anonymous Canadian blogger and a private-sector computer analyst. The independent report lays out a series of more-serious allegations, potentially arising to felony-level misrepresentation of information to Congress. ..."
Puzzles provide Insight on Insight...
The New York Times reports on Dec. 6th " Puzzle-solving is such an ancient, universal practice, scholars say, precisely because it depends on creative insight, on the primitive spark that ignited the first campfires. And now, modern neuroscientists are beginning to tap its source. In a just completed study, researchers at Northwestern University found that people were more likely to solve word puzzles with sudden insight when they were amused, having just seen a short comedy routine. 'What we think is happening,' said Mark Beeman, a neuroscientist who conducted the study with Karuna Subramaniam, a graduate student, 'is that the humor, this positive mood, is lowering the brain's threshold for detecting weaker or more remote connections' to solve puzzles. This and other recent research suggest that the appeal of puzzles goes far deeper than the dopamine-reward rush of finding a solution. The very idea of doing a crossword or a Sudoku puzzle typically shifts the brain into an open, playful state that is itself a pleasing escape, captivating to people as different as Bill Clinton, a puzzle addict, and the famous amnesiac Henry Molaison, or H.M., whose damaged brain craved crosswords. And that escape is all the more tantalizing for being incomplete. Unlike the cryptic social and professional mazes of real life, puzzles are reassuringly soluble; but like any serious problem, they require more than mere intellect to crack. ..."
Posted December 3rd, 2010
FOX Business Anchor Admits to Being a 9/11 Truther...
The Huffington Post reports on Nov. 24th " Fox Business host Andrew Napolitano revealed on Tuesday that he does not believe the government's account of the 9/11 attacks. Napolitano, who hosts 'Freedom Watch' on Fox Business and is frequently seen on Fox News as a legal analyst, told radio host Alex Jones — who is a prominent 9/11 conspiracy theorist —that the attacks 'couldn't possibly have been done the way the government told us.' The subject came about when Jones noted that Geraldo Rivera had recently raised questions about the collapse of World Trade Center 7 on Napolitano's Fox Business Show. 9/11 conspiracy theorists have centered on that building's collapse, contending that it was blown up by government forces. Jones asked Napolitano what his opinion about the issue was. Napolitano replied: 'It's hard for me to believe that it came down by itself...I am gratified to see that people across the board are interested. I think twenty years from now, people will look at 9-11 the way we look at the assassination of JFK today. It couldn't possibly have been done the way the government told us.' ..."
Kentucky Gov. Beshear backs Creationist Amusement Park...
The Huffington Post reports on Dec. 1st that " A massive replica of Noah's Ark stretching three stories high and the distance of two football fields may soon be on its way to Northern Kentucky, where it will make its home as the staple of a creationist theme park, Ark Encounter. In an interesting twist, the creationist park is supported by the state's Democratic governor, Steve Beshear. According to the Louisville Courier-Journal, the theme park's creators are currently seeking state tax incentives that could allow them to recover 25 percent of the facility's cost. Some are questioning whether such a stimulus would violate the separation of church and state. ..."
Commentary and Video, copies of the press release and creationist handouts, and Q&A, "Will the Ark have Dinosaurs?" (Yes!)" http://barefootandprogressive.blogspot.com/2010/12/steve-beshear-humiliates-state-of.html
Light-based technology kills hospital superbugs...
Electronics Design News reported on Nov. 29th that " Researchers at the University of Strathclyde (Glasgow, Scotland) have developed a lighting technology that decontaminates the air and exposed surfaces by bathing them in high-intensity, narrow spectrum (HINS) visible light. The system works by using HINS light to excite molecules contained within bacteria which in turn produces highly reactive chemical species that kill bacteria such as meticillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, aka MRSA, and Clostridium difficile, known as C.diff. 'HINS-light is a safe treatment that can be easily automated to provide continuous disinfection of wards and other areas of the clinical environment. The pervasive nature of light permits the treatment of air and all visible surfaces, regardless of accessibility, either through direct or reflected exposure to HINS-light within the treated environment.' ..."
Multiple Fringe Beliefs: Creationist and Anti-Vaccine Woo...
Barbara Forrest reports on her Louisiana Coalition for Science blog on Dec. 2nd on the curious connection between disgraced scientist Andrew Wakefield (whose 1998 paper in the Lancet, responsible for the "vaccines cause autism" scare, was forcibly retracted in that journal last February) and John Oller (a young-earth creationist in the thick of Louisiana's efforts to insert creationism into public schools).
It turns out that Oller migrated to Louisiana from New Mexico. Oller was heavily involved in the 1996-7 push for creationism here in New Mexico, testifying at board meetings and senate hearings frequently.
It also turns out that Oller invited Wakefield to pen a foreword to Oller's new book, which Wakefield cheerfully provided. Oller has also organized ant-vaccine conferences. So, we have another item to add to the growing list of intersecting fringe beliefs (9/11 truth plus Holocaust denial, or creationism plus climate change denial, for example). Barb's post is lengthy, but worth the read.
Posted November 12th, 2010
Geoffrey Crawley, Dead at 83, Gently Deflated a Fairy Hoax...
The New York Times reports on Nov. 6th "Frances Griffiths, above, and Elsie Wright produced pictures of fairies they claimed to see near their house. Were there really fairies at the bottom of the garden, or was it merely a childhood prank gone strangely and lastingly awry? That, for six decades, was the central question behind the Cottingley fairies mystery, the story of two English schoolgirls who claimed to have taken five pictures of fairy folk in the 1910s and afterward. Set awhirl by the international news media, the girls' account won the support of many powerful people, including one of the most famous literary men in Britain[A. Conan Doyle]. It inspired books and, later on, films, including 'Fairy Tale: A True Story' (1997), starring Peter O'Toole, and 'Photographing Fairies' (1997), starring Ben Kingsley. From the start, there were doubters. But there was no conclusive proof of deception until the 1980s, when a series of articles by the English photographic scientist Geoffrey Crawley helped reveal the story for what it was: one of the most enduring, if inadvertent, photographic hoaxes of the 20th century. A polymath who was variously a skilled pianist, linguist, chemist, inventor and editor, Mr. Crawley died on Oct. 29, at 83, at his home in Westcliff-on-Sea, England. ... In the late 1970s and early 1980s, empirical investigation of the case began in earnest. The primary investigators, working independently, included James Randi, the magician and professional skeptic; Joe Cooper, an English journalist; and Mr. Crawley. ... From the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s, Mr. Crawley was editor in chief of the magazine British Journal of Photography. His 10-part series exposing the Cottingley fairy photographs as fakes appeared there in 1982 and 1983. ..."
Universities "Endorsing" Magnetic Woo Bracelets?
In his "Bad Astronomy" blog for Nov. 9th, Phil Plait writes " Have you heard about these Power Bands, or Power Balance bracelets? The claims by the manufacturer and at countless demos are that these bands improve balance, flexibility, endurance, and strength by employing holograms which send frequencies that somehow interact with your body’s frequencies or electric field or glaven or some other undefinable manifestation. Yeah. You can imagine what I think about that. And if you can’t, I’ll be clear: that claim is complete nonsense. Literally, it makes no sense. Holograms don’t emit anything, frequency or otherwise; there’s no such thing as your body's frequency; and there’s no way inside the laws of physics that a rubber band with a cheap plastic hologram in it can affect your body, unless a) you’re allergic to rubber, or 2) it hits you at meteoric velocities. ... So why on Earth would such a product be sold with a University logo on it? Yet, that's what's happening with the University of Colorado, among other institutions. Power Bands are being sold with the CU logo on them. Now let me be careful here. These bands are being sold by the Power Force company online, as well as by the CU Athletic Department. The Athletic Department is separate from the University itself, and is the entity that licenses the logo used ('alphie' the buffalo). ... the claim that the University is not actually endorsing the product may be literally true. But in practice that justification rests on a razor's edge. As you can see if you look at the product in question, it has the Buffalo and the letters 'CU' on it. It doesn't say 'CU Athletic Department', it just says CU. Any customer buying that product will see that logo and assume it's the University endorsing the product. If some product making medical and physical claims has a University logo on it, then what is the buyer supposed to expect? ..."
Is that a Squirt Gun, or a Radio Antenna?
The US Navy has announced that " ... The typical Navy vessel currently houses 80 different antennae. With increasing antenna demand in many situations, smaller antennas are becoming more valuable to save precious surface real estate. SSC Pacific has developed a technology that uses the magnetic induction properties of sodium chloride (salt) in sea water to create a VHF antenna. Sea water is pumped from the ocean into a stream and the width and length of the stream determine the frequency capabilities. An 80-foot-high stream could transmit and receive from 2 to 400 mHz with a relatively small footprint. The Sea Water Antenna is capable of transmitting and receiving VHF signals and has been tested at a receiving range of over 30 miles. The antennae needs of a typical Navy vessel with 80 metallic antennas could theoretically be replaced with only 10 Sea Water Antennas of varying heights and streams to cover the same frequencies. The technology could potentially be used on land with salt-supplemented water, replacing large unsightly antenna towers with fountains. Another use could be as a solar- or battery-powered emergency antenna system for watercraft. ..."
Source, with video, photos: http://www.public.navy.mil/spawar/Pacific/TechTransfer/ProductsServices/Pages/SeaWaterAntennaSystem.aspx
Jon Stewart on the "Unauthorized Missile Launch"...
On the Daily Show for Nov. 10th, Jon Stewart had a segment titled "Missile: Impossible", featuring a report from Wyatt Cenac "that there is a boy attached to the mysterious missile spotted off the California coast. ..."
It's definitely worth the 8 and a half minutes!
At the "Rally to Restore Sanity" on Oct. 30th, Stewart said these amazingly prescient words: "The country's 24-hour, political pundit perpetual panic conflictinator did not cause our problems, but its existence makes solving them that much harder. The press can hold its magnifying glass up to our problems, bringing them into focus, illuminating issues heretofore unseen. Or they can use that magnifying glass to light ants on fire, and then perhaps host a week of shows on the dangerous, unexpected flaming ants epidemic. If we amplify everything, we hear nothing. ..."
Posted November 5th, 2010
Govt. says Genes Should Not Be Eligible for Patents...
The New York Times reports on Oct. 29th that " Reversing a longstanding policy, the federal government said on Friday that human and other genes should not be eligible for patents because they are part of nature. The new position could have a huge impact on medicine and on the biotechnology industry. The new position was declared in a friend-of-the-court brief filed by the Department of Justice late Friday in a case involving two human genes linked to breast and ovarian cancer. 'We acknowledge that this conclusion is contrary to the longstanding practice of the Patent and Trademark Office, as well as the practice of the National Institutes of Health and other government agencies that have in the past sought and obtained patents for isolated genomic DNA,' the brief said. It is not clear if the position in the legal brief, which appears to have been the result of discussions among various government agencies, will be put into effect by the Patent Office. If it were, it is likely to draw protests from some biotechnology companies that say such patents are vital to the development of diagnostic tests, drugs and the emerging field of personalized medicine, in which drugs are tailored for individual patients based on their genes. ..."
Evolution's Sexual Revolutionary Dies...
The New York Times reports on Oct. 30th that " His beard, it was said, was longer than God's but not as long as Charles Darwin's. Thousands of books teetered perilously in his office, and a motion-sensitive door startled visitors with cricket chirps. He took notes on his own thoughts while conversing with others. The evolutionary biologist Leigh Van Valen's eccentricities were legend far beyond the University of Chicago, where brilliant and idiosyncratic professors rule. He named 20 fossil mammals he had discovered after characters in J. R. R. Tolkien's fiction, and his most famous hypothesis — among the most cited in the literature of evolution — was named for the Red Queen in Lewis Carroll's 'Through the Looking Glass.' That hypothesis helped explain why organisms, competing for survival, developed two sexes. It did not explain why Professor Van Valen gave better grades to students who disagreed with him — provoking an instant evolutionary adaptation in the tone of student essays — much less why he wrote songs about the sex lives of dinosaurs and paramecia. Dr. Van Valen, who died in Chicago on Oct. 16 at the age of 76, changed the conversation about how life works in 1973 when he put forward 'a new evolutionary law.' Others call it Van Valen's law. ..."
Denver Votes Down ET Measure...
The Denver Post reported on Nov. 3rd " Denver voters on Tuesday overwhelmingly rejected a ballot measure that would have required the city to create the world's first government-sanctioned extraterrestrial-affairs commission. Initiative 300, as the proposal was labeled, went down in flames, according to incomplete vote tallies from the City Clerk's Office. More than 84 percent of voters rejected the idea. Supporters of the measure said those numbers weren't unexpected. 'It's better than what we thought,' said Jeff Peckman, a Denver resident and the measure's most vocal backer. 'This was always about engaging the voters and getting them involved. These things can take time.' The measure would have required the mayor to appoint seven members to the new commission. At least one would have to be an expert 'who had consulted at least 100 people regarding their alleged close encounters with extraterrestrial intelligent beings.' Ballot language allowed that commission members 'who are not Denver residents may participate from anywhere in the universe by any means available.' ..."
Barker takes on UNM UFO Study ...
Larry Barker's Nov. 4th investigation for KRQE TV-13 took on UNM's involvement with the SciFi Channel's flaky "The Roswell Crash: Startling New Evidence" show of 2002. Barker notes that "... Sorry Roswell, but there is no scientific proof a flying saucer ever plowed into the New Mexico prairie. There are no GPS coordinates, photos, recordings, debris or, for that matter, little green men. Zilch. Nothing. Nada. So it's going to take more than faded memories of a few old-timers to turn skeptics into believers. What the UFO community badly needs is scientific evidence. And that's where the University of New Mexico enters the picture. 'We engaged in a highly credible standard archeological investigation of a piece of landscape that has been warranted to be the location of a flying-saucer event,' Dick Chapman, director of UNM's Office of Contract Archeology, said. And how many previous research projects had Chapman and staff done related to UFOs and flying saucers? 'This was the only one,' Chapman said. ... 'I thought, 'Wow, this is a real hoot. This is going to be interesting,'' retired UNM archeologist Bill Doleman said. 'Believe me, if you go to Outer Mongolia and say Roswell, the response from people who don't speak a word of English will be 'UFO.'' Doleman headed the UNM project featured in a TV documentary hosted by Bryant Gumbel on the cable Sci-Fi Channel. 'Archeologists from the University of New Mexico have returned to Roswell with a unique new mission: to use the tools of modern science to prove or disprove what some claim is science fiction,' Gumbel narrates in the show before cutting to Doleman. 'We are digging holes in the ground to look for physical evidence of an extraterrestrial vessel impact,' the scientist then says. ... 'I love science fiction, but that's not what the research division of a university should be putting out,' Dave Thomas of New Mexicans for Science & Reason said. 'Maybe UNM should consider changing the name of the College of Arts and Sciences to the College of Art and Science Fictions.' Thomas, a physicist at New Mexico Tech in Socorro, leads an organization that promotes the use of science in examining unusual claims. 'I think they did get sucked into what basically was a massive exercise in pseudoscience,' he said. The validity of UNM's alien dig is predicated on the assumption that a UFO really did crash, and where it ended up is absolutely critical. You see, if a flying saucer crashed over there, but UNM dug over here, then the entire exercise is pointless. Doleman conceded the value of the excavation amounts to 'not much' if the UNM team dug in the wrong place. ... UNM's dig location was chosen by two discredited UFO believers Don Schmitt and Tom Carey who acted as technical advisors to the Sci-Fi Channel. 'Today they will take to the air in search of the final resting place of the ill fated spacecraft,' Gumbel intones during the documentary. Asked if he would rely on Don Schmitt to locate the site for an expensive scientific dig, Thomas said, 'I sure wouldn't. No.' So how did Schmitt and Carey know a UFO crashed at that exact site? Well, they didn't, and neither did UNM.' 'The digging was science,' Doleman said. 'The choosing of the location was not.' ... But when it was all over, UNM came up empty-handed finding no physical evidence of a UFO crash, Doleman said. 'I think they would have been wise just to say, 'We're not going to do it, find somebody else to do it, that's not what we do, pseudoscience for hire,'' Thomas said. 'I think the only thing that would convince the UFO community that nothing happened in Roswell would be for aliens to land on the lawn of the White House and come out and say, 'Guys we had nothing to do with 1947. That wasn't us.'' Still, Doleman isn't willing to give up on the aliens yet. He said the purported site needs further study. ..."
Source, and Complete Video: http://www.krqe.com/dpp/news/larry_barker/unm-scientists-dig-for-flying-saucer
See Also NMSR's report on the Dig and the Show: http://www.nmsr.org/sf-gun.htm
Posted October 15th, 2010
Mann Bites Back...
On his Bad Astronomy blog, Phil Plait gives climate scientst Michael Mann a chance to reply to some misrepresentations made by Congressman Joe Barton in the Washington Post, in reply to an earlier column by Mann. While the Post cut off the series, citing not wanting to prolong an interminable "He said/She said" exchange, Plait (and NMSR) are pleased to print Mann's reply in toto.
" I recently wrote an essay arguing that politicians should stop attacking scientists. Rep. Joe Barton's response was to write a letter attacking me yet again. He continues to misrepresent my research, insult my character and spread misinformation about climate science.
Barton deeply mischaracterizes a 2006 National Academy of Sciences report on past climates. He wrongly equates the report's conclusions regarding how to further advance the science with a criticism of my scientific conclusions. As the Post noted ('Study Confirms Past Few Decades Warmest on Record', June 2, 2006), the academy study backed up the conclusions my colleagues and I reached more than a decade ago about the unprecedented nature of modern climate change. So have more than a dozen independent studies since.
Tellingly, Barton calls my research in this area 'global warming projections.' But such projections use models to predict future climate changes. They have nothing at all to do with the research Barton has attacked my colleagues and me for, which use real world data to reconstruct past climate changes.
After six years of these attacks, is it possible that Barton cannot even identify the nature of our work? Rep. Barton apologized to former BP CEO Tony Hayward after the company was required to pay for damage from the Gulf oil leak. He should apologize to me and my colleagues too, but I won't be holding my breath.
– Michael E. Mann, the author of 'Dire Predictions: Understanding Global Warming,' is a professor in the meteorology department at Penn State University and director of the Penn State Earth System Science Center. ..."
GSA Paper Refutes Claims of Oregon Congressional Candidate...
Last week, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow interviewed Oregon congressional candidate Art Robinson in a strange, rambling session. Robinson is a climate change denier, and apparently doesn't understand how the speed of light affects satellite remotes, either.
Of interest is this analysis of a claim made by Robinson in a supposedly scientific analysis of climate change. Sandia Nat. Labs scientist, Mark Boslough, along with Woods Hole scientist Lloyd Keigwin, have published a paper showing that Oregon candidate Art Robinson's errors and omissions in his oft-cited article on global warming have been at the epicenter of climate change denial for years.
"Various mislabeled, improperly-drawn, and distorted versions of K4B [a figure published by Keigwin in 1996] have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, in weblogs, and even as an editorial cartoon—all supporting baseless claims that current temperatures are lower than the long-term mean, and traceable to Robinson’s misrepresentation with Station S data removed." ..."
This paper is being presented at the GSA (Geological Society of America) on, coincidentally, Election Day.
Summary of Boslough's February 2010 talk at NMSR, including the Keigwin graphic: http://www.nmsr.org/MAY2010.pdf
Fossil Pee Sheds Light on Climate Change...
Science Daily reports on Oct. 13th that "Scientists at the University of Leicester are using an unusual resource to investigate ancient climates -- prehistoric animal urine. The animal in question is the rock hyrax, a common species in countries such as Namibia and Botswana. They look like large guinea pigs but are actually related to the elephant. Hyraxes use specific locations as communal toilets, some of which have been used by generations of animals for thousands of years. The urine crystallises and builds up in stratified accumulations known as 'middens', providing a previously untapped resource for studying long-term climate change. ... Using forensic techniques the Leicester group has been able to identify the individual organic molecules preserved in the middens; these include compounds produced by the hyraxes' metabolism and plant-derived molecules which passed through the animals' digestive system. These 'biomarkers' provide clues as to the kind of plants the animals were eating and therefore the sort of environment they were living in. The biomarkers thus reveal insights into how the climate of the region has changed during the last 30,000 years, with a potential accuracy of a few decades to centuries. ..."
Bizarre Cousin of Primates and Rodents Announced...
ScienceDaily reports on Oct. 11th that "University of Florida researchers presenting new fossil evidence of an exceptionally well-preserved 55-million-year- old North American mammal have found it shares a common ancestor with rodents and primates, including humans. The study, scheduled to appear in the Oct. 11 online edition of the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, describes the cranial anatomy of the extinct mammal, Labidolemur kayi. High resolution CT scans of the specimens allowed researchers to study minute details in the skull, including bone structures smaller than one-tenth of a millimeter. Similarities in bone features with other mammals show L. kayi's living relatives are rodents, rabbits, flying lemurs, tree shrews and primates. Researchers said the new information will aide future studies to better understand the origin of primates. ..."
Posted October 8th, 2010
9/11 Conspiracy Theories Rife In Muslim World...
The Huffington Post reported on Oct. 2nd that "About a week ago, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared to the United Nations that most people in the world believe the United States was behind the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. To many people in the West, the statement was ludicrous, almost laughable if it weren't so incendiary. And surveys show that a majority of the world does not in fact believe that the U.S. orchestrated the attacks. However, the belief persists strongly among a minority, even with U.S. allies like Turkey or in the U.S. itself. And it cannot be dismissed because it reflects a gulf in politics and perception, especially between the West and many Muslims. 'That theory might be true,' said Ugur Tezer, a 48-year-old businessman who sells floor tiles in the Turkish capital, Ankara. 'When I first heard about the attack I thought, 'Osama,' but then I thought the U.S. might have done it to suppress the rise of Muslims.' ... A 2006 survey by the Pew Global Attitudes Project found that significant majorities in Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan and Turkey – all among the most moderate nations in the Islamic world – said they did not believe Arabs carried out the attacks. ..."
Global Warming: the Witch Hunt Continues...
The BadAstronomy Blog writes on Oct. 7th "Virginia State Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli really doesn't like people thinking the Earth is warming up. He has used his position to continually attack scientist Michael Mann and his work done at the University of Virginia, claiming that Dr. Mann abused taxpayer money and knowingly used falsified data. Cuccinelli was essentially riding on the coattails of the now totally-discredited Climategate fiasco. You may remember how lots of people got very upset that scientists were sending emails to each other that, when taken grossly out of context and misinterpreted, made it look like those scientists were engaged in cooking the data. Once people looked a little more carefully, it became clear that no shenanigans were going on. Interestingly, although it was hugely covered in the media and by the usual antiscience mob in politics, you hardly hear about Climategate anymore. But Cuccinelli can’t let it go. Even though his subpoena for documents from UVa was dismissed by a judge, he retooled his claims and is now demanding that the University hand over some emails from Mann to colleagues. Apparently, he feels that 'Specifically, but without limitation, some of the conclusions of the papers demonstrate a complete lack of rigor regarding the statistical analysis of the alleged data, meaning that the result reported lacked statistical significance without a specific statement to that effect.' Not surprisingly, Michael Mann — who has been repeatedly cleared of wrongdoing despite many attempts to smear him and his work — sees the situation somewhat differently: 'I find it extremely disturbing that Mr. Cuccinelli has sought to continue to abuse his power as the attorney general of Virginia in this way, in the process smearing the University of Virginia and me and other climate scientists,'' Mann said. 'The people of Virginia need to be extremely disturbed that he is using their tax dollars to pursue this partisan witch hunt.' ..."
Permian Extinction Paved Way for Dinosaurs?
Science Daily reports on Oct. 6th that "The oldest evidence of the dinosaur lineage -- fossilized tracks -- is described in Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Just one or two million years after the massive Permian-Triassic extinction, an animal smaller than a house cat walked across fine mud in what is now Poland. This fossilized trackway places the very closest relatives of dinosaurs on Earth about 250 million years ago -- 5 to 9 million years earlier than previously described fossilized skeletal material has indicated. The paper also described the 246-million-year-old Sphingopus footprints, the oldest evidence of a bipedal and large-bodied dinosaur. ..."
And, did Volcanoes Pave Way for Humans, while Wiping Out Neanderthals?
Science Daily reports on Oct. 7th that "New research suggests that climate change following massive volcanic eruptions drove Neanderthals to extinction and cleared the way for modern humans to thrive in Europe and Asia. The research, led by Liubov Vitaliena Golovanova and Vladimir Borisovich Doronichev of the ANO Laboratory of Prehistory in St. Petersburg, Russia, is reported in the October issue of Current Anthropology. ... Evidence for the catastrophe comes from Mezmaiskaya cave in the Caucasus Mountains of southern Russia, a site rich in Neanderthal bones and artifacts. Recent excavations of the cave revealed two distinct layers of volcanic ash that coincide with large-scale volcanic events that occurred around 40,000 years ago, the researchers say. Geological layers containing the ashes also hold evidence of an abrupt and potentially devastating climate change. Sediment samples from the two layers reveal greatly reduced pollen concentrations compared to surrounding layers. That's an indication of a dramatic shift to a cooler and dryer climate, the researchers say. Further, the second of the two eruptions seems to mark the end of Neanderthal presence at Mezmaiskaya. Numerous Neanderthal bones, stone tools, and the bones of prey animals have been found in the geological layers below the second ash deposit, but none are found above it. ... Anthropologists have long puzzled over the disappearance of the Neanderthals and the apparently concurrent rise of modern humans. Was there some sort of advantage that helped early modern humans out-compete their doomed cousins? This research suggests that advantage may have been simple geographic location. ..."
Posted October 1st, 2010
Vegas Hotel Creates Version of Archimedes Death Ray, Fries Clientele...
Back in 1973, TIME Magazine reported that " [Archimedes'] most remarkable contribution to weaponry, according to Lucian, Plutarch and other ancient writers, was a 'burning glass' that focused the sun's rays to set fire to Roman ships besieging his home town of Syracuse around 214 B.C. Archimedes...would have realized that he could create the effect of a large mirror with hundreds of smaller reflectors. Because the ancient Greeks did not have the capability of mass- producing glass mirrors, Sakkas decided that the 'burning glass' of legend was probably highly polished metal—most likely, the shields of Syracuse's soldiers. 'Archimedes could have just lined the men up on the walls and had them focus the sun's rays on the Roman ships, so that the Romans never knew what hit them.' ..."
Now, the Las Vegas Vdara hotel has unintentionally created its own "Death Ray" by making a hotel with a concave curved side, bearing hundreds of highly-reflective window coatings, and facing the sun during the day. ABC News reports on Sept. 30th that "A solar glare specialist who was denied a contact by a Las Vegas hotel to help it solve an intense sunlight issue -- now dubbed a 'death ray' by employees there -- says the casino ignored his advice and went with a cheaper fix. 'It is one thing to ask experts in their relative field for advice; it is another to ignore their advice without justification,' glass film manufacturer Nichols E. Ashton wrote the builders of the Vdara hotel back in November 2008. Today, guests lounging at the Las Vegas pool reportedly are getting burned by concentrated sun rays strong enough to melt plastic drink cups and plastic newspaper bags. ... Absher said the company is well aware of the lingering problem. This was the first summer of operation and he said Vdara is investigating steps to solve the solar convergence. But for now, guests are going to have to be careful as the ray moves across the pool area. Bill Pintas felt burning in his hair during his experience with the hot spot. ... 'I used to live in Miami and I've sat in the sun in Las Vegas 100 times. I know what a hot sun feels like and this was not it,' he said. 'My first inclination was thinking: Jesus we've destroyed the ozone layer because I am burning.' Pintas learned he wasn't the first person to experience the magnified sunlight. At the bar, he explained the intense heat to some employees. 'They're kind of giggling and say: 'Yeah, we know. We call it the death ray,'' Pintas said. They told him it even melts plastic cups. A plastic Vdara bag holding Pintas' newspaper also was burned through by the sun. The black letters bearing the name Vdara had entirely melted away. Pintas isn't the only one to experience the so-called death ray at the City Center hotel. ..."
Universe Today reported on Oct. 1st "What an astonishing view of Saturn‘s moon Enceladus, as seen by Cassini! At least four different plumes of water ice are spewing out from the south polar region, highlighted because of the black space behind the Moon. ... Cassini was about 617,000 kilometers (383,000 miles) away from Enceladus when it captured this image. ..."
This is one of those cases where the Picture is indeed worth 1,000 Words. Check it out!
See also: http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2010/10/01/enceladus-on-full-afterburner/
UFO Press Conference, More of the Same...
CBS News reports on Sept. 28th "One of the more out-of-the-ordinary press conferences held in Washington this week consisted of former Air Force personnel testifying to the existence of UFOs and their ability to neutralize American and Russian nuclear missiles. UFO researcher Robert Hastings of Albuquerque, N.M., who organized the National Press Club briefing, said more than 120 former service members had told him they'd seen unidentified flying objects near nuclear weapon storage and testing grounds. ..."
Hastings has been very critical of the Albuquerque Journal's John Fleck, writing in 2008 " (This is Part 3 of an earlier posting, titled, 'Reporter Duped by UFO Debunkers' in which I described how Albuquerque Journal reporter John Fleck was badly misled about the reality of UFO activity at nuclear weapons sites, by two of the leading UFO debunkers affiliated with the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI), who dismissed my own well-documented findings.) ... ..."
Posted September 24th, 2010
Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, 9/11 Truther...
The New York Times reported on Sept. 23rd that "The president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, issued a series of incendiary comments in his address to the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday afternoon, noting in particular that some people believe the United States orchestrated the Sept. 11 attacks as part of a propaganda campaign to 'reverse the declining American economy' and to 'save the Zionist regime,' meaning Israel. ... Mr. Ahmadinejad's comments, made just a few dozen blocks from the World Trade Center site, prompting a walkout by representatives of the United States, 27 European nations, the European Union, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Costa Rica. ..."
Huffington Post followed up on Sept. 24th with President Barack Obama's reaction. "'It was offensive,' Obama said in an interview with the Persian service of the BBC that was to be broadcast to the Iranian people. 'It was hateful.' 'And particularly for him to make the statement here in Manhattan, just a little north of ground zero, where families lost their loved ones, people of all faiths, all ethnicities who see this as the seminal tragedy of this generation, for him to make a statement like that was inexcusable,' Obama said. Obama said Ahmadinejad's remarks will make the American people even more wary about dealing with his government. ... A survey by the Pew Global Attitudes Project in 2006 found that majorities of Muslims in Indonesia, Turkey, Egypt and Jordan said they did not believe groups of Arabs carried out the Sept. 11 terrorists attacks. The survey also found that just over half the Muslims in Great Britain held similar opinions, as did almost a fifth of Muslims in the U.S. ..."
Conservative blog redstate.com observes "Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says 9-11 was an inside job, and Alex Jones says… nothing? You’re Alex Jones. You’ve been saying to anyone who’ll listen that 9-11 was an inside job. Today, a world leader (Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) said that same line before the United Nations. Alex Jones? Alex? Are you there? ..."
Not all "Truth" sites are ignoring Ahmadinejad's remarks: NorcalTruth.org notes "He was greeted by applause when he walked into the United Nations General Assembly, and applauded again, even after questioning 9/11 and claiming that the American government may have been behind the attack. ..."
Ahmadinejad's comments were well received at Muslims for 9/11 Truth: " The US corporate media is not reporting this story--they're just exuding yowls of fabricated outrage. They are shocked -- shocked! -- that a world leader could say anything so obvious as that 9/11 was an inside job. ..."
Texas School Board: Irony Meter Overload...
Phil Plait's Bad Astronomy blog noted on Sept. 23rd that "I cannot fathom how the members of the Texas State Board of Education can continue to surprise me with their complete and utter disregard for reality, yet here we are: they're complaining about a pro-Islam bias in textbooks. Yes, the same people who try to wedge the Bible into science textbooks, want to teach creationism, want to downplay evolution, want to eradicate the Big Bang, and want to downplay the Constitutional clause establishing separation of Church and State, are worried about someone trying to force their religion into the textbooks. KABLAM! Sorry. That was my irony gland turning into antimatter and exploding outward at the speed of light. ..."
Finding Meteor Craters with Google Earth...
ScienceDaily.com reports on Sept. 23rd that " A 2008 Google Earth search led to the discovery of Kamil crater, one of the best-preserved meteorite impact sites ever found. Earlier this year, a gritty, sand-blown expedition reached the site deep in the Egyptian desert to collect iron debris and determine the crater's age and origins. One day within the last several thousand years, a rare metallic meteorite travelling over 12 000 km/hour smashed into Earth's surface near what is today the trackless border region between Egypt, Sudan and Libya. The impact of the 1.3 m, 10-tonne chunk of iron generated a fireball and plume that would have been visible over 1000 km away, and drilled a hole 16 m deep and 45 m wide into the rocky terrain. Since then, the crater had sat undisturbed by Earth's geologic and climatic processes, which usually render all but the very largest terrestrial impact craters invisible. It was also, as far as is recorded, unseen by humans. But that changed in 2008, when the crater was spotted during a Google Earth study conducted by mineralologist Vincenzo De Michele, then with the Civico Museo di Storia Naturale in Milan, Italy. He was searching for natural features, when by chance he saw the rounded impact crater on his PC screen. ..."
Bizarre Ceratopsian had 15 Horns...
ScienceDaily.com reports on Sept. 23rd that " Two remarkable new species of horned dinosaurs have been found in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, southern Utah. The giant plant-eaters were inhabitants of the "lost continent" of Laramidia, formed when a shallow sea flooded the central region of North America, isolating the eastern and western portions of the continent for millions of years during the Late Cretaceous Period. The newly discovered dinosaurs, close relatives of the famous Triceratops, were announced in PLoS ONE, the online open- access journal produced by the Public Library of Science. ... Second of the new species is Kosmoceratops richardsoni (KOZ-mo-SARA-tops RICH-ard-SON-i). Here, the first part of the name refers to kosmos, Latin for "ornate," and ceratops, once again meaning "horned face." The latter part of the name honors Scott Richardson, the volunteer who discovered two skulls of this animal. Kosmoceratops also has sideways oriented eye horns, although much longer and more pointed than in Utahceratops. In all, Kosmoceratops possesses a total of 15 horns -- one over the nose, one atop each eye, one at the tip of each cheek bone, and ten across the rear margin of the bony frill -- making it the most ornate-headed dinosaur known. Scott Sampson, the paper's lead author, claimed that, "Kosmoceratops is one of the most amazing animals known, with a huge skull decorated with an assortment of bony bells and whistles." Although much speculation has ensued about the function of ceratopsian horns and frills -- from fighting off predators to recognizing other members of the same species or controlling body temperature -- the dominant idea today is that these features functioned first and foremost to enhance reproductive success. Sampson added, "Most of these bizarre features would have made lousy weapons to fend off predators. It's far more likely that they were used to intimidate or do battle with rivals of the same sex, as well as to attract individuals of the opposite sex." ..."
Posted September 17th, 2010
Is the Fine Structure "Constant" Variable?
UniverseToday.com reports on September 15th that " In order for astronomers to explore the outer reaches of our universe, they rely upon the assumption that the physical constants we observe in the lab on Earth are physically constant everywhere in the universe. This assumption seems to hold up extremely well. If the universe's constants were grossly different, stars would fail to shine and galaxies would fail to coalesce. Yet as far we we look in our universe, the effects which rely on these physical constants being constant, still seem to happen. But new research has revealed that one of these constants, known as the fine structure constant, may vary ever so slightly in different portions of the universe. Of all physical constants, the fine structure constant seems like an odd one to be probing with astronomy. It appears in many equations involving some of the smallest scales in the universe. In particular, it is used frequently in quantum physics and is part of the quantum derivation of the structure of the hydrogen atom. This quantum model determines the allowed energy levels of electrons in the atoms. Change this constant and the orbitals shift as well. Since the allowed energy levels determine what wavelengths of light such an atom can emit, a careful analysis of the positioning of these spectral lines in distant galaxies would reveal variations in the constant that helped control them. Using the Very Large Telescope (VLT) and the Keck Observatory, a team from the University of New South Whales has analyzed the spectra of 300 galaxies and found the subtle changes that should exist if this constant was less than constant. Since the two sets of telescopes used point in different directions (Keck in the Northern hemisphere and the VLT in the Southern), the researchers noticed that the variation seemed to have a preferred direction. As Julian King, one of the paper’s authors, explained, 'Looking to the north with Keck we see, on average, a smaller alpha in distant galaxies, but when looking south with the VLT we see a larger alpha.' However, 'it varies by only a tiny amount — about one part in 100,000 — over most of the observable universe'. As such, although the result is very intriguing, it does not demolish our understanding of the universe or make hypotheses like that of a greatly variable speed of light plausible (an argument frequently tossed around by Creationists). But, 'If our results are correct, clearly we shall need new physical theories to satisfactorily describe them.' ..."
Geocentrism Conference is Coming...
In the Bad Astronomy blog for Sept. 14th, Phil Plait takes note of an upcoming conference on Geocentrism. "A group of Geocentrists is holding a conference this November in Indiana. Called "Galileo Was Wrong: The Church Was Right", it features a veritable who’s who in geocentrism — not that there’s a lot of them. The meeting flyer is presented above; click it to see the conference details. The conference website is full of all sorts of claims saying Geocentrism is real, science is wrong (except where it supports them; cherry-picking is something else they have in common with creationists), the Bible is the only truth, and so on. ... As much as I’d love to attend that meeting — in much the same way I'd love to extract my own tonsils with a spork and a pair of pliers — I don’t need to. Geocentrism is so wrong, so amazingly wrong, that it falls apart with just a little thought. What follows below is a little thought. Geocentrism is a valid frame, but not the ONLY one ... Footnote: 'Even the dyed-in-the-wool loaded-with-nonsense website Answers In Genesis has a page refuting Geocentrism. That’s gotta hurt.' ..."
Conference website: http://www.galileowaswrong.com/galileowaswrong/
Over at Panda's Thumb, Ian Musgrave has a delightful post titled "Geo-xcentricities; you too can be Galileo with just a pair of binoculars (and gaffer tape)," in which he describes several do-it-yourself approaches with which ordinary citizens, armed with a binoculars, can falsify Geocentric Theory in just a few months. There are faster methods as well, including the Foucalt Pendulum, the topic of the NMSR October Meeting.
Why Scientific Consensus Fails to Convince...
ScienceDaily reports on Sept. 14th "Suppose a close friend who is trying to figure out the facts about climate change asks whether you think a scientist who has written a book on the topic is a knowledgeable and trustworthy expert. You see from the dust jacket that the author received a Ph.D. in a pertinent field from a major university, is on the faculty at another one, and is a member of the National Academy of Sciences. Would you advise your friend that the scientist seems like an "expert"? If you are like most people, the answer is likely to be, "it depends." What it depends on, a recent study found, is not whether the position that scientist takes is consistent with the one endorsed by a National Academy. Instead, it is likely to depend on whether the position the scientist takes is consistent with the one believed by most people who share your cultural values. This was the finding of a recent study conducted by Yale University law professor Dan Kahan, University of Oklahoma political science professor Hank Jenkins-Smith and George Washington University law professor Donald Braman that sought to understand why members of the public are sharply and persistently divided on matters on which expert scientists largely agree. ... 'The problem isn't that one side 'believes' science and another side 'distrusts' it,' said Kahan referring to an alternate theory of why there is political conflict on matters that have been extensively researched by scientists. He said the more likely reason for the disparity, as supported by the research results, "is that people tend to keep a biased score of what experts believe, counting a scientist as an 'expert' only when that scientist agrees with the position they find culturally congenial.' ..."
Jon Stewart on 9/11 'Truth' Conspiracies...
While discussing plans for the "Rally To Restore Sanity" on the Washington Mall, Jon Stewart held up a sign sayng '9/11 was an Outside Job.' ..."
Posted September 12th, 2010
NIST - New Test for Gravity?
Science Daily reportsd on Sept. 1st that "A new experiment proposed by physicists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) may allow researchers to test the effects of gravity with unprecedented precision at very short distances -- a scale at which exotic new details of gravity's behavior may be detectable. ... Geraci and his co-authors have envisioned an experiment that would suspend a small glass bead in a laser beam 'bottle,' allowing it to move back and forth within the bottle. Because there would be very little friction, the motion of the bead would be exquisitely sensitive to the forces around it, including the gravity of a heavy object placed nearby. According to the research team, the proposed experiment would permit the testing of gravity's effects on particles separated by 1/1,000 the diameter of a human hair, which could ultimately allow Newton's law to be tested with a sensitivity 100,000 times better than existing experiments. ..."
Uri Gellar Lampooned by Colbert...
In his "Mysteries of the Ancient Unknown," Stephen Colbert wonders if spoon-bender Uri Gellar will prove that Scotland is the perfect place for King Tut's half-sister to hide his shriveled penis ...
The Onion reports on Truther Memorial...
The Onion reports on the new Kansas memorial. "'It was a long time coming, but at last it's here,' said Don Gustaf, a blogger who drove from Cincinnati to see the site. 'This will stand forever in tribute to those who lost their lives the day clandestine CIA operatives used advanced wireless technology to electronically hijack a pair of 767s and remotely fly them into the World Trade Center.' ..."
What if they had a Debate, and No One Came?
On September 9th, 2010, members of Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth held a news conference and "mock debate" at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. While not one skeptic of "Truth Movement" claims agreed to participate in the media circus, clips of their statements were played anyway, which the team then "debated." At least a few sound clips of mine from the recent Coast-to-Coast AM debate were featured. Dick Gregory showed up, too. I hadn't realized how many conspiracy theories he believes.
Joseph Nobles Live Blogging: of the hundreds of congressional science advisors invited, how many attended? Not One! (2:35 p.m.) http://ae911truth.info/wordpress/2010/ae911truth/liveblogging-the-ae911truth-press-club/
Press Conference thread at the Randi Educational Foundation's 9/11 Forum: http://forums.randi.org/showthread.php?t=185111
Watch and Listen (but pause only, can't skip ahead or back): http://www.mefeedia.com/watch/32768382
Posted August 28th, 2010
The Coast to Coast Debate is Over! Resources and Reviews
On August 21st, 2010, NMSR's Dave Thomas and Kim Johnson debated Richard gage and Niels Harrit of Ae911truth, on the Coast-to-Coast AM radio show. Here are some resources and reviews of the event.
The Coast-to-Coast site has a 5-paragraph synopsis of the debate. http://www.coasttocoastam.com/show/2010/08/21
The entire debate is on YouTube, in several parts, starting here: http://www.youtube.com/v/zzdSbjTEFcs
This dropbox has the entire debate as a 3-hour mp3, downloadable for Ipodsters and carpoolers (FireFox): http://dl.dropbox.com/u/4115570/C2C.911.08-21-10.all.mp3
This page is running commentary on the debate, and pre/post debate analysis, at the James Randi Educational Foundation's 9/11 Forum: http://forums.randi.org/showthread.php?t=183483
More running commentary, on the "Screw Loose Change" blog: http://screwloosechange.blogspot.com/2010/08/dave-thomas-to-debate-box-boy-gage-and.html
911blogger.com's running commentary and analysis: http://911blogger.com/news/2010-08-22/coast-coast-am-911-debate-richard-gage-and-dave-thomas
This reveals the Truther take on the proceedings. They were clearly listening to a different debate than the rest of us. Especially memorable are these two comments:
"I need some clarifications here:Mr Thomas also states that we (the truth movement) greatly underestimate the energy of the impact. He has an experiment on his website which should be viewed so you can see his math. He is taking impact measurements by dropping items onto a scale. But this is just the point we are making. In order for him to get his measurement, he must first drop an item through nothing but air. His experiment presumes no resistance. Additionally, his math formula uses 'g' for gravity in his calculation. We KNOW (as in the case of tower 1) that it descended at 2/3g. He seems to forget this fact and calculates with 'g' or is my understanding way off base here. I was only a B student in Calc. ..." http://911blogger.com/news/2010-08-22/coast-coast-am-911-debate-richard-gage-and-dave-thomas#comment-236359
The experiment he mentioned: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SozKaHYD85Q
This shows the pervasiveness with which 9/11 physics teacher David Chandler's analyses have misled many in the truth movement. My work shows that the AVERAGE of freefalls and collisions for both Twin Towers comes to 2/3 g for the early part of the collapse, and 1/3 g at the end. Chandler smooths out this process, and acts like the average acceleration is the actual representation of what happened, and thus lowballs the actual impact by a factor of 100 (YES, ONE HUNDRED!)
See NMSR 9-11 'Truth' Resources: Chandler's Data Support a Gravitational Collapse! http://www.nmsr.org/nmsr911c.htm
Then Tony Szamboti, author of "The Missing Jolt" paper over at the Journal of 911 Studies, writes "In a structure with a factor of safety of at least 3.00 to 1 the only way the upper section of it can fall through it at 2/3rds g, without a dynamic load, is if about 85 to 90% of the integrity of the structure was being consistently removed unnaturally, leaving only 1/3rd of the minimum strength necessary to support the static load with no reserve. Gordon Ross has previously described it as a weight being dropped in and moving down through custard. I tend to agree with him, in that the lower section was being turned into a custard like consistency, and it had nothing to do with dynamic loads, because they provably weren't occurring.": http://911blogger.com/news/2010-08-22/coast-coast-am-911-debate-richard-gage-and-dave-thomas#comment-236406
Silly me, thinking I could use a free-fall experiment to test something I think was in free-fall!
More Truther Pans: David Icke forum http://davidicke.com/forum/showthread.php?t=131448
Debunking the Debunkers: http://911debunkers.blogspot.com/2010/08/as-screw-loose-change-would-say-moron.html
Yup, hit a nerve there, I think...
NEW: RESPONSE TO GAGE ERUPTION OF FALSE STATEMENT AT DEBATE'S END http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BZVs4H5dGLE
NMSR's 9/11 Resource Page: http://www.nmsr.org/nmsr911.htm
UFO Author on Colbert...
Monday's Colbert (actually shown Tuesday morning at 12:30 am) featured "Leslie Kean, author of UFOs, the investigative journalist presents the findings of her 10-year-old study of the UFO phenomenon tonight on the show." ..."
Posted August 6th, 2010
Dover Deja Vu?...
In Religion Dispatches, Lauri Lebo writes on Aug. 3 that "Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education, says that creationists are proof of evolution. They keep evolving their message—from creationism to intelligent design to 'academic freedom.' If I may hammer the metaphor a little further, their vestigial gaffes also appear to offer proof of their shared ancestry. Earlier this week, the Livingston Parish School District in Louisiana decided against pursuing creationism in science class for the upcoming school year. A discussion last week about the possibility was in response to Lousiana's Science Education Act, which opens the door to teaching creationism under the guise of 'academic freedom.' At a meeting last month, district officials said they wanted to explore the possibility. But according to an article Sunday in Baton Rouge's The Advocate, board members shied away amid fears of a costly lawsuit which almost certainly would arise. (Amazing how quickly these folks forget their own state history. The 1987 U.S. Supreme Court decision of Edwards v. Aguillard, which ruled that the teaching of creationism in public school science class violated the Establishment Clause, was a test case of Louisiana's Balanced Treatment Act.) The article includes this stunningly familiar quote from a board member: 'David Tate, the School Board member who brought up the matter at the board’s last meeting, said he would rather not see litigation, but added that the board gets sued on other matters.' 'We don’t want litigation, but why not take a stand for Jesus and risk litigation,' Tate said. ..."
Brit UFO Files Released... and There is News!
The Telegraph (UK) reports on Aug. 5th, in a piece by Damian Thompson, that "UFO files released by the MoD [Ministry of Defense] tell us more about Britain in the 1950s than they do about aliens... last night, on the dot of midnight, the Government released previously secret files from the National Archives which prove that, for many years, flying objects were a much bigger deal than we suspected. True believers will go nuts with excitement. The MoD files (Ufologists always talk about 'files', never boring old documents) reveal that RAF jets were scrambled to investigate UFO reports no fewer than 200 times a year during the Cold War. Martin Redmond, an obscure Labour MP, extracted this information from the MoD back in 1996, but only now has the answer to his Parliamentary Question been published. Two hundred times a year! Those were busy skies, crawling with unidentified blips on the radar and three fighter jets a week sent to check them out and, if necessary, take them to our leader. But take a closer look at what the documents reveal. All those jets were scrambled or diverted from other tasks during the Cold War. The incidents fell to zero after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. In other words, the MoD worked out early on that the only unidentified objects it needed to worry about were anti-submarine aircraft and spy planes sent into British airspace by Moscow. These particular 'UFO' reports were a product of the Cold War. ... To be fair, however, few British Ufologists now believe in the literal reality of spaceships – the so-called 'nuts and bolts' school of thought. In this country, members of the UFO community are rather like members of the Church of England: they love the feel of the subculture – the conspiracy theories, the films, the TV series, the video games, the merchandise – without subscribing to the implausible doctrines. They leave that to Americans, where UFO conventions are packed with believers in 'grays' (little grey aliens with wraparound eyes) and fabulously sophisticated spaceships. Even born-again Christians in the Bible Belt are in on the act, arguing that grays are a portent of the Antichrist. ..."
More Genetic Implications for Autism...
Science Daily reports on Aug. 3rd that "Abnormal eye movements and other sensorimotor and neurobehavioral impairments appear common in unaffected family members of individuals with autism, according to a report in the August issue of Archives of General Psychiatry. 'Autism is a highly heritable neurodevelopmental disorder with considerable genetic and phenotypic heterogeneity,' the authors write as background information in the article. 'Its core behavioral features include social and communication impairments, behavioral inflexibility and executive dysfunction.' Several sensorimotor features have also been shown to be abnormal in some patients with autism. Common impairments include deficits in saccades, or rapid eye movements that shift between objects in the field of vision, and smooth-pursuit eye movements, in which the gaze is stabilized on a slowly moving object. ..."
Sponge Genome illuminates Evolution, Origin of Cancer...
Science Daily reports on Aug. 4th that "The sponge, which was not recognized as an animal until the 19th century, is now the simplest and most ancient group of animals to have their genome sequenced. In a paper appearing in the August 5 issue of the journal Nature, a team of researchers led by Daniel Rokhsar of the University of California, Berkeley, and the Department of Energy's Joint Genome Institute (JGI), report the draft genome sequence of the sea sponge Amphimedon queenslandica and several insights the genome gives into the origins of both the first animals and cancer. All living animals are descended from the common ancestor of sponges and humans, which lived more than 600 million years ago. A sponge-like creature may have been the first organism with more than one cell type and the ability to develop from a fertilized egg produced by the merger of sperm and egg cells.- that is, an animal. 'Our hypothesis is that multicellularity and cancer are two sides of the same coin,' said Rokhsar, program head for computational genomics at JGI and a professor of molecular and cell biology and of physics at UC Berkeley. 'If you are a cell in a multicellular organism, you have to cooperate with other cells in your body, making sure that you divide when you are supposed to as part of the team. The genes that regulate this cooperation are also the ones whose disruption can cause cells to behave selfishly and grow in uncontrolled ways to the detriment of the organism.' ..."
Pre Debate Warmups Begin...
While this Examiner.com article mentions both pairs of participants in the upcoming August 21st 9/11 debate on Coast to Coast AM, many of the 9/11 blogs mentioning this article only include the "AE911TRUTH" team of Richard Gage and Niels Harrit. But, that's OK. Those bloggers may just be surprised when they finally learn something about the NMSR team of Dave Thomas and Kim Johnson, come the 21st! (Sounds of chest thumping.)
Typical NMSR-Snubbing Blog Feed: http://911blogger.com/news/2010-08-03/ae911truth-physicists-debate-world-trade-center-destruction-coast-coast-am
Posted July 30th, 2010
Louisiana Board Ponders Creationism...
The Advocate (LA) reports on July 24th "The Livingston Parish School Board will begin exploring the possibility of incorporating the teaching of 'creationism' in the public school system’s science classes. During the board’s meeting Thursday, several board members expressed an interest in the teaching of creationism, an alternative to the study of the theory of evolution, in Livingston Parish public school classrooms. The discussion came up during a report on the pupil progression plan for the 2010-11 school year, delivered by Jan Benton, director of curriculum. Benton said that under provisions of the Science Education Act enacted last year by the Louisiana Legislature, schools can present what she termed 'critical thinking and creationism' in science classes. Board Member David Tate quickly responded: 'We let them teach evolution to our children, but I think all of us sitting up here on this School Board believe in creationism. Why can't we get someone with religious beliefs to teach creationism?' Fellow board member Clint Mitchell responded, 'I agree … you don't have to be afraid to point out some of the fallacies with the theory of evolution. Teachers should have the freedom to look at creationism and find a way to get it into the classroom.' Board President Keith Martin, while reminding the members that a decision had been made in the past not to teach creationism, suggested that now might be the time to re-examine the issue. ..."
Teaching Trees and Phylogeny to Bio Students...
At the Panda's Thumb, Richard Meisel writes on July 29th "Phylogenetic trees are essential tools for representing evolutionary relationships. Unfortunately, they are also a major conceptual stumbling block for budding biologists. Anyone who has taught basic evolutionary concepts to college undergrads (and probably high school students as well) has most likely dealt with students struggling to properly read and draw phylogenies. Lucky for us, there is also a growing body of literature on the most effective ways to teach what has been dubbed 'tree-thinking'. I have summarized this literature in a review due to be published in the journal Evolution: Education and Outreach (doi:10.1007/s12052-010-0254-9). ..."
NMSR has new YouTube channel...
In preparation for the upcoming 9/11 Truthiness debate on Coast to Coast AM radio (starting Aug. 21st, 11PM-3AM MDT), I've started a new YouTube channel for hosting educational/physics videos for NMSR.
Newest Video:"Lateral Ejections Without Explosives!", at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OyUN-_aHyCM
Here's What to Expect from Gage/AE911Truthiness...
A new article on the website for "Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth," about their past debates, has been posted. The article notes "On October 24, 2009, an abbreviated debate took place between Gage and Dave Thomas, mathematician and physicist at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology in Socorro, New Mexico. After Gage delivered his evidence, including information about free-fall acceleration, molten metal, iron spheres and evidence of nanothermite in the dust, Thomas began addressing 'conspiracies' in general, which seemed to function as a rhetorical device to discredit Gage. Thomas belongs to a school of critics that lumps all 9/11 research into the same category as he puts it, 'the Bible Code, the Roswell UFO incident, and other fringe beliefs.' Thomas, who refers to Gage as a 'conspiracy theorist,' is another of those professed rational thinkers who apply multiple standards to suit their needs. The government’s claim that 19 Arabs conspired to attack New York and Washington and defeat the most technically advanced air defense in the world does not qualify as a conspiracy theory in Thomas’s world. ... Thomas, like others who debate Gage, relies on the 'Piledriver Theory' to explain how the smaller top section of the towers could destroy everything under them. The theory says that a structural failure due to fires caused the top section to drop one floor, which set off a chain reaction that completely demolished the buildings. The dynamic force simply overwhelms the building structure below. Gage notes that his theory ignores the structural resistance supplied by about 300 massive columns in the building. Thomas is scheduled to debate Gage on the radio show Coast to Coast on Saturday night, August 21, from 10 pm to 2 am(11PM to 3AM MDT). ..."
JREF (James Randi Educational Forum) discussion: http://forums.randi.org/showthread.php?t=181561
Check out the JREF thread to see how AE911 truth has attacked 9/11 skeptic Mark Roberts ("Gravy"). This discussion also looks into how AE911Tr4uth has unfairly lambasted Skeptic Society's Michael Shermer for not agreeing that some of the 19 accused terrorist hijackers are atill alive. The amusing thing about that gaffe is that the BBC article AE911 Truth cites for support leads to an update that completely confirms exactly what Shermer was actually saying!
Posted July 9th, 2010
Comer Appeal Denied...
The NCSE reported on July 2nd that "In a decision issued on July 2, 2010, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld a lower court's decision that the Texas Education Agency's policy requiring "neutrality" of its employees when "talking about evolution and creationism" is not unconstitutional. The case, Comer v. Scott, was filed by Chris Comer, the former director of the Texas Education Agency, who was forced to resign from her post in November 2007 after she forwarded a note announcing a talk by Barbara Forrest. ... Writing for a three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit, Fortunato Benavides explained, 'Upon review of the record and applicable law, we cannot conclude that TEA's neutrality policy has the 'primary effect' of advancing religion. The fact that Comer and other TEA employees cannot speak out for or against possible subjects to be included in the curriculum ... does not primarily advance religion, but rather, serves to preserve TEA's administrative role in facilitating the curriculum review process for the Board. ... Thus, we find it hard to imagine circumstances in which a TEA employee's inability to publicly speak out for or against a potential subject for the Texas curriculum would be construed or perceived as the State?s endorsement of a particular religion.' ..."
Vietnamese Rapists Freed Because Acupuncturist Finds "Red Dot of Virginity"?!?
The AP reports on July 2nd that "An acupuncturist who claims she can detect a man's virginity based on a small dot on the ear has become a minor celebrity in Vietnam, where she is credited with helping to free three convicted rapists from prison. Traditional medicine practitioner Pham Thi Hong started lobbying for the men's release, pleading their case all the way to the president, because she believes all three men are virgins and therefore could not be guilty of rape. 'They all had small red spots on the back of their ears,' said Hong, 54. 'The spots should have disappeared if they had had sex. My many years of experience told me that these men did not have sex before.' Her claims are unusual even for a country where acupuncture and traditional medicine are still common remedies, but Hong's determination to have the case reopened — even threatening to light herself on fire — led to prosecutors re-examining the case. The convictions eventually were suspended due to flaws by initial investigators. ..."
Guy Malone on Roswell Crusade...
The De Void blog writes on July 7th on Guy Malone, who relocated in Roswell to put a proper Christian perspective on tales of aliens and abductions: "'As a Christian,' Malone says, '... Heaven's Gate got me to writing about it (UFOs), and to promote the gospel, especially to people who were inclined to believe in alien saviors. There are people out there who’ll tell you Jesus is an alien.' ... Malone is now an executive committee member of the city Festival and likely the only one who contends alien abductions can be derailed by invoking the name of Jesus Christ. During last weekend’s activities, he gave lectures based on two themes: 1) what crashed near Roswell in 1947 was experimental Nazi technology, and 2) the aliens are demonic entities. ..."
Happy 85th Birthday, Scopes Trial...
CBS News reports on July 8th "Later this month Dayton, Tenn. will host a weekend festival capped off by a dramatization of the trial which engraved this small town's name into the nation's cultural narrative. Exactly 85 years ago today, a Dayton schoolteacher named John C. Scopes went on trial, accused of violating a state law prohibiting the teaching of the theory of evolution. What came to be known as the 'Monkey Trial' (subsequently immortalized by journalist H.L. Mencken), the case was a showdown between progressives and creationists, who wanted to ban the teaching of Charles Darwin's writing about evolution from local schools. William Jennings Bryan, a three-time candidate for president, led the prosecution. He was pitted against the famous Chicago attorney Clarence Darrow. The trial lived up to the hype, but it ended on a flat note. Toward the end of the trial, Darrow asked the jury to find Scopes guilty because he intended to appeal the verdict to the state's Supreme Court. The jury complied and Scopes was fined $100. The following year, Tennessee's Supreme Court reversed the decision on a technicality. ..."
Posted July 2nd, 2010
Climategate’s death rattle...
Phil Plait of BadAstronomy blog notes on July 1st "Hear that choking sound? That’s the dying gasps of Climategate. The Pennsylvania State University’s investigation into allegations of misconduct by climate scientist Michael Mann found him innocent, specifically saying: '… the Investigatory Committee determined that Dr. Michael E. Mann did not engage in, nor did he participate in, directly or indirectly, any actions that seriously deviated from accepted practices within the academic community for proposing, conducting, or reporting research, or other scholarly activities.' Mann, as you may recall, was a key figure in the so-called Climategate fiasco, where leaked emails were purported to show scientists fixing data to make global warming evidence appear stronger. Since Day 1 of this I have been calling it a non-event, a manufactured controversy by global warming denialists trying to make enough noise to drown out any real talk on this topic. And time and time again I have been shown to be correct. This conclusion by the committee is yet another nail in Climategate’s coffin. But let me be clear: that has almost no bearing on what the denialists will say or do. They will continue to beat this drum, have no doubt. Climategate may be dead, but the zombie attacks will continue. ..."
More from the NY Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/02/science/earth/02climate.html
Posted June 25th, 2010
Lunar Eclipse Coming Up...
RedOrbit.com reports on June 25th that "This Saturday morning, June 26th, there's going to be a lunar eclipse—and for many residents of the USA, it's going to be a big one. The eclipse begins at 3:17 am PDT (10:17 UT) when the Moon enters the sunset-colored shadow of Earth. By 4:38 am PDT (11:38 UT), the moment of greatest eclipse, 54% of the Moon's diameter will be covered. From beginning to end, the event lasts almost three hours. Although the eclipse is only partial, it will be magnified in size and charm by the 'Moon Illusion'--a result of the eclipse occurring close to the horizon from viewing sites in the USA. For reasons not fully understood by astronomers or psychologists, low-hanging Moons look unnaturally large when they beam through trees, buildings and other foreground objects. In fact, a low Moon is no wider than any other Moon—cameras prove it—but the human brain insists otherwise. Who are we to argue? ..."
Creo Degree DENIED in Texas...
Phil Plait's BadAstronomy blog notes on June 23rd that "The Institute for Creation Research — one of the biggest nonsense-paddlers in the 6000 year history of the world — was handed a nice defeat this week. ... to summarize: the ICR moved from California to Texas. In the previous state, for reasons beyond understanding, they were able to grant Master’s degrees in their graduate school. But Texas didn’t recognize their accreditation, so they filed to get it approved. Not so surprisingly, scientists and educators rose in protest, and in 2008 the Texas Higher Education Coordination Board — the organization that grants accreditation — denied the ICR. The creationists appealed. In the meantime, they also tried to extend their ability to grant degrees temporarily while the lawsuit continued. What happened this week is that the extension was denied. And I mean denied. Check out what the court said: 'It appears that although the Court has twice required Plaintiff [the ICR] to re-plead and set forth a short and plain statement of the relief requested, Plaintiff is entirely unable to file a complaint which is not overly verbose, disjointed, incoherent, maundering, and full of irrelevant information.' ..."
Creationists Hoisted on Own Petard...
Phil Senter, at the Department of Natural Sciences, Fayetteville State University, Fayetteville, NC, USA, has just published an article titled "Using creation science to demonstrate evolution: application of a creationist method for visualizing gaps in the fossil record to a phylogenetic study of coelurosaurian dinosaurs" in the new Journal of Evolutionary Biology (doi:10.1111/j.1420-9101.2010.02039.x). Here's the abstract: "It is important to demonstrate evolutionary principles in such a way that they cannot be countered by creation science. One such way is to use creation science itself to demonstrate evolutionary principles. Some creation scientists use classic multidimensional scaling (CMDS) to quantify and visualize morphological gaps or continuity between taxa, accepting gaps as evidence of independent creation and accepting continuity as evidence of genetic relatedness. Here, I apply CMDS to a phylogenetic analysis of coelurosaurian dinosaurs and show that it reveals morphological continuity between Archaeopteryx, other early birds, and a wide range of nonavian coelurosaurs. Creation scientists who use CMDS must therefore accept that these animals are genetically related. Other uses of CMDS for evolutionary biologists include the identification of taxa with much missing evolutionary history and the tracing of the progressive filling of morphological gaps in the fossil record through successive years of discovery. ..."
CESE Meeting: Saturday, June 26th, 2010...
CESE's Annual Meeting: June 26, 2010 * Time: Saturday, June 26, 2010, 1:00 PM * Location: Anthropology 163, UNM * * "Every Year around June, CESE hosts its annual meeting. This meeting is open to the public and we have food, a guest speaker, and we hold elections. Our next annual meeting will be on June, 26, 2010. This year, our guest speaker is Jonathan Wolfe of the Fractal Foundation. He gives a fantastic presentation about fractals. ..."
Posted June 12th, 2010
Genetic Link for Autism...
ABC News reports on June 9th that "Researchers believe they have found some of the edge pieces in the jigsaw puzzle that is autism spectrum disorder. A new study has found that duplicated and deleted pieces of DNA in a number of different genes play a role in the development of autism, said study co-author Rita M. Cantor, a professor of genetics and psychiatry at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. Advocacy groups are optimistic that the findings could lead to new treatments for the disorder. ..."
UFO (or Not) Down Under...
ABC News Australia reports on June 6th "An astronomer says a bright spiralling light spotted in the sky by people across eastern Australia was probably a satellite, space junk or a rocket. The UFO was seen moving through the sky just before Saturday's sunrise in New South Wales, Queensland and the ACT. ... Geoffrey Whyatt from the Sydney Observatory says it was probably a satellite, space junk or a rocket. 'The fact that you've got the rotation, the spiral effect, is very reminiscent of the much widely reported sightings from Norway and Russia last year, which both turned out to be a Bulava missile which was being adjusted in its orbit,' he said. 'So possibly a rocket, I would say, having some sort of gyroscopic stability rocket fired on its side.' Mr Whyatt says it is a rare phenomenon. ..."
Elegant Bubble Bursts Finally Caught ...
Science Daily reports on June 9th that "On the surface of things, how a bubble bursts may seem to be a simple, unremarkable event. In the June 10th issue of Nature, engineers at Harvard report just the opposite, having uncovered the beautifully complex physics behind rupturing bubbles. Instead of simply vanishing, a large bubble disperses into a ring of smaller bubbles. The finding could be appropriately called an advance in 'pop' science. Lead author James C. Bird, a graduate student at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), and his colleagues believe they have stumbled upon a universal behavior in how bubbles pop that holds as true for suds in a sink as it does for foam in the ocean. 'In order to minimize surface area, a bubble will be nearly hemispherical when it is in contact with a solid or liquid interface," explains Bird. "We found that when these hemispherical bubbles pop, there is a two step process that can create a ring of smaller bubbles. While the resulting smaller bubbles have long been seen, until now the 'how' has never been reported in the literature." ..."
Oort Comet Cloud Explained at Last?
Universe Today reports on June 10th "Most comets are thought to have originated great distances away, traveling to the inner solar system from the Oort Cloud. But new computer simulations show that many comets – including some famous ones – came from even farther: they may have been born in other solar systems. Many of the most well known comets, including Hale-Bopp (above), Halley, and, most recently, McNaught, may have formed around other stars and then were gravitationally captured by our Sun when it was still in its birth cluster. This new finding solves the mystery of how the Oort cloud formed and why it is so heavily populated with comets. Comets are believed to be leftovers from the formation of the solar system. They are observed to come to the solar system from all directions, so astronomers have thought the comet's origin was from the Oort Cloud, a giant sphere surrounding the solar system. Some comets travel over 100,000 AU, in a huge orbit around the sun. But comets may have formed around other stars in the cluster where the sun was born and been captured gravitationally by our sun. Dr. Hal Levison from the Southwest Research Insitutue, along with Dr. Martin Duncan from Queen's University, Kingston, Canada, Dr. Ramon Brasser, Observatoire de la Côte d'Azur, France and Dr. David Kaufmann (SwRI) used computer simulations to show that the Sun may have captured small icy bodies from its sibling stars while still in its star-forming nursery cluster. The researchers investigated what fraction of comets might be able to travel from the outer reaches of one star to the outer reaches of another. The simulations imply that a substantial number of comets can be captured through this mechanism, and that a large number of Oort cloud comets come from other stars. The results may explain why the number of comets in the Oort cloud is larger than models predict. ..."
Jupiter Impact - Where's the Debris?...
NASA reports on June 11th that "On June 3rd, 2010, something hit Jupiter. A comet or asteroid descended from the black of space, struck the planet's cloudtops, and disintegrated, producing a flash of light so bright it was visible in backyard telescopes on Earth. Soon, observers around the world were training their optics on the impact site, waiting to monitor the cindery cloud of debris which always seems to accompany a strike of this kind. They're still waiting. 'It's as if Jupiter just swallowed the thing whole,' says Anthony Wesley of Australia, one of two amateur astronomers who recorded the initial flash. The other, Christopher Go of the Philippines, says 'it was thrilling to see the impact, but the absence of any visible debris has got us scratching our heads.' ..."
Posted June 4th, 2010
California Passes Law: Texas, Don't Mess With Our Textbooks...
The Christian Post reported on May 31st that "The California Senate passed a bill Friday to prevent the new Texas social studies curriculum from unknowingly affecting its textbooks. In a bipartisan 25 to 5 vote, state lawmakers approved SB 1451 that requires California’s Board of Education to review and report any discrepancies between the new Texas curriculum and California’s standard. Since Texas is the second largest textbook market in the country, changes to its curriculum are expected to influence publishers and thus textbooks used in classrooms nationwide. But the California Senate, whose state has largest textbook market in the country, pushed back against the Texas standard by passing SB 1451 legislation. About a week ago, the Texas State Board of Education approved a new social studies curriculum that places more emphasis on the role of Christianity in the founding of the nation, among other changes. ... Some 4.8 million K-12 students in Texas will be directly affected by the new curriculum. By comparison, California has more than 6.2 million students attending K-12 public schools. As the two states battle to influence the nation’s textbooks, some inside the industry, however, say neither will affect the nation’s curriculum because states can now digitally customize textbooks. Bill SB 1451 will next face a vote in the California Assembly, and if passed, will head to the desk of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for approval. ..."
Crop Circles in Taos...
The Santa Fe New Mexican reports on June 2nd that "For Dee Gragg, the question isn't 'Did a UFO land in a field just outside of Angel Fire?' Instead, the question is 'What kind of a UFO was it?' Gragg, assistant director of the New Mexico chapter of the Mutual UFO Network, gave a presentation Saturday in which he shared evidence gathered in a 10-month investigation of an empty Moreno Valley pasture. The talk, touted as a report on an 'authentic landing site,' was sponsored by the Angel Fire-based Alliance Studying Paranormal Experiences and its president, Janet Sailor. She refers to the area in the mountains of Northern New Mexico as a 'UFO hot spot.' ... For Gragg, a professor with New Mexico State University and a longtime veteran of the UFO game in New Mexico, this latest Angel Fire discovery had all the telltale signs of an alien landing zone. ..."
But, is Gragg really a "professor with New Mexico State University"? Inquiries with colleagues at NMSU revealed that "There is no Dee Gragg listed as either a student, faculty, or as an employee on the on-line NMSU phone book. ... He is not listed among the regular staff and faculty at NMSU-A (Alamogordo) but he is (or was) listed as an instructor (with a BS in Mechanical Engineering) with NMSU-A Alamogordo under its 'Community Education Program' - which is not part of its regular academic program. He apparently teaches a 'class' in UFOs and Crop Circles (!)..."
Fumble, against the Santa Fe New Mexican, 10 Yards, and Loss of Credibility.
Jupiter gets Smacked Again! Film at 11...
ARSTechnica.com reports on June 3rd that "Detailed analyses of last year’s impact on Jupiter by an asteroid was released by NASA on Thursday. By coincidence, Jupiter was impacted yet again on the same day by an unknown object. This time, the impact was caught on live video. The impact happened at 20:31UTC June 3, 2010. It was first noticed by Anthony Wesley in Australia, who issued an alert. The discovery was immediately confirmed by Christopher Go in the Philippines, who happened to be taking a video of Jupiter in which the impact was caught live. The fact that the impact flash was captured by two independent observers separated thousands of kilometers from each other makes this discovery highly credible. ..."
Coke Zero & Mentos Rocket Car...
If you used hundreds of bottles of Coke Zero and Menthos tablest, what could you do with it?
Posted May 28th, 2010
Martin Gardner Dies at 95...
The New York Times reported on May 23rd that "Martin Gardner, who teased brains with math puzzles in Scientific American for a quarter-century and who indulged his own restless curiosity by writing more than 70 books on topics as diverse as magic, philosophy and the nuances of Alice in Wonderland, died Saturday in Norman, Okla. He was 95. He had been living in an assisted-living facility in Norman, his son James said in confirming the death. Mr. Gardner also wrote fiction, poetry, literary and film criticism, as well as puzzle books. He was a leading voice in refuting pseudoscientific theories, from ESP to flying saucers. He was so prolific and wide-ranging in his interests that critics speculated that there just had to be more than one of him. His mathematical writings intrigued a generation of mathematicians, but he never took a college math course. If it seemed the only thing this polymath could not do was play music on a saw, rest assured that he could, and quite well. 'Martin Gardner is one of the great intellects produced in this country in the 20th century,' said Douglas Hofstadter, the cognitive scientist. W. H. Auden, Arthur C. Clarke, Jacob Bronowski, Stephen Jay Gould and Carl Sagan were admirers of Mr. Gardner. Vladimir Nabokov mentioned him in his novel “Ada” as “an invented philosopher.” An asteroid is named for him. Mr. Gardner responded that his life was not all that interesting, really. 'It’s lived mainly inside my brain,' he told The Charlotte Observer in 1993. ... After retiring from Scientific American, Mr. Gardner lived for many years in Hendersonville, N.C. His wife, the former Charlotte Greenwald, died in 2000. Besides his son James, of Norman, he is survived by another son, Thomas, of Asheville, N.C., and three grandchildren. For all Mr. Gardner’s success in refuting those who take advantage of people's gullibility, he sometimes could not help having fun with it himself. In one Scientific American column, he wrote that dwelling in pyramids could increase everything from intelligence to sexual prowess. In another he asked readers to remember the holiday that begins the month of April. 'I just play all the time,' he said in an interview with Skeptical Inquirer in 1998, 'and am fortunate enough to get paid for it.' ..."
Texas 'Christian' Textbooks Coming to Class? ...
ABC Nightline's "Where We Fit blog for May 21st notes "In March, we had a report from Dan Harris about a textbook controversy in Texas with national implications. At issue? Controversial new curriculum standards that may affect how students across the country are taught. Today, by a 9-5 vote, the 15-member Texas Board of Education approved the standards, which call for greater focus on the Christian traditions of the founding fathers. Take, for example, changing the language 'Democratic society' to 'Constitutional Republic.' Or emphasizing the achievements of a Republican icon like Newt Gingrich. Critics -- and there were plenty of them when we first blogged about this -- say the standards impose ideology in the classroom. Why does what Texas does matter for the rest of the country? With 4.7 million public school students, textbooks publishers often tailor their curriculum to meet the desires of the Lone Star state. ..."
Archie Comics: the Creationist Years...
Did you know that "Throughout the 1970s, Archie and the gang were provided to Spire Christian Comics to deliver a series of overtly Christian morals. ..."
9-11 "Truth" HEATS UP AT NMSR...
Dave Thomas and Richard Gage to debate 9-11 "Truth" on Coast to Coast AM Radio, Saturday, June 19th, 11:00 PM MDT - 3:00 AM MDT.
Dave's Presentation Slides, Physics Videos, More:http://www.nmsr.org/nmsr911.htm
Posted May 21st, 2010
Is Ball Lightning a Figment of the Imagination?
Universe Today reports on May 17th that "For hundreds of years, people have reported seeing ball lightning, a weird phenomenon that resembles glowing, hovering spheres of electricity sometimes witnessed during lightning storms. But scientists have never been able to explain what causes it or even what it really is. Even though some surveys say that 1 in 150 people have seen ball lightning, photographic evidence is basically nonexistent. There are dozens of theories of how ball lightning could form, including the burning of hot silicon particles produced when a lightning strike vaporizes the ground. When people who claim they have seen ball lightning try to explain what they saw, often they are told, 'You must be seeing things!' Perhaps they are. A pair of physicists from Austria say that the magnetic fields associated with certain types of lightning strikes are powerful enough to create hallucinations of hovering balls of light in nearby observers, and that these visions would be interpreted as ball lightning. ..."
ID Prediction TANKS...
Intelligent Design attorney Casey Luskin, in "THE POSITIVE CASE FOR DESIGN," writes "Intelligent agents typically create functional things (although we may sometimes think something is functionless, not realizing its true function): 'Since non-coding regions do not produce proteins, Darwinian biologists have been dismissing them for decades as random evolutionary noise or ‘junk DNA.’ From an ID perspective, however, it is extremely unlikely that an organism would expend its resources on preserving and transmitting so much ‘junk.’ Predictions of Design (Hypothesis): ...(4) Much so-called 'junk DNA' will turn out to perform valuable functions. ..."
But, in new research published this week in PLOS Biology, Harm van Bakel et. al. write "The human genome was sequenced a decade ago, but its exact gene composition remains a subject of debate. The number of protein-coding genes is much lower than initially expected, and the number of distinct transcripts is much larger than the number of protein-coding genes. Moreover, the proportion of the genome that is transcribed in any given cell type remains an open question: results from “tiling” microarray analyses suggest that transcription is pervasive and that most of the genome is transcribed, whereas new deep sequencing-based methods suggest that most transcripts originate from known genes. We have addressed this discrepancy by comparing samples from the same tissues using both technologies. Our analyses indicate that RNA sequencing appears more reliable for transcripts with low expression levels, that most transcripts correspond to known genes or are near known genes, and that many transcripts may represent new exons or aberrant products of the transcription process. We also identify several thousand small transcripts that map outside known genes; their sequences are often conserved and are often encoded in regions of open chromatin. We propose that most of these transcripts may be by-products of the activity of enhancers, which associate with promoters as part of their role as long-range gene regulatory sites. Overall, however, we find that most of the genome is not appreciably transcribed. ..."
Indian Guru Lives on Water Alone? Nope...
Indian skeptic Sanal Edamaruku, writing in the Guardian for May 18th, says "The crimson-clad old man with the nose ring tries to tell us that he hasn't eaten or drunk anything since the goddess Ambaji touched his tongue with her finger. That must have been around the time of the outbreak of the second world war. As there are few things so well established as the biological law no human (and no animal) can survive without the regular intake of food and water, it may be sensible to approach his claim with a degree of scepticism. It is not usually very difficult to expose such characters; I have done it in several cases. But Prahlad Jani has some influential protectors. Dr Sudhir Shah, neurologist and head of Ahmedabad's Sterling hospital, propelled the silly story of Prahlad Jani into the limelight. In a sensational "scientific" research project, he and his team subjected him between 22 April and 6 May to observation and medical scrutiny. ... Can scientists be so gullible as to salute a man who claims to turn the basic laws of biology upside down? Did they close their eyes (and the non-stop CCTV camera) when Jani quenched his thirst? There is no doubt that the 'total surveillance' had loopholes and the 'great scientific test' was a farce. While the test was running, I exposed some of those loopholes in a live programme on India TV: an official video clip revealed that Jani would sometimes move out of the CCTV camera's field of view; he was allowed to receive devotees and could even leave the sealed test room for a sun bath; his regular gargling and bathing activities were not sufficiently monitored and so on. ..."
Disgraced Congressman Pitched ID in "Expelled!"...
In the May 19th Religion Dispatches, Lauri Lebo writes "Yesterday's announced resignation of Republican Rep. Mark Souder amid sex scandal seems to be your ho-hum garden-variety affair with a part-time staffer. Thus far, there has been nothing to suggest that adult diapers, wide stances or non-consensual tickling was involved. ... But an interesting side note to the story is that Souder is also an intelligent-design proponent and even had a bit part in the Ben Stein ID movie Expelled, in which he decried the scientific community for not being more tolerant to the concept of revamped creationism. In 2008, he said, 'I personally believe that there is no issue more important to our society than intelligent design.' ... So, Souder wasn't just your typical 'family values' horn-dog unable to practice what he preached. He's also the kind of person who believes evolution destroys morality. ..."
Posted May 14th, 2010
Sunday, May 16th, 2010 SPECIAL EVENT - Charles Darwin Makes a Rare U.S. Appearance!
Charles Darwin and the Voyage of the Beagle
with Storyteller Brian “Fox” Ellis
Sunday, May 16th 2 p.m.
NM Museum of Natural History & Science
After spending five years circumnavigating the globe aboard H.M.S. Beagle, Charles Darwin has spent the past twenty years as a recluse in the study of his home near London, researching and writing his great work, On the Origin of Species by Natural Selection. With the recent publication of this controversial book, Charles Darwin is making a rare public appearance to tell his side of the story, share the adventures from his monumental trip and outline the intricacies of his theory of evolution!
Fox Ellis is a storyteller, author, and educator. He has been touring as a performer and educator since 1980. He is a dynamic teller with a warm and entertaining manner. Fox is the author of nine books including, “The WEB at Dragonfly Pond” and nine CDs. He also writes for more than a dozen magazines. Ellis presented “Audubon” last fall at the Museum, and the audience asked for more—so here he is, back by popular demand!
Co-sponsored by the New Mexico Academy of Science (NMAS), New Mexicans for Science and Reason (NMSR), and Coalition for Excellence in Science Education (CESE)
Common Ancestry Confirmed...
Science Daily reported on May 12th that "More than 150 years ago, Darwin proposed the theory of universal common ancestry (UCA), linking all forms of life by a shared genetic heritage from single-celled microorganisms to humans. Until now, the theory that makes ladybugs, oak trees, champagne yeast and humans distant relatives has remained beyond the scope of a formal test. Now, a Brandeis biochemist reports in Nature the results of the first large scale, quantitative test of the famous theory that underpins modern evolutionary biology. ..."
The author, Douglas Theobald, has joined the Panda's Thumb discussion of this important research. He writes "...if my main target really was creationists, then disproving the independent ancestry of humans would be enough, right? The rest of my analysis would be inconsequential. I don’t think any creationist cares one lick whether the Archaea and Bacteria share ancestry or not. That said, if you look at the last row of Tables 1 and 2, I do consider the hypothesis that humans have an independent ancestry from the rest of life. From my analysis, that hypothesis is roughly 106,100 times less probable than universal common ancestry. So you can consider that particular part as a nod towards testing at least one version of a special creation hypothesis. Of course that’s not the only way to interpret those models. "
Fossil Proteins show Birds and Dinos are Related...
ScienceDaily reports on May 11th that "Researchers have found that a 150 million year old 'dinobird' fossil, long thought to contain nothing but fossilized bone and rock, has been hiding remnants of the animal's original chemistry. Using the bright X-ray beam of the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource, located at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, an international team of paleontologists, geochemists and physicists has revealed this transformative glimpse into one of the most important fossils ever discovered: the Archaeopteryx, a half-dinosaur/half-bird species. 'Archaeopteryx is to paleontology what Tutankhamen is to archaeology. It's simply one of the icons of our field,' said University of Manchester paleontologist Phil Manning. 'You would think after 150 years of study, we'd know everything we need to know about this animal. But guess what -- we were wrong.' ... By recording how the X-rays interacted with the fossil, the researchers were able to identify very precisely the locations of chemical elements hidden within. From this, they created the first maps of the dinobird's chemistry, revealing half a dozen chemical elements that were actually part of the living animal itself. In almost every element studied, the researchers found significantly different concentrations in the fossil than in the rock that surrounds it, confirming that the observed elements are indeed remnants of the dinobird and not merely chemicals that leached from the surrounding rock into the fossil. 'People have never used a technique this sensitive on Archaeopteryx before,' said SLAC physicist Uwe Bergmann, who led the X-ray scanning experiment. "Because the SSRL beam is so bright, we were able to see the teeniest chemical traces that nobody thought were there." The chemical maps, published today in Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences, show that portions of the feathers are not merely impressions of long-decomposed organic material -- as was previously believed -- but actual fossilized feathers that contain phosphorous and sulfur, elements that comprise modern bird feathers. Trace amounts of copper and zinc were also found in the dinobird's bones; like birds today, the Archaeopteryx may have required these elements to stay healthy. ..."
Posted May 7th, 2010
Pope says Turin Shroud is a "Photographic Document" of the Crucifixion...
The Associated Press reports on May 3 that "Pope Benedict XVI all but gave an outright endorsement of the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin on Sunday, calling the cloth that some believe is Christ's burial shroud an icon 'written with the blood' of a crucified man. ... 'This is a burial cloth that wrapped the remains of a crucified man in full correspondence with what the Gospels tell us of Jesus,' Benedict said. He said the relic - one of the most important in Christianity - should be seen as a photographic document of the 'darkest mystery of faith' - that of Christ's crucifixion and resurrection. ..."
Fuller Full Of ... ?
Pro-ID philosopher Steve Fuller writes in the May 3rd Guardian "Intelligent design theory (ID), the latest version of scientific creationism to challenge the Darwinian orthodoxy in biology, is in the unenviable position of being damned as both bad science and bad theology. However, if those charges are true, then the basis of our belief in both science and God may be irrational. At the very least, ID suggests that belief in the two may be interdependent. I agree with ID on this point, which provides the main thesis of my latest book, a defence of science as an 'art of living'. ..."
Before you buy his book, be sure to read this editorial. Then, see if you can even figure out what Fuller's point is. (If you can, please tell me.) Then, save yourself some money by not buying the book. (If you want to skip the reading of the editorial, that may not be such a bad idea either.)
Another "Chemtrails" Puff Piece...
A southwest Florida NBC affiliate reports on May 4th that "When Drake Bailey looks up, he doesn't see Mother Nature at work. Instead, this Venice, Florida resident says he sees the weather ‘big brother' wanted him to have. 'When I was a kid in the 1950's, winters were different. Well, has anything changed that? You start asking questions and eventually you end up at places that give you the answers,' Bailey told us. His answer? Chemtrails. But in order to understand chemtrails, you need a little science lesson about their counterparts called contrails. Contrail is short for condensation trail, or the visible trail of condensed water vapor made by the exhaust of airplane engines. Bailey's theory is that chemicals are being added to jet fuel turning contrails into chemtrails. The government then uses ground technology to superheat the air, releasing those chemicals. ... As for chemtrails? [Miami's National Hurricane Center representative] Dr. [Chris] Landsea says they're not real. 'Unfortunately, large-scale weather modification is just science fiction at this point. There are theories into how you could do it but practicality it just doesn't work,' he said. He says what theorists call chemtrails, are really lingering contrails produced by the right weather conditions. We may see more of them in Florida because our high humidity can make contrails grow and stick around for much longer than in places with lower humidity levels. But Bailey doesn't buy it, and neither do thousands of others who blame the government, not Mother Nature, for the weather. ..."
Time to bring back Fumbles? At least they explained why there are more contrails in Florida...
Hawking Fans Fantasy Alien Fears...
Bob Park had the right tone in his "What's New" column of April 30th: "They are out there somewhere, and the computer of the world's most famous physicist says in a vaguely Norwegian accent that we should keep low so they won't notice were here. In a new documentary for the Discovery Channel, Hawking says, 'To my mathematical brain the numbers alone make thinking about aliens perfectly rational.' That depends on what you think about them. He suggests that aliens might raid Earth to take our resources. ... Every September on the first day of class I ask my new freshman physics majors if they think humans will ever travel to another star. Almost all say 'sure, eventually.' 'Okay,' I tell them, 'let's start planning the trip.' ... Anyway, my class couldnt agree on how many frozen pizzas we would need on the trip so we settled for calculating the energy per gram, 317 MJ/g. Can that be right? If it is we just solved the Fermi paradox. These hideous aliens are lusting for Earth women but don't have enough stuff to make the trip. ..."
More from the Colbert Report: "Stephen Hawking is such an A-hole" (even features an alien Jesus!).
See also: "Ethics for Extraterrestrials" by Robert Wright:
Neanderthals Didn't Die Out Completely...
This is BIG! From a major Science article dated May 7th, "We present a draft sequence of the Neandertal genome composed of more than 4 billion nucleotides from three individuals. Comparisons of the Neandertal genome to the genomes of five present-day humans from different parts of the world identify a number of genomic regions that may have been affected by positive selection in ancestral modern humans, including genes involved in metabolism and in cognitive and skeletal development. We show that Neandertals shared more genetic variants with present-day humans in Eurasia than with present-day humans in sub-Saharan Africa, suggesting that gene flow from Neandertals into the ancestors of non-Africans occurred before the divergence of Eurasian groups from each other. ..."
Darwin got it goin' on...
Olivia Judson of the NY Times writes on May 4th "The lights go down. The room fills with music — a pulsating hip-hop rhythm. And then, over the music, you hear the voice of Richard Dawkins reading a passage from 'On the Origin of Species' by Charles Darwin: 'Whoever is led to believe that species are mutable will do good service by conscientiously expressing his conviction. For only thus can the load of prejudice by which this subject is overwhelmed be removed.' So begins one of the most astonishing, and brilliant, lectures on evolution I've ever seen: 'The Rap Guide to Evolution,' by Baba Brinkman. Brinkman, a burly Canadian from Vancouver, is a latter-day wandering minstrel, a self-styled 'rap troubadour,' with a master's degree in English and a history of tree-planting (according to his Web site, he has personally planted more than one million trees). His guide to evolution grew out of a correspondence with Mark Pallen, an evolutionary biologist and rap enthusiast at the University of Birmingham, in Britain; the result, as Brinkman tells us, is 'the only hip-hop show to have been peer-reviewed.' It is also, I suspect, the only hip-hop show to talk of mitochondria, genetic drift, sexual selection or memes. ..."
Posted April 30th, 2010
Comer Appeal In Progress...
The Dallas Post reported this week that "The former director of the science program for Texas' public schools asked a federal appeals court Monday to revive a lawsuit over her firing for forwarding an e-mail about a forum opposed to teaching creationism. ... A federal judge in Austin, Texas, dismissed her claims in March 2009. Comer is appealing that decision. The 5th Circuit panel didn't indicate when it will rule. Comer says she was told to quit or be fired in 2007 after forwarding an e-mail about a presentation by a Southeastern Louisiana University philosophy professor viewed as opposed to teaching creationism in schools. Her only comment on the forwarded e-mail was 'FYI.' The agency says Comer violated her employer's 'neutrality' policy by airing her personal opposition to creationism. Douglas Mishkin, a lawyer for Comer, said the agency's neutrality policy violates the First Amendment's establishment clause because it endorses a religious belief. 'It takes something that's not science and treats it as if it is,' he said. Judge Fortunato Benavides pressed Mishkin to explain how the agency violated the establishment clause. 'I can see a free speech claim,' the judge said. 'This looks like to me a First Amendment claim in the robe of an establishment claim.' ..."
God Checker Web Site...
This useful research site has "more Gods than you can shake a stick at. Godchecker's Mythology Encyclopedia currently features over 2,850 deities. Browse the pantheons of the world, explore ancient myths, and discover Gods of everything from Fertility to Fluff with the fully searchable Holy Database Of All Known Gods. ..."
Visibly Violent Volcano Vacillates on Video...
Nancy Atkinson of UniverseToday.com writes on April 23rd that "The volcano in Iceland keeps producing eye-popping effects. Now that the ash isn't spewing quite so dramatically,the mouth of the volcano itself is visible. Here's close-up aerial footage of the crater at Eyjafjallajokull, with glowing red lava and shockwaves of the eruptions in the ash cloud. Incredible. ..."
Noah's Ark Found? (Again?)...
AolNews reported on April 27th that "After 4,800 years, the mystery is over at last: Noah's Ark has been found, and it's sitting 13,000 feet above sea level near the peak of Turkey's Mount Ararat. At least, that's what an evangelical Christian organization calling itself Noah's Ark Ministries International is now trumpeting with near-total certainty. ... News of the find has the Web buzzing, with excitement among the faithful being tempered by skepticism from other quarters. This, after all, is not the first time the legendary ark has been 'discovered'... Meantime, the only flood that is unquestionably linked to the most recently discovered Mount Ararat artifacts is the deluge of reports washing over the Internet starting right ... about ... now. ..."
Jennifer McCreight reports on "What I learned from Boobquake in the April 29th Guardian. She writes "On Monday 19 April, I had just read Iranian cleric Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi's assertion that 'Many women who do not dress modestly ... lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which (consequently) increases earthquakes." Amused and annoyed by his ludicrous statement, I suggested on my blog that women dress immodestly on 26 April to test his claims. Tongue-in-cheek, I dubbed the project 'Boobquake'. When I first published that fateful blogpost, I thought it would only be enjoyed by my friends and thousand readers. It ended in almost a million unique visits to my blog, thousands of emails, and coverage by CNN, the BBC, and (more importantly to a liberal nerdy college student) the Colbert Report. People around the world engaged in intense debate about how it affected women's rights, Muslims, and Iranians. ... After recruiting over a 100,000 women somewhat accidentally thanks to Facebook and Twitter, we dressed in our most immodest outfits on the 26 April. And on the 27th, I crunched the numbers. ... There were 47 earthquakes on the 26th, which falls well within the 95% confidence interval for number of earthquakes (about 0 to 148). ... Even though Boobquake wasn't perfect, it still was a success. Some people created counter-protests like Brainquake, thinking that my idea lacked real substance because of indecent male detractors. But the vast majority of people – including earthquake researchers, feminists, and many Iranians – thanked me for this exercise in scepticism. The boob joke probably made it popular, but hopefully the smarts will make it memorable. ..."
Posted April 23rd, 2010
The Texas Curriculum Massacre...
The April 26th issue of Newsweek has an editorial by Evan Smith about the Texas swchool board shenanigans. Smith writes " Remember (would we ever let you forget?) that this is a state that was once a nation. It's a 'whole other country,' as the tourism slogan boasts, and a wicked independent streak remains a defining—perhaps the defining —feature of our character. Texas and Texans have never cottoned to answering to outsiders. We don't like being told what to do. And we don't like it when our ability to chart our own course, to control our own destinies or the way we live our lives, is in any way hampered. ... One way to view the attempt to revise the social-studies curriculum, then, is as a bunch of Texas patriots drawing an Alamo-like line in the sand against an invading horde of elites. Don't tell us who is and who isn't an important historical figure. Don't tell us to view history through glasses tinted by political correctness. Don't deny us our God-given right to question the validity of evolution or the separation of church and state. We know better. Don't mess with us. Don't mess with Texas … exceptionalism. ..."
"Hobbits" Debated in Burque...
KRQE TV13 reported on April 21st "Once the stuff of pure fiction, scientists in Albuquerque debated the existence of Hobbits over the last week. During the Association of Physical Anthropologists annual meeting, PhD's presented papers on the discovery of Homo floresiensis ('Flores Man'), nicknamed the Hobbit. They debated if, and where, the 2003 discovery falls into human evolution. 'I think the majority opinion now is that this is a distinct species and the question 'is this really human,'' said Dr. Chris Stringer. Stringer works for the Museum of Natural History in London. Stringer has written in popular culture on the Halfling discovery made in 2003. 'Scientifically, it's an incredibly important find, because it shows how little we know about the evolution of man in Asia,' he said. Scientists presented several papers during the conference ranging from claiming Homo floresiensis was nothing more than a developmental disorder, to others discussing its bone strength and even brain shape. 'Here was a creature with a brain the size of a chimpanzee yet making reasonably sophisticated stone tools, apparently eating stegadons, (small elephants) maybe even hunting them,' said Stringer. ..."
Source (and Video): http://www.krqe.com/dpp/news/local/central/scientists-hobbits-roamed-the-earth
Origin of Life's Handedness Explained by "Ancestral Eve" Crystal?...
ScienceDaily reports on April 21st that "Scientists are reporting discovery of what may be the 'ancestral Eve' crystal that billions of years ago gave life on Earth its curious and exclusive preference for so-called left-handed amino acids. Those building blocks of proteins come in two forms -- left- and right-handed -- that mirror each other like a pair of hands. Their study, which may help resolve one of the most perplexing mysteries about the origin of life, is in ACS' Crystal Growth & Design, a bi-monthly journal. Tu Lee and Yu Kun Lin point out that conditions on the primordial Earth held an equal chance of forming the same amounts of left-handed and right-handed amino acids. Nevertheless, when the first forms of life emerged more than 3 billion years ago, all the amino acids in the proteins had the left-handed configuration. That pattern continued right up to modern plants and animals. The scientists used mixtures of both left- and right-handed aspartic acid (an amino acid) in laboratory experiments to see how temperature and other conditions affected formation of crystals of the material. They found that under conditions that could have existed on primitive Earth, left-handed aspartic acid crystals could have formed easily and on a large scale. 'The aspartic acid crystal would then truly become a single mother crystal: an ancestral Eve for the whole left-handed population,' the article notes. ..."
"War of the Weasels" published in Skeptical Inquirer...
"Panda's Thumb" blog readers may remember my summer-long series of articles about Genetic Algorithms, Dawkins' Weasel, and Fixed Targets in the summer of 2006. It's taken me a few years to get off my duff and write up a proper version for the Skeptical Inquirer. I'm pleased to report that my article has been published in the May/June 2010 issue: "The War of the Weasels: How an Intelligent Design Theorist was Bested in a Public Math Competition by a Genetic Algorithm! Even though ID "theorist" Salvador Cordova got his hat handed to him by a Genetic Algorithm, the ID community by and large has ignored the point of the entire series of posts, which was simply that most Genetic Algorithms (Dawkins' "Weasel" excluded) do not require explicit descriptions of the answers it is hoped the algorithm will provide. The article itself appears only in the print version. There is a "Web Extra" about solving similar problems with soap films (minimal surfaces), and a vigorous discussion on the Panda's Thumb, where comments are still open.
CSI Web Extra: http://www.csicop.org/si/archive/category/volume_34.3
Panda's Thumb discussion: http://pandasthumb.org/archives/2010/04/war-of-the-weas.html
April 26th "BOOBQUAKE" to test God?
The "Blag Hag" (Jen McCreight) got to wondering about this hypothesis of earthquake occurrence put forward by an Iranian cleric: ""Many women who do not dress modestly ... lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which (consequently) increases earthquakes," Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi was quoted as saying by Iranian media. Sedighi is Tehran's acting Friday prayer leader. ..."
The Blag Hag suggests this:"I have a modest proposal. Sedighi claims that not dressing modestly causes earthquakes. If so, we should be able to test this claim scientifically. You all remember the homeopathy overdose? Time for a Boobquake. On Monday, April 26th, I will wear the most cleavage-showing shirt I own. Yes, the one usually reserved for a night on the town. I encourage other female skeptics to join me and embrace the supposed supernatural power of their breasts. Or short shorts, if that's your preferred form of immodesty. With the power of our scandalous bodies combined, we should surely produce an earthquake. If not, I'm sure Sedighi can come up with a rational explanation for why the ground didn't rumble. And if we really get through to him, maybe it'll be one involving plate tectonics...."
"Holy Crap!" Boobquake goes Viral: http://www.blaghag.com/2010/04/quick-clarification-about-boobquake.html
Posted April 16th, 2010
Houston, We Have a Martyr...
The Discovery Institute opined and whined on April 15th that "Supervisors at NASA’s prestigious Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) illegally harassed and demoted a high-level computer system administrator for expressing support of intelligent design to co-workers, according to a discrimination lawsuit filed in California Superior Court. The lawsuit was filed by attorneys on behalf of David Coppedge, an information technology specialist and system administrator on JPL’s Cassini mission to Saturn, the most ambitious interplanetary exploration ever launched. ... Coppedge is suing JPL and Caltech for religious discrimination, harassment and retaliation; violation of his free speech rights; and wrongful demotion. Coppedge is represented by Los Angeles First Amendment attorney William J. Becker, Jr., of The Becker Law Firm. 'Intelligent design is not religion, and nothing in the DVDs that Coppedge shared deals with religion,' noted Luskin. 'Even so, it's unlawful for an employer to discriminate against an employee based on what they deem is religion.' ..."
List of JPL/CalTech officials the DI is asking people to harrass: http://www.evolutionnews.org/2010/04/what_you_can_do_to_help_david.html
Oh, by the way, "Intelligent Design" supporter Coppedge turns out to be a blatant Young Earth Creationist: http://www.creationsafaris.com/whycsf.htm
"I'm Dave Coppedge, founder and chief bwana of Creation Safaris. I want to take YOU out into God's fantastic world and show you the power, wisdom and love of your Maker! " http://www.creationsafaris.com/dfcbwana.htm
Scientists Recreate the Big Bang...
On a small scale, we hope! AFP reports on Feb. 16th that "US physicists have created matter at around four trillion degrees Celsius, the hottest temperature ever reached in a laboratory, simulating a 'quark soup' scientists believe existed at the universe's birth. The Department of Energy lab where the record-breaking temperature was reached said the effect was achieved by slamming together gold ions traveling at nearly the speed of light inside the Brookhaven National Laboratory's Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) -- an 'atom smasher' with a 2.4-mile (3.8-kilometer) circumference. The ultra-high temperature is higher than what is needed to melt protons and neutrons into a plasma of quarks and gluons, the substance that filled the universe a few microseconds after it came into existence 13.7 billion years ago, Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) said Monday. ..."
Viruses Harnessed to Split Water...
Science Daily reports on April 12th that "A team of MIT researchers has found a novel way to mimic the process by which plants use the power of sunlight to split water and make chemical fuel to power their growth. In this case, the team used a modified virus as a kind of biological scaffold that can assemble the nanoscale components needed to split a water molecule into hydrogen and oxygen atoms. Splitting water is one way to solve the basic problem of solar energy: It's only available when the sun shines. By using sunlight to make hydrogen from water, the hydrogen can then be stored and used at any time to generate electricity using a fuel cell, or to make liquid fuels (or be used directly) for cars and trucks. Other researchers have made systems that use electricity, which can be provided by solar panels, to split water molecules, but the new biologically based system skips the intermediate steps and uses sunlight to power the reaction directly. The advance is described in a paper published on April 11 in Nature Nanotechnology. ..."
"Surge" in Autism Cases has Societal Explanation...
Science Daily reportsz on April 11th that "Social influence plays a substantial role in the surging number of autism diagnoses, according to a study published in the American Journal of Sociology. The study, by researchers from the Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy at Columbia University, found that children living near a child who has been previously diagnosed with autism have a much higher chance of being diagnosed themselves in the following year. The increased likelihood of being diagnosed is not due to environmental factors or contagious agents, the study found. Rather, it is due mainly to parents learning about autism from other parents who have a child diagnosed with the disorder. ..."
"Climate-Gate" Scientists Cleared...
The NY Times Dot Earth blog writes on April 14 "Closure is slowly coming for climate scientists whose e-mail messages and files were exposed five months ago in an unauthorized release from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in Britain. Lessons are emerging as a series of inquiries draws toward an end, leaving climate science bruised, but better off in the long run. One lesson is that anyone hoping to up-end decades of research pointing to a growing human influence on the climate by challenging a single batch of studies (in this case efforts to chart past temperatures using indirect clues like tree rings) is almost surely on a fool’s errand. Another is that scientists, even when under relentless pressure, need to conduct their work scrupulously, carefully and openly and understand that transparency is inevitable in the digital era. A third is that scientists in highly specialized fields would do well to reach out for added statistical expertise when trying to test broader implications of their work. ..."
Posted April 9th, 2010
New Hominid Fossil Find got Boost from... Google Earth!
Technology News reports on April 9th that "Google has become synonymous with 'search,' but the discovery of the fossil remains of a previously unknown species of hominid gives new meaning to 'googling.' The scientists who found the treasure used Google Earth to locate unexplored cave sites and fossil deposits in South Africa. Scientists on Thursday announced the discovery of a new species of hominid, thanks to fossils whose whereabouts were located with the help of Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) Earth. Dating back almost two million years, Australopithecus sediba was discovered in the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site in South Africa. The species appears to have had long arms, like an ape; short powerful hands; and long legs capable of striding and possibly running like a human. Lee Berger, a palaeoanthropologist from the University of the Witwatersrand, led the discovery, which was published Friday in the journal Science. 'I believe that this is a good candidate for being the transitional species between the southern African ape-man Australopithecus africanus -- like the Taung Child and Mrs. Ples -- and either Homo habilis or even a direct ancestor of Homo erectus, like Turkana Boy, Java man or Peking man,' Berger said. ..."
The Universe Born Inside a Wormhole?
Science Daily reports on April 6th "Could our universe be located within the interior of a wormhole which itself is part of a black hole that lies within a much larger universe? Such a scenario in which the universe is born from inside a wormhole (also called an Einstein-Rosen Bridge) is suggested in a paper from Indiana University theoretical physicist Nikodem Poplawski in Physics Letters B. The final version of the paper was available online March 29 and will be published in the journal edition April 12. Poplawski takes advantage of the Euclidean-based coordinate system called isotropic coordinates to describe the gravitational field of a black hole and to model the radial geodesic motion of a massive particle into a black hole. In studying the radial motion through the event horizon (a black hole's boundary) of two different types of black holes -- Schwarzschild and Einstein-Rosen, both of which are mathematically legitimate solutions of general relativity -- Poplawski admits that only experiment or observation can reveal the motion of a particle falling into an actual black hole. But he also notes that since observers can only see the outside of the black hole, the interior cannot be observed unless an observer enters or resides within. 'This condition would be satisfied if our universe were the interior of a black hole existing in a bigger universe,' he said. 'Because Einstein's general theory of relativity does not choose a time orientation, if a black hole can form from the gravitational collapse of matter through an event horizon in the future then the reverse process is also possible. Such a process would describe an exploding white hole: matter emerging from an event horizon in the past, like the expanding universe.' ..."
Posted April 3rd, 2010
'Tis the Season: Alabama Pi Coverage...
Celebrations of NMSR's fabled "Alabama Pi" prank once again popped up all over the Internets...
Remember that Killer Comet?...
The one that the "Bible Code" predicted would strike Utah on March 1st? According to the folks at www.satansrapture.com, the lack of an actual comet is NASA's fault:
"IT IS VERY POSSIBLE THAT NASA USED "DEEP IMPACT" TO SHATTER OR RE-DIRECT THIS COMET THREAT AND AND SOMETIME IN JUNE OR LATER, NASA WILL ANNOUNCE THAT BACK IN MARCH 2010 THEY "SHATTERED A COMET IN DEEP SPACE THAT POSED NO THREAT TO EARTH". PROTECTING EARTH FROM DEEP SPACE COLLISION AND PREVENTING MASS PANIC ARE THE TWO FUNCTIONS OF NASA IN TERMS OF OUR NATIONAL SECURITY. ..."
Santa Fe Lawsuit Draws Sparks...
Writing in the March 28th Los Angeles Times, Michael Haederle discusses "Wi-Fi anxiety", and the strange case of the Santa Fe man who is suing his neighbor to shut off electronics. "The Santa Fe plaintiff claims to suffer from 'electromagnetic sensitivities' set off by cellphones, routers and other electronic devices." Firstenberg's claim has occasioned plenty of only-in-Santa-Fe eye-rolling. This is, after all, a town as known for its abundance of New Age healers, anti-nuclear activists and wealthy, turquoise-wearing expatriates as it is for spectacular sunsets and centuries-old adobe architecture. ... 'It makes me miss living in Santa Fe more than I have in a long time,' one former resident wrote on a local newspaper blog. 'When my brother sent me this link I wanted to cry from laughing so hard. I wonder if Blu-Ray players send him into convulsions? Would Bluetooth give him nosebleeds?' Not everyone was laughing. Nearly 400 people signed an online petition that Firstenberg helped organize against plans to add Wi-Fi antennas around town. The City Council postponed the project last month. ... Mainstream scientists object to the notion that microwaves and radio waves emitted by consumer electronics could cause the reported health problems. Bob Park, a University of Maryland physics professor who has published a book on the subject, says that although such radiation can heat tissue, it lacks the energy to knock loose electrons and alter human DNA or otherwise cause the reported symptoms. ..."
Roger Ebert on "Nightmare on 'Texas School Board' Street"...
The April opinion piece by Ebert notes "Right-wingers from Texas will be deciding what will be added and taken out of the textbooks of America's school children. They form the majority of the 15-member Texas State Board of Education. They believe current textbooks are slanted toward a liberal viewpoint, and that discussion of Darwin's Theory of Evolution, which one member describes as 'hooey,' wrongly excludes a consideration of Creationism. ..."
Not a Time Warp... NMSR's Science Watch in Reruns?
Always in need of quality programming, 1350 AM Progressive Talk will again be airing repeats of Science Watch Saturday 27th at 11 AM, and Sunday 28th at 11:30 AM.
Posted March 26th, 2010
Jesse Ventura Twists NM Tech Video Results, Gets Caught Bigtime...
This is the sizzling 9-11 "Truth" story for this week: when Jesse Ventura hired NM Tech to do thermite tests on steel beams for Ventura's 9-11 episode of "Conspiracy Theory", the actual test results were left on the cutting room floor. See how Ventura mangled the truth, and what the real results showed, in newly released footage.
NMSR Blog: http://nmskeptic.blogspot.com/2010/03/video-jesse-ventura-doesnt-want-world.html
Unsecured Coins video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nrGxzsxSqMk
Randi Forum: http://forums.randi.org/showthread.php?t=170346
TruTV Board: http://boards.trutv.com/showthread.php?p=40078
Screw Loose Change:http://screwloosechange.blogspot.com/2010/03/jesse-bser-ventura-i-called-it.html
Dave 'n' Kim's NOMA Slides On Line...
Dave Thomas and Kim Johnson made a joint presentation to a UNM Honors class last Monday on the topic of NOMA, non-overlapping Realms of Magisteria, regarding a tentative ceasefire between science and religion. The term NOMA was popularized by the late Stephen Jay Gould. To see Dave and Kim's presentation for this class, which previously had heard Mike Kent of IDnet-NM, check out this online summary.
PDF File: http://www.nmsr.org/noma.pdf
Fumbles are BACK...
We don't need no stinkin' radio show to hand out Media Fumbles! This week's recipient is Science Daily, which gushed over a press release some Cold Fusion supporters had sent them. From the March 22nd article: "A potential new energy source so controversial that people once regarded it as junk science is moving closer to acceptance by the mainstream scientific community. That's the conclusion of the organizer of one of the largest scientific sessions on the topic -- 'cold fusion' -- being held here for the next two days in the Moscone Center during the 239th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS). 'Years ago, many scientists were afraid to speak about 'cold fusion' to a mainstream audience,' said Jan Marwan, Ph.D., the internationally known expert who organized the symposium. ..."
Oklahoma to Execute Creationists?...
We suspect this paragaph from the March 25th Durant Daily Democrat should properly be another Media Fumble. For what's it's worth, the new story begins "A Senate budget panel cleared a wide range of bills Wednesday, allowing measures on the death penalty for child rapists and teaching the Bible in public high schools. ..."
Ayala gets Templeton Prize...
The NY Times reports on March 25th that "Francisco J. Ayala, a biologist and former Roman Catholic priest whose books and speeches offer reassurance that there is no essential contradiction between religious faith and belief in science, particularly the theory of evolution, has won the 2010 Templeton Prize. The John Templeton Foundation awards the annual prize, worth about $1.5 million, to 'a living person who has made exceptional contributions to affirming life’s spiritual dimension.' Dr. Ayala, an evolutionary biologist and a geneticist at the University of California, Irvine, lectures widely on science and religion, emphasizing that they are separate realms and that people come to grief when they attempt to 'entangle' them — as, for instance, when scientists assert there is no God or when advocates of creationist theories invoke supernatural intervention to explain evolutionary change. ..."
Posted March 19th, 2010
The "Hobbits" are Real...
The November issue of the Journal of Human Evolution is completely devoted to Homo floresiensis, a.k.a. the "Hobbit." The overall conclusion? "Our results sustain H. floresiensis as a new species (Brown et al., 2004; Morwood et al., 2005) and favor the hypothesis that H. floresiensis descended from an early species of Homo (Falk et al., 2005; Argue et al., 2006; Larson et al., 2007; Tocheri et al., 2007). We find no evidence of close phylogenetic relations to H. sapiens, and reject the idea that the Liang Bua remains represent a pathological modern human. Importantly, we also are unable to link H. floresiensis phylogenetically to H. erectus, rejecting the hypothesis that the small enigmatic bones resulted from insular dwarfing of H. erectus. It is surely time we accepted the reality of H. floresiensis as a species and seek answers to the questions that this species poses, not least of which is: who were its ancestors? ..."
But Don't Take That for Granite!
In the BLANK BLANK, David Floyd Sr. of Opelika, in a letter to the Editor, writing about the Hobbit fossils, opines "The article states the hobbit lived anywhere from 17,000 to 100,000 years ago, taking for granite another unproven theory that the earth is billions of years old. According to Dr. Kent Hovind, Creation Science Evangelism, Pensacola, Fla., there is ample evidence for a young earth, as the Bible clearly teaches. Materials are available by calling (850) 479-3466. The Bible tells us that on the sixth day of creation God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. According to the Bible this creation occurred about 6,000 years ago. I believe the Bible. ..."
Museum Shocker: New Exhibit Based on Science, not Scripture...
CNS News reports on March 18th that "A new exhibit at the National Museum of Natural History unveiled on Wednesday chronicles what Smithsonian officials said are the origins of man 6 million years ago in Africa, the evolution of several now-extinct human ancestors and the effects of climate on human survival and evolution. The stages of human development also are highlighted, but visitors will not find any references to God, creationism, or pre-natal existence. The exhibit’s Web site says fossils 'provide evidence that modern humans evolved from earlier humans.' ..."I guess we'll still have to go all the way to Kentucky to see a diorama of humans and dinosaurs living in harmony...
South Dakota Legislature: the "Astrological Factors" behind Global Warming ...
Stephen Stromberg of the Washington Post opines on March 12th "The similarities between the anti-evolution movement and the forces of climate-change denial increase by the day. The latest example comes from the South Dakota Legislature, which has called for a "balanced" approach to state teaching about climate change. It's obvious that some state legislators are abusing notions of fairness to advance an unbalanced view of the enduring scientific consensus on climate change. 'Carbon dioxide,' the resolution declares, 'is not a pollutant.' Someone should tell that to the Supreme Court -- that bastion of unhinged crunchy-granola types -- which instructed the Environmental Protection Agency in 2007 to find that carbon dioxide is just that. South Dakota schools, the resolution continues, should instruct students that 'global warming is a scientific theory rather than a proven fact' and that a number of factors, including 'astrological' ones, can 'effect (sic) world weather phenomena.' A healthy sense of doubt is important in any scientific inquiry, particularly when it comes to predicting precise climate outcomes resulting from very complicated Earth systems. But it's the big picture that matters -- and the big picture is pretty concerning, with high probabilities of serious, if not finely predictable, consequences if we do nothing. Even many skeptics of the scientific consensus won't dispute that the Earth's climate is changing, often arguing instead about what's to blame. ..."
Brain using Scientific Method for processing Vision?
ScienceDaily reports on March 18th that "It turns out that there is a striking similarity between how the human brain determines what is going on in the outside world and the job of scientists. Good science involves formulating a hypothesis and testing whether this hypothesis is compatible with the scientist's observations. Researchers in the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research in Frankfurt together with the University of Glasgow have shown that this is what the brain does as well. A study shows that it takes less effort for the brain to register predictable as compared to unpredictable images. ... The implication of this finding is that the brain does not just sit and wait for visual signals to arrive. Instead, it actively tries to predict these signals and when it is right it is rewarded by being able to respond more efficiently. If it is wrong, massive responses are required to find out why it is wrong and to come up with better predictions. One implication of this study is that when you enter the office the image of your colleague at his desk, who has the annoying trait of always being there before you, will require very little effort for your brain to register. The image of your mother in law sitting on the same chair, however, would make your brain go haywire. Not necessarily because you are not fond of this person but because this image makes it clear to your brain that it is doing a lousy job at predicting what is going to happen next and that it will have to make an effort to improve its predictions. This suggests that the brain's main job, alike that of a scientist, is to generate hypotheses about what is going on in the outside world. The study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, represents a significant advance in understanding how the brain supports visual perception. ..."
Texas Board and Revisionist History...
Form a March 16th editorial in the New York Times: "The Texas Board of Education, notorious for its past efforts to undermine the teaching of evolution in public schools, has now moved to revise the social studies curriculum to portray conservative ideas and movements in a more positive light and emphasize the role of Christianity in the nation's founding. It was a disturbing intervention by the board’s Republican majority into educational decisions best left to the teachers and scholars who have toiled for almost a year to produce the new curriculum standards. Since January, the board has passed more than 100 amendments to the proposed standards for what will be taught in history, sociology, government and economics from elementary to high school over the next decade. On Friday, the board gave preliminary approval to the new standards by a 10-to-5 party-line vote. A final vote will be held in May, but it is unlikely to change anything substantial. Some of the changes sound merely foolish, like replacing the word 'capitalism' with the words 'free-enterprise system.' One board member explained that the term capitalism has negative connotations, as in “capitalist pig.” Others are very worrisome, like questioning the doctrine of 'separation between church and state' and dropping Thomas Jefferson, who coined the phrase, from a list of figures whose writings inspired political revolutions from the 1700s on. From a practical standpoint, the board has inserted so many conservative figures, groups and concepts that must henceforth be studied that an already-long list of requirements may become unmanageable in the classroom time available. ..."
Posted March 12th, 2010
Perception of Age of the Earth is Key re Evolution...
Science Daily reports on March 11th that "High school and college students who understand the geological age of the Earth (4.5 billion years) are much more likely to understand and accept human evolution, according to a University of Minnesota study published in the March issue of the journal Evolution. The finding could give educators a new strategy for teaching evolution, since the Earth's age is typically covered in physical rather than biological science classes. Researchers Sehoya Cotner and Randy Moore, professors in College of Biological Sciences, and D. Christopher Brooks, of the university's Office of Information Technology, surveyed 400 students enrolled in several sections of a University of Minnesota introductory biology course for non-majors. ..."
Scientists Can't Be Trusted, Because They Get Paid?!?
In the March 11th edition of the Albuqerque Journal, Albuquerque resident Dave Schaack responds to the March 5th op-ed by Eva Thaddeus, and opines " Unfortunately, her [Eva Thaddeus] description of the process is missing a few important realities. Her misconceptions are well summarized by the questions that she poses about how anthropogenic global warming could possibly be a hoax: 'How and why would these scientists do such a thing? What would be the mechanism that could allow these people to work together to defraud the rest of us? Who would fund such a thing?' The answers are quite simple. They are, in fact, fundamentally driven by the process of funding. Virtually all science is currently funded, world-wide, by government bureaucrats. Put very succinctly, in order to get funding, scientists have to tell the bureaucrats what they want to hear. And what they have wanted to hear for the past 20 years is that the world is threatened by a global warming that only more governmental power can forestall. Argument from authority has no validity, and I will not use one here. But I want to make clear that I know what I am talking about. I have a Ph.D in a physical science from a major, well-regarded university. I could have pursued a scientific career had I chosen to do so. ..."Can you spot the logical Fallacy in this piece? Sure, Schaak abuses the Argument from Authority, but his major fail is the Genetic Fallacy.
Visionary Genes have 600-Million-Year-Old Heritage...
ScienceDaily reports on March 12th that "By studying the hydra, a member of an ancient group of sea creatures that is still flourishing, scientists at UC Santa Barbara have made a discovery in understanding the origins of human vision. The finding is published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, a British journal of biology. Hydra are simple animals that, along with jellyfish, belong to the phylum cnidaria. Cnidarians first emerged 600 million years ago. 'We determined which genetic 'gateway,' or ion channel, in the hydra is involved in light sensitivity,' said senior author Todd H. Oakley, assistant professor in UCSB's Department of Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology. 'This is the same gateway that is used in human vision.' ... The gene, called opsin, is present in vision among vertebrate animals, and is responsible for a different way of seeing than that of animals like flies. The vision of insects emerged later than the visual machinery found in hydra and vertebrate animals. 'This work picks up on earlier studies of the hydra in my lab, and continues to challenge the misunderstanding that evolution represents a ladder-like march of progress, with humans at the pinnacle,' said Oakley. 'Instead, it illustrates how all organisms -- humans included -- are a complex mix of ancient and new characteristics." ..."
Happy PI Day (3-14)...
Hat Tip: Kent Langsteiner
Science Watch is Over!
After four years, Kim and Dave have wrapped the weekly Science Watch broadcasts. Catch Up with Previous Shows on Podcast! There may be reruns on 1350 AM on Sundays between 10 and noon.
Posted March 5th, 2010
Global Warming? The Data say YES...
Eva Thaddeus , writing for the Coalition for Excellence in Science and Math Education (CESE) in the March 5th Albuquerque Journal, says "Science has been politicized. But science is not politics. In politics everybody has an opinion, and facts to back it up, and the democratic process is supposed to decide who is right and who is wrong. Most of us feel free to pick and choose our political opinions, and feel justified in our belief that our opinions are as good as anybody else's. ... For 10 years, I have been a member of the New Mexico Coalition for Excellence in Science and Math Education. This group includes scientists, engineers and educators. During that time, I have seen the group move from diverse opinions about global warming to general agreement. The reason? A group conspiracy? No, the evidence has become overwhelming. Human-caused global warming is changing the climate. Mainstream science is increasingly, urgently trying to tell us so. We ignore its voice at our peril. ..."
Darwinius masillae is NOT ancestral to Hominids...
ScienceDaily reports on March 3rd that "A fossil that was celebrated last year as a possible "missing link" between humans and early primates is actually a forebearer of modern-day lemurs and lorises, according to two papers by scientists at The University of Texas at Austin, Duke University and the University of Chicago. In an article now available online in the Journal of Human Evolution, four scientists present evidence that the 47-million-year-old Darwinius masillae is not a haplorhine primate like humans, apes and monkeys, as the 2009 research claimed. They also note that the article on Darwinius published last year in the journal PLoS ONE ignores two decades of published research showing that similar fossils are actually strepsirrhines, the primate group that includes lemurs and lorises. 'Many lines of evidence indicate that Darwinius has nothing at all to do with human evolution,' says Chris Kirk, associate professor of anthropology at The University of Texas at Austin. 'Every year, scientists describe new fossils that contribute to our understanding of primate evolution. What's amazing about Darwinius is, despite the fact that it's nearly complete, it tells us very little that we didn't already know from fossils of closely related species.' ..."
But the Asteroid DID Wipe Out the Dinosaurs...
The BBC reports on March 4th that "An international panel of experts has strongly endorsed evidence that a space impact was behind the mass extinction event that killed off the dinosaurs. They reached the consensus after conducting the most wide-ranging analysis yet of the evidence. Writing in Science journal, they rule out alternative theories such as large-scale volcanism. The analysis has been discussed at the 41st Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC) in the US. A panel of 41 international experts reviewed 20 years' worth of research to determine the cause of the Cretaceous-Tertiary (K-T) mass extinction, around 65 million years ago. The extinction wiped out more than half of all species on the planet, including the dinosaurs, bird-like pterosaurs and large marine reptiles, clearing the way for mammals to become the dominant species on Earth. Their review of the evidence shows that the extinction was caused by a massive asteroid or comet smashing into Earth at Chicxulub on Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. ..."
Psychic Surprised by SEC Lawsuit...
A psychic surprised? That shouldn't be possible, unless psychics aren't able to, say, predict the future. The NY Times reports on March 4th that "He calls himself “America’s Prophet,” a psychic, trained by Nepalese monks in the art of time travel, who can foretell the future of the stock market. But to the authorities, Sean David Morton is simply a fraud — and a really, really bad psychic. In a case that seems ripped from the pages of the satirical newspaper The Onion, the Securities and Exchange Commission sued Mr. Morton for securities fraud on Thursday, claiming he swindled more than $6 million from investors by promising them 'piles of money,' along with spiritual happiness. 'I have called ALL the highs and lows of the market giving EXACT DATES for rises and crashes over the last 14 years,'' Mr. Morton claimed at one point, according to the documents filed in connection with the case. ..."
Posted February 26th, 2010
Mass Media to Blame for Climate Skepticism?
Science Daily reports on Feb. 23rd that "Mass media have been a key vehicle by which climate change contrarianism has traveled, according to Maxwell Boykoff, a University of Colorado at Boulder professor and fellow of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, or CIRES. ... 'One problem occurs when outlier viewpoints are not individually evaluated in context,' said Boykoff. 'A variety of influences and perspectives typically have been collapsed by mass media into one general category of skepticism. This has been detrimental both in terms of dismissing legitimate critiques of climate science or policy, as well as amplifying extreme and tenuous claims.' Such claims are amplified when traditional news media position noncredible contrarian sources against those with scientific data, in a failed effort to represent opposing sides, said Boykoff. ..."
Losing Faith in Science?
The Financial Times reports on Feb. 22nd that "Public trust in science as a whole has suffered from recent attacks on climate research, the head of the senior US scientific body admitted at the weekend. 'There is evidence that the corrosion in the public attitude to climate science has spread over to other areas of science,' said Ralph Cicerone, president of the National Academy of Sciences, citing public opinion surveys in the US and elsewhere. Speaking at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in San Diego, Prof Cicerone and other research leaders said scientists must work to regain public trust by being more open about their findings. 'We need to be more transparent and provide more access to our research data,' he said. ..."
Creationism in Israel...
The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) reports on Feb. 21st that "The chief scientist in Israel's ministry of education, Gavriel Avital, 'sparked a furor' by questioning the reliability of evolution and global warming, leading to calls for his dismissal, according to Haaretz (February 21, 2010). 'If textbooks state explicitly that human beings' origins are to be found with monkeys, I would want students to pursue and grapple with other opinions. There are many people who don't believe the evolutionary account is correct,' he was quoted as saying. 'There are those for whom evolution is a religion and are unwilling to hear about anything else. Part of my responsibility, in light of my position with the Education Ministry, is to examine textbooks and curricula.' Hava Yablonka of Tel Aviv University told Haaretz that Avital's statements were tantamount 'to saying that space should be given in textbooks to the view that the earth is flat and the sun revolves around it. It's astonishing that the chief scientist of a government ministry can say such bizarre things.' ..."
Liberals, Atheists ... Smarter?
Science Daily reports on Feb. 23rd that More intelligent people are statistically significantly more likely to exhibit social values and religious and political preferences that are novel to the human species in evolutionary history. Specifically, liberalism and atheism, and for men (but not women), preference for sexual exclusivity correlate with higher intelligence, a new study finds. The study, published in the March 2010 issue of the peer-reviewed scientific journal Social Psychology Quarterly, advances a new theory to explain why people form particular preferences and values. The theory suggests that more intelligent people are more likely than less intelligent people to adopt evolutionarily novel preferences and values, but intelligence does not correlate with preferences and values that are old enough to have been shaped by evolution over millions of years." "text ..."
Posted February 19th, 2010
Brits Release Top Secret UFO Files...
The Huffington Post reports on Feb. 18th that "The United Kingdom's Ministry of Defense, the MoD, is releasing secret documents on UFO sightings, the Telegraph reports. Some of these sightings include a UFO flying over the London soccer stadium Stamford Bridge and a "funny shaped object" spotted above British politician Michael Howard's house. Other reports mention Winston Churchill and someone claims to have seen a flying Toblerone chocolate bar. Nick Pope, a former Ministry of Defense UFO claim investigator, states that 95% of the reports are ordinary occurrences that people have misidentified or mistaken. He adds, "But a small percentage of cases--perhaps 2-3%--are very interesting, are genuinely unexplained, and even those of us at the MoD who worked on this issue were puzzled genuinely saying, 'Well, we dont know what it is.'" One such example is a man who claimed he saw a UFO then subsequently got sick and developed a skin condition on the same day. ..."
In Less Than Two Weeks, "Bible Codes" to be Disproved...
Via David Morrison at NASA, I've learned of an upcoming Test of Bible Code predictions: " I represent a Bible Code researcher named HARRY WALTHER. He has found a Bible Code that warns of COMET IMPACT- MARCH 01, 2010 - UTAH. Please read the following page and search for any comet that could impact Utah on March 01, 2010. Thank you. ..."
Morrison writes "Thank you for the warning. In two weeks we will know if the prediction was correct. Claiming success after the fact (like with the earthquake in Haiti) is meaningless, but in this case there seems to be a real testable prediction about the future."
Boslough on the "Real Climate Controversy"...
Sandia physicist Mark Boslough has a riveting column in the Feb. 15th Albuquerque Journal. He writes "Global warming is occurring. It is caused by human activities. Both the theoretical basis (fundamental laws of physics) and observational evidence for warming are incontrovertible. The first decade of this century was the warmest ever recorded in human history, just as the models predicted. ... In 2005, Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., referred to global warming as the 'greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people.' Reps. Joe Barton, R-Texas, and Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., sent a letter to the Hockey Stick scientists, demanding that they immediately provide them with extensive documentation about what the politicians claimed were 'methodological flaws and data errors' in their work. Barton and Whitfield held Congressional hearings, and asked for a review of the Hockey Stick by a panel led by Edward Wegman, a statistician with no background in or understanding of climate science. The Wegman panel wrote a report that criticized the statistical methods used by the scientists. Climate change denialists embraced this criticism. Ever since they have claimed that the Hockey Stick has been discredited and, in a leap of logic, that global warming is not real. To many researchers, the investigation was nothing more than an anti-science witch-hunt. Scientists play by well-defined rules. They require peer-reviewed publication, logic and evidence. Science is like a hockey game that only works if fans understand it and teams play by the rules. The politicians knew their side could not win against a world-class 'hockey team.' They chose instead to create confusion and sow doubt. Their tactic was to act like unruly fans and throw hundreds of decoy hockey pucks onto the ice and then take advantage of the chaos. As any sports fan knows, when a fight breaks out on the ice or in the stands - that becomes the story. The idea was simply to delay any action. They didn't have to win the game. All they needed to do was disrupt it. ..."
Elephant Trick - Walking while Running?
The BBC reports on Feb. 14th that "With their awkward, lumbering gait, elephants moving at high speed are not the most graceful of animals - but are they walking or running? Now scientists believe they have an answer: new research confirms that they do both - at the same time. By observing elephants moving across a hi-tech track, the team found the hefty creatures run with their front legs but walk with their back legs. The research is published in the Journal of Experimental Biology. Earlier research had suggested that elephants perform a strange, part-walk/part-run while travelling at speed. But a team from Belgium, Italy and Thailand was able to investigate this further by using a specially built track that was able to precisely measure the forces exerted with each weighty elephant step. ..."
Posted February 12th, 2010
Texas Gov Candidate with Wacky Fringe Belief...
Surprisingly, it's not about Creationism! Dallas Morning news reports on Feb. 11th that "A Republican gubernatorial candidate said Thursday she has questions about whether the U.S. government was involved in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks — a statement she swiftly backed away from and one that drew immediate criticism from her better-known rivals in the race. Gov. Rick Perry and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison dismissed the comments made by Debra Medina on the Glenn Beck Show that there were 'some very good arguments' that the U.S. was involved in bringing down the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. 'I don't have all of the evidence there, Glenn,' Medina said. 'I think some very good questions have been raised. In that regard there's some very good arguments and I think the American people have not seen all the evidence there.' Medina later released a statement saying she did not believe the government was involved in the attacks. ... Beck, who is influential among the Libertarian-leaning voters that Medina has attracted, said he had been flooded with mail since he announced she would be on the show. Medina said in the interview that she has not been questioning the attacks publicly. 'There was a theme that ran against you, and that is, you are a '9/11 Truther,'' Beck said, referring to the term given to people who doubt the official account of Sept. 11. 'While I don't endorse anyone ... I think I can write her off the list,' Beck said. 'Let me take another look at Kay Bailey Hutchison if I have to. Rick, I think you and I could French kiss right now.' ..."
Freshwater Case Noticed Across the Pond...
The Guardian (UK) reports on Feb. 10th that "Jennifer Dennis studied her 13-year-old son's skin and was uncertain which to be more astonished by: the shape made by the strange dots running the length of his forearm, or how they got there. 'When I looked at it, the shape was definitely a cross, like a Christian cross,' said Dennis. 'Zach said his teacher did it with an instrument that gave off something like a lightning bolt. It was red, like a sunburn or if you burn your arm on the oven.' The next morning, Dennis was standing in the reception of Mount Vernon middle school demanding to know what had been done to Zachary. That was three years ago and the small, deeply religious Ohio town is bracing itself for the answer to Dennis's question after the lengthy de facto trial of a man who is either a decorated teacher martyred for his Christian faith, or a religious zealot who spent years undermining the very science he was paid to teach. Along the way, the dispute has prompted Bible-waving students to march on their school, set teacher against teacher, and forced Jennifer Dennis and her family to leave town. At the heart of the controversy is John Freshwater, who taught at Mount Vernon middle school for 21 years. Freshwater said he had done the same science experiment to hundreds of students before Zachary Dennis, using a Tesla coil, which gives off an electric spark. The teacher said it was painless and harmless – although a doctor would later testify that Dennis had second-degree burns – and that he had made an X, not a cross, on the boy's skin. That might have been the end of the matter after the school ordered Freshwater to stop using the coil on children. But Zachary Dennis's parents asked him what else was going on in science class. Out poured accounts of lessons on evolution mingled with creationist theories about "intelligent design", a euphemism for the hand of God, of questions about religious beliefs and of classroom walls pasted with the Ten Commandments. Other children told of also having crosses burned on their arms. The school sacked Freshwater in June 2008. He invoked his right to a hearing that is about to reach its conclusion after dragging on and off for more than a year and costing the school board close to $500,000 (£300,000). Dick Hoppe – a former nuclear missile engineer who later helped design the Apollo spacecraft command module, and who was more recently a visiting professor of biology at a local college – has attended almost every day of the hearings. 'One student, when asked what he had learned about science from Mr Freshwater, testified that what he learned was you can't trust science. That surprised me. I didn't want to believe it was that overt,' said the avowed atheist. ..."
Science and Religion Compatible? - Church of England...
Christian Today reportas ohn Feb. 12th (Happy Darwin Day!) that "The Church of England’s governing body has passed a motion declaring scientific claims to be compatible with Christian beliefs. The motion, put forward by former computer science lecturer Dr Peter Capon, also urges the House of Bishops to take steps to improve public understanding of the compatibility of science and Christianity. Dr Capon said he had put the motion forward in order to refute the 'crude caricature of faith' as something 'blind and irrational' being propagated by atheist scientists like God Delusion author Richard Dawkins. He rejected the notion that science could answer all questions about existence, saying it was possible to see the meaning of life through science and through faith. It was not only atheists to face criticism, however. Dr Capon said some Christians had embraced theories 'for which there is scant scientific evidence', as he warned Christians would make a 'categoric mistake' if they attempted to read the Bible as a modern scientific textbook. He pointed to the growing popularity of young earth creationism in the US, which he accused of trying to 'force a wooden literalism on the Bible'. 'This so-called 'creation science' attracts conflict because it contradicts so much modern scientific understanding. Rejecting much mainstream science does nothing to support those Christians who are scientists in their vocation or strengthen the Christian voice in the scientific area. Nor does it help the Christian who is a science student in school, college or university or encourage their faith in a great Creator,' he argued. Instead, Dr Capon urged Christians to take scientific evidence seriously and avoid prejudging science for theological reasons. ..."
Beyond Climategate: Mashey Report Released...
In a lengthy February 8th report titled "Plagiarism? Conspiracies? Felonies? Behind the Wegman Report and Decades of Related Anti-Science Attacks," John Mashey details the shenanigans behind the release of a Congressionally-mandated report that appeared to disprove anthropogenic Global Warming. A snippet: The WR [Wegman Report] not only incorporated deceptive plagiarism, but expanded far beyond its supposed statistics charter. It included a large section attacking the social network of paleoclimatology. It incorporated inappropriate references from the ?grey literature or popular press, totally misplaced in something supposed to be credible. ..."
Posted February 5th, 2010
Whole Lotta Atheist Bashing at KKOB AM...
Wednesday's (Feb. 3rd) edition of the Jim Villanucci show featured caller after caller complaining bitterly about the "Atheist Activist" group, which is calling for citizens to remove the religious roadside memorials so ubiquitous here in Nuevo Mexico.
It's not a hoax - there is indeed such a group, which writes "'For us, the memorials raise serious church-state constitutional concerns because they usually feature religious symbols and are placed on state property,' said Robert R. Tiernan, a lawyer with the Freedom From Religion Foundation in Madison, Wis., who successfully defended a Denver man arrested in 2001 after he removed a religious roadside memorial. 'I'm sympathetic to people who have faced this kind of grief,' added Mr. Tiernan, whose 13-year-old son died after a car accident in 1981. 'But the public space belongs to everyone, and I think it's important to honor that.' Atheists and other non-christians find them offensive, annoying and depressing. When you do see them, remove them as soon as possible. Every day that they stand gives some motorists the impression that the State condones religious symbols being placed along the road on State property. There is nothing stopping us from taking down these religious symbols. We don't need any new laws, we need direct action. ..."
What was missing from all the complaining? The very idea that this might even be a legitimate question for public discussion; and also, the fact that this effort comes, not from New Mexico, but from Pennsylvania.
Climate Professor Cleared of Fudging Data...
The Los Angeles Times reports on Feb. 4th that "A Penn State University panel on Wednesday cleared a climate professor of falsifying data, concealing information and misusing confidential information, but ordered a full investigation into whether he violated academic standards in researching global warming. The decision followed a preliminary inquiry into questions raised by the unauthorized release in November of more than 1,000 private e-mails written by several of the world's top climate scientists, including Michael E. Mann, the Penn State professor. A panel headed by Graduate School Dean Henry C. Foley looked at four allegations and dismissed all but one, which asks whether Mann's research activities "seriously deviated from accepted practices within the academic community." A new committee of five Penn State science professors has been set up to review that allegation and report its findings to Foley within 120 days. Mann called the university's initial report a 'vindication' and welcomed the further investigation. ..."
More Dinosaurs in Living Color...
ScienceDaily reports on Feb. 5th "Deciphering microscopic clues hidden within fossils, scientists have uncovered the vibrant colors that adorned a feathered dinosaur extinct for 150 million years, a Yale University-led research team reports online Feb. 4 in the journal Science. Unlike recently published work from China that inferred the existence of two types of melanin pigments in various species of feathered dinosaurs, the Science study analyzed color-imparting structures called melanosomes from an entire fossil of a single animal, a feat which enabled researchers to reveal rich color patterns of the entire animal. In fact, the analysis of melanosomes conducted by Yale team was so precise that the team was able to assign colors to individual feathers of Anchiornis huxleyi, a four-winged troodontid dinosaur that lived during the late Jurassic period in China. This dinosaur sported a generally gray body, a reddish-brown, Mohawk-like crest and facial speckles, and white feathers on its wings and legs, with bold black-spangled tips. ..."
Study that Kicked Off "Vaccines = Autism" Fears Finally Withdrawn...
The Wall Street Journal reports on Feb. 2nd that "A British medical journal formally retracted Tuesday the major study that first raised concerns about the link between autism-like symptoms and the mumps, measles and rubella vaccine. But while the withdrawal supports the scientific evidence that vaccinations don't cause autism, it isn't likely to persuade advocacy groups who still believe in the link. The 1998 study of 12 children triggered worry among British parents that the measles vaccine caused autism, and many decided not to immunize their children against measles, according to Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of the Lancet, which issued the retraction Tuesday. He called the study the "starting pistol" in the controversy. Ten of the original 13 authors on the original paper, conducted by researchers at the Royal Free Hospital and School of Medicine, retracted the paper in 2004. However, the first author on the paper, Andrew Wakefield, did not. ..."
Radford at Alibi writes up NMSR...
The latest edition of Albuquerque's Weekly Alibi feartures an article by Ben Radford on NMSR, Dave Thomas, Bible Codes, the Aztec UFO, and more!
Posted January 29th, 2010
"Hobbit's" Brains - Not Too Small...
ScienceDaily reports on Jan. 27th that "Homo floresiensis, a pygmy-sized small-brained hominin popularly known as 'the Hobbit' was discovered five years ago, but controversy continues over whether the small brain is actually due to a pathological condition. How can its tiny brain size be explained? Researchers writing in the open access journal BMC Biology have tackled this question in the context of a comprehensive assessment of the evolution of brain and body size throughout the larger primate family. ... According to Mundy, 'We find that, under reasonable assumptions, the reduction in brain size during the evolution of Homo floresiensis is not unusual in comparison to these other primates. Along with other recent studies on the effects of 'island dwarfism' in other mammals, these results support the hypothesis that the small brain of Homo floresiensis was adapted to local ecological conditions on Flores.' ..."
Universe Is More Run Down Than Thought...
ScienceDaily reports on Jan. 26th that " Cars run out of petrol, stars run out of fuel and galaxies collapse into black holes. As they do, the universe and everything in it is gradually running down. But how run down is it? Researchers from The Australian National University have found that the universe is 30 times more run down than previously thought. PhD student Chas Egan and Dr Charley Lineweaver from the ANU Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics have computed the entropy of the universe. Scientists compute entropy to out how efficient an engine is or how much work can be extracted from a fuel or how run down and disordered a system is. Using new data on the number and size of black holes they found that the universe contains 30 times more entropy than earlier estimates. 'We considered all contributions to the entropy of the observable universe: stars, star light, the cosmic microwave background. We even made an estimate of the entropy of dark matter. But it's the entropy of super-massive black holes that dominates the entropy of the universe. When we used the new data on the number and size of super-massive black holes, we found that the entropy of the observable universe is about 30 times larger than previous calculations,' said Mr Egan. ..."
Space Poop? Best.Guide.Ever.
This two-minute video from Universe Today is worth the watch.
Astrology gets Short Shrift from Astronomers...
Universe Today reports on Jan. 26th that "So you think the position of Mars in the sky at the time of your birth made you tall, dark, and handsome (or short, fair, and ugly)? Or lucky (or unlucky) in love? If you think believing in astrology is anywhere close to scientific, well, Dude, time to think again. Pick two babies born within a minute of each other. One has two nurses and a doctor attending; the other, just a midwife. One is born in a brightly lit maternity ward in a downtown big city hospital; the other in a poorly lit room in a village 50 kilometers from the nearest big city. 'Downtown' is just a few meters above sea level; the village is situated on a 1000 meter high plateau. These local differences have far greater effects on the babies than Mars does. Let's see how. Nearly five centuries of physics have given us quite a few certainties, and among those are that the only long range forces in the universe are gravity and electromagnetism. And both of these, from Mars, are totally – and I mean totally – overwhelmed by those same forces that were produced by things near you when you were delivered. In a word, Mars can't influence you. ..."
Top Brit Scientist: "Climate Change Sceptics 'should not be dismissed'"...
The Telegraph reports on Jan. 27th that "Climate change sceptics should not be dismissed, the Government's chief scientific adviser [John Beddington] has said, as he called for more openness in the global warming debate. Prof John Beddington admitted the impact of global warming had been exaggerated by some scientists and condemned climate researchers who refused to publish data which formed the basis of their reports into global warming. In an interview, Prof Beddington, called for a new era of honesty and responsibility from the environmental community and said scientists should be less hostile to sceptics who questioned man-made global warming. His words were refected in a New Scientist editorial that also argued that climate scientists should "welcome in the outside world" for more scrutiny. Prof Beddington also said public confidence in climate science would be boosted by greater honesty about its uncertainties. 'I don't think it's healthy to dismiss proper scepticism,' he said. ..."
Pat Robertson Voodoo Doll on E-Bay...
After 44 bids, the Doll is going for $730 at present. Proceeds will go to the Haiti relief fund. Do I hear $740?
Dinosaurs, in Living Color?
At the New York Times, Carl Zimmer reports on Jan. 27th that "What color were dinosaurs? Well, at least one of them had a feathered mohawk tail in a subdued palette of chestnut and white stripes. That is what a team of Chinese and British scientists reported Wednesday in Nature, providing the first clear evidence of dinosaur colors from studies of 125-million-year-old fossils of a dinosaur called Sinosauropteryx. 'We might be able to start painting a picture in color of what these things looked like,' said Lawrence M. Witmer, a paleontologist at Ohio University, who was not involved in the study. Of course, such pictures have been painted many times, but the colors were products of a painter's imagination, not a scientist’s laboratory. ... In the new study, Michael Benton, a paleontologist at the University of Bristol, and colleagues have analyzed the structures of what appear to be feathers and say they match the feathers of living birds down to the microscopic level. They used microscopic features to determine the ancient feathers' color. ..."
A related article at National Geographic has a vivid restoration of Sinosauropteryx:
Posted January 22nd, 2010
Liquid Diamond Oceans in Space?
Discovery.com reports on Jan. 15th that "Oceans of liquid diamond, filled with solid diamond icebergs, could be floating on Neptune and Uranus, according to a recent article in the journal Nature Physics. The research, based on the first detailed measurements of the melting point of diamond, found diamond behaves like water during freezing and melting, with solid forms floating atop liquid forms. The surprising revelation gives scientists a new understanding about diamonds and some of the most distant planets in our solar system. 'Diamond is a relatively common material on Earth, but its melting point has never been measured,' said Eggert. 'You can't just raise the temperature and have it melt, you have to also go to high pressures, which makes it very difficult to measure the temperature.' Other groups, notably scientists from Sandia National Laboratories, successfully melted diamond years ago, but they were unable to measure the pressure and temperature at which the diamond melted. ..."
Freshwater Hearings Profiled in the NY Times...
The New York Times reports on Jan. 20th that "Most people in this quiet all-American town describe themselves as devoutly Christian, but even here they are deeply divided over what should happen to John Freshwater. Mr. Freshwater, an eighth-grade public school science teacher, is accused of burning a cross onto the arms of at least two students and teaching creationism, charges he says have been fabricated because he refused an order by his principal to remove a Bible from his desk. After an investigation, school officials notified Mr. Freshwater in June 2008 of their intent to fire him, but he asked for a pre-termination hearing, which has lasted more than a year and cost the school board more than a half- million dollars. The hearing is finally scheduled to end Friday, and a verdict on Mr. Freshwater’s fate is expected some months later. But the town — home to about 15,000 people, more than 30 churches and an evangelical university — remains split. To some, Mr. Freshwater is a hero unfairly punished for standing up for his Christian beliefs. To others, he is a zealot who pushed those beliefs onto students. 'Freshwater's supporters want to make this into a new and reverse version of the Scopes trial,' said David Millstone, the lawyer for the Mount Vernon Board of Education, referring to the Tennessee teacher tried in 1925 for teaching evolution. “We see this as a basic issue about students having a constitutional right to be free from religious indoctrination in the public schools.' ..."
No More Jesus Rifles...
ABC News reports on Jan. 21st "Trijicon, the gunsight maker that has imprinted Bible verse numbers on its scopes, has announced that it will no longer imprint the verses on the sides of scopes intended for the U.S. military, and will also provide clients with the kits to remove the Bible verse numbers from existing scopes. An ABC News report earlier this week revealed that the Michigan-based company, which has a contract to provide up to 800,000 scopes to the U.S. military, prints references to New Testament chapters and verses in code next to the model numbers of its scopes. The scopes are used by the U.S. Marine Corps and Army in Iraq and Afghanistan, and by U.S. allies in those countries, and for the training of Afghan and Iraqi troops. 'Trijicon has proudly served the U.S. military for more than two decades, and our decision to offer to voluntarily remove these references is both prudent and appropriate,' said Stephen Bindon, Trijicon president and CEO in a statement. 'We want to thank the Department of Defense for the opportunity to work with them and will move as quickly as possible to provide the modification kits for deployment overseas.' Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said the Department of Defense 'applauds the voluntary actions announced today by Trijicon.' ..."
New Insights on Primate Origins...
ScienceDaily reports on Jan. 20th that "A new model for primate origins is presented in Zoologica Scripta, published by the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters and The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. The paper argues that the distributions of the major primate groups are correlated with Mesozoic tectonic features and that their respective ranges are congruent with each evolving locally from a widespread ancestor on the supercontinent of Pangea about 185 million years ago. Michael Heads, a Research Associate of the Buffalo Museum of Science, arrived at these conclusions by incorporating, for the first time, spatial patterns of primate diversity and distribution as historical evidence for primate evolution. Models had previously been limited to interpretations of the fossil record and molecular clocks. "According to prevailing theories, primates are supposed to have originated in a geographically small area (center of origin) from where they dispersed to other regions and continents" said Heads, who also noted that widespread misrepresentation of fossil molecular clocks estimates as maximum or actual dates of origin has led to a popular theory that primates somehow crossed the globe and even rafted across oceans to reach America and Madagascar. In this new approach to molecular phylogenetics, vicariance, and plate tectonics, Heads shows that the distribution ranges of primates and their nearest relatives, the tree shrews and the flying lemurs, conforms to a pattern that would be expected from their having evolved from a widespread ancestor. This ancestor could have evolved into the extinct Plesiadapiformes in north America and Eurasia, the primates in central-South America, Africa, India and south East Asia, and the tree shrews and flying lemurs in South East Asia. ..."
Weather versus Climate Change?
Tired of hearing "Global Warming is a crock!" every time a snowflake drifts to earth? Check out this week's episode of "Climate Change Crock of the Week"!
Posted January 18th, 2010
'Creation' Movie to Premiere in January...
The NCSE reports on Jan. 7th that "Creation, the new film about Darwin featuring Paul Bettany and Jennifer Connelly, premieres in the United States on January 22, 2010, in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington DC, and Boston. In her review of Creation at The Panda's Thumb blog, NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott described it as 'a thoughtful, well-made film that will change many views of Darwin held by the public — for the good." Scott, the film's director Jon Amiel, and Kevin Padian, president of NCSE's board of directors, will participate in a discussion panel at the San Francisco premiere, and similar events are planned for the premieres elsewhere. A strong opening weekend improves the chances that the film will subsequently appear in further cities, so NCSE encourages its members and friends to show up in force. For updates, visit Creation's website. ..."
Anti-Evolution Bills Crop Up in States Starting with 'MISS...'...
The NCSE reports on Jan. 13th that "A bill in Mississippi is apparently the first antievolution bill of 2010. House Bill 586, introduced on January 12, 2010, and referred to the House Education Committee, would, if enacted, require local school boards to include a lesson on human evolution at the beginning of their high school biology classes. The catch: "The lesson provided to students ... shall have proportionately equal instruction from educational materials that present scientifically sound arguments by protagonists and antagonists of the theory of evolution." ..."
The NCSE reports on Jan. 14th that "House Bill 1651, introduced in the Missouri House of Representatives on January 13, 2010, and not yet referred to a committee, is apparently the second antievolution bill of 2010. ..."
Creature from the Plantimal Kingdom?
A. Mohit at Technorati.com writes on Jan. 14th "Plants are plants and animals are animals, the twine shall never merge, right? Not so fast! How about a creature which is part animal and part plant? For many years, scientists have been studying a green slug, which lives between the two worlds. The slugs feast on algae. However, instead of digesting the whole algae the slugs retain and store the chloroplasts in their own bodies. This enables them to directly convert sun light into energy, as most plants do, through the process known as photosynthesis, and survive without any food for very long time. The slug is known by its biological name, Elysia chlorotica. Sidney Pierce, a biologist at the University of South Florida in Tampa has been studying them for nearly twenty years. He presented his study on Jan 7, at the annual meeting of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology, creating a new interest in this unique animal. ..."
Posted January 11th, 2010
Dembski Comes Clean...
At long last, an "Intelligent Design" theorist, William Dembski, has come out and stated the obvious: " True, young-earth creationism remains the majority view in the SBC, but it is not a litmus test for Christian orthodoxy within the SBC. I'm an old-earth creationist ..."
Tetrapods Even Earlier than Known...
ScienceDaily reports on Jan. 7th that "The discovery of fossil footprints from early backboned land animals in Poland leads to the sensational conclusion that our ancestors left the water at least 18 million years earlier than previously thought. The results of the Polish-Swedish collaboration are published online in the journal Nature. "These results force us to reconsider our whole picture of the transition from fish to land animals," says Per Ahlberg of Uppsala University, one of the two leaders of the study. ..."
Cellphone Help against Alzheimer's?...
ScienceDaily also reports on Jan. 7th that " The millions of people who spend hours every day on a cell phone may have a new excuse for yakking. A surprising new study in mice provides the first evidence that long-term exposure to electromagnetic waves associated with cell phone use may actually protect against, and even reverse, Alzheimer's disease. The study, led by University of South Florida researchers at the Florida Alzheimer's Disease Research Center (ADRC), was published January 6 in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease. "It surprised us to find that cell phone exposure, begun in early adulthood, protects the memory of mice otherwise destined to develop Alzheimer's symptoms," said lead author Gary Arendash, PhD, USF Research Professor at the Florida ADRC. "It was even more astonishing that the electromagnetic waves generated by cell phones actually reversed memory impairment in old Alzheimer's mice." The researchers showed that exposing old Alzheimer's mice to electromagnetic waves generated by cell phones erased brain deposits of the harmful protein beta-amyloid, in addition to preventing the protein's build-up in younger Alzheimer's mice. The sticky brain plaques formed by the abnormal accumulation of beta amyloid are a hallmark of Alzheimer's disease. Most treatments against Alzheimer's try to target beta-amyloid. ..."
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