New Mexicans for Science and Reason




Posted December 18th, 2011

The End has Come for Aztec Ufo Festival...

The Farmington Daily Times reported on Dec. 7th that " One of the most anticipated and out-of-this-world annual events in San Juan County is no more. 2011 marked the last year for the annual Aztec UFO Symposium, which has taken place for the past 14 years. "The symposium actually went on four years longer than anyone expected," said Katie McClure, event organizer and vice president of the Friends of the Library Board. 'I think 14 years is a pretty good run.' McClure cited declining interest in UFO gatherings as a reason for the cancellation, as well as lack of board members willing and able to put the intensive amount of time into planning and holding the event. ..."


Kentucky Teacher Upset because Biology Test Omits Creation Theory...

LA Times Blogs note on Dec. 13th " The whole Darwin thing can still be a tad controversial in Kentucky, a state that hosts a high-tech, Bible-centered, natural-history-style museum that asserts that the Earth is roughly 6,000 years old. In Hart County, about an hour and 20 minutes south of Louisville, the local school superintendent is now expressing his frustration that a new state biology test is, in his opinion, treating evolution as a fact, rather than a theory. He also charges that the test is omitting the 'creation story' that cites God as the originator of the universe. The Lexington Herald-Leader's Jim Warren reported Tuesday that Superintendent Ricky D. Line raised the objections in emails and letters to the state education commissioner and education board. 'I have a very difficult time believing that we have come to a point ... that we are teaching evolution ... as a factual occurrence, while totally omitting the creation story by a God who is bigger than all of us,' he wrote, according to the newspaper. ..."


Teasing out Hypotheses from Data...

Science Daily writes on Dec. 15th " Researchers from the Broad Institute and Harvard University have developed a tool that can tackle large data sets in a way that no other software program can. Part of a suite of statistical tools called MINE, it can tease out multiple patterns hidden in health information from around the globe, statistics amassed from a season of major league baseball, data on the changing bacterial landscape of the gut, and much more. The researchers report their findings in a paper appearing in the December 16 issue of the journal Science. ... 'The goal of this statistic is to take data with a lot of different dimensions and many possible correlations and pick out the top ones," said Michael Mitzenmacher, a senior author of the paper and professor of computer science at Harvard University. "We view this as an exploration tool -- it can find patterns and rank them in an equitable way.' One of the tool's greatest strengths is that it can detect a wide range of patterns and characterize them according to a number of different parameters a researcher might be interested in. Other statistical tools work well for searching for a specific pattern in a large data set, but cannot score and compare different kinds of possible relationships. MINE, which stands for Maximal Information-based Nonparametric Exploration, is able to analyze a broad spectrum of patterns. ..."


Hitchens Dies, Moralizing Begins...

Southern Baptist leader Albert Mohler tweeted on Dec. 15th " The death tonight of Christopher Hitchens is an excruciating reminder of the consequences of unbelief. We can only pray others will believe. ..."


Hmmm, that suggests a Science Fair Project: Which Religious Persuasion IS Mysteriously Immune to Cancer?

Posted November 30th, 2011

White House: No Aliens on Ice...

Universe Today reports on Nov. 5th that " The White House has responded to two petitions asking the US government to formally acknowledge that aliens have visited Earth and to disclose to any intentional withholding of government interactions with extraterrestrial beings. 'The U.S. government has no evidence that any life exists outside our planet, or that an extraterrestrial presence has contacted or engaged any member of the human race,' said Phil Larson from the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy, on the website. 'In addition, there is no credible information to suggest that any evidence is being hidden from the public's eye.' ..."

Prediction: The UFO Community will reject this quicker than you can say "SHILL"...


Chicxulub Impact: Not the Smoking Gun of Dino Doom?

ScienceDaily reported on Nov. 17th that " A cosmic one-two punch of colossal volcanic eruptions and meteorite strikes likely caused the mass-extinction event at the end of the Cretaceous period that is famous for killing the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, according to two Princeton University reports that reject the prevailing theory that the extinction was caused by a single large meteorite. Princeton-led researchers found that a trail of dead plankton spanning half a million years provides a timeline that links the mass extinction to large-scale eruptions of the Deccan Traps, a primeval volcanic range in western India that was once three-times larger than France. A second Princeton-based group uncovered traces of a meteorite close to the Deccan Traps that may have been one of a series to strike Earth around the time of the mass extinction, possibly wiping out the few species that remained after thousands of years of volcanic activity. ..."


AGAIN with the ClimateGate?

The New York Times reported on Nov. 22nd that " The British university whose stolen emails caused a global climate science controversy in 2009 says those behind the breach have apparently released a second and potentially far larger batch of old messages. University of East Anglia spokesman Simon Dunford said that while academics didn't yet have the chance to examine all the roughly 5,000 emails apparently dumped into the public domain Tuesday, a small sample seen by the university 'appears to be genuine.' The university said in a statement that the emails did not appear to be the result of a new breach. Instead, the statement said that the emails appeared to have been stolen two years ago and held back until now 'to cause maximum disruption' to the imminent U.N. climate talks next week in Durban, South Africa. If that is confirmed, the timing and nature of the leak would follow the pattern set by the so-called 'Climategate' emails ..."


"Bad Astronomer" Phil Plait, in a Nov. 22nd blog titled "Climategate 2: More ado about nothing. Again," quotes climate scientists Michael Mann in a New Scientist interview: " Mann called the new batch of emails 'truly pathetic' and said they reflect desperation among climate deniers, who have failed to pick holes in the science. 'They have instead turned to smear, innuendo, criminal hacking of websites, and leaking out-of-context snippets of personal emails in their effort to try to confuse the public about the science and thereby forestall any action to combat this critical threat.' ..."


Lynn Margulis Dead at 73...

NCSE reports on Nov. 23rd that " The eminent biologist Lynn Margulis died on November 22, 2011, at the age of 73, according to the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. ... Margulis was perhaps most celebrated for her advocacy of the endosymbiotic theory of the origin of organelles, starting with her paper 'On the origin of mitosing cells,' published in the Journal of Theoretical Biology in 1967. The endosymbiotic theory is now generally accepted for mitochondria and chloroplasts, if not for all of the organelles that Margulis thought. She was also known for her advocacy of the Gaia hypothesis and symbiogenesis, the idea that speciation is driven largely by symbiosis. Her proclivity for such unconventional evolutionary mechanisms allowed her to be steadily misrepresented by antievolutionists hoping to convince the public that evolution is a theory in crisis. But Margulis firmly rejected creationism, writing, for example, 'Anthropocentric writers with a proclivity for the miraculous and a commitment to divine intervention tend to attribute historical appearances like eyes, wings, and speech to 'irreducible complexity' (as, for example, Michael Behe does in his book, Darwin's Black Box) or 'ingenious design' (in the tradition of William Paley who used the functional organs of animals as proof for the existence of God). Here we feel no need for supernatural hypotheses. Rather, we insist that today, more than ever, it is the growing scientific understanding of how new traits appear, ones even as complex as the vertebrate eye, that has triumphed' (Acquiring Genomes, p. 202). She was a Supporter of NCSE. ..."


Sadly, Margulis fell in with the 9/11 Truth Movement as well:

FTL Neutrinos Confirmed?

The New York Times reports on Nov. 18th that " Few scientists are betting against Einstein yet, but the phantom neutrinos of Opera are still eluding explanation. Two months after scientists reported that they had clocked subatomic particles known as neutrinos going faster than the speed of light, to the astonishment and vocal disbelief of most of the world’s physicists, the same group of scientists, known as Opera, said on Friday that it had performed a second experiment that confirmed its first results and eliminated one possible explanation for how the experiment could have gone wrong. ... When these results were presented to a meeting at CERN in September, after a prairie fire of blog rumors, they were greeted by fierce skepticism. Among the problems with the original experiment, scientists said, was that the neutrinos were produced in bursts 10,000 billionths of a second long — much bigger than the discrepancy in arrival time. Last month CERN retooled so that the neutrinos could be produced in shorter bursts, only 3 billionths of a second long, making it easier to match neutrinos at Gran Sasso with neutrinos at CERN, and the experiment was briefly repeated. The neutrinos still arrived early, about 62 billionths of a second early, in good agreement with the original result and negating the possibility, the Opera team said, that the duration of the neutrino pulse had anything to do with the results. ... Alvaro de Rujula, a CERN theorist, said there were two interpretations of the experiment. 'One is that they have stumbled upon a revolutionary discovery; the other, on which I would place my bet, is that they are still making and not finding the very same error.' In the meantime, Einstein sleeps peacefully. ..."


Again with Texas and school Standards...

The NCSE reports on Nov. 28th that " 'Just when it looked like science education might be safe for a while in Texas public schools, the State Board of Education could soon be dragging the state back into the textbook wars over evolution,' the Texas Freedom Network reported on its blog (November 23, 2011). At its most recent meeting, the Texas state board of education considered a proposed schedule on which new science textbooks would be adopted in 2013, in time for classroom use in 2014. 'A full textbook adoption in 2013,' TFN explained, 'would give creationists another opportunity to pressure publishers into dumbing down instruction on evolution.' ..."


Posted November 5th, 2011

Mayan Scholar Debunks 2012 End of World...

ScienceDaily reports on Nov. 3rd " University of Kansas anthropologist and Maya scholar John Hoopes and his students are watching predicted doomsday dates such as 11/11/11 and Dec. 21, 2012, with considerable skepticism. Hoopes is regarded as one of the major go-to guys to separate fact from fiction about the Maya calendar and a prediction that the world would end Dec. 21, 2012. He has written scholarly articles debunking the 2012 myth, including a chapter in '2012: Decoding the Counterculture Apocalypse,' edited by Joseph Gelfer and scheduled for release this month by Equinox Publishing. In addition, Hoopes contributes to Wikipedia as a 2012 skeptic and is featured in at least three documentaries on the topic ('Apocalypse 2012' airing on CNBC, and two more scheduled for release next year). In his fall course on Archaeological Myths and Realities -- An Introduction to Critical Thinking, the 2012 myth works as a dynamic teaching tool. This fall, Hoopes and his students have watched two predicted cataclysmic dates -- Oct. 21 and 28 -- come and go with little fanfare. Oct. 21 was a date selected by California evangelist Harold Camping after his original May 21, 2011, prediction passed without calamity. Swedish pharmacologist, self-help advocate and self-taught Maya cosmologist Carl Johan Calleman was among those predicting that Oct. 28 would usher in a worldwide unified consciousness. The next big date to consider is 11/11/11, when many in the New Age movement plan celebrations to receive emerging energies in preparation for a transformation of consciousness on Dec. 21, 2012. ..."


Oct. 21st Rapture? Harold Camping Repents, Apologizes...

The Christian Post wrote on Oct. 30th " With his speech sounding somewhat slurred and labored, Family Radio Stations Inc. founder and chairman Harold Camping sought to address in a recent message why Christ failed to return on Oct. 21 as the Bible teacher had predicted. Camping confessed, after decades of falsely misleading his followers, that he was wrong and regrets his misdeeds. In addition to attempting to correct his erroneous teachings on the Rapture and God's day of final judgment on the world, Camping, 90, also confessed, 'incidentally,' that he was wrong to claim that God had stopped saving people after May 21 – the date which God's so-called 'spiritual' judgment had begun. This is undoubtedly a radical shift for Camping, who has staunchly claimed since 1992 that he had discovered a special numerical system in the Bible that allowed him to calculate the exact dates of certain events, such as the Great Flood, the Crucifixion and the day of Jesus Christ's return to Earth. ..."


Climate Change Skeptic Uses Denier Funds, Confirms Warming...

A New York Times editorial on Nov. 3rd noted " Richard Muller, a prominent American physicist, was so skeptical about data showing a gradual warming of the Earth's surface that he decided to investigate for himself. The results of his two-year inquiry — partially bankrolled by the Charles Koch Foundation, whose founder is a prominent global-warming denier — are now in. And, voilà, the Earth is indeed warming, just as most scientists have been saying for years. The main finding by Mr. Muller and his team at the University of California at Berkeley is that land temperatures have risen about 1 degree Celsius (or 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) since 1950. This matches findings by the National Academy of Sciences, federal agencies and independent American and British researchers whose work has been repeatedly attacked by climate deniers and opponents of efforts to limit emissions of greenhouse gases. Mr. Muller undertook the study partly because he distrusted the readings at temperature stations around the world, some of which he felt were more sophisticated than others, and partly because he feared that higher temperatures in the cities skewed the overall result. After taking 1.6 billion readings at 39,000 sites, he has toted up the results and declared: 'Global warming is real.' This may not be exactly the result the Koch foundation had in mind when it forked out one-quarter of the $600,000 it took to do the study. Charles Koch and his brother, David, are oil and gas billionaires who argue that warming is a hoax. ..."


Muller/Thomas vs. Gage/Harrit...

Speaking of Robert Muller, the Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truthiness have published their assessment of the September 11th, 2011 radio debate between AE911Truth's Richard Gage and Niels Harrit, versus NMSR's Dave Thomas and Livermore's Robert Muller. Unsurprisingly, the Truthers were not persuaded that they were wrong, as this self-serving proof-by-assertion summation shows: "The unscientific claims Muller and Thomas made are a reminder that it is futile for technical professionals who have studied the explosive 9/11 evidence to defend the official narrative. ..."


Debate Audio (1 hour):

Posted October 24th, 2011

Wall Street Journal looks at Typing Monkeys...

Carl Bialik writes in his Wall Street Journal blog for October 7th " My print column examined a computer programmer’s effort to simulate the thought experiment of putting many monkeys over many years to the task of bashing keyboards, with the hope their random output would eventually include the works of Shakespeare. This effort was successful mainly because it changed the rules, requiring only that monkey-like software match nine-letter strings from Shakespeare’s works, rather than whole scenes, let alone acts or plays. That made it the target for some skepticism from academic researchers. 'This bit of silliness deserves no attention from anyone,' said Jeffrey Shallit, a computer scientist at the University of Waterloo. 'It has nothing to do with evolution and it is of absolutely no interest mathematically.'... 'He's showing the power of raw computation,' said Dave Thomas, president of New Mexicans for Science and Reason. 'It illustrates that monkeys randomly typing stuff eventually produce real words.' ..."


Print Column:

What Physics Teaches Us About Creationism...

The Huffington Post writes on October 11th " A couple of weeks ago the scientific world was shaken by a report out of the European Center for Nuclear Research (CERN) claiming that, after years of study, neutrinos were found to be traveling faster than the speed of light. The results were so shocking because, if accurate, they contradict Einstein's theory of special relativity which asserts that nothing in the universe can travel faster than the speed of light. The importance of this news can easily be gauged by the excitement that the results generated in the non-technical media. News reports abounded with headlines like "Scientists Report Breaking the Speed of Light, But Can it Be True? " from NPR and "'Faster than Light' Particles Make Time Travel Possible, Scientist Says" from Fox News. Scientists from around the globe made it clear that if these results hold up to additional scrutiny, they might herald a revolution in physics; that some of our most cherished and important concepts, concepts at the very core of physics, might have to be reworked. Independent of whether or not the CERN results are correct, they have an enormous amount to teach us about the very nature of science and how dramatically it differs from the ways in which creationists characterize science. It also highlights the differences in methodology between those practicing science and those promoting the pseudoscience of creationism. Creationists regularly assert that science is a closed operation, that those offering opinions differing from the norm cannot get a fair hearing within the scientific community. They argue that it is impossible to publish papers in the technical literature that call the dominant paradigm into question. It is this narrow-mindedness, they continue, that keeps their "important" ideas from being shared broadly. I can't begin to count the number of notes I've received from creationists who rail against the biologists who refuse to consider what they have to say. The charge is always the same: scientists are biased and unwilling to consider any ideas that contradict their opinions. The work arising from CERN demonstrates just how absurd this argument is. The scientists responsible for the work calling special relativity into question had absolutely no trouble getting their results in front of their peers. No one closed ranks and black-listed those who challenged the prevailing paradigm. Quite the opposite occurred. The physics community is abuzz with the results, and healthy discussion, meaningful skepticism, and plans for replication abound. ..."


Speaking of Neutrinos, the Mystery is Explained...

Evan Ackerman at writes on October 14th " Those weird faster-than-light neutrinos that CERN thought they saw last month may have just gotten slowed down to a speed that'll keep them from completely destroying physics as we know it. In an ironic twist, the very theory that these neutrinos would have disproved may explain exactly what happened. Back in September, physicists ran an experiment where they sent bunches of neutrinos from Switzerland to Italy and measured how long the particles took to make the trip. Over 15,000 experiments, the neutrinos consistently arrived about 60 nanoseconds early, which means 60 nanoseconds faster than the speed of light. Einstein's special theory of relativity says this should be impossible: nothing can travel faster than light. ... In the original experiment, the CERN researchers used GPS to make both the distance measurement and the time measurement. They figured out the distance down to about 20 centimeters, which is certainly possible with GPS, and since GPS satellites all broadcast an extremely accurate time signal by radio, they were also used as a way to sync the clocks that measured the neutrino's travel time. The CERN team had to account for a lot of different variables to do this, like the time that it takes for the clock signal to make it from the satellite in orbit to the ground, but they may have forgotten one critical thing: relativity. ... the distance that the neutrinos had to travel in their reference frame is longer than the distance that the neutrinos had to travel in our reference frame, because in our reference frame, the detector was moving towards the source. In other words, the GPS clock is bang on the nose, but since the clock is in a different reference frame, you have to compensate for relativity if you're going to use it to make highly accurate measurements. Researchers at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands went and crunched the numbers on how much relativity should have effected the experiment, and found that the correct compensation should be about 32 additional nanoseconds on each end, which neatly takes care of the 60 nanosecond speed boost that the neutrinos originally seemed to have. This all has to be peer-reviewed and confirmed, of course, but at least for now, it seems like the theory of relativity is not only safe, but confirmed once again. ..."


New Neutrino Joke Sweeps Internet...

The bartender says "We don't serve any faster-than-light neutrinos in THIS bar!"
A neutrino walks into a bar ...

Posted October 7th, 2011

Rain Reveals Dino Trackway!

National Geographic writes on October 7th " Fossilized tracks of dinosaurs 'stomping in the mud' have been discovered in southwestern Arkansas, scientists say. Spanning the length of two football fields, the footprints hint that a giant predator was a bit pigeon-toed. Several species, including the eight-ton Acrocanthosaurus atokensis—one of the largest predators ever to walk Earth—and sauropods, or long-necked plant-eaters, left their footprints in the 120-million-year-old Cretaceous limestone. At the time, Arkansas was a broad mud flat, similar to the hot, dry, and salty shores of the modern-day Persian Gulf—not a particularly 'pleasant place,' said team leader Stephen Boss, a geoscientist at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. Predators like Acrocanthosaurus were likely attracted to the site by sauropods and other prey species, but 'what the sauropods are doing out there, who knows?' Boss said. ... A private citizen recently found the tracks, which were possibly exposed after a rainstorm scoured away a thin layer of shale. ..."


Escher's "Relativity" recreated with Lego Blocks...

The Telegraph (UK) reports on October 3rd " Andrew Lipson from Cambridge carefully assembled thousands of Lego bricks over many weeks to create three-dimensional colour versions of Escher pictures. ..."


Open Season on Behe, O'Reilly...

First, Michael Behe made the mistake of saying paleo-microbiologist Joe Thornton's work shows that molecules couldn't have evolved. Thornton wasn't pleased, and unloaded on Behe: " Behe's argument has no scientific merit. It is based on a misunderstanding of the fundamental processes of molecular evolution and a failure to appreciate the nature of probability itself. There is no scientific controversy about whether natural processes can drive the evolution of complex proteins. The work of my research group should not be misintepreted by those who would like to pretend that there is. ..."


Then, Bill O'Reilly grilled Richard Dawkins about the biologist's new children's book, "The Magic of Reality: How We Know What's Really True." After O'Reilly accused Dawkins of "mocking God," Dawkins dished it out in return: "How can it possibly help to postulate a divine intelligence to explain something complicated like [the origin of existence]?" ..."


Posted October 1st, 2011

al Qaeda to Ahmadinejad: 9/11 Conspiracy Theories "Ridiculous"...

ABC News reports on Sept. 27th " The terror group al Qaeda has found itself curiously in agreement with the 'Great Satan' -- which it calls the U.S. -- in issuing a stern message to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: stop spreading 9/11 conspiracy theories. In the latest issue of the al Qaeda English-language magazine 'Inspire', an author appears to take offense to the 'ridiculous' theory repeatedly spread by Ahmadinejad that the 9/11 terror attacks were actually carried out by the U.S. government in order to provide a pretext to invade the Middle East. 'The Iranian government has professed on the tongue of its president Ahmadinejad that it does not believe that al Qaeda was behind 9/11 but rather, the U.S. government,' an article reads. 'So we may ask the question: why would Iran ascribe to such a ridiculous belief that stands in the face of all logic and evidence?' ..."


Nanothermite Rockets? 9/11 Truth Movement Implosion Under Way...

It's official: the Truth Movement did not survive the 10th anniversarty of 9/11. Just watch this 3-minute video, and read these comments from top Truthiness Physicist David Chandler: " The acceleration of the projectile is unambiguous proof that very energetic material was applied to the wall unit. What I found particularly surprising is that the ignition of the material in an unconfined space where it was free to expand three dimensionally would provide sufficient thrust due to expanding gasses alone to cause what was probably a 4-ton wall unit to accelerate 50% faster than gravity. The fact that the unit continued to accelerate close to freefall thereafter is an indication of an ongoing thrust capable of largely canceling the effect of air resistance. ..."

That's right, Chandler is saying the tumbling pieces of debris were powered by nanothermite rockets, proving the "inside job." Such is 9/11 Truth in 2011.



"Intelligent Design" Bill Sponsor Quits Senate...

The Albuquerque Journal reported on Sept. 30th that " Republican Sen. Kent Cravens of Albuquerque is resigning to take a job with a trade association representing New Mexico’s oil and natural gas industry. Cravens has served in the state Senate since 2001. In a letter to the secretary of state, Cravens said his resignation would be effective Thursday at midnight. A spokesman for the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association said Cravens is becoming the group’s director of government relations. His duties include lobbying the Legislature and dealing with government agencies, such as the federal Bureau of Land Management and the state Oil Conservation Division. ..."



Evolution of ID Legislation:

Elusive White Rainbow" Captured on Film...

The Telegraph (UK) reportes on Sept. 26th " A 'fogbow' is seen on Edgeoya Island in Nordaustlandet, Svalbard, Norway. A photographer sailing the far northern Arctic Ocean captured the ghostly sight of the little-known natural spectacle called a "fogbow" - or white rainbow. This silvery fogbow is created by light from the sun bouncing into water particles held in a cold fog bank. ..."


Posted September 23rd, 2011

Faster than Light? Patience, Grasshopper...

The New York Times reports on Sept. 23rd " The physics world is abuzz with news that a group of European physicists plans to announce Friday that it has clocked a burst of subatomic particles known as neutrinos breaking the cosmic speed limit — the speed of light — that was set by Albert Einstein in 1905. If true, it is a result that would change the world. But that 'if' is enormous. Even before the European physicists had presented their results — in a paper to appear on the physics Web site on Thursday night and in a seminar at CERN, the European Center for Nuclear Research, on Friday — a chorus of physicists had risen up on blogs and elsewhere arguing that it was way too soon to give up on Einstein and that there was probably some experimental error. ... The Opera results will generate a rush of experiments aimed at confirming or repudiating it, according to Dr. Learned. 'This is revolutionary and will require convincing replication,' he said. ..."


Did Nobel Laureate Fudge Radiation Data?

ScienceDaily reported on Sept. 20th that " University of Massachusetts Amherst environmental toxicologist Edward Calabrese, whose career research shows that low doses of some chemicals and radiation are benign or even helpful, says he has uncovered evidence that one of the fathers of radiation genetics, Nobel Prize winner Hermann Muller, knowingly lied when he claimed in 1946 that there is no safe level of radiation exposure. Calabrese's interpretation of this history is supported by letters and other materials he has retrieved, many from formerly classified files. He published key excerpts this month in Archives of Toxicology and Environmental and Molecular Mutagenesis. Muller was awarded the 1946 Nobel Prize in medicine for his discovery that X-rays induce genetic mutations. This helped him call attention to his long-time concern over the dangers of atomic testing. Muller's intentions were good, Calabrese points out, but his decision not to mention key scientific evidence against his position has had a far-reaching impact on our approach to regulating radiation and chemical exposure. ..."


Can a New Technique Fill Gaps in the Fossil Record?

ScienceDaily reported on Sept. 20th " University of Pennsylvania evolutionary biologists have resolved a long-standing paleontological problem by reconciling the fossil record of species diversity with modern DNA samples. Cataloging the diversity of life on Earth is challenging enough, but when scientists attempt to draw a phylogeny -- the branching family tree of a group of species over their evolutionary history -- the challenge goes from merely difficult to potentially impossible. The fossil record is the only direct evidence scientists have about the history of species diversity, but it can be full of holes or totally nonexistent, depending on the type of organisms. The only hope in such cases is to infer historical diversity from modern DNA sequences, but such techniques have a fatal flaw: the results they provide are demonstrably incorrect. The Penn team has developed a new technique for analyzing phylogenies and shown that the results stand up against the known fossil history of whale species, a gold standard in terms of fossil records. 'We've put contemporary molecular approaches on equal footing with classical paleontological approaches,' said Joshua B. Plotkin of the Department of Biology in Penn's School of Arts and Sciences and the Department of Computer and Information Science in the School of Engineering and Applied Science. ..."


Gamers Crack Protein Structure that Defied Scientists...

Science Daily reported on Sept. 19th " Gamers have solved the structure of a retrovirus enzyme whose configuration had stumped scientists for more than a decade. The gamers achieved their discovery by playing Foldit, an online game that allows players to collaborate and compete in predicting the structure of protein molecules. After scientists repeatedly failed to piece together the structure of a protein-cutting enzyme from an AIDS-like virus, they called in the Foldit players. The scientists challenged the gamers to produce an accurate model of the enzyme. They did it in only three weeks. ..."


White House Polls: UFO Buffs Beat Truthers 100-to-1...

Now that citizens can sign petitions on the site, you can get a feel for the popularity of certain propositions from the comfort of your computer console. Interestingly, it turned out that both "UFOs are real" supporters and "9/11 Truth" supporters began petitions on the same day, September 22nd, 2011. The UFO buffs are seeking signatures for a petition titled "We petition the Obama Administration to: Formally acknowledge an extraterrestrial presence engaging the human race - Disclosure." The Truther's petition is titled "We petition the Obama Administration to: Open a new independent investigation into the events of 9/11 - focusing on the twin towers and the collapse of Building 7. - The AE911Truth Petition".

Just one day later, the results are ASTOUNDING. As of 1:30 PM MDT on Sept. 23rd, the UFO believers have already garnered 2,264 signatures; the Truthers have obtained just 14 signatures.

Does this mark the End of the Truth Movement?

UFO Poll:!/petition/formally-acknowledge-extraterrestrial-presence-engaging-human-race-disclosure/wfYDlmlG

9/11 Truth Poll:!/petition/open-new-independent-investigation-events-911-focusing-twin-towers-and-collapse-building-7/kNg6V5QP

Posted September 16th, 2011

Parental DNA Sorted Out for First Time...

Science Daily reported on Sept. 13th that " Errors in the copying and reading of genes can have very serious consequences. Fortunately human genetic material is available in duplicate as everyone inherits a complete genome from both their mother and father. However, the two genomes are different: researchers refer to the different variants of the gene sequence on the individual chromosomes as 'haplotypes' and the complete analysis of the genome requires detailed knowledge of both haplotypes. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics in Berlin have now comprehensively decoded both sets of chromosomes from a human genome separately for the first time. This step is essential for gaining a deeper understanding of human biology, the analysis of disease risks and, accordingly, the development of new and more individualised strategies for the prevention and treatment of diseases. The genome fully decoded by Margret Hoehe's team is also the first completely sequenced genome of a German individual. ..."


Not Publishing Negative Results Harms Science...

Science Daily also reported on Sept. 13th that " Scientific research may be in decline across the globe because of growing pressures to report only positive results, new analysis suggests. A study by the University of Edinburgh examined more than 4,600 scientific research papers published between 1990 and 2007 and found a steady decline in studies in which the findings contradicted scientific hypotheses. Papers reporting null or negative findings are in principle as useful as positive ones, but they attract fewer readers and citations, so scientific journals tend to reject them. It is acknowledged among scientists that this problem might be worsening, because competition in science is growing and jobs and grants are given to scientists who publish frequently in high-ranking journals. Many researchers, therefore, have speculated that scientists will increasingly pursue predictable outcomes and produce positive results through re-interpretation, selection or even manipulation of data. The study examined research papers in which a hypothesis had been tested, in various scientific disciplines. Over the period studied, positive results grew from around 70 per cent in 1990 to 86 per cent in 2007. The growth was strongest in economics, business, clinical medicine, psychology, psychiatry, pharmacology and molecular biology. The findings, published in Scientometrics, also show that papers reporting positive results are more frequent in the US than in Europe. ..."


Amber Preserves Dino Feathers ... In Colour!

The New York Times reports on Sept. 15th " Color is coming to the formerly black-and-white Mesozoic world of dinosaurs and early birds. Not exactly high-definition color, and some formidable characters may show up in the same old drab and scaly wardrobes; they are dinosaurs, after all, with a reputation for resistance to change. But in time, you can look for splashes of color in museum dioramas of feathered figures from the age of dinosaurs. For more than a decade, hardly a season has passed without more discoveries of dinosaur and bird fossils in China bearing impressions of feathers and traces of chemical coloring agents. Now, in Canada, paleontologists have found 70-million-year-old amber preserving 11 specimens showing a wide diversity of feather types at that time. One specimen of so-called proto-feathers had a single bristlelike filament and some simple clusters. Others were complex structures with hooklike barbules that act like Velcro; in modern birds, this keeps feathers in place during dives. Still other specimens revealed feather patterns for flight and underwater diving. Preserved pigment cells encased in the amber, along with other evidence, suggested that the feathered animals had an array of mottled patterns and diffuse colors like modern birds, scientists at the University of Alberta, led by Ryan C. McKellar, said in a report published Thursday in the journal Science. Dr. McKellar’s team said the amber pieces, though small, 'provide novel insights regarding feather formation.' The preserved filaments 'display a wide range of pigmentation from nearly transparent to dark,' but 'no larger-scale patterns are apparent.' ..."


Tracks lead to Protoceratops Skeleton...

The BBC reports on Sept. 16th " A fossil housed for half a century in a Polish museum has turned out to be the first dinosaur skeleton preserved in its own tracks, say scientists. A recent examination of the 80-million-year-old specimen revealed a single footprint preserved in the rocks encasing the fossilised bones. Polish and Mongolian fossil hunters first unearthed it in 1965 in Mongolia. Scientists now report the results of its re-examination in the journal Cretaceous Research. The dinosaur is a Protoceratops, and since this is one of the most common dinosaurs found in the rich fossil beds of the Gobi Desert, it was not deemed to be very significant. But the scientists say it is the first example of a dinosaur being preserved with its own footprints. ... University of Colorado at Denver geologist Martin Lockley, told BBC Nature that this really was 'a first'. 'Generally, we find it very hard even to match dinosaurs with their footprints at the species level,' he explained. ... There may be lots more of these types of discoveries yet to be made. 'This shows that some things don't come to light unless you're looking for them,' Prof Lockley told BBC Nature. 'This discovery is a very small inroad into a very big gap.' He said that studying tracks was crucial to learning more about dinosaur behaviour. 'When palaeontologists deal with skeletons, they're dealing with death and decay,' he said. 'But with tracks you can tell how much it weighed, how it moved, if it was running or walking. You can even tell if it was limping. With tracks you're dealing with the living animals.' ..."


Why Conspiracy Theories Never Die...

CBS News reported on Sept. 11th that " On only this can the world agree: On Sept. 11, 2001, two planes crashed into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in Manhattan. A short time later, both fell. Nearly every other detail of the terrorist attacks - from the reasons the towers fell to the actual number of planes hijacked to the blame for the events - on that day has been incredibly fertile ground for the production of alternating theories about what actually happened. On this ground, a loosely-knit group with the semi-official title of 'truthers' has been born, and their theories - or conspiracies, depending on your bent - range from the barely plausible to the laughable. ... The very fact that there are so many theories and people who believe in them raises another question: Amid so much evidence to the contrary, and so much visible heartbreak from victims' family members probably made worse by wallowing in conspiracy theories, why believe in them? The most immediate and obvious answer is greed. Books and DVD movies by 9/11 truthers have sold millions of copies worldwide. There are deeper reasons for their existence though. Tragedy is most often the result of a randomly cruel world. That, however, doesn't let people who were victimized by or who are afraid of tragedy blame someone or something. In an article for Psychology Today, Ilan Shrira wrote: 'Conspiracy theories help us cope with distressing events and make sense out of them. Conspiracies assure us that bad things don't just happen randomly. Conspiracies tell us that someone out there is accountable, however unwittingly or secretly or incomprehensibly, so it's possible to stop these people and punish them and in due course let everyone else re-establish control over their own lives. Conspiracies also remind us that we shouldn't blame ourselves for our predicaments; it's not our fault, it's them! In these ways, believing in conspiracies serves many of the same self-protective functions as scapegoating.' By grasping at straws, and laying the blame on anything other than senseless, random violence - the very hallmark of al Qaeda's crusade - truthers are trying to make order where there is none, and in the end, the only people they want to make feel better are themselves. ..."


Posted September 9th, 2011

A New Phase of Mirror Development...

Science Daily reported on Sept. 1st that " Exploiting a novel technique called phase discontinuity, researchers at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) have induced light rays to behave in a way that defies the centuries-old laws of reflection and refraction. The discovery, published this week in Science, has led to a reformulation of the mathematical laws that predict the path of a ray of light bouncing off a surface or traveling from one medium into another -- for example, from air into glass. 'Using designer surfaces, we've created the effects of a fun-house mirror on a flat plane,' says co-principal investigator Federico Capasso, Robert L. Wallace Professor of Applied Physics and Vinton Hayes Senior Research Fellow in Electrical Engineering at SEAS. 'Our discovery carries optics into new territory and opens the door to exciting developments in photonics technology.' ..."


Was Peruvian 'Meteor' Just a Contrail?

Phil Plait thinks so: " A few days ago, the web was abuzz with something that looked like a very large meteor burning up over Peru. ... However, is it actually a meteor? Cutting to the chase, I don’t think so. I don't have a lot of solid evidence either way, but all signs point that way. Here are my thoughts: 1) Meteors tend to move more quickly. They usually burn up around 100 km (60 miles) up, roughly, and are moving at a minimum of 11 km/sec (7 miles/sec) — Earth’s gravity pulls them in to at least this speed. If you've ever seen a meteor you know they zip across the sky in at most a few seconds. ..."

Continued at:

So, What's Roger X. Lenard Up to Lately?

John Weckerle, Editor of the New Mexico Central blog, writes on August 31st It's been a while since we checked in on the folks at the Sandia Tea Party. In our last article on the subject, we examined two posts on the Sandia Tea Party site: one which we felt was a slap at minorities, and another on global climate change on which we thought it appropriate to clarify the source. Predictably or not, both articles vanished from the Sandia Tea Party site very quickly after our article was published. ... We find ourselves currently amused by several posts on the site dealing with issues associated with carbon and anthropogenic climate change. ... [one of the posts was] a Powerpoint file titled 'Some Thoughts On Energy' by Roger X. Lenard, which was apparently the basis of a presentation delivered at Calvary Chapel in Edgewood. We're not going to get into a point-by-point refutation of the contents – which actually contains the statement 'CO2 is plant food' – as we think our readers have had enough of that. However, we will note that neither the article nor the presentation provide any information Mr. Lenard's background – but of course, such information is available to those who seek it. Mr. Lenard, a signatory to the widely discredited 'Petition Project' on global warming, is apparently a former Sandia National Laboratories employee (he no longer appears in the employee locator on the Labs' web site). He is the winner of the New Mexicans for Science and Reason (NMSR) 2001 Consistency Award for making 'easily-documented mistakes in each of five sentences in the concluding paragraph' of an essay titled 'Information theory and Physics do not admit evolution as science.' In fact, Mr. Lenard has the honor of having received numerous awards from NMSR, including one for citing publications as supporting his position on reptile-to-bird evolution which reputedly did not do so. According to several sources, Mr. Lenard also reportedly managed to get himself appointed to the New Mexico Board of Education and then worked (unsuccessfully) to have an anti-evolution textbook introduced into the curriculum. In short, Mr. Lenard would appear to be a 'scientific' creationist, and from the standpoint of most people with a scientific background, this would place him rather on the fringe. That his positions on anthropogenic climate change would also be considered on the fringe therefore comes as little surprise. ..."


Lenard Article "Some Thoughts on Energy":

Lenard's Powerpoint. See Slide 14 for his routine mis-use of Sargasso Sea Surface Temperatures:

Niall Shanks Dies at 52...

The NCSE reported on Sept. 2nd " The philosopher of science Niall Shanks died on July 13, 2011, at the age of 52, according to the Wichita State University Department of History. ... In addition to his book God, the Devil, and Darwin: A Critique of Intelligent Design Theory (Oxford University Press 2004), which Richard Dawkins described, in his foreword, as "a shrewd broadside in what will, I fear, be a lengthy campaign," Shanks (often with collaborators) criticized creationism in scholarly and popular journals including Philosophy of Science, Metascience, Synthese, Philo, Free Inquiry, and Reports of the NCSE as well as in a contribution to Why Intelligent Design Fails (Rutgers University Press, 2004). ... He was also not averse to debating creationists, having tangled with the Institute for Creation Research's Duane Gish and the Discovery Institute's William A. Dembski and Paul Nelson. 'Not debating people is a very dangerous tactic,' he told the Lawrence Journal-World (July 25, 2005), which was reporting on his move to Kansas. 'Then they go unchallenged.' ..."


California Science Center Foundation Settlement with AFA...

The California Science Center Foundation announced on August 29th that " The California Science Center Foundation has settled a long-running legal dispute with the American Freedom Alliance ('AFA'). The settlement agreement explicitly states that no party admits fault or liability, and the settlement is a means to avoid the costs of further proceedings. As part of the settlement, the Foundation and AFA agreed to a joint statement that the Foundation would invite the AFA back to hold its private event, and the AFA would decline that invitation. The Foundation is satisfied with the terms of the settlement, which includes a cost of defense payment from the Foundation's insurer, to avoid the expense of further litigation. ... Unfortunately, it appears that neither the AFA nor the Discovery Institute have learned from their mistakes and false and misleading press releases continue to be issued. For instance, although the Discovery Institute's August 29, 2011 press release states that the "state-run Science Center" paid a settlement amount, the reality is that the Science Center did not pay a dime. Likewise, although the Discovery Institute contends that it was 'dragged into the case,' the fact of the matter is that the Discovery Institute knowingly and inappropriately issued offending and false press releases leading to the lawsuit. The court in Seattle agreed with the Foundation's discovery position, and forced the Discovery Institute to turn over its embarrassing emails. And although the Discovery Institute touts the fact that the joint statement includes the Foundation's inviting AFA back to hold its event, they ignore the fact that AFA declined such invitation. The cancellation was never about the content of the program, as indicated by the fact that the Foundation was willing to have the event in the first place. It was about the false and misleading press releases that the Discovery Institute and AFA issued. Unfortunately, it appears that neither the Discovery Institute nor AFA have learned their lesson. ..."


NMSR's Dave Thomas to appear on two radio stations, Sunday September 11, 2011...

On the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, NMSR's Dave Thomas will discuss 9/11 Truth and conspiracy theories on two radio shows: Strange Frequencies Radio (Internet), at 2 PM MDT, and Pacifica Radio (locally at KUNM 89.9 FM) at 5 PM MDT, with Richard Gage, Niels Harrit, and Richard Mueller.


Posted August 26th, 2011

"Mabus" Finally Gets Busted...

After years of incessant and often alarming harrassment of skeptics and atheists (the Randi Foundation, P. Z. Myers, and even NMSR), Twitter and other social media were used to fight back against Dennis Markuze, known as "David Mabus" to the people he stalked on the internet. Global Montreal reports on August 19th that " The Montreal man who had been wanted by police for allegedly making online death threats against people all over the world appeared in court on Friday to face 16 charges. Known online as 'David Mabus', Dennis Markuze of St. Laurent has been charged with uttering death threats and for criminally harassing seven victims. Two charges were laid against him Wednesday -- and an additional 14 were added on Friday. Markuze has been sent for a 30-day psychological evaluation at Montreal’s Pinel Institute and will appear in court again on Sept. 19. ..."


Detailed Background:

Why Didn't Psychics See This Bust A-Coming?

The New York Daily News reported on August 17th " Some psychics who the feds say are swindlers running a fortune-telling biz near The Plaza hotel didn't see this one coming. The Secret Service busted nine of the Marks clan Tuesday - two in New York and the rest in Florida - after a probe revealed mystic skulduggery stretching from New York to Florida, prosecutors say. The feds, who dubbed their investigation Operation Crystal Ball, say the family ran a psychic conoperation and raked in about $40 million over 20 years, according to The Miami Herald. ..."


Detailed Article from the Florida Sun-Sentinel:,0,3619467.story

Father of Alien Abduction Movement Dies...

The New York Times reported on Aug. 24th " Budd Hopkins, a distinguished Abstract Expressionist artist who — after what he described as a chance sighting of something flat, silver, airborne and unfathomable — became the father of the alien-abduction movement, died on Sunday at his home in Manhattan. He was 80. He was also quick to point out that he had never been abducted himself. But after what he described as his own U.F.O. sighting, on Cape Cod in 1964, he began gathering the stories of people who said they had not only seen spaceships but had also been spirited away in them on involuntary and unpleasant journeys. As the first person to collect and publish such stories in quantity, Mr. Hopkins is widely credited with having begun the alien-abduction movement, a subgenre of U.F.O. studies. Later high-profile writers on the subject, including Whitley Strieber and the Harvard psychiatrist John Mack, credited him with having ignited their interest in the field. ..."


'ClimateGate' Case CLOSED by NSF... reported on Aug. 22nd " Michael Mann, a Pennsylvania climate-change researcher caught in the flap surrounding e-mails hacked from a U.K. university server, was cleared of wrongdoing by a U.S. agency that promotes science. Finding no 'evidence of research misconduct,' the Arlington, Virginia-based National Science Foundation closed its inquiry into Mann, according to an Aug. 15 report from its inspector general. In February, Pennsylvania State University, where Mann is a professor of meteorology, exonerated him of suppressing or falsifying data, deleting e-mails and misusing privileged information, Skeptics of climate change pointed to the stolen U.K. e- mails, which surfaced in blogs in 2009, as proof that researchers conspired to suppress studies questioning the link between warming and human activity. Last week, Texas Governor Rick Perry, who is seeking the Republican nomination for president, repeated the charge that scientists have 'manipulated' data on climate change. 'It was a pretty definitive finding' that the charges 'swirling around for over a year' were baseless, Mann said in an interview. 'I was very pleased. ..."


Neil deGrasse Tyson on NASA's Post-Shuttle Future...How much would you pay for the universe?

"Neil deGrasse Tyson gave a lecture at the University of Buffalo and the highlights were put into this video about NASA. How much would you pay for the universe? ..."


NMSR's Dave Thomas to appear on two radio stations, Sunday September 11, 2011...

On the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, NMSR's Dave Thomas will discuss 9/11 Truth and conspiracy theories on two radio shows: Strange Frequencies Radio (Internet), at 2 PM MDT, and Pacifica Radio (locally at KUNM 89.9 FM) at 5 PM MDT, with Richard Gage, Niels Harrit, and Richard Mueller.


Posted August 12th, 2011

Did Theropods have Forked Tongues? How About Mosasaurs?

Brian Switek of the Laelaps Blog notes on August 5th " Fastened to the wall of the College of Eastern Utah's Prehistoric Museum in Price, there's an Allosaurus doing an excellent Gene Simmons impression. The bust was created by David A. Thomas – perhaps best known for his Albertosaurus and Pentaceratops mounts at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History – and he gave the Jurassic predator a frozen rictus in which a forked tongue flails over the imposing teeth arrayed in the lower jaw. All I could think of when I saw the sculpture was 'I sure hope that Allosaurus doesn't bite its tongue!' That's probably because of Michael Crichton. In his novel Jurassic Park – a techno-phobic fable featuring resurrected dinosaurs run amok – Crichton gave his Tyrannosaurus a similar, prehensile tongue. The terrifying organ comes into play when the theropod has park visitors Lex and Tim trapped behind a waterfall ... When sedatives injected into the dinosaur kick in, the razor jaws close down on the tongue and sever it in a spurt of dark blood. But it's unlikely that Allosaurus, Tyrannosaurus, or any other dinosaur had a prehensile, forked tongue. All you have to do is look at living birds and crocodylians to understand why. ..."


Group calls for Scientists to Engage the Public...

The New York Times writes on August 8th " When asked to name a scientist, Americans are stumped. In one recent survey, the top choice, at 47 percent, was Einstein, who has been dead since 1955, and the next, at 23 percent, was 'I don’t know.' In another survey, only 4 percent of respondents could name a living scientist. While these may not have been statistically rigorous exercises, they do point to something real: In American public life, researchers are largely absent. Trained to stick to the purity of the laboratory, they tend to avoid the sometimes irrational hurly-burly of politics. For example, according to the Congressional Research Service, the technically trained among the 435 members of the House include one physicist, 22 people with medical training (including 2 psychologists and a veterinarian), a chemist, a microbiologist and 6 engineers. Now several groups are trying to change that. They want to encourage scientists and engineers to speak out in public debates and even run for public office. When it comes to global warming and a host of other technical issues, 'there is a disconnect between what science says and how people perceive what science says,' said Barbara A. Schaal, a biologist and vice president of the National Academy of Sciences. 'We need to interact with the public for our good and the public good.' ..."


New Net Scheme could Prevent Governmental Censorship... reports on August 10th that " A radical new approach to thwarting Internet censorship would essentially turn the whole web into a proxy server, making it virtually impossible for a censoring government to block individual sites. The system is called Telex, and it is the brainchild of computer science researchers at the University of Michigan and the University of Waterloo in Canada. They will present it Aug. 12 at the USENIX Security Symposium in San Francisco. 'This has the potential to shift the arms race regarding censorship to be in favor of free and open communication,' said J. Alex Halderman, assistant professor of computer science and engineering at U-M and one of Telex's developers. 'The Internet has the ability to catalyze change by empowering people through information and communication services. Repressive governments have responded by aggressively filtering it. If we can find ways to keep those channels open, we can give more people the ability to take part in free speech and access to information.' ..."


Posted July 22nd, 2011

NASA Orbits Asteroid Vesta...

NASA announced on July 18th that " NASA's Dawn spacecraft has returned the first close-up image after beginning its orbit around the giant asteroid Vesta. On Friday, July 15, Dawn became the first probe to enter orbit around an object in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. The image taken for navigation purposes shows Vesta in greater detail than ever before. When Vesta captured Dawn into its orbit, there were approximately 9,900 miles (16,000 kilometers) between the spacecraft and asteroid. Engineers estimate the orbit capture took place at 10 p.m. PDT Friday, July 15 (1 a.m. EDT Saturday, July 16). Vesta is 330 miles (530 kilometers) in diameter and the second most massive object in the asteroid belt. Ground- and space-based telescopes have obtained images of Vesta for about two centuries, but they have not been able to see much detail on its surface. 'We are beginning the study of arguably the oldest extant primordial surface in the solar system,' said Dawn principal investigator Christopher Russell from the University of California, Los Angeles. ..."


Valle Grande preserves History of Megadroughts...

NASA writes on July 19th " The American Southwest is prone to drought, and the summer of 2011 proved no exception, when a severe drought extended from Arizona to Florida. But a sediment core from New Mexico suggests that today's droughts—even the 1930s Dust Bowl—are fleeting events compared to conditions of the ancient past. Hundreds of thousands of years ago, some droughts could persist for centuries. Researchers find one ancient period of warm, dry conditions especially intriguing because it was, in many ways, similar to conditions on Earth during the last 10,000 years. Clues about this ancient period are preserved in a dry lakebed in New Mexico named Valle Grande. ..."


NRC calls for Improved Science Standards...

ScienceDaily reported on July 20th that " A new report released by the U.S. National Research Council presents a new framework for K-12 science education that identifies the key scientific ideas and practices all students should learn by the end of high school. The framework will serve as the foundation for new K-12 science education standards, to replace those issued more than a decade ago. The National Research Council is the operating arm of the National Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Engineering; all three are independent, nongovernmental organizations. The committee that wrote the report sees the need for significant improvements in how science is taught in the U.S. The new framework is designed to help students gradually deepen their knowledge of core ideas in four disciplinary areas over multiple years of school, rather than acquire shallow knowledge of many topics. And it strongly emphasizes the practices of science -- helping students learn to plan and carry out investigations, for example, and to engage in argumentation from evidence. ..."


"Non-crested Grandfather" Fossil Illuminates Duckbill Dino Evolution...

ScienceDaily reports on July 20th that " A new genus and species of hadrosaur (duck-billed) dinosaur -- the oldest duck-billed dinosaur known from North America -- has been named by scientists who expect the discovery to shed new light on dinosaur evolution. The most striking feature of Acristavus gagslarsoni, the name given to the new dinosaur, is that its head lacked the distinctive ornamentation common to later duck-billed relatives. Acristavus means 'non-crested grandfather.' The genus name is symbolic of the animal's unadorned skull and the fact that it preceded later hadrosaurs. All other hadrosaur fossils come with some kind of adornment on their skulls (with one exception from the end of the Cretaceous Period, the time just before the K-T extinction.) Ornamentation varied among hadrosaurs. Some adornments were hollow and part of the creatures' breathing apparatus, whereas others were solid. Scientists speculate the crests played a role in species recognition where one species could tell another apart by unique embellishments. The new fossil hints that the two different styles of hadrosaur headgear evolved independently from an ancestor that did not possess ornamentation. ..."


Texas Nixes Creationist Materials!

The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) writes on July 22nd "Pop the champagne corks. The Texas Board of Education has unanimously come down on the side of evolution. In an 8-0 vote, the board today approved scientifically accurate high school biology textbook supplements from established mainstream publishers--and did not approve the creationist-backed supplements from International Databases, LLC. [Headquarted in New Mexico - ed.] 'This is a huge victory for Texas students and teachers,' said Josh Rosenau, NCSE programs and policy director, who testified at the hearings this week. In his testimony, Rosenau urged the board to approve the supplements--recommended by a review panel largely composed of scientists and science educators--without amendments, and to reject International Database's creationist submission. The board did just that, and asked for only minimal changes to the approved supplements. ..."


Use of 'Haboob' Term Irritates Some Arizonites...

The New York Times reported on July 21 " The massive dust storms that swept through central Arizona this month have stirred up not just clouds of sand but a debate over what to call them. The blinding waves of brown particles, the most recent of which hit Phoenix on Monday, are caused by thunderstorms that emit gusts of wind, roiling the desert landscape. Use of the term “haboob,” which is what such storms have long been called in the Middle East, has rubbed some Arizona residents the wrong way. 'I am insulted that local TV news crews are now calling this kind of storm a haboob, Don Yonts, a resident of Gilbert, Ariz., wrote to The Arizona Republic after a particularly fierce, mile-high dust storm swept through the state on July 5. 'How do they think our soldiers feel coming back to Arizona and hearing some Middle Eastern term?' ... 'Meteorologists in the Southwest have used the term for decades,' said Randy Cerveny, a climatologist at Arizona State University. 'The media usually avoid it because they don't think anyone will understand it.' Not everyone was put out by the use of the term. David Wilson of Goodyear, Ariz., said those who wanted to avoid Arabic terms should steer clear of algebra, zero, pajamas and khaki, as well. 'Let's not become so 'xenophobic' that we forget to remember that we are citizens of the world, nor fail to recognize the contributions of all cultures to the richness of our language,' he wrote. ..."


Editor's note: the alert correspondent who sent this story along adds that "It would be more correct to say they had Muslim origins. Haboob, algebra and zero are indeed Arabic, but pajamas is Persian/Hindi Muslim and khaki is Urdu Muslim. So the prejudice those Arizonans showed is more precisely against Muslims, not Arabic per se."

Posted July 18th, 2011

New Mexico, Finally On Top of a GOOD List!

Josh Rosenau, blogging for Scientific American, discusses his analysis of Miss USA contestants' answers to a question about teaching evolution. He writes on July 15th " Why should scientists and science education advocates care what Miss USA contestants think about evolution? Scientific research in the 150 years since Darwin published the Origin of Species has consistently re-affirmed the broad explanatory power of evolution in biology and other sciences, and scientific and science education societies have consistently stated that evolution is fundamental to modern science and to modern science education, and that no scientific alternative exists. ... Knowing how these role models think about evolution is important not just because these women have a bully pulpit, but because they are chosen to represent their states, and it is rare that we can see a national cross-section of how the non-scientist public views evolution (even as self-selected heavily vetted a cross-section as this group of pageant-winners). Indeed, understanding how Miss USA contestants talk about evolution can help us better understand how politicians talk about evolution, and how we can better promote science education. ... Only two pageant contestants' statements rated higher than the Discovery Institute's policy of attacking evolution in the classroom: Miss New Mexico (scoring 8), and Miss Connecticut (8.4). The other 47 contestants were rated substantially worse than the Discovery Institute's policy, while only 5 were rated worse than the ICR statement (Indiana, Alabama, Kentucky, Georgia, and Nebraska). ... it's not surprising that Connecticut's, New Mexico's, and California's representatives to the pageant would be among the most science-friendly: in Berkman and Plutzer's analysis, those are among the states with the highest levels of support for teaching evolution (ranking 2nd, 5th, and 7th, respectively). ... If science advocates do not engage those underlying issues, and engage them in ways that satisfy their audiences, we will remain in the awkward limbo represented in the Miss USA pageant, hovering indecisively between overt creationism and cryptic creationism, with only a few brave souls standing up for the position expressed by my personal favorite response from the Miss USA pageant, Miss New Mexico's: 'I think evolution should be taught in schools because evolution is based off of science and I think science is a huge thing that we need to continue to enrich our schools with.' ..."


K-T "Extinction Gap" gets SMALLER... reports on July 12th that "A team of scientists has discovered the youngest dinosaur preserved in the fossil record before the catastrophic meteor impact 65 million years ago. The finding indicates that dinosaurs did not go extinct prior to the impact and provides further evidence as to whether the impact was in fact the cause of their extinction. Researchers from Yale University discovered the fossilized horn of a ceratopsian -- likely a Triceratops, which are common to the area -- in the Hell Creek formation in Montana last year. They found the fossil buried just five inches below the K-T boundary, the geological layer that marks the transition from the Cretaceous period to the Tertiary period at the time of the mass extinction that took place 65 million years ago. Since the impact hypothesis for the demise of the dinosaurs was first proposed more than 30 years ago, many scientists have come to believe the meteor caused the mass extinction and wiped out the dinosaurs, but a sticking point has been an apparent lack of fossils buried within the 10 feet of rock below the K-T boundary. The seeming anomaly has come to be known as the 'three-meter gap.' Until now, this gap has caused some paleontologists to question whether the non-avian dinosaurs of the era -- which included Tyrannosaurus rex, Triceratops, Torosaurus and the duckbilled dinosaurs -- gradually went extinct sometime before the meteor struck. (Avian dinosaurs survived the impact, and eventually gave rise to modern-day birds.) 'This discovery suggests the three-meter gap doesn't exist,' said Yale graduate student Tyler Lyson, director of the Marmarth Research Foundation and lead author of the study, published online July 12 in the journal Biology Letters. 'The fact that this specimen was so close to the boundary indicates that at least some dinosaurs were doing fine right up until the impact.' ..."


Shermer talks with Colbert...

SKEPTIC Society founder Michael Shermer appeared on the Colbert Report on July 11th: "Michael Shermer discusses his book 'The Believing Brain' about how people form their beliefs first and then selectively filter data to reinforce rather than refute them. ..."


Thermite Was Used to Demolish a Tower ... in 1935!

In my 9/11 truth article in the July/August Skeptical Inquirer, I mentioned that " Thermite is simply not practical for carrying out a controlled demolition, and there is no documentation of it ever having been used for that purpose. ..."

Well, I was wrong! An alert reader has informed me of an actual thermitic controlled demolition, as the 1933/34 Chicago World's Fair (A Century of Progress) exhibit "The Sky Ride" was taken down.


Posted July 9th, 2011

Plumes Drive Earth's Tectonic Plates...

Science Daily reports on July 6th that " Bringing fresh insight into long-standing debates about how powerful geological forces shape the planet, from earthquake ruptures to mountain formations, scientists at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego have identified a new mechanism driving Earth's massive tectonic plates. ... Scripps scientists Steve Cande and Dave Stegman have now discovered a new force that drives plate tectonics: Plumes of hot magma pushing up from Earth's deep interior. Their research is published in the July 7 issue of the journal Nature. Using analytical methods to track plate motions through Earth's history, Cande and Stegman's research provides evidence that such mantle plume "hot spots," which can last for tens of millions of years and are active today at locations such as Hawaii, Iceland and the Galapagos, may work as an additional tectonic driver, along with push-pull forces. ... Their new results describe a clear connection between the arrival of a powerful mantle plume head around 70 million years ago and the rapid motion of the Indian plate that was pushed as a consequence of overlying the plume's location. The arrival of the plume also created immense formations of volcanic rock now called the 'Deccan flood basalts' in western India, which erupted just prior to the mass extinction of dinosaurs. The Indian continent has since drifted north and collided with Asia, but the original location of the plume's arrival has remained volcanically active to this day, most recently having formed Réunion island near Madagascar. ..."


Chromosomes Reveal Evolution...

Science Daiy reports on July 6th " In a new study, researchers found that the chromosome sizes within each eukaryotic species are actually similar rather than drastically different as previously believed. They also found that the chromosomes of these different organisms share a similar distribution pattern. By mapping various genomes onto an X-Y axis, a team comprised mostly of Kansas State University researchers has found that Charles Darwin and a fruit fly -- among other organisms -- have a lot in common genetically. ... With this data, scientists can now better predict the evolutionary adaptations of an organism. 'Basically what this all means is that if the chromosome number of a species can be given, the relative sizes of all the chromosomes can instantly be known," Yu said. "Also, if you tell me the genome size in the chromosome base pair, I can tell you the base pair length of each chromosome.' According to Yu, the most surprising finding is the extremely consistent distribution pattern of the chromosomes, a result from comparing the full sets of chromosomes -- called genomes -- of the 68 random eukaryotes. The team found that nearly every genome perfectly formed an S-curve of ascending chromosomal lengths when placed on a standardized X-Y axis. That meant the genome from a species of rice expressed the same pattern as the genome from a species of maize, sorghum, fruit fly, dog, chimpanzee, etc. ..."


San Andreas Quakes Moderated by Colorado River Floods...

The LA Times reports on July 6th " Researchers believe Colorado River damming projects that followed the creation of the Salton Sea could be one reason why Southern California is overdue for a major earthquake. In a new study led by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, scientists found that the floodwaters that periodically flowed through faults helped trigger earthquakes in the area, including several large ones along the mighty San Andreas. ..."


House Targets James Webb Space Telescope...

The New York Times reported on July 6th " The House Appropriations Committee proposed Wednesday to kill the James Webb Space Telescope, the crown jewel of NASA's astronomy plans for the next two decades. The telescope, named after a former administrator of NASA, is the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, and it was designed to study the first stars and galaxies that emerged in the first hundred million years or so after the Big Bang. It was supposed to be launched in 2014, but NASA said last year that the project would require at least an additional $1.6 billion and several more years to finish, because of mismanagement. Just last week, NASA announced that it had finished polishing all the segments of the telescope's mirror, which is 6.5 meters in diameter, but the agency has still not announced a new plan for testing and launching the telescope. ..."


Posted July 2nd, 2011

Self Correction in Science: Not as Easy as it Seems...

Carl Zimmer writes in the June 26th New York Times " One of the great strengths of science is that it can fix its own mistakes. 'There are many hypotheses in science which are wrong,” the astrophysicist Carl Sagan once said. “That’s perfectly all right: it’s the aperture to finding out what’s right. Science is a self-correcting process.' If only it were that simple. Scientists can certainly point with pride to many self-corrections, but science is not like an iPhone; it does not instantly auto-correct. As a series of controversies over the past few months have demonstrated, science fixes its mistakes more slowly, more fitfully and with more difficulty than Sagan’s words would suggest. Science runs forward better than it does backward. ... In March, for instance, Daryl Bem, a psychologist at Cornell University, shocked his colleagues by publishing a paper in a leading scientific journal, The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, in which he presented the results of experiments showing, he claimed, that people’s minds could be influenced by events in the future, as if they were clairvoyant. Three teams of scientists promptly tried to replicate his results. All three teams failed. All three teams wrote up their results and submitted them to The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. And all three teams were rejected — but not because their results were flawed. As the journal's editor, Eliot Smith, explained to The Psychologist, a British publication, the journal has a longstanding policy of not publishing replication studies. 'This policy is not new and is not unique to this journal,' he said. As a result, the original study stands. ..."


Get the Latest News on Global Climate Change from NASA...

NASA announced on June 29th " If you'd like to receive the latest news from the world of climate change and climate research at NASA, sign up here: ..."

Sign up:

Talk Origins Didn't Snag "Expelled"...

Kenneth Fair of the Talk Origins foundation writes on June 28th at the Panda's Thumb " On behalf of the TalkOrigins Foundation, I would like to thank everyone who contributed to our campaign to bid on the motion picture “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed.” Unfortunately, we were unable to bid high enough to purchase the film. The response to this last-minute campaign was overwhelming. I had expected we might raise about $5,000. If we had raised $8,000, I would have been very pleased. Instead, between Thursday (June 23), when we announced the campaign, and yesterday (June 27), we received 394 donations through our Paypal account, totaling $16,152.66. We also received pledges of funds from several individuals, including Professor Richard Dawkins, totaling another $32,200.00. Combined with the funds the Foundation already had on hand, we had just over $50,000 available to bid on the film (and pay the 10% buyer’s premium). The winning bid, however, was $201,000. Because all of the bidders were anonymous, we do not know identity of the winning bidder. Although we were unsuccessful in purchasing the film, I do not believe this campaign was a waste of time. If nothing else, it demonstrated the commitment so many of you have to the tenets of scientific inquiry. ..."


Posted June 24th, 2011

Two by two: A real-life Noah's Ark...

Mike Krumboltz writes on June 22nd " An hour outside of Amsterdam in Dordrecht, Netherlands, a ship is under construction. But this ain't your typical sailboat, bub. Johan Huibers is building a full-scale replica of Noah's ark. Yes, that Noah's ark. And Johan, an expert builder, isn't skimping on the details. The ship, which he's been constructing for the past three years, is built to biblical specs. Johan culled information on the ark's size and shape directly from the good book. In the end, the ship is four stories high and the length of a football field. And yes, it's seaworthy. ... The ship, which is not to be confused with the theme park in Kentucky that also honors Noah's ark, is generating a lot of interest in the search box. Over the past 24 hours, online lookups for 'noah's ark photos' and 'noah's ark real ship' have surged. As for the craft proper, it's not complete yet, but it's getting close. The master plan is to sail the ship up the Thames in time for the London Olympics next year. Expect to see plenty of life-size plastic animals aboard (two of each type, of course). ..."


Bachmann on Evolution...

Ed Brayton blogs on June 22nd that " In the least surprising bit of news since Paris Hilton got arrested for doing coke, Michelle Bachmann has come out in favor of teaching creationism in public schools. "'I support intelligent design,' Bachmann told reporters in New Orleans following her speech to the Republican Leadership Conference. 'What I support is putting all science on the table and then letting students decide. I don't think it's a good idea for government to come down on one side of scientific issue or another, when there is reasonable doubt on both sides.'" ..."


Miss USA Contestants on Evolution...

Here's a clip of the Miss USA contestants' answers to the "Evolution or Creationism" question. Miss New Mexico chips in at 9:45: "I think evolution should be taught in schools because evolution is based off of science, and I think science is a huge thing that we need to continue to enrich our schools with... ..."


Help TalkOrigins Bid for "Expelled"...

The "Expelled" movie must have been a box office flop, as it and all source material are being auctioned off in bankruptcy proceedings. You can help the scientific community obtain this potentially interesting material by donating to the Talk Origins Archive Foundation. (Be advised that if the bid is not successful, your donations will not be returned.)

The Scoop, at Panda's Thumb:

CESE ANNUAL Meeting Saturday, June 25th...

The Coalition for Excellence in Science and Math Education is having its annual meeting. The Public is Invited!
Date: Saturday, 25 June 2011; Time: 1:00 PM
Place: The UNM Science and Math Learning Center, Room 102 (on the UNM campus, just southeast of the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology).

A short business meeting will also be held to elect officers and Board members.
The Speaker is Sam Kean, author of the Disappearing Spoon, a book about how the the periodic table came to be. This will be FUN to listen to!


Posted June 10th, 2011

Why Police Don't Use Psychics...

Ben Radford writes in his June 8th Live Science column on "Bad Science" that "The chaos that ensued Tuesday (June 7) as helicopters, reporters and onlookers descended upon what a 'psychic' claimed was the scene of a grisly mass murder at a rural farmhouse in Houston, Texas, may suggest that psychics help out police on tricky cases. Well, in this particular case, what the woman claiming to be a psychic insisted would be dozens of dismembered bodies, including those of children — a la 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre' — turned out to be nothing. So not only was the tip unhelpful, it was all a waste of time and energy. 'There's no validity to the report,' one law enforcement official confirmed. Part of the reason that Houston police took the psychic seriously is that they initially found some evidence corroborating her claims, including blood on the ground and the smell of decomposition on the property. The psychic also seemed to know the layout of the house and other details that weren't public knowledge. ... Police must follow up on all credible tips about crimes, including those from dubious sources. They routinely deal with liars, hoaxers, jailhouse informants with dubious motives, people with drug habits and mental illnesses, and so on. Police cannot simply ignore a lead or tip even if it comes from a psychic — after all, just because a person claims to be psychic doesn't mean that he or she is not involved in a crime. Suspects in criminal cases who have inside knowledge of crimes sometimes try to pretend that the information they have came from psychics. For example, on March 15, a New Mexican woman called police to report that a woman named Ebelyn Garcia was at her front door with a garden shovel, demanding access to her backyard, where money confiscated from Mexican drug lords was buried. Garcia, who has a history of felony drug convictions, told police that she had nothing to do with the money, but that a psychic named 'Flaco' instructed her to go to the woman's backyard and dig up the mafia drug money. It's not clear whether loot was buried in the backyard or not, but police recognized Garcia's 'psychic information' as simply a ruse designed to divert suspicion away from her. ... Faced with evidence of such denials by law enforcement officials, psychics often invoke a conspiracy, claiming that police actually do use psychics to solve cases but don't want to make it public or share credit. Police rarely bother to refute this conspiracy theory, and so many in the public continue to believe that psychics are secretly employed by law enforcement. In fact, psychic detectives have a track record of complete failure in finding missing persons, including Elizabeth Smart, Natalee Holloway, Holly Bobo, and countless others. This incident is only the latest where police have wasted time, money, and resources following up on false psychic information. This case shows the damage that psychics can do and why police don't use psychics. ..."


More Coverage from the New York Times:

Yet more, from Time:

Barton: Founding Fathers Opposed Darwin?!?...

Mother Jones posted a video clip of "America is a Christian Nation" pundit David Barton, who said "As far as the Founding Fathers were concerned, they'd already had the entire debate over creation and evolution, and you get Thomas Paine, who is the least religious Founding Father, saying you’ve got to teach Creation science in the classroom. Scientific method demands that! ..."

See the video, Comment on the Panda's Thumb:

Is the Universe "Handed"?

ScienceDaily writes on June 10th "Does our universe have mirror symmetry? That is the question Prof. Michael Longo of the University of Michigan's Physics Department asked. The answer could perhaps be found by studying the rotation directions of spiral galaxies. Physicists and astronomers have always assumed that the Universe has this symmetry. To test this, Longo and his team of five undergraduates used data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey to study the rotation directions of spiral galaxies. The mirror image of a counter-clockwise rotating galaxy, like the example, would have clockwise rotation. An excess of one type over the other would be evidence for a breakdown of mirror symmetry, or, in physics speak, a 'parity violation' on cosmic scales. Longo and his team, after studying tens of thousands of spiral galaxies, found an excess of left-handed spirals in the part of the sky toward the north pole of our galaxy, the Milky Way. The excess is small, about 7%. However, Longo estimates the chance that the excess could be a cosmic accident is something like one in a million. The effect extended out to distances over 600 million light years. ..."


Twin Black Holes produce Galactic "Smiley"...

Universe Today reports on June 10th that " Why does this galaxy appear to be smiling? The answer might be because it has been holding a secret that astrophysicists have only now just uncovered: there are two — count 'em – two gigantic black holes inside this nearby galaxy, named Markarian 739 (or NGC 3758), and both are very active. While massive black holes are common, only about one percent of them are considered as active and powerful – called active galactic nuclei (AGN). Binary AGN are rarer still: Markarian 739 is only the second identified within half a billion light-years from Earth. ..."


Posted June 4th, 2011

AGAIN with "Cell Phones Cause Cancer" - But WHO?

Science Daily reports on May 31st that " The WHO/International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as possibly carcinogenic to humans (Group 2B), based on an increased risk for glioma, a malignant type of brain cancer, associated with wireless phone use. ..."


Oops, maybe they should heave read Bob Park's May 20th column: "Quantum physics; all cancers are caused by mutant strands of DNA. Electromagnetic radiation can't create mutant strands of DNA unless the frequency is at or higher than the blue limit of the visible spectrum the near-ultraviolet. The frequency of cell phone radiation is about 1 million times too low. Caller: Wow! When did this news break? BP: Albert Einstein let it out in 1905. ..."

Posted May 27th, 2011

Commie Nazi Saucer Crashed in Roswell?

Robert Sheaffer has the scooop on Annie Jacobsen's new book, discussed here last week: "Just when you think that the credibility of the mass media can't get any lower (see Major Media Reports 60-year-old Eighth-hand Rumor as Proof of a Crashed UFO. ), they fall for this one. According to a new book by Annie Jacobsen, 'Area 51: An Uncensored History of America's Top Secret Military Base,' what crashed at Roswell was not an alien saucer, but instead a collaboration between Stalin and ex-Nazi Mengele to cause panic in the U.S. This absurd claim was presented in all seriousness by many of the major media, including the Huffington Post. The Albuquerque Journal (May 22) headlined, 'Stalin, Nazi Implicated in Roswell Incident.' The story was also reported in the Boston Globe, AP News, etc. Practically the only news outlet to show any proper skepticism was Bloomberg's review of the book, 'Roswell Martians Might Have Been Nazi Kids From Mengele's Lab.' ..."


Astronomical Methods Focus Light on Internal Tissues...

ScienceDaily reports on May 26th that " Astronomers have a neat trick they sometimes use to compensate for the turbulence of the atmosphere that blurs images made by ground-based telescopes. They create an artificial star called a guide star and use its twinkling to compensate for the atmospheric turbulence. Lihong Wang, PhD, the Gene K. Beare Distinguished Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis, has invented a guide star for biomedical rather than celestial imaging, a breakthrough that promises game- changing improvements in biomedical imaging and light therapy. Wang's guide star is an ultrasound beam that 'tags' light that passes through it. When it emerges from the tissue, the tagged light, together with a reference beam, creates a hologram. When a "reading beam" is then shown back through the hologram, it acts as a time-reversal mirror, creating light waves that follow their own paths backward through the tissue, coming to a focus at their virtual source, the spot where the ultrasound is focused. The technique, called time-reversed ultrasonically encoded (TRUE) optical focusing, thus allows the scientist to focus light to a controllable position within tissue. ..."


VLA becomes EVLA (E=Expanded)...

ScienceDaily reported on May 25th that " A new and uniquely powerful tool for cutting-edge science is emerging on the crisp, high desert of western New Mexico. Outwardly, it looks much the same as the famed Very Large Array (VLA), a radio telescope that has spent more than three decades on the frontiers of astronomical research. The 27 white, 230-ton dish antennas still peer skyward, the 72 miles of railroad track still wait to transport the antennas across the arid plains, the familiar buildings remain, and crews still fan out across the desert to service the antennas. Functionally, however, everything has changed. The VLA has become the Expanded VLA (EVLA). 'We have a completely new scientific instrument, with completely new capabilities, and it's enabling research that was impossible until now,' said Chris Carilli, Chief Scientist of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO). Carilli and Rick Perley, EVLA Project Scientist, outlined the capabilities and early accomplishments of the EVLA at the American Astronomical Society's meeting in Boston, MA. ..."


Louisiana Rejects Repeal of Science Act...

The Miami Herald reported on May 26th " A Louisiana law that allows public school science teachers to use supplemental materials in their classrooms in addition to state-approved textbooks will stay on the books. The Senate Education Committee voted 5-1 Thursday against the repeal of the Louisiana Science Education Act, turning away arguments that it creates a way for teachers to challenge evolution and teach creationism in classrooms. Senators sided with the governor and Christian conservatives who argued the law was designed to promote critical thinking, strengthen education and help teachers who are confused about what's acceptable for science classes. More than 40 Nobel Prize-winning scientists urged the repeal of the law that was passed in 2008. But Thursday's vote against the repeal bill by Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans, was expected to kill the measure for the session. ..."


Recent Events Fuel Conspiracy Theory Fires...

ABC News reports on May 27th that " It's an astonishing claim: The tornado that ravaged Joplin, Mo., last Sunday, killing at least 125 people, was not a random act of nature but the result of an obscure military-backed research program in Alaska that shoots radio waves into the upper atmosphere. Here's another one: The shooting rampage in Tucson last January that killed six people and wounded 13, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, was an elaborate government hoax that used actors to portray the victims. And there is this: Osama bin Laden is still alive, and the raid in which daring Navy SEALs shot him dead on April 29 was fabricated to improve President Obama's chances of winning re-election. These are three of the bogus new conspiracy theories flying across the Internet, advanced by believers who insist the evidence to support them could not be any clearer. ... Jon Kay spent 2 ½ years interviewing conspiracy theorists, attending their conventions and surfing their websites to write the just-published 'Among the Truthers: A Journey Through America's Growing Conspiracist Underground.' Kay initially intended to explore the so-called 'truther' movement, which makes the slanderous claim the 9/11 attacks were engineered by the U.S. government, and approved by then-President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, so the U.S. could invade Iraq and Afghanistan and curtail civil rights. But once Kay entered the conspiracy rabbit hole he discovered a world of extreme paranoia -- a multitude of conspiracy theories nourished by the Internet and fueled, in part, by anxiety caused by tough economic times. 'I was surprised by how prevalent they are,' said Kay, the op-ed editor of the National Post newspaper in Canada. 'What was shocking to me when I started interviewing people was that once someone bit on one conspiracy theory, they would enter this subculture and subscribe to 10 others.' That subculture now includes the head-spinning claim that the deadly rampage in the parking lot of a Tucson supermarket on Jan. 8 was not a shooting but an event staged by the government. The New York Times, which first reported the Tucson conspiracy theory, said believers have confronted at least one victim and asked for evidence he had been shot. A Texas-based website making the allegation said it has been investigating to determine if the media lied about the rampage to push an 'anti-gun' agenda. ..."


Do Bacteria Seed Hailstorms?

ScienceDaily reported on May 25th " Researchers have discovered a high concentration of bacteria in the center of hailstones, suggesting that airborne microorganisms may be responsible for that and other weather events. They reported their findings May 24, 2011 at the 111th General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology in New Orleans. 'Bacteria have been found within the embryo, the first part of a hailstone to develop. The embryo is a snapshot of what was involved with the event that initiated growth of the hailstone,' says Alexander Michaud of Montana State University in Bozeman, who presented the research. ..."


Spirit Rover Slips Into That Dark Night...

NASA/JPL announced on May 24th " NASA is ending attempts to regain contact with the long-lived Mars Exploration Rover Spirit, which last communicated on March 22, 2010. A transmission that will end on Wednesday, May 25, will be the last in a series of attempts. Extensive communications activities during the past 10 months also have explored the possibility that Spirit might reawaken as the solar energy available to it increased after a stressful Martian winter without much sunlight. With inadequate energy to run its survival heaters, the rover likely experienced colder internal temperatures last year than in any of its prior six years on Mars. Many critical components and connections would have been susceptible to damage from the cold. ..."


Posted May 21st, 2011

Cometgate? Trouble for "A Comet Killed Clovis"...

Rex Dalton writes in May 14th Science "An elegant archaeological hypothesis, under fire for results that can't be replicated, may ultimately come undone. It seemed like such an elegant answer to an age-old mystery: the disappearance of what are arguably North America’s first people. A speeding comet nearly 13,000 years ago was the culprit, the theory goes, spraying ice and rocks across the continent, killing the Clovis people and the mammoths they fed on, and plunging the region into a deep chill. The idea so captivated the public that three movies describing the catastrophe were produced. ...'It is an impossible scenario,' says Mark Boslough, a physicist at Sandia Laboratory in Albuquerque, N.M., where he taps the world's fastest computers for nuclear bomb experiments to study such impacts. His computations show the debris from such a comet couldn’t cover the proposed impact field. In March, a “requiem” for the theory even was published by a group that included leading specialists from archaeology to botany. ..."


UFO Hoax Mass Sighting Planned for Sunday May 22nd...

Details at:

"Floater" Planets Outnumber Stars?...

JPL announced on May 18th that " Astronomers, including a NASA-funded team member, have discovered a new class of Jupiter-sized planets floating alone in the dark of space, away from the light of a star. The team believes these lone worlds were probably ejected from developing planetary systems. The discovery is based on a joint Japan-New Zealand survey that scanned the center of the Milky Way galaxy during 2006 and 2007, revealing evidence for up to 10 free-floating planets roughly the mass of Jupiter. The isolated orbs, also known as orphan planets, are difficult to spot, and had gone undetected until now. The newfound planets are located at an average approximate distance of 10,000 to 20,000 light-years from Earth. ..."


Roswell Aliens really Deformed Nazis?

Bloomberg writer Andrew Dunn, on May 17th, discusses Annie Jacobsen's new book on Area 51. Regarding the Roswell Incident, Dunn says "Jacobsen purports to lift the veil on what really crashed near Roswell, New Mexico, in 1947 and what happened to the wreckage when it got to Nevada. The craft, she writes, wasn’t an alien spaceship, as many have since theorized, nor was it a weather balloon, as the U.S. military alleged in its clumsy cover story. It was, according to Jacobsen, a Nazi-inspired Soviet spy plane with Cyrillic letters embossed on the hull, crewed by malformed adolescents, two of whom survived the crash. Stalin used captured Nazi aircraft designs to build the plane, according to Jacobsen. She says he had Mengele provide surgically altered “grotesque child-sized aviators” who were supposed to climb out of the aircraft and be mistaken for visitors from Mars -- to sow the kind of confusion in the U.S. created by Orson Welles’s 1938 “War of the Worlds” radio broadcast. ..."


ESP? Against the Odds...

Science Daily reports on May 18th " Can people truly feel the future? Not according to new research by Jeffrey Rouder from the University of Missouri and Richard Morey from the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. Their study uses a novel statistical approach that doesn't support claims that extra-sensory perception exists. Their work appears online in the Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, published by Springer. ..."


Dark Energy Nature Confirmed...

JPL said on May 19th that " A five-year survey of 200,000 galaxies, stretching back seven billion years in cosmic time, has led to one of the best independent confirmations that dark energy is driving our universe apart at accelerating speeds. The survey used data from NASA's space-based Galaxy Evolution Explorer and the Anglo-Australian Telescope on Siding Spring Mountain in Australia. ..."


Ark Park gets Tax Break...

The Lexington [Kentucky] Herald-Leader writes on May 19th "A Bible-belt state hoping to land a biblical theme park that includes a full-size replica of Noah's Ark approved tax incentives Thursday to help pay for it. The Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority voted unanimously to grant more than $40 million in tax rebates for the $172 million project that's otherwise being financed by a group of unidentified private investors. 'This was the last real hurdle for us as far as I'm concerned,' said Mike Zovath, co-founder of the Answers in Genesis ministry that previously built the Creation Museum in Kentucky. ..."


Ben Stein sinks to New Low...

Ben Stein, star of "Expelled" (a pro-Intelligent Design movie), has slithered his way into defending the alleged IMF rapist. Josh Rosenau has the scoop at "Thoughts from Kansas."


NM Firm Pitches Creationist Claptrap to Texas...

Mother Jones reports on May 11th that "An online biology textbook up for approval by the Texas State Board of Education is drawing fire from scientific and education groups for tacitly pushing creationism. Created by the obscure, New Mexico-based International Databases LLC, the textbook seeks to justify the existence of a higher being while avoiding direct mention of God or the Bible. ..."


Posted May 15th, 2011

Interactive Methods Double Physics Learning...

ScienceDaily reports on May 12th that " Interactive teaching methods significantly improved attendance and doubled both engagement and learning in a large physics class, according to a University of British Columbia study published May 12 in Science. Led by Louis Deslauriers, a post-doctoral researcher at UBC's Carl Wieman Science Education Initiative (CWSEI), the study compared the amount of learning students experienced when taught -- in three hours over one week -- by traditional lecture and by using interactive activities based on research in cognitive psychology and physics education. The research team found that students in the interactive class were nearly twice as engaged as their counterparts in the traditional class. Students from the experimental class uniformly scored nearly twice as well in a test designed to determine their grasp of complex physics concepts (average score 74 per cent vs. 41 per cent, with random guessing producing a score of 23 per cent). Attendance in the interactive class also increased by 20 per cent during the experiment. 'There is overwhelming evidence how much teaching pedagogy based on cognitive psychology and education research can improve science education,' says co-author Carl Wieman. 'This study further shows that we can achieve individual attention without individual interaction, and that even in a large class, the positive effects of a tutor or apprenticeship model can be achieved by using evidence-based teaching methods.' ..."


Expert: Homeopathy Is 'Dangerous and Wasteful'...

ScienceDaily reports on May 9th that "A bioethics expert from the University of Abertay Dundee has denounced the public funding of homeopathy at a time where Scotland's health budget is under unprecedented pressure. Writing in the journal Bioethics, Dr Kevin Smith says that Homeopathy is 'ethically unacceptable' and should be 'actively rejected' by healthcare and education providers. Despite heavy criticism from the medical community including the British Medical Association, homeopathic treatments continue to be available on the NHS. ..."


Posted May 6th, 2011

Will Osama Bin Laden's Death affect 9/11 Truth?

Will Osama Bin Laden's death slow down 9/11 Truth? You've gotta be kidding! The conspiracy fest is just warming up. Plus, "Former SEAL" Jesse Ventura's take, Charlie Sheen's Bizarre Tweet, and Rashard Mendenhall loses endorsements.

9/11 Truthers are rolling in new conspiracies; see, for example

Jesse Ventura, who claims SEAL background while promoting 9/11 Truth, had this statement: "I commend the bravery and courage of the SEAL team members for completing their mission. However, while Bin Laden was a disreputable terrorist responsible for the bombings of the USS Cole and our embassies, let us not forget that Osama Bin Laden has never been charged or indicted by the justice department for the attacks on 9/11. Everyone deserves their day in court and you are innocent until proven guilty under our rule of law. What troubles me is that we executed him without even bothering to indict him first. If we are a country that stands by the rule of law then we must follow it, even when it is inconvenient. Because a country that does not stand for it's [sic] own rules stands for nothing. Jesse Ventura ":

Charlie Sheen, long-time 9/11 Truth believer, and his stunning reversal: " @charliesheen Charlie Sheen Dead or Alive. WE PREFER DEAD! Well done SEAL team! AMERICA: #WINNING that's how we roll.... c (May 2nd) "!/charliesheen/statuses/65017754129940480

Rashard Mendenhall, Pittsburgh Steelers running back, has lost endorsement contracts as a result of tweeting for 9/11 Truth:

Einstein was RIGHT...

The New York Times reports on May 4th " In a tour de force of technology and just plain stubbornness spanning half a century and costing more than $750 million, a team of experimenters from Stanford University reported on Wednesday that a set of orbiting gyroscopes had detected a slight sag and an even slighter twist in space-time. The finding confirms some of the weirdest of the many strange predictions — like black holes and the expanding universe — of Albert Einstein’s theory of gravity, general relativity. 'We have completed this landmark experiment of testing Einstein’s universe,' Francis Everitt, leader of the project, known as Gravity Probe B, said at a news conference at NASA headquarters in Washington. 'And Einstein survives.' That was hardly a surprise. Observations of planets, the Moon and particularly the shifting orbits of the Lageos research satellites had convinced astronomers and physicists that Einstein’s predictions were on the mark. Nevertheless, scientists said that the Gravity Probe results would live forever in textbooks as the most direct measurements, and that it was important to keep testing theories that were thought to be correct. ..."


Barton On Daily Show...

"Wallbuilders" founder David Barton appeared on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart on May 4th. Word from church-state pundits is essentially that "Due to Stewart's inability to properly deal with Barton's crap, Chris Rodda has now made the PDF version of her book, "LIARS FOR JESUS — The Religious Right’s Alternate Version of American History," available for free. ..."

Barton on the Daily Show:

LIARS FOR JESUS — The Religious Right’s Alternate Version of American History:

Conspiracy Theorists More Likely to be Conspiratorial...

Science Daily reports on May 5th " Conspiracy theories -- such as those surrounding the death of Princess Diana -- are more likely to be believed by people who are willing themselves to conspire, new research at the University of Kent has shown. In a paper to be published in the British Journal of Social Psychology, Dr Karen Douglas and Dr Robbie Sutton, two researchers from the University's School of Psychology, found that ­- in keeping with the psychological process called projection -- an individual's perception that 'I would do it' informs his or her perception that 'they did it.' ..."


Posted April 30th, 2011

Nobel laureates push repeal of Louisiana education law...

The AP reported on April 15th " More than 40 Nobel Prize-winning scientists are urging Gov. Bobby Jindal and Louisiana lawmakers to repeal a law that allows public school science teachers to use supplemental materials in their classrooms beyond state-approved textbooks. In a letter released Thursday, the Nobel laureates say the "Louisiana Science Education Act" of 2008 creates a pathway for creationism and other non-scientific instruction to be taught in science classes. 'Louisiana's students deserve to be taught proper science rather than religion presented as science,' says the letter representing a list of prominent scientists who over the last four decades have won the Nobel for physics, chemistry, physiology and medicine. The scientists' letter was circulated by high school student Zack Kopplin, who has set up a blog pushing for the law's repeal. Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, D- New Orleans, has filed legislation to do away with the law. The proposal will be considered in the upcoming legislative session that begins Monday. Jindal had yet to receive the letter Thursday, but his spokeswoman, Melissa Sellers, said the governor opposes any attempts to repeal the law. ..."


NM Firm Pitching Creo Woo to Texas...

The Texas Freedom Network reports that " The Texas Education Agency has made available on its website science instructional materials -- all of them web-based -- that publishers and other vendors have proposed for high school biology classes across the state. Materials approved by the state board in July, 2011, could be in Texas science classrooms for nearly a decade. An initial review by the National Center for Science Education and the Texas Freedom Network has revealed that materials from at least one vendor, New Mexico-based International Databases Inc., promote anti-evolution arguments made by proponents of intelligent design/creationism. These arguments are unsupported by scientific research and were debunked long ago in the mainstream science community. ..."

TFN includes several examples of creationist woo, such as this: " Many scientists have adopted an unproven hypothesis upon which to build their theories regarding the origin of life and its' diversification. This 'foundation' is called scientific materialism, naturalism, and so forth..." TFN has links to the NM company's site, and hints on reading the documents.


Geologists Solve Mystery of the Colorado Plateau...

Science Daily reports on April 28th " A team of scientists led by Rice University has figured out why the Colorado Plateau -- a 130,000-square-mile region that straddles Colorado, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico -- is rising even while parts of its lower crust appear to be falling. The massive, tectonically stable region of the western United States has long puzzled geologists. A paper published April 27 in the journal Nature shows how magmatic material from the depths slowly rises to invade the lithosphere -- Earth's crust and strong uppermost mantle. This movement forces layers to peel away and sink, said lead author Alan Levander, professor and the Carey Croneis Chair in Geology at Rice University. The invading asthenosphere is two-faced. Deep in the upper mantle, between about 60 and 185 miles down, it's usually slightly less dense and much less viscous than the overlying mantle lithosphere of the tectonic plates; the plates there can move over its malleable surface. But when the asthenosphere finds a means to, it can invade the lithosphere and erode it from the bottom up. The partially molten material expands and cools as it flows upward. It infiltrates the stronger lithosphere, where it solidifies and makes the brittle crust and uppermost mantle heavy enough to break away and sink. The buoyant asthenosphere then fills the space left above, where it expands and thus lifts the plateau. ... Co-authors of the paper are Cin-Ty Lee, associate professor of Earth science, and graduate student Kaijian Liu, both of Rice; Eugene Humphreys, professor of geophysics, and graduate student Brandon Schmandt of the University of Oregon; former Rice postdoctoral researcher Meghan Miller, now an assistant professor of Earth sciences at the University of Southern California; and Professor Karl Karlstrom and graduate student Ryan Crow of the University of New Mexico. ..."


Crash and Burn of an Autism Guru...

Susan Dominus of the New York Times writes abourt Andrew Wakefield and his autism/vaccination claims on April 20th "... Although Wakefield did not claim to have proved that the M.M.R. vaccine (typically given to children at 12 to 15 months) caused autism, his concerns, not his caveats, ricocheted around the world. His belief, based on a paper he wrote about 12 children, is that the three vaccines, given together, can alter a child's immune system, allowing the measles virus in the vaccine to infiltrate the intestines; certain proteins, escaping from the intestines, could then reach and harm neurons in the brain. Few theories have drawn so much attention and, in turn, so much refutation: a 2003 paper in The Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, which reviewed a dozen epidemiological studies, concluded that there was no evidence of an association between autism and M.M.R., and studies in peer-reviewed journals since have come to the same conclusion. In Britain, the General Medical Council revoked Wakefield’s medical license after a lengthy hearing, citing numerous ethical violations that tainted his work, like failing to disclose financing from lawyers who were mounting a case against vaccine manufacturers. The Lancet, which published the original Wakefield paper, retracted it. In a series that ran early this year, The British Medical Journal concluded that the research was not just unethically financed but also “fraudulent” (that timelines were misrepresented, for example, to suggest direct culpability of the vaccine). Andrew Wakefield has become one of the most reviled doctors of his generation, blamed directly and indirectly, depending on the accuser, for irresponsibly starting a panic with tragic repercussions: vaccination rates so low that childhood diseases once all but eradicated here — whooping cough and measles, among them — have re-emerged, endangering young lives. ..."


Posted April 15th, 2011

Nasty-looking NM Dinosaur Bridges Gap in Fossil Record...

National Geographic reports on April 13th that "A newly discovered dinosaur species bridges the gap between the earliest known group of predators and more advanced beasts such as Tyrannosaurus rex, according to a new study. Found at New Mexico's Ghost Ranch fossil site, the primitive dinosaur lived about 205 million years ago. ... The dinosaur, which stood as tall as a large dog, boasts a very unusual skull, said study co-author Hans-Dieter Sues, a vertebrate paleontologist at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. 'It has a deep, short snout and these monstrous front teeth. That's a kind of skull structure for a predatory dinosaur that's really unexpected for this early point in time,' Sues said. These features helped earn the new dinosaur the name Daemonosaurus chauliodus, or 'buck-toothed evil spirit' in Greek. ..."


Meanwhile, Another Fossil Illuminates Reptile-Mammal Transition... reports on April 13th " Paleontologists from the American Museum of Natural History and the Chinese Academy of Sciences announce the discovery of Liaoconodon hui, a complete fossil mammal from the Mesozoic found in China that includes the long-sought transitional middle ear. The specimen shows the bones associated with hearing in mammals -- the malleus, incus, and ectotympanic -- decoupled from the lower jaw, as had been predicted, but were held in place by an ossified cartilage that rested in a groove on the lower jaw. The new research, published in Nature this week, also suggests that the middle ear evolved at least twice in mammals, for monotremes and for the marsupial-placental group. 'People have been looking for this specimen for over 150 years since noticing a puzzling groove on the lower jaw of some early mammals,' says Jin Meng, curator in the Division of Paleontology at the Museum and first author of the paper. 'Now we have cartilage with ear bones attached, the first clear paleontological evidence showing relationships between the lower jaw and middle ear.' ... The new fossil described this week, Liaoconodon hui, fills the gap in knowledge between the basal, early mammaliaforms like Morganucodon, where the middle ear bones are part of the mandible and the definitive middle ear of living and fossil mammals. ..."


Rare "Ribbon" Lightning Caught on Film...

The Telegraph reported on 13 April that " The picture was taken by Przemyslaw Wielicki, who spent 15 minutes snapping a storm in Poland. He said: 'When I saw this picture on my computer, to my big surprise, I discovered that I recorded a rare phenomenon - ribbon lightning. Ribbon lightning, also called staccato lightning, occurs when the bolt consists of several parallel strokes giving the visual impression of a ribbon. This one has ten distinct strokes. Five of them are easily visible and the rest require very close examination.' ..."


NEW "FBI Memo Proves Roswell" Claim Debunked by NMSR... a Dozen Years Ago!

The Internet has been abuzz with several postings of a "newly-released" memo by the FBI, in a new online resource called The Vault, that supposedly proves that a UFO crashed at Roswell, New Mexico.

Here's a typical mention from the Daily Mail, 11th April 2011 : "Also among the files, released for the first time, is a memo from Guy Hottel, the special agent in charge of the Washington field office in 1950, which appears to prove that aliens landed at Roswell, New Mexico."

Source: Daily Mail, UK:

It turns out that this memo (A)Isn't about "Roswell" at ALL, and (B)Has been known about/discussed for Decades. In fact, the memo was exposed as an eighth-hand story started by notorious "Aztec UFO" swindlers Silas Newton and Dr. Gee way back in 1985, in a MUFON presentation by ufologist William Moore. NMSR has posted a description of Moore's fisking off the Hottel memo since 2000, and this mention has now been incorporated into hundreds of postings on the "new" memo.

This story is too big for a mere soundbite: NMSR has posted a new page on the memo, the Moore fisking, and even earlier mentions (1983 Albuquerque Tribune, for example).

Posted April 9th, 2011

Roger Ebert, Evolution column: "A quintessence of dust"...

Roger Ebert writes on his blog on March 30th " That is why the process of evolution is so compelling to me. On this planet, and probably countless more, inanimate atoms became molecules which formed cells and over billions of years those cells evolved into complex organisms which finally became viruses, plants, animals, salamanders, banyan trees and human beings. Without giving it any thought, with no way to think it, the universe brought into existence a way of making itself seen. Some reject the Theory of Evolution because it offers no consolation in the face of death. They might just as well blame it for explaining why minds can conceive of death. Living things must die. That I can plainly see. That we are aware of our inevitable death is the price we must pay for being aware at all. On the whole, I think we're getting a good deal. I could have been a pair of ragged claws, scuttling across the floors of silent seas. In this connection I find the Theory of Evolution a great consolation. It helps me understand how life came about and how I came to be. It reveals a logical principle I believe applies everywhere in the universe and at all levels: Of all the things that exist, animate and inanimate, some will be more successful than others at continuing to exist. Of those, some will evolve into greater complexity. This isn't 'progress,' it is simply the way things work. ..."


Climate Beliefs Shift with Weather...

Science Daily reported on April 7th that " Social scientists are struggling with a perplexing earth-science question: as the power of evidence showing humanmade global warming is rising, why do opinion polls suggest public belief in the findings is wavering? Part of the answer may be that some people are too easily swayed by the easiest, most irrational piece of evidence at hand: their own estimation of the day's temperature. In three separate studies, researchers affiliated with Columbia University's Center for Research on Environmental Decisions (CRED) surveyed about 1,200 people in the United States and Australia, and found that those who thought the current day was warmer than usual were more likely to believe in and feel concern about global warming than those who thought the day was unusually cold. A new paper describing the studies appears in the current issue of the journal Psychological Science. ... The researchers say the study not only points to how individuals' beliefs can change literally with the wind. Li says it is possible that weather may have influenced recent large-scale public opinion polls showing declining faith in climate science. Administered at different times, future ones might turn out differently, he said. These polls, he pointed out, include the national elections, which always take place in November, when things are getting chilly and thus may be empowering conservative forces at a time when climate has become a far more contentious issue than in the past. (Some politicians subsequently played up the heavy snows and cold of winter 2009-2010 as showing global warming was a hoax -- even though scientists pointed out that such weather was probably controlled by short-term atmospheric mechanisms, and consistent with long-term warming.) ..."


Political Views Rooted in the Brain?

Science Daily writes on April 7th that " We all know that people at opposite ends of the political spectrum often really can't see eye to eye. Now, a new report published online on April 7th in Current Biology, reveals that those differences in political orientation are tied to differences in the very structures of our brains. Individuals who call themselves liberal tend to have larger anterior cingulate cortexes, while those who call themselves conservative have larger amygdalas. Based on what is known about the functions of those two brain regions, the structural differences are consistent with reports showing a greater ability of liberals to cope with conflicting information and a greater ability of conservatives to recognize a threat, the researchers say. 'Previously, some psychological traits were known to be predictive of an individual's political orientation,' said Ryota Kanai of the University College London. 'Our study now links such personality traits with specific brain structure.' ..."


Antiscience bill passes Tennessee House vote...

Bad Astronomer Phil Plait writes on April 8th " A bill clearly intended to promote and protect antiscience passed in the Tennessee State House yesterday, by a vote of 70 – 23. Let that sink in. 70 to 23. The bill is another in a long series of creationist (and broadened into other antiscience topics) wedge bills designed to weaken the teaching of real science in public schools. The summary makes that clear: 'This bill prohibits the state board of education and any public elementary or secondary school governing authority, director of schools, school system administrator, or principal or administrator from prohibiting any teacher in a public school system of this state from helping students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught, such as evolution and global warming.' On the surface this sounds like legit science; after all, science thrives on understanding the weaknesses in ideas so they can be improved. But if you read that last part, conservative antiscience rears its head: the two specific cases mentioned are evolution and global warming. That doesn’t sound like real science is the motivation behind this bill — and reading quotes by its supporters confirms it. What this really means is that if a teacher wants to declare the Earth is 6000 years old (or make some other clearly wrong ideologically-based claim), that teacher cannot be stopped. ..."


Science Museums Really Teach...

Science Daily reported on April 8th that " One of the first studies of its type has confirmed that a science museum can strongly influence the public's knowledge and attitudes about science and technology, and to a surprising degree can cut across racial, ethnic, educational and economic barriers. The study focused on the California Science Center in Los Angeles, and offers profound support for the value of such institutions. It also reinforces the emerging concept of "free choice" learning, which holds that people get most of their knowledge about science from someplace other than school or formal education. The comprehensive, multi-year analysis was one of the first of its kind ever done, researchers said, based on extensive surveys of thousands of adults in the past decade by scientists from Oregon State University. The findings were recently published in the Journal of Research in Science Teaching. ..."


Speaking of Museums, the April NMSR REPORTS has an article about the alarming sacking of the Museum of natural History's director.

Posted April 1st, 2011

HuffPost Emulates, Acknowledges NMSR/Mark Boslough's April Fool Classic...

Ian Squires of the Huffington Post writes on April 1: " (Author's Note: It has come to my attention that there was a widely-discussed satiric piece by Mark Boslough published last century also premised on the notion of the value of pi being changed. Any similarity between the earlier piece and mine is purely coincidental.)
Congresswoman Martha Roby (R-Ala.) is sponsoring HR 205, The Geometric Simplification Act, declaring the Euclidean mathematical constant of pi to be precisely 3. The bill comes in response to data and rankings from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, rating the United States' 15 year-olds 25th in the world in mathematics.


NMSR's Alabama Pi, Still at Number 7!:

See how it all began:

Just Out: the Randi Foundation's Annual 'Pigasus' Awards!

Contrails Warming the World More than Aircraft Emissions?

New Scientist reports on March 29th " The innocuous white vapour trails that criss-cross the sky may not be as harmless as they look. In fact, they might have contributed to more global warming so far than all aircraft greenhouse gas emissions put together. High-altitude clouds like cirrus warm the planet by trapping heat. Contrail "cirrus" does the same thing, but the question is: how much? We know that contrails trap some extra energy in the atmosphere: their radiative forcing trapped 10 milliwatts per square metre (mW/m2) in 2005, according to an estimate by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. That compares with 28 mW/m2 trapped by all of the CO2 released by aircraft engines since the start of aviation. However, the IPCC estimate only took into account relatively fresh, visible vapour trails that exist for just a few hours. Afterwards they spread out and become indistinguishable from normal cirrus. In this form they may trap energy in the atmosphere for many more hours. 'Only a small part of the problem has been studied,' says Ulrike Burkhardt of the Institute for Atmospheric Physics in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany. With her colleague Bernd Kärcher, she set out to discover how much heat contrail cirrus traps. Using satellite observations of spreading contrails as a guide, Burkhardt built a model that simulated how they form, spread out and dissipate. Then she embedded it in a global climate model and watched what happened. She found that contrail cirrus ended up covering 0.6 per cent of Earth's surface – an area nine times as great as that covered by line contrails. Burkhardt then used this figure to produce a more accurate estimate of the total energy trapped by contrails. Her calculations suggest a global figure of 31 mW/m2 – higher than that attributable to aviation CO2. As the first to build contrail cirrus into a climate model, Burkhardt's study is 'an important leap forward', says Olivier Boucher of the Met Office Hadley Centre in Exeter, UK. ..."


Death Anxiety Leads to Belief in ID...

ScienceDaily reports on March 30th " Researchers at the University of British Columbia and Union College (Schenectady, N.Y.) have found that people's death anxiety can influence them to support theories of intelligent design and reject evolutionary theory. Existential anxiety also prompted people to report increased liking for Michael Behe, intelligent design's main proponent, and increased disliking for evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins. The lead author is UBC Psychology Asst. Prof. Jessica Tracy with co-authors Joshua Hart, assistant professor of psychology at Union College, and UBC psychology PhD student Jason Martens. Published in the March 30 issue of the journal PLoS ONE, their paper is the first to examine the implicit psychological motives that underpin one of the most heated debates in North America. ... 'Our results suggest that when confronted with existential concerns, people respond by searching for a sense of meaning and purpose in life,' says Tracy. 'For many, it appears that evolutionary theory doesn't offer enough of a compelling answer to deal with these big questions.' The researchers carried out five studies with 1,674 U.S. and Canadian participants of different ages and a broad range of educational, socioeconomic and religious backgrounds. ... However, the research team saw reversed effects during the fourth study which had a new condition. Along with writings by Behe and Dawkins, there was an additional passage by Carl Sagan. A cosmologist and science writer, Sagan argues that naturalism -- the scientific approach that underlies evolution, but not intelligent design -- can also provide a sense of meaning. In response, these participants showed reduced belief in intelligent design after being reminded of their own mortality. Tracy says, 'These findings suggest that individuals can come to see evolution as a meaningful solution to existential concerns, but may need to be explicitly taught that taking a naturalistic approach to understanding life can be highly meaningful.' ..."


"Ark Park" Receives National Recognition...

In a tight copmpetition for the "most annoying and appalling" creationists in America, the National Center for Science Education chose the proposed Kentucky "Ark Park" over teacher John Freshwater and the Louisiana Family Forum. "The UpChucky is bestowed upon that person or organization who persists in denying evolution despite a blizzard of empirical evidence. This tiara of temerity, this garland of gagacity, this diadem of dunderheadedness, isn't awarded to just any Darwin doubter. The UpChucky is bestowed on that one creationist whose efforts in the preceding year would inspire Darwin (or any rational person) to 'drive the porcelain bus'. ..."


"Monkey Bill" Advances in Tennessee...

The Knoxville News Sentinel reports on March 30th " A bill that would prohibit sanctions against teachers who promote discussion of alternatives to prevailing scientific theories - criticized by some as a backdoor means of promoting creationism - was approved by the House Education Committee Tuesday. Rep. Bill Dunn, R-Knoxville, sponsor of HB368, said it will simply promote 'creative thinking.' House Speaker Emeritus Jimmy Naifeh called it 'the monkey bill,' likening the measure to a 1925 state law prohibiting the teaching of evolution in Tennessee schools. The trial of Dayton teacher John Scopes for violation of that law lead to a trial drawing national attention and filming of the movie, 'Inherit the Wind.' ..."


Why it needed saying, UK style...

British scientist/NMSR supporter Paul Braterman has a guest blog on Panda's Thumb (March 31st). He writes " Michael Gove, UK Education Secretary, has said in as many words that 'teaching creationism is at odds with scientific fact.' This is progress. The existing curriculum guidelines stated only that creationism and ID should not be taught as science, leaving room for them to be advanced as philosophical or religious doctrines (in the UK, there is no separation of Church and State). In any case, the publicly funded 'Free Schools' now being set up are not constrained by the language of the curriculum. Some half-dozen Evangelical church schools with pro-creationism policies have applied for Free School status. We hope, in the light of the Secretary’s words, that these applications will now be rejected. ..."

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Posted March 25th, 2011

Outbreak of Creo Bills Plagues Legislatures...

Mother Jones reports on the spate of creationist bills being introduced in legislatures around the contry, on March 23rd: "State governments are grappling with massive budget deficits, overburdened social programs, and mountains of deferred spending. But never mind all that. For some conservative lawmakers, it's the perfect time to legislate the promotion of creationism in the classroom. In the first three months of 2011, nine creationism-related bills have been introduced in seven states—that's more than in any year in recent memory: ..."

The states are Texas (HB 2454, rfeferred to Higher Education Committee), Kentucky(HB 169, Died in committee), Florida(SB 1854, referred to Senate Committee on Education Pre-K-12, chaired by Sen. Stephen Wise, who remarked: "Why do we still have apes if we came from them?"), Tennessee(HB 368, passed by the House General Subcommittee on Education on March 16, and SB 893), Oklahoma(SB 554, and then the Scientific Education and Academic Freedom Act; both died in committee), New Mexico(HB 302, Died in committee), and Missouri (HB 195, not yet referred to a committee).


Earthquake News & Resources...

Science Daily on March 15th, "Japan Quake May Have Slightly Shortened Earth Days, Moved Axis, Theoretical Calculations Suggest ..."


Vivid before/after interactive display of the effects of the tsunami in many areas, including the Fukushima power plant.


This Google-Earth driven map shows the evolving series of tremors with a stunning interactive display.


Still Unsure of Global Warming? Check those Coffee Prices...

The NY Times reports on March 9th that " Like most of the small landowners in Colombia's lush mountainous Cauca region, Luis Garzón, 80, and his family have thrived for decades by supplying shade-grown, rainforest-friendly Arabica coffee for top foreign brands like Nespresso and Green Mountain. A sign in the center of a nearby town proclaims, 'The coffee of Cauca is No. 1!' But in the last few years, coffee yields have plummeted here and in many of Latin America’s other premier coffee regions as a result of rising temperatures and more intense and unpredictable rains, phenomena that many scientists link partly to global warming. Coffee plants require the right mix of temperature, rainfall and spells of dryness for beans to ripen properly and maintain their taste. Coffee pests thrive in the warmer, wetter weather. Bean production at the Garzóns’ farm is therefore down 70 percent from five years ago, leaving the family little money for clothing for toddlers and 'thinking twice' about sending older children to college, said Mr. Garzon’s 44-year-old son, Albeiro, interviewed in a yellow stucco house decorated with coffee posters and madonnas. The shortage of high-end Arabica coffee beans is also being felt in New York supermarkets and Paris cafes, as customers blink at escalating prices. Purveyors fear that the Arabica coffee supply from Colombia may never rebound — that the world might, in effect, hit 'peak coffee.' ..."


Creo Cat Fight in Kentucky...

Answers in Genesis announced on March 23rd that "Answers in Genesis, recognized as one of the strongest advocates for homeschooling in America, has been kicked out of two homeschool conventions where AiG President Ken Ham had been scheduled to speak. In addition, AiG as an exhibitor has also been expelled. One of the conferences is being held in our 'backyard': at the Cincinnati Convention Center. So why has AiG been disinvited from the 'Great Homeschool Conventions' (March 31–April 2 in Cincinnati) and also near Philadelphia (June 23–25)? Have the organizers accused AiG of promoting anti-biblical teaching and thus have voided its contract with us? In an email to Ken Ham, the leader of this homeschool group wrote to us (just after midnight last night) to announce its decision. ... 'After much prayer and deliberation over the weekend, Great Homeschool Convention's Advisory Board has unanimously decided to disinvite Ken and AIG from all future conventions, including the Cincinnati convention next week. The Board believes this to be the Lord's will for our convention and searched the Scriptures for the mind of the Lord and the leadership of the Holy Spirit before arriving at this decision. ... Our Board believes Ken's comments to be unnecessary, ungodly, and mean-spirited statements that are divisive at best and defamatory at worst.' ..."


Report from the Kentuckty Herald-Leader:

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New Findings from Old 'Soup'...

Science Daily reports on March 21st that " Stanley Miller gained fame with his 1953 experiment showing the synthesis of organic compounds thought to be important in setting the origin of life in motion. Five years later, he produced samples from a similar experiment, shelved them and, as far as friends and colleagues know, never returned to them in his lifetime. More 50 years later, Jeffrey Bada, Miller's former student and a current Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego professor of marine chemistry, discovered the samples in Miller's laboratory material and made a discovery that represents a potential breakthrough in the search for the processes that created Earth's first life forms. Former Scripps undergraduate student Eric Parker, Bada and colleagues report on their reanalysis of the samples in the March 21 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Miller's 1958 experiment in which the gas hydrogen sulfide was added to a mix of gases believed to be present in the atmosphere of early Earth resulted in the synthesis of sulfur amino acids as well as other amino acids. The analysis by Bada's lab using techniques not available to Miller suggests that a diversity of organic compounds existed on early planet Earth to an extent scientists had not previously realized. 'Much to our surprise the yield of amino acids is a lot richer than any experiment (Miller) had ever conducted,' said Bada. ..."


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Posted March 14th, 2011

Dr. Oz promotes Dangerous Fad Diet...

ABC News reported on March 8th that " ...the return of the hCG diet -- a fad popular in the 1970s that combines daily injections of 'human chorionic gonadotropin' and extreme caloric restriction -- has some weight-loss experts worried. ... The danger of very low-calorie diets has been well documented since their rise in popularity in the '70s. A 1981 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition described 17 people, all of whom were initially obese and had significant and rapid weight loss, who died suddenly of ventricular arrhythmia after a median five months of dieting. ... More than a dozen clinical trials have failed to support a role for hCG in weight loss. But on a Feb. 21 episode of Fox's 'The Dr. Oz Show,' Dr. Mehmet Oz himself called for more research into the hormone's hunger-hindering effects. 'By researching hCG ... we might find new ways to help millions of people, who do not have another solution, find an option," he said. "And, for that reason, I think it's worth investigating.' ..."


Science vs. Politics at the EPA...

The NY Times reports on March 8th that " Science and politics rarely play nicely together, and a House hearing Tuesday on a bill to strip the Environmental Protection Agency of its power to regulate greenhouse gas emissions proved no exception. Democrats on the Energy and Commerce Committee’s subcommittee on energy and power demanded the hearing in the hope of slowing the inexorable progress of the bill, known as the Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011, which enjoys the near- unanimous support of the Republican House majority. They appear to have failed. Despite some fireworks, the handful of members from both parties who attended the hearing left with the views they arrived with. The subcommittee is expected to approve the bill later this week. The measure would overturn the E.P.A.'s finding that carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases pose a threat to public health and the environment and would bar the agency from writing any regulations to control them. The bill's sponsors say that the climate science behind the finding is dubious and that the proposed rules would have a devastating impact on the economy. In an effort to support the E.P.A.'s regulatory power, committee Democrats rounded up five eminent academic climatologists who defended the scientific consensus that the planet is warming and that human activities like the burning of fossil fuels are largely responsible. The professors called for swift and concerted action to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, although they did not endorse any particular policy means for achieving them. The Republicans countered with two scientific witnesses who said that while there was strong evidence of a rise in global surface temperatures, the reasons were murky and any response could have adverse unintended effects. Another scientist said that the E.P.A.’s decision to ban the pesticide DDT 40 years ago had led to a huge increase in death and disease in the developing world. ... One witness, Christopher B. Field, director of global ecology at the Carnegie Institution for Science, piqued the interest of members on both sides of the aisle by detailing new research on the adverse effects of rising temperatures on agriculture. Dr. Field said crops had certain temperature thresholds above which yields dropped sharply. For corn, he said, that temperature is 84 degrees, and a single day of 104 degrees causes a 7 percent drop in yield. Dr. Field said that extreme warming could reduce crop yields by more than 60 percent. 'This new information is quite striking,' he said. 'Major food crops and cotton show little sensitivity to rising temperatures until you reach a threshold. That’s why people are generally not aware of these sensitivities.' ..."


'Teachable Moments' re Japan's Megaquake...

Japan's Earthquake Information center announced availability of data and photos from last week's huge earthquake: "Dear Colleagues, The 2011 off the Pacific coast of Tohoku Earthquake occured at 14:46 (Japan Time) March 11th 2011. Deepest sympathy to all who is still undergoing this devastating disaster. We keep updating the scientific information both in English and Japanese. Please announce the link below to whom it may concern. ..."


This from a colleague: "Interesting footage of active cracking of the ground and water coming out of the ground during the Japanese quake: ..."


The IRIS Consortium also offers information and 'teachng moments:' "March 12th, 2011 The IRIS Data Management Center and the Seismology Community are generating a wide range of products from and information about the Japan M8.9 earthquake. This page will be updated as additional results become available. ..."


End of America 2011? Or Just Another Scheme?

End of America 2011? Seen the ads on TV about this online video? Don't bother watching, it's by Porter Stansberry, who the SEC recently fined $1.5 million for securities fraud. What does the video tell you to do? Buy gold, buy silver, and buy his $100/issue newsletter at the low-low price of $50/issue. Not worth wasting 77 minutes of your life.


Mercury to Shine This Week...

NASA announced on March 14th "The timing couldn't be better. Just as NASA's MESSENGER probe is about to enter orbit around Mercury, the innermost planet is popping out of the twilight for its best apparition of 2011. The show begins on March 14th. At the end of the day, go outside and look west into the sunset. A bright star catches your eye—that's Jupiter. Just below it lies Mercury, a little dimmer than the giant planet, but easy to find with Jupiter's guidance. ... Over the next few evenings, these two planets will "pass in the night," switching places so that Mercury is on top and Jupiter on the bottom. The higher Mercury rises, the easier it is to see. By the evening of March 17th, the innermost planet should be well above any distant trees or buildings—in prime position for the big event. March 17th is the night MESSENGER goes into orbit. This has been a long time coming. MESSENGER was launched in Aug. 2004. Since then it has looped around the sun 15 times, flown by three planets for multiple gravity assists, and traveled some 5 billion miles. If getting there sounds tricky, that's because it is. ... Deep mysteries await MESSENGER when it arrives. There are hints that Mercury has been shrinking—how is that possible? The poles of Mercury contain some highly reflective material—could it be ice? What shapes Mercury’s long comet-like tail? What makes Mercury so dense? Are any of Mercury’s volcanic craters "fresh"? MESSENGER is bristling with instruments specifically designed to answer these questions and many others. A 15-minute engine burn on March 17th at 8:45 p.m. EDT will place MESSENGER into orbit. At that historic moment, Mercury will be visible to the naked eye across much of the USA. Go out and look. Only MESSENGER will have a better view… ..."


Posted March 4th, 2011

Brits Release UFO Files: Surprises, but No ETs...

The Huffington Post reported on March 3rd that " Among many other shocking disclosures, a series of 8,500 documents released by the British National Archives have revealed that many Brits feared a devastating alien invasion back in 1967. As Reuters is reporting, the 35 previously classified files -- available online -- mainly cover the period from 1997 to 2005. Included are photographs, sketches and detailed accounts of flying saucer sightings, along with correspondence between the U.K. Ministry of Defense and witnesses. ... As the Independent reports, the extra-terrestrial files are a testament to how the massive global phenomenon was discussed at the highest level of government and security services worldwide. Also among the more prominent revelations are messages from the British Government to the Prime Minister of Grenada to response to that nation's attempts to sponsor a debate on UFOs at the United Nations in 1977-78, CBS reports. The documents also reportedly detail how the government began making official inquiries into UFOs starting in 1950, following a series of reported sightings. The Ministry of Defense even set up a secret working group called the "Flying Saucer Working Party" to monitor the sightings, though the organization remained secret until 1988 when correspondence between Winston Churchill and the Air Ministry was revealed. Other materials, however, suggest that the UFO craze has receded as of late, with sightings having dropped from a peak of 609 in 1996-97 to a measly 130 per year between 2001 and 2006. British defense officials are also reported to have discredited claims made by author Philip Corso in the popular 1997 book The Day After Roswell, noting that the retired U.S. colonel was not a reliable source of information. ..."


A BBC News report on March 2 adds that " Intelligence papers on a reported UFO sighting known as the "Rendlesham incident" have gone missing, files from the National Archives reveal. The missing files relate to a report of mysterious lights from US servicemen at RAF Woodbridge in Suffolk in 1980. The disappearance came to light with the release of 8,000 previously classified documents on UFOs. Officials found a "huge" gap where defence intelligence files relating to the case should be, the papers show. ... UFOs have only ever received one debate in Parliament. It came in the House of Lords in 1979, at the height of the 'winter of discontent', and the files show how officials laboured to prepare a government position on the topic. At the end of the discussion the government spokesman Lord Stabolgi summed up what remains the official position now. 'There is nothing to convince Her Majesty's government that there has ever been a single visit by an alien spacecraft. As for telling the public the truth about UFOs, the truth is simple. There really are many strange phenomena in the sky, and these are invariably reported by rational people. But there is a wide range of natural explanations to account for such phenomena.' ..."


Scientific American: NM one of 9 States where Evolution Education Is in Trouble...

Scientific American reported on March 3rd that " Faced with a new law that attempts to install creationism into Tennessee public school curriculums, Scientific American has revived an old map detailing where in America people are battling to keep religious doctrine out of science education. Newly updated is Tennessee, of course, and Ohio, where, in January, the Mount Vernon City Schools Board of Education fired a middle school teacher for teaching creationism. ..."

The map mentions New Mexico's HB 302, and its tabling last month. Other states besides Tennessee, Ohio and New Mexico profiled include California, Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Louisiana, and Kentucky.


Interactive Map:

Posted February 25th, 2011

HB 302, Even Post-Tabled, Is Still Surprising...

It's as if all the local media forgot all about HB302 after it was tabled on the 18th. In addition to not reporting the outcome of Friday's vote, the Journal went ahead and printed Kim Johnson's op-ed in opposition, on Monday the 21st. A snippet: " Science is a method of learning about the natural world. It does not give equal weight to just anyone's 'theories.' The definition is incomplete and not accepted in the scientific community and would allow a science teacher to bring in an astrologer or flat earther and call it science. We hope that Anderson withdraws this bill. If anyone receives complaints about violations of a student's rights or failure to discuss the full mainstream science position of a topic in the science standards, please come to us. We will fight with you. The tools already exist to counter this. But this bill is terribly wrong. This bill is primarily written by a religious group to promote their specific pseudoscience in science classrooms. ..."


On the eve of the Bill's final day, an important, must-read document was posted on the Legistature website. Titled "Legislative Education Study Committee (LESC) Bill Analysis," the document is chock-full about the real purposes and problems of House Bill 302. It also reveals that the bill had a second House sponsor, namely Rep. Larry A. Larrañaga (R-27, Bernalillo), although this isn't reported on Larranaga's page. Here's just one of the hard-hitting comments in this analysis: "Several provisions of HB 302 track a model 'academic freedom statute on evolution' promulgated by the Discovery Institute, which states that 'to help combat the dogmatism that presently pervades evolution-education, Discovery Institute supports legislation that protects academic freedom for teachers who would dare to challenge Darwin in the classroom. There are presently academic freedom bills in Oklahoma, Tennessee, New Mexico, Kentucky, and Missouri.'..."


The Discovery Institute's Casey Luskin indeed noticed HB302's demise. Luskin writes "It's springtime (almost), which means that Darwin lobbyists are starting to come out in full force to spread misinformation about academic freedom legislation. ...."

Translation: "It's springtime (almost), which means that creationist lobbyists are starting to come out in full force to spread misinformation about evolution in state legislatures. ...."

Luskin: "This is most unfortunate because their goal, plain and simple, is to prevent students from hearing about scientific critiques of neo-Darwinian evolution in the classroom. ..."

Translation: "This is most unfortunate because their goal, plain and simple, is to prevent students from learning about the science of evolution in the classroom. ..."

Luskin also notes that " An article in the Santa Fe New Mexican states that the "[m]easure clears way for teaching of 'intelligent design'." This is also wrong. For example, the academic freedom bill in New Mexico (which recently died in committee) states: The department, school district governing authorities and school administrators shall not prohibit any teacher, when a controversial scientific topic is being taught in accordance with adopted standards and curricula, from informing students about relevant scientific information regarding either the scientific strengths or scientific weaknesses pertaining to that topic. ..."

Luskin concludes " Without the protection of this legislation, teachers will be often subject to the whims of their administrators and intimidation tactics of others who disagree with them. The rhetoric that has already entered the debate over academic freedom legislation shows why it is important to protect these freedoms. May intellectual freedom win, and shrill rhetoric in favor of censorship lose. ..."


Radford Solves the "Chupacabra" Mystery...

Larry Barker's latest investigation, on the origins of the Chupacabra myth, featured local skeptic Benjamin Radford. The 6-minute segment on KRQE-TV13, which ran on Thursday, Feb. 24th, brought the best ratings KRQE has enjoyed for years (KRQE tells us the ratings were "Channel 13=15.3, Channel 7=7.9, and Channel 4=5.2; In fact, at 10:00, one in every four TV sets were tuned to News 13!")

Here's a synopsis: "Secrets of the chupacabra revealed The chupacabra is a mysterious vampire beast of mythical proportions right up there with the Loch Ness monster, Bigfoot and the Abominable Snowman. Everyone knows the name but not where it lives or what it looks like. The legend, you see, is as elusive as the beast itself. ..."

Did Radford track down the very origin of El Chupacabra? See for yourself!


Zombie Analysis...

Perhaps you have used differential equations to model predator-prey relationships. What if someone analyzed Zombies with similar "rigor"? Wait no more, the Paper is here!


Inhofe Asks for Climategate Study, may Not Like Results...

The Huffington Post reported on Feb. 24th that "A new investigation into the 'Climategate' controversy has exonerated U.S. scientists of any wrongdoing. The probe was conducted by the U.S. Commerce Department's inspector general at the request of Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.). In late 2009, thousands of emails leaked from the Climate Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom. In the days following, allegations spread that the emails -- exchanges between the world's leading climate scientists, including some at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) -- revealed the manipulation of scientific data in favor of manmade global warming. While the controversy, dubbed 'Climategate,' made huge headlines, the multiple investigations that have vindicated the scientists involved haven't had the same impact. ..."


NMSR's Science Watch Radio
Listen to Re-Runs of Science Watch on 1350 AM!! Re-runs of the Show are now being played regularly on Saturdays, at 11:00 AM on 1350 AM (Albuquerque metro area).

Posted February 18th, 2011

House Bill 302 Tabled in Education Committee...

After a series of very strange stories on New Mexico’s proposed House Bill 302, Rep. Thomas Anderson’s House Bill 302 was tabled on a 5-to-4 vote in the NM House Education committee this morning. Why were the stories strange?, Well, sponsor Anderson told the Santa Fe New Mexican that the bill was written by him, and not by the local Intelligent Design group (Measure clears way for teaching of 'intelligent design' by Steve Terrell, The New Mexican, Tuesday, February 08, 2011).


Then, Anderson told the Albuquerque Journal ("Sponsor: Bill Is About Teachers, Not Creationism," Dan Boyd, Feb. 16th) that "My bill has been hijacked by people who want to talk about religious issues."


The local Intelligent Design group wasn’t nearly as humble, having posted text almost identical to HB 302 for years on their "OriginsEducation" website.


Oh yeah - there was also IDNet’s full-page ad in Monday’s Albuquerque Journal.


The word from Santa Fe is that sponsor Anderson is now regretting getting involved with the bill - and perhaps is feeling he was 'left in the lurch' by IDNet-NM.

NMSR’s page has links to stories and news videos, and a chart of the bill’s five-year-long evolution here.



Your comments, on the Panda's Thumb:

War of the Weasels: Dembski "Responds"...

I talked to Bill Demsbki in person about my work on using Genetic Algorithms to solve Steiner’s problem way back in 2001. He didn’t "get" it then, and he still doesn't! Reacting to a news story, "Supercolony trails follow mathematical Steiner tree," Dembski writes today that "Some years back, ID critic Dave Thomas used to tout the power of genetic algorithms for their ability of solve the Steiner Problem, which basically tries to minimize distance of paths that connect nodes on a two-dimensional surface (last I looked, he's still making this line of criticism - see here). In fact, none of his criticisms hit the mark – the information problem that he claims to resolve in evolutionary terms merely pushes the design problem deeper … In ID terms, there’s no problem – ants were designed with various capacities, and this either happens to be one of them or is one acquired through other programmed/designed capacities. On Darwinian evolutionary grounds, however, one would have to say something like the following: ants are the result of a Darwinian evolutionary process that programmed the ants with, presumably, a genetic algorithm that enables them, when put in separate colonies, to trace out paths that resolve the Steiner Problem. In other words, evolution, by some weird self-similarity, embedded an evolutionary program into the neurophysiology of the ants that enables them to solve the Steiner problem (which, presumably, gives these ants a selective advantage). ..."


I've written about this "response" today on the Panda's Thumb: "Kudos to Dr. Dembski for this classic Goal-Post movement! The purpose of my original article was simply to move the discussion of Genetic algorithms beyond the ID 'Dawkins Defense,' namely that all genetic algorithms suffer the 'Weasel' flaw of needing the solutions to be incorporated directly into the fitness function. Dembski's response is remarkable in that it totally avoids the issues I raised. Just because ants can find ways for colonies to make efficient paths has no bearing on whether genetic problems can be applied without having solutions in hand already. ..."


"War of the Weasels" on the Web:

Ants and Steiner Trees in the News:,ants-build-cheapest-networks.aspx

Schmitt Withdraws Nomination to NM Cabinet...

The Albuquerque Journal reported on Feb. 10th that " Harrison Schmitt, a former NASA astronaut who was chosen by Gov. Susana Martinez to head up the state's Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department, has withdrawn his nomination after a squabble with the Senate Rules Committee over background checks. Martinez's office just announced the news, which comes slightly more than one month since Schmitt's appointment was first announced. Schmitt, who's also a former U.S. senator, faced a bumpy confirmation process in the state Senate due to his outspoken views on climate change and other subjects. However, few people, if any, expected him to withdraw his nomination. ..."


Of course, this had "nothing" to do with Schmitt's stance on Global Warming, especially his 2009 claim that "Arctic sea ice had recovered to 1989 levels," which was refuted by the National Snow and Ice Data Center itself in the pages of the Santa Fe New Mexican:

Posted February 4th, 2011

Creationist Bill Hits NM Legislature...

HB 302, "PROTECTION FROM CERTAIN SCIENTIFIC TOPICS", has been introduced in the 2011 Spring session by Thomas A. Anderson. Like previous bills, the new bill parrots the Discovery Institute's "Model Bill": "Public school teachers may hold students accountable for knowing and understanding material taught in accordance with adopted standards and curricula, but public school teachers shall not penalize a student in any way because that student subscribes to a particular position on the controversial scientific topic being taught. ..."

NMSR's HB302 Updates Page (News and Comment):

Panda's Thumb, "Here We Go Again, New Mexico Edition":

NCSE, "Antievolution legislation in New Mexico":


Wired Science: "New Mexico Bill Seeks to Protect Anti-Science Education,"

Discovery Institute's "Model Bill":


Did Schmitt Fudge his Data?...

It began with Mark Boslough's column 'Climate-change deniers ignore science' in the January 24th Santa Fe New Mexican. Regarding former astronaut and senator Harrison Schmitt, who has been nominated for the secretary of Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department by Governor Susana Martinez, Boslough wrote "In 2009, Schmitt submitted a white paper to NASA. He stated, 'Artic (sic) sea ice has returned to 1989 levels of coverage.' I wrote to him, politely pointing out that this was not true, and directing him to the data from the National Snow and Ice Data Center (the ice extent in 2009 had not recovered, and as of this writing is at an all-time winter low). He responded, but never made the necessary correction. Anyone can make a mistake, but scientific integrity requires that authors own up to mistakes and fix them."


A week later, Joseph Bast of the Heartland Institute (which Boslough describes as a “right-wing organization that actively engages in attacks on objective scientific findings”), published an opposing op-ed in the New Mexican. Bast wrote "Unlike Boslough and his allies, global-warming realists don't, by implication, compare people who disagree with them to Holocaust deniers. That is a disgusting rhetorical trick that is likely and perhaps even calculated to inflame the emotions of people, some of whom may be mentally unbalanced."


The Heartland Institute reacts negatively to all uses of the term "denier", except its own, as it brags about the anti-climate-change beliefs of many new congress members on the Heartland home page itself!


NMSR has learned that the National Snow and Ice Data Center has sent a letter to the editor of the Santa Fe New Mexican that very clearly states that Schmitt's claim about the Arctic Sea Ice was incorrect. This will completely vindicate Boslough's claims about Schmitt's dishonesty and lack of scientific integrity. More at Boslough's new blog,

Colbert Interviews Psychic, Vaccine Researchers...

Colbert has been having some interesting interviews recently!

Thursday, January 27, 2011 Time-Traveling Porn - Daryl Bem. Stephen uses the power of time-traveling porn to predict the 2012 presidential election, and Daryl Bem discusses his theory of extrasensory pornception. (07:46):

Monday, January 31, 2011 Paul Offit believes the smallpox vaccination scar seems to be a fairly small price to pay during swimsuit season. (05:12):


FEBRUARY 2011 PUZZLE - "Kid Conundrum!"

FEBRUARY 2011 NMSR REPORTS ON-LINE - Massage Therapy, Creo Bill, Schmitt Fudged Data, MORE!

Posted January 28th, 2011

Chemtrails Radio Interview...

NMSR's Dave Thomas did a radio interview last week on Chemtrails, with "The Extreme Society Show" (EXS)

It's now on on podcast, at

Dave's interview runs from 28:30 to 1:15. Colleen Thomas (no relation, TFSM) follows. Not the greatest sound quality.

NMSR's Science Watch Radio
Listen to Re-Runs of Science Watch on 1350 AM!! Re-runs of the Show are now being played regularly on Saturdays and Sundays, at 11:00 AM on 1350 AM (Albuquerque metro area).

Extreme Weather Events Since 1871 Studied...

Science Daily reports on Jan. 25th that "From the hurricane that smashed into New York in 1938 to the impact of the Krakatoa eruption of 1883, the late 19th and 20th centuries are rich with examples of extreme weather. Now an international team of climatologists have created a comprehensive reanalysis of all global weather events from 1871 to the present day, and from the earth's surface to the jet stream level. The 20th Century Reanalysis Project, outlined in the Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society, not only allows researchers to understand the long-term impact of extreme weather, but provides key historical comparisons for our own changing climate. ..."


Creos Lose in Court, But Not in School...

ScienceDaily reports on Jan. 27th "The majority of public high school biology teachers in the U.S. are not strong classroom advocates of evolutionary biology, despite 40 years of court cases that have ruled teaching creationism or intelligent design violates the Constitution, according to Penn State political scientists. A mandatory undergraduate course in evolutionary biology for prospective teachers, and frequent refresher courses for current teachers, may be part of the solution, they say. 'Considerable research suggests that supporters of evolution, scientific methods, and reason itself are losing battles in America's classrooms,' write Michael Berkman and Eric Plutzer, professors of political science at Penn State, in the January 28 issue of Science. ..."


Dinos Survived the K-T Meteor?...

Science Daily reports on Jan. 27th " University of Alberta researchers determined that a fossilized dinosaur bone found in New Mexico confounds the long established paradigm that the age of dinosaurs ended between 65.5 and 66 million years ago. The U of A team, led by Larry Heaman from the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, determined the femur bone of a hadrosaur as being only 64.8 million years old. That means this particular plant eater was alive about 700,000 years after the mass extinction event many paleontologists believe wiped all non-avian dinosaurs off the face of earth, forever. ..."


Heartland Targets Boslough...

It all began with Mark Boslough's column "Climate-change deniers ignore science , in the Jan. 24th Santa Fe New Mexican.: "At the conclusion of the hottest decade since records have been kept, deniers of human-caused climate change have abandoned all pretense of honest science. ... New Mexico's most prominent self-described 'denier,' Harrison Schmitt, is now involved with the Heartland Institute, a right-wing organization that actively engages in attacks on objective scientific findings that might be used to support government regulations of his favored industry. It also censures, criticizes, and demonizes scientists whose research supports those findings. Many of its supporters have resorted to smear tactics and defamation campaigns against scientists. ...."


That set off James Taylor of the Heartland Institute:"Hoaxster Physicist Spews Hateful Rhetoric Against Climate Scientists: Boslough uses this hateful 'deniers' term repeatedly throughout his editorial, and repeatedly makes the hateful and unsubstantiated claim that all climate scientists who disagree with him lack integrity and are lying about the facts."

This is right next to a Heartland-sponsored video, "I'm a Denier", which is proudly described this way: "It's a parody of 'I'm a Believer' written by Neil Diamond and performed by the Monkees. This version was written by Elmer Beauregard and Brian D. Smith and performed by Elmer and the M4GW players. This song is in honor of all the new Republican Freshman entering Congress and the Senate most of whom are Deniers and proud of it."


More on Boslough's "Puckerclust" Blog, "Heartburn at the Heartland Institute."


Governor Susana Martinez, from KOAT News, Jan. 27th: "The man who Gov. Susana Martinez wants to run the state’s Natural Resources Department once said that the environmental movement has been taken over by communists. Harrison 'Jack' Schmitt made that remark on a radio show in 2009. He is a former U.S. senator and astronaut who walked on the moon. His comments don’t worry Martinez. 'I am confident that he will be pushing forward my agenda and not any personal agenda that he may have,' Martinez said."


Posted January 21st, 2011

Chemtrails Radio Interview...

NMSR's Dave Thomas is doing a radio interview tonight on Chemtrails, with "The Extreme Society Show" (EXS)

Listen Live at 6:30 MST. It'll be on podcast, so tune in any old time later!

Wakefield Defends Vaccine/Autism Link on GMA...

ABC'S Good Morning America reported on Jan. 17th " Controversial British surgeon Dr. Andrew Wakefield today defended allegations by authors that his research citing a possible link between the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine and autism were outright 'fraudulent.' 'There was no fraud, there was no falsification, there was no hoax,' Wakefield told George Stephanopolous today on 'Good Morning America.' Evidence Wakefield published in 1998 gave birth to the belief of a connection between vaccines and autism, which ignited a nationwide public health scare and a larger anti-vaccine movement. But authors of the editorial published nearly two weeks ago in the British Medical Journal confirmed previous suggestions that Wakefield skewed patients' medical records to support his hypothesis that the widely-used measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) combination vaccine was causing autism and irritable bowel disease. 'The work certainly does raise a question mark over MMR vaccine,' Wakefield said in a 1998 interview. But editorial authors wrote, 'clear evidence of falsification of data should now close the door on this damaging vaccine scare.' According to the editorial, Wakefield stood to gain financially from his purported findings because of his involvement in a lawsuit against manufacturers of the MMR vaccine. British news reports said Wakefield was hired as a consultant by lawyers trying to sue the vaccine's manufacturers. His compensation, they said, was about $750,000. Wakefield today denied any allegations of wrongdoing. He said British reporter Brian Deers, who led the latest investigation unraveling Wakefield's research, used selective information from the study to build a case against Wakefield. The editorial may not be enough to dissuade many people who believe Wakefield's claims, no matter how compelling the scientific evidence, according to Dr. Paul Offit, chief of the Section of Infectious Diseases at Children's Hospital in Philadelphia. ..."


Medical Journal BMJ Blasts Lancet Role in MMR-Autism Scare...

MedPage Today reports on Jan. 18th "In the final installment of a three-part investigation of the scandal surrounding Andrew Wakefield, MBBS, BMJ took aim squarely at rival journal The Lancet, which published Wakefield's now-retracted 1998 paper that started the MMR-autism scare. British journalist Brian Deer wrote in BMJ that when he brought a sheaf of evidence to Lancet editors in 2004 indicating that Wakefield had fudged data in the 1998 paper, the journal conducted only a perfunctory investigation before issuing a statement backing the paper's substance. Moreover, Deer said, The Lancet treated him as if he were the wrongdoer. It was only after he published additional findings in the Sunday Times of London, and they were corroborated in lengthy hearings before Great Britain's General Medical Council (GMC) in 2009 and 2010, that the journal fully retracted the paper. 'Were it not for the GMC case ... the fraud by which Wakefield concocted fear of MMR would forever have been denied and covered up,' Deer contended. But Lancet editors, in an unsigned statement in response to queries from MedPage Today, said they had acted responsibly and as quickly as they could. ..."


Opinion Surveys About Science Often Flawed...

ScienceDaily reports on Jan. 13th that " A new study from North Carolina State University highlights a major flaw in attempting to use a single survey question to assess public opinion on science issues. Researchers found that people who say that risks posed by new science fields outweigh benefits often actually perceive more benefits than risks when asked more detailed questions. 'We set out to determine whether we can accurately assess public opinion on complex science issues with one question, or if we need to break the issue down into questions on each of the issue's constituent parts,' says Dr. Andrew Binder, an assistant professor of communication at NC State and lead author of the study. 'We found that, to varying degrees, accuracy really depends on breaking it down into multiple questions for people.' ..."


Betelgeuse Nova => Twin Suns of Tatooine in 2012? Not So Fast...

BadAstronomy's Phil Plait writes on Jan. 21st " I swear, I need to trust my instincts. As soon as I saw the article on the site desperately trying to link Betelgeuse going supernova with the nonsense about the Mayans and 2012, my gut reaction was to write about it. But no, I figured a minute later, this story would blow over. So to speak. I should've known: instead of going away, it gets picked up by that bastion of antiscience, The Huffington Post. Grrrr. The actual science in the original article is pretty good; they talked with scientist Brad Carter who discusses the scenario of Betelgeuse going supernova. The whole story is pretty interesting — I wrote about it in detail the last time there was nonsense about Betelgeuse blowing up — but in a nutshell Betelgeuse is a red supergiant star in Orion with about 20 times the mass of the Sun, and it’s very near the end of its life. When stars this massive die, they explode as supernovae. The distance to Betelgeuse is unclear (it has a very puffy outer atmosphere which makes distance determination somewhat dicey) but it’s something like a bit more than 600 light years, way way too far away to hurt us. It's the question of when that the two articles go off the rails. Betelgeuse may explode tomorrow night, or it may not go kerblooie until the year 100,000 A.D. We don’t know. But given that huge range, the odds of it blowing up next year are pretty slim. And clearly, the original article was really trying to tie in the 2012 date to this, even when it has nothing to do with anything. The tie-in was a rickety link to scuttlebutt on the web about it, but that’s about it. What's worse, the HuffPo article attributes the date to Dr. Carter himself, but in the original article he never says anything about it; the connection is all made by the article author. Given how popular HuffPo is, I imagine a lot of people will now think an actual scientist is saying Betelgeuse will blow up in 2012. ... At 600+ light years, a supernova would be pretty bright, but hardly bright enough to be a second Sun, as both articles say. Sorry, no Tatooine-like sunsets for us. It wouldn’t even be as bright as the full Moon, really, but certainly far brighter than Venus. Enough to cast a shadow, which would actually be pretty cool. ..."


Posted January 15th, 2011

Wakefield: Vaccine Fraud Case Getting Bizarre...

Science Daily reports on Jan. 12th that " Andrew Wakefield, the disgraced doctor who claimed a link between MMR and autism, planned secret businesses intended to make huge sums of money, in Britain and America, from his now-discredited allegations, according to a British Medical Journal investigation. The scheme is exposed in the second part of a BMJ series of special reports, 'Secrets of the MMR scare,' by investigative journalist Brian Deer. Last week we revealed the scientific fraud behind the appearance of a link between the vaccine and autism. Now Deer follows the money. Drawing on investigations and documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, the report shows how Wakefield's institution, the Royal Free Medical School in London, supported him as he sought to exploit the MMR scare for financial gain. ..."



Prover of "Continental Drift" (Plate Tectonics) Dies...

The New York Times reports on Jan. 12th that " Jack Oliver, whose studies of earthquakes provided convincing proof that Earth’s continents are constantly moving, died last Wednesday at his home in Ithaca, N.Y. He was 87. The idea of continental drift, that Earth’s crust is slowly shifting and moving, had been proposed by the German geophysicist Alfred Wegener in 1912, but most of the scientific community regarded it with skepticism and often derision through much of the 20th century. In the 1960s, scientists set up seismometers across the world, allowing them to measure and record the slightest shakings almost anywhere. In 1964, Dr. Oliver and a former graduate student of his, Bryan Isacks, went to the South Pacific to set up seismic stations on the island nations of Tonga and Fiji. They puzzled over waves from deep earthquakes, emanating as far down as 400 miles below the surface, before realizing that part of the seafloor was being bent downward and pushed into Earth’s interior. In 1968, Dr. Oliver, Dr. Isacks and another former graduate student of Dr. Oliver, Lynn Sykes, wrote a paper, 'Seismology and the New Global Tectonics,' that put together earthquake evidence from around the world that made a convincing case that continental drift — now called plate tectonics — was indeed occurring. ..."


3D Movie of Project Mogul Flight...

A new video by Dave Thomas on NMSR's YouTube channel "shows the path of flight #4, launched from Alamogordo on June 4th, 1947, in support of top-secret Project Mogul. The device was lost, and when found in July, sparked what is known as the Roswell Incident. Prof. Charles B. Moore, who launched the balloon in 1947, later re-created the probable flight path using atmospheric physics and 1947 weather reports. This video shows the flight path in 3-D."...


PusterCluck? ClusterPuck? PuckerClust!

Mark Boslough has finally ventured into the blogosphere. Given Mark's interest in climate change denial, it's no surprise that the topic of his first blog is former astronaut Jack Schmitt, recently nominated for a cabinet position. Boslough writes "'Say it ain’t so, Jack. Posted on January 7, 2011 by puckerclust. Dear Dr. Schmitt, Like many of my colleagues, the space program inspired me to pursue a career in science. The final lunar landing took place during my senior year in high school. It seemed like I was the only kid left who was not jaded by moon walks and paid attention as you explored Taurus-Littrow with Gene Cernan. ...In 2010, you submitted a white paper to NASA, entitled 'Observations Necessary for Useful Global Climate Models' in which you stated 'Artic (sic) sea ice has returned to 1989 levels of coverage.' I wrote to you, politely pointing out that this was not true, and directing you to the data from the National Snow and Ice Data Center. You responded, but never made the necessary correction. You have chosen not to abide by the rules of science by allowing this critically important statement to stand uncorrected. I do not know if your false claim about Arctic Sea Ice was intentionally misleading or not, but this gives the appearance that you put your political ideology above scientific integrity. Please say it ain't so. ... Just because you disagree with policies that might be pursued because Arctic sea ice is disappearing does not mean it's not disappearing. The rules of science require that you correct your mistakes, and your political appointment by Gov. Martinez to a state office requires that you have scientific integrity. Please demonstrate your integrity by withdrawing your accusation that I and my colleagues are lying about how climate models work, and by correcting your false statement about Arctic sea ice in your NASA paper. Our policies must be based on careful assessment of the scientific facts. The facts must come first. We cannot afford to have an energy secretary who is willing to create his own facts to justify a predetermined policy preference that favors fossil fuel industries and rejects clean energy. ..."


Newspapers "Attacking" Noah's Ark Park...

Ken Ham of "Answers in Genesis writes on Jan. 15th "The two major newspapers in our state have not been keen at all (putting it mildly) on the Ark Encounter and its goal of bringing parts of the Bible to life and presenting biblical events as true history—including a wooden full-scale Noah’s Ark here in northern Kentucky (and in the same region as our Creation Museum). The Louisville paper, the Courier-Journal (the largest paper in the state), and the Lexington newspaper (the Herald-Leader) have featured several articles and editorials in the past several weeks that have attacked the Ark project and also Gov. Steve Beshear for supporting it. ..." Ham's colleagie Mark Looy adds "Now, our local paper, the Cincinnati Enquirer has been fair toward us, and it has even reported on the Ark's opposition–and that is to be expected. I won't cancel my subscription to a paper that attempts to present both sides fairly. But the two Kentucky papers have been relentless in their attacks on the Ark Encounter as they push an anti-Christian agenda...."


NM's CESE Has Been Targeted by a Creationist Coward...

Kim Johnson writes on Jan. 14th " CESE Has Been Targeted by a Creationist Coward Does this title seem to be a bit ad hominem? Actually, it is not really. It comes from years of experience in dealing with cowards and the generally associated character flaws and lack of understanding of how the world works. It seems that William Dembski's strange creationist blog (Uncommon Descent) has someone targeting CESE and NCSE (the National Center for Science Education). It happens to NCSE all the time, but why CESE of all the similar organizations in the nation? The answer is probably pretty simple: the creationists are coming - I'll bet. The last two times we have a 60 day legislative session (every other year) and the times we have had local flair-ups from the creationists have always been preceded by a warning, such as some muckety-muck from the Discovery Institute or some other well know creationist bastion either visiting the state or somehow trying to get public notice. You are going to try something. So many thanks for the warning. You guys never seem to learn. ..."


Posted January 7th, 2011

Wakefield Autism/Vaccine Paper...Fraudulent?

The New York Times and AP reported on Jan. 5th "The first study to link a childhood vaccine to autism was based on doctored information about the children involved, according to a new report on the widely discredited research. The conclusions of the 1998 paper by Andrew Wakefield and colleagues was renounced by 10 of its 13 authors and later retracted by the medical journal Lancet, where it was published. Still, the suggestion the MMR shot was connected to autism spooked parents worldwide and immunization rates for measles, mumps and rubella have never fully recovered. A new examination found, by comparing the reported diagnoses in the paper to hospital records, that Wakefield and colleagues altered facts about patients in their study. The analysis, by British journalist Brian Deer, found that despite the claim in Wakefield's paper that the 12 children studied were normal until they had the MMR shot, five had previously documented developmental problems. Deer also found that all the cases were somehow misrepresented when he compared data from medical records and the children's parents. ..."


Daryl Bem Publishes 'ESP' Paper in Leading Psych Journal...

The New York Times reported on Jan. 5th that "One of psychology's most respected journals has agreed to publish a paper presenting what its author describes as strong evidence for extrasensory perception, the ability to sense future events. The decision may delight believers in so-called paranormal events, but it is already mortifying scientists. Advance copies of the paper, to be published this year in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, have circulated widely among psychological researchers in recent weeks and have generated a mixture of amusement and scorn. The paper describes nine unusual lab experiments performed over the past decade by its author, Daryl J. Bem, an emeritus professor at Cornell, testing the ability of college students to accurately sense random events, like whether a computer program will flash a photograph on the left or right side of its screen. The studies include more than 1,000 subjects. Some scientists say the report deserves to be published, in the name of open inquiry; others insist that its acceptance only accentuates fundamental flaws in the evaluation and peer review of research in the social sciences. 'It's craziness, pure craziness. I can't believe a major journal is allowing this work in,' Ray Hyman, an emeritus professor of psychology at the University Oregon and longtime critic of ESP research, said. 'I think it's just an embarrassment for the entire field.' ..."


The Committee for Scientific Inquiry (CSI) has posted a detailed analysis by James Alcock. Alcock presents a detailed history of many previous ESP "breakthroughs", and describes how they eventually were dismissed as failed experiments. He then discusses problems with Bem's new research, not the least of which was his changing of the experimental protocol 2/5 of the way through the testing. Alcock concludes "The publication of this set of experiments will serve no one well. Parapsychology is not honoured by having this paper as its representative in a mainstream psychology journal. Neither does it serve the public well, for it only adds to confusion about the scientific case for the existence of psi. And it does no service to the reputation of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. ..."

Alcock examines nine of Bem's new experiments; Bem's response and Alcock's followup comments are also posted online.


Media Fumble: Bill O'Reilly, 15 yards. "Science Can't Explain Tides, so God Did It..."

David Silverman, president of the American Atheist Group, was interviewed on the Jan. 5th episode of the "O'Reilly Factor" on FOX News. The Huffington Post reports that O'Reilly began by telling Silverman that his organization is insulting religious people, an accusation Silverman denied, insisting that his message was simply the truth so how could it be offensive. The conversation then took a strange turn as the host played what he believed to be his trump card of the why God exists debate. O'REILLY: 'I'll tell you why [religion's] not a scam, in my opinion: tide goes in, tide goes out. Never a miscommunication. You can't explain that.' SILVERMAN: 'Tide goes in, tide goes out?' O'REILLY: 'See, the water, the tide comes in and it goes out, Mr. Silverman. It always comes in, and always goes out. You can't explain that.' ..."

Huffpo notes that "In fact, science has a very good explanation for the tides occur on such a regular basis: Tides are the rise and fall of sea levels caused by the combined effects of the gravitational forces exerted by the Moon and the Sun and the rotation of the Earth. ..."


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