New Mexicans for Science and Reason
NEWS FROM EARLIER IN THE YEAR 2012
by Dave Thomas : nmsrdaveATswcp.com (Help fight SPAM! Please replace the AT with an @ . NOTE - ALSO, PLEASE USE A DESCRIPTIVE SUBJECT LINE! E-MAILS WITH NO SUBJECT LINE, OR ONLY A ONE-WORD SUBJECT LINE, WILL BE AUTOMATICALLY DELETED AS SPAM!)
Posted December 8th, 2012
Wow, Grand Canyon might really be 60 Millon Years Old?
The New York Times reports on November 29th that " How old is the Grand Canyon? Old enough to be gazed on by actual dinosaurs, which died out 65 million years ago, or more like 6 million years old, formed about when the earliest human ancestors began walking upright? This bitter controversy among geologists edged into the open on Thursday when a report published in the journal Science offered new support for the old-canyon hypothesis, which is not the prevailing one. In the report, Rebecca M. Flowers of the University of Colorado and Kenneth A. Farley of the California Institute of Technology used an improved dating technique based on the radioactive decay of uranium and thorium atoms into helium atoms in a mineral known as apatite. They said this yielded a thermal record of these rocks under the canyon floor, hot at great depths but cooler the closer they were to the surface. An analysis of the data, the geologists said, revealed where surface erosion had gouged out canyons and how much time had passed since there was significant natural excavation in the Grand Canyon region. They thus concluded in the report that the western segment of the canyon was carved to within a few hundred meters of modern depths by about 70 million years ago. ..."
Dinosaurs and Denial...
In an op-ed by Charles M. Blow in the New York Times of December 8th, Blow opines "
Finally, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida — a Tea Party darling and possible 2016 presidential candidate — admits that
dinosaurs and humans didn't co-exist.
Last month, when GQ asked Rubio 'how old do you think the Earth is?' he stammered through an answer.
'I'm not a scientist, man. I can tell you what recorded history says. I can tell you what the Bible says, but I think
that's a dispute amongst theologians.' He continued, 'Whether the Earth was created in 7 days, or 7 actual eras, I'm
not sure we'll ever be able to answer that. It's one of the great mysteries.'
This week, in an interview with Politico, he attempted to mop up that mess. He said, 'There is no scientific debate on the age of the Earth. I mean, it's established pretty definitively. It's at least 4.5 billion years old.' But then he hedged: 'I just think in America we should have the freedom to teach our children whatever it is we believe. And that means teaching them science. They have to know the science, but also parents have the right to teach them the theology and to reconcile those two things.'
Why the hedge? Because he is in a party of creationists. According to a June Gallup report, most Republicans (58 percent) believed that God created humans in their present form within the last 10,000 years. Most Democrats and independents did not agree. This anti-intellectualism is antediluvian. No wonder a 2009 Pew Research Center report found that only 6 percent of scientists identified as Republican and 9 percent identified as conservative. ... If the Republicans don’t want to see their party go the way of the dinosaurs, they have to step out of the past. ..."
Pat Robertson says What?
Pat Robertson made a stunning revelation on the 700 Club show, on Tuesday, November 27th: " Look, I know that people will probably try to lynch me when I say this, but Bishop [James] Ussher, God bless him, wasn't inspired by the Lord when he said that it all took 6,000 years. It just didn't. You go back in time, you've got radiocarbon dating. You got all these things and you’ve got the carcasses of dinosaurs frozen in time out in the Dakotas. ... They're out there. So, there was a time when these giant reptiles were on the Earth and it was before the time of the Bible. So, don't try to cover it up and make like everything was 6,000 years. That's not the Bible, that's Bishop Ussher. … If you fight revealed science, you're going to lose your children, and I believe in telling it the way it was. ..."
YouTube Clip and Vigorous Discussion: http://pandasthumb.org/archives/2012/11/pat-robertson-d.html
Posted November 11th, 2012
What Earthquakes and Elections Have in Common...
NPR reports on Nov. 9th that " In January 2010, more than a year before Mitt Romney had formally announced he was running for president, political historian Allan Lichtman predicted President Obama would be re-elected in 2012. On Tuesday, Lichtman extended his record of correctly forecasting the winner of the popular vote to eight straight elections. What makes Lichtman interesting is that he makes predictions early, long before eve-of-election polls, long before October surprises, and sometimes even before the nominees have been chosen. Lichtman says he sees elections the way geophysicists see earthquakes — as events fundamentally driven by structural factors deep beneath the surface, rather than by superficial events at the surface. ... What Lichtman did was take his data seriously: He found that in every election between 1860 and 1980, when the answers to six or more of the 13 questions he devised went against the party in power, there was an upheaval — the challenger won. He applied the model to subsequent elections. Starting in 1984, the model has correctly predicted the winner of the popular vote in every election — sometimes months or even years before the election takes place. ..."
Declining Influence of Mainstream Science Journals Documented...
Science Daily reported on Nov. 7th that " The most prestigious peer-reviewed journals in the world, such as Cell, Nature, Science, and the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), have less and less influence amongst scientists, according to a paper co-authored by Vincent Larivière, a professor at the University of Montreal's School of Library and Information Sciences. He questions the relationship between journal "impact factor" and number of citations subsequently received by papers. 'In 1990, 45% of the top 5% most cited articles were published in the top 5% highest impact factor journals. In 2009, this rate was only 36%,' Larivière said. "This means that the most cited articles are published less exclusively in high impact factor journals.' The proportion of these articles published in major scholarly journals has sharply declined over the last twenty years. ..."
Fossils and Genes Combined to Illuminate Evolutionary History...
Science Daily reported on Nov. 7th that " Paleontology, with its rocks and fossils, seems far removed from the world of developmental genetics, with its petri dishes and embryos. Whereas paleontology strives to determine "What happened in evolution?," developmental genetics uses gene control in embryos to try to answer "How did it happen?" Combined, the two approaches can lead to remarkable insights that benefit both fields. In the current issue of the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, Hans Thewissen, Ingalls-Brown Professor at Northeast Ohio Medical University (NEOMED), and his colleagues review recent studies that have used modern genetic techniques to shed light on fossils, and vice versa. "It is a very exciting time to be an evolutionary scientist. So many researchers are investigating evolution, either by finding new fossils or by figuring out the genes that underlie changes in evolution. Now it is possible to combine those two fields and go beyond what each field could have accomplished on its own," said Dr. Thewissen. ... Dr. Thewissen says, "For me personally, as someone who has spent most of his life studying fossil whales, it is very exciting to be able to use information from the development of living mammals, and use it to teach me about how whale evolution happened, 50 million years ago." Scientists can even modify the genetic code of living animals to replicate changes that have been observed in the fossil record. ..."
Mathis Movie "spOILed" Reviewed in November NMSR Reports...
Check out the November NMSR Reports for an expose on Mark Mathis's new film, "spOILed." If Mathis sounds familiar, it's probably because he was a producer of Ben Stein's anti-evolution shlockumentary "EXPELLED: No Intelligence Allowed."
Posted October 6th, 2012
"Punk-sized" Herbivore had Fangs...
Science Daily reports on October 3rd that " With tiny 1-inch long jaws, a new species of plant-eater has come to light in rocks in South Africa dating to the early dinosaur era, some 200 million years ago. This 'punk-sized' herbivore is one of a menagerie of bizarre, tiny, fanged plant-eaters called heterodontosaurs, or 'different toothed reptiles,' that were among the first dinosaurs to spread across the planet. ..."
Hand-Specimen Petrology... on MARS
TPM reports on October 2nd that " Fresh off its discovery of what looks like an ancient, dried-up but formerly wet Martian streambed, NASA's Mars Curiosity Rover has turned the attention of some of its seventeen different cameras and ten other instruments to a different rock, this one called 'Bathurst Inlet.' Curiosity inspected the rock on Sunday, September 30 using both a navigational camera (Navcam) and the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI), a space-ready version of the same type of hand lens imager tool carried by human geologists on Earth that allows them to get ultra-close up and finely detailed views of rock samples, allowing them to better determine their type, the minerals that make up the samples and their formation. ..."
Pseudoscience Makes Strange Bedfellows...
Slate's Brian Switek wrote "Feathered Dinosaurs Drive Creationists Crazy;
Biblical literalists are on a campaign to 'take dinosaurs back.' (September 19th)." A snippet:
The dinosaurs of our childhood aren't around anymore. The sluggish, swamp-bound pea-brains that haunted museum halls
and trundled through picture books have been eviscerated by agile, hot-blooded, and, often, feathery dinosaurs that
more accurately reflect what Tyrannosaurus rex and kin were actually like. What’s more, thanks to a heap of lovely
fossils, we now know that even the most fearsome of the tyrant dinosaurs were closely related to the avian dinosaurs—
the birds—that flit around our backyards today.
Creationists are on a campaign to “take dinosaurs back.” Earlier this year, the creationist crackpot Ken Ham, president of Answers in Genesis—the organization that established the fundamentalist funhouse called the Creation Museum—said, 'Dinosaurs have been held hostage for decades' by his mortal enemy, the nefarious 'secular humanists.' Ham is determined to appropriate dinosaurs for biblical literalists. ...
But dinosaurs with feathers are not welcome at Ham's amusement park. ... There's plenty of reason for creationists to abhor dinosaur feathers. The mountain of evidence that birds are living dinosaurs, and that many 'bird' traits were widely shared among non-avian dinosaurs, are among the most gorgeous examples of evolutionary change yet found. ...
Not surprisingly, creationist groups like Answers in Genesis don’t feature feathery dinosaurs in their literature and museum exhibits. Instead, they take pride in promoting out-of-date, monstrous dinosaurs that more easily fit their contention that these animals were created separately from all other forms of life. To help them dispute the evidence, creationists have become followers of a group of misguided researchers who denounce the idea that birds are living dinosaurs. Paleontologists such as Alan Feduccia, Larry Martin, Theagarten Lingham-Soliar, and John Ruben insist that birds sprang from a different ancestor, one more closely allied with crocodiles than dinosaurs. They also claim that feathered dinosaurs such as Microraptormust be birds that lost the ability to fly. These scientists, while they have made worthwhile contributions in other areas of fossil research, have not provided a reasonable, testable hypothesis for an alternate bird origin, and they take an entirely critical approach to the work of others. In other words, they are acting a bit like creationists—pushing a particular agenda, unhindered by evidence, because of a preconceived conclusion. Groups like Answers in Genesis have latched onto these scientists to give their religious tracts a science-ish veneer. If Feduccia, Martin, and a handful of other scientists disagree with a dinosaur origin for birds, the creationists suggest, then the entire idea of avian evolution becomes suspect. Creationists even crib arguments from these paleontologists—who are fully on-board with the concept of evolution—to make themselves seem wiser in the eyes of their followers. ..."
Posted September 8th, 2012
Santa Fe Man not a WiFi Sensitive...
The Albuquerque Journal reports on Sept. 6th that " A Santa Fe judge has ruled that a man who claims his neighbor's phone and wireless services have caused him physical harm 'cannot reliably detect the presence or absence' of the electromagnetic stimuli he maintains he is sensitive to. District Judge Sarah Singleton in a recent order also took anti-Wi-Fi advocate Arthur Firstenberg to task for failing to comply with her orders to work with a court-appointed expert on protocols for testing his purported sensitivity to wireless signals, despite her 'repeated admonitions.' Firstenberg filed suit seeking monetary damages from his neighbor Raphaela Monribot and her landlord Robin Leith in January 2010. A victory for him could have a huge impact on the electronics business and everyday consumers of Wi-Fi devices. ..."
Cretaceous-Tertiary Die-off a One-Two Punch?
Science Daily reports on Sept. 5th " The most-studied mass extinction in Earth history happened 65 million years ago and is widely thought to have wiped out the dinosaurs. New University of Washington research indicates that a separate extinction came shortly before that, triggered by volcanic eruptions that warmed the planet and killed life on the ocean floor. The well-known second event is believed to have been triggered by an asteroid at least 6 miles in diameter slamming into Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula. But new evidence shows that by the time of the asteroid impact, life on the seafloor -- mostly species of clams and snails -- was already perishing because of the effects of huge volcanic eruptions on the Deccan Plateau in what is now India. ..."
Birthplace of Modern Geology at Risk...
Siccar Point in Scotland, "…celebrated as the place where Scottish farmer James Hutton discovered geologic time," is in danger from industrial development in the area. This Panda's Thumb post has links and suggestions for public comment.
Posted August 4th, 2012
Boslough on 'The Right to Radiate'
NMSR's Mark Boslough posted an editorial on the Huffington Post (July 27th) regarding a Libertarian perspective on climate change, and CO2 as pollution: " ... The right to radiate by all citizens has a much easier burden of proof. Our prescriptive easements consist of the gaps in the infrared absorption spectrum of the sky that are now being filled up by pollution. We've all been using them for our entire lives. And we can prove it in court if we can convince a judge that we've always had warm bodies, and get a physicist to be an expert witness. All we need are some real libertarians to work up some righteous indignation and file a lawsuit. ..."
Skip Evans Dies...
Long-time pro-evolution activist and blogger Skip Evans has died.
CESE Method Getting Some Attention...
The Albuquerque Journal wrote a detailed article on problems with the state's new grading system for schools, and cited research by the Coalition for Excellence in Science and Math Education (CESE), a group that has joined NMSR in the past to support pro-evolution science education. "The coalition’s report also questioned whether it is mathematically appropriate to add different measures together. Specifically, the A-F grades use simple measures of how many students are scoring at the 'proficient' level, which are added to measures of how much students are improving. The 'improvement' scores control for demographic factors, like poverty. The coalition contends it is mathematically inappropriate to add these measures together. According to the report, such addition is 'something like adding oranges and cows to derive pickup trucks. The result is not obviously meaningful.' ..."
Then, on Saturday, Aug. 4th, the Albuquerque Journal editorial board urged reconsideration of the current school method: "When a group of scientists and mathematicians are left scratching their heads, it's unlikely parents and some educators will be able to decode the state’s new A-F grading system, either. The nonpartisan Coalition for Excellence in Science and Math Education has been promoting science education and literacy in New Mexico since 1997. It recently undertook the challenge of trying to replicate the grading formula designed by the state Public Education Department to rank schools. It couldn't, partly because it didn’t have all of the data the PED used, but the group concluded the formula is too complex, adds together incompatible elements and is so sensitive to small changes that unreasonable grade swings from one year to the next can result. 'We're not talking about a bunch of schmucks here who haven’t seen this stuff before,' said M. Kim Johnson, a retired physicist and an author of the report. “We think it's all probably above board, but we don’t think the average person, school principal or superintendent could conceivably follow it.' ... That doesn't mean throwing the baby out with the bath water, but getting everyone on the same page might go a long way to real education reform in New Mexico. ..."
NMSR has also published its own thorough graphical-based assessment of the new grading system:
NMSR's Detailed Graphical Analysis of the Proposed A-F School Grading Scheme
Olympics 'UFO' Identified...
Ben Radford reports for Discovery News on Aug. 2nd " A UFO was seen by millions of people hovering over the opening ceremonies at the London Olympics earlier this week. The glowing craft could be seen during the huge fireworks display at the end. Most people missed (or ignored) it, but one eagle-eyed TV viewer was convinced he’d seen something mysterious. He posted a video of it to YouTube and it went viral, stirring controversy around the Web ... In this case, the mystery was finally put to rest after a few days. It was the Goodyear blimp, which provided aerial coverage of the Olympic festivities. Skeptical investigator Robert Sheaffer, who analyzed the case on his Bad UFOs blog, noted that the UFO had already been identified by many people: It was the 'Spirit of Europe II,' a 130-foot-long blimp which -- as per Olympic rules -- had the Goodyear logo removed. ..."
7 Ridiculous Things People Believe About the 'God Particle'...
Some pretty interesting observations, actually...
Posted July 6th, 2012
Higgs Found: But "God Particle" a Misnomer...
The Telegraph reports on July 5th " The British physicist whose theories led to the discovery of the Higgs boson has admitted he has 'no idea' what practical applications it could have. Prof Peter Higgs said the so-called 'God particle', which is the building block of the universe, only has a lifespan of a millionth of a millionth of a millionth of a millionth of a second. He refused to be drawn on whether the discovery proved there was no God, stating the name 'God particle' was a joke by another academic who originally called it the ‘goddamn particle’ because it was so hard to find. The 83-year-old was giving his first detailed press interview since the discovery earlier this week of the Higgs boson at the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva. ..."
Roswell on Internet Radio...
I discussed the Roswell Incident and Space Travel with "Strange Frequencies" at 2:00 PM MDT, Sunday, July 1st!
Listen not-so-live: http://www.para-help.com/sfrbobby/sfr_show198_hour2.mp3
Posted July 1st, 2012
Are Presidential Elections Affected by a 100 million year old coastline?
Deep Sea News reports on June 27th that " Hale County in west central Alabama and Bamberg County in southern South Carolina are 450 miles apart. Both counties have a population of 16,000 of which around 60% are African American. The median households and per capita incomes are well below their respective state’s median, in Hale nearly $10,000 less. Both were named after confederate officers–Stephen Fowler Hale and Francis Marion Bamberg. And although Hale's county seat is the self-proclaimed Catfish Capitol, pulling catfish out of the Edisto River in Bamberg County is a favorite past time. These two counties share another unique feature. Amidst a blanket of Republican red both Hale and Bamberg voted primarily Democratic in the 2000, 2004, and again in the 2008 presidential elections. Indeed, Hale and Bamberg belong to a belt of counties cutting through the deep south–Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina–that have voted over 50% Democratic in recent presidential elections. Why? A 100 million year old coastline. ..."
4th Richard Gage-Dave Thomas Debate, June 28th 2012 ...
I had yet another debate with Richard Gage of Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth on June 28th. I was
on the phone in Socorro, while Gage was in the WMNF-88.5FM studio in person. It was pretty much the usual fare.
At 40:25 minutes into the hour-long debate, however, Gage, who has heretofore concentrated only on the New York City
collapses, and who has strongly criticized "No-Plane" truther groups like the Citizens' Investigation Team,
had this to say when asked by host Rob Lorei "Richard, do you think that a plane hit the pentagon?"
Gage's answer: I don't know. That's not an area that we've researched...
Listen to WMNF Debate (Archived): http://www.wmnf.org/archives?date=2012-06-28&program_id=191
WMNF Discussion Page (Comments!): http://www.wmnf.org/news_stories/911-debate-do-we-know-the-truth
Discussion on the debate at the James Randi Educational Forum: http://forums.randi.org/showthread.php?t=238744
Bad UFOs on Nat Geo Nonsense...
Robert Sheaffer of BAD UFOs writes on June 29th "
So, Friday evening was a marathon of the first two episodes of The National Geographic Channel's "Chasing UFOs,"
repeated ad nauseum. In my previous Blog posting, I cited reasons to fear that the series would be lurid and
sensational. Those fears have been shown to be well-founded.
The first episode was Texas Is For Sightings, and it was mostly about the mass sightings in Stephenville, Texas
on January 8, 2008. The way they investigate this is to go to Stephenville and arrange a "UFO Town Hall Meeting" to
"share stories," i.e. tell random anecdotes about lights seen in the sky. (To a UFOlogist, the plural of "anecdote"
It's strange that the National Geographic Channel would put so much emphasis on the Stephenville case. There is no longer
any mystery about what happened in Stephenville on January 8, 2008. UFO skeptic and retired Air Force pilot James
McGaha investigated, and submitted his findings to Skeptical Inquirer editor Kendrick Frazier, who published them
in the January/February, 2009 issue. The article is on-line here.
The FAA informed McGaha on January 18 that a group of four F-16s from the 457th Fighter Squadron entered the
operating area at 6:17 pm local time. A second group of four F-16s entered the same area at 6:26 pm. They
departed at 6:54 and 6:58, respectively. The time the aircraft were flying in the MOA accords with the time
of the sightings....
Posted June 8th, 2012
Are Weather Forecasts at Risk?
The NY Times reports on May 31st that " OUR ability to forecast the weather is in big trouble. Last month, the National Research Council concluded that the nation’s system of Earth-observing satellites is in a state of 'precipitous decline' and warned of a 'slowing or even reversal of the steady gains in weather forecast accuracy over many years.' This worrisome development puts all of us in harm’s way and should particularly trouble us as the annual six-month hurricane season begins today. Gathering timely and accurate weather data is, of course, vital to saving lives. The deadliest hurricane ever to strike the United States hit Galveston, Tex., on Sept. 8, 1900, killing as many as 8,000 people. Scientists had lacked the tools to predict the storm’s severity. ..."
NASA Outlook Gloomy Too...
NASA announced on June 1 that " Most of the gases and particles suspended in our atmosphere are invisible to human eyes. But that's not the case with contrails. Look up on a clear day, and there's a good chance you'll see some of these pencil-straight cirrus clouds crisscrossing the sky. While naturally high levels of humidity cause cirrus clouds to form, contrails form in the wake of passing aircraft due to the extra particles and water vapor contained in their exhaust. ... The long-lived, spreading contrails are of great interest to climate scientists because they reflect sunlight and trap infrared radiation. A contrail in an otherwise clear sky reduces the amount of solar radiation that reaches Earth's surface, while increasing the amount of infrared radiation absorbed by the atmosphere (as do cirrus clouds). These opposing effects make it difficult for scientists to pin down the effect contrails have on climate. 'Overall, contrails create additional cirrus cloud cover,' noted Patrick Minnis, a senior scientist at NASA's Langley Research Center. 'Current estimates indicate that contrails have a small warming effect, but the extent of the additional coverage and the amount of warming remain quite uncertain.' In 2004, Minnis published a study of surface observations that found cirrus cloud cover had increased by 3 percent between 1971 and 1995 over the United States. That's the most recent estimate available, Minnis pointed out, because the network of surface instruments his research group used is no longer available. ..."
Ray Bradbury Dies...
The NY Times writes on June 8th " ...Prescience is not the measure of a science-fiction author's success — we don't value the work of H. G. Wells because he foresaw the atomic bomb or Arthur C. Clarke for inventing the communications satellite — but it is worth pausing, on the occasion of Ray Bradbury’s death, to notice how uncannily accurate was his vision of the numb, cruel future we now inhabit. Mr. Bradbury's most famous novel, 'Fahrenheit 451,' features wall-size television screens that are the centerpieces of 'parlors” where people spend their evenings watching interactive soaps and vicious slapstick, live police chases and true-crime dramatizations that invite viewers to help catch the criminals. People wear 'seashell' transistor radios that fit into their ears. Note the perversion of quaint terms like 'parlor' and 'seashell,' harking back to bygone days and vanished places, where people might visit with their neighbors or listen for the sound of the sea in a chambered nautilus. Mr. Bradbury didn't just extrapolate the evolution of gadgetry; he foresaw how it would stunt and deform our psyches. ..."
Posted May 12th, 2012
Warming Records and Consilience...
Science Daily reports on May 7th " One popular climate record that shows a slower atmospheric warming trend than other studies contains a data calibration problem, and when the problem is corrected the results fall in line with other records and climate models, according to a new University of Washington study. The finding is important because it helps confirm that models that simulate global warming agree with observations, said Stephen Po-Chedley, a UW graduate student in atmospheric sciences who wrote the paper with Qiang Fu, a UW professor of atmospheric sciences. They identified a problem with the satellite temperature record put together by the University of Alabama in Huntsville. Researchers there were the first to release such a record, in 1989, and it has often been cited by climate change skeptics to cast doubt on models that show the impact of greenhouse gases on global warming. In their paper, appearing this month in the American Meteorological Society's Journal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Technology, Po-Chedley and Fu examined the record from the researchers in Alabama along with satellite temperature records that were subsequently developed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Remote Sensing Systems. Scientists like Po-Chedley and Fu have been studying the three records because each comes to a different conclusion. 'There's been a debate for many, many years about the different results but we didn't know which had a problem,' Fu said. 'This discovery reduces uncertainty, which is very important.' ..."
More on Heartland Hypocrisy...
Scholars and Rogues blog notes on May 10th that " Another example of Heartland's hypocrisy is revealed by the following statement from 'Our Billboards' The mainstream media are 'in the tank' with environmental activists and big-government advocates, to the point that they deliberately and expressly censor dissenting views on climate. [emphasis added] Given the libertarian ideology touted by The Heartland Institute, their rejection of censorship is expected. In fact, it's to be commended. However, it’s also hypocritical, as Heartland president Joe Bast has called for the censorship of at least one two scientists with whom he disagreed. ... In February 2011, S&R reported on a controversy regarding climate disruption and the political aspirations of former Apollo astronaut and Heartland board member Harrison Schmitt. Specifically, a physicist at Sandia National Laboratories, Mark Boslough, had criticized Schmitt for his position on climate disruption in a Santa Fe New Mexican editorial op-ed. In response to Boslough and in defense of Schmit, Bast wrote an error-filled op-ed of his own. The last sentence of Bast's letter reads [Boslough] should apologize to his victims and then be banned from future debates on this topic. [emphasis added] Bast was clearly calling for Boslough’s views to be censored. Bast is a self-described libertarian. He’s the president of a libertarian organization. And yet he hypocritically called for the censorship of two scientists, something that 'Our Billboards' rejects – when it's applied to 'dissenting views on climate.' ..."
Denied Debate, Boslough gets Consolation Asteroid...
Astronomer Alan Hale wrote NMSR on May 11th to say " [Check out] the latest publication from the IAU's Minor Planet Center:
(73520) Boslough = 2003 MB1 Discovered 2003 June 22 by the Lowell Observatory Near-Earth Object Search at the Anderson Mesa Station.
Mark Boslough (b. 1955) is a physicist at Sandia National Laboratories. He has computed the most detailed models to date of atmospheric impact phenomena, especially the Tunguska event and the much older impact that produced the Lybian Desert glass found in Egypt. ..."
Source: http://www.minorplanetcenter.net/iau/ECS/MPCArchive/2012/MPC_20120506.pdf, page 319 of 320
Mayan Calendar, End of the World, Not!?!?
Science Daily reports on May 10th that " A vast city built by the ancient Maya and discovered nearly a century ago is finally starting to yield its secrets. Excavating for the first time in the sprawling complex of Xultún in Guatemala's Petén region, archaeologists have uncovered a structure that contains what appears to be a work space for the town's scribe, its walls adorned with unique paintings -- one depicting a lineup of men in black uniforms -- and hundreds of scrawled numbers. Many are calculations relating to the Maya calendar ... The discovery is reported in the June issue of National Geographic magazine and in the May 11 issue of the journal Science. The project scientists say that despite popular belief, there is no sign that the Maya calendar -- or the world -- was to end in the year 2012, just one of its calendar cycles. 'It's like the odometer of a car, with the Maya calendar rolling over from the 120,000s to 130,000,' said Anthony Aveni, professor of astronomy and anthropology at Colgate University, a coauthor of the Science paper. "The car gets a step closer to the junkyard as the numbers turn over; the Maya just start over." ..."
Posted May 5th, 2012
Dino's Died Out Slowly...
Science Daily reports on May 1st that " Despite years of intensive research about the extinction of non-avian dinosaurs about 65.5 million years ago, a fundamental question remains: were dinosaurs already undergoing a long-term decline before an asteroid hit at the end of the Cretaceous? A study led by scientists at the American Museum of Natural History gives a multifaceted answer. The findings, published online May 1 in Nature Communications, suggest that in general, large-bodied, 'bulk-feeding' herbivores were declining during the last 12 million years of the Cretaceous. But carnivorous dinosaurs and mid-sized herbivores were not. In some cases, geographic location might have been a factor in the animals' biological success. 'Few issues in the history of paleontology have fueled as much research and popular fascination as the extinction of non-avian dinosaurs," said lead author Steve Brusatte, a Columbia University graduate student affiliated with the Museum's Division of Paleontology. "Did sudden volcanic eruptions or an asteroid impact strike down dinosaurs during their prime? We found that it was probably much more complex than that, and maybe not the sudden catastrophe that is often portrayed.' ..."
Arctic vs. Antarctic: Climate Responses Differ...
Science Daily reports on May 2nd " The ongoing rapid retreat of Arctic sea ice is often interpreted as the canary in the mine for anthropogenic climate change. In a new study, scientists have now systematically examined the validity of this claim. They find that neither natural fluctuations nor self-acceleration can explain the observed Arctic sea-ice retreat. Instead, the recent evolution of Arctic sea ice shows a strong, physically plausible correlation with the increasing greenhouse gas concentration. For Antarctic sea ice, no such link is found -- for a good reason. ... In the Arctic Ocean, the ice is virtually locked by the surrounding land masses, and its extent is primarily governed by its melting and freezing. Therefore, greenhouse gases play such an important role up in the high North. In the Antarctic, by contrast, the sea ice is free to drift around in the open Southern Ocean. Hence, the ice extent there is primarily governed by the prevailing wind patterns. 'Our results show that greenhouse gas concentration is currently not a major driver for sea-ice extent in the Southern Ocean, where winds and currents clearly are more important,' explains Marotzke. 'In the land-locked Arctic Ocean, however, greenhouse gas concentration appears to play the dominating role for the observed sea-ice evolution.' ..."
Heartland Institute Jumps the Shark...
From the N.Y. Times 'Green' Blog:
"Drivers moving along Chicago’s inbound Eisenhower Expressway on Friday may have been surprised to see Ted Kaczynski, the so-called Unabomber, staring at them from a massive billboard. 'I still believe in global warming. Do you?' the billboard read in large maroon letters. Just below was the Web address www.heartland.org. Hours later, the digital billboard was gone. It seems that the ad campaign, sponsored by the conservative Heartland Institute, had bombed. 'We know that our billboard angered and disappointed many of Heartland’s friends and supporters, but we hope they understand what we were trying to do with this experiment,' the institute said late Friday afternoon said in a statement. 'We do not apologize for running the ad, and we will continue to experiment with ways to communicate the "realist" message on the climate.' In opening the campaign, Heartland had said that Mr. Kaczynski would not be the only persona gazing down on Chicago's commuters. Among his brethren would be Charles Manson, Fidel Castro, Osama bin Laden and James J. Lee, the institute said. ..."
Dave Thomas thanks the Heartand Institute for a classic example of the "Guilt By Association" logical fallacy. These are great resources for my psychology class on Science and Pseudoscience.
More on NMSR's Anthropogenic Global Warming Resources Page:
"Beauty" Particle Found...
Scientific American reports on May 1st " A never-before-seen subatomic particle has popped into existence inside the world's largest atom smasher, bringing physicists a step closer to unraveling the mystery of how matter is put together in the universe. After crashing particles together about 530 trillion times, scientists working on the CMS experiment at Switzerland's Large Hadron Collider (LHC) saw unmistakable evidence for a new type of 'beauty baryon.' Baryons are particles made of three quarks (the building blocks of the protons and neutrons that populate the nuclei of atoms). Beauty baryons are baryons that contain at least one beauty quark (also known as a bottom quark). The new specimen is a particular type of excited beauty baryon called Xi(b)*, pronounced 'csai–bee-star.' The discovery was announced Friday (April 27) in a paper released by the CMS collaboration (CMS stands for Compact Muon Solenoid, one of a handful of detectors built into the 17-mile, or 27-kilometer, underground loop of the LHC machine). ..."
Posted April 22nd, 2012
Physicist Beats Ticket...
CBS News reported on April 16th that "After receiving a $400 ticket for allegedly running a stop sign, Dmitri Krioukov invoked the laws of physics to fight the charge. The University of California, San Diego physicist drafted a four-page paper in his defense, arguing that the police officer mistakenly thought he ran a stop sign due to a unique combination of effects. Krioukov's paper - complete with graphs and equations - attempted to explain that the police offer, parked 100-feet away from the stop sign, was approximating his angular velocity rather than his linear velocity. Basically, the physicist argued that a vehicle traveling at a constant speed could look similar to a vehicle quickly decelerating and just as quickly re-acceleration as long as the observer's view was obscured. As it happens, Krioukov argued that scenario was exactly what happened. ... The judge was apparently won over by this unique argument and dismissed the ticket. ..."
NY Times on Tennessee Pseudoscience...
A New York Times editorial on April 16th said " Eighty-seven years after Tennessee was nationally embarrassed for criminally prosecuting the teaching of evolution, the state government is at it again. This time it has enacted a law that protects teachers who invite students to challenge the science underlying evolution and climate change. The measure is a transparent invitation to indulge pseudoscience in the classroom and a transparent pandering to a vocal, conservative fringe. Gov. Bill Haslam, a Republican, wrung his hands, warning that good legislation should bring 'clarity and not confusion.' But he allowed the bill to pass into law without his signature in the face of the Republican-dominated Legislature's three-to-one support of the measure. Sponsors denied the obvious — that the law was a cover to make it easier to raise creationism and intelligent design as alternatives to evolution and to billboard conservative propaganda against the evidence of climate change. ..."
NMSR Helps CNET Find Socorro UFO...
Amanda Kooser of CNET reported on April 18th that " Before Roswell got famous, Socorro, N.M., made national news in 1964 after a very peculiar incident on an April evening. Police officer Lonnie Zamora was chasing a speeding car near the outskirts of town when he turned off to investigate a loud roaring sound and a flame in the sky. What he initially thought was a car turned over in an arroyo turned out to be what he described as a shiny whitish object, shaped like an 'O' with legs. Two figures the size of small adults were near the object, he said. As he got closer, the object rose up and flew away. Indentations and burn marks on the ground marked the spot to corroborate his report. ... It's 2012 and I'm standing above a dusty, scrub-filled arroyo with Dave Thomas, president of New Mexicans for Science and Reason, a nonprofit that aims to promote science and critical examinations of extraordinary claims. He holds a folder labeled 'Socorro UFO X-File' in one hand and a GPS device in the other. We are at the location where Zamora saw the mysterious object. Wind blasts over the mesa and the only sign that something happened here is a human-built pile of rocks meant to mark the spot. So, did Zamora witness the landing of a craft from beyond the stars? Thomas believes what Zamora saw that day was actually a test of a lunar surveyor destined for a moon mission. 'The White Sands Missile Range was testing a surveyor,' Thomas said. 'To test it, they had to support it. They used a Bell helicopter that was very small, not your ordinary helicopter at all. The combination of the lunar craft and the helicopter would have presented an object that looks sort of white and round. ... Socorro hasn't put the marketing power into its UFO sighting that Roswell has, but a stop at the visitor's center reveals that the city council is considering placing a marker at the site. As a blasting wind pushes me around, I look south to where the White Sands Missile Range lies nearby. I'm thinking, 'Only in New Mexico can you hang out at a UFO landing site with a physicist holding an x-file.' As much as I would love for aliens to come on down for a visit, I have to side with science and reason on the Socorro incident. ... ..."
Posted April 14th, 2012
Scopes II, Here We Come?...
The Los Angeles Times reported on April 11th that " Discussion of creationism in public school classrooms in Tennessee will now be permitted under a bill that passed the Republican-controlled state Legislature despite opposition from the state’s Republican governor. The measure will allow classroom debates over evolution, permitting discussions of creationism alongside evolutionary teachings about the origins of life. Critics say the law, disparagingly called 'The Monkey Bill,' will plunge Tennessee back to the divisive days of the notorious Scopes 'Monkey Trial' in Dayton, Tenn., in 1925. Gov. Bill Haslam refused Tuesday to sign the bill, saying it would create confusion over schools' science curriculum. But the bill became law anyway. Haslam said he decided not to use his veto power, because the Legislature had the votes to override a veto. The measure passed by a 3-to-1 margin. 'Good legislation should bring clarity and not confusion,' Haslam said, according to Reuters. 'My concern is that this bill has not met this objective.' The governor added: 'I don’t believe that it accomplishes anything that isn’t already acceptable in our schools.' The state’s teachers are not allowed to raise alternatives to evolution but, under the new law, would be required to permit discussion of creationism and other beliefs if they are raised in class. The law would also permit discussion of challenges to such scientific conclusions as the man-made effects of climate change. ..."
Join the Discussion on the Panda's Thumb: http://pandasthumb.org/archives/2012/04/scopes-ii-here.html
Quantum Communication Breakthrough...
Science Daily reports on April 11th that " Scientists have created the first elementary quantum network based on interfaces between single atoms and photons. A team of scientists at the MPQ realizes a first elementary quantum network based on interfaces between single atoms and photons. ... A major breakthrough in this field has now been achieved by scientists in the group of Professor Gerhard Rempe, director at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics and head of the Quantum Dynamics division: The physicists have set up the first, elementary quantum network. It consists of two coupled single-atom nodes that communicate quantum information via the coherent exchange of single photons. 'This approach to quantum networking is particularly promising because it provides a clear perspective for scalability,' Professor Rempe points out. ..."
And, a NEUTRINO Communication Breakthrough...
Universe Today reports on April 11th " In science fiction – like in Star Trek, for example — interstellar communication was never a problem; all you had to do was have Urhura open up hailing frequencies to Starfleet command. But in the real universe, communicating between star systems poses a dilemma with current radio technology. There’s also a very real problem today for operating spacecraft in that communications are impossible when a planetary body is blocking the signal. One of the more outlandish methods proposed for solving deep space communication problems has been to devise a technique using neutrinos. But now, it turns out, using neutrinos for communication might not be that crazy of an idea: communicating with neutrinos has, for the first time, been tested successfully. Scientists of the MINERvA collaboration at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory successfully transmitted a message through 240 meters of rock using neutrinos. The team says their demonstration 'illustrates the feasibility of using neutrino beams to provide a low-rate communications link, independent of any existing electromagnetic communications infrastructure.' ..."
NASA Responds to Anti-Warming Letter...
Universe Today reports on April 12 that " A group of 49 former NASA employees from Johnson Space Center have written a letter to NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden, requesting that the space agency refrain from “unproven and unsubstantiated remarks” regarding how human activities are causing global climate change. 'As former NASA employees, we feel that NASA’s advocacy of an extreme position … is inappropriate,' says the letter. 'We believe the claims by NASA and GISS(Goddard Institute for Space Studies) that man-made carbon dioxide is having a catastrophic impact on global climate change are not substantiated.' The letter was reportedly supported by Leighton Steward from the Heartland Institute, an organization known for its stance of trying to cast doubt on global warming science. 'NASA has always been about looking out to the skies and beyond, not burying our heads in the sand,' climate scientist Michael Mann told Universe Today in an email 'This is an old ploy, trying to cobble together a small group of individuals and make it sound like they speak with authority on a matter that they have really not studied closely. In this case, the effort was led by a fossil fuel industry-funded (climate change) denier who works for the Heartland Institute, and sadly he managed to manipulate this group of former NASA employees into signing on to this misguided statement.' ... NASA has responded to the letter, inviting those who signed it – which includes Apollo astronauts, engineers and former JSC officials – to join the debate in peer-reviewed scientific literature and public forums. 'NASA sponsors research into many areas of cutting-edge scientific inquiry, including the relationship between carbon dioxide and climate,' wrote Waleed Abdalati, NASA Chief Scientist. 'As an agency, NASA does not draw conclusions and issue 'claims' about research findings. We support open scientific inquiry and discussion.' ... As several different people have noted — including former astronaut Rusty Schweickart who was quoted in the New York Times — most of those who signed the letter are not active research scientists and do not hold degrees in atmospheric sciences or fields related to climate change. Schweickart, who was not among those who signed the letter, said in the New York Times that those who wrote the letter 'have every right to state and argue for their opinion,' and climate scientist Gavin Schmidt added in the article that people stating their views is completely legitimate, ***'but they are asking the NASA administrator to censor other peoples' (which is something else entirely).***' ..."
More from astronaut Rusty Schweickart in the New York Times : http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/04/12/on-astronauts-nasa-and-climate-concerns/?src=tp
Posted April 7th, 2012
GM Pulls Support for Heartland Institute...
The .Los Angeles Times reports on March 30th, 2012 that " Citing its corporate stance that climate change is real, General Motors announced Wednesday that its General Motors Foundation would no longer be funding the Heartland Institute, a free-market think tank that has attacked human-caused global warming as 'junk science.' … The development is fallout from the release of Heartland Institute funding documents in February, which showed that GM contributed $15,000 to Heartland in 2010 and 2011. Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute and a MacArthur “genius” grant recipient, revealed in February that he had assumed a false identity to obtain some of those documents. In a statement released to the press, Heartland Institute President Joseph Bast said: 'The General Motors Foundation has been a supporter of The Heartland Institute for some 20 years. We regret the loss of their support, particularly since it was prompted by false claims contained in a fake memo circulated by disgraced climate scientist Peter Gleick.' GM’s decision to halt funding for the institute was the direct result of a campaign by Forecast the Facts, an advocacy group seeking to get TV meteorologists to openly acknowledge climate change. Dan Souweine, the group’s campaign director, said that his group pored over those Heartland documents and all the funders listed there, which include many other companies, but singled out GM. ... ..."
Leaders of Flawed Neutrino Experiment Resign...
New Scientist reports on March 30th that " The supposedly super-speedy neutrinos may have slowed to light-speed, but they haven't stopped creating turmoil in the physics world. Two leaders of the OPERA experiment behind the controversial result stepped down this week. Spokesperson Antonio Ereditato of the University of Bern in Switzerland turned in his resignation on 29 March, and physics coordinator Dario Autiero of the Institute of Nuclear Physics in Lyon, France, resigned on 30 March. Both cited tensions within the collaboration as the reason for their departures. In September, the OPERA collaboration reported that they had measured neutrinos making the 730-kilometre trip from CERN in Switzerland to the Gran Sasso underground laboratory in Italy 60 nanoseconds faster than if they had been travelling at light speed. If it panned out, the result would have turned much of modern physics on its head, contradicting Einstein's theory of special relativity and opening the theoretical door to exotic possibilities like extra dimensions and time travel. The result, however, seems to be down to experimental error. OPERA announced last month that they had found a malfunctioning clock and a leaky fibre-optic cable that could explain part or all of the neutrinos' extra speed. And another experiment in the same underground cavern in Italy, ICARUS, re-did the same measurement and saw no deviation from the speed of light. 'We don't think anymore that the neutrinos were superluminal,' says OPERA team member Luca Stanco of Italy's National Physics Institute. ..."
Opposition to Tennessee "Monkey Bill"...
The NCSE reported on April 6th that " A petition urging the veto of House Bill 368, signed by thousands of concerned Tennesseans, was delivered to Governor Bill Haslam's office on April 5, 2012, MSNBC reports (April 5, 2012). Nicknamed the 'monkey bill,' HB 368 would, if enacted, encourage teachers to present the 'scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses' of topics that arouse 'debate and disputation' such as 'biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning.' ..."
Eeesh - Old UFO Tales Never Die?
Huffington Post announces on April 3rd " On the night of Feb. 6, 1975, Marine Reserve Squadron Capt. Larry Jividen was piloting a T-39D Sabreliner (see image above) combat trainer and utility aircraft with five Naval officer pilots on board for a special training flight. He didn't know the evening would evolve into a game of "tag" with an unidentified flying object. Jividen hasn't spoken about that experience from nearly 40 years ago -- until now. The nine-year Marine Corps officer -- and later commercial airline pilot -- had taken off at twilight for a two-hour roundtrip that began and ended at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Fla. ... The traffic that Jividen and the other five crew members saw was mutually described as 'a solid, circular object about the relative size of a kid's marble held at arm's length,' Jividen recalled. When they were informed that ground control had no other traffic in their vicinity, Jividen became concerned that the mysterious object hadn't shown up on radar. So he asked for clearance to deviate from their approach and turn directly toward the bright red UFO 'just to see what it does.' As he turned toward the object, Jividen says it turned toward his plane. ... Jividen says the five-minute encounter came to an end when the reddish UFO flew away at a very high rate and disappeared over the horizon in the direction of New Orleans. After the crew returned to Pensacola, Jividen filled out an incident form and that was the last he heard of the episode. And nobody else heard about it for more than three decades. Jividen's story is now being told in a new edition of 'UFOs: Myths, Conspiracies and Realities,' written by retired Army Col. John Alexander. ..."
Posted March 19th, 2012
Climate Change Skepticism Linked to Economic Downturns...
Science Daily reported on March 13th that " In recent years, the American public has grown increasingly skeptical of the existence of human-made climate change. Although pundits and scholars have suggested several reasons for this trend, a new study shows that the recent Great Recession has been a major factor. Lyle Scruggs, associate professor of political science in UConn's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, suggests that this shift in opinion is related primarily to the public's concern about the economy. 'That the economy impacts the way people prioritize the problem of climate change is uncontroversial,' says Scruggs. 'What is more puzzling is why support for basic climate science has declined dramatically during this period. Many people believe that part of the solution to climate change is suppression of economic activity,' which is an unpopular viewpoint when the economy is bad, Scruggs continues. "So it's easier for people to disbelieve in climate change, than to accept that it is real but that little should be done about it right now." ..."
Bem Psi Study: New Replications are a Dud...
Science Daily reports on March 15th " Research failing to find evidence for the existence of psychic ability has been published, following a year of industry debate. The report is a response by a group of independent researchers to the 2011 study from social psychologist Daryl Bem, purporting the existence of precognition -- an ability to perceive future events. Professor Chris French (Goldsmiths, University of London), Stuart Ritchie (University of Edinburgh) and Professor Richard Wiseman (University of Hertfordshire) collaborated to accurately replicate Bem's final experiment, and found no evidence for precognition. Their negative results have now been published by open access journal PLoS ONE. Their report was rejected by the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (JPSP), which originally published Bem's findings along with his appeal to independent researchers to attempt replications. 'Our submission was rejected without being sent for peer review on the basis that the journal has a policy of not publishing replications,' said Professor Chris French. 'Our paper has opened up the debate on the proper place of replication in the scientific literature.' ... 'We went to great pains to ensure we followed the same procedures as Bem,' said Stuart Ritchie. 'Using Bem's own computer programme and stats methods, we replicated his experiment three times, at each of our respective campuses, with the same number of participants as the original study.' 'By having our paper published, we hope academic journals and popular media alike will offer the same weight to negative results as given to eye-catching positive results,' said Professor Richard Wiseman. ..."
'John Henry' Still Tops at Crosswords...
Steve Lohr's NY Times Blog mentions this on March 18th: "Score one for humans and their subtle, quirky, pattern-matching brains. Over the weekend, an impressive crossword-solving computer program, called Dr. Fill, which I wrote about earlier, matched its digital wits against the wetware of 600 of the nation’s best human solvers at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament in Brooklyn. Before the tournament, Matthew Ginsberg, the creator of Dr. Fill and an expert in artificial intelligence, predicted a range of likely outcomes for his clever code. In simulations of 15 past tournaments, Dr. Fill finished on top three times. But at other times it stumbled. Dr. Ginsberg said the program would probably finish in the top 50, among the 600 contestants. With only seven puzzles, the range of possible outcomes was wide. 'If I’m lucky, I’ll win,' he said, 'If I’m unlucky, I’ll end up 150th,' but still in the top fourth. In the weekend tournament, Dr. Fill finished 141st, or would have (only human solvers got official rankings). 'It was within the range, but I wish it had done better,' Dr. Ginsberg said on Sunday. 'I’ll be back next year.' ..."
Posted March 10th, 2012
New Info Challenges 9/11 Thermite Claims...
A new report on studies of dust from the destruction of the Twin Towers on 9-11-2001 was released on February 29th, 2012. The report, by James R. Millette, Ph.D., of Georgia, is titled "Progress Report on the Analysis of Red/Gray Chips in WTC Dust." The study was commissioned by journalist Chris Mohr, who has a whole series of videos on YouTube about 9/11 conspiracy theories. Funds for the study were raised with help from members of the James Randi Educational Foundation.
The purpose of the study was to take another look at samples of WTC dust. In 2009, Niels Harrit of Denmark, along with several others (including Steven Jones), published a paper which purported to prove that nanothermitic materials were found in the dust ("Active Thermitic Material Discovered in Dust from the 9/11 World Trade Center Catastrophe," The Open Chemical Physics Journal, 2009, 2, 7-31.)
Millette's conclusion: "The red/gray chips found in the WTC dust at four sites in New York City are consistent with a carbon steel coated with an epoxy resin that contains primarily iron oxide and kaolin clay pigments. There is no evidence of individual elemental aluminum particles of any size in the red/gray chips, therefore the red layer of the red/gray chips is not thermite or nanothermite."
If these chips weren't thermite, what were they? Millette performed several tests on them, including Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR). This clearly showed that the chips were a mixture of kaolin and epoxy. Kaolin, also called aluminum silicate and china clay, is a platy mineral frequently used as a pigment in paints. Epoxy resins have been used in coatings since the 1940's.
Millette's FTIR plot shows that the chips in WTC dust are likely a mixture of Kaolin and Epoxy, both common ingredients in paints and coatings
Whatever the chips are, they are not thermite, as particles of elemental aluminum are as crucial to thermite or nanothermite as heat and oxygen are to fire. No aluminum, no thermite.
On a related note, in February 2012, I posted a letter from Rich Lee of the R. J. Lee Group at the James Randi Educational Forum (JREF). This company's post-9/11 report (2003) on WTC dust samples mentioned microscopic spheres of iron, which truthers have long maintained could only have been formed with thermite, thus proving their controlled demolition/inside job claim. Ron Wieck, who produces the internet debate program Hardfire, recently asked the R. J. Lee Group to clarify what they thought about the iron microspheres, and Rich Lee himself answered (in part) "What about the iron microspheres? The iron has a thin layer of rust flakes that can be easily removed by sticky tape. The iron is heated red hot or hotter and subjected to hurricane force blast furnace like wind. The iron flakes are liberated as small particles and some iron is vaporized. Like drops of water, the iron flakes form molten spheres that solidify and the fume also condenses into spheres, the most efficient geometrical form. … The formation of iron and other type spheres at temperatures obtainable by the combustion of petroleum or coal based fuels is not a new or unique process. These spheres are the same as iron and alumino-silicate spheres in the well-studied fly ash formed from contaminants in coal as it is burned in furnaces. – Rich Lee"
The answer to the mystery of the microspheres - "Iron melts only at temperatures far higher than possible in normal fires, so how could microspheres have possibly been formed on 9/11?" – is simply that very small metal particles have much lower melting points than their bulk material counterparts (around 900 o C for iron nanoparticles, as opposed to 1535 o C for bulk iron). This is called the "thermodynamic size effect." The towers contained thousands of computers and electric gadgets. Wires and filaments and meshes from electronics, as well as thin rust flakes and other small iron particles, could all have easily been made into microspheres during the WTC conflagration. To see a vivid demonstration of this phenomenon, watch the video on NMSR's YouTube channel, 'theNMSR', in which a BIC lighter is used to burn steel wool, creating numerous iron microspheres without any Thermite at all!
For now, two principal claims of the 9/11 Truth Movement – that scientists found thermite residues in WTC dust, and that iron microspheres in WTC dust prove the use of thermite – have both been found to have no basis in fact.
Millette study online: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/64959841/9119ProgressReport022912_rev1_030112webHiRes.pdf
R. J. Lee letter online: http://forums.randi.org/showpost.php?p=8013472&postcount=1329
Dave Thomas “Microspheres from Steel Wool” video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jZ9wSD4Hcys
Court Rejects Climate Skeptic's Demand for Records...
Leslie Kaufman of the New York Times blogged on March 2nd that " Virginia's crusading attorney general faces a flashing stop sign in his pursuit of a leading climate scientist. On Friday, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled that the attorney general, Kenneth T. Cuccinelli, does not have the authority to demand records of e-mails or grant applications sent by the scientist, Michael E. Mann, who formerly taught at the university and is now a professor at Penn State. Mr. Cuccinelli has sought since 2010 to force the University of Virginia to release documents for five grant applications made by Dr. Mann and all related e-mails between the professor, research assistants and other scientists, saying that he suspected that Dr. Mann used fraudulent climate data to secure grants. ... Mr. Cuccinelli, a conservative Republican, argues that there is no persuasive evidence that human activity is warming the planet. The Supreme Court agreed with the university that Mr. Cuccinelli had exceeded his authority. ..."
Posted February 25th, 2012
Mathematicians Boycott Publisher...
The New York Times reported on Feb. 14th that " More than 5,700 researchers have joined a boycott of Elsevier, a leading publisher of science journals, in a growing furor over open access to the fruits of scientific research. The protest grew out of a provocative blog post by the mathematician Timothy Gowers of Cambridge University, who announced on Jan. 21 that he would no longer publish papers in any of Elsevier’s journals or serve as a referee or editor for them. Last week 34 mathematicians issued a statement denouncing 'a system in which commercial publishers make profits based on the free labor of mathematicians and subscription fees from their institutions' libraries, for a service that has become largely unnecessary.' ..."
Source of Heartland leak comes forward...
The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) wrote on Feb. 20th that " The source of the documents revealing the strategy of the Heartland Institute's campaign to undermine the public's understanding of climate science — including by producing and distributing K-12 curriculum materials propounding climate change denial — revealed himself to be Dr. Peter Gleick, the hydroclimatologist who heads the Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment, and Security. In a February 20, 2012, statement posted at the Huffington Post, Gleick explained that at the beginning of the year, he received a document 'describing what appeared to be details of the Heartland Institute's climate program strategy.' Attempting to confirm the accuracy of the information, he continued, 'I solicited and received additional materials directly from the Heartland Institute under someone else's name.' Gleick expressed regret for his actions ... As part of NCSE's expansion to defend the teaching of climate science, Gleick had agreed to join NCSE's board of directors. On the same day as he posted his statement, however, he apologized to NCSE for his behavior with regard to the Heartland Institute documents and offered to withdraw from the board, on which he was scheduled to begin serving as of February 25, 2012. His offer was accepted. 'Gleick obtained and disseminated these documents without the knowledge of anyone here,' NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott commented, 'and we do not condone his doing so.' But, she added, 'they show that NCSE was right to broaden its scope to include the teaching of climate science... ' ..."
3-D Printing Revolutionizing Next-Gen Paleontology...
Science Daily reports on Feb. 21st " Researchers at Drexel University are bringing the latest technological advancements in 3-D printing to the study of ancient life. Using scale models of real fossils, for the first time, they will be able to test hypotheses about how dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals moved and lived in their environments. 'Technology in paleontology hasn't changed in about 150 years,' said Drexel paleontologist Dr. Kenneth Lacovara, an associate professor in the College of Arts and Sciences. 'We use shovels and pickaxes and burlap and plaster. It hasn't changed -- until right now.' Lacovara has begun creating 3-D scans of giant dinosaur bones and other fossils in his lab. The 3-D scan puts a virtual image in a digital workspace that researchers can manipulate and analyze. ... A 3-D printer is a technology for rapid prototyping and manufacturing objects based on a digital design. Common models work by repeatedly extruding extremely thin layers of a resin or other material, building up strata to create a physical object. 'It's kind of like Star Trek technology, where you can press a button and the object pops out,' Lacovara said. A six-inch model of a dinosaur bone can be printed in a few hours using current technology. ..."
Oklahoma Bill, Like a Zombie, Rises from the Dead...
NCSE reorts on Feb. 21st that " A bill in Oklahoma that would, if enacted, encourage teachers to present the 'scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses' of 'controversial' topics such as 'biological evolution' and 'global warming' is back from the dead. Entitled the 'Scientific Education and Academic Freedom Act,' House Bill 1551 was introduced in the Oklahoma House of Representatives in 2011 by Sally Kern (R-District 84), a persistent sponsor of antievolution legislation in the Sooner State, and referred to the House Common Education Committee. It was rejected there on February 22, 2011, on a 7-9 vote. But, as The Oklahoman (February 23, 2011) reported, the vote was not final, since a sponsor 'could ask the committee to bring it up again this session or next year.' And indeed, on February 20, 2012, Gus Blackwell (R-District 61) resurrected the bill in the House Common Education Committee. ... the new version specifies, 'the Legislature further finds that the teaching of some scientific concepts including but not limited to premises in the areas of biology, chemistry, meteorology, bioethics and physics can cause controversy, and that some teachers may be unsure of the expectations concerning how they should present information on some subjects such as, but not limited to, biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning.' ..."
Posted February 3rd, 2012
Indiana Senate Passes Creationism Measure...
The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) reported on Jan. 31st that "On January 31, 2012, the Indiana Senate voted 28-22 in favor of Senate Bill 89. As originally submitted, SB 89 provided, 'The governing body of a school corporation may require the teaching of various theories concerning the origin of life, including creation science, within the school corporation.' On January 30, 2012, however, it was amended in the Senate to provide instead, 'The governing body of a school corporation may offer instruction on various theories of the origin of life. The curriculum for the course must include theories from multiple religions, which may include, but is not limited to, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Scientology.' The Senate spent less than twenty minutes considering the bill, with its sponsor Dennis Kruse (R-District 14) defending it. Kruse acknowledged that the bill would be constitutionally problematic but, he told the education blogger at the Indianapolis Star (January 31, 2012), 'This is a different Supreme Court,' adding, 'This Supreme Court could rule differently.' ..."
Also in Indiana, Anti-Vaxxer Rep Throws In Towel..
Politico.com reports in January that " Indiana Rep. Dan Burton will not seek reelection in 2012, he announced Tuesday. Burton, a House Foreign Affairs Committee member, survived two close primary challenges in 2008 and 2010 and was expected to face another competitive Republican primary later this year. He announced his decision in Indianapolis at the state House of Representatives, where he first served. ... Burton’s retirement brings to a close a Capitol Hill career that spanned nearly three decades. Since being elected to his central Indiana-area seat in 1982, Burton, the longest-serving member of Indiana’s House delegation, became known for his eccentric style. He has called for mandatory AIDS testing for all U.S. citizens and has held to examine a possible link between vaccines and childhood autism and, during the 1990s, aggressively pursued investigations into then-President Bill Clinton. ..."
New Archaeopteryx Study...
Science Daily writes on Jan. 24th that " Since its discovery 150 years ago, scientists have puzzled over whether the winged dinosaur Archaeopteryx represents the missing link in birds' evolution to powered flight. Much of the debate has focused on the iconic creature's wings and the mystery of whether -- and how well -- it could fly. Some secrets have been revealed by an international team of researchers led by Brown University. Through a novel analytic approach, the researchers have determined that a well-preserved feather on the raven-sized dinosaur's wing was black. The color and parts of cells that would have supplied pigment are evidence the wing feathers were rigid and durable, traits that would have helped Archaeopteryx to fly. The team also learned from its examination that Archaeopteryx's feather structure is identical to that of living birds, a discovery that shows modern wing feathers had evolved as early as 150 million years ago in the Jurassic period. The study, which appears in Nature Communications, was funded by the National Geographic Society and the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research. ..."
Conspiracy Theorists and Mutually Conflicting Ideas...
Science Daily reports on Jan. 26th that " Distrust and paranoia about government has a long history, and the feeling that there is a conspiracy of elites can lead to suspicion for authorities and the claims they make. For some, the attraction of conspiracy theories is so strong that it leads them to endorse entirely contradictory beliefs, according to a study in the current Social Psychological and Personality Science (published by SAGE). People who endorse conspiracy theories see authorities as fundamentally deceptive. The conviction that the 'official story' is untrue can lead people to believe several alternative theories-despite contradictions among them. 'Any conspiracy theory that stands in opposition to the official narrative will gain some degree of endorsement from someone who holds a conpiracist worldview," according to Michael Wood, Karen Douglas and Robbie Sutton of the University of Kent. To see if conspiracy views were strong enough to lead to inconsistencies, the researchers asked 137 college students about the death of Princess Diana. The more people thought there "was an official campaign by the intelligence service to assassinate Diana,' the more they also believed that 'Diana faked her own death to retreat into isolation.' Of course, Diana cannot be simultaneously dead and alive. ..."
Posted January 6th, 2012
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