New Mexicans for Science and Reason
NEWS FROM EARLIER IN THE YEARS 2013 and 2014
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 February 10th, 2015
Courtesy Lalo Alcaraz
Posted October 8th, 2014
It's a YouTube 9/11 Truth Debate!
NMSR is involved in a YouTube Debate on "What Caused the Collapses of the Twin Towers on 9-11-2001." Michael Fullerton of Vernon 9/11 Truth, based in British Columbia, went first in June. On August 4th, Dave Thomas posted his first installment in the debate, a 15-minutes video containing footage of physics experiments, controlled demolitions, a re-creation of Sherman's neckties, and more.
Dave Thomas's first installment is here:
Vernon 9/11 Truth's Opening Statement and Mr. Fullerton's opening remarks.
NMSR Debate Intro
Logical Fallacies Poster (it'll come in handy!)
Each group gets a short rebuttal; Mr. Fullerton's rebuttal is up next. Stay tuned to YouTube channel theNMSR for some 9/11 Truth Debate Action!
Hobbits No More? Not So Fast!...
The Guardian/Observer reported on August 16th on the fierce reaction to an earlier paper in the PNAS: "A furious international dispute has erupted over the publication of a paper that claims the hobbit man of Flores was a modern human who had Down's syndrome. Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) this month, the research has been denounced by scientists around the world. The tiny Homo floresiensis, discovered on Flores, an island in Indonesia, is definitely a member of a distinct ancient species of hominins, they insist....."
Posted August 9th, 2014
It's a YouTube 9/11 Truth Debate!
NMSR is involved in a YouTube Debate on "What Caused the Collapses of the Twin Towers on 9-11-2001." Michael Fullerton of Vernon 9/11 Truth, based in British Columbia, went first in June. On August 4th, Dave Thomas posted his first installment in the debate, a 15-minute video containing footage of physics experiments, controlled demolitions, a re-creation of Sherman's neckties, and more.
Mr. Fullerton's closure/rebuttal was posted on August 29th,and is online here.
Has Fullerton responded to the issues raised in the first NMSR debate segment, or has he simply declared success, and moved the goalposts? You'll have to see for yourself!
Dave Thomas's closing remarks are up next. Stay tuned to YouTube channel theNMSR for some more 9/11 Truth Debate Action!
ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, Science-Style...
By Dave Thomas
This is my ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, thanks to my son Ben Thomas. In this setup, some thermite (sparklers) severs one line of two holding the heavy bag on the right. That bag then descends rapidly, and a pulley then upends the Ice Bucket, thereby delivering the requisite quantity of dihydrogen monoxide (in both solid and liquid forms) to my upper torso. Physics Rules!
Ben Radford Speaking Tour...
Local investigator and author Benjamin Radford will be giving a talk and book signing for his new book Mysterious New Mexico: Miracles, Magic, and Monsters in the Land of Enchantment on Thursday August 14 at 7 PM at Bookworks (4022 Rio Grande Blvd., Albuquerque). The book, recently published by the University of New Mexico Press, includes over a dozen first-hand investigations into strange and mysterious events in New Mexico, including ghost stories, UFO crashes, mysterious crystal skulls, miraculous healings, monsters, La Llorona reports, and much more. Radford is author or co-author of seven books including Tracking the Chupacabra: The Vampire Beast in Fact, Fiction, and Folklore and Scientific Paranormal Investigation: How to Solve Unexplained Mysteries (from Rhombus Books of Corrales). He has appeared on CNN, the Learning Channel, National Geographic, Discovery Channel, Good Morning America, ABC News, BBC, and many others.
Ben will also do signings at these events: Saturday August 16 from 1 to 3 PM at Treasure House Books & Gifts (2012 S. Plaza St., in Old Town, Albuquerque); Thursday August 21 at 7 PM at the Corrales Community Library (84 West La Entrada, Corrales NM); and Saturday October 25 at 1 PM at Barnes & Noble-Coronado (6600 Menaul Blvd. NE, Albuquerque).
Hobbits Get the Boot?...
The NY Times reported on Aug. 5th on a paper published the day before in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "So far, searches in other caves on Flores [Indonesia] and elsewhere have failed to yield the additional bones, especially more skulls, needed to determine if LB1 is one of a kind or one of an extinct human species, Homo floresiensis [the so-called 'Hobbits']. Until then, [author] Dr. Eckhardt said, the new analysis yielded a 'less strained explanation' than adding another branch to the human family tree. The signs, he said, 'point rather clearly to Down syndrome.'."
Posted July 4th, 2014
Discovery Institute Launches Attack on Natural History Museum...
The Discovery Institute has published thousands of words in multiple articles toward the end of June 2014, with the common theme “Academic Freedom Alert: Ask State-Run New Mexico Science Museum Why It Used "Darwin Day" to Promote Atheism.” They are alleging that the museum conspired with NMSR to “promote atheism” back in February for “Darwin Days”, and then tried to cover it up. What really happened? It seems that one of the early NMSR flyers for “Darwin Days” incorrectly identified the museum as a “co-sponsor” of several talks on religion at the Feb.12 NMSR meeting. When asked to correct this flyer, NMSR promptly did so – before Darwin Days had occurred – and this is now being labeled as a “coverup.” The Institute has sent their urgent story to many New Mexico media outlets, but so far the only takers have been religious news services like World Magazine and Baptist Press.
The events the museum sponsored on the Feb. 9th event were all about science; the NMSR-sponsored talks on Feb. 12th were expressions of the speakers' free speech. Suggesting that celebrating Darwin's life is itself anti-religious is wrong; in fact, many religious leaders participate in such celebrations in New Mexico and all across the country (the Clergy Letter Project).
NMSR's September 2013 speaker, Michael Roberts, wrote the Discovery Institute to say “You are totally incorrect to say NMSR is atheistic. It has a mixed membership, Christians included. As a priest in the Church of England I was invited to speak to them last September on Christianity and evolution. I also gave lectures at NMT. I was given a fine welcome, stayed with members. Of course some members are atheist but not all. Please don't force atheist- Christian war by your misrepresentation.”
Paul Braterman has pointed out the ironic hypocrisy of the Discovery Institute: “Chutzpah for the DI to complain about this, when they hired a hall at Cornell and now refer to their mutual backscratching there as the 'Cornell Conference'; details at http://wp.me/p21T1L-76.”
The Discovery Institute is calling for people to “Get in touch with Charles Walter, Executive Director of the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, via e-mail at Charles.Walter@state.nm.us.” That's not a bad idea - why not drop Walter a line, and indicate your support?
TNR – Emotional Pseudoscience?...
Alice Anderson writes in the July NMSR Reports that "TNR or trap-neuter-return is the practice of live-trapping free-roaming cats, surgically neutering them, in some programs vaccinating them against rabies, and releasing them, usually but not always near the capture site. TNR advocates say, "TNR is the only humane way to reduce and eventually eliminate feral cat colonies." TNR is legally practiced in Santa Fe, Bernalillo County and Albuquerque, Carlsbad, Dona Ana County, and elsewhere in New Mexico.
Arguments made by TNR advocates are filled with factual errors and logical fallacies. Here are a few of their logical fallacies,."
Continued on: http://www.nmsr.org/JULY2014.pdf
Posted June 6th, 2014
It's a YouTube 9/11 Truth Debate!
NMSR is involved in a YouTube Debate on "What Caused the Collapses of the Twin Towers on 9-11-2001." Going first is Michael Fullerton of Vernon 9/11 Truth, based in British Columbia.
NMSR's Dave Thomas will upload his response in a few weeks. Each debater will then have the opportunity for a brief rebuttal and closure. Stay tuned to YouTube channel theNMSR for some 9/11 Truth Debate Action!
NMSR Debate Intro: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7RO4uOE9R7s
Vernon 9/11 Truth's Opening Statement and Mr. Fullerton's opening remarks are on YouTube, here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o9lsNFYt5Ik
Logical Fallacies Poster (it'll come in handy!): https://yourlogicalfallacyis.com/poster
CESE Annual Meeting on Saturday, June 7 at 4PM!
NMSR members are cordially invited to the Coalition for Excellence in Science and Math Education (CESE) Annual Meeting! CESE will have a picnic lunch at the Four Hills home of Steve and Karen Brugge on Saturday, June 7th, at 4:00 PM. Business meeting and elections to follow. New members welcome! The Brugges are at 803 Maverick Trail. From Central/Tramway, go south to 4 Hills Road. Take the 2nd left, Warm Sands Dr., then the 2nd right onto Maverick Trail. You will not see the house from the street – look for the 803 on the carport.
More Info: http://www.cese.org
Posted May 10th, 2014
Bryan College in Dayton, Tenn. Scene of Professor/Student Protests re Adam and Eve...
Colleen Flaherty of Inside Higher Ed said on May 6th that " Among evangelical Christian institutions, Bryan College in Dayton, Tenn., is relatively conservative. Its motto is 'Christ above all,' and the college was named after William Jennings Bryan, the prosecutor in the 1925 Scopes Trial of a public school teacher accused of teaching evolution. But a recent 'clarification' to the college’s statement of faith asserting the historicity of Adam and Eve has struck some as too narrow, and reportedly prompted the departures of at least two faculty members. The clarification was also the catalyst for a faculty vote of no confidence in the college president, and students have organized various means of protest around the issue. ..."
Posted April 11th, 2014
NMSR is Only 24 Years Old...
In preparation for our 25th "Silver Jubilee" Anniversary at our April 9th meeting, Ken Frazier found files with documents from the formation of NMSR. Surprise, the very first NMSR meeting took place on May 16, 1990.
That means NMSR is celebrating its 24th Anniversary, not the 25th. Oops! Actually, it gives us a whole year to prepare for a proper Silver Jubilee. Charter Members, pencil in May 2015 on your calendars!
Elections were held. Here is the new slate of NMSR Officers, elected unanimously at the April 9th meeting:
We congratulate our new Vice President, John Covan, and say a great big "Thanks!" to outgoing vice-president John Geohegan for his decades of service to NMSR as founder, President, and vice-persident. John will remain on the NMSR board as Past President.
In other meeting news, Dave Thomas made a motion to make dues $20, Nancy Shelton seconded, and it passed unanimously.
Creationists Clamor for Equal Time on COSMOS...
Michael Ross of Examiner.com said March 21st that " On March 20, 2014, Danny Faulkner of Answers in Genesis and the Creation Museum made an appearance on the Janet Mefferd Show to complain that Neil deGrasse Tyson's revival of Cosmos will not provide airtime for Creationism adherents. "Creationists aren't even on the radar screen for them," Faulkner complained. 'They wouldn't even consider us plausible at all.'..."
The actual show (go to 31:30 for the quote, 20:00 for the Faulkner interview beginning...): http://www.janetmefferdpremium.com/2014/03/20/
The Young Turks take on Mefferd and Faulkner: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y77CH6nxhRE
Actually, Neil deGrasse Tyson already addressed this very demand, in a March 9th appearance on CNN's "Reliable Sources."
On that program, Tyson said "I think the media has to sort of come out of this ethos that I think was in principle a good one, but doesn't really apply in science. The ethos was, whatever story you give, you have to give the opposing view, and then you can be viewed as balanced. In the clip that you showed of the president, you don't talk about the spherical earth with NASA and then say let's give equal time to the flat Earthers.
Plus, science is not there for you to cherry pick. You know, I said this once and it's gotten a lot of Internet play, I said the good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it, all right.
I guess you can decide whether or not to believe in it, but that doesn't change the reality of an emergent scientific truth.."
Paluxy Dinosaur Chase Scene Reconstructed...
Victoria Gill of BBC News said on April 2nd that
"Scientists have digitally reconstructed the scene of a dinosaur chase - preserved in the mud of an ancient river bed in Texas.
The tracks were left by two dinosaurs more than 110 million years ago.
Seventy years ago, the whole trackway was removed from the river bed and divided into blocks, which were moved to different locations for study.
Some of these blocks have been lost, but the team managed to use old photographs to reconstruct the site.
The research is published in the journal Plos One.
Lead researcher Peter Falkingham, from the Royal Veterinary College, said he and his colleagues had used just 17 photographs taken by American palaeontologist Roland T Bird, who first excavated the site in 1940. ."
NM Tech Team Helps in Search for Exoplanets...
Bob Martin of KRQE News 13 said on April 4th that "Are the planets that are circling other stars in the Milky Way hospitable enough to support life? It’s one of the most compelling questions in science with many large research institutions across the globe seeking the answer.
Now researchers and students at New Mexico Tech are playing a major role in the quest to reveal what’s in the air on these extra solar worlds called Exoplanets, outside our solar system.
Collaborating with NASA, a New Mexico Tech team recently completed building an instrument called NESSI, that was attached to Tech’s existing 2.4 meter telescope to probe alien worlds in a new way, to reveal the actual chemical composition of their atmospheres.
Analysis of Exoplanet atmospheres may not just reveal whether life can be supported, but also someday, whether life may already exist on some of these worlds. Scientists say if potentially organic compounds like methane are discovered, they may indicate a biological process underway.
New Mexico Tech physics professor, Dr. Michelle Creech-Eakman, is co-investigator for NESSI, the New Mexico Exoplanet Spectroscopic Survey Instrument. She says the $3.5 million instrument is the first purpose-built device for the analysis of exoplanet atmospheres.."
Posted March 7th, 2014
NMSR Gets Mail...
NMSR has received an email from Michael Horn, the Authorized American Media Representative for The Billy Meier Contacts. Horn writes "I noticed that you still had old, false, unsubstantiated and…disproven information on your site about the Billy Meier UFO case.."
See the complete letter here: http://www.nmsr.org/letters.htm
What might Horn be referring to? Probably this: http://www.nmsr.org/ufocomp.htm
Ernie Electron Returns...
Spring Semester is in full swing, and that means that Ernie Electron has returned to the pages of PayDirt, the New Mexico Tech student newspaper.
Posted February 8th, 2014
Darwin Days are Here! Feb. 9th and 12th, 2014...
Darwin Days 2014 are here! Sunday, February 9th and Wednesday, February 12th, 2014 Two separate days of activities and talks celebrating the birthday (Feb. 12th) and life of the founder of modern evolutionary biology, Charles Darwin. Most events are at the NM Museum of Natural History and Science; Wednesday's Darwin performances are at ¡Explora!. Lots of hands-on activities and talks by many New Mexico scientists and speakers!
SUNDAY FEB. 9th PROGRAM (PDF DOC):
WEDNESDAY FEB. 12th PROGRAM (PDF DOC):
So, who won the Debate?
Here follow links to various takes on the "Ham-on-Nye" Creationism/Evolution debate of Feb. 4th, 2014.
"Why Bill Nye the Science Guy is trying to reason with America's creationists" by Zack Kopplin:
"The Creationists Have Already Won Tonight's Bill Nye vs. Ken Ham Debate" by Abby Ohlheiser:
"How Bill Nye Won the Debate" by Josh Rosenau of NCSE:
Poll on ChristianToday.com no consolation for Ken Ham:
Even Pat Robertson wants Ken Ham to shut up:
"Did Bill Nye Hurt Science?" by Dan Arel of the Richard Dawkins Foundation:
It happened. Bill Nye faced off against Ken Ham to discuss evolution versus creation. Though this had been strongly advised against, it carried on as planned. Of course, it should have because the fallout of pulling out a debate would have been worse than the debate itself.
So what happened during the debate? Did it hurt evolution? Not at all. Nye presented a powerful and strong case for why the theory of evolution is the best explanation for the diversity of life on this planet. He presented understandable slides that show geological evidence for the age of the earth and explained how species diverged over billions of years. ...
What really lost this whole debate for Ham was the question, “what would change your mind?”
Nye listed all the things that would change his mind, and it all revolved around evidence, and not far-fetched stuff. Honest scientific evidence that would unravel the timeline, and Nye would change his mind. Ham’s answer was in short, “nothing.”
How can you have an honest worldview and claim to care about evidence when nothing can change your mind? This showed that Ham was not interested in the truth at all. He cared about one thing and one thing only, his opinion. Ham shined here as the charlatan that he is.
So the aftermath, was this debate a mistake? Yes. Regardless of how well Nye did, and he did better than many predicted he would, Ham still got airtime. Ham still stood in front of more people than he can normally grab on his own and espoused his gospel and Ham still ignited his base. There is very little doubt donations will be pouring into Answers in Genesis and the Creation Museum over the coming weeks and months.
Let’s not end on that note though. Nye presented a great case. The evidence was on his side and he answered questions with confidence and honesty. He understood the arguments that Ham came prepared with and was able to combat every creation claim put in front of him. For that, Nye deserves to be commended.
And maybe, just maybe, a handful of kids around the world were inspired by Nye and his presentation and will look at the world a little differently and question the beliefs that are being jammed down their throats. Maybe a child being raised in a creationist environment can watch this debate and become the next great scientist of their generation."
Posted January 5th, 2014
Wait For It: Anti-Copernican/Pro-Geocentrism Movie Coming in Spring...
It's called "The Principle: Are You Significant?" Don't say we didn't warn you!
Science Guy Bill Nye to debate Arch-Creationist Ken Ham...
Matt Young at the Panda's Thumb notes "There is nothing to debate, and a 'debate' with Mr. Nye will only give Mr. Ham credibility that he does not deserve and increase not only his visibility but also his ability to attract investors. May I suggest that Mr. Nye take his cue from the noted Holocaust scholar, Deborah Lipstadt, who told the magazine Limmud, "If Limmud’s organisers invited Lipstadt to participate in a panel discussion with [Holocaust denier David] Irving, she would refuse point blank. “I don’t debate Holocaust deniers. Putting him on a panel would mean someone lost their mind. He’s a liar – why give a liar a platform?"...' ."
Posted December 7th, 2013
An apparent hiatus in global warming?
The AGU reports on Dec. 5th that "Global warming first became evident beyond the bounds of natural variability in the 1970s, but increases in global mean surface temperatures have stalled in the 2000s. Increases in atmospheric greenhouse gases, notably carbon dioxide, create an energy imbalance at the top-of-atmosphere (TOA) even as the planet warms to adjust to this imbalance, which is estimated to be 0.5–1 W m-2 over the 2000s. Annual global fluctuations in TOA energy of up to 0.2 W m-2 occur from natural variations in clouds, aerosols, and changes in the Sun. At times of major volcanic eruptions the effects can be much larger. Yet global mean surface temperatures fluctuate much more than these can account for. An energy imbalance is manifested not just as surface atmospheric or ground warming but also as melting sea and land ice, and heating of the oceans. More than 90% of the heat goes into the oceans and, with melting land ice, causes sea level to rise. For the past decade, more than 30% of the heat has apparently penetrated below 700?m depth that is traceable to changes in surface winds mainly over the Pacific in association with a switch to a negative phase of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) in 1999. Surface warming was much more in evidence during the 1976–1998 positive phase of the PDO, suggesting that natural decadal variability modulates the rate of change of global surface temperatures while sea-level rise is more relentless. Global warming has not stopped; it is merely manifested in different ways.."
Apollo Conspiracy Theories Debunked In Coming Video Series...
lizabeth Howell of Universe Today reported on Dec. 3rd that " Decades after the last man walked on the moon, Apollo astronauts still get a lot of respect. Some of them have been portrayed in Hollywood movies. Many of them willingly, even in their advanced ages, give public lectures and sign autographs. And already, some observers are wondering about the loss to humanity when the last moonwalker dies. But there is a still a percentage of the population that believes that the astronauts didn’t land on the moon at all. To address this, a couple of experienced hands in filmmaking started a new video series examining and debunking the common conspiracies. Helming the project is Chris Riley, who produced and directed ‘First Orbit’ as well as two BBC biographies of Neil Armstrong and Richard Feynman, and animator Antony Buonomo, who won an Emmy for his work..."
Posted November 8th, 2013
Butterflies Show Origin of Species as an Evolutionary Process, Not a Single Event...
ScienceDaily reported on Oct. 31st that " The evolution of new species might not be as hard as it seems, even when diverging populations remain in contact and continue to produce offspring. That's the conclusion of studies, reported in the Cell Press journal Cell Reports on October 31st, that examine the full genome sequences of 32 Heliconius butterflies from the Central American rain forest, representing five different species. ... The researchers view the process as a kind of tug-of-war between natural selection and gene flow. The result in the case of the butterflies has been a rapid divergence of species, driven by a combination of new mutations and borrowed genes. The butterfly genomes also show that the same spots in the genome have been important in multiple speciation events. ."
Fly with ant-mimic wings?
Jerry Coyne takes on the case of the fly sporting wings bearing images of ants (or perhaps, spiders). Coyne writes on his Nov. 5th blog that " Several readers have called my attention to yet another amazing case of mimicry, this time in a tephritid fly (the “true” fruit flies). Most people became alerted to this by a semi-viral tw**t by Ziya Tong, which notes that “Goniurellia tridens is a 3-in-1 insect,” and that the photo below was taken by Peter Roosenschoon in Dubai. Roosenschoon is a conservation officer at the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve. Those aren’t ants bedecking the fly’s wings; they’re the normal wing markings of this species. But why would a fly have antlike markings on its wing? [UPDATE: Note comments at bottom where an ant expert and two others (including Matthew) think that these are spiderlike markings. I'm coming around to that point of view.] ... Apparently the predator is a jumping spider, and when it sneaks up on a fly, it sees the spider markings, mistakes them for another spider of its species, and displays to it. That display gives away the spider’s presence, allowing the fly to get away. But I can’t see this happening with ants. ."
Posted October 4th, 2013
Science Watch Radio Going Up on the Internet Archive, archive.org!...
We've been looking for a long-term solution for the storage of hundreds of episodes of NMSR's Science Watch radio show, which ran from 2005 to 2010, and we've settled on the Internet Archive, a huge, searchable collection of publicly shared files. You can already listen to the pilot and first two episodes (May 21, and August 13th and 20th 2005), and also hear Tim Moy on Galileo, Ken Frazier on the Skeptical Inquirer, Barbara Forrest on the Dover ID Trial, and Mark Boslough on “ClimateGate or ClusterPuck?” More episodes to come every week!
At NMSR: http://www.nmsr.org/goradio.htm
At Archive.org: https://archive.org/search.php?query=sciencewatch%20AND%20collection%3Aopensource_audio&sort=-date
Posted September 8th, 2013
"Truthers" Respond to New 9/11 Studies at NMSR...
by Dave Thomas
Here's an update on my recent experiment concerning the claim that iron-rich microspheres like those found in World Trade Center dust can only be produced by something like thermite, and are never a product of an ordinary fire. Part of a steel beam coated with paint was subjected to a fire in my Peralta burn barrel, and the residues were examined with the Scanning Electron Microscope at NM Tech. While no microspheres could be found on the unburned beam, some beauties were easily located in the burned sample.
I described the experiment in detail at the James Randi Educational Foundation's (JREF) forum on 9/11 Conspiracies, and also released a YouTube video on the topic.
JREF Forum Link: http://forums.randi.org/showthread.php?t=264234
The claim that only thermite can make these little spheres can be traced to Dr. Niels Harrit, the lead author on the Bentham Open paper that supposedly proved “thermitic residues” (and thus, an “inside job” demolition of the Twin Towers). Here, Harrit says: “Fe-rich spheroids are observed after a thermite reaction. Fe-rich spheroids have never been observed unless there was a thermite reaction.”
JREF author “Miragememories” says he contacted Harrit directly, and claimed that “Dr. Harrit replied to me that Dave's test was rubbish and that when Dave publishes his work, Dr. Harrit will gladly respond.” This prompted another JREF member to write “Congratulations, Dave! Niels Harrit has trolled you by proxy.”
The pro-9/11 Truth JREF member “Fonebone” took issue with the experiment, and even claimed to have found a fatal flaw which invalidated it. He wrote “How was this tubular beam severed Dave ? Appears to be a nice clean cut eh? One common method employed to cut tubular iron and steel tubing is by using a horizontal metal-cutting band saw. The metal cutting teeth along the cutting edge each cut a slim metal speck from the tubing and expel the shavings as a extra fine pile of powdered metal dust.
… This fine metal will burn in the exact same manner as your steel wool example for the exact same reason-The steel wool and microfine saw blade shavings allow oxygen to easily combine with the metal creating rapid oxidation (burning) when exposed to a nearby source of rapid oxidation i.e. the fire in your fire barrel. … If another method was utilized to sever the metal tubing such as plasma or laser beam the spheres you found could be the result of the vaporization and subsequent cooling of metal under the torch flame or the laser beam before the tubing was placed into the burn barrel. Bottom line- - Deliberate contamination or accidental contamination through carelessness renders you[r] experiment null and void..”
I replied “Thank you, Fonebone. It appears we have areas of substantial agreement. For the most part, I agree with those of your statements I've hilighted above. That's not to say I agree my spheres were simply contamination - I don't think so, because I took care to sample the beam well away from the cut edge, and also far from any smudges from the fire. It is to say that, in principle, these spheres might have resulted from the processes you described, as these are well-known mechanisms for the creation of iron-rich microspheres.” I then reminded him of Harrit's assertion that only thermite makes such spheres, and asked “You do realize that you're in the awkward position of having to admit that, yes, if the beams of the WTC had been prepared by means including, [=gasp=], mechanical cutting, or perhaps [=gasp=] acetylene torches, then that could explain the presence of iron-rich microspheres much better than an outlandish, unsupported claim like Thermite.” I never got a good answer back from Fonebone.
Even Tony Szamboti, the truther who has appeared on Fox as an engineering expert, agreed that a fire with vents like my burn barrel could have created microspheres: “Apparently when the surface area to mass ratio is high enough, such as in burrs or steel wool, steel/iron will melt at temperatures significantly lower than the normal melting point of steel, which is much higher than what would be achievable in a barrel in air without oxygen being infused such as in a blast furnace.” But then Szamboti rationalized the whole thing away, saying that “I think the chances of anything shown in Dave's test being what caused the iron microspheres found in the WTC dust to be slim to none. So it really is a moot point.”
I guess this might be the not-so-well-known “No TRUE Iron Microspheres” logical fallacy. The video has drawn over 500 views, and dozens of comments, in the two weeks since it was released. Truthers are lining up to take swipes at it – a sure sign that this simple little experiment has really struck a nerve! More at YouTube Channel: theNMSR
Posted August 5th, 2013
Rio Grande Drought Science Presentation Online
Dagmar Llewellyn of the US Bureau of Reclamation spoke on "Upper Rio Grande Climate-Change Impacts Assessment: Presentation of Projected Hydrologic Impacts and Discussion of Potential Adaptation Strategies" at our well-attended July 10th meeting. Her presentation is online at the NMSR website, here: http://www.nmsr.org/URGIA_Voices_in_Science.pdf
New 9/11 Studies at NMSR...
I've been tinkering around the lab again, and have completed two more experiments that relate to 9/11 conspiracy theory claims. The first was a look at the difference between what happens when a solid object falls and impacts a surface, versus when a loose pile of rubble of the same mass impacts. “Truthers” claim that the loose rubble packs a much smaller punch. Are they right? Check out the NMSR YouTube video, at: http://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=EKTL12wpBYY
The second experiment concerns the claim that iron-rich microspheres like those found in World Trade Center dust can only be produced by something like thermite, and are never a product of an ordinary fire. Part of a steel beam coated with paint was subjected to a fire in my Peralta burn barrel, and the residues were examined with the Scanning Electron Microscope at NM Tech.
While no microspheres could be found on the unburned beam, some beauties were easily located in the burned sample. A writeup will appear soon on the James Randi Educational Foundation's forum on 9/11 Conspiracies.
Chemtrails in Redding, CA?
The August 7th edition of the Record Searchlight in Redding, CA had an article about citizens concerned regarding the so-called “Chemtrails.” The story, by reporter Alayna Shulman, noted that "A group of Shasta County residents resurrected a discussion over “chemtrails” at the Board of Supervisors meeting today, urging the board to schedule a presentation on the theory that the government uses jets to spray innocent residents with heavy metals.” Shulman contacted NMSR's Dave Thomas while researching the article, and included these comments:
“But Dave Thomas, a physicist who teaches a class on science and pseudoscience at New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, said there are logical explanations for all the supposed evils of chemtrails.
“It’s a classic pseudoscience, basically,” Thomas said this afternoon. “Some committed, ideological people, you know, really believe it, and they pick and choose, they cherry-pick anything that supports their belief, and anything that disproves a belief, it’s like water off a duck’s back; it just rolls right off,” said Thomas, who is also the president of New Mexicans for Science and Reason. “They don’t even know that contrary evidence exists a lot of the time, they’re just so invested in their beliefs.”
Thomas said the supposed evidence for chemtrails — such as strange criss-cross patterns in the sky — is easily debunked. He attributed the criss-cross patterns to population growth and the coinciding popularity of air travel. “Air traffic is organized so the north-south flights go at a different altitude than east-west flights,” he said. “Just our air traffic control patterns lead to these appearances of grids.”
Thomas said another complaint — that the strange patterns only popped up in the late 1990s — is also untrue, and video footage from the ‘40s shows similar patterns in the air from planes. Another theory — that the trails appear when the sprays are turned on or off — can be attributed to differing moisture levels in the air, Thomas said. “As they fly through these invisible pockets of more or less moisture, it looks like they’re turning the contrails on or off,” he said.
Thomas also questioned the logic behind a plot to spray people from the unpredictable skies when someone could more easily pretend to be spraying for mosquitoes at ground-level. “If I was trying to do an evil, new-world-order plot to poison the populace, I would not be putting stuff up 30,000 feet in the atmosphere where the wind is going to blow it who knows where,” he said.
Thomas called supposed health effects from the metals a “negative placebo effect,” in which believers make themselves sick because they so strongly believe they’re being contaminated.
There’s not a department of the government that deals with silly claims that keep people up at night, and if there were, it probably wouldn’t be that well-funded,” he said.”
Posted July 5th, 2013
Zack Kopplin speaks in New Mexico...
Jack Jekowski of sister organization CESE has posted the June 29th, 2013 talk by Zack Kopplin on YouTube. Worth the watch!
Also on-line: A comedic juggling/magic routine by NMSR's Dave Thomas, also from the CESE Annual Meeting:
Posted June 8th, 2013
Update on the Monckton Debate Challenge...
Last month, the Lord Monckton Debate Challenge was discussed. This month, we have his Lordship's responses.
Monckton Debate Challenge Update
After our debate challenge in the May newsletter, Lord Monckton sent along the following response, titled “Astrology,” on May 6th, 2013.
STATEMENT ON BEHALF OF LORD MONCKTON
On May 16th, NMSR wrote his Lordliness the following: “Please tell His Lordship that Mark Boslough has just returned from the continent, and is currently preparing a counter-proposal for His Lordship's consideration.”
The 3rd Viscount of Brenchleyness's prompt reply : “His Lordship will consider any counter-proposal only after the numerous libels in your pressure-group's initial public statement have been corrected. Your use of the word "cordial" is not recognized in any dictionary.” - James Rowlatt, Clerk to His Lordship
On June 4, NMSR wrote this to his most Lordly Lordship of Monckton on the Brenchley:Please tell His Lordship That Dr. Boslough accepts his offer to debate the economics of addressing climate change.
The reply, received the next day:
Lord Monckton is away on business until the end of June. I should rather not put your email to him in its present form. You have been less than polite throughout and, in the circumstances, I think it unlikely that His Lordship would wish to continue the correspondence unless it were conducted in a civilized, courteous and scientific fashion from now on.
His Lordship can be expected to welcome the withdrawal of those whom he describes as "New Mexicans Against Science and Reason" from the fray. However, the Skeptical Inquirer would not be a suitable journal to publish the debate.
I note that you wish me to withdraw. In that event, since Lord Monckton is a busy man, it is unlikely that you would get replies to your emails. - James Rowlatt, Clerk to His Lordship
NMSR thanks Lord Monckton for his acerbic responses.
Posted May 4th, 2013
NMSR and the Monckton Written Debate Challenge...
At the Third Santa Fe Conference on Global and Regional Climate Change (October 30, 2011 - November 4, 2011), NMSR's Mark Boslough (above, left) attempted to explain basic high-school-level science to Christopher Monckton (at right), whose stage name is the "3rd Viscount Monckton of Brenchley." It has been reported that Boslough came out on top by decisively debunking Monckton's false claims about CO2 in front of an audience of both scientists and climate science critics. Monckton (affectionately called "Lord" Monckton by his admirers) has no scientific training. His lordship credentials have been disputed by the Clerk of the Parliament, representing the House of Lords. Nevertheless, Monckton is one of the Heartland Institute's most distinguished 'scientists' and serves as a 'Heartland Expert' and Policy Advisor, Science and Public Policy Institute.
At NMSR's request, Boslough has agreed to a written "rematch" of this debate. Monckton has never won a proper scientific debate against a scientist, and is the subject of much derision and criticism in the scientific community. NMSR would like to give him a chance at a written debate, to see if he can rehabilitate his reputation in a different format which is more friendly to his training in journalism.
In Santa Fe, Boslough also challenged Monckton to a bet that he refused, and couldn't even get him to commit to any specific predictions. “Prediction is a fool's errand,” Monckton sniffed, when Boslough asked to go on record with a forecast.
NMSR is pleased to offer pages of our upcoming editions for this proposed debate. Opening statements, of length 750 to 1000 words, are hereby cordially requested from both Monckton and Boslough, on the topic: “What is the Single Most Important Fact regarding the Veracity of Anthropogenic Global Warming?”
A well-known critic of global warming denialism, John Abraham of the University of St. Thomas, has learned of the proposed debate, and has offered these words of encouragement for the project: "Real scientists consider it a sport to see who can identify the greatest number of Monckton's errors. It's like shooting fish in a barrel. Monckton has given us a never-ending supply of comic misinterpretations of science. I'll be disappointed if keeps his promise to stop giving public lectures. He's a been great ally in showing that denialists live in a fantasy world. The more he opens his mouth the easier it is for us, so I hope NMSR is successful in getting him to talk.”
This should be a most interesting exchange. Stay tuned!
Posted April 6th, 2013
Roger Ebert, Defender of Evolution...
From my blog at the Panda's Thumb: "As we reflect upon the amazing body of work left behind by this giant of the movie scene, readers of the Thumb should know (if they don’t already) that Roger Ebert was a passionate defender of science, and of evolution in particular. His passion was not un-noticed by creationists (of both young-earth and intelligent design categories). William Dembski had this to say about Ebert in an Uncommon Descent blog from 2006: Roger Ebert: Film Critic, Expert on Evolution, ID Basher, and Overall Supergenius .….. Or is Ebert just another clueless bonehead whose imagined expertise is in exact disproportion to his actual knowledge … Here are some memorable comments by Ebert on creationism, evolution, and religion. ..."
Posted March 9th, 2013
Duane T. Gish dies...
The National Center for Science Education reported on March 6th "
The young-earth creationist Duane T. Gish died on March 5, 2013, at the age of 92
In 1971, he became the vice president of the Institute for Creation Research, founded in 1970 by Henry Morris.
In 2005, Gish retired, becoming the ICR's Senior Vice President Emeritus. A prolific writer, his most famous book
was Evolution: The Fossils Say No! (Master Books, 1973), entitled in later editions Evolution: The Challenge of
the Fossil Record (Master Books, 1985) and Evolution: The Fossils Still Say No! (Master Books, 1995). His most
recent book was Letter to a Theistic Evolutionist (ICON, 2012).
But Gish was famous, or notorious, principally on account of his debates with scientists, including such opponents as George Bakken, Kenneth R. Miller, Massimo Pigliucci, Kenneth Saladin, Michael Shermer, and William Thwaites. 'If the mild-mannered professorial Morris was the Darwin of the creationist movement,' wrote Ronald L. Numbers in The Creationists (2006), 'then the bumptious Gish was its T. H. Huxley.' ..."
NMSR MEETING MOVED TO TUESDAY MARCH 12TH...
Important Notice - The March 13th NMSR meeting has been rescheduled to Tuesday, March 12th, 2013. The meeting will feature John Geohegan on "Mathematical Mysteries Solved and Unsolved." Dave Thomas will talk about "Set Theory and Skepticism (Polygraphs, Bell's Inequality, Hidden Variables in Quantum Mechanics)." FREE and open to the public. Tuesday, February 12th, 2013, 7:00 PM, New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science. Information: 268-3772
It's the Spring Break 2013 Climate Change Speaking Tour!
It's Spring Break at New Mexico Tech, and Dave Thomas is taking a road trip to give a series of talks on the topics of science, pseudoscience, climate change and global warming denial. Here is the schedule. There is a small fee for the Lifelong Learning classes.
Posted February 9th, 2013
Climate Change Redux...
The Albuquerque Journal's latest round of op-eds on the topic of climate change and global warming got its start with a column by E. Thomas McClanahan of the Kansas City Star on January 23rd,titled "'Climate Change' Fearmongers Lose Ground to Data.” McClanahan argued that warming has actually ceased since 1998, that the "ClimateGate" scandal of 2009 was a "major blow" to the theory of global warming, and so forth.
Several NMSR regulars drafted a response, which was published in the Journal on February 4th, signed by 17 members. The NMSR op-ed is online, here: http://www.abqjournal.com/main/2013/02/04/opinion/writer-wrong-on-climate-change.html
The Journal published another op-ed on Feb. 7th by Phil Robinson, extolling the virtues of planetary warming and of increased carbon dioxide. Robinson is not unknown to NMSR, having gotten our attention in the past by sending copies of the creationist tome “Darwin's Black Box” (written by Michael Behe) to science teachers in New Mexico back in 2002. The badly-written letter has already been used by Dave Thomas to show his students at NM Tech how to get a bad grade on a science essay.
Colleague Ken Frazier's letter to the Journal has not yet been printed, so we are pleased to include it in the February NMSR Reports: http://www.nmsr.org/FEB2013.pdf
Origins Education Site Hacked!
While several creationist bills are being considered in state legislatures around the country, nothing has surfaced
yet here in New Mexico. In fact, the website used to promote creationist bills here in New Mexico in 2007, 2009 and
2011, www.originseducation.org, has been down for weeks, saying only this:
" hacked by Hmei7 ..."
The group Hmei7 is noted for thousands of site hacks; we don't know why the NM site was targeted. If a bill does materialize in this session, you'll be able to find out about it at www.nmsr.org.
Study Rebuts Hypothesis That Comet Attacks Ended 9,000-Year-Old Clovis Culture...
ScienceDaily.com reported on January 30th on the "Clovis Comet" hypothesis: "
“Rebutting a speculative hypothesis that comet explosions changed Earth's climate sufficiently to end the Clovis culture in North America about 13,000 years ago, Sandia lead author Mark Boslough and researchers from 14 academic institutions assert that other explanations must be found for the apparent disappearance. 'There's no plausible mechanism to get airbursts over an entire continent," said Boslough, a physicist. "For this and other reasons, we conclude that the impact hypothesis is, unfortunately, bogus.'
In a December 2012 American Geophysical Union monograph, first available in January, the researchers point out that no appropriately sized impact craters from that time period have been discovered, nor have any unambiguously 'shocked' materials been found.
In addition, proposed fragmentation and explosion mechanisms "do not conserve energy or momentum," a basic law of physics that must be satisfied for impact-caused climate change to have validity, the authors write.
Also absent are physics-based models that support the impact hypothesis. Models that do exist, write the authors, contradict the asteroid-impact hypothesizers.
The authors also charge that 'several independent researchers have been unable to reproduce reported results' and that samples presented in support of the asteroid impact hypothesis were later discovered by carbon dating to be contaminated with modern material.
Boslough has a decades-long history of successfully interpreting the effects of comet and asteroid collisions.
His credibility was on the line on in July 1994 when Eos, the widely read newsletter of the American Geophysical Union, ran a front-page prediction by a Sandia National Laboratories team, led by Boslough, that under certain conditions plumes from the collision of comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 with the planet Jupiter would be visible from Earth.
The Sandia team -- Boslough, Dave Crawford, Allen Robinson and Tim Trucano -- were alone among the world's scientists in offering that possibility.
'It was a gamble and could have been embarrassing if we were wrong,' said Boslough. ..."
Darwin Day Event at UNM SUB, 7 PM Feb. 12th...
Tuesday Feb. 12th: Darwin Day at UNM. This event will start at 7:00 PM, in Ballroom A of the UNM Student Union Building (SUB). As of press time, speakers include Dave Thomas, Ron Herman, and Jim Travis. Sponsored by Secular Students of UNM, FFRABQ, and Humanists of Albuquerque. Free.
Posted January 4th, 2013
Carl Woese, Discoverer of 'Third Domain', Dies at 84...
The New York Times reported on Jan. 1s that " Carl Woese, a biophysicist and evolutionary microbiologist whose discovery 35 years ago of a 'third domain' of life in the vast realm of micro-organisms altered scientific understanding of evolution, died on Sunday at his home in Urbana, Ill. He was 84. His death was announced by the University of Illinois, where Dr. Woese (pronounced woes) joined the faculty in 1964 and spent his entire academic career. In 1977, Dr. Woese and colleagues at the university startled the scientific world by announcing the discovery of what would be called archaea, a category of single-cell microbes genetically distinct from the two groups previously believed to comprise living organisms: prokaryotes, which include bacteria, and eukaryotes, which include plants and animals. While other evolutionary biologists had long studied physical traits of species to determine their relationships, Dr. Woese spent years laboriously comparing the genetic sequences of protein-building structures in cells, known as ribosomes and ribosomal DNA. In the process, he established that archaea, which had previously been thought to be within the prokaryote group, had in fact evolved separately from a universal ancestor shared by all three groups. ..."
He's B-a-a-a-ck... Anti-WIFI Activist Sues Again
The Albuquerque Journal reported on Jan. 2nd that "Despite recent legal setbacks, Santa Fean Arthur Firstenberg continues to pursue his anti-wireless crusade. Firstenberg has filed an appeal in District Court contesting the city of Santa Fe's recent decision to allow the Hotel Santa Fe to put a telecommunications tower project on its property. The city’s Land Use Department issued a building permit for the project in October. Firstenberg appealed the decision to the City Council, which unanimously dismissed his motion in November. On Friday, Firstenberg filed an appeal in District Court against the city, telecommunications provider AT&T Mobility Services and Hotel Santa Fe, which is located on Paseo de Peralta in downtown Santa Fe. He is acting as his own attorney in the case. ... Firstenberg says he suffers from electromagnetic hypersensitivity. He has taken various related battles to court. In October, a District Court judge ruled against Firstenberg in a lawsuit against his neighbor claiming her electronic devices adversely affected his health. Among other things, Judge Sarah M. Singleton found that scientific evidence indicating electromagnetic hypersensitivity doesn't exist and did not allow Firstenberg to go to trial with witnesses he contended would show otherwise. Firstenberg has said he will appeal Singleton’s dismissal of his suit. ..."
Martian Rock Finds Way to UNM...
John Fleck of the Albuquerque Journal reported on Jan. 4th " A team of University of New Mexico scientists has discovered that a 'mystery rock' is actually a meteorite from Mars, rich in water, that could open a new window for scientists on Earth’s most interesting neighbor. 'This is really a once-in-a-lifetime meteorite,' said Carl Agee on a recent afternoon as he showed visitors the rock in his office at UNM's Institute of Meteoritics. The rock, catalogued by scientists as 'Northwest Africa 7034,' was an unexceptional mystery rock found in the desert of Morocco two years ago. It made its way to Albuquerque via an Indiana meteorite collector looking for help figuring out what it was. It was only when Agee and his colleagues vaporized a small sample in a UNM lab for analysis that they discovered that, not only was it from Mars, but it was a special rock indeed. Agee and a group of colleagues are publishing their findings today on line with Science magazine. The rock formed in a Martian volcanic eruption 2.1 billion years ago, according to their analysis. At some point after that, it was blasted off the surface of mars when a giant meteorite hit that planet, kicking the humble rock into interplanetary space. ... The new find is the 112th known Martian meteorite found on Earth and available for scientific study. But among that group, Northwest Africa 7034 is unique. One of the 112 is an estimated 4 billion years old, and the other 110 are believed to have formed around 1 billion years ago, when Mars had already become a dry, icy planet. Agee's find is smack in the middle of that gap at 2 billion years old, near to a period of Martian history scientists called the 'Amazonian.' As its name implies, that is a period when Mars is believed to have been much wetter, and Agee's new rock fits that model. It is common for rocks to have traces of water trapped inside when they are made. But Agee's meteorite has 10 times as much water as other Martian meteorites. That suggests that the volcano that made it pushed its lava up through some sort of water, Agee said in an interview – perhaps a layer of permafrost soil. 'It's also possible that there was a groundwater system present, or maybe even surface water,' he said. ..."
Sham Tram Stats? Skeptic Finds a Problem...
In Ben Radford's Jan. 2nd column for Center for Inquiry, he writes " Whether in TV ads, on billboards or in magazines, one of Albuquerque, New Mexico's, claims to fame is the Sandia Peak Tramway. The twin red and blue cars make their way up the cables to the top of the mountain where tourists, skiers and diners can find magnificent views and a 20-degree temperature drop. As the Sandia Peak website states, "A trip on the world's longest aerial tramway transports you above deep canyons and breathtaking terrain a distance of 2.7 miles." ... I believed what I was told. Until one day when, out of curiosity, I decided to do a little fact-checking. It's amazing what a quick look in the Guinness World Records reveals, along with a bit of Internet research. 'World's Longest Tramway?' Nope. The longest single-cable car system in the world is near Da Nang, Vietnam. It stretches 5,042 meters from the base of the Ba Na Mountain to the peak of Vong Nguyet Hill. The trip takes 15 minutes and can transport more than 1,000 people an hour. My admittedly rough math skills concluded that 5,042 meters is about 3.13 miles, and even my public school education taught me that 3.13 miles is longer than Sandia Peak's 2.7 miles. The actual, real longest (and highest) tramway system is in Merida, Venezuela, at 12.5 kilometers in length-almost 8 miles-though that trip is done in four stages. ... Now, it seems true that it is the longest passenger tramway of its type. You see, the specific system at Sandia Peak is known as a "double reversible jigback aerial" passenger tramway. "Double reversible" basically means that there are two cars that reverse direction along two different tracks; "jigback" means that as one car ascends, the other car descends, using each other as a counterweight. It is one of more than a dozen types of tramway systems. The claim that the Sandia Peak tram is the longest tramway in the world is simply not true. Saying that the Sandia Peak tramway is the longest tramway of its kind in the world is technically true, but sort of like claiming to be the tallest tattooed Asian soccer player in northern Minnesota. ..."
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