Tag Archives: science

It seems Creationists are rude

http://l1.yimg.com/bt/api/res/1.2/iIwuez.guuKNsCCqED1GPw--/YXBwaWQ9eW5ld3M7cT04NTt3PTM2MA--/http://media.zenfs.com/en/blogs/thelookout/IMG_1377.jpgSo it’s cleaning day: the vacuum sits there staring at me, cleaning fluids wait on the counter, rags out too, probably wondering what this is all about. And on C-Span is a ‘debate’ at the Creation Museum between Ken Ham, founder (for Creationism) and Bill Nye, the ‘Science Guy’. Great stuff focusing on Genesis, the Ark and the age of the earth (and evolution of course).

On go the headphones to ease the task at hand.

The debate is conducted by standard rules. The two are allowed 30 minutes to make their respective cases and are then allowed periods for rebuttal.

Ham went first (he presents an utterly bizarre case, but the man is very good on the podium) and after he concluded his remarks, the entire audience gave a nice round of applause. The entire audience.

Then Nye spoke (he’s not as polished as Ham was). And when he concluded, half of the audience applauded. Those who did not applause sat resolutely still – with grim faces.

Whatever the composition of the audience, half of them didn’t learn their manners from Mama.

New quote

From Albert Einstein – hat tip to blogfriend jonolan:

When you sit with a nice girl for two hours, you think it’s only a minute. But when you sit on a hot stove for a minute, you think it’s two hours. That’s relativity.

Billions and billions . . .

Carl_Sagan_Planetary_Society. . . of stars. I can still hear the late Carl Sagan saying that on his iconic TV program Cosmos,  so I got a little thrill when I saw this story from Phoenix:

An atheist state lawmaker tasked with delivering the opening prayer for this afternoon’s session of the House of Representatives asked that people not bow their heads.

Democratic Representative Juan Mendez, of Tempe, instead spoke about his “secular humanist tradition” and even quoted author Carl Sagan.

Mendez said:

“I would like to ask that you not bow your heads. I would like to ask that you take a moment to look around the room at all of the men and women here, in this moment, sharing together this extraordinary experience of being alive and of dedicating ourselves to working toward improving the lives of the people in our state.”

. . . “Carl Sagan once wrote, ‘For small creatures such as we, the vastness is bearable only through love.’”

 

 

And thus does Steve Doocy lead the nation

The climate deniers have had a triumphant run over the last 20 years. Their campaign, financed mostly by the fossil fuel industry, has succeeded in changing American’s attitudes and beliefs. (They had a little help from their friends.)

A recent paper from the Union of Concerned Scientists analyzes how FOX News Channel and the opinion pages of the WSJ reference climate science. The entire thing is here.

 . . . . examined six months of Fox News Channel content and one year of representations in the Wall Street Journal opinion section based on keyword searches for the terms “climate change” and “global warming.” Our team examined transcripts and articles to determine whether these media outlets mentioned climate science, action on climate change (personal action or government policies), both, or neither.

There are charts and specifics a-plenty

Over a recent six-month period, 93 percent of Fox News Channel’s representations of climate science were misleading (37 out of 40 instances). Similarly, over the past year, 81 percent of the representations of climate science in the Wall Street Journal’s opinion section were misleading (39 out of 48 instances).

. . .  the misleading citations include broad dismissals of human-caused climate change, disparaging comments about individual scientists, rejections of climate science as a body of knowledge, and cherry picking of data. . . .  much of this coverage denigrated climate science by either promoting distrust in scientists and scientific institutions or placing acceptance of climate change in an ideological, rather than fact-based, context

 

There, that’s better.

Promoted from the comments – thanks AFrankAngle. Here’s how it would look  with CNN scrubbed out.

Godspeed Curiosity. Godspeed.

Happens tomorrow morning at 1:30am.

Even Sharia law might be a bit more enlightened.

Last month, the Texas leg banned ‘critical thinking’ from the public school curriculum. Now, via Andrew Sullivan, there’s this - weep and be ashamed.

Apparently wanting to steer clear of fancy highbrow academic stuff like research or informed assessments, North Carolina has banned using recent science to guide policy making. House Bill 819, which passed today after the governor let the deadline to stop it slip, restricts all sea-level predictions used for policy-making to be based on “historical data,” effectively sending science back to 1900. The law will prevent policy-makers from using a recent study by the state’s Coastal Resources Commission (CRC) which predicted the sea level will rise by 39 inches in the next century. Developers were upset about the prediction that might cause reluctance to invest in the area.[Source]

Voyager: I am fierce proud my tax dollars helped this happen!

Voyager at Jupiter

Voyager I, launched 35 years ago, is now approaching the edge of our Solar System and will soon head out toward the other star systems that make up our galaxy, what we have fondly called the Milky Way. And it’s still transmitting data and adding to our store of knowledge like nothing else ever launched. (I’d say that its success strengthens the case for unmanned missions.)

There’s a link-rich story, plus videos and graphics at Talking Point Memo today.

We should all be proud, but also a bit sad that this is what we used to do.

NASA’s JPL has a site that follows the progress of [both] Voyagers in real time. It’s here.

Climate miscellaney, and saying it isn’t a problem always solves the problem. Right?

Here in my region we’re heading into a third year of serious drought. Last year’s rainfall was 16 inches below normal. Scary, but not as scary as the fact that in just the first three months of this year, we’re already seven inches behind.

Via a trackback to Whatever Works, I discovered Greenfrye‘s blog (here).  It’s a frackin’ good resource for climate information with lots of handy links and includes a “Climate Denial Crock of the Week” feature, an amusing (at first) but ultimately maddening read that also features dozens of delicious videos. (He’s frequently wonky, but there’s plenty there for we mere mortals.)

A few minutes later, I came across this story at the famous lefty rag Scientific American:

LONDON (Reuters) – The world is close to reaching tipping points that will make it irreversibly hotter, making this decade critical in efforts to contain global warming, scientists warned on Monday.

A recent panel (lost link, sorry) of environmentalists said that Al Gore’s movie hurt because it energized the deniers and recast global warming as a political issue instead of a scientific human issue. That rings true; Gore’s traditional opponents – like those chicken hawks who mocked his Vietnam service by saying he wasn’t, you know, in battle carrying a gun so it didn’t count. At least not like it counted sitting on the sidelines taking pot shots at those who did go into battle and came home wiser and with less enthusiasm for sending their younger brothers off to become the next batch of dead soldiers – piled on.

This planet of ours has a problem, but not to worry -  I’ll close my eyes, click my heels, and make it all go away. Easy.

You didn’t know about this because it only happened everywhere else on Planet Earth, just not here in USA! USA! USA!

We look pathetic enough with our insane refusal to address the horrific costs and poor outcomes of our health care system. We look worse yet when we are 5% of the world’s population and use 25% of its energy and when we incarcerate more people per capita (by a huge factor) in the US than any other free nation on earth while hundreds of thousands have died on our streets and still do while we deny that we long ago lost the poorly conceived War on Drugs. And we can pretend that angry eyes aren’t turned our way from South of our border as entire regions become war zones fighting the drug cartels who kill and maim to bring our drugs to us.

The world may sit back and actuallyl enjoy it when our time comes to face the awful truths but meanwhile, I invite them to go ahead – go ahead and just make fun of us for this bit of silliness and greed. We’ve been asking for it.

Earth Hour was observed yesterday across Planet Earth (except, well, you know, here). The story is at Scientific American:

You gets whay you pays for. And climate skeptics pay.

Mouthpieces are a dime a dozen. But they do get busy and quite obedient when the pay is really good. Like $8.6 million. From a single donor. Ever hear of the Heartland Institute? They are a right-wing think tank whose mission is to “cast doubt on climate science”. They’ve been around for a while, doing the dirty, making the world safe for fossil fuels, the ‘free market’ and the extraction industries. But a rash of newly leaked memos and reports – in a world of curtains to hide behind, that’s how we get our information now - gives us a glimpse of what’s behind that curtain . Who funds Heartland?

Most eyes will probably fall first on the “Anonymous Donor” who, the documents show, personally funded Heartland’s “climate change projects” to the tune of $8,602,267 between 2007 and 2011. The largest donation came in 2008 when “he” donated $3.3m – the same year that Heartland began its annual climate change conferences which have attracted just about every prominent climate sceptic since. This mystery donor has apparently pledged a further $1m for “climate change projects” during 2012.

That’s ‘personally funded’. A man. One person. Until now information about their funding had been sparse. The story in The Guardian doesn’t name anyone, but they hint rather nakedly that the wampun comes from  one of those famous American Libertarian brothers, whose ’causes’ usually align well with the growth of their personal wealth. (To be polite, Koch Industries makes some proper token public donations.

Click the chart for a clearer version.

From Greenpeace - IRS data

Of course, they get a little help from their friends.

Many of the Republican Senate candidates are signatories of the Koch Industries’ Americans For Prosperity No Climate Tax pledge and the FreedomWorks Contract From America.

Heartland is also committed to creating an alternate science curriculum in K-12 classrooms – which would be cool, eh? Combined with the ‘creationism’ curriculum, we could produce an entire generation scientifically illiterate.  (Now that’s the way for a world power to stay on top!)

So, we have an anonymous millionaire donor – whose agenda and/or vested interest we know not – funding an effort to discredit the teaching of climate science in schools? How can that ever be justified or considered democratic, let alone judged to be in the pupils’ best interests?

But the dropping of jaws doesn’t end there. Next up, we learn that Heartland paid a team of writers $388,000 in 2011 to write a series of reports “to undermine the official United Nation’s IPCC reports”. Not critique, challenge, or analyse the IPCC’s reports, but “to undermine” them. The agenda and pre-ordained outcome is clear and there for all to see.

The leaked documents are here.

Climate zones, they are a’ changin’. I think it’s Al Gore’s fault

For a long time, the US Department of Agriculture has designated different planting ‘zones’ throughout the country as a guide for growers. Their ratings are based on ‘extreme minimum temperature’. Garden books and seed packets usually say in what zone a plant can flourish and in what zones it can’t. But it’s the agricultural industry itself, the largest consumer of such data, that must pay the closest attention to these ratings to assure successful crop yields.

So with this change, the USDA now joins the Pentagon and NASA in acknowledging that global warming is real and must be part of all strategic planning. (I don’t mention any international science organizations or UN agencies because our conservative brethren know them all to be anti-American.)

My area of SW Florida has always been 9(b) – but now it’s officially a 10(a) zone. The temperature variation is not large (we go from a 5 to 10 degree variation to a 10-15 degree variation), but the USDA sees it as permanent.

. . . entire states, such as Ohio, Nebraska and Texas, are now in warmer zones . . . it reflects the new reality.

They’ve moved 18 key cities from Fairbanks to Honolulu into warmer zones.

It’s great that the Federal government is catching up with what the plants themselves have known for years now, that the globe is warming” . . .  said [a] Stanford University biologist.

This is unlikely to be the last time they will have to adjust the zones. What’s most shocking to me is the speed of the temperature change – the data they used was collected from 1976-2005. That’s stunning.

(Also, here in zone 10a, we’ve been in drought for four of the last ten years. )

Also . . .

Today is the Winter Solstice, so let us have a moment of solidarity with our early brethren across the history of humankind. In pre-history, this day was full of mystery and magic, a reminder of the unknown. There was fear in that, so they banished the darkness with light - beginning a tradition of a season of celebration and light, one we observe still.

I like this place

Teh busy is easing up at last. Friday oldie is forthcoming (it’s Thursday, isn’t it. Yikes. Again.)

Meanwhile, a ‘like’ on my last post just led me to Psilomelane. Stop by for some fascinating miscellany. It’s fun. I especially liked this:

7 billion of us now. Better than 9 billion

This month, the population of Planet Earth will reach seven billion. That’s a lot of people. Here’s a quick look at recent history.

  • 1800     900 million
  • 1900     1.6 billion (added 700 million in 100 years)
  • 1950     2.4 billion (added 2 billion in 50 years)
  • 1980     5.1 4.4 billion (added 2 billion in 30 years)
  • 2000     6 billion (added 1.3 1.6 billion in 20 years )
  • 2011      7 billion (added 1 billion  in 11 years)

Until very recently we were headed for population Armageddon; in the 1970′s demographers began sounding an alarm about what they saw in their projections. And we very likely would have gotten to that awful place, but for one thing. Contraception. In the last 20 years, access has spread worldwide in spite of the religious resistance (from Christians here in the US and from large segments of the  Muslim world). Women embraced birth control; lower birth rates led to better nutrition, more education and ultimately increased prosperity, which itself is a factor in containing population growth.

Science. Good.

Krauthammer was good and I am not off my meds

In my paper this morning came a Charles Krauthammer column that at first made me laugh out loud. It’s an elegant and beautifully written (and felt) column about . . . neutrinos. He began with a joke that is circulating on the internet:

“We don’t allow faster-than-light neutrinos in here,” said the bartender.

A neutrino walks into a bar.

The column talks about the announcement by the European high-energy physics consortium, CERN, that they’d discovered a particle that travels faster-than-light.

. . . The implications of such a discovery are so mind-boggling, however, that these same scientists immediately requested that other labs around the world try to replicate the experiment. . . .

. . . But if quantum mechanics was a challenge to human sensibilities, this pesky Swiss-Italian neutrino is their undoing. It means that Einstein’s relativity — a theory of uncommon beauty upon which all of physics has been built for 100 years — is wrong . . . deeply, fundamentally, indescribably wrong.

It means that the “standard model” of subatomic particles that stands at the center of all modern physics is wrong. . .  This will not just overthrow physics. Astronomy and cosmology measure time and distance in the universe on the assumption of light speed as the cosmic limit. Their foundations will shake as well.

This is no crank wheeling a perpetual motion machine into the patent office. These are the best researchers in the world using the finest measuring instruments, having subjected their data to the highest levels of scrutiny, including six months of cross-checking by 160 scientists from 11 countries.

But there must be some error. Because otherwise everything changes. We shall need a new physics. A new cosmology. New understandings of past and future, of cause and effect. Then shortly and surely, new theologies.

Why? Because we can’t have neutrinos getting kicked out of taverns they have not yet entered.

A brief and comprehensible read of what this means, for those who, like me, are scientifically illiterate.

(He didn’t mention that it could have been a US discovery had not the high particle accelerator under construction in Texas in the 90′s – which would have been the world’s largest – been cancelled by Congress in ’93. Too expensive you know. Who could afford $12billion – of which we’d already spent a few billion – when we needed a half a trillion to keep the old defense industry building already-outdated aircraft and weapons?)

US in space: fat lady didn’t sing after all

A discussion ensued following  yesterday’s post about the launch of Atlantis which raised a few questions about  the future of the space program. I just found this at the AP which answers some of those. I learned in the article that “NASA is under orders to build a giant rocket to go beyond Earth orbit.” Cool. Didn’t know that.

Q: Why are the shuttles retiring?

A: The shuttles are aging and expensive and their chief task of building the International Space Station is essentially done. Now NASA wants to do something new.

Q: Who decided to stop flying the shuttles?

A: President George W. Bush made the decision in 2004. He wanted astronauts to go back to the moon, and eventually to Mars. But President Barack Obama dropped the moon mission. His plan has NASA building a giant rocket to send astronauts to an asteroid, and eventually Mars, while turning over to private companies the job of carrying cargo and astronauts to the space station.

Q: Why were the shuttles built?

A: It was supposed to make getting into space cheap, simple and safe, flying into low orbit virtually every week. It didn’t accomplish that. But it was the best way to get big items — such as satellites and the Hubble Space Telescope — into orbit . . .

Q: What happens to the space shuttles?

A: They’ll be on display across the country. Endeavour goes to the California Science Center in Los Angeles and Atlantis will stay at Kennedy Space Center for its visitor complex. Discovery’s new home will be the Smithsonian Institution’s hangar near Washington Dulles International Airport. Enterprise, a shuttle prototype used for test flights, goes to New York City’s Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum.

Q: How will astronauts get to the space station?

A: NASA will continue to buy seats on Russian Soyuz capsules to ferry space station residents. The $56 million price per head will go up to $63 million, which is still cheaper per person than the space shuttle.

There’s more at the link.

Captain Kirk’s replicator is here – almost

A commenter yesterday reminded me of the Star Trek ‘replicator’, that wondrous device in the wall that would, upon a voice command, deliver anything from new shoes to a cup of hot tea with lemon, easily and instantly manufactured and delivered from stored atomic information or something.

Now comes the Thing-O-Matic. It’s real alright. I saw it on Colbert last night. All the details are here:

. . .  you can simply manufacture your very own dishwasher knob. And bath plugs, drink bottles, spectacle frames, shin pads, helmets and even action figures.

It’s all thanks to the Thing-O-Matic, a ‘factory in a box’ that claims to create any three-dimensional object out of plastic in a matter of minutes.

It creates 3-D scans of actual objects into what they’re calling the ‘printer’ and the output is itself three-dimensional and made of a hard plastic. It’s real and really wonderfully weird.