News From The Blogosphere 7.28.09

July 28, 2009

1. Creation “Museum” fears the godless – For weeks now, PZ Myers the Secular Student Alliance (SSA) have been organizing a giant trip to the Creation “Museum.” The number of people planning to attend is currently 240 and counting. 240 godless heathens converging on them? Mark Looy, the Chief Communications Officer at the “museum” is scared, so scared he sent PZ and the SSA a hilarious message telling them to behave.

2. Is the Kendle a tool of Big Brother? – I must have been out of the loop on this one because I’d never heard of this conspiracy theory until my brother told me about it over the phone last week. The story goes that Amazon removed downloaded copies of George Orwell’s 1984 from Kindle devices. This is of course seen as some conspiracy. But of course, as with most other conspiracy claims, there’s a far more benign explanation:

Far from being some kind of shadowy government conspiracy to extinguish the truth of an anti-establishment book you can easily pick up for a couple of quarters at a high school library rummage sale, this was a simple legal issue. Somehow, Amazon sold Kindle copies of 1984 from publishers who didn’t have the right to print the book. It was stupid (I feel like Barack Obama here…) of them to simply go into people’s Kindles through the wireless modem and delete the things, but they did give everyone’s money back. And you can still buy an authorized copy if you want. In other words, this is a non-issue. Though I suppose nothing can convince Kindle Truthers that this wasn’t an inside job.


News From Around The Blogosphere 01.07.09

January 8, 2009

Oklahoma has put up the first anti-evolution bill for 2009 -

Senate Bill 320 (document), prefiled in the Oklahoma Senate and scheduled for a first reading on February 2, 2009, is apparently the first antievolution bill of 2009. Entitled the “Scientific Education and Academic Freedom Act,” SB 320 would, if enacted, require state and local educational authorities to “assist teachers to find more effective ways to present the science curriculum where it addresses scientific controversies” and permit teachers to “help students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories pertinent to the course being taught.” The only topics specifically mentioned as controversial are “biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning.”

Yeah, Oklahoma is dead to me. I highly recommend making it the punchline to your every joke about stupid people. Which reminds me: How many Oklahomans does it take to change a lightbulb? None. They thought the first bulb was an evil spirit and tried to kill it. Then after it all gone dark, they became convinced God was angry with them and are praying for the light to return.

Meanwhile, Indiana just went up a notch -

The Indianapolis Star has been running a pointless little prayer on page A2 of the newspaper for years. Not any more; the editor has decided to discontinue it.

Of course this decision received complaints like the hilarious one PZ Myers cites that compares prayer to astrology ironically trying to persuade them to keep the prayer in. Well I’ll say one thing, the comparison is apt.

HIV/AIDS Deniers, the Ministry of Truth, and the failure of memory holes in the Internet Age – A fantastic look into the deceptive nature of denialism.

Senator Oddball has died - Former Rhode Island Sen. Claiborne Pell, best known for the student grant program that bears his name,  died on New Year’s Day. But there was another side of him. Time magazine, called him “Senator Oddball” because of his strong interest in the paranormal, such as remote viewing, UFO’s, and Uri Geller, who he invited to Washington, where Geller claims to have bombarded a Soviet arms control negotiator with “intense images of peace.” Yeah, apparently we had a U.S. Senator living in the 20th Century who urged a “psychic” to cast a magic spell on our enemies. Chew on that one for awhile. And then freak out. Imagine how much fun it’d have been if he’d become president, huh?

Paul Offit, Charlotte Moser, and Steve Novella refute Robert Sears – A seriously awesome and epic take-down of another antivaccinationist proponent of the myth that vaccines cause autism.

Porn industry wants a bailout now? What?! – Yeah, I hope this is just Larry Flynt’s attempt at satirizing the absurdity of the government bailouts.

AND NOW FOR A MOMENT OF SCIENCE:

scientist-use-in-case-of-emergencyTestes Stem Cells Change Into Other Tissues – “Scientists at the Stanford University School of Medicine and at UC-San Francisco have succeeded in isolating stem cells from human testes. The cells bear a striking resemblance to embryonic stem cells — they can differentiate into each of the three main types of tissues of the body — but the researchers caution against viewing them as one and the same.”

Black Holes Lead Galaxy Growth – “Astronomers may have solved a cosmic chicken-and-egg problem — the question of which formed first in the early Universe — galaxies or the supermassive black holes seen at their cores.”

Levitation Created At Microscopic Scale – “Magicians have long created the illusion of levitating objects in the air. Now researchers have actually levitated an object, suspending it without the need for external support. Working at the molecular level, the researchers relied on the tendency of certain combinations of molecules to repel each other at close contact, effectively suspending one surface above another by a microscopic distance.

Researchers from Harvard University and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have measured, for the first time, a repulsive quantum mechanical force that could be harnessed and tailored for a wide range of new nanotechnology applications.”

Physicists Squeeze Light To Quantum Limit - “A team of University of Toronto physicists have demonstrated a new technique to squeeze light to the fundamental quantum limit, a finding that has potential applications for high-precision measurement, next-generation atomic clocks, novel quantum computing and our most fundamental understanding of the universe.”

Researchers Create Car Parts From Coconuts -“A team of Baylor University researchers who have identified a variety of low-cost products that can be manufactured from coconuts in poor coastal regions have now developed a way to use coconut husks in automotive interiors.”


Futuristic Security Checkpoints Know What You Do Before You Do It

January 2, 2009

Futuristic Security Checkpoints Know What You Do Before You Do It – I know I should be terrified that this will lead to an Orwellian distopia where Big Brother is always watching us and has an army of thought police but it’s also pretty damned cool:

New security check points in 2020 will look just like something out of the futuristic movie, The Minority Report. The idea of the new checkpoints will allow high traffic to pass through just as you were walking at a normal pace. No more, waving a wand to get through checkpoints. The new checkpoint can detect if you have plans to set off a bomb before you even enter the building.

Yeah, this technology is going to be very controversial and if used irresponsibly can be used to seriously infringe upon people’s civil liberties. That’s just one more reason why we need to make sure we elect the right people in office. Whoever becomes president in 2020 will likely have to make major decisions concerning science and technology as well as their applications in public space.


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