News From Around The Blogosphere 6.29.10

June 29, 2010

I am so behind on news stories that I’m going to ignore my usual rule of keeping this News From Around The Blogosphere chunk to only a few stories in order to play catch-up over the next few days.

1. Australia elects atheist Prime Minister…who sadly turns out to be anti-gay – Early reports of Julia Gillard’s appointment were met with cheers from the atheist community but now some of our hopes may have been dashed as news comes out that she opposes marriage equality:

“We believe the marriage act is appropriate in its current form, that is recognising that marriage is between a man and a woman, but we have as a government taken steps to equalise treatment for gay couples,” Ms Gillard said.

Seriously, how does that sentence come out of the mouth of an atheist?

2. Copenhagen atheists create declaration of principles – The principle focus on religion’s role in public life.

3. Chuck Norris vs. the Secular Student Alliance SSA - Chuck’s pissed that with all the crises happening in the world, Obama found time to honor the SSA but has neglected the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) and feels its’ persecution or something. What is it with these Christians who think just being their wishes aren’t met, that makes it persecution? No Bill Donohue, the Empire State Building is not honoring Mother Teresa, so get over it. Anyway, for some reason Chuck feels the BSA should have been invited to a conference on “Advancing Interfaith and Community Service on College and University Campuses.” Why I don’t know. I guess Chuck still harboring a grudge against atheists ever since Bruce Lee kicked his ass. Personally, I’m still waiting for Chuck to respond to the email I wrote him three years ago.

4. Robot fish is accepted by shoal as one of their own - Wow, it’s kind of like Avatar except instead of the dude from the last Terminator film transferring his consciousness into a biological shell, it’s a frakkin’ robot.

University of Leeds scientists have created the first convincing robotic fish that shoals will accept as one of their own. The innovation opens up new possibilities for studying fish behaviour and group dynamics, which provides useful information to support freshwater and marine environmental management, to predict fish migration routes and assess the likely impact of human intervention on fish populations.

Robots–is there any news story they can’t make awesome?

5. UK trying to ban homeopathy -

Recently representatives of the British Medical Association (BMA) condemned homeopathy as “witchcraft.”Now the BMA is going one step further – calling for a ban on homeopathy in the UK. They do not want homeopathy to be illegal, but they want a ban on any National Health Service (NHS) support for homeopathy. The NHS currently spends about 20 million pounds a year on homeopathic remedies (about 0.01% of the NHS budget) and maintains four homeopathic hospitals. This is a small amount overall – but anything spent on homeopathy is a waste. More importantly, as the BMA notes, homeopathy has “‘no place in the modern health service.’

6. Nick Fury, Black Widow, and S.H.I.E.L.D. to investigate Phil Plait? - Apparently someone over at Marvel Comics is a fan of the Bad Astronomy blog because Phil Plaits’ name is in Black Widow’s phonebook.

7. Teenager turns into Spiderman - In other Marvel Comics-related news:

A Cambridge schoolboy has converted two budget vacuum cleaners into a Spiderman gadget which helps him scale walls.

Hibiki Kono, 13, a big fan of the superhero, made the incredible climbing machine using the suction from two Tesco Value vacuum cleaners.

The schoolboy then amazed his friends by using the giant suckerpads to climb the school wall during morning assembly.

“I used to dress up as Spiderman when I was younger and I love all the films so it’s great to be able to climb walls like him,” said Hibiki.

You sir, are awesome.

8. Stem Cells cure blindness -

STEM cells have restored sight to 82 people with eyes blinded by chemical or heat burns.

Once again, as Carl Sagan once said, science delivers the goods.


News From Around The Blogosphere 1.1.10

January 2, 2010

Happy 2010 all!

1. Phil Plait has officially turned over his responsibilities as President of the James Randi Educational Foundation to D.J. Grothe, who hosts of Point of Inquiry, the official podcast of the Center For Inquiry. Congratulations again to D.J. and to Phil, who is moving onto a yet to be announced television project.

2. Atheist Ireland challenges new Irish Blasphemy Law on Day 1 – The first big controversy of 2010 is the new Irish Blasphemy Law, which went into effect on the first of January. Atheist Ireland is challenging this law right away by publishing a list of 25 blasphemous quotes:

Despite these quotes being abusive and insulting in relation to matters held sacred by various religions, we unreservedly support the right of these people to have published or uttered them, and we unreservedly support the right of any Irish citizen to make comparable statements about matters held sacred by any religion without fear of being criminalised, and without having to prove to a court that a reasonable person would find any particular value in the statement.

The quotes come from a wide range of individuals from George Carlin to Salman Rushdie to Jesus.

Lisa Miller, wanted fugitive for kidnapping this child

3. “Ex-gay” mom kidnaps child – Some of you may be familiar with the strange case of Lisa Miller and Janet Jenkins.  After the two women had a civil union, Miller had a child via artificial insemination. Later, Miller was converted into an evangelical Christian, denounced homosexuality as a sin, and a custody battle began over access to their child. Ultimately, the judge ruled in favor of Jenkins getting full custody with visitation rights for Miller. This was all supposed to go into effect today. But there’s just one small problem. Miller didn’t turn over the child and has now disappeared. Gotta love those good old fashioned Christian values.

4. Who was the most influential female atheist of 2009? – A great poll from Blag Hag.

5. Are Lithium-air batteries the future in automotive fuel? -

Li-air batteries use a catalytic air cathode that supplies oxygen, an electrolyte and a lithium anode. The technology has the potential to store almost as much energy as a tank of gasoline, and will have a capacity for energy storage that is five to 10 times greater than that of Li-ion batteries, a bridge technology. That potential, however, will not be realized until critical scientific challenges have been solved.


A gathering of skeptics

April 19, 2009
Phil Plait

Phil Plait

Several months ago, I got to meet James “The Amazing” Randi, the grandfather of the modern skepticism movement and the former president of The James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF). Well tonight I finally got to meet the current president of the JREF, Phil Plait.

Also at the event were 3 other notable skeptics who I’ve met on previous occasions:  Scientific American Editor & Chief John Rennie, musician George Hrab, and Skepchick blogger Rebecca Watson. It was fun hanging out with everyone, and I look forward to seeing them all again.

John Rennie

John Rennie

George Hrab

George Hrab

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca Watson


Happy Atheist Pride Day & Happy Vernal Equinox

March 19, 2009

scarletletter_outI reported about Atheist Pride Day a few days ago here. Follow the link if you wish to know more about it and how you can participate. But something that I forgot to mention was that it coincides with the vernal equinox (probably not by accident). Today (Friday) is the first day of spring, which reminds me of an old myth that you can only balance an egg on the vernal equinox. This is a myth that Phil Plait debunks here:


Bad Astronomy picked as one of Time.com’s 25 Best Blogs of 2009

February 17, 2009

Congrats Phil. I’m especially excited because they excerpted a clip of him blasting antivaccinationists. Unfortunately, Time.com also gave the insufferably anti-vaccination Huffington Post too.


News From Around The Blogosphere 10.20.08

October 21, 2008

CREATIONIST NEWS:

Something rotten in the state of Kentucky? – Northern Kentucky University is going to have a mock trial on the creation/evolution debate. But is this just an exercise to study the issue or just another misguided attempt to suggest science and faith are on equal footing. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: any debate where one side is expected to provide evidence for its ever claim while the other side simply gets to use the faith card is a farce.

And here’s 1 creationist’s response to the creationist debate in Kentucky, led by Dr. Ben Scripture – It’s your standard argument from authority combined with a straw man.

And here’s a great video that summarizes the creationist clusterfuck in the Texas Board of Education along with detailed information about who these Evolution deniers are:

Either Abbie Smith’s psychic or Expelled is guilty of a fraudulent poll – Further proof that Ben Stein is not using Clear Eyes.

ABORTION NEWS:

Poor turn out at atheist rally in Colorado – The rally was meant to protest an upcoming amendment that would legally define life as beginning at conception and effectively define abortion as murder. Over 100,000 Conservative Christians had signed off to get the amendment on the Nov. 4 ballot and yet only dozens of opponents of this insane amendment bothered to show up to protest it. I am deeply disappointed.

The 40 Days for Life campaign against abortion -

The 40 Days for Life campaign, a period of fasting and prayer to save babies from abortion, is in its final two weeks.

Unfortunately, they’re also harassing and intimidating women who visit health clinics as well as protesting and proselytizing. Aurora Jewell had a wonderful line about what Planned Parenthood does on a regular basis:

“We’re doing more in one day to prevent unintended pregnancies and the need for abortion than these people are doing in 40 days.”

WHAT’S THE HARM?

Joe Lastinger interviewed about the tragic loss of his 3 and-a-half year-old daughter to influenza – You can listen to the interview here. Yeah, we have tragic stories and emotional appeals on our side too.

Evan Bernstein explains what’s the harm in believing that space aliens are visiting our planet in UFOs – Just one example is you accept that something unreal is real, and before you know it, you wind up believing in all sorts of things that are untrue. In some cases, people have lost their entire fortunes sinking them in to irrational beliefs. And in some cases, like with the Heaven’s Gate cultists, it has cost people their lives.

STOP JENNY NEWS:

Dr. Phil Plait

Dr. Phil Plait

Dr. Phil Plait has plugged the site – Thanks Phil. You remain on my awesome list.

Also, we have been contacted by a MAJOR organization in the popular news media who is interested in interviewing us. I don’t want to mention the name yet but if anything comes of this, I’ll certainly keep you all updated.

Dr. Jay Gordon

Dr. Jay Gordon

An excellent overview of antivaccinationist Dr. Jay Gordon’s logical fallacies – It’s all here. And here’s more debunking of Gordon’s claims. For those who don’t know, Dr. Jay Gordon wrote the forward for Jenny McCarthy’s book.

Carbon nanotubes: the material of the future! -

These little cylinders of carbon molecules can be used to make materials that are lighter, stronger, and sexier than just about anything else we have.

Summary of studies showing sex is good for you – Take that abstinence-only sex education!

Yes, these kinds of people still exist in the United States in the 21st Century:

AND NOW FOR A MOMENT OF SCIENCE:

Scientists Create ‘World’s Most Relaxing Room’ – “Psychologist Professor Richard Wiseman has designed and constructed a large-scale multi-media space that aims to calm even the most stressed out of minds.” Gotta love Wiseman. His book Quirkology is included on my booklist on the right side of the screen.

Bird Flu Vaccine Protects People And Pets – “A single vaccine could be used to protect chickens, cats and humans against deadly flu pandemics, according to an article published in the November issue of the Journal of General Virology. The vaccine protects birds and mammals against different flu strains and can even be given to birds while they are still in their eggs, allowing the mass vaccination of wild birds.”

Dinosaur Dance Floor: Tracks At Jurassic Oasis – “University of Utah geologists identified an amazing concentration of dinosaur footprints that they call “a dinosaur dance floor,” located in a wilderness on the Arizona-Utah border where there was a sandy desert oasis 190 million years ago.”

Finding Hidden Tomb Of Genghis Khan – “According to legend, Genghis Khan lies buried somewhere beneath the dusty steppe of Northeastern Mongolia, entombed in a spot so secretive that anyone who made the mistake of encountering his funeral procession was executed on the spot.

Once he was below ground, his men brought in horses to trample evidence of his grave, and just to be absolutely sure he would never be found, they diverted a river to flow over their leader’s final resting place.

What Khan and his followers couldn’t have envisioned was that nearly 800 years after his death, scientists at UC San Diego’s Center for Interdisciplinary Science in Art, Architecture and Archaeology (CISA3) would be able to locate his tomb using advanced visualization technologies whose origins can be traced back to the time of the Mongolian emperor himself.”


News From Around The Blogosphere 10.10.08

October 11, 2008

Indian censors say no to condom and yes to sex – By Bollywood standards, just the make-out scene in the new movie Hello featuring former Miss India and Maxim model Gul Panag is risqué. But what India’s Censor Board is really upset about is that in the scene, Panag and actor Sharman Joshi are fooling around and Panag’s character asks her partner if he has a condom.

Catholicism: The Cause of Needless Suffering – Washington state has a ballot measure coming up that would make it legal for doctors to prescribe lethal doses of medication for the terminally ill. Pope Ratzinger approves, saying people must accept death at “the hour chosen by God.” So I guess The Pope doesn’t seeks doctors or medical treatment of any kind, right?

Jeremy Hall withdraws his suit – Jeremy Hall, who had previously filed a lawsuit against the Department of Defense, has now voluntarily withdrawn it. Earlier, he had stated that he was denied a promotion and prevented from holding a meeting for fellow atheists. He had also received a death threat from another soldier. Those charges still stand. However, since Hall is planning on leaving the Army in the spring, he dropped the lawsuit (PDF).

Parents outraged by pro-Islam baby doll:

A doll some are claiming utters pro-Islam and even satanic messages has outraged parents in Oklahoma and Pennsylvania.

Well, which is it? Pro-Islam or satanic ? Or is this just one fickle doll? Well, it turns out to be, like with EVPs, just an example of auditory pareidolia. If you don’t know what you’re supposed to be hearing then you either just hear random-sounding noise or you hear something else. Listen for yourself here.

Lisa: “Don’t you people see anything wrong what Malibu Stacy says?”
Celeste: “There’s something wrong with what my Stacy says…” [Pull's string]
Stacy: “My spidey sense is tingling… anybody call for a web-slinger?”

As I was going to Saint Ives,
I met a rabbi with seven wives.
Every wife had seven sacks,
Every sack had seven cats,
Every cat had seven kittens,
Kittens, cats, sacks, wives,
How many were going to Saint Ives?

Times Online article on the “ex-gay movement”

Another day, another preacher caught collecting kiddie porn:

A deacon will likely preach Sunday at Oswegatchie First Baptist Church in the aftermath of the resignation of the Rev. Merton E. Parks, who admits he downloaded child pornography from sites on the Internet.

DNA proves virgin birth in Virginia? - Just when you thought it was safe to go in the water–Shark Messiah! Amateur Scientist calls it Jawsus.

The Plant Liberation Front – Switzerland scientists there must now justify the ethics of genetic research on plants.

Death From The Skies! – Now available on Amazon and fine bookstores everywhere.

Skepbitch gets a personal tour of the JREF by James “The Amazing” Randi himself.

Ray “The Banana Guy” Comfort declares the economic crisis is a sign of the End Times! – I’m sure he’s not the only religious nut making this leap. And of course, when the crisis has abated (after the landslide Democratic victory on November 4), they’ll conveniently forget that once again, THEY WERE WRONG! But of course the real problem is that these religious kooks are looking forward to disaster and the end of the world. This is what Bill Maher’s talking about in Religulous. They want the apocalypse to happen and some will stop at nothing to ensure that it does.

AND NOW FOR A MOMENT OF SCIENCE:

Warming Threats To Tropical Rainforest Species – “Contrary to conventional wisdom, tropical plant and animal species living in some of the warmest places on Earth may be threatened by global warming, according to an article by University of Connecticut Ecologist Robert K. Colwell and colleagues the journal Science.”

Skeptologist Dr. Kirsten Stanford presents The Science Word for 10.10.09.



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