Obama picks his Nobel Prize Winning Physicist Steven Chu as Energy Secretary – Apparently the Obama administration is trying a radical new direction, being pro-science.
But not everyone in the science community is happy with Obama – Mike Griffin, NASA’s Administrator, is rumored to be butting heads with Obama, because due to some poor decisions on his part, he may not be working for NASA for much longer. More on this rumor here.
Update: The Hugh Laurie interview on Conon O’Brien I mentioned yesterday can be seen here.
Brian Dunning visits Area 51 – The photo on the left just about sums up the excitement of their visit. This was a great companion piece to Phil Plait’s criticism of Stanton Friedman from yesterday.
WAR ON CHRISTMAS:
My favorite atheist holiday display finally went up in Philadelphia – My brother and the Freethought Society of Greater Philadelphia have erected their 2nd annual “Tree of Knowledge” display on Tuesday.
I actually think this is a far better atheist display than the now “infamous” Washington display because the focus is on knowledge and diversity of ideas instead of being as divisive as the religious displays we fight against. The Tree includes photocopies of book covers including not only atheist books but what makes this display especially unique is that it also includes the Bible, Koran, etc. pushing the diversity of ideas angle. And although it gets criticized as much as any other atheist display, it’s a much less divisive and I think more productive way of pushing our overall message. I also have felt that the Washington display hasn’t been defended very well. I love Dan Barker but I don’t think in this particular case he’s done a good job defending what is essentially a negative holiday campaign in interviews lately. The Tree of Knowledge seems like more the direction we should be going in.
Festivus pole being added to holiday displays in Washington’s capitol – This is frakkin’ awesome! Not only that but the Westboro Baptist Church is also demanding to put up a sign reading, “Santa Claus will take you to hell.” Now someone of even below average intelligence might have figured out the lesson of this is that there’s a good reason our government is designed to make no laws respecting the establishment of religion. And that’s because if you respect one of them, you have to respect all. . .and there are a lot. Of course that doesn’t include Bill Donohue, who seems to have missed the point entirely:
Gov. Gregoire is responsible for this mess. Having first acceded to the requests of atheists to attack Christmas, she is now confronted with the likes of the Westboro Baptist Church, a viciously anti-American, anti-Catholic and anti-gay group. There is a way to deal with this situation in a manner that is legally acceptable and morally defensible, but neither the Washington governor, nor her lawyers, have figured it out.
Nor have you figured it out yet, Bill. You just need to go one display farther. We would not have been in this mess in the first place if Christians hadn’t insisted that the government pay for their holiday ornaments.
Continuing the current trend of large-scale mergers and acquisitions, it was announced today at a press conference that Christmas and Hanukkah will merge. An industry source said that the deal had been in the works about 1300 years.
AND NOW FOR A MOMENT OF SCIENCE:
Last Neandertal Contact With Modern Humans? – “It is widely accepted that Upper Paleolithic early modern humans spread westward across Europe about 42,000 years ago, variably displacing and absorbing Neandertal populations in the process. However, Middle Paleolithic assemblages persisted for another 8,000 years in Iberia, presumably made by Neandertals. It has been unclear whether these late Middle Paleolithic Iberian assemblages were made by Neandertals, and what the nature of those humans might have been.
New research, published Dec. 8 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is now shedding some light on what were probably the last Neandertals.”
How The Brain Thinks About Crime, Punishment – “In a pioneering, interdisciplinary study combining law and neuroscience, researchers at Vanderbilt University peered inside people’s minds to watch how the brain thinks about crime and punishment.”
. . . “The researchers found that two distinct areas of the brain assess guilt and decide penalty.”
For some reason I’ve got the Virgin Mary on the brain lately: