News From Around The Blogosphere 2.7.11

February 8, 2011

1. FBI investigating Scientology for human trafficking – A recent profile on ex-Scientologist and Oscar-winner Paul Haggis in the New Yorker also discussed an ongoing FBI investigation into the allegations of abuse by Scientology’s leader David Miscavige, and the enslavement of members of  the Sea Org:

The laws regarding trafficking were built largely around forced prostitution, but they also pertain to slave labor. Under federal law, slavery is defined, in part, by the use of coercion, torture, starvation, imprisonment, threats, and psychological abuse. The California penal code lists several indicators that someone may be a victim of human trafficking: signs of trauma or fatigue; being afraid or unable to talk, because of censorship by others or security measures that prevent communication with others; working in one place without the freedom to move about; owing a debt to one’s employer; and not having control over identification documents. Those conditions echo the testimony of many former Sea Org members…

And speaking of Scientology…

Tom Cruise

2. Is fictional Unitology in ‘Dead Space 2’ related to Scientology? – The videogame’s creative director says the similarities are just a coincidence, saying the inspiration came from Carl Sagan’s “The Demon-Haunted World”, but his dismissal seems less than convincing given the similarities.

3. One flu vaccine to rule them all? – Researchers may have found a universal flu vaccine to end all flu vaccines. Though it’s worth noting that the trial had only 22 subjects, but bigger studies are in progress.

4. That time of year again for another ‘invisibility cloak’ story – Every year there’s another story about an invisibility cloak on the way with the requisite reference to Harry Potter. Here’s the latest one about a cloak that hides objects, rather than people, and without the use of metamaterials.

5. 1 in 8 U.S. biology teachers are creationists– This is a shocking statistic. Roger Ebert had an appropriate response to this on Twitter, analogizing this to the hypothetical statistic of 1 in 8 math teachers believing 2+2=5.

6. Florida court sides against anti-vax mom in custody battle – This is great news to hear a court rule so decisively against a parent specifically because their anti-vaccine beliefs directly endanger that child’s life. Hopefully, this will help set a precedent in all U.S. courts.

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Enough with the invisibility cloak hype already!

March 18, 2010

Notice the invisible bump

Okay, this is going to be a short one. I’ve written about the amazing invisibility cloak media hype before. It’s back in the news again and again there’s absolutely nothing new to report:

Researchers at Germany’s Karlsruhe Institute of Technology report they were able to cloak a tiny bump in a layer of gold, preventing its detection at nearly visible infrared frequencies.

Oh, did they?!

A tiny bump in a layer of gold?! They turned it invisible?!

WOW, THAT’S SO INCREDIBLY–hmm, what’s the opposite of exciting?

From Grimm’s fairy tales to Harry Potter, the cloak of invisibility has played a major role in fiction. Now scientists have taken a small but important new step toward making it reality.

Wow! It IS like Harry Potter. . .only you know, boring. Kids will be thoroughly thrilled about having the ability to cloak a tiny bump in a layer of gold, preventing its detection at nearly visible infrared frequencies.

Just think the all the amazing practical applications that will have. We’ll finally be able to hide pennies! Wait, what? That’s copper? Never mind. Just read what I wrote the last time.


Yup, it’s that time a year for another invisibility cloak story

January 10, 2010

Most people don’t realize that the news media airs reruns. But kinda like how every Christmas, It’s a Wonderful Life pops up on television, the news media has to rerun the invisibility cloak story with the requisite Harry Potter reference.

In 2008, they wowed us with news of the amazing invisibility cloak in October.

In 2009, they reran the story in May.

And now we’re hearing about the amazing invisibility cloak in January.

It’s not that I don’t find the invisibility cloak idea awesome. And it’s not that I think this is some kind of pseudoscience. It’s just the hype that I’m sick of. The invisibility cloak is the modern day flying car. The media promises we’ll have it one day and we probably will. It just probably won’t work as well as in the movies and probably won’t be very practical.

All I’m saying to the media is stop feeding the public unrealistic expectations about it.


Yet another invisibility cloak story

May 2, 2009

Yup, it’s that time of year, folks. Time for yet another overhyped media story about the amazing invisibility cloak that scientists have invented with the requisite reference to Harry Potter.

Every year this news story comes out, possibly just cut and pasted from the article from the year before. And every year they bury the lead. See if you can spot the most important part of this story about the “invisibility” cloak from the second paragragh:A team led by Xiang Zhang, a principal investigator with Berkeley Lab’s Materials Sciences Division and director of UC Berkeley’s Nano-scale Science and Engineering Center, has created a “carpet cloak” from nanostructured silicon that conceals the presence of objects placed under it from optical detection. While the carpet itself can still be seen, the bulge of the object underneath it disappears from view.

Yeah, that’s right the invisibility cloak is visible. Now don’t get me wrong. Certainly amazing advances are being made in this area but I wouldn’t count on a Harry Potter-level invisibility cloak for the next 200 years or so. I just wish the writers of these stories wouldn’t sensationalize them.  I mean I reported the last one in this blog just 7 months ago. Well at least that’s another year before I have to read another stupid article about the damned invisibility cloak.


News From Around The Blogosphere 10.17.08

October 18, 2008

THIS DAY IN GOD:

Bill Donohue’s lame spin on trying to get YouTube to put age requirements on viewing videos of host desecration – Now he’s saying:

“we do not object to making fun of Catholics, or for that matter Catholic beliefs and practices, just so long as they are made in good taste”.

This led PZ Myers to bring up that Webster Cook, the student who unwittingly began Crackergate and was the first victim of Donohue’s wrath, didn’t make fun of Catholics or Catholicism at all. He merely took the Eucharist with him instead of eating it? The only thing tasteless I here was the cracker.

Oh, and for the record, the age-requirement on YouTube is a joke. It asks you if you’re over 18 and any idiot can figure out that they can view the content by simply pressing the button that affirms they are 18. If that’s all it takes to appease Donohue, I wish he’d said so sooner.

Edmond, Oklahoma officials trying to tear down wall between church and state – The Edmond Visual Arts Commission in Edmund, Okla. wanted to spend $3,900 of taxpayer money to put a sculpture of Jesus in front of a Catholic gift shop:

June Cartwright, chair of the commission, told the Associated Press that the sculpture was viewed simply as a piece of art and is not a religious endorsement.

“It’s a piece of artwork,” Cartwright said. “It doesn’t state that it is specifically Jesus. It is whatever you perceive it to be.”

Um, no. That’s Jesus no how much I want it to be Angelina Jolie naked. Fortunately, the mayor has decided not to spend taxpayer money on this. But am I the only one amused by the fact that Jesus is depicted playing with kids when this was to go up in front a Catholic gift shop? Or that the sculpture is titled, “Come Unto Me?” I guess Jesus is a fan of the money shot.

Lately Evolution-deniers have been quite predictably been exploiting the recent statements by lone scientist Steve Jones that humans are no longer evolving. They’re saying see, even the “evolutionists” are admitting that there’s no evidence of human evolution (how they interpreted that from Jones’ actual statement is beyond me), but Jones is a minority opinion on this matter. Here PZ Myers argues why “that is impossible.”

Speaking of PZ, the man rocks! – His blog has got an enormous readership and I contacted him earlier today and asked if he’d plug stopjenny.com and he came through.

sCAM using bogus biomedical boards and bogus medical organizations to sound legitimate – I’m reminded of “Healthy Directions,” the sham medical organization that named “Dr.” Rashid Buttar among the top 50 doctors in the country.

Gnomes return to Argentina – That’s right, Argentinians have reported more sightings of a black-clad, sideways-stepping “midget monster” in a pointy hat. So if you see something that looks kinda like a dog and barks kinda like a dog, you’ll know that it’s really a gnome. I sense some implausibly blurry video coming on. Here’s the earlier video from last March:

And the latest blurry video can be found here.

The future is looking bright without electricity – Flexible sheets of light owe their luminance to compounds known as organic light-emitting diodes, or OLEDs may make household lamps obsolete.

ATHEISM DISCRIMINATION:

Conservative columnist Melanie Phillips has figured out cause of all the world’s woes: atheism

“I see this financial breakdown, moreover, as being not merely a moral crisis but the monetary expression of the broader degradation of our values – the erosion of duty and responsibility to others in favour of instant gratification, unlimited demands repackaged as ‘rights’ and the loss of self-discipline. And the root cause of that erosion is ‘militant atheism’. . .”

It goes on for the longest run-on sentence in human history. Oh, and she’s also a denier of evolution, the safety of vaccines, and global climate change. The Trifecta!

Actor Mark Wahlberg is reported as being “still rattled” by a 2004 fan-charging incident – Why did actor Mark Wahlberg have a screaming fan pulled off of him by security guards? According to Wahlberg:

“The only thing that was a bit disturbing was she had a pin (badge) on that said ‘God is not real’ and that was upsetting to me. But I still pray for her to this day. Hopefully she’s changed her mind.”

Wahlberg is reported as having a small chapel in his Hollywood mansion.

Pete Stark

Pete Stark

The New York Times publishes an article addressing the seeming lack of atheists in politics. Here’s a direct link to the article:

Only one of the 535 members of Congress, Representative Pete Stark, Democrat of California, publicly identifies as a nontheist, according to the Secular Coalition of America, a lobbying group based in Washington. For that matter, the coalition has existed for only three years and runs with two staff members and an annual budget of about $300,000. As both presidential candidates ardently court religious voters, atheist support is considered so controversial that several Democrats writing on the atheist blog Petty Larseny quipped that the best way to hurt the Republicans was to form a group called Atheists for McCain.

Actually, there are at least 22 members of Congress who admitted to Lori Lipman Brown that they did not believe in a god but only Stark was willing to be outed. But I have to say that that Atheists for McCain would be a great idea if McCain’s candidacy wasn’t sunk already. We’ll have to remember that though for the next election.

AND NOW FOR A MOMENT OF SCIENCE:

Emotion And Scent Create Lasting Memories – “In a series of experiments with sleeping mice, researchers at the Duke University Medical Center have shown that the part of the brain that processes scents is indeed a key part of forming long-term memories, especially involving other individuals.”

Radical Advances In Optical Technologies? – “A new research field called transformation optics may usher in a host of radical advances including a cloak of invisibility and ultra-powerful microscopes and computers by harnessing nanotechnology and “metamaterials.”

Einstein’s Relativity Survives Neutrino Test – “Physicists working to disprove “Lorentz invariance” — Einstein’s prediction that matter and massless particles will behave the same no matter how they’re turned or how fast they go — won’t get that satisfaction from muon neutrinos, at least for the time being, says a consortium of scientists.”