It’s okay to be Takei

May 20, 2011

News From Around The Blogosphere 8.11.10

August 11, 2010

1. ARF is the reason we can’t regrow limbs

A protein called ARF, which acts as a fail-safe mechanism to protect against cancer, also prevents regeneration in mammals, a study published Aug. 6 in Cell Stem Cell suggests. ARF backs up Rb, an important anticancer protein, by limiting the ability of mature cells to divide and replicate. But researchers in California have discovered that blocking ARF and Rb allowed mature muscle cells taken from mice to proliferate, something the cells normally cannot do.The discovery is an important step in learning why mammals, including people, can’t regrow or replace lost limbs and organs the way animals such as salamanders and zebrafish can. Such work may one day lead to new treatments for injuries.

2. Pastor Michael Dowd thanks New Atheists – In a recent sermon, Dowd, who wrote Thank God for Evolution, thanked outspoken atheists for challenging the beliefs of Christians and pushing them to take a critical eye to their own beliefs. You can read the full sermon here (PDF).

3. 25% of Spaniards are without religious affiliation – That’s at least what a new study suggests. And in the U.S., it’s believed that 25% of Millennials are also without religious affiliation, so it seems the U.S. isn’t the only nation showing a rise in godlessness.

"Fuckin' bullshit! I had to wait 8 years for that shit!"

4. A robot to detect and express emotions

A team of programmers at Hertfordshire University have created Nao, a robot that detects and expresses emotions and is capable of forming bonds with people.

Dr Michio Kaku is a leading physicist and futurologist.

24th century technology

21st century technology

4. How Star Trek art directors designed the iPad 23 years ago?

“The initial motivation for that was in fact cost,” Okuda explained. “Doing it purely as a graphic was considerably less expensive than buying electronic components. But very quickly we began to realize—as we figured out how these things would work and how someone would operate them, people would come to me and say, ‘What happens if I need to do this?’ Perhaps it was some action I hadn’t thought of, and we didn’t have a specific control for that. And I realized the proper answer to that was, ‘It’s in the software.’ All the things we needed could be software-definable.”

5. Andrew Morton writes worst book of 21st century – Awhile back, I probably wrote a blurb or two about Andrew Morton’s unauthorized biography of Tom Cruise, a book I’d never actually read but felt inclined to support due to its focus on his $cientology life. That was perhaps premature as Morton has just come out with a new biography on Angelina Jolie that is apparently so atrocious in its content and constant citing of unnamed sources that it led one critic to dub it the worst book of the century, so far. Ouch.

6. Freedom from Religion Foundation puts up 20 billboards in Florida -And for once, I actually like them all.

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News From Around The Blogosphere 12.29.09

December 29, 2009

1. Some of the biggest science stories of the year – Steve Novella briefly discusses Ardipithecus, Darwinius masillae, the Large Hadron Collider, water on the moon, the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, and methane on Mars.

2. Scientists working on making Star Trek’s synthehol a reality – According to controversial neuropsychopharmacologist David Nutt, soon people may be drinking a non-addictive alcohol substitute that allows drinkers to experience the effects of alcohol while having the means to “switch off” those effects by taking a pill.

3. What the Illinois gobernatorial candidates think of Evolution – Wow, this is depressing. Despite no mention of religion in the question, all but one found it necessary to reference their religious views. What the hell does that have to do with accepting basic scientific facts? And Dan Hynes, the one that didn’t mention religion and answered with a clear, concise, unambiguous ““I accept the theory of evolution,” is also the only candidate who supports marriage equality. Unless Hynes wins it, it looks like Illinois is doomed with either an idiot religious wackjob or a chickenshit religious panderer for the next couple of years.

4. Molars further elaborate on ape-to-human evolution

The timing of molar emergence and its relation to growth and reproduction in apes is being reported by two scientists at Arizona State University’s Institute of Human Origins in the Dec. 28 online early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

5. Cockroaches inspire future robot design

The sight of a cockroach scurrying for cover may be nauseating, but the insect is also a biological and engineering marvel, and is providing researchers at Oregon State University with what they call “bioinspiration” in a quest to build the world’s first legged robot that is capable of running effortlessly over rough terrain.

Does Star Trek discourage women from becoming computer scientists?

December 18, 2009

A new study suggests that yes, Star Trek may contribute to the gender gap found in the field of computer science. The reason seems to be that it reinforces the stereotype that computer scientists are nerdy losers:

“What this research shows is that the image of computer science — this geeky, masculine image — can make women feel like they don’t belong,” says lead author Sapna Cheryan of the University of Washington.

I would also personally put the show The Big Bang Theory on the list of shows discouraging women from getting into science, because from the limited viewing I’ve seen, the show blatantly reinforces these outdated gender stereotypes.

Fortunately, it looks like the culture is changing and being nerdy and geeky are becoming the thing more and more people actually aspire to, especially women as it’s becoming more and more widely known that men dig nerdy or geeky women, especially hot, nerdy or geeky women. In fact, as George Hrab points out in his song, “brainsbodyboth,” a woman who’s both smart and sexy is a pretty unbeatable combination. And of course the women at Skepchick are doing a great job of promoting a positive image of smart women.

Intelligence is sexy.

News From Around The Blogosphere 10.28.09

October 29, 2009

1. Obama Administration slams U.N. anti-blasphemy position

The Obama administration on Monday came out strongly against efforts by Islamic nations to bar the defamation of religions, saying the moves would restrict free speech.

“Some claim that the best way to protect the freedom of religion is to implement so-called anti-defamation policies that would restrict freedom of expression and the freedom of religion,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told reporters. “I strongly disagree.”

2. Did the anti-vaccinationists convert Star Trek’s Data? – Oh, please tell me it isn’t true. Apparently, actor Brent Spiner tweeted that he was a fan of Jay Gordon and when asked if he was an anti-vaccinationist, here was his tweeted response:

RT @SusietheGeek @BrentSpiner Are you an antivaxxer–Not completely. But it’s worth investigating before letting drug cos. bamboozle us.

No, don’t do it, Data!! Don’t be assimilated! Resistence is not futile!

3. Help the Center For Inquiry educate our legislators – CFI is fighting to keep religion and quackery out of health care reform and they need your help.

Star Trek made him an atheist

July 3, 2009

I came across this great article that was linked to by Friendly Atheist and thought it was worth sharing. The writer discusses the atheist and humanist messages that have almost always been a huge part of Star Trek, and how Star Trek influenced his own atheism. In the article, he largely focuses on the common Star Trek theme of gods turning out to be just deeply flawed aliens. Two particular TNG episodes that I think were left out of the article were “Who Watches The Watchers” and “Devil’s Due.”

I do disagree on a few points. Namely, I think Voyager sucked, that DS9 wasn’t always easy on religion, and I can’t believe there was no mention of Star Trek V, which is CRIMINALLY UNDERRATED, especially within the context of a discussion about Star Trek and religion.

Let me take a moment to defend Deep Space 9. First of all, the main religious leader of the Bajoran people (basically their pope) was almost always treated as an opportunistic villain throughout the series. Second, like with the “gods” of previous Star Trek series, the Bajoran Prophets were nothing but an advanced alien race. And in the first season finale of that series, religious fanatics blew up a school because they thought their beliefs were being threatened when the teacher taught the secular, scientific interpretation that “The Prophets” were just “warm hole aliens.”

And with regards to Star Trek V, I frequently cite 3 quotes when debating with the religious. The first is:

“What does God need with a starship?”

Though I usually replace the word “starship” with something more appropriate to the discussion like, “What does God need with a blood sacrifice, etc?” Borrowing from IMDB, here’s the entire context of the excerpt, which concludes with my second favorite quote from the movie, uttered by Dr. McCoy:

Kirk: What does God need with a starship?
McCoy: Jim, what are you doing?
Kirk: I’m asking a question.
“God”: Who is this creature?
Kirk: Who am I? Don’t you know? Aren’t you God?
Sybok: He has his doubts.
“God”: You doubt me?
Kirk: I seek proof.
McCoy: Jim! You don’t ask the Almighty for his ID!
“God”: Then here is the proof you seek.
[Hits Kirk with lightning]
Kirk: Why is God angry?
Sybok: Why? Why have you done this to my friend?
“God”: He doubts me.
Spock: You have not answered his question. What does God need with a starship?
“God”: [hits Spock with lightning; then addresses McCoy] Do you doubt me?
McCoy: I doubt any God who inflicts pain for his own pleasure.

And the last quote I often use from this film is uttered by Captain Kirk within this exchange:

McCoy: We were speculating. Is God really out there?
Kirk: Maybe he’s not out there, Bones. Maybe he’s right here.
[points to his heart]
Kirk: Human heart.

It’s also worth noting that in addition to Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry being an atheist (or humanist), William Shatner shared story credit on Star Trek V. And Shatner too is an atheist:

“I’ve always had sort of an ironic view of life,” the 75-year-old Shatner said. “My belief system is that when this is over, it’s over. That you don’t look down from heaven and wait for your loved ones to join you. There may be some soul activity, but I’m not sure about that. But what I am sure about is that your molecules continue and in due time become something else. That’s science.”

Age of Autism illustrates how not anti-vaccine they are

May 11, 2009

One of the most common thing you’ll hear anti-vaccinationists say is that they’re being misrepresented by their critics and that they’re not anti-vaccine. One of the more amusing examples was during the recent Australian news segment I blogged about a week or 2 ago, where an anti-vaccine doctor denied being anti-vaccine before it was pointed out that she hasn’t vaccinated a single patient for anything in somewhere in the range of 2 decades.

Well, here’s both an example of how anti-vaccine these people really are as well as an example of how immature and utterly desperate they are to grasp at any straw within reach. Age of Autism actually blogged their praise for a comedic scene in the new Star Trek movie where Kirk has a slight unintended side effect from vaccines that cause his hands and tongue to briefly become swollen.

As much as I hate to disappoint Age of Autism, I don’t think J.J. Abrams intends to make Captain Kirk autistic in the next movie in the series. This is utterly ridiculous. There’s nothing in this scene resembling support for Age of Autism’s official position that they’re not anti-vaccine but about allegedly stopping vaccines from magically transforming people into autistics. If this isn’t the most childish reveal of their true agenda to undermine vaccines at all cost, I don’t know what is. And such a position is, as Spock would say, not logical. And as Worf would say, “you cannot regain honor by acting dishonorably.”

To Kim Stagliano, who wrote the article, and to all those at Age of Autism who thought the article was fit to print, just admit you’re anti-vaccine and GROW THE FUCK UP!

Damn it, Kim! You’re a laymen, not a doctor!