Archive for March, 2009

Stupid Bills Trying To Be Passed In The US

Posted in Uncategorized on March 20, 2009 by delivis

1.  This bill would make it illegal to make fun of political candidates in any way. Here are some things it says:

3. A person shall not distribute any campaign material concerning a target candidate with the intent to encourage the recipient of that campaign material to vote against that target candidate, without first … obtaining, in writing, the prior consent of the beneficiary candidate to the distribution of the campaign material.

4. A person shall not distribute any campaign material that contains a cartoon, caricature, or defacement of the personal likeness of a target candidate.

5. A person shall not distribute any campaign material that contains photographs or other depictions of human role playing, except of a candidate who has approved the campaign material.

6. A person shall not distribute any campaign material regarding a vote cast by a target candidate who is a member of a house of the general assembly if a majority of the membership of the house of which the target candidate is a member voted in the same manner as the target candidate and if the majority of those members of that house of the general assembly who are affiliated with the political party which is not the party of the target candidate voted in the same manner as the target candidate.

2. Creationists in Texas are upset that they won’t be allowed to give out degrees in creation science. So here is a new story about what they are trying to do to get around that. They want to make by pass the system and make it so ANY non-profit organization that does not take federal money is able to give out degrees in anything they want. Here are some nice comments i found on this:

From PZ Myers of ScienceBlogs:

If it were to pass, though, I’d like to move to Texas for a few months, open a free daycare, and issue doctoral degrees to every toddler who can go a day without pooping his pants. I’d have the diplomas printed on diapers, too.

A commenter on the blog Pharyngula:

*Rubs hands together*

You know, PZ, if this law does pass, it only allows us to open our private, non-profit “creation research” institutions “in Texas” (let’s make them distance-learning institutions, we’re all busy people here) to grant degrees without the board’s approval, too.

Which means that every legitimate scientist in the world could be automatically granted a degree in Creation Studies! What good would that do? Well, can you imagine the headline, “Overwhelming majority of Creation Scientists accept evolution, reject Designer”?

“Consensus of Creation Scientists for evolution; Dembski stunned”

“Creationists a minority in Creation Studies”

Bwahahaha!

“In scientific stunner, creation scientists reject creation”

I certainly hope neither of these bills get anywhere, but i sure am glad there are people around to put them forth to give the rest of us a laugh.

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Incredible Pictures

Posted in Uncategorized on March 20, 2009 by delivis

Underwater volcanoes are errupting. Check out this great photo set. Nature is very photogenic.

http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2009/03/undersea_eruptions_near_tonga.html

Australia Tries to Censor the Internet

Posted in Uncategorized on March 18, 2009 by delivis

A website was recently threatened with a fine for linking to an anti-abortion website. There is a law in Australia that anyone who links to a blacklisted site (a list that the government compiles and updates, can be fined as much as $11,000 per day!

http://www.techradar.com/news/internet/australia-issues-wikileaks-linking-fine-warning-585894

This is a blatent and stupid attempt to curtail free speech. Shame on you Australia.

You can not stop the signal, you fools!

Grotesque, Ignorant Virgin Gives STD Advice

Posted in Uncategorized on March 18, 2009 by delivis

The Pope recently made some statements which are making a lot of headlines. In case you have not heard, here are some quotes. He says aids is

a tragedy that cannot be overcome by money alone, that cannot be overcome through the distribution of condoms, which can even increase the problem.

For those of you reading this from another planet who may be unaware, the efficacy of condoms to greatly reduce the transmission of STDs is beyond overwhelming and beyond any shadow of scientific doubt.

What is the solution? Abstinence is pretty good, according to the pope, and in addition to that he recommends

spiritual and human awakening and friendship for those who suffer.

<smacks forehead>

Gay people have strange, strange powers over straight people

Posted in Uncategorized on March 18, 2009 by delivis

Maggie Gallagher at the National Review asks us:

Is it mere coincidence that this resurgence in illegitimacy happened during the five years in which gay marriage has become (not thanks to me or my choice) the most prominent marriage issue in America — and the one marriage idea endorsed by the tastemakers to the young in particular?

This is of course nothing more than a stunningly stupid example of confusing correlation with causation.

But let’s assume it is true. Also, let’s ignore the fact that the entire concept of an “ïllegitimate child” is quite anachronistic and that maybe – just maybe – the level of responsibility among parents has not changed and it is simply the case that more long term couples are opting out of marriage.

What is the mechanism by which gay people or advocacy for gay marriage causes heterosexual couples to have more illegitimate kids? Do they just get stressed out and break down every time they hear someone advocating for gay marriage and this leads them to have more unprotected sex before marriage? Did Sarah Palin’s daughter see a news story about the gay marriage debate and got an uncontrollable urge to fuck her boyfriend’s brains out without protection? Or does the act gay men and women having sex itself put out negative psychic vibes that affect the psyche of heterosexual couples in such a way that it causes them to be irresponsible? Feel free to take a stab at this yourselves.

Scientific Literacy in the US

Posted in Uncategorized on March 18, 2009 by delivis

A new study came out. Summary: people are still just as clueless.

Only 53% of adults know how long it takes for the Earth to revolve around the Sun.
Only 59% of adults know that the earliest humans and dinosaurs did not live at the same time.
Only 47% of adults can roughly approximate the percent of the Earth’s surface that is covered with water.
Only 21% of adults answered all three questions correctly.

California Academy of Sciences

A Lesson In Skepticism

Posted in Uncategorized on March 17, 2009 by delivis

A common theme when looking at pseudo-scientific claims is what is called anomaly hunting – this is where people look for anything unusual that they can use to support their existing beliefs without looking for other, usually more plausible, explanations.

When someone recently stumbled upon this while looking at the oceans on Google Earth….

What do you imagine they thought they stumped upon?

Evidence for Atlantis, of course! It is unlikely to be a natural formation with all those straight lines and box shapes. Maybe even if it is not Atlantis it is some old, undiscovered city?

95% of the time, when a conspiracy theorist, or pseudoscientist presents a claim that seems so initially compelling,it has such a mundane explanation lurking just below the surface.

I remember when i first heard the claim from moon hoax theorists that there were no stars in the pictures of the moon landing and by golly they were right! I still doubted their conclusions, but their evidence seemed so strong, undediable almost. Of course, as it turns out, the answer was so blindly simple and obvious that even an amateur photographer would laugh at this quality of this evidence, which, by by the way, constitutes one of their strongest points. In this case it had everything to do with exposure. When you are on a very white surface, and the guy you are photographing is wearing a very white astronaut suit, and you have a big star glaring down on all this white stuff without an atmopshere to dull it, you need a *very* short exposure time or else the picture would just turn all white and your picture would be ruined. The stars did not show up because they are relatively *very* faint objects. And this is the level of evidence they love to work with. This was one of the first lessons i had in skepticism at a young age. The contrast between the apprent strength of the evidence and the obviousness and ease with which an answer could be given by someone who just knew a tiny bit about the subject is still palpable to this day – almost instantly it went from a huge conundrum to a laughable point.

The conundrum provided by the above picture, the seemignly strong evidence for an old, hidden cizilization may seem strong. But the answer, as it usually is, is just as simple.

A couple of weeks ago the image in question got so much attention that Google had to make an official statement about it. It turns out you can find that pattern in many, many places in the oceans as seen on Google Earth. It is an artifact of data collection. It comes from the boats that Google uses to do sonar mapping of the ocean flear. The boats do a <drum roll> grid pattern.