The Watering Hole, Saturday, March 22, 2014: Will Creationists Never Get It?

In case you didn’t already know, I’m an Atheist, and happy and proud to be one. I believe that our portion of the Space-Time Continuum came into being as the result of a Big bang, an explosion of matter and energy that rapidly expanded, and eventually formed the many, many galaxies of which our own is just one. I said “Space-Time Continuum” instead of “Universe” because I believe there are many, many Universes, spread far apart from one another. The Space-Time Continuum is just the framework within which everything happened, happens, and will happen. It is infinite in size, and infinite in time. It has always existed and it will always exist, but the matter and energy within it will constantly change. It was not brought into existence by anything, it was already there. Matter and energy may be turned into each other, but the infinite framework will still be there. Many religions that believe in a God have a Creation Myth. The one in the Christian Bible is not the only one, but that’s the one that religious conservatives want to see imposed on everyone. Their Creation Myth begins with three simple words, “In the beginning…” And that’s where the Bible and I part company. Because as far as I’m concerned, there was no beginning. People erroneously believe there MUST have been a First Cause, some kind of Force that brought everything into existence. I disagree. You want to tell me that the Space-Time Continuum Framework was entirely empty before some kind of Deity decided to start making stuff in it? For how long must that Deity, that all-powerful, all-knowing, all-seeing Deity, have sat around in a whole bunch of Nothingness? That makes absolutely no sense at all. None. What makes much more sense is that there was no beginning, that it was always there in some form or another. And it will still be there long after we all turn to star dust. Wouldn’t that imply that Life has no purpose? Yeah, but so what? In the wise words of Peter Falk in The Princess Bride, “Who said Life is fair?”

Which brings us to the Creationists of Answers In Genesis. They still don’t understand the concept of Science. They’re upset because Neil deGrasse Tyson, host of the revival of “Cosmos,” won’t allow “balance” and present the view of the anti-Evolutionists. They seem to think that any effort to educate the public about things like the Truth, using such controversial tactics as citing Facts, must be balanced by teaching things what could only be described as “Falsehoods” and “Lies.” They seem to think that young people should be taught all points of view, no matter how absurd or demonstrably false, and then let them “decide” what they want to believe. This is how you raise a generation of stupid people. And stupid people tend to be conservative in their thinking (a well-documented fact), and stupid, I mean, conservative, in their voting. This has always been part of the long term strategy of the Right. People who don’t understand how Science works, who think that every point of view is valid, tend to be easily manipulated emotionally into being afraid. And people who are afraid make bad decisions, like voting for Conservatives to govern them. Which is why the Conservatives let the Religious Right have their way, no matter how wrong, no matter how intellectually void of merit their ideas, no matter how unconstitutional their proposed legislation.

Creationists continue to insist that their views be given equal weight with Scientific viewpoints and Theories. But there is absolutely nothing scientific about Creationism or Intelligent Design. They start with the premise that God exists, and assume that anything that isn’t understood is the Will of God and Not For Mere Mortals to Understand. That is not Science. How can you test any hypothesis when you hope the result is that you can’t discern the answer, so it must be God’s work? Even more, Creationism isn’t even a true Theory in the scientific sense. It’s nothing more than a belief that things happened a certain way, on the whim and time scale of a Power we can’t hope to understand, with no allowance for any belief otherwise. Why should that be given equal weight with the culmination of hundreds of years of scientific discipline and pursuit of the Truth? Especially when it’s been long proven that the Religious views on the nature of the Universe have been proven wrong time and again? The Sun does not revolve around the Earth. The Earth is not the center of the galaxy, let alone the Universe. We are no more important in the Grand Scheme of Things than the people living on a planet circling Alpha Centauri. And they probably think the same thing about us. And you know what? We’re both right.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss Creationism, real Science, Cosmos, Neil deGrasse Tyson, or anything else about Neil deGrasse Tyson that you like.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, March 8, 2014: Forward March

We used to say, “Spring Forward, Fall Back” to help us remember which way to change our clocks during our semi-annual, Unnecessary Activity of the Year. But we no longer change clocks in the Spring, we do it a couple of weeks earlier. So now we might as well say, “Forward March, Fall Down.” But why do we even bother to do it? Whose brilliant idea was it? Does it even do what it’s supposed to do? Is there a better way?

The answers are: Supposedly, to save energy. Ben Franklin, sort of. That depends on where you live and what you wanted it to do. Yes, yes there is.

Save Your Energy
According to a great article in National Geographic, it’s supposed to save on energy, but the results are mixed on that. In some states Continue reading

The Watering Hole, Saturday, March 1, 2014: Time Check

With a week to go until the unnecessary onset of Daylight Savings Time (we’ll talk about that next Saturday), it may have crossed your mind to wonder just how your smart phone knows what time it is. After all, it probably came out of the package knowing the time and date, and you didn’t do that. (I don’t know how they look when you get them, because I don’t own a smart phone, or anything like it, and likely never will.) Dr. Demetrios Matsakis, Chief Scientist for United States Naval Observatory’s Time Services, explains how in this fascinating video.

None of this would be possible, of course, if not for Science, the vigorously-tested, well-documented study of how things work, and how they can theoretically be made to work better. Without a strong foundation in Science, Humanity cannot face the problems our planet, and our species, will endure. The overall average temperature of the planet is slowly rising. Most of the ten hottest years on record have been within the last ten years. This is undeniable. It is also undeniable that human activity (specifically, but not limited to, the excessive burning of fossil fuels) is a contributing factor to this very real warming trend. Those of you out there who’ve been paying attention understand the ripple effect a warming atmosphere has on the climate, and how it changes the weather to certain parts of the globe. It’s a problem all of Humanity must face, not just Americans. But the United States must be a leader in confronting these facts. The climate is changing, and denying that this is so is not being a part of the solution, it’s being an asshole.

So it doesn’t help that the Republicans have make a mockery of Science by appointing to the Science Committees in both Houses people who do not believe in Science. One of them, Dr. Paul Broun, an alleged doctor, and a potential future Senator, once called Evolution (among other things), “…lies straight from the pit of Hell.” Senator James Inhofe thankfully doesn’t sit on the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, but he does sit on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, from which he published his own argument that while the climate is indeed changing, as it often has, he says

Today, even saying there is scientific disagreement over global warming is itself controversial. But anyone who pays even cursory attention to the issue understands that scientists vigorously disagree over whether human activities are responsible for global warming, or whether those activities will precipitate apocalyptic natural

In all fairness, it should be noted that he receives a lot of campaign financing from the oil and gas industry, just in case you thought his opinion was arrived at intellectually. He’s also one of those folks who think that humans couldn’t possibly be destroying the planet because God promised us after the Great Flood that he wouldn’t destroy the planet again. He doesn’t seem to understand that humans can destroy the planet without the help of any gods.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss anything you want.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, February 8, 2014: Why Republican Religiosity is Wrong

According to my dictionary, the definition of “fact” is

n. 1. the quality of existing or of being real; actuality; truth.
2. something known to exist or have happened.
3. a truth known by actual experience or observation.

Facts are important. When Reality offers a challenge, you must deal with facts if you’re going to solve the problem. You can’t solve a real problem if you ignore the facts, or worse, try to act as if the opposite were true. Now look at the definition of “belief”:

n. 1. something believed; an opinion or conviction.
2. confidence in the truth or existence of something not immediately susceptible to vigorous proof.
3. confidence, faith, or trust.
4. a religious tenet or tenets

Notice the difference between these two words. Facts have the quality of being real and actual, where beliefs do not require any reality or actuality. You can believe something with all your heart but it won’t make it a fact if it’s not actually true. Beliefs can be wrong (and often are), but facts, by their very definition, cannot be wrong, because they are what is true, what actually happened. When it comes to education, you cannot treat belief as equal to fact. You cannot give an opinion or conviction equal weight with something real, actual or true. It may, in the long run, turn out that what someone believes is true, but that doesn’t justify teaching it as an actual fact, reliable as anything based on scientific evidence or experiment. Just because you believe something to be true, it doesn’t mean everyone else should be taught your belief as it were an actual fact. Especially, and I cannot emphasize this enough, if your belief is a religious one.

There are many Americans (far, far too many, IMHO) who believe that The Bible is factually true, that it is literally the Word of God, and that it should be taught in public schools. I have yet to hear any of these proponents specify which version of the Bible should be considered “The” Bible, and this, in itself, is problematic for me. Not so much that people can’t decide which version of the Bible they want taught in public schools, but that there are so many versions of the “literal Word of God” in the first place from which a choice must be made. They’re all different in some way or else there wouldn’t be different versions. But how can any one of them claim to be the literal Word of God if they differ? And just because King James I commissioned a new version of The Bible which he hoped would replace the one then currently in widespread use, why should that version be given any more credibility than any other version? It’s not because the King said so, as James did not make any order or proclamation that this version of The Bible be used in place of any other. It might interest you to know that the Geneva Bible, the one eventually supplanted by the KJV, was even more popular among the Pilgrims than the KJV. So when enthusiastic Conservative Christians claim America was founded on the principles of “The Bible,” it’s important to know which version they mean. But I digress.

In Missouri, Republicans want belief to be given equal authority to fact. A second-term State Representative, Rick Brattin (R-Harrisonville), has introduced a bill that would allow parents to pull their children out of classes where evolution is being taught. “What my bill would do is it would allow parents to opt out of natural selection teaching,” Brattin explained. “It would not prohibit the child from going through biology from learning about cell structure, DNA and the building blocks of life.” Mr. Brattin has been trying for several years to get Intelligent Design taught in high school science classes as an alternative theory to Darwin’s theories about Natural Selection. This despite the fact (there’s that important word) that courts have consistently ruled against public schools teaching Intelligent Design as Science because it’s nothing more than Creationism dressed up in a sexier framework. [A quick word about Natural Selection. Its advocacy of "survival of the fittest" does not, as its opponents often say, mean "survival of the strongest." Rather it means survival of the species most suited - i.e., "fit" - for a given environment. If the edible leaves on the plants are higher up on the tree, the species that can reach them are more likely to survive and pass on their physical characteristics to their offspring than the ones who can't reach them as easily. It has nothing to do with strength, but with suitability to one's environment. The species that thrive, survive, and the ones that don't, won't.]

No matter how they try to disguise it, Intelligent Design is nothing more than Creationism, and Creationism is nothing but Religion, and Christianity in particular. And it’s a violation of the First Amendment to require publicly financed schools to adhere to any particular religion, even Christianity. It doesn’t matter that it’s the most popular religion in the United States, it’s still a religion and it still violates the Separation of Church and State to endorse any one over the other. You might believe it’s true, but you can’t prove it through any scientific methods, and that’s the primary reason it has no place in a Science class room. Evolution, on the other hand, has testable hypotheses and is constantly being confirmed by new findings and evidence. If you have to infect the minds of the young with something as ridiculous as Intelligent Design (its main argument seems to be that you can’t prove it’s wrong, and the fact that you can’t explain every aspect of Evolution somehow proves that Intelligent Design is right, as if the only two choices were a 100% understanding of everything that ever happened or blind acceptance that a God designed and made everything and that this is the reason you can’t understand it), then a Philosophy or Religion or Study Hall class might be the more appropriate place. But you do not teach Creationism as Science when it is anything but. People should be free to believe it if they wish (though they’re wasting their time and lives doing so), but it shouldn’t be public policy that every child in school be taught that this particular Religion is as true as Science.

But if you think that the Science class is the only place where Republican Christians want their religious beliefs to decide all aspects of our lives, think again. Not only does Mary Helen Sears of Houghton Count, Michigan, claim that Darwin’s evolutionary theory “gave rise to Hitler’s Third Reich, Mussolini’s Italy and Stalin’s Russia,” but she also believes homosexuals prey on children, that “Satan uses homosexuality to attack the living space of the Holy Spirit” and that Republicans “as a party should be purging this perversion and send them to a party with a much bigger tent.” Why does it matter what she thinks? Because she’s a candidate for a Michigan seat in the Republican National Committee. And she would join a man the party chairman asked to resign “for the good of the party” for his anti-gay comments. He would not do so, and due to specific party rules about representation on the national committee, a seat for only a woman was opened when a woman on the committee stepped down to concentrate on her Senate campaign. The funny thing about this anti-homosexual strain in today’s GOP is that there is no universal agreement on whether not the Bible bans homosexuality. Listening to the anti-gay crowd, you’d think the Bible was filled cover-to-cover with anti-homosexual pronouncements, but in truth there are only seven passages in the Bible that mention the subject, and not one of them is associated with Jesus! (Nor Satan, for that matter.) Why these folks think the Bible is more concerned with male homosexuality (lesbianism is not actually condemned outright anywhere in the Bible) than it is with income inequality or helping the poor is beyond me, and it is dangerous for America if they are given any kind of political power. Having your opinion influenced by Biblical teachings (whatever they may be) is one thing, but having those beliefs carved in stone by them is something altogether different. And it’s dangerous for Americans to put people who think this way in positions of political power in the secular United States of America.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss anything you want.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, November 9, 2013: Nothing To Worry About

Sometime over this weekend, or early next week, a one-ton satellite will come crashing to Earth. Where it will land is unknown right now. It could be in the middle of Central Park in New York City, or maybe it will come down onto an elementary school in Los Angeles, or maybe it will come down on your house. Despite how frightening any of those scenarios may sound, I wouldn’t worry about it if I were you. It’s only a ton. And it’s not like the whole thing is going to come down on any one spot. It’s going to come down on 35 spots, give or take ten. Still, a whole ton and there’s nothing to worry about? Yes.

You see, in the grand scheme of things, a ton of something crashing down towards Earth really is nothing. According to Cornell University’s Ask an Astronomer webpage, a total of anywhere from 37,000 to 78,000 tons of materials fall from thje sky every year in the form of meteorites. That’s roughly 100-200 tons per day! One more ton on top of that would just be adding about 0.5-1% more. Like I said, nothing to worry about.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss satellites, meteorites, the Tea Party, or anything else that might come crashing down to Earth. This is your open thread.

The Watering Hole, Monday, September 9, 2013: The Bible Is Not Science

David Rives, of David Rives Ministries, was a guest on a program called “Creation Today” just this past Friday, and he made the claim that The Big Bang Theory about the creation of the Universe is “bad science” because it contradicts The Bible. This is literally, of course, complete nonsense. You cannot presuppose that the Bible is 100% accurate simply because it declares itself to be, and then argue that anything that contradicts the Bible cannot possibly be accurate. There is no reason or sense to the claims of the Bible where the creation of the Universe is concerned. Take the stars. Rives, who claims to be an astronomer, also claims that all the stars we see in the Universe were created at once. And how does he know this? Because the Bible says so. It says they were all created on the fourth day. Therefore, any science that says otherwise is “bad science.” You’ve seen the pictures of the Eagle Nebula, the one that includes the famous Gaseous Pillars. Scientists (real ones) say that what you are seeing are new stars being formed. David Rives says that can’t be possible because it contradicts the Bible’s assertion that all the stars were created on one day. He says what you’re really seeing is clouds moving and revealing a star that was there all along. Go ahead, watch him say it.

Rives confront the question anyone would ask someone who claims the Earth is but six thousand years old, “How do you explain the stars being millions of light years away if the Universe is only six thousand years old?” Rives gives half an explanation for why this is. He claims that gravity affects time, therefore light moves at different speeds as it’s affected by the varying Force of Gravity throughout the Universe. Now, I would stop him right there and call “Bullshit!” And it’s not because his science is necessarily wrong or incomplete, since velocity also affects time for an object, but because he’s talking about Gravity, a concept that did not exist in the Bible. And you can’t study Astronomy if you don’t know anything about Gravity. But the Bible does not say anything about Gravity, so Gravity must be “bad science.”

You can’t make the claim that all of Science is wrong if it contradicts YOUR personal axioms. You can’t claim that no empirical proof of your axiom is possible because any result that contradicts the Bible must inherently be wrong. There are many places where the Bible contradicts itself, so it can’t possibly be taken as the unquestioned truth. Nor can any “logical proof” be derived from it that isn’t flawed because of its internal inconsistencies. Which means it cannot possibly be the truth. I wish they would learn that.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss Religion, Science, Religion v. Science, or anything else you wish to discuss.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, August 31, 2013: The Naked Greenland

Just when you thought you knew what your planet looked like, along comes a surprise – there’s another canyon on our planet that rivals our own Grand Canyon. It’s in Greenland, and it was discovered by scientists using ice-penetrating radar and decades of data.

The canyon has the characteristics of a winding river channel and is at least 460 miles (750 kilometers) long, making it longer than the Grand Canyon. In some places, it is as deep as 2,600 feet (800 meters), on scale with segments of the Grand Canyon. This immense feature is thought to predate the ice sheet that has covered Greenland for the last few million years.

The scientists used thousands of miles of airborne radar data, collected by NASA and researchers from the United Kingdom and Germany over several decades, to piece together the landscape lying beneath the Greenland ice sheet.

As beautiful as I’m sure it looks, my fear is that we’ll be able to see what the canyon looks like, with the naked eye, in our lifetimes. Well, not the people living on the Eastern coast.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss canyons are any other topic you wish. And if you’re currently enjoying a three-day holiday weekend, you can thank Unions for that.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, August 24, 2013: Weird Spiders

While searching for a topic for this week’s post, I happened across a fascinating collection of weird spiders. Some of them are jaw-droppingly amazing. One has evolved to look just like a ladybug, not known for being tasty. Another could easily be mistaken for a common red ant. (Count the legs.) All of the spiders in that particular gallery are small, below five centimeters (two inches) in diameter. Many times, the writers say they wish the spider in question were bigger. Other times they’re grateful the spider isn’t one the size of your face. I recommend you check out the link. The writers have a great sense of humor and the pictures, the work of Nicky Bay, are incredible.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss spiders or any other creature with whom you may have once inadvertently spent a night.

The Watering Hole – Saturday, March 16, 2013: At The Speed of Light

In an interview with StarTalk Radio host Chuck Nice, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson explained why photons (the particles that carry light) exist outside of time. “…As you increase your speed, time ticks more slowly for you than it does for anyone who is watching you,” he said on StarTalk Radio. “This is the relativity of time. This is well known. We have measured this. It is not just your clock that is clicking slower, your metabolism is unfolding more slowly, your brain synapses are firing more slowly, everything about you is slowing down.”

“Photons, which is the carrier of light, exists at the speed of light. It doesn’t accelerate from zero to speed of light in 3.4 seconds. It exists at the speed of light, and because of it exists at the speed of light, any watch that it is carrying never ticks, which means if you are the photon… you will slam into whatever you are destined to hit, as far as you are concerned, instantaneously.”

He went on to explain that they know neutrinos travel slower than the speed of light because they change states between two different kinds of neutrinos, which would only be possible if neutrinos experienced the passage of time. Just thought I’d blow your mind for a change.

This is our Daily Open Thread. Feel free to discuss Relativity, photons, Neil deGrasse Tyson, or anything else you want to discuss. The Zoo is timeless, like a photon.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, February 16, 2013: Keep Watching the Skies!

Yesterday, and be thankful to Whomever or Whatever you believe in that we can start with that word, a large asteroid given the ever so endearing name 2012 DA14 (don’t you want to adopt one?) passed within about 17,000 miles of the Earth. We have satellites orbiting at about 22,237 miles (approximately 35,787 km) above mean sea level. [Thank you, Arthur C. Clarke, for figuring that out for us.] This asteroid passed (yes, past tense!) closer to us than that. It didn’t hit anything as it passed by, but that is really just a matter of luck, no matter how you believe the Universe works. You may be thinking, “So what? It missed us, right? What’s the problem?” Think of it this way: It missed us by fifteen minutes. As famed Science Guy Bill Nye explains, that’s not the one you should be worried about. For every one of these large asteroids that they’ve been able to find, it is estimated there are 99 that that haven’t been found yet.

But just as much a matter of luck was the meteorite that came crashing down in Chelyabinsk, Russia that same day. [BTW, that link you just passed has some fascinating information in it, including an explanation of the difference between a meteor and an asteroid. Check it out.] Due to some kind of fad or obsession among the Russian people (official motto, “Screw you, Life, we’re still here!”), there are a lot of people driving around with dashboard cameras. It has something to do with insurance claims, or maybe encounters with the police, or maybe even to catch a meteorite flashing across the sky in front of you.

And, because it crashed into Russia, there were the inevitable comparisons to the Tunguska Event. And that’s where I start to get worried. Because they’re talking about a once-in-a-hundred-years event that hasn’t happened in more than one hundred years!

Good night, now. Go to sleep. ;)

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss asteroids, meteorites, conspiracy theories, or any other topic you wish.

Sunday Roast: February 10, 2013 – Reading List

Good Morning, All. And shhhhhh… them wolfies are asleep, so read in silence and tell us what you think in comments, but shhhhhh…


WITH the financial crisis over and the recovery gaining momentum, one big piece of unfinished economic business hangs over Barack Obama’s second term: arresting the relentless rise in America’s already sky-high debt. He is turning to the task with what seems an improbable claim: that the job is closer to completion than people appreciate. (read on)

More Economy:

Do we have a solid economic recovery underway? (read more)

Austerity sucks:

The debt crisis is finally catching up with wind energy, once a fast-growing sector in Europe. After more than a decade of double-digit growth, austerity, rapidly changing energy policies and skittish investors are putting a damper on the industry. (read more)


We’ve only just wiped the sweat from our brow following the averted Mayan apocalypse, but already news is spreading of another impending doom; and this one even has actual science behind it. (read more)


Wine is constant proof that God loves us and loves to see us happy.Benjamin Franklin 

This is our Open Thread, Add your wisdom!

Brave Little Rodent – UPDATED

First of all, I have great respect for any species that can live and survive in the desert environment.  It must be a tough existence.

Here’s a link to a story about a mouse that lives in the desert, eats scorpions, and then howls at the moon.  Be sure to click on the link to the audio track that is embedded in the story.

Scientists are interested in this mouse.  It seems that there is a genetic component that prevents this mouse from experiencing pain.

In humans, Rowe says, mutations in Nav1.7 cause a syndrome called erythromelalgia. In this disease, a characteristic burning pain in the feet and hands crops up spontaneously. The researchers are now attempting to figure out exactly how the mouse’s mutation in Nav1.8 blocks pain signals, to see if it could help design a new kind of pain killer.

Our pain receptors are a means by which our body tells us that something is dangerous.  In some cases, it’s best not to feel the pain because it is “phantom pain” and it serves no purpose other than to annoy us.

UPDATED:  I found a video about this mouse.  We can hear it “howl at the moon”.

The Watering Hole: December 14 — Obamadon


Guess who has a dinosaur named after him?  You’re right — President Obama!  Wow, you’re good guessers.

In the picture, Obamadon is the cute one in the foreground.  I think the other one is John McCain, screaming at Obamadon to get off his rock.


The lizard sized dinosaur is thought to have lived on insects, and was small in stature in comparison to other known behemoths. Researchers say that the dinosaur’s size is not in anyway a political reference. The name Obamadon was chosen due to the lizard’s tall, straight teeth. According to sci-news.comPaleontologist Nick Longrich said, “Obama has these tall, straight incisors and a great smile.”

Interestingly enough, our President has a fish and a fungus named for him as well:

Obamadon is not the first organism to be named after Obama. Other researchers have given his name to Etheostoma obama, the spangled darter or “Obamafish”, and the fungus Caloplaca obamae.

It’s nice to have a President who is so well-respected, although George W. Bush also had something named after him…

While in office President George W. Bush also had something named after him, the “agathidium bushi“; a slime-mold beetle.

You had to see that one coming.  :)

This is our daily open thread — It’s Friday, Obamadonbots!

The Watering Hole: December 7 — Star Talk

I could listen to Alan Rickman speak for the rest of my life, and I think it’s safe to say most of the ladies women of the Zoo would concur.  Rawr…

I enjoy my nerdy geeks, but this clip is a bit nerdy geek heavy, and Alan Rickman light.  Boo.  I almost used my standard Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves tactic of fast-forwarding through everything that isn’t Alan Rickman or Morgan Freeman, but I resisted.  :)  Anyhoo, I love Alan all the more, because he can talk and think about things other than his latest film.  Who’s with me on this one?

HT to someone on the Zoo who posted this clip in comments earlier this week — sorry I don’t remember who!

This is our daily open thread — How is it Friday again…?

The Watering Hole: Saturday, October 27, 2012 – Will We See The Next Frankenstorm Coming?

In case you hadn’t heard, there’s a possibility of a storm even worse than the Perfect Storm of 1991 hitting the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast next week. Dubbed a “Frankenstorm”, it could be the result of a huge hurricane striking the coast at the same time a cold front moves in from across the country. And while weather prediction is still not a perfect science, our satellites have made it possible to see and track massive storms like Hurricane Sandy. But there’s a very real danger that we could have to spend a year or more without this satellite coverage.

The fleet of weather satellites in service is at or past their life expectancy already. Unfortunately, due to mismanagement and bad planning, the launch of the next set of replacements satellites may not happen until 2017. We could be facing a one-year-or-longer gap in the kind of critical satellite coverage needed to save lives. If another huge hurricane forms and threatens to meet another massive cold front, we may not see it coming. And it’s no comfort to think that the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology could still be controlled by ignorant, Science-hating Republicans. The truly sad part is that distrust in Science is not limited to the less-educated conservatives. Even conservatives with college degrees don’t trust Science.

Every four years they say that this election is the most important one of your life, and that’s become more and more valid in recent years. The Republican Party, in its never-ending quest to deny Reality, actually appoints people to the House Science Committee who have no business opening their pie holes on the subject of Science, let alone making law on it. People like Rep Todd Akin, famous for giving us the current term “legitimate rape” (and who is still being given money by right-wing groups) and for publicly denying that Evolution is real, and Rep Paul Broun, a physician(!), who called Evolution, Embryology and the Big Bang Theory “lies straight from the pit of hell.” And they’re not the only ones. These are not people who see the value in Science, so why are they allowed to make legislation regarding it?

If our nation’s great experiment in Democracy is going to work, if we truly want to be a beacon of hope to the rest of the world, we have to vote out people who do nothing to make that happen. These Republicans are a joke, and they should be on the unemployment line not getting the benefits they always vote to cut. I urge everyone to vote and to vote for your own best interests for a change. And your best interests are served by showing the GOP the door.

This is our open thread. Feel free to discuss the upcoming storm, the ignorant Republicans, or any other topic you wish.

[Cross posted at Pick Wayne's Brain]

The Watering Hole – Saturday, October 6, 2012 – Republican Denial of Reality

Rep. Paul Broun, M.D. (R-GA) is member of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. At a recent banquet in Georgia, Rep. Broun had this to say: [WARNING: The following transcript and video may precipitate an episode of irritable bowel syndrome.]

From Rep. Paul Broun’s (R-GA) remarks at the Liberty Baptist Church Sportsman’s Banquet on September 27, 2012, in Hartwell, Georgia:

BROUN: God’s word is true. I’ve come to understand that. All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and the Big Bang Theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of Hell. And it’s lies to try to keep me and all the folks who were taught that from understanding that they need a savior. You see, there are a lot of scientific data that I’ve found out as a scientist that actually show that this is really a young Earth. I don’t believe that the Earth’s but about 9,000 years old. I believe it was created in six days as we know them. That’s what the Bible says.

And what I’ve come to learn is that it’s the manufacturer’s handbook, is what I call it. It teaches us how to run our lives individually, how to run our families, how to run our churches. But it teaches us how to run all of public policy and everything in society. And that’s the reason as your congressman I hold the Holy Bible as being the major directions to me of how I vote in Washington, D.C., and I’ll continue to do that.

Rep W. Todd Akin (R-MO), a candidate for the U.S. Senate running against Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), is another member of this committee. Rep. Akin rose to national attention when he brought the phrase “legitimate rape” into the political conversation. One could call it a public service since it helped bring attention to the well-documented Republican War on Women. [In Arizona, Gov Jan Brewer signed into law a bill that could declare a women pregnant before she even had intercourse.]

Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) refuses to believe that man-made Global Warming is happening. He prefers to think that solar flares are contributing more to the problem than Man.

This is just a sampling of the way Republicans approach their Constitutional responsibilities to govern. They choose people to write legislation on topics they deny need regulating, in order to to solve critical life-threatening problems they deny exist. They refuse to accept the facts as proven by scientists and prefer to write scientific legislation based on their Biblical beliefs. These people are, by definition, unqualified to sit on any committee with the word “Science” in its name. Until the Republican Party begins choosing qualified people to sit on committees overseeing various areas of our lives, they should have no voice on any legislation writing body. They can vote against the bills when they come to a floor vote, but they should be the authors of none of them.

This is our Daily Open Thread. Feel free to discuss this or any other topic you’d like to bring up. It’s okay. We’re open-minded people here. :)

[Cross-posted at Pick Wayne's Brain.]

The Watering Hole – Saturday, August 25, 2012 – Keep the Kids Out of This

Bill Nye, the Science Guy (@TheScienceGuy), has a video out called “Creationism Is Not Appropriate For Children.” It was put out for This week’s hat tip goes to LGF.:

Denial of evolution is unique to the United States. I mean, we’re the world’s most advanced technological—I mean, you could say Japan—but generally, the United States is where most of the innovations still happens. People still move to the United States. And that’s largely because of the intellectual capital we have, the general understanding of science. When you have a portion of the population that doesn’t believe in that, it holds everybody back, really.

Evolution is the fundamental idea in all of life science, in all of biology. It’s like, it’s very much analogous to trying to do geology without believing in tectonic plates. You’re just not going to get the right answer. Your whole world is just going to be a mystery instead of an exciting place.

As my old professor, Carl Sagan, said, “When you’re in love you want to tell the world.” So, once in a while I get people that really—or that claim—they don’t believe in evolution. And my response generally is “Well, why not? Really, why not?” Your world just becomes fantastically complicated when you don’t believe in evolution. I mean, here are these ancient dinosaur bones or fossils, here is radioactivity, here are distant stars that are just like our star but they’re at a different point in their lifecycle. The idea of deep time, of this billions of years, explains so much of the world around us. If you try to ignore that, your world view just becomes crazy, just untenable, itself inconsistent.

And I say to the grownups, if you want to deny evolution and live in your world, in your world that’s completely inconsistent with everything we observe in the universe, that’s fine, but don’t make your kids do it because we need them. We need scientifically literate voters and taxpayers for the future. We need people that can—we need engineers that can build stuff, solve problems.

It’s just really hard a thing, it’s really a hard thing. You know, in another couple of centuries that world view, I’m sure, will be, it just won’t exist. There’s no evidence for it.

Directed / Produced by
Elizabeth Rodd and Jonathan Fowler [via LGF]

It wasn’t a belief in Creationism that gave this nation a reputation for being the best and richest country, that expanded it through the Industrial Revolution, that built the Interstate Highway System, that had twelve of its citizens walk on the surface of the Moon or that landed a nuclear-powered probe on the surface of Mars and broadcast pictures and other data back. It was a belief in Science that did all that, and without it, we would be no better off than those that live in deeply religious Third World countries.

If you have a child that really wants to study Science and Math, encourage him or her to do so. It’s not just our nation that needs more scientists, it’s the world. We are all in this together. The world’s climate problems are not going to be solved in such a way that we in the United States live and everyone else fends for themselves. Global problems require global solutions and global participation.

One of the biggest dangers to our country lies in our political system. We are a two-major-party country, and one of the two major parties simply does not believe in Science. Nor have they bothered to educate themselves on the subject and insist on just flat-out denying the inescapable conclusions of the men and women who have actually studied these things whenever they don’t like the results, as if Scientific Consensus meant whatever the uneducated-in-Science people thought was true. That’s not how Science works. A Scientific Consensus is the conclusion arrived at by Scientists, not the public. And not the Republican Party.

This is our open thread. Feel free to discuss any topic you want.

[Cross-posted at Pick Wayne's Brain.]

The Watering Hole: August 17 — Phoenix Cluster

In an artist’s conception, cooler, star-forming gas flows from the Phoenix Cluster’s central galaxy.
Illustration courtesy M. Weiss, CXC/NASA

Data being gathered by telescopes all over Earth and in space indicates that there’s an absolutely amazing galaxy cluster in the universe — the first we’ve discovered anyway.  It’s made up of thousands of galaxies, and lives about 5.7 billion light years away from us.  Isn’t that cool?

It seemed too good to be true: a superbright newfound galaxy cluster possibly more massive than any other known, forging fresh stars nearly a thousand times faster than normal.

Science is just neato.  Go here to read the whole article.

This is our daily open thread — Happy Friday!

The Watering Hole: July 6 — The God Particle aka Higgs Boson

Y’all understood that, right?  Of course you did!!  Here’s an article that makes it even more clear.  ;)

One thing is for sure, atheists are going to be so red-faced since the discovery of “proof” that god exists.

Damn, they’ve got us cornered now…

OOPS!!  I forgot to give badmoodman a hat tip for posting this video and article in yesterday’s open thread.  Tip o’ the hat, sir!!

This is our daily open thread — Happy Friday!!

Sunday Roast — Transit of Venus

There’s more than one exciting thing happening on Tuesday!  That bastard Scott Walker, and four of his sucky state senators will be recalled, AND Venus will transit across the face of the Sun.  Make sure you watch it SAFELY via the internet, teevee machine, or with the help from a smart non-blind person who knows about such things.

Don’t miss it, because you’ll have to live to be pretty damn old to see the next one in December, 2117.

This is our daily open thread — Enjoy!

Sunday Roast: Amasia

BBC News

Be prepared for your maps to be meaningless — in about 50 million years.

Scientists predict that the continents will meet, once again becoming a supercontinent.  They’re calling it “Amasia,” but surely someone will think of a better name by then — assuming some form of humanity still exists at that time.

Geologists believe that, over billions of years, these shifting plates have driven the continents together periodically, creating the hypothesised supercontinents of Nuna 1.8 billion years ago, Rodinia a billion years ago, and then Pangaea 300 million years ago.

Just imagine the civilizations that may have come and gone over the lifetime of the Earth.  The time of humans is truly amazing; we’ve accomplished to much in so little time, but in terms of geologic time, we are merely a blink of the eye.


This is our daily open thread — How is your day going?

Sunday Roast: Pyramids Found?

BBC News

More than 1,000 tombs and 3,000 ancient settlements were also revealed by looking at infra-red images which show up underground buildings.

Initial excavations have already confirmed some of the findings, including two suspected pyramids.

Science is so cool.  Why would anyone reject it?  They put satellites in space above the Earth, and by using infra-red imaging, they found evidence of an entire city that was no longer visible to us — including at least two pyramids!

How does that work anyway?

Ancient Egyptians built their houses and structures out of mud brick, which is much denser than the soil that surrounds it, so the shapes of houses, temples and tombs can be seen.

Just imagine the possibilities for future archaeological projects, or examining a site before a road or building is built on it.  I wonder if they can  help me find my keys…?

[Dr Parcak] also hopes the new technology will help engage young people in science and will be a major help for archaeologists around the world.

“It allows us to be more focused and selective in the work we do. Faced with a massive site, you don’t know where to start.

Like I said, science is cool.  If you don’t think so, I think you need your head examined…with science.

Here’s a radar image of the Sahara, showing the riverbeds under the sand:

For more radar imagery, go here.

This is our daily open thread — Feel free to discuss this, or any other topic!

The Watering Hole: March 29 – Forfeiting the Future

Picture found at


The BBC:

China is on course to overtake the US in scientific output possibly as soon as 2013 – far earlier than expected.

That is the conclusion of a major new study by the Royal Society, the UK’s national science academy.

The country that invented the compass, gunpowder, paper and printing is set for a globally important comeback.

What a shame. I remember perfectly when “American scientists say…” as an introduction to any discussion about science  invariably lent credibility to what you were saying. We looked up to America as the country of progress and scientific prowess. Then came creationism and reason went down the drain, along with education as an asset.

This is our daily open thread. What do you think of this and other stuff that’s going on?