Category: Science

Creationists get knickers in a bunch over JFK and Carnival Cruise Lines advert

It’s that special time of the year. The Super Bowl is over, we are still reeling (or happy, if you’re into that sort of thing) over the Worst Play Call In History, and wingnuts have now had a couple days to decide which of the commercials were the evilest and demonic-est of them all.

Ken Ham, that creationist nutbag who debated Bill Nye The Science Guy last year, and who is pretty sure that all nonexistent aliens burn in hell, has made his decision, and the winner of this year’s post-Super Bowl Two Minutes Hate will be Carnival Cruise Lines, who had the utter gall to make a commercial that featured a nice quote from John F. Kennedy, about how we all love the ocean because we used to live there before we lost our gills during Evil-lution. Here is that Kennedy quote, for your handy reference:

“I really don’t know why it is that all of us are so committed to the sea, except I think it’s because in addition to the fact that the sea changes, and the light changes, and ships change, it’s because we all came from the sea — and it is an interesting biological fact that all of us have in our veins the exact same percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean, and, therefore, we have salt in our blood, in our sweat, in our tears. We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea — whether it is to sail or to watch it — we are going back from whence we came.”

Uh, sorry, John F. Kennedy and fancy boat company, but Ken Ham…responded on his Answers In Genesis website:

Don’t you just feel this “personal connection?” After all, your ancestor came out of the sea and evolved by natural processes to produce you. Blah, blah, blah. RTFA if you think you’re missing anything. They quote whole chunks of this crap and even include the attack upon Neil Degrasse Tyson, to round it up.

So, of course, because Fundamentalist Christian dinguses are all convinced that everyone secretly believes as they do, and because they think they represent the mainstream of their own religion, a few of them took to the Twitter (also created by God, duh) to express their displeasure at the newfound atheism of Carnival Cruise Lines. If you watched the ad above and listened to those words from JFK and you’re not getting how any of that implies that Carnival Cruise lines is an atheist god-hater, that’s because you are not a dumb creationist jackhole like this guy…

Anyway, so John F. Kennedy and a fleet of unsaved boats are the devil, Goddidit, the end.

Once again, fundamentalist True Believers prove to be funnier than most of the commercials on Super Bowl Sunday.

Oh, and BTW, the commercial got it wrong because JFK got it wrong, We’re 0.9% salt, the ocean is 3.5%…

Disco Clams – an underwater light show

The so-called “disco clam” is one eye-catching mollusk—nestled in coral reefs off Indonesia, the animal generates brilliant flashes of light that earned it its festive name.

Though fascinating, this flamboyant bivalve (Ctenoides ales) is still poorly understood, something Lindsey Dougherty, a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley is trying to change. Earlier this year, Dougherty shed light on how the clam’s flashing works—by reflecting light through tiny bits of silica near the edge of its shell, and not through bioluminescence like other species…

Dougherty and her team tested three hypotheses for the clam’s brilliance: attracting a mate to spawn eggs, catching the attention of light-seeking plankton, or sending a warning to potential predators.

And two outta three ain’t bad, eh?

We need a baloney detection kit

Test all the crap stuck into the brains of fear-driven culture — about sex, GMO food, climate change, sex, vaccination, sex, mandatory education. Everything loonies on the Left or Right want to runaway and hide from – and stop anyone else from examining or using.

All anti-science. Even though science enabled our species getting to where we are – from our cave-dwelling days and nights.

Well, from primitive agriculture forward. I can imagine the Shaman’s Association condemning the wheel as endangering future generations.

Women of National Geographic

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Meave and Louise Leakey

We’re celebrating women in science and the major impacts they’re making in a variety of fields.

Meet some of the female scientists National Geographic has had the honor of supporting through the years. Hear from “Her Deepness,” Sylvia Earle, about the role of women in science—and find out who recently named her as a “Woman of the Year”.

Discover the incredible solar power breakthrough National Geographic Emerging Explorer Xiaoling Zheng is working on.

See how Big Cats Initiative Grantee Amy Dickman is transforming lives—human and feline—in Tanzania. Then learn why it’s crucial that more women get into science, and how we can help remove the barriers to their success.

Lots more at NatGeo. Click the link above and enjoy and learn.

Thanks, Ursarodinia

Most scientists agree – Americans don’t know much about science


Sandra Cunningham/Shutterstock

Americans’ purported cluelessness about science has led to wide gaps in how the general public views the world compared to how scientists perceive it, according to a new study released…by the Pew Research Center.

Some 98 percent of scientists polled rated the general public’s lack of science knowledge as a problem, with 84 percent of them calling it a major issue.

One result: Regulations on land use, the environment and food safety aren’t generally influenced by the best science, according to a recent poll of 3,748 scientists conducted by the Pew Research Center in cooperation with the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The spread between what scientists think and what the general public thinks about a dozen science-related issues varied, but there were some noticeable gaps…

There was a 51 percentage point difference in views about whether genetically modified food is safe to eat. Some 88 percent of scientists were for it while less than 40 percent of the public agreed.

Sixty-eight percent of scientists think it’s safe to eat foods grown with pesticides compared with 28 percent of the public.

Almost all of the scientists believe in evolution. Just 65 percent of the general public feels the same way, according to Pew polling…

There was one notable — if sad — area on which everyone polled appears to agree: Americans need to improve the science, math and technology education available to students across the country.

Historically, we have a consistent if backwards track record on improving any aspects of education. If there is potential benefit to our war machine – we’re all for it. Go America! Rah, rah.

Though a lesser influence, reflect upon our teacher’s unions which have adopted the sort of protectionist policies characteristic of AFL craft unions. Treating schoolteachers – and teaching – like plumbers with city contracts is not my idea of building useful education, a nation of bright young kids stepping out of school to create a positive, progressive world.

Worse than that – is the tradition that we seem to have acquired in the late 1950’s that moved the core responsibility of school systems to keeping our little darlings safe from hurt feelings – at the expense of standards of learning. And how to learn.

Nope. The creeps at the top of our economic pyramid would like a small improvement in meat machines capable of a slightly higher level of technical performance – where they can’t be replaced by a robot on the assembly line. That’s all, folks.

Purifying water with sunlight and photocatalysts

Drinking clean water is something that many people in the world can’t take for granted, as they rely on polluted sources and often have no access to purification systems. In response to that problem, Panasonic is developing a new technology that looks to the sun to clean water extracted from the ground. The company recently presented a system that uses sunlight and photocatalysts to purify polluted water at a high reaction rate, to improve access to clean water where it’s needed.

The breakthrough is in the new system’s ability to bind titanium dioxide (TiO2), a photocatalyst that reacts under ultraviolet light. One of the difficulties associated with TiO2 is that it is difficult to collect once dispersed in water, since it comes in super fine particles. Previous methods of binding it to larger matter have already been used, but they suffered a loss of active site surface area. Panasonic has found a way to bind the TiO2 to another particle, zeolite (a commercial adsorbent and catalyst), which solves that problem by enabling photocatalysts to maintain their active site. And, the method requires no binder chemicals because the two particles are bound together by electrostatic force.

When the novel photocatalytic particles are stirred, TiO2 is released from the zeolite and dispersed throughout the water. As a result, reaction speed is much faster than other methods of fixing TiO2 on the surface of substrates, and a larger volume of water can be processed in a short amount of time. If the water is left still, it will cause TiO2 to bind to zeolite again, making it easy to separate and recover the photocatalysts from the water so they can be used again later.

The technology was recently unveiled at Tokyo’s Eco Products Fair. Panasonic is working with a number of institutions in India to test the product and its capabilities. The company says around 70 percent of the population of India relies on ground water, which is exposed to different types of pollution, from agrochemical residues to metals from leather tanneries.

The history of the evolution of economics is the quest for scarce goods. Water being the most life-critical of any scarce commodity.

Homeless adults – mental illness and cognitive deficits

Nearly three-quarters of homeless adults with mental illness in Canada show evidence of cognitive deficits, such as difficulties with problem solving, learning and memory, new research has found…

“This points to an often unrecognized problem for the segment of Canada’s homeless population that suffers from mental illness,” said Dr. Vicky Stergiopoulos, chief of psychiatry at St. Michael’s Hospital and a scientist in its Centre for Research on Inner City Health.

These are the skills that people need to follow treatment or support recommendations, maintain housing stability or successfully complete day-to-day tasks.”

Each year up to 200,000 Canadians are homeless. The prevalence of mental illness among homeless individuals is much higher than the rest of the population, with more than 12 per cent suffering from severe mental illness, 11 per cent having mood disorders and close to 40 per cent reporting alcohol and drug addictions.

All of the participants in Dr. Stergiopoulos’ study experienced mental illness. About half met criteria for psychosis, major depressive disorder and alcohol or substance abuse, and nearly half had experienced traumatic brain injury…

“The data doesn’t help us to predict whether someone will have cognitive challenges, but it does show that if they experience homelessness and mental illness, it’s very likely,” said Dr. Stergiopoulos. “It adds to our understanding about why people may have difficulty accessing or keeping housing.”

Dr. Stergiopoulos noted the study is important for those who work directly with disadvantaged populations because it highlights that adaptations and improvements need to be made to treatment and support options. Lack of engagement is not necessarily because someone doesn’t want help, but may be because they don’t understand how to access or make use of it.

At least it sounds like our Northern Neighbors are trying. Perhaps Harper isn’t as callous as his role model Ronald Reagan.

Every Republican’s favorite Tin Jesus just about single-handed created the tidal wave of homeless, especially those with mental illness. His efforts to crush the US Public Health Service and hospital system put thousands of the mentally ill on our streets.

Awareness of thinking – awareness of dreaming

metacognition

To control one’s dreams and to live out there what is impossible in real life – a truly tempting idea. Some persons – so-called lucid dreamers –can do this. Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin and the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry in Munich have discovered that the brain area which enables self-reflection is larger in lucid dreamers. Thus, lucid dreamers are possibly also more self-reflecting when being awake.

Lucid dreamers are aware of dreaming while dreaming. Sometimes, they can even play an active role in their dreams. Most of them, however, have this experience only several times a year and just very few almost every night. Internet forums and blogs are full of instructions and tips on lucid dreaming. Possibly, lucid dreaming is closely related to the human capability of self-reflection – the so-called metacognition…

The differences in volumes in the anterior prefrontal cortex between lucid dreamers and non-lucid dreamers suggest that lucid dreaming and metacognition are indeed closely connected. This theory is supported by brain images taken when test persons were solving metacognitive tests while being awake. Those images show that the brain activity in the prefrontal cortex was higher in lucid dreamers…

The researchers further want to know whether metacognitive skills can be trained. In a follow-up study, they intend to train volunteers in lucid dreaming to examine whether this improves the capability of self-reflection.

You, too, can join the ranks of Sartre and Camus. :)

It is especially interesting to me – to see these attributes often referred to in the Existential offshoots from Materialist Dialectics getting special attention from one of the leading researchers in the world.

In the expanse of free time accrued since retirement, I have found myself from time to time wandering back to questions like these for the first time in decades. I’ve been aware of being a lucid dreamer since childhood. Metacognitive processes have always been equally provocative, equally challenging.

Fascinating as ever.

Quotes on climate change from Davos

Some key quotes from the session Tackling Climate, Development and Growth at Davos 2015:

Christine Lagarde, Managing Director, International Monetary Fund

“It’s a collective endeavour, it’s collective accountability and it may not be too late.”

“At this point in time, it’s macro critical, it’s people critical, it’s planet critical.”

“As I said two years ago, we are at risk of being grilled, fried and toasted.”

Paul Polman, CEO, Unilever

“Tackling climate change is closely linked to poverty alleviation and economic development; I would call them different sides of the same coin…”

“The first thing we need from the business community, and the business leaders themselves, is commitment. If you’re not committed, you’re more destructive at the table than if you’re really committed and you want to solve it…”

Michael Spence, William R. Berkley Professor in Economics and Business, NYU Stern School of Business, Italy

“…We have a choice: between a energy-efficient low carbon path and an energy-intensive high carbon path, which at an unknown point of time ends catastrophically. This doesn’t seem like a very hard choice.”

“We have to go very quickly… we have a window of a very small number of years… after which we cannot win the battle to mitigate fast enough to meet the safety goals… if this year goes badly it would be a massive missed opportunity.”

“This is the chance to do something we’ve never done before, to come together in a process of top down agreement, and bottom up energy, creativity and commitment. It will be a moral victory.”

I don’t think the Koch Bros. went to Davos. Their profits roll out from the fiefdom of the United States. What foreign holdings they rely on – are obedient.

I don’t think Jim Imhofe or Mike Huckabee were invited. I doubt anyone who is a serious player in the world of modern industrial, technology-driven capitalism would extend an invite to John Boehner or Mitch McConnell — or Mary Landrieu.

If you’re bright enough to be a world-class player in international commerce – including the governments actively trying to grow their national economies – you had better have modern science as part of your core skill set. Along with an understanding of political economy over the past seventy years.

No matter if your personal bent is conservative or liberal, denial of reality sufficient to get you elected to Congress from Kansas or Texas doesn’t aid global logistics or long-range marketing.

If you care to view the full session Tackling Climate, Development and Growth at Davos 2015, it’s available to watch.