Hungover Owls

Tuesday, August 24, 2010 at 10:20 PM Bookmark and Share
It's been a while since there's been anything new posted on the hilariously vulgar blog "Fuck You, Penguin", so it totally made my day when a friend set me a link to "Hungover Owls" on tumblr.

It's absolutely hilarious - go check it out!









Eastern Screech Owl:  “Look, I’m sorry for blowing up earlier. It’s just…I can feel tequila…in my face.”

Embryonic Stem Cell Injunction (Part II)

 at 2:01 AM Bookmark and Share
More of my thoughts (part I is here) on the recent ruling by judge Royce Lamberth halting embryonic stem cell research in the U.S. Here are my thoughts on the judges decision to go forward with the injunction.  In his ruling he lays out the criteria for the decision and why he thinks the plaintiffs case was sufficient to pull federal research funding.   

Part II: Did the judge meet the criteria for an injunction?

In his ruling, the judge lays out criteria for issuing an injunction by quoting from another case which asserts that (emphasis mine)...

Embryonic Stem Cell Research Halted... AGAIN

 at 1:03 AM Bookmark and Share
If you haven't heard, there's plenty in the news here, here and here.  I recommend reading judge Royce C. Lamberth's 15 page ruling for yourself, as it clarifies much of what the media are glossing over at the moment.

Below are my thoughts on the ruling.  I take issue with some of the judges arguments, and not because I have zero legal expertise - I think it's because he's gotten some things wrong.  I also think the judge didn't live up to his own standards, which I'll discuss in part two of this post which you can find here.

Part I: Does "Embryonic Stem Cell Research = Killing Embryos"?

The crucial legal language in this case is known as the Dickey-Wicker Amendment (also, see here). It's notable for (1) limiting how federal dollars are spent on embryonic stem cell (ESC) research, and (2) it includes an attempt at defining "human embryo." The definition seems overly broad in my opinion (e.g. if I culture some of my skin cells, they seem to fit this definition), but take a look and decide for yourself.

The language can be seen in H.R. 3010 (see pg 48 in this PDF) section 509(a)(2) which reads...

The Internet = iDistraction™

Wednesday, August 18, 2010 at 2:38 PM Bookmark and Share
That's all.  I should get back to work now.

Philosophy of Science

Tuesday, August 17, 2010 at 11:01 PM Bookmark and Share
Massimo Pigliucci has a few videos up on his YouTube channel on the philosophy of science.  If you're unfamiliar with with the philosophy of science, you might enjoy them.

Part I

Monday Mammal #14: Collared Peccary (aka Javalina)

Monday, August 16, 2010 at 12:44 PM Bookmark and Share
The Collared Peccary (Pecari tajacu) is an inhabitant of the south western U.S. and Central and South America. Often confused for pigs (family Suidae), P. tajacu and the other 3-4 Pecari sp. are members of the related family Tayassuidae. Interestingly, this group illustrates that there's still a lot we don't know about wildlife diversity: only recently was the Giant Peccary (Pecari maximus) described and proposed as a fourth Pecari. For more on the Giant Peccary check out the Tetrapod Zoology posts here and here, and the technical paper on page 9 of this PDF.

An Open Letter to Casey Luskin

Sunday, August 15, 2010 at 11:54 AM Bookmark and Share

Here are some links of interest:
  1. The article in question http://www.evolutionnews.org/2010/07/...
  2. The Nature brochure/pamphlet http://www.nature.com/nature/newspdf/...
  3. A funny story about Phil Skell http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.c...
  4. Gallup Poll (includes question about heliocentrism) http://www.gallup.com/poll/3742/new-p...

[via C0nc0rdence]

Warning!!!

Saturday, August 14, 2010 at 2:27 PM Bookmark and Share
Check out these awesome Journalism Warning Labels by Tom Scott.  Admittedly, I probably overuse (i.e. link to) Wikipedia here on the blog, but hey - at least I'm up front about!

If you'd like to print some out yourself, there are two PDF templates at the bottom of the page you can download and print.

[via PZ]

The Difference Between "Intelligent Design" and "Creationism"?

Friday, August 13, 2010 at 1:26 PM Bookmark and Share
Here's a fantastic article you should check out: Still Trying to Get Creationism into Science Classes: Five Years After Kitzmiller v. Dover, Discovery Institute Hasn’t Changed its Playbook. The article covers the relationship between ID and creationism and gives a nice, brief history of the Discovery Institute (DI).

If you're unfamiliar with their history...
Let’s start with the so-called Wedge Document. In 1998, DI put out a fundraising document that plainly set forth its “governing goals,” which included these aims:
To defeat scientific materialism and its destructive moral, cultural, and political legacies; and to replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God.
Sounds like a pretty clear mission statement to me. But there’s more...

Also pointed out in the article is one big similarity between the Dover trial (covered in this documentary) and the recent ruling against Prop. 8 in California:
An interesting comparison can be made to the recent decision of Judge Vaughn R. Walker about Proposition 8. In the Prop. 8 case as in Dover, the supposed scientific arguments of religiously motivated organizations often don’t hold up well in a courtroom where they are required to present the evidence of their assertions.

[Hat tip to the NCSE]

Perseid Meteor Shower Tonight! (Aug 12-13)

Thursday, August 12, 2010 at 11:10 AM Bookmark and Share
Get outside with friends and family after dark, and check it out! 

More details can be found here, here and here.

Creation Museum is Craptastic!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010 at 8:11 PM Bookmark and Share
Australian travel writer Ben Groundwater has included in his list of The world's most craptastic tourist attractions the Creation "Museum" just outside of Cincinnati, Ohio near Petersburg, Kentucky.


Here's why he thinks the place so craptastic...
The Creation Museum, Kentucky

Well, it was hardly going to be in Oregon, was it? Here, true believers can learn about how the Earth was formed by the big man upstairs, who manages to explain away such potential roadblocks as dinosaurs, billion-year-old fossils, and that whole science thing with room after room of ultra-religious tackiness. There’s actually been a lot of money poured into this, and it’s anything but half-arsed. Misguided, maybe – but not half-arsed.

My two cents on the Creation Museum (and a few more photos) are available here.

[Thanks to PZ Myers for sharing]

Monday (Tuesday?) Mammal #13: Sugar Glider

Tuesday, August 10, 2010 at 12:28 PM Bookmark and Share
It's Tuesday - I know, I know - but I had a bit of work to do, so this week's mammal is coming at you a day late.  Fortunately, it's insanely cute and following last week's theme it's another marsupial.  So I'm sure you won't mind the delay, right?

Meet, the sugar glider (Petaurus breviceps) - one of six species of marsupial "wrist-winged" gliders native to Australia and New Guinea.

And yes, like most mammals you'll no doubt find them extra cute when they're itty little balls of fluff...

Bishop Goes After Gay Marriage on CNN

Sunday, August 8, 2010 at 2:55 PM Bookmark and Share
There's a somewhat bigoted opinion piece up on CNN.com, by Bishop Harry R. Jackson Jr. entitled Same-sex marriage will hurt families, society.  In it, he tries to justify this claim but - not surprisingly - he fails miserably.  While I have not doubts that the Bishop is operating under good intentions, I can't help but think he might be doing little more here than rationalizing his disapproval of same-sex couples under the false impression that he's looking out for the public good.  Below is my take on his arguments.

Women in Mathematics

 at 9:24 AM Bookmark and Share
[via S.C. Kavassalis, Bora on Twitter]

Benjamin Franklin on Wine, God, and Elbows

 at 12:15 AM Bookmark and Share
Did you ever wonder if our founding fathers had a sense of humor? Well they did, and here's some evidence to prove that at least Benjamin Franklin knew how to get his drink on.

This story begins when a friend of mine posted this quote on facebook the other day:
"Wine is constant proof that God loves us and loves to see us happy." -- Benjamin Franklin
Curious as always, I decided to see (1) if this was really a quote by Franklin, and (2) if so, what the context was. Franklin was neither a devout Christian, agnostic or atheist so I suspected it would be interesting.

Before I get into Franklin's awesome drawings, the quote comes from a letter he wrote in 1787 to the Abbé André Morellet -- a friend of Franklin and member of the French Academy-- as a tongue-in-cheek response to Morellet. Previously, Morellet wrote a drinking song in honor of Franklin (awesome) and in it he joked that Franklin instigated the American Revolution just to replace English tea with the French wines he was so fond of (again, awesome).

You can read the letter in English here, or the original French version here with another English translation.

Here's where it gets entertaining: the original letter includes figures drawn by Franklin, illustrating how the elbow was further evidence that God wanted us to drink win... but nowhere could I find the figures! Most internet copies of the letter omit them, and in many cases they've even removed the references to the figures entirely (gasp!). So here's the post script, with figure references entact...

In French:
P.S. Pour vous confirmer encore plus dans votre piété et reconnaissance à la providence divine, réfléchissez sur la situation qu’elle a donnée au coude. Vous voyez, figures 1 et 2, que les animaux qui doivent boire l’eau qui coule sur la terre, s’ils ont des jambes longues, ont aussi un cou long, afin qu’ils puissent atteindre leur boisson sans la peine de se mettre à genoux. Mais l’homme, qui était destiné à boire du vin, doit être en état de porter le verre à sa bouche. Regardez les figures ci-dessous: si le coude avait été placé plus près de la main, comme en fig. 3, la partie A aurait été trop courte pour approcher le verre de la bouche; et s’il avait été placé plus près de l’épaule, comme en fig. 4, la partie B aurait été si longue, qu’il eût porté le verre bien au delà de la bouche: ainsi nous aurions été tantalisés. Mais par la présente situation, représentée fig. 5, nous voilà en état de boire à notre aise, le verre venant justement à la bouche. Adorons donc, le verre à la main, cette sagesse bienveillante; adorons et buvons.
In English (source) this reads something like:
P.S. To confirm still more your piety and gratitude to Divine Providence, reflect upon the situation which it has given to the _elbow._ You see (Figures 1 and 2) in animals, who are intended to drink the waters that flow upon the earth, that if they have long legs, they have also a long neck, so that they can get at their drink without kneeling down. But man, who was destined to drink wine, must be able to raise the glass to his mouth. If the elbow had been placed nearer the hand (as in Figure 3), the part in advance would have been too short to bring the glass up to the mouth; and if it had been placed nearer the shoulder, (as in Figure 4) that part would have been so long that it would have carried the wine far beyond the mouth. But by the actual situation, (represented in Figure 5), we are enabled to drink at our ease, the glass going exactly to the mouth. Let us, then, with glass in hand, adore this benevolent wisdom; -- let us adore and drink!

That's right - Ben Franklin took the time to draw 5 pictures illustrating how awesome elbows are, because they allow us to drink wine.

After a bit of searching found them here, in Morellet's biography Mémoires inédits de l'abbé Morellet sur le dix-huitième siècle et sur la Révolution (1967). The letter starts on pg 303, figures between pages 304-305. A few screen captures later, here they are for your viewing pleasure:

A question for monotheists

Saturday, August 7, 2010 at 6:49 PM Bookmark and Share
Check out this video challenge to followers of Christianity, Judiasm, Islam, the Bahá'í faith and other monotheistic religions.


What do you think about non-believers asking religious individuals to justify their religious beliefs?

Wild Voices: Six Birds Species & Their Vocalizations

 at 1:52 PM Bookmark and Share
Nicely done video showcasing six species, narrated by scientists from the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology. In order of appearance: Common Loon, Barred Owl, Common Nighthawk, White-rumped Sandpiper (very cool vocalizations), Northern Cardinal, and Magnificent Frigatebird.


Like it? Let Cornell University know by clicking the video over to their YouTube page, and clicking on the "Like" button!  IMO, videos like this beat the pants off of some of the other videos on their channel.

A Request From "Urban Science Adventures"

Tuesday, August 3, 2010 at 8:18 PM Bookmark and Share
Over at Urban Science Adventures, Danielle Lee has landed a spot among the top 5 finalists in the 2010 Black Weblog Awards for Best Science or Technology Blog (congrats!!).  But why stop there? Wouldn't it be great if she won?

So help her out:  by casting your vote :)

Danielle really does have a wonderful science and nature blog and it deserves more recognition. Plus, it would be fantastic to see her readership grow.

More details from Danielle...
Thanks to you all, this blog has once again made the short list and is a finalist for the 2010 Black Weblog Awards in the Science & Tech Category.

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

To vote, please visit this link and vote for all of your Black Weblog Favorite Finalists (there are some really great and new blogs) in the 35 categories. Check out all of the nominees. Voting ends August 31st. You will have to provide a valid email address to cast your ballot.  And while you are there, consider makiing a pledge to the 2011 Black Weblog Awards Kickoff campaign.  The award committee is actually trying to create a live award presentation program next year.  So, maybe I could receive my blog award in person. Who knows.
Fire off a few emails, share her post on facebook, tell your friends, then go vote! :)

Ah, grad school...

 at 10:20 AM Bookmark and Share

[Thanks to Judy for the link]

Monday Mammal #12: Virginia Opossum

Monday, August 2, 2010 at 12:44 AM Bookmark and Share
Mammals, you may recall, are often categorized into two groups: the Prototheria (monotremes like this one) and Theria (live bearing mammals). Within the Theria, there are the marsupials and placentals - the former being woefully neglected so far on this blog!  So to give the marsupials a bit more coverage, I present you with everyone's favorite (and least favorite) North American marsupial, the largest (and the smallest) marsupial north of Mexico, the one, the only... Virginia Opossum (Didelphis virginiana).


You can learn more about these cool critters here, via the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

(photo)

Sunday, August 1, 2010 at 11:36 PM Bookmark and Share
If you regularly read The Friendly Atheist, you could imagine what Hemant was really thinking when he put up a baby picture, and asked for a caption and some photoshopping...

"Look at this pot, now look at me. Now look at the shoe, now back to me…"
(Caption by Carolina
"The most important step in preparing your infant is to brine it for 6-10 hours, 
depending on size. Give it some toys to play with, and it’ll hardly make a noise."
(Caption by Richard)