Monday, December 31, 2007

Lazy linking - end of the year

As people might have noticed, I haven't been blogging much. This is due to the fact that I'm pretty busy with an assignment that I have to hand in in a couple of weeks. Give that, I haven't really been reading blogs much either (though I have been involved in a couple of discussions about the repugnant Ron Paul). Nevertheless, here are some links that I've found interesting lately.

Sara, from Sara Speaking, discusses the reverse guilt many people of color feel when bringing up racism: because it’s not over til … um … ever.

I think that everyone who are interested in the Discovery Institutes's war on science have read ERV's explanation of the newest evidence for their copyright infringement: Discovery Institute, Dembski, Copyright, and 'Design of Life'

Orac shows us that not only does Ron Paul associate with far-right militia type people, he is also happy in the company of quacks. Actually, it goes deeper than that, but go read Orac's post: Ron Paul: Quackery enabler [note to Ron Paul followers: any comments that basically are about us not understanding Ron Paul will be deleted - you've spammed too many threads on the internet already]

The NY Times Magazine has an article about the life of Steve Gillard. I never read his blog much, but it's clear that he was a major force in the progressive blogsphere, whose presence will be much missed. (Via Jill at Feministe)

Over at Hoyden Around Town, they are taking nominations for the best feminist posts of the year. It's well worth clicking through the links in the comments.

Martin Rundkvist at Aardvarchaeology discusses Skepticism and Informed Consensus, to which Orac wrote a good companion post

That's all for now. Happy New Year everyone.


I see that I am not alone in my respect for Jolie

I have a deep and profound respect for Angelina Jolie. Not because of her acting, which at times is quite brilliant (it was no accident that she received an Oscar for Girl Interrupted), but because of her humanitarian work. This is a respect I share with other people like ERV, who are also a fan of Jolie.

It turns out that we are not alone. Reuters did a survey of which celebrity humanitarian that people respect the most, and Jolie came out on top. Before people like Bono, Bill Clinton, and Bill Gates.

Unlike many celebrities, Jolie seems like the genuine thing. Ever since she became involved in the refugee work (she became goodwill ambassador of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR, in 2001), I've never heard one bad thing about her from refugee workers. Rather, they have all been busy praising her to the skies not only for helping bringing attention to their work, but also for not getting in the way of their work, when she visits. Too many celebrities consider such trips a opportunity for photo-ops. Jolie considers them a chance to understand the problems that they are facing, and a chance to learn what she can do to help them.

Adding to that, is the fact that it was Angelina Jolie who asked UNHCR how she could help, rather than they who asked her to become a goodwill ambassador. On top of that, Jolie also uses a large part of her income on these causes - it's estimated that she has donated 1/3 of her lifetime income to humanitarian causes. While she is not exactly suffering from lack of money, it's an impressive amount.

In other words, Angelina Jolie is the real deal, and it would appear that I am not alone in appreciating this.

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Thursday, December 27, 2007

End of Year Meme

Tyler DiPietro has tagged me with this meme from his new haunt

Basically I have to answer some questions about the upcoming year.

1. Will you be looking for a new job?

This is the sort of question that it would be unwise to answer truthfully, if I had planned to. Fortunately I can say truthfully that I don't plan to change job any time soon. In 2006 I shopped around a bit, but I am pretty satisfied with my current job.

2. Will you be looking for a new relationship?

Yes. Or, sort of. Meaning that I probably won't exactly be looking for one, but I will certainly be open for one.

3. New house?

Do I look that rich? Houses are waaaaay out of my price range. I bought a nice little apartment (one bedroom, two rooms in total) at the end of last month, and have moved into it. So I doubt I will be moving anywhere next year.

4. What will you do differently in 08?

Spend more time with friends. Exercise more, among other things by driving my bike more. Other than that, I can't really think of anything.

5. New Years resolution?

Loose weight, exercise more. Maybe (just maybe) drink less.

6. What will you not be doing in 08?

Study much. I am kind of burned out from both working full time and study at the same time, so I will finish my current school stuff, and then take a break.

7. Any trips planned?

Not really, but I do plan on going traveling.

8. Wedding plans?

See 2.

9. Major thing on your calendar?

Not anything that I can think of at the top of my head.

10. What can’t you wait for?

Getting rid of Bush and Cheney.

11. What would you like to see happen differently?

Globally, I'd like to see less violence, and more focus on Global Warming. In my own life, I'd like to prioritize friends higher - periodically I've been too busy to see enough of them.

12. What about yourself will you be changing?

My shape. And I'll try to be less arrogant.

13. What happened in 07 that you didn’t think would ever happen?

Hmmmm..... Except for some personal things that I won't share, to protect other peoples' privacy, I can't think of anything.

14. Will you be nicer to the people you care about?

I am generally a nice guy towards other people, but I am sure that there is room for improvement, so that is certainly something to aim for.

15. Will you dress differently this year than you did in 07?

Yes. Less jeans and t-shirts and more pants and shirts (though probably not ties too often). I used to have a job where I had to wear shirt and tie, and as a reaction totally stopped wearing that sort of things after I changed jobs. Now, I think it's time to wear them occasionally.

16. Will you start or quit drinking?

I might drink less. And things of higher quality. What I certainly will do, is to buy less alcohol for the home bar.

17. Will you better your relationship with your family?

Don't particularly plan on it. I get along with them pretty well, but most of them live on the opposite side of the world from me.

18. Will you do charity work?

Charity work is not something that's widespread in Denmark, as we pay for a welfare system through our taxes.

19. Will you go to bars?

Yes, though probably less so than during 2007.

20. Will you be nice to people you don’t know?

Within reason, yes.

21. Do you expect 08 to be a good year for you?

As a matter of fact, I do.

22. How much did you change from this time last year till now?

It's always hard to tell about yourself, but I don't think I've changed so much in the last couple of years.

23. Do you plan on having a child?


24. Will you still be friends with the same people you are friends with now?

I think I will have more friends by the end of the year than I have now, but my current friends are generally people I've known for at least five years, so I don't expect to loose any of them.

25. Major lifestyle changes?

More healthy living.

26. Will you be moving?

See 3.

27. What will you make sure doesn’t happen in 08 that happened in 07?

I can't think of anything. I live a boring life.

28. What are your New Years Eve plans?

None so far. Might go out and drink with some friends, but it could end up with me staying at home.

29. Will you have someone to kiss at midnight?

Not as far as I know.

30. One wish for 08?

A Democratic President in the US.

At this point I should tag people, but I think I'll skip that part for now. If anyone wants to be tagged, consider themselves being so.

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Bad news out of Pakistan

Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto has been killed by a suicide bomber who first shot her, and then detonated his bombs.

NY Times reports: Bhutto Assassinated in Attack on Rally

She blamed earlier attempts on extremist Islamic groups, and given the attack form (suicide bombing), it would seem likely that this attack was by the same source.

While Bhutto certainly had many flaws, her participation in the upcoming election was important part of the attempt to bring Pakistan back to democracy. Let's hope this barbaric act doesn't lead Pakistan further away from democracy.

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Sunday, December 23, 2007

Amazing new archaeological discovery

While skepticism is warranted, this piece of news is certainly exciting.

Maltese claims extraordinary discovery in Sahara desert

Explorers just returning from the Sahara desert have claimed they found a remarkable relic from Pharaonic times.

Mark Borda and Mahmoud Marai, from Malta and Egypt respectively, were surveying a field of boulders on the flanks of a hill deep in the Libyan desert some 700 kilometres west of the Nile Valley when engravings on a large rock consisting of hieroglyphic writing, Pharaonic cartouche, an image of the king and other Pharaonic iconography came into view.

This is exciting news because this is far farther into West Sahara than previously discoveries - actually, it's somewhat in the order of 650 km further west than earlier discoveries.

What's more, the discovery might be revealed to be the nation of Yam.

As soon as he emerged from the desert Mr Borda flew to London to discuss the find with Maltese Egyptologist Aloisia De Trafford from the Institute of Archaeology (University College London).

She immediately facilitated a preliminary decipherment of the text via Joe Clayton, an ancient languages specialist who lectures on hieroglyphic writing at Birkbeck College at the same university.

Mr Borda continues, “Within a matter of days the short text was yielding astonishing revelations. In the annals of Egyptian history there are references to far off lands that the pharaohs had traded with but none of these have ever been positively located.

“It turns out that the script we found states the name of the region where it was carved, which is none other than the fabled land of Yam, one of the most famous and mysterious nations that the Egyptians had traded with in Old Kingdom times; a source of precious tropical woods and ivory.

If this is true, that is an amazing find. Even if it's not, then it's certainly still a very interesting find.

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A question to all you (science) bloggers

We are getting close to the end of the year, and I have been wondering what my fellow bloggers, perhaps especially science oriented bloggers, think about something.

What has been the best science moment of 2007, and what has been the worst?

Here I am thinking very broadly. It can relate to science discoveries, news, policies, frauds, and even issues further from the field of science (such as the Republican Presidential candidates showing if they rejected the theory of evolution).

If you have a good answer, then leave a comment, or link to this post from where you've posted the answer.

It could be interesting to see what everyone thinks.

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Who knew that chalk drawings could be this interesting?

Normally, chalk drawings only cause excitement when they are fairly old (say, thousands of years), but two chalk drawings are causing some excitement at Cambridge University

The two drawings, of penguins, were made by Robert Falcon Scott and Ernest Shackleton in 1904 and 1909, and were drawn as part of public lectures by the two Antarctic explorers.

Quite an interesting find, though it doesn't hold any great scientific value as such.

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The stupidity, it burns!

Once in a while, I come across some seriously stupid dreck, and I can't help sharing it with the rest of you.

At the site, Renew America (which endorses Alan Keyes), a guy names Grant Swank, talks about stuff he doesn't understand. In this case, evolution.

God-evolution debate won't quit

The headline starts of by giving a good indication of the stance of Swank, where evolution and God is opposed to each other, indicating a belief in a literate reading of the Biblical creation myth.

"There are no permanent victories in politics," a defender of Intelligent Design said. "You do not get paradigm shifts overnight. Whether the ultimate victory is today or it's tomorrow or it's two years from now, people demand that they get open discussion of this issue."

This was in response to the Ohio Board of Education voting 11 to 4 to "toss out a mandate that 10th grade biology classes include critical analysis of evolution and an accompanying model lesson plan," according to the New York Times' Jodi Rudoren.

Interesting that Swank quotes a neo-Creationist who makes clear that this is all politics, and not science, since there are permanent victories in science, where one theory, or more commonly hypothesis, is rejected because it doesn't fit the facts. Which is what has happened to the creation myth - the Biblical description doesn't fit the facts of the world, and has thus been rejected by science.

Personally, I see no problem with a "critical analysis of evolution", since it's all part of science. However, we all know that it's coded language for teaching neo-Creationism, as a so-called alternative to evolution, which is absolute nonsense, and should be rejected out of hand.

The whole matter is still in flux and will continue to be. The reason? Because there are intelligent persons who know that Charles Darwin's theory is full of holes. Large holes. Extra large holes.

There are also intelligent people who "know" that the Holocaust is a hoax. That doesn't make it true, and neither does this make it true that the Theory of Evolution is full of holes, no matter their size. Charles Darwin's original theory has been expanded quite a lot, but its essence, decent with modifications, has withstood 150 years of critical analysis, simply because it fits the facts, and has the greatest explanatory power of how species evolve.

It simply cannot be stated enough, that the Theory of Evolution is the pillar upon which we base all biology, and a lot of medicine for that matter. Without it, biology simply makes no sense.

I believe, first of all, evolution is a crock.

If you believe that, you'll believe anything. Of course, given the fact that you're writing on a site that endorses Alan Keyes, that's hardly surprising.

It takes a lot of faith to believe that I came from an ameba. A lot of faith!

First of all, I believe it's spelled "amoeba". Second of all, it might take a lot of faith to believe it, if you mean "believe" in the religious sense. The rest of us just accept it, since this is what the evidence shows us. This is the difference between the religious approach, and the scientific approach. People following the scientific approach goes where the evidence leads them, and accepts the results (after verifying them, of course).

So evolution should be taught in Faith Class, otherwise known in parochial schools as Religion Class.

It seems to be the new trend to call evolution religion. Obviously Swank has a very limited understanding of what science is, and apparently he doesn't understand what faith and religion is.

Personally, I think that evolution should be mentioned in religion class (together with e.g. the Big Bang theory), to explain why we know that different creation myths are not true. However, I can accept that this is not within the scope of the class.

It's a crazy world we live in. Crazier every day. But one of the craziest notions that ever came down the pike is evolution. Who in his right mind would ever believe that the complicated homo sapien derived from a speck? That's getting the larger from the smaller.

Anyone with a right mind would in fact accept that. As a matter of fact, we observe this every time a new homo sapiens is created, where two "specks" (so to speak), join together to become first a fetus, and later a baby.

As an aside, homo sapiens are no more complicated than a number of other beings on our planet, so why single out that particular species as an example?

When I was in school, we were taught that one of the fundamental postulates is that one cannot get the greater from the smaller. Yet that is what evolution is all about — greater from the smaller. Now that's a crock.

Obviously, Swank didn't learn chemistry.

Evolution is furthermore an insult to the intelligent brain.

No more so than the column by Swank. As a matter of fact, a whole lot less so, than the column by Swank.

That's why the world is crazy when the so-called intelligentsia defend this notion called "evolution." The PhDs do that. The professors do that. The textbook writers and so forth do that. They all get in their clique and stroke one another with this Alice from Wonderland fancy that we all came from a speck.

So, on one hand we have a lot of people who have taken the time to get educated on the subject, often doing real research, and on the other hand, we have someone like Swank, who is a pastor, believing in something for which there is no evidence whatsoever. And the world is crazy because these people stand up for evoultion?

Oh, and the last sentence in that paragraph destroyed my irony meter.

Then they throw in the Big Bang Whatever. This complicated universe and planet Earth just blew into place. There's another nuthouse one for you.

"Another nuthouse" aka evidence based science. The Big Bang theory was controversial when it first came out, but as scientists have evaluated the evidence, it has become clear that it is the best explanation of how the current universe can into existence. As a result, it has become generally accepted by scientists, and people not blinded by their religion.

So, back to Faith Class, evolution and Darwin and the boys need to be put in Faith Class. It takes as much faith to believe in evolution as it does in angels and demons and an invisible God. It takes as much faith to believe in Darwin's spin as it does to believe that Jesus fed thousands with a kid's lunch.

Faith. You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

We have numerous pieces of evidence for evolution (we can even observe it in nature) and for the Big Bang, which makes out "belief" in it, the very opposite of faith.

God, demons, and angels on the other hand, are entirely without observable evidence, and even the life of Jesus is entirely undocumented by contemporary sources. Belief in any of these things, does require faith, as there is no evidence of them. This is something which even religious people generally agree with.

Now at least Religion Class is up front about its basic postulate. It starts with faith. Religion Class makes no bones about it. The instructor starts with telling pupils that they have to believe.

When I had religion in school, we were certainly not expected to believe. We were expected to understand the different religions, and what impact they have had on our society, but belief was not a requirement. Maybe Swank is thinking about Sunday School?

So Christians, for example, say they have faith there is a God of the Bible, angels, demons, heaven, hell, afterlife, saving grace, judgment, and so forth.

They don't try to prove it. In fact, Christians say that finally all that can't be proven for if mortal could prove it, mortal would be God.

And yet, Swank think that the evidence based world of science is equal to religion.

So unabashedly Christians start with faith and say that if you don't want to have the faith, that's your choice. You have the decision-making powers to cancel out faith for non-faith and that is your right as a free will being.

A large number of Christians don't say that it's your choice - as a matter of fact, they say that if you don't believe, you'll get tortured in Hell eternally. That's like saying to people that it's up to them if they want to pay protection money, but if they don't, they'll get their knee smashed.

Also, a large number of people, Alan Keyes among them, wants to make laws based upon their faith. Laws that have an impact on other people, such as homosexuals. So, even if they don't share the same faith, they still have to follow the rules made by that faith? Doesn't sound much like free will to me.

But when it comes to evolution, the adherents make us hold to that nonsense as a fact. They press it upon us as evangelists of Darwin. And of course it's not a fact any more than fairy tales are facts. Evolution is a theory, and an exceptionally wide-eyed foolish one at that. Nevertheless, it is a mere theory as much as tapioca pudding causes Milky Ways is a theory.

Swank shows his stupidity in so many ways here. First of all, what he doesn't understand is that while religion dictates the conclusion first, and then interpret all things through that filter, science works by looking at the evidence, and then try to explain it. In other words, science is based upon facts, which is why we insist that it's factual! You, sir, are not entitled to your own facts.

And of course, there is the usual stupidity about evolution just being a theory. Scientific theories are the most rigorous tested explanations, which has withstood all testing and attempts of falsifying them. They have nothing to do with the kind of postulates that are commonly called theories in normal conversations.

So evolution should be taught in Faith Class if it's going to be put upon the students in public schools. It does not certainly belong in science class. It's not a science. It's not a proven fact. Now of course if there is a chapter in science class about theories, then evolution can be presented as a theory as much as Alice in Wonderland can be presented as a theory. But nothing more than a theory.

Can you please just shut up? Your writing is so amazingly stupid that it actually hurts to read your crap.

If we need an ignoramus to explain to us what science is, we'll certainly make sure to call, but until then, perhaps you should try to get even the tiniest amount of education on the subject that you feel qualified to spew nonsense about? Of course, that'll lead you to become painfully aware of how grossly stupid you've been, but even so, you'll find it worth your time, I'm sure. At least, it'll make it possible for you to avoid appearing such a fool in the future.

Yes, the world is crazy. And getting crazier still.

Maybe it's just the people you hang out with that's bat-shit insane?

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I see that Texas is seriously considering approving a master's degree program for science education offered by the Institute for Creation Research, which is basically a master's degree in Creationism.

If I had a degree from any Texan institute of learning, I would certainly oppose this, as it totally negates the quality of all other educations approved by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. How can one trust any education approved by them, when they obviously don't have any understanding of what sound education consists of.

Another reason to oppose the education, is that it does the students a disservice. They can only use the education in a very narrow field (creationist institute), and won't be able to use it in society in general. If they change perspective at a later stage (e.g. become theistic evolutionists), they would end up with having no job prospects.

Anti-science should never be approved as an education.

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Monday, December 17, 2007

New Jersey joins the civilized world

Via Readerville I became aware that New Jersey abolished the Death Penalty today.

The New York Times reports

Gov. Jon S. Corzine signed into law a measure repealing New Jersey’s death penalty on Monday, making the state the first in a generation to abolish capital punishment.

Mr. Corzine also issued an order commuting the sentences of the eight men on New Jersey’ death row to life in prison with no possibility of parole, ensuring that they will stay behind bars for the rest of their lives.

In an extended and often passionate speech from his office at the state capitol, Mr. Corzine declared an end to what he called “state-endorsed killing,” and said that New Jersey could serve as a model for other states.

“Today New Jersey is truly evolving,” he said. “I believe society first must determine if its endorsement of violence begets violence, and if violence undermines our commitment to the sanctity of life. To these questions, I answer yes.”

While New Jersey hasn't executed anyone since 1963, the death penalty has been (back) on the books since 1982.

I am very much against the death penalty, not only because of the risk of killing innocent people, and the demonstratively racist bias in its appliance, but most of all, because I sincerely believes that it's not the role of society to kill, except in self-defense. And there is no way that you can convince me that it's self-defense to kill someone who is locked away.

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Sunday, December 16, 2007

IQ in the New Yorker

In the New Yorker, there is a good book review by Malcolm Gladwell, that covers the subject of race and IQ: None of the Above - What I.Q. doesn’t tell you about race. It's a review of James Flynn's What Is Intelligence?, which among other things, covers the 'Flynn effect', which is the generational increase of IQ, that he demonstrated.

The part of the review that I found most interesting, was the part about Flynn's recent debate with Charles Murray, who embraces the worst kind of psuedo-science in his The Bell Curve

Two weeks ago, Flynn came to Manhattan to debate Charles Murray at a forum sponsored by the Manhattan Institute. Their subject was the black-white I.Q. gap in America. During the twenty-five years after the Second World War, that gap closed considerably. The I.Q.s of white Americans rose, as part of the general worldwide Flynn effect, but the I.Q.s of black Americans rose faster. Then, for about a period of twenty-five years, that trend stalled—and the question was why.

Murray showed a series of PowerPoint slides, each representing different statistical formulations of the I.Q. gap. He appeared to be pessimistic that the racial difference would narrow in the future. “By the nineteen-seventies, you had gotten most of the juice out of the environment that you were going to get,” he said. That gap, he seemed to think, reflected some inherent difference between the races. “Starting in the nineteen-seventies, to put it very crudely, you had a higher proportion of black kids being born to really dumb mothers,” he said. When the debate’s moderator, Jane Waldfogel, informed him that the most recent data showed that the race gap had begun to close again, Murray seemed unimpressed, as if the possibility that blacks could ever make further progress was inconceivable.

Flynn took a different approach. The black-white gap, he pointed out, differs dramatically by age. He noted that the tests we have for measuring the cognitive functioning of infants, though admittedly crude, show the races to be almost the same. By age four, the average black I.Q. is 95.4—only four and a half points behind the average white I.Q. Then the real gap emerges: from age four through twenty-four, blacks lose six-tenths of a point a year, until their scores settle at 83.4.

That steady decline, Flynn said, did not resemble the usual pattern of genetic influence. Instead, it was exactly what you would expect, given the disparate cognitive environments that whites and blacks encounter as they grow older. Black children are more likely to be raised in single-parent homes than are white children—and single-parent homes are less cognitively complex than two-parent homes. The average I.Q. of first-grade students in schools that blacks attend is 95, which means that “kids who want to be above average don’t have to aim as high.” There were possibly adverse differences between black teen-age culture and white teen-age culture, and an enormous number of young black men are in jail—which is hardly the kind of environment in which someone would learn to put on scientific spectacles.

Isn't it amazing that the more one looks into the claims by Murray and his irk, the more they are based upon cherry-picked data and false premises?

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7 random things about me

Since I've been tagged by both Grrlscientist and Shalini, I thought I should get around to actually do this meme.

The Rules are as follows:

1. Link to the person that tagged you and post the rules on your blog.

2. Share 7 random and or weird things about yourself.

3. Tag 7 random people at the end of your post and include links to their blogs.

4. Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

Seven Random or Weird Things About Me:

1. I dislike heights and speed - roller coasters are not a source of enjoyment for me.

2. I don't have a drivers' license. Living in a city with a great public transportation system, I've never really needed it.

3. Most of friends are into computers in one way or another, even though none of us were really into them, when we first met.

4. While my native language is Danish, my first language was really English. I just forgot it all while in kindergarten, and had to relearn it in school.

5. Even though Denmark is not well known for its sunny weather, I' most comfortable when the temperature is above 30 degrees.

6. I hate rain and cold. Slush makes me aggressive. Snow is fine, when looking at it from indoors.

7. My favorite drink is a single malt whisky, preferably from Isle of Islay, though I also love Talisker.

Seven Random (non-pseudonymous) Bloggers whom I read;

1. Martin at Aardvarchaeology

2. Anthony at Black Triangle

3. Spocko at Spocko's Brain

4. Cara at the Curvature

5. Viginia at Virginia Hughes

6. Mrs Tilton at 6th International

7. All the other bloggers on my blogroll who feels like answering this meme.

I apologize in advance if any of the tagged people already have done the meme, but I haven't been quite up to my blogreading lately.

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Bad news about Terry Pratchett

I am quite busy at the moment, hence the light blogging, but I thought I'd share this piece of bad news about Terry Pratchett.

He has been diagnosed with a very rare form of early onset Alzheimer's.

He says that he prefers people to keep it cheerful, and that he expects to meet his current and some future commitments. He also expects that there will be some more Discworld books.

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Thursday, December 06, 2007

The 75th Meeting of the Skeptics' Circle – the plain edition

Unlike many of the previous hosts, I am not as creative when it comes to writing posts. Still, I had planned on making an attempt of creative writing (I was thinking along the lines of presenting the Skeptics’ Circle as a classic show-and-tell session), but due to a number of unforeseen things, I’ve been pressed for time lately.

So instead, let’s note the remarkable fact that the Circle has reached its 75th edition, here close to three years it started. I think we can all agree that in that time we have been subjected to a number of great posts, written by some of the leading skeptic bloggers. This edition strives to continue the tradition, and I feel we have a number of very good posts in it. So, without any more ado, let’s go to the contributions.

First, let me introduce one of the newer voices among the skeptic bloggers. Podblack Cat writes a blog, which she describes as “a repository of useful links and reflections on scientific and education-related news and issues".
She explains why the year 2038 will not be another Y2K, even though some people think it will: What Doesn’t Add Up

A more veteran skeptic blogger, is Lord Runolfr, who deals with (yet another) chain-letter scam - The Microsoft Lottery

We have a few submissions related to autism.
First Do’C teams up with Interverbal to tackle a new paper on autism and mercury: A Tale Of Two Tails

Secondly, Prometheus gives us two posts on “the use (or is it abuse?) of hyperbaric oxygen therapy for the treatment of autism": HBOT: Is it just a bunch of hot air? and HBOT: Under Pressure

For three good examples of debunking "news" stories, we have Sam Wise's Googlediving, hybrid vehicles, and energy consumption, dealing with the claims that the lifecycle energy consumption of a Prius is greater than that of a Hummer. The Professor over at Evangelical Realism, takes on a reported miracle: Anatomy of a “miracle”. And Flavin's look at the recent story of how Santa Claus cannot say 'ho ho ho', Ho Ho Hustle!. Flavin, who posts over at St. Louis Skeptical Society is another great new voice in the skeptic blogsphere.

For a more easily debunked, yet reoccurring, theme, Paddy takes on Jesus Pancake Christ.

A different take than what we normally see, but still quite relevant to the Circle, Michael Meadon explains why how he gained more respect for skepticism: Hypnopompia, or, How I Learnt to Stop Belittling True Believers and Love Skepticism

Most people have probably noticed that submissions to the Skeptics' Circle seems somewhat themed, and one of the big themes this time was homeopathy.
Over at the Bad Idea Blog, there is Detox and Re-Tox: Bad Medicine and Even Worse Homeopathy at Alt-Med Mecca NewsTarget, Christian at Med Journal Watch gives us Random reward may explain why homeopathy still exists, and finally Sandy Szwarc writes How we know what will kill or cure us. Maybe these attacks explains why homeopaths complain about lack of profits?

Focusing more narrowly, Bing takes on Dale Sellers: Dale Sellers: Your life is a lie... [warning: explicit language], and PalMD from WhiteCoat Underground takes on Dr. Russell Blaylock: How much woo can one doc do?

More technical in nature is Blake Stacey's post on Quantum: Yawn: More Abuse of the Quantum

Rana explains how skepticism also is warranted when dealing with marketing: Signals.

The Gadfly, from The Philosophy of the Socratic Gadfly, explains FBI criminal profiling - little more than psychics’ “cold reading”

Skeptico takes on the nonsense that is Larry King, and the psychics he regularly invites on his show: From The Sublime to The Ridiculous

For an interesting look on traditional "psychology" in Western Africa, go read Dr. Romeo Vitelli's Casting Out The Djinn

Last, but not least, Martin Rundkvist reports on the Swedish Skeptics Society and its recent 25th anniversary celebration.

All in all, a great haul.
The next meeting of the Skeptics' Circle will be on December 20th at Aardvarchaeology.


Sunday, December 02, 2007

How our ancestors were like gorillas

That's the title of an interesting piece in ScienceDaily

As most people probably know, chimpanzees are our closest living relative (and we are the chimpanzees' closest living relative), yet it seems like some of our distinct relatives shared traits with gorillas.

New research shows that some of our closest extinct relatives had more in common with gorillas than previously thought. Dr Charles Lockwood, UCL Department of Anthropology and lead author of the study, said: "When we examined fossils from 1.5 to 2 million years ago we found that in one of our close relatives the males continued to grow well into adulthood, just as they do in gorillas. This resulted in a much bigger size difference between males and females than we see today.

This doesn't mean that they were closer related to gorillas than previously thought, it just mean that they were more alike to gorillas than previously thought.

The research was published in Science, and is unfortunately behind a pay wall.

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Call for submissions

On Thursday, I'll be hosting the next Skeptics' Circle, and as my role as host, I'm calling out for any submissions people feel might fit into the circle (the guidelines for submissions can be found here).

Originally I put Monday midnight as my deadline, but if you submit it Tuesday, it'll also be fine. Any submissions later than Tuesday, will likely not be admitted due to time differences.

There have already been a number of good submissions, but we can certainly always use more.

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Caffeine might become substitute to sleep

Or so, ScienceDaily tells us.

Morning Jolt Of Caffeine Might Mask Serious Sleep Problems

With the holiday season’s hustle and bustle in full swing, most of us will race to our favorite coffee shop to get that caffeine boost to make it through the day. However, that daily jolt that we crave might be the reason we need the caffeine in the first place.

“Many people won’t get enough sleep during the holidays and will drink numerous cups of coffee or high energy drinks so they will have enough energy to finish shopping and attend numerous parties,” said Dr. Joshua Septimus, an internist with The Methodist Hospital in Houston. “Most will use caffeine to push their bodies to the extreme, when they could get just as much energy from good night’s sleep.”

I'm shocked, shocked. Do you mean that a drink that you drink to wake you up, might actually keep you awake?

Of course, there is a deeper point to the article, which might be worth noticing - if you keep going on caffeinated drinks, you don't solve the root problems, but only the symptoms. Instead you should try to catch up on your sleep.

This, of course, is easier said than done, and doesn't really address those people who are forced to adapt to (for them) unnatural sleep patterns - e.g. 'owls' having to get up early in the morning.

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