Blake over at Science After Sunclipse has written an excellent essay about the real threats and intimidation that people have experienced when speaking out in favor of evolution. The makers of the idiocy that is the film Expelled would like the public to believe that good scientists are being persecuted unfairly for speaking out against evolution. Remember, though, that a vast majority of people, both in and out of academia, are Christian, and many of the cases Blake highlights are of people who are Christian being punished and threatened apparently for being insufficiently dogmatic. Blake's essay is well-worth a read.
Archive for: April, 2008
This headline caught my eye, as I grew up in the Chicago area. I'll eagerly await reports from my family as to the horrific shocks they no doubt felt in the suburbs...
According to CNN,
The earthquake occurred in the Wabash Valley fault system, adjacent to the New Madrid Seismic Zone, Applegate said.
That zone, named for the town of New Madrid, Missouri, was the site of a series of huge tremors in 1811 and 1812.
Wandering through StumbleUpon.com's science links often looks more like a drunken stagger through the realm of crackpot science. The previous one I found, using Coulomb's law to get free energy, I passed along to Tyler to deal with as it deserved. The latest contender, which is getting a lot of recent attention, is a so-called 'whipmag' device, which uses neodymium magnets to supposedly accelerate a disk to a high rate of rpm with no external energy input. The video below the fold...
Again via StumbleUpon, I found this very nice interactive version of the periodic table. The elements are color-coded according to their orbital configuration, and hovering the mouse over an element gives you all the significant chemical properties. I find myself uncontrollably wandering the table, looking at various elements, which probably means it serves as an excellent teaching tool!
Via Pharyngula, I see that the Expelled Exposed website, which points out the flaws and lies in the new Ben Stein creationist claptrap Expelled, has 'gone live' and added lots of new content, including a depressing film about the ouster of Texas science director Chris Comer for criticizing 'intelligent design' (aka 'creationism').
For the first time last night, I saw a commercial on television for Expelled during The Daily Show on Comedy Central. It's amazing how much B.S. they can fit into a 30-second spot. A frizzy-haired stereotypical professor is discussing evolution when Ben Stein raises his hand and asks, "But how did life start?" The question throws the fake professor into an apoplectic fit, and he sends Stein to the principal's office. The problem with this is: evolution does not address the question of abiogenesis at all, and any real professor of biology would be happy to tell you that. Evolution is a theory of how existing species change as a result of mutation and natural selection. Abiogenesis, the origin of life itself, is an open scientific question.
Criticizing evolution for not explaining abiogenesis is about as sensible as criticizing the theory of gravity for failing to explain the existence of pirates.
So Expelled manages to fit at least two misrepresentations (evolution and academic response) into a 30-second spot. If that trend holds for the 90-minute movie, we're looking at at least 360 misrepresentations for the whole film. Way to go, Ben.
Cities, in spite of their liveliness, or perhaps because of it, can seem just as mysterious and unknowable as a lonely cemetery or underground catacomb. There's always something going on in the city, and if you're attentive, you can catch glimpses of unusual encounters, often in passing or out of the corner of your eye. What's in the unusually-shaped package the man is carrying furtively down the street? What are the two men hunched over and examining in the alleyway? Is that dark figure upon the rooftop simply a silhouetted air vent, or something else? It often seems like there's a hidden world behind the city's outward façade, which might be entered if one is fortunate... or highly unfortunate.
It's not surprising that numerous authors of horror and weird fiction in general have been inspired by thoughts such as these to give their own take on things that are happening behind the scenes. I came across one such story recently, and that inspired me to put together a short list of stories, long and short, about the secret goings-on of cities...
I would be seriously remiss if I didn't mention that today is the birthday of one of the great horror/scifi actors, Ron Perlman! He's been involved with so many cool projects it's hard to do them all justice: He's probably most well-known these days for his portrayal of Hellboy (and his upcoming portrayal in the sequel, Hellboy II : The Golden Army). The earliest role I had seen him play was the sinister hunchback Salvatore in the excellent murder mystery The Name of the Rose. One of his longest-running roles was as 'The Beast' in the 1980s Beauty and the Beast television series. He's played a vampire mercenary in Blade II and a demonic sheriff in the TV adaptation of Stephen King's Desperation. His deep, authoritative voice has earned him many voice-over roles playing, amongst others, Hellboy, Conan, Clayface (a Batman villain), Jax-Ur (a phantom zone criminal), and The Incredible Hulk.
The future looks pretty bright for Perlman, as well: besides his starring role in the next Hellboy film, he is slated to voice-over Conan in the excellent animated version of Red Nails, which promises to be one of the truest adaptations ever made of the barbarian. The most intriguing bit of news is that he is rumored to have a part in an upcoming adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness! Normally, I would be horrified to see anyone trying to adapt this story to the screen, but the director is Guillermo del Toro, and if anyone can adapt it properly, he can.
In any case, happy birthday to Ron Perlman, and best of luck for his future endeavors!
Via StumbleUpon, I came across this nice collection of chemistry videos at listverse.com: The Top 10 Amazing Chemical Reactions. If you want to see chemicals acting in very 'unnatural' ways, take a gander.
My favorite is the sulfur hexafluoride, an invisible gas over 5 times heavier than air. Because of this, it can be held in an open container and have lightweight objects floated on top of it. On a more serious note, it reminded me of another gas which is heavier than air: carbon dioxide. In 1986, Lake Nyos in Cameroon released a massive amount of carbon dioxide that had been suspended in solution at the lake's bottom, evidently much like a can of soda bubbles over when pressure is released. The carbon dioxide hugged the ground and ended up smothering and poisoning 1800 people in the lake's vicinity. (Cattle were not spared from the effects, either.) Currently, a French-Cameroon team is working on 'degassing' the lakes by venting the gas from the lake bottom.
I was browsing through H.P. Lovecraft's writings again, in particular his collected philosophical works, and came across an interesting essay: "Time and Space", printed in Conservative 4, No. 1 (July 1918). Though extremely flowery and poetic, the essay does justice to both Lovecraft's fiction and science as a whole, as I discuss below. The text, and some commentary, below the fold...
I haven't had much time to write a detailed optics post lately. I'm trying to get a couple of papers prepared for publication, and that's been hindered by coursework and the travel I've been doing. Beyond that, I haven't seen any new optics results recently that have leapt off the intertubes and cried out for blogging. (The odds are, of course, that I haven't been looking hard enough.)
Hopefully that will change in the near future, but in the meantime, are there any physical science topics, preferably in optics, that anyone would like me to blog about? Consider this an open invitation to submit your requests...
P.S. For that matter, if there's any 'horror blogging' requests, as well, I'd love to hear those, too!