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New Study Shows Widespread Scientific Consensus on Guns - and the NRA Won’t Like It

The impact of firearms on US society is overwhelmingly negative
Science • Views: 15,548

Professor David Hemenway of the Harvard School of Public Health recently took a series of surveys of scientists in the fields of criminology, economics, public policy, political science and public health on the effects of firearms on society, and made some very interesting discoveries: There’s Scientific Consensus on Guns — and the NRA Won’t Like It.

I decided to determine objectively, through polling, whether there was scientific consensus on firearms. What I found won’t please the National Rifle Assn.

[…]

Last May we began sending out short, monthly surveys. The first question on each survey asks how much the respondent agrees with a particular claim related to firearms, and the second and third questions ask the respondent to rate the quality of the scientific literature, as well as their own level of familiarity with the scientific literature on that particular topic.

So, for example, one survey asked whether having a gun in the home increased the risk of suicide. An overwhelming share of the 150 people who responded, 84%, said yes.

This result was not at all surprising because the scientific evidence is overwhelming. It includes a dozen individual-level studies that investigate why some people commit suicide and others do not, and an almost equal number of area-wide studies that try to explain differences in suicide rates across cities, states and regions. These area-wide studies find that differences in rates of suicide across the country are less explained by differences in mental health or suicide ideation than they are by differences in levels of household gun ownership.

[…]

I also found widespread confidence that a gun in the home increases the risk that a woman living in the home will be a victim of homicide (72% agree, 11% disagree) and that a gun in the home makes it a more dangerous place to be (64%) rather than a safer place (5%). There is consensus that guns are not used in self-defense far more often than they are used in crime (73% vs. 8%) and that the change to more permissive gun carrying laws has not reduced crime rates (62% vs. 9%). Finally, there is consensus that strong gun laws reduce homicide (71% vs. 12%).

Stanford Computer Scientists Develop “Troll-Spotting Algorithm,” Explodes When Analyzing Breitbart.com

Using Breitbart as a test bed calls their results into question
Science • Views: 23,440

A group of Stanford computer scientists have developed an algorithm that supposedly can detect trolls by analyzing as few as five comments.

Today, Justin Cheng at Stanford University in California and a few pals say they have created just such a tool by analyzing the behavior of trolls on several well-known websites and creating an algorithm that can accurately spot them after as few as 10 posts. They say their technique should be of high practical importance to the people who maintain online communities.

Cheng and co study three online news communities: the general news site cnn.com, the political news site breitbart.com, and the computer gaming site ign.com.

On each of these sites, they have a list of users who have been banned for antisocial behavior, over 10,000 of them in total. They also have all of the messages posted by these users throughout their period of online activity. “Such individuals are clear instances of antisocial users, and constitute ‘ground truth’ in our analyses,” say Cheng and co.

OK, I just have to ask: how in the world can any algorithm pick out “trolls” at Breitbart “News?” Almost every commenter at that insane website is an antisocial lunatic. They don’t discourage antisocial nutcases — inciting them into a frenzy is their business model. If Breitbart “News” was one of their test beds I have to question the accuracy of this algorithm.

Related
Right Wing Blog Spews Racist Hatred at Shirley Sherrod Breitbart.com Commenters Respond to Obama Speech with Deluge of Overt Racism Breitbart.com Commenters Spew Racial Slurs at Sheila Jackson Lee Breitbart.com Commenters Spew Racial Slurs at Democratic Strategist Breitbart’s Fans Spew Racism, Call for President Obama to Be Lynched, ‘Taken Out’ Breitbart.com Commenters Spew Racist Hatred at Trayvon Martin Another Sickening Deluge of Open Racism at Breitbart.com Still More Overtly Racist Comments at Breitbart.com Yet Another Deluge of Racist Hatred and Calls for Genocide at Breitbart.com Breitbart Editor John Nolte About HBO ‘Stage Mom:’ ‘She Should Be Murdered’ Breitbart.com: Yet Another Deluge of Racist Hatred for Michelle Obama #Breitbart.com Incites Another Deluge of Misogynist Hate Speech Against Lena Dunham Your Utterly Insane #Breitbart.com Comment of the Day, in Free Verse Breitbart’s Matthew Boyle Stalks the President’s Daughters, Incites Racial Hatred Breitbart Reports on Zimmerman Verdict Riot Plan, Commenters Spew Torrents of Racism President Obama Makes Heartfelt, Powerful Comments on Racism, Right Wing Goes Batshit Martin Bashir “Resigns” From MSNBC, Breitbart Commenters Spew Hate and Racism Just Some More Overt Racism and Hate Speech at Breitbart “News” Michelle Obama Continues Hawaiian Vacation, Breitbart Commenters Respond With Deluge of Racism Eric Holder Criticizes Palin’s Impeachment Babble, Breitbart Commenters Spew Hatred and Racism Breitbart “News” Pushes Debunked ISIS FGM Story, Commenters Call for Genocide of Muslims Breitbart Distorts Obama Quote on American Muslims, Commenters Spew Bigotry and Hatred Yes, It’s Yet Another Deluge of Open Racism at Breitbart “News” All Over the Right Wing Media Sites, Commenters Calling for Genocide of Muslims Yet Another Horrifying Deluge of Hate Speech and Open Racism at Breitbart “News”

A Nasty Surprise in the Greenhouse: The Gulf Stream is Slowing Down

by Peter Sinclair - Climate Denial Crock of the Week
Science • Views: 29,774

YouTube

The disaster movie “The Day After Tomorrow” was based on long term scientific concerns about global warming’s impact on the North Atlantic Current, also called the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, - what most people think of as “The Gulf Stream” - although that is a simplification.

The movie was obviously over the top in terms of the projected impacts, but after a decade in which science has downplayed the possibility of such an event, a new paper shows that the circulation is indeed slowing down.

This could signal potential impacts on weather, the food chain, and circulation of oxygen and nutrients throughout the ocean.

I’ve been interviewing key authors of the paper, Lead author Stefan Rahmstorf, as well as paleoclimate expert Mike Mann, and Glaciologist Jason Box.

This is a paper that could have substantial impact, and might very well be distorted or sensationalized, - so bookmark this post as a damper for overhyped speculation, as well as a warning about real impacts.

More: A Nasty Surprise in the Greenhouse. New Paper, New Video.

Incredible Video From NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory: A 5-Year Time-Lapse of the Sun

Science • Views: 26,593

YouTube

I’ve been getting swarmed by creationists and right wing science-deniers today on Twitter, so here’s some amazing science to take away that nasty reactionary taste.

The Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) celebrates its 5th anniversary since it launched on February 11, 2010. This time-lapse video captures one frame every 8 hours starting when data became available in June 2010 and finishing February 8, 2015.

The different colors represent the various wavelengths (sometimes blended, sometimes alone) in which SDO observes the sun.

For more about SDO, please visit:
nasa.gov

Credit:
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

Download HD Video:
svs.gsfc.nasa.gov

It’s Darwin Day in the US, Where Far Too Many Fanatics Still Reject Evolution

Anti-science fanaticism persists, 100 years later
Science • Views: 24,895

I was going to start this post by wishing everyone a Happy Darwin Day (it’s Charles Darwin’s birthday), but unfortunately it’s not a very happy occasion — because this country still has far too many religious fanatics who refuse to accept the fact of evolution through natural selection: On Darwin Day, 5 Facts About the Evolution Debate.

Of all the major religious groups in the U.S., white evangelical Protestants are the most likely to reject evolution. A solid majority (64%) of white evangelicals in a 2013 poll said that humans and other living things have always existed in their present form, while only 27% said that humans evolved. These views are largely mirrored by the positions of large evangelical churches, such as the Southern Baptist Convention and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, which explicitly reject evolutionary theory as being in conflict with what they see as biblical truth.

Some people will try to tell you this is just a private belief and doesn’t matter; but these people are not only indoctrinating their children with this Dark Ages anti-science rejectionism, they’re continually trying to force their views on everyone else’s children by sneaking creationism into public schools. And since this strategy has been consistently foiled by the courts, they’re now using a new technique to get at the children of America: taxpayer-funded religious schools that teach young Earth creationism and reject evolution entirely.

In an age when science and technology are vitally important skills, another entire generation of kids is having their critical thinking abilities deliberately sabotaged by fanatics.

This matters.

Also see

Richard Muller: I Was Wrong on Climate Change

Yale Climate Forum - Peter Sinclair
Science • Views: 27,172

I’m thinking back to all the climate trolls who used to throw this guy in my face when arguing with them…

YouTube

Richard Muller founded the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Project after declaring himself skeptical about climate change. He was funded in part by the Koch Brothers.
He found out what other scientists have known for decades. The Earth is warming, and we’re doing it.

Related

Mind-Bending 4K Video of the Andromeda Galaxy: The Largest Photo Ever Taken

Makes you feel small, don’t it?
Science • Views: 23,939

YouTube

You’ll leave this video with a sense of how unimaginably vast the universe is. This isn’t CGI, and it isn’t animation, it’s the largest photograph of the universe ever taken by the Hubble Space Telescope — and it’s just a small portion of the Andromeda Galaxy, our nearest galactic neighbor.

Watch and be amazed. (1440p and 2160p versions are included.)

First & Last photo by Cory Poole: facebook.com

Super-high resolution image of Andromeda from Hubble (NASA/ESA): spacetelescope.org

Music is ‘Koda - The Last Stand’: soundcloud.com

Space is crazy.

Neil deGrasse Tyson Will Host New Science-Oriented Late Night Talk Show

More of this, please
Science • Views: 25,272

What a great idea — a late night talk/variety show dedicated to science, hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson. I’ll be eagerly looking forward to this one.

“Cosmos allowed us to share the awesome power of the universe with a global audience in ways that we never thought possible,” said Tyson. “To be able to continue to spread wonder and excitement through Star Talk, which is a true passion project for me, is beyond exciting. And National Geographic Channel is the perfect home as we continue to explore the universe.”

“This is kind of low-risk, I think, for National Geographic,” Tyson told the crowd at the Television Critics Association press tour. “Star Talk exists as a thriving podcast right now.”

Star Talk will indeed follow a similar format to Tyson’s podcast, which marries science and popular culture and feature interviews with celebrities, comedians and scientists. He’s still sorting through all of the elements that he’ll add to the television iteration, but he does intend to give Bill Nye a platform for a minute-long rant in each show, much as Andy Rooney had for many years on CBS’ 60 Minutes.

A Timelapse of the Surface of the Sun in Stunning 4K Video

Hot solar action
Science • Views: 32,080

YouTube

One of the most amazing videos I’ve seen this year is this absolutely stunning timelapse of the wildest frontier, the surface of our Sun, composed of images taken by the Solar Dynamics Observatory. What you’re looking at is actually a gigantic self-sustaining nuclear fusion reaction. The center of our solar system is not a very peaceful place.

If you’re lucky enough to have a large Retina or other high resolution display, check out the 4K version in full screen mode — the detail is mind-blowing.

(h/t: Randall Gross.)

The surface of the sun from October 14th to 30th, 2014, showing sunspot AR 2192, the largest sunspot of the last two solar cycles (22 years). During this time sunspot AR 2191 produced six X-class and four M-class solar flares. The animation shows the sun in the ultraviolet 304 ångström wavelength, and plays at a rate of 52.5 minutes per second. It is composed of more than 17,000 images, 72 GB of data produced by the solar dynamics observatory (sdo.gsfc.nasa.gov) + (helioviewer.org). This animation has been rendered in 4K, and resized to the Youtube maximum resolution of 3840×2160. The animation has been rotated 180 degrees so that south is “up”. The audio is the ‘heartbeat’ of the sun, processed from SOHO HMI data by Alexander G. Kosovichev. Image data courtesy of NASA/SDO and the AIA, EVE, and HMI science teams.”Image processing and animation by James Tyrwhitt-Drake. To use this video in a commercial player or in broadcasts, please email licensing@storyful.com

In Which My Tweet About #Ebola and Evolution Goes Viral

Creationists get upset
Science • Views: 42,913
Image via Shutterstock

I’m going to kick off the week by humble-bragging about this off-handed tweet I posted over the weekend that has now gone viral (ironic considering the subject), with more than 7200 retweets as I write this.

This really touched a nerve, I guess, and I’ve now received hundreds of replies (possibly over a thousand, I haven’t counted), many of them from creationists.

One common theme in replies from conservatives is that “not all conservatives” are creationists or deny the science of evolution — but while it may be true that not every single conservative is a creationist, for years every poll on the subject has shown that a majority of Republicans not only disbelieve evolution, they’re hard core young Earth creationists.

(And by the way, my tweet didn’t even say that “all conservatives” are creationists, but it sure upset the ones who are.)

Two other common responses from creationists:

  1. We don't deny micro-evolution, just macro-evolution. If Ebola evolves, it's only micro-evolution.
  2. If Ebola ever becomes airborne, that won't be evolution -- it will be mutation. That's different.

Both of these talking points are well-worn creationist dodges, and they’re both bogus.

1. While biologists do use the terms “micro-evolution” and “macro-evolution,” they both refer to the same well-understood mechanism of evolution; the only difference is the scale, both in time and in size. Micro-evolution can take place much more quickly, because microorganisms breed much faster and have much shorter life spans.

2. The “mutation isn’t evolution” talking point is another nonsensical dodge, because biologists know that mutations are one of the most important mechanisms through which evolution occurs. If Ebola does ever become airborne (a very remote possibility, according to those who’ve studied the disease), it will most likely be due to a mutation that enables the virus to adapt better to its environment — leading to a general trend of evolution within the virus population, by means of natural selection.

I’ve answered these talking points just for reference, because unfortunately the people who spout them are impervious to logic, and simply don’t care about the truth of these issues. They’re rejecting the science of evolution because of an atavistic fear that it renders their cherished belief systems irrelevant, not out of logic — so they’ll never be convinced by logical arguments.

Also for reference, I highly recommend TalkOrigin’s Index to Creationist Claims, an exhaustive list of the many deceptive, false, and/or misleading talking points creationists use in these kinds of arguments (no matter how many times they’ve been debunked).

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 Frank says:

Drop out of school before your mind rots from exposure to our mundane educational system. Forget about the Senior Prom and go to the library and *educate yourself* if you've got any guts. Some of you like *pep rallies* and plastic robots who tell you what to read. Forget I mentioned it. *This song has no message.* Rise for the flag salute. -- Liner notes for "Hungry Freaks, Daddy" on "Freak Out!"