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Following the Passage of Bobby Jindal’s Stealth Creationism Law, Louisiana Leads the Way Into the New Dark Age

Welcome to the new Dark Age
Science • Views: 25,159

In 2008, I wrote about the awful stealth creationist bill signed into law by Republican Governor Bobby Jindal, and predicted it would lead to a giant step backward for science education.

It gives me no joy to report, via Zack Kopplin (who’s doing an awesome job of bringing this awfulness to the attention of the public), that the giant step backward is now well under way: Louisiana Science Education: School Boards, Principals, and Teachers Endorse Creationism in Public School.

When a student in Louisiana opens her textbook in biology class, she might not have the standard Miller and Levine Biology with a dragonfly on the cover, and she might not ever learn about evolution. For some Louisiana public school students, their science textbook is the Bible, and in biology class they read the Book of Genesis to learn the “creation point of view.”

Through a public records request, I obtained dozens of emails from the Bossier Parish school district that specifically discuss teaching creationism. Shawna Creamer, a science teacher at Airline High School, sent an email to the principal, Jason Rowland, informing him of which class periods she would use to teach creationism. “We will read in Genesis and them [sic] some supplemental material debunking various aspects of evolution from which the students will present,” Creamer wrote.

In another email exchange with Rowland, a parent had complained that a different teacher, Cindy Tolliver, actually taught that evolution was a “fact.” This parent complained that Tolliver was “pushing her twisted religious beliefs onto the class.” Principal Rowland responded, “I can assure you this will not happen again.”

Another email was sent by Bossier High School assistant principal Doug Scott to Michael Stacy, a biology teacher at that school. “I enjoyed the visit to your class today as you discussed evolution and creationism in a full spectrum of thought,” Scott wrote. “Thank you for the rich content as you bring various sources to bear in your curriculum.”

Welcome to the new Dark Age, folks. It’s starting in Louisiana, but make no mistake — this is what the Republican Party stands for, and what they’ll impose on the rest of the United States if we don’t vote them all out of office.

New Images of Ceres Show Mysterious Bright Spots in More Detail

Shiny
Science • Views: 18,944

Here’s the latest image from NASA’s Dawn Mission, now in orbit around the protoplanet Ceres in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, with a clear shot of those mysterious bright spots first sighted months ago. The composition of the material causing these bright areas is still unknown as of this writing.

Click to enlarge (1920 x 1200 pixels) or right-click to open in a new window

The Backwards Bicycle Will Break Your Brain

A demonstration of cognitive bias
Science • Views: 41,136

YouTube

Here’s a fascinating look at how our brains are programmed to expect certain behaviors from the tools we use, and how difficult it can be to re-program those neural algorithms. Destin was given a bicycle that was designed with a fiendish twist — the steering was reversed so that turning the handlebars left made the bike go right, and vice versa. And he discovered it was amazingly hard to overcome his normal bike-riding behavior, but not impossible. But it took a lot of work.

By trying to ride this bike, he learned something very interesting about the cognitive biases we all have.

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: 15,998

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: 24,274

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: 30,057

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: 26,839

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: 25,266

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: 27,450

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: 24,458

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.

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 Frank says:

If it can be conceived as music, it can be executed as music, and presented to an audience in such a way that they will perceive it as music: "Look at this. Ever seen one of these before? I built this for you. What do you mean, 'What the f*ck is it?' It's a goddam ETUDE, asshole."