Daily Archives: November 10, 2007

Flying Cars are Here!

We’ve been waiting far too long for our flying cars. Here is Popular Mechanics making note of the lack of actual flying cars:i-4de23dd46e25f83a0790043321430f47-Flying_car,_cover_of_Popular_Mechanics,_Feb_1951.jpgAnd here’s Popular Science putting in their two cents:i-2ceb8b98dd6e8eb386896ee27435965a-456px-Cover_of_Pop_Science_Mar_2006_Cover_1.jpgBut now, it seems that Flying Cars are just around the corner…From Slashdot:

“Complaints of the non-existence of flying cars as expressions of disappointment in the failure of the present to measure up to the glory of past predictions have long been a staple of popular culture but all that is about to change when Terrafugia introduces their $148,000 “Transition,” a 19-foot, two-seater that the company describes as a roadable light-sport aircraft. The problem is that the U.S. doesn’t have the infrastructure in place to make landing in front of your house a viable alternative yet and a sky filled with people who don’t have pilot’s licenses could also be a problem. The idea is to take advantage of the 6,000 public airports in the U.S. so a pilot can fly into a small airport (video) and instead of getting a rental car, just fold up the wings on the aircraft and drive away. Terrafugia expects the first production model to be ready in 2009 and says they’ve already received advanced orders for 30 to 50 Transitions.”

This is the Terrafugia car landing:i-d1582118e5ea3e546e146a5995ae7212-Screenshot1.pngAnd this is the very same car pulling into your garage.i-4379d851ff42a45b7b601069699c1c8e-Screenshot7.pngGo HERE to find out more, and HERE to see an excellent animation of the Terrafugia Flying Car.Hey, wait, that was an animation? Is it possible that they don’t quite exist yet?

The Yellowstone Problem

As you have surely heard, the Yellowstone Caldera … the place where Old Faithful and the Geyser Basin reside … has been undergoing increased “activity” including some earthquakes and a rising up of the land. Is this a big problem? Should the evacuate? Should those of us living only a few states away start wearing earplugs? Continue reading The Yellowstone Problem

Review of Judgement Day

JUDGMENT DAY PRAISED IN NATUREFrom the National Center for Science Education

Judgement Day Praised in Nature

Reviewing Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial — the new documentary about Kitzmiller v. Dover — for the November 8, 2007, issue of Nature (450: 170), Adam Rutherford was impressed, not least with the way in which the filmmakers met the challenge of retelling the story. “The makers of Judgment Day inject tension with eyewitness accounts from the people of Dover,” he writes, “and home-video footage of raucous school board meetings shows how passionate and divided this small community became. It works: it is inspiring to hear parents and educators, such as Sunday school and physics teacher Bryan Rehm, recount how they refused to be steam-rollered into bringing religion into the science classroom.””Judgment Day gracefully avoids ridiculing intelligent design for the pseudo-intellectual fundamentalist fig-leaf that it is, by simply showing how the protagonists shot themselves in the foot,” Rutherford adds. Acknowledging that the “intelligent design” movement is still alive in the wake of the trial, he nevertheless concludes that “the Kitzmiller vs Dover verdict, matched this September with the outlawing of intelligent design in the UK national curriculum, marked the official neutering of this unpleasant, sneaky movement in much of the western world. Judgment Day is just the sort of thoughtful programming that celebrates how sensible people — faithful and otherwise — can use science and reason to combat fundamentalism.”Judgment Day airs on PBS stations nationwide at 8:00 p.m. on November 13, 2007. (Schedules for local affiliates can be checked on-line via the PBS website.) Be sure also to visit the generous website, featuring interviews with Kenneth R. Miller on evolution, Phillip Johnson on “intelligent design,” and Paula Apsell on NOVA’s decision to produce the documentary; audio clips of Judge John E. Jones III reading passages from his decision in the case and of various experts (including NCSE’s Eugenie C. Scott) discussing the nature of science; resources about the evidence for evolution and about the background to the Kitzmiller case; material especially for teachers, including a briefing packet for educators; and even a preview of the documentary.

Rutherford’s review in Nature (subscription required), Rutherford’s review in Nature (subscription required)For information about Judgment DayFor the previewFor PBS schedules across the country

Fresh Video from the Moon

Are you aware of Kaguya (Selene)?

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency(JAXA) launched “KAGUYA (SELENE)” by the H-IIA Launch Vehicle at 10:31:01 a.m. on September 14, 2007 (JST) from Tanegashima Space Center. The major objectives of the “KAGUYA” mission are to obtain scientific data of the lunar origin and evolution and to develop the technology for the future lunar exploration. “KAGUYA” consists of a main orbiting satellite at about 100km altitude and two small satellites (Relay Satellite and VRAD Satellite) in polar orbit. The orbiters will carry instruments for scientific investigation of the Moon, on the Moon, and from the Moon.

This space craft has just sent us a fresh, new, and very impressive bit of film from the moon. Continue reading Fresh Video from the Moon

The Photosynthesis Song … Bad Word Choice?

Have a look at this:Did you notice that “miracle” and chlorophyll” are rhymed? So, maybe there is no word other than “miracle” that rhymes with “chlorophyll.” But I doubt it. (See below.)One could, and many will, argue that this is an innocent use of an innocent phrase and one should not think twice about using this video in an American public school classroom. But those who are in the trenches on this issue know that if you tell the students in a 10th grade biology classroom (for instance) that a particular process is “a miracle” that you have opened a very nasty can of worms. Many of the students will, in fact, believe that you have just endorsed a view of life and biology that they have been hearing all along from their pastors, parents, other teachers, and so on.Indeed, one could make the argument that the use of this particular video in a public school classroom is not only a bad idea (for the reasons cited here … because of the reality of today’s classrooms) but it would also be of questionable legality.So, I ask you, why do producers of such films and educational materials not realize that they are rendering their products useless by the invocation of Christian (or other) religious terminology, even if only for metaphorical purposes, or for the simple reason that they could get something to rhyme?Ok, folks, what rhymes with Chlorophyll? We can start with:Over the hillTake a pillCut and fillPlankton and krillWindow sill…. Any others?[added: Please see this post at Sandwalk for Larry Moran’s critique of the video]

Creationist’s Reign Ends in Kentucky

Kentuckians can be less embarrassed starting soon. This from the NCSE … it’s a bit old, but it had slipped past in a flurry of other emails, and I think it is really interesting.

FLETCHER LOSES KENTUCKY GOVERNORSHIPKentucky’s incumbent governor Ernie Fletcher (R) was soundly defeated in the November 6, 2007, election, by Steve Beshear (D), a former lieutenant governor of the state, who took 59% of the vote. A Baptist minister, Fletcher was perhaps the most outspoken supporter of creationism to serve as a governor anywhere in the country in recent years. He expressed disappointment about the verdict in Kitzmiller v. Dover, for example, saying that local school districts ought to be able to teach “intelligent design” if they wish (Cincinnati Enquirer, December 25, 2005).Subsequently, in his State of the Commonwealth address in January 2006, Fletcher contended that under Kentucky law, teachers already have the freedom to teach “intelligent design” in the public schools. He was apparently referring to a portion (KRS 158.177) of Kentucky’s Education Code authorizing teachers to teach “the theory of creation as presented in the Bible” and to “read such passages in the Bible as are deemed necessary for instruction on the theory of creation.” The Louisville Courier-Journal (January 11, 2006) reported that according to a November 2005 survey of the state’s 176 school districts, none were teaching or discussing “intelligent design.”Reaction to Fletcher’s comments on the part of the state’s newspapers was negative. For example, a Kentucky Post (January 11, 2006) editorial responded, “His plug for teaching intelligent design in public schools is manifestly unwelcome, if what he meant was that science teachers ought to incorporate it into their curriculum. If schools offer comparative religion classes as electives and teachers wish to address intelligent design in such classes, that’s another matter. But this is instruction that most families can take care of just fine in their own homes or churches.”The topic of “intelligent design” arose again during a televised debate between the gubernatorial candidates at Northern Kentucky University on October 3, 2007. According to WKYT (October 3, 2007) in Lexington, Kentucky, Fletcher commented, “I think there’s nothing wrong with teaching that, in fact, I think to teach that is part of our founding heritage and I think it’s very important,” while Beshear retorted, “I believe that science ought to be taught in schools and religion ought to be taught at home and in the churches and in the synagogues.” Beshear takes office on December 11, 2007.

By the way, I utterly disagree with the often made, often off the cuff remark that “if they/you want to teach intelligent design/creationism in social studies/comparative religion classes then fine…” No, it is not fine. It is exactly as unconstitutional as teaching it in science classes, and this is where the next battleground may well be.We’ll talk about that some other time..For more information, NCSE provides these links:Section 158.177 of the Kentucky Revised Statutes (PDF)WKYT’s coverage of the debateNCSE’s coverage of previous events in Kentucky