Daily Archives: December 14, 2007

Young-Theory Overturned

Saturn’s rings probably date back billions of years and could likely be around forever although they are continually changing, according to a new study published this week.Data collected by the Voyager spacecraft in the 1970s and later the Hubble telescope originally led scientists to think the planet’s famous rings were relatively young in cosmic terms and possibly created by a comet that smashed into a large moon.But new data collected by the Cassini probe suggests that rather than being formed some 100 million years ago, the rings were probably formed as the solar system was being built about 4.5 billion years ago.

You know, I never liked that earlier idea that the rings were young. WTF? I thought. This makes so much more sense.

Studies show that the ages of the rings differ significantly, and that the matter inside the rings is constantly changing.”The evidence is consistent with the picture that Saturn has had rings all through its history,” added the professor from the University of Colorado.Previously scientists believed that if the rings were as old as Saturn, they should be darker due to collecting cosmic pollution such as meteorite dust.But the observations from Cassini showed that there appeared to be a gigantic churning mass of ice and rock, which could explain why the rings appear quite bright when seen through telescopes on the ground.


Science News Tidbits: Climate and Ecology

Four dolphins found dead on Florida beach

Researchers are examining four dead dolphins that washed ashore on Florida’s Canaveral National Seashore. Biologist Megan Stolen of the Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute said the dolphins may have been killed by toxins from a red tide bloom off Florida’s Atlantic Coast, The Orlando Sentinel said Thursday.

Ship with toxic load sinking on China’s Yangtze river: official media

A ship carrying 130 tonnes of a toxic industrial chemical began to sink on China’s longest river on Friday, state press reported. The caustic soda is sealed and has not leaked, although there are fears it may do so, Xinhua news agency said.

Science News Tidbits

Coral Reefs Unlikely to Survive in Acid Oceans from PhysOrg.com
Carbon emissions from human activities are not just heating up the globe, they are changing the ocean’s chemistry. This could soon be fatal to coral reefs, which are havens for marine biodiversity and underpin the economies of many coastal communities.[]

Isotope Shortage Worries Doctors

A sudden shortage of a radioisotopeused in about 14 million medical procedures each year in the US is causing concern within the medical community.

Continue reading Science News Tidbits

Review: The Science of Evolution and the Myth of Creationism

REPOST from gregladen.com

“Everyone needs to understand the basic facts of evolution as well as the essentials of the scientific method… When people are deprived of a scientific approach to reality as a whole, they are robbed of both a full appreciation of the beauty and richness of the natural world and the means to understand the dynamics of change not only in nature but in human society as well.”

-Ardea Skybreak, “The Science of Evolution and the Myth of Creationism” Continue reading Review: The Science of Evolution and the Myth of Creationism

Religion: The Methamphetamine of the Masses…

Or maybe even PCP

If religion was merely an opiate, that would be cool. There would be a lot of stoned people waking around. But it could be argued that religion is a harder drug, one that makes people do harder, more unsavory things than just sitting around bleary eyed and happy. Like killing people.

A new book addressing the horrors of religion is in press. This is Away With All Gods! Unchaining the Mind and Radically Changing the World by Bob Avakian.

Continue reading Religion: The Methamphetamine of the Masses…

Oral traditions effectively warn people about tsunamis and reduce mortality

From a UC Santa Cruz Press Release:

The infamous Indian Ocean tsunami that struck on December 26, 2004, caused tragically high mortality–from 10 to 90 percent of the population at various locations. Yet in 1930 a tsunami of similar size, generated by an earthquake near the Ninigo Islands, struck northern Papua New Guinea and killed just 0.1 to 1 percent of the population on the coast there.Why were these islanders living earlier in the century better protected?…

Continue reading Oral traditions effectively warn people about tsunamis and reduce mortality

On the Ninth Day of Hanukkah, My True Love Gave To Me…

… Nine Yahoos Dancing…Flushed with Victory, Bill The Moron O’Reilly Adds One Day to Jewish Holiday:

Despite declaring “victory” in the “War on Christmas” this week, Bill O’Reilly continued to harp on his favorite subject last night with Focus on the Family’s Carrie Gordon Earll. Discussing the group’s “Attack on Christmas 2007” list, Earll mentioned that Old Navy’s catalogue uses the phrase “holiday morning.” O’Reilly then suggested the store may be trying to “incorporate the nine days of Hanukkah in the holiday morning description” as a “marketing tool.”

Think Progress has the Video.

Global Warming Deniers Find Comfort in Geophysical Meetings Paper

Global Warming Deniers Find Comfort in Geophysical Meetings PaperA paper presented at the American Geophysical Union is one of the few papers, if any, you will see mentioned on Fox News. The story claims that volcanoes under the ice sheet in Greenland are melting the ice cap. This could be an alternative explanation for what others see as global warming.The truth? Research has shown that there is a correlation between how thick the Earth’s crust is across Greenland, and how thick the Ice cap is, adjusting for various factors. Thinner crust is overlain by thinner ice. The idea is that geothermal effects … not volcanos (though that is possible, it is unlikely) contribute to ice sheet thickness.

Jim Curtsinger on John West

Egads!I was so excited about Mark Borrello’s editorial at the MNCSE site, that I totally overlooked This Editorial by MNCSE executive director Jim Curtsinger!This is bad, because it was Jim who told me about Mark’s editorial. What you have to understand is that Mark is a little guy. He’s pretty wiry and tough, so I wouldn’t want to scrap with him, but I could probably hold my own. Jim, on the other hand, is a big scary guy and would easily do serious damage if he got mad enough at me.OK, so there’s the link… Forgive me Jim.A taste of J.C.’s editorial:

Borrello’s analysis of West’s presentation is politely devastating. Nevertheless, I feel compelled to add a few comments, partly because I’m more blunt than Borrello, and also because I have a personal stake. Just a couple of weeks before Dr. West’s visit to Minnesota I gave a lecture on the eugenics movement to a large undergraduate biology class. One of my main points was that evolutionary genetics played a crucial role in demonstrating on scientific grounds that negative eugenics, the nasty forced-sterilization part of eugenics, could not work as intended.

Bali: Word of a compromise

Despite the best efforts of the American and Chinese representatives, the Bali Climate conference may end up being something more than a huge waste of time.

The U.S. and Europe headed toward a compromise solution Friday at the U.N. climate conference, breaking a deadlock over how ambitious the goal should be in negotiating future cutbacks in global warming gases, the German environment minister said.”I think the situation is good and the climate in the climate conference is good, and we will have success in the end,” Sigmar Gabriel told reporters, declining to give details of the talks.The outcome may help determine how high the planet’s temperatures rise for decades to come.In the final day of the two-week conference, delegates sparred over the wording of a conference final document until 2:30 a.m. Drafters then retired to craft new formulations in contentious passages – notably the European Union’s suggestion of a goal of emissions reductions from 25 percent to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020.Trying to break the deadlock, Indonesian Environment Minister Rachmat Witoelar – the conference president – later proposed revised language dropping those mid-range numbers but still reaffirming that emissions should be reduced at least by half by 2050.