Daily Archives: July 21, 2009

Al Franken actually won by a landslide

In any event, more people seem to like Al Franken than who voted for him … if we compare the 42% of the vote he got with the 49% approval rating he now has. (details)

This is partly a function of increased favorablity following the nasty recount process, but is also reminds us of something else: There was a third candidate in this race. If Dean Barkley was not in this race, would the outcome have been so close? And, who would have won?

The common knowledge on the street at the time of the election is that about two thirds of Barkley’s votes would have been for Franken had Barkley not been in the race. In addition, Franken was advancing on Coleman for the last several weeks. In other words, if the election was held three weeks later, OR if Barkley was not in the race, Franken would have had a decisive if not overwhelming victory. If both were true, Franken would have taken Coleman out by a landslide.

This is why I’ve been so frequently annoyed at calls to “just do it over” or statements that “no one really won” and so on. Franke was behind. Franken came from behind and passed colement.

In addition, consider this: If Franken was moving in on the vote count, then what about absentee votes cast days or weeks before the election? Wouldn’t more of those have been Franken votes had they been cast on election day?

A wiki like Wikipedia to combat poverty

Appropedia, like Wikipedia, lets anyone contribute or edit articles. Its goal is narrowly focused on collaborating to find solutions that can reduce poverty, increase sustainable living, and help people in developing countries. If you have ideas that you can contribute, consider submitting an article. If you are passionate about these topics and are a great editor, consider editing one of the many articles that are sitting in editorial limbo.

Details at Digital Rabbit

Atheism Evangelized

…Mentally and socially, we begin our lives as tabula rasa, empty vessels waiting to be filled and develop our sense of selves based on the totality of interactions we have while developing. This then affects the way that we approach questions. As people we decide what to accept and what to discount based on how the information we receive incorporates into our accumulated experiences and understandings and the sorts of feedback that we have gotten on the way that we process information….

By Mike at Quiche Moraine. Please have a look.

The Origins of the Evil Eye and Horticultural Fertility Cults?

ResearchBlogging.orgIt has become axiomatic that the use of adornment by humans is some sort of symbolic act, and thus is linked to the human symbolic and linguistic mind. The human symbolic and linguistic mind is the trait that we axiomatically believe to be the derived human feature … the cladistic apomorphy that makes us human (as opposed to other-ape). Therefore, the use of adornment is seen by early 21st century archaeologists as evidence of modern human behavior.

Some artifacts from early archaeological sties might be adornment, or they might be ‘art’ (or at least “arty”) and they might be related to ritual, and archaeologists will argue eternally over the meaning of lumps of red ochre or rocks with grooves or scratches in them. But a manufactured bead is unambiguous. A roundish or even blob shaped pretty rock with a hole purposefully drilled through it is a bead, and even the most skeptical wet-blanket yielding taphonomist will accept that as an object of adornment, and thus the outcome of symbolic behavior, and thus evidence of the activities of a cultural and/or linguistic mind, and thus the presence at the time and place specified by the contextual analysis of the artifact of a con-specific.

I feel sorry for all those hominids who did not like beads and thus will never be part of the club. I also feel sorry for the archaeologists who are going to read this and say “Hey, wait a minute, a bead COULD be natural, how can you ever really be sure…?” But that discussion is for another time.

Now, we want to ask: What about the more specific behaviors, rituals, and beliefs that emerged within the historical and geographical range of modern human-ness? The paper at hand, by Dani Bar-Yosef Mayer and Naomi Porat, makes the bold assertion that the use of certain beads in West Asia is directly related to the beginning of ritual associated with the origins of agriculture, the use of objects to enhance ‘fertility’ (of humans, of the land) and to ward off the Evil Eye.

Continue reading The Origins of the Evil Eye and Horticultural Fertility Cults?

Observations on sexism in the skeptics movement

… by Skepchick by “carr2d2” … touch on a wide range of topics that make TAM7 seem like a microcosm of the blogosphere, academia, and to some (limited) extent the broader society.

“…a lot of men in the skeptical movement, well intentioned as they may be, have a tendency to look at women as though we are some sort of separate species; monolithic and mysterious…”

Regarding commentary on women’s dress at the conference by Drescher, “I honestly find it difficult to know where to begin here. You want more women in skepticism, but when they show up without properly camouflaging their sexuality you call them out on your blog?..” and “The answer to the larger societal problem at hand – the sexy/smart dichotomy – is not for all of us women to unsex ourselves. As women, we need to move away from the idea that there is only one acceptable way to be taken seriously as a woman in a historically male dominated arena.”

Start with this commentary by Car2d2, then check out subsequent posts on Skepchick for important followups.

Has Jupiter been struck by an object?

It would appear so. We see it in a …

Preliminary image showing a black mark in Jupiters South Polar Region (SPR) which is almost certainly the result of a large impact – either an asteroid or comet – similar to the Shoemaker-Ley impacts in 1994.

This is on Anthony Wesley’s web site, and what appears to be the outcome of an impact event has been photographed by him.

A bit of his post reads:

I started this imaging session on Jupiter at approximately 11pm local time (1300UTC). The weather prediction was not promising, clear skies but a strong jetstream overhead according to the Bureau of Met. The temperature was also unusually high for this time of year (winter), also a bad sign.

The scope in use was my new 14.5″ newtonian, in use now for a few weeks and so far returning excellent images.

I was pleasantly surprised to find reasonable imaging conditions and so I decided to continue recording data until maybe 1am local time. By about midnight (12:10 am) the seeing had deteriorated and I was ready to quit. Indeed I had hovered the mouse over the exit button on my capture application (Coriander for Linux) and then changed my mind and decided instead to simply take a break for 30 minutes and then check back to see if the conditions had improved. It was a very near thing.

When I came back to the scope at about 12:40am I noticed a dark spot rotating into view in Jupiters south polar region started to get curious. When first seen close to the limb (and in poor conditions) it was only a vaguely dark spot, I thouht likely to be just a normal dark polar storm. However as it rotated further into view, and the conditions improved I suddenly realised that it wasn’t just dark, it was black in all channels, meaning it was truly a black spot.

And you can read the entire exciting story here.