Daily Archives: August 28, 2009

Tiniest Photograph Ever Explained

I posted a photo of a itty bitty molecule that is making the news these days … the photo, not the molecule … but I didn’t have much to say about it except that it was cool. Ethan Siegel has picked up the thread and explains what it is we are looking at.

I myself have used the little needle thingie in research, but the tip of the one I used was more like an actual needle made of a zillion metal molecules so we could only image things like primate teeth or cut marks on bones. This one is a little different…

The Health Care (Insurance) Gap

First, let’s get this one thing straight, because a lot of the astroturfers and even reporters and politicians are not getting it. Health care is when you get sick and the medical profession fixes you up, or some version of that. How good our health care system is becomes a matter of how good the medicine is. We in the United States and in Europe, Canada, etc. have pretty good medicine, though there are impediments to quality medicine built into our political and social systems..

Heath care INSURANCE is the system for paying for the medicine. The current discussion in the US is about health care INSURANCE reform. The United States might (or might not) have the best freakin’ health care system (the medicine) in the freakin’ world, but it has one of the suckiest health care INUSRANCE systems in the world. And that is what we are trying to fix.

There are two major kinds of cracks in the health care INSURANCE system. One is the uncovered or uncoverable (because of economics or because the insurance companies just don’t want to). The other crack, and the one that about half the middle class falls into, and the one that should have galvanized the politically powerful in this country, is this one:

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Lockstep Republicans = Stoopid

I made the point in an earlier post (Discordant Democrats vs. Republican Dittoheads) that Republicans work in lock step and simply do whatever they are told. I’m not talking (necessarily) about the average Joe the Plumber Republican. I’m talking about elected officials with law degrees. The average United States Senator or Representative who happens to be a Republican needs not think, read, or consider. All he or she needs to do is listen to the orders and follow them. Thining on one’s own is simply not done.

Does that sound like a typical Greg Laden over the top bit of hyperbole? It does? Ha! This time it is not!
Continue reading Lockstep Republicans = Stoopid

Should stim-bucks be linked to school test scores?

DURHAM, N.C. — Two Duke University education experts have serious concerns about the Obama administration’s proposal to link teacher evaluations to student tests scores as a criterion for how much federal stimulus money states will receive for K-12 education.

Friday (Aug. 28) is the deadline to submit public comments on the proposal that will disperse more than $4 billion in grants. The U.S. Department of Education has said it will issue its final rules sometime after the deadline.

Helen F. Ladd, the Edgar Thompson Professor of Public Policy at Duke, says that while student test scores play a role in the overall effort to improve schools, the proposed regulations “give them a pride of place that will lead to little good and is likely to do much harm.”

“The main problem with the heavy focus of the proposed test-based approach is that it ratchets up the pernicious narrow test-based approach to education represented by No Child Left Behind,” Ladd says in comments she has submitted on the proposal.

“The approach is narrow in part because the requirement that all students be tested every year means that students can be tested in only a limited number of subjects. The result is a heavy emphasis on the basic skills of math and reading, to the detriment of other skills and orientations that young people need to become effective participants in the global society.

“Further, the emphasis on test results for individual teachers will exacerbate the well-documented incentives for teachers to focus on narrow test-taking skills and drilling. It is time to move beyond this misplaced emphasis on test scores in a few subjects to return to the broader goals of education that have been such an important part of our history.”

Rest of the story is here

Eudy Simelane Murder Trial Resumes in South Africa

Eudy Simelane was a brilliant soccer star, captain of South Africa’s national women’s team.

She was also an out lesbian and an activist for LGBT rights.

In April 2008, a group of men attacked her with a sickening brutality. She was gang-raped, beaten, and stabbed more than 25 times. The assault was so vicious that police even found stab wounds on the bottom of her feet.

South African authorities believe that the hate crime was a case of “corrective rape,” a crime that is horrifyingly common in South Africa. Even in major cities, lesbians live in fear of being targeted for rape.

Women who have been attacked then have a second nightmare to live through, as South African police are often unwilling to pursue rape investigations, particularly when the victims are lesbians. South Africa has one of the highest rates of violence against women in the world, and the numbers seem to be rising.

The term “corrective rape” comes from the idea that men are gang-raping women to “cure” them of their lesbianism.

LGBT and women’s rights groups point out that the attacks are really an attempt to stop women from behaving in a way that seems threatening to the male-dominated status quo, such as excelling in sports or dressing in a way that seems masculine.

One man pleaded guilty to his part in Simelane’s rape and murder.

Three more pleaded not guilty. Their trial was delayed last month when a witness for the prosecution backed out, but finally began again today.

The fact that a trial is happening at all is a step forward for South Africa’s LGBT community, but there is a long way to go.

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You can’t see atomic bonds. Or can you?

Atomic bonds are too small to see, right? Well, what do you suppose THIS is a picture of!?!?!?


That B&W structure is an actual image of a molecule and its atomic bonds. The first of its kind, in fact, and a breakthrough for the crazy IBM scientists in Zurich who spent 20 straight hours staring at the “specimen”–which in this case was a 1.4 nanometer-long pentacene molecule comprised of 22 carbon atoms and 14 hydrogen atoms.

You can actually make out each of those atoms and their bonds, and it’s thanks to this: An atomic force microscope.

Details here

hat tip: Ben

Is it a Falsehood that Humans Evolve from Apes?

This is another falsehood, but a tricky one. Remember the point of falsehoods: They are statements that are typically associated with meanings or implications that are misleading or incorrect, and in some cases downright damaging. “Humans evolved from apes” is an excellent example of a falsehood because it is technically correct, yet the implied meanings that arise from it are potentially wrong. Even more importantly, you can’t really analyze the statement “Humans evolved from apes” without getting into an extended analysis and discussion of what an ape is and what a human is.
Continue reading Is it a Falsehood that Humans Evolve from Apes?