Daily Archives: June 9, 2010

So, the US Constitution protects us from religious yahooism. But what about the states’?

The Constitution of the United States makes no mention of God and only two references to religion. The first reference is in the body: Article VI “[N]o religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” The second reference is the first line of the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof….” The state constitutions are far less restrained. While looking for voting rights in the state constitutions, I began to collect some interesting trivia from the freedom of religion clauses. The topic was interesting enough that I went back and collected the freedom of religion clauses from all fifty of the state constitutions (all fifty do include it in their enumeration of rights). This task was made easier by stumbling across Know Your Rights!, a site by Ken Lombardi where he has gathered all of the states’ bills of rights.

….. Continue reading “Religion in the states” by John McKay.

Are you ready for the Rapture?

Perched heavily on a white stone wall, a cast-iron stegosaurus watched expressionlessly as a backhoe tore up a patch of land that was supposed to have been left green. “We’ve been doing some more research in the last few months which has already indicated we have to add extra parking,” Mark Looy shouted over the rumbling. “The lobby is probably also going to be too small. That outdoor area with the pillars, that’s going to be glass-enclosed now. That becomes a portico, a kind of pre-lobby for people to gather, get their tickets. Our projections are for more than two hundred and fifty thousand guests in the first year, and so we had to do some expansion.”

Continue reading Are you ready for the Rapture?

Radiations and Extinctions

… biodiversity through the ages …

There’s a story that scientists like to tell about the great evolutionary biologist J. B. S. Haldane. Supposedly, Haldane once found himself in the company of a group of theologians. They asked him what one could conclude about the nature of the Creator from a study of his creation. “An inordinate fondness for beetles,” Haldane replied.

The National Center for Science Education maintains a library of offprints and book chapters for which that they have been given explicit permission to distribute to the general public at no cost. One of these carefully selected items is a chapter from Carl Zimmer’s The Tangled Bank: An Introduction to Evolution … The download is the chapter on biodiversity and evolution from which the above quote is taken. You can download the chapter here, or you can visit NCSE and poke around on their site.

I might or might not be a science journalist

One of the great things about Coturnix is that he brings two context-broadening tools to the table in any discussion: Synchronic and diachronic. In a recent post (Am I a Science Journalist? he adds the diachronic. I had not previously realized or considered (or at lest, not thought it relevant) that early science journalists were not trained in journalism school, as has been the case recently. Recognizing this serves to place the professionalized (read “fetishied”) version of journalism in a different light, and weakens models of modern practice that rely on potentially constraining standards.

Continue reading I might or might not be a science journalist

A question about your squirrels

My friend Asha just gave a copy of Squirrel Wars: Backyard Wildlife Battles & How to Win Them to her mom for Father’s day. Which reminds me of this method of controlling squirrels in your back yard.

Which, in turn, reminds me that I’ve been meaning to ask around about color morphs. Where I grew up, gray squirrels were gray. I lived in Boston for many years, and gray squirrels there were … also gray. Well, the ones in Harvard Yard were more a shade of grey. Anyway, here in the Twin Cities area, they are pure white, almost jet black, or gray. Some of the gray ones are reddish gray.

So, here is my question: Am I living in a region where there is unusual diversity in the color morphs of Sciurus carolinensis? What is the diversity of gray squirrel pelt color in your region?

And why?

Counting Chinese Words

It has been said that “word frequency” is the most important variable in language research, despite the belief by many that it can’t be used as a variable because no one really knows what a word is. (see: Minifalsehood: We can’t tell what a word is!?!? and A run in my stocking …)

A recent study in PLoS looks at a heretofore under investigated area, word/character use in Chinese.

Continue reading Counting Chinese Words

I don’t mind that you don’t really understand the term “passive aggressive.”

Or … What I had for breakfast.

I just got the Caribou Coffee trivia question wrong. I got it so wrong that the Barista stared at me in disbelief for a moment, then blurted out the correct answer with audible snark and disappointment. If I told you what the question was (and that is not going to happen) you would be embarrassed for me as well. This was especially bad because I usually answer the question by adding some additional fact, or spice things up by answering the question in Classical Greek or Latin, or at least provide one or two scholarly references. But this time it was a dumb-ass question with a dumb-ass answer and I simply got it wrong. Good thing I wasn’t trying to impress anyone.
Continue reading I don’t mind that you don’t really understand the term “passive aggressive.”

Technology things you need to know

Cyberwar is a fiction, but tech cults are not.

Sometimes these cults are inspired by elegant lines of code. Other times it’s dedication to an ideal. Some are looking to transform the way software is made. Others hope to transform humanity itself. And some just want to argue about it all — endlessly and at great length.

Who would ever do that?

You are certainly familiar with Dublin Wellington Boots – Size 9 Green (they’ve been mentioned here, as has their link to evolutionary biology). Well, now there are Wellies that can power your cell phone. Supposedly.

And there will be no more phone books in Canada.