Monthly Archives: January 2012

Actual Scientists Respond to Fake Scientists at Wall Street Journal

It starts like this:

Do you consult your dentist about your heart condition? In science, as in any area, reputations are based on knowledge and expertise in a field and on published, peer-reviewed work. If you need surgery, you want a highly experienced expert in the field who has done a large number of the proposed operations.

You published “No Need to Panic About Global Warming” (op-ed, Jan. 27) on climate change by the climate-science equivalent of dentists practicing cardiology…

… and gets even better. Go read it!

Big Game Mayors to Call for Stricter Gun Control Laws

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York and Mayor Thomas M. Menino of Boston filming an ad for The Big Game.

Mayors Menino and Bloomberg, of Boston and New York, will field a half minute ad during the Big Game coming up in a few days in which they will call for stricter federal gun control laws.

The New York Times reports:

The two mayors are longtime allies on gun control and founders of a group called Mayors Against Illegal Guns, which has pushed for a stronger federal background check system.

Mr. Bloomberg and Mr. Menino shot the ad in New York early Tuesday. And, just as big Super Bowl advertisers like Honda and Volkswagen have been promoting their ads with previews on YouTube, Mr. Bloomberg publicized his at an appearance later Tuesday morning.

Florida Primary Results: A Pattern Emerges

First the results: New Gingrich Did Not Lose by As Much As You Might have Guessed He Might.

By the numbers, as estimated by various news agencies:

ROMN: 47
GING: 32
SANT: 13
PAUL: 07
OTHR: 01

That’s a mighty strong showing for “Other” … it will be interesting to look into that.

Here’s the sequence over the last several days showing the March of the Numbers comparing Romney and Gingrich in polls

The last gazillian polls leading up to the Florida Primary. Romney has clearly always been the frontrunner. Except when he wasn't. These squiggles are comprised of moving averages that cover three polls in a row ordered approximately in temporal sequence, from Real Clear Politics.

The pattern we see in Florida reflects the pattern of the overall primary process. No one ever had any doubt that Romney was going to win this primary, but in fact, there were two times when he was not ahead in the polls, and at the last minute, note that Romney was dropping in numbers with Gingrich gaining . Ron Paul remains irrelevant.

Here’s the bigger picture. Before the Iowa Caucuses Romney was considered the most likely person to win. Santorum won.

Before the New Hampshire Primary was considered the most likely person to win. But Oscar the Grouch could have won that primary had he been from the Greater Boston Area, of which New Hampshire is a minor suburb.

Before the North Carolina Primary, Romney was considered to be the most likely person to win. Um. New Gingrich won that primary.

So, to date, the candidate who is repeatedly labeled as the most likely to win the nomination has won half of the contests and is being dogged by a formidable, if obnoxious, opponent.

Furthermore, TV pundits are getting something else wrong: Continue reading Florida Primary Results: A Pattern Emerges

Meteorologist Exposed as Scientific Fraud (And a really cool graphic)

Brad Johnson at Think Progress has written a piece on Meteorologist Mark Johnson, of ABC’s WEWS-TV in Cleveland Ohio. Johnson has apparently purposefully misrepresented data that was previously pre-misrepresented by the Daily Mail to make the statement that the earth has been cooling since 1998.

The earth has actually been warming since the 1990s, and the first decade of the present century is the warmest on record, but will almost certainly be exceeded in global temperature by the present decade, I write from my home in Minneapolis where temperatures on this fine January day stayed well above 40 until just moments ago when they plunged to a chilly 39 degrees F.

Brad makes his case here: AMS Certified Meteorologist Mark Johnson Claims ‘Earth Hasn’t Warmed In 15 Years’. In his post, he shows a great graphic which I’ve stolen, here (It’s a moving GIF so stare at it for a moment):


I believe the graph is originally from Skeptical Science.

Stop Giving Money to Susah G. Komen for the Cure, and tell everyone else you know to do the same.

Komen collects donations and uses the money to help with cancer. In the past, huge chunks of money were donated to Planned Parenthood to help pay for breast exams and other breast cancer related services at Planned Parenthood facilities.

Then, Republican Cliff Stearns, a Congressional representative from Florida, launched an inquirey against Planned Parenthood. This investigation is widely regarded as a senseless political move, a mean spirited attack on women and women’s health, and a bunch of crap.

Apparently, and the details are largely secret at this time, various Right Wing Christian forces went to work to pressure Koman into dropping its funding for Planned Parenthood, and Komen dutifully caved. They either made up or pulled out of their non-profit asses a rule that said that they can’t fund agencies that are under investigation by local, state, or federal agencies. Then, they interpreted this sham inquirey in Congress as an “investigation by a federal agency” which it is not.

And, thus, under the guise of following their sanctimonious rule, Komen stopped funding help for cancer screening and other breast cancer related services to countless poor and underprivileged women.

What can you do?

Then, after you’ve made yourself feel all good and like you’ve done something, actually DO SOMETHING:

  • Go here and make an emergency donation to Planned Parenthood to make up the shortfall.
  • Use the share buttons down below or any other means you’d like to let everyone you know that Komen has jumped the shark and will no longer be regarded as a valid charity by anyone who does not hate women.

What are you sitting there staring at this blog post for? GET MOVING ON THIS! NAO!!!11!!

Many of the details known so far are reported here.

Indiana Senators Support Teaching Religion in Science Classroom

But with a twist. A Republican sponsored bill required the teaching of Christian Religion ni the science class, but a Democratic Senator has added wording that will require science teachers to teach the origin stories of ALL of the religions.

Legislators on Monday broadened a proposal aimed at allowing Indiana’s public schools to teach creationism in science classes to require that such courses include origin of life theories from multiple religions.

The Senate approved the change to legislation critics had argued was unconstitutional because federal courts repeatedly have found teaching creationism violates church-state separation because of its reliance on the Bible’s book of Genesis.

The change proposed by Democratic Sen. Vi Simpson of Bloomington says any course offered by public schools teaching creationism must include origin theories from multiple religions, among them Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Scientology.

This of course is still stupid, but it makes a point that is worth making. Specifically, “It does make it clear that a school board can’t just say we’re only going to teach Christian creation theory but we also have to cover other multiple religions,” Senator Simpson notes.


So, science teachers in Indiana, I have a question for you: Which three weeks of science do you want to cut out of your syllabus to make room for a discussion of worlds built on turtles and goat herders walking down the Milky Way at the beginning of time? Oh, and don’t forget to include the origin story I found in the Congo in which the beginning of humanity is associated with a particularly ribald sex act. That would be cool.

Parallel Evolution

“Parallel Evolution” is not really a kind of evolution, but rather, an observation we make about the pattern of evolution in particular cases. Many species have a “woodpecker adaptation” by which a hard sharp thing is used to get at grubs and other insect (or non insect) meat hidden beneath bark. Some of the sharp things are beaks, one bird uses a cactus spine, and there is a primate with a special elongated finger for doing this, and most or all “woodpeckers” (bird like or otherwise) have related adaptation allowing them to figure out where to poke through the bark to find their prey. This is parallelism. But other cases of parallel evolution involve several different populations (which may or may no be different subspecies or different species) undergoing Natural Selection from a base population with some genetic variability such that the smaller sub populations all have a high incidence of the same genetic allele (variant). The loss of bony plates in various freshwater sticklebacks seems to be a case of (mainly) this sort of evolution.

The case of the sticklebacks is especailly interesting because the genetic variant that causes this trait in most (but not all) of these fish is also associated with a behavioral trait. Intrigued? You should be! As you know, I’m guest blogging for a couple of weeks at, and I’ve just put up a post examining the sticklebacks: What Robot Fish Can Tell Us About Parallel Evolution.

Go have a look and leave nice comments so the Smithsonian likes me!

The State of State Science Standards

The vast majority of American public school students are not proficient in the level of science learning expected for their age group. The Thomas B. Fordham Institute has issued “The State of Science Standards 2012” as part of an effort to assess the causes of this dismal state of affairs. Here’s a map summarizing their results:


State Science Standards Grades, 2012

Notice that some of the battleground states for the “Evolution-Creationism Controversy” have reasonable ratings. Notice also the vast regions of D and F states. In fact, in order to convey the meaning of it all, I’ve created a new version of the map that signifies all states with D and F rankings with one color, and all states with C or better grades with a different color (The “Pass/Fail” version of the test!):

Continue reading The State of State Science Standards

The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars

Michael Mann, famous climate scientist, has released a book called The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines (also available as a Kindle edition). I’ve not read it yet but I thought you’d like to know about it.

Michael Mann is the guy who came up with the Hockey Stick graph and metaphor. Early reviews are positive:

In this meticulous and engaging brief on climate change research and the political backlash to legitimate scientific work, Penn State professor Mann narrates the fight against misinformation from the inside. (Publishers Weekly )

An important and disturbing account of the fossil-fuel industry’s well-funded public-relations campaign to sow doubt about the validity of the science of climate change.

If you don’t believe our climate is changing, read this book. Dr. Mann will change your mind. For us, it’s a war of words. Preserve the Earth, and pass the ammunition. (Bill Nye the Science Guy )